When you think of musical equipment, brands like Marshall, Fender, and Peavey might come to mind. But there’s one name that’s often left out: Akai.
Akai is a Japanese electronics company specializing in making musical instruments and domestic appliances. It was founded in 1933 by Masukichi Akai and began producing radio sets. It’s also known for its insolvency in 2005. Today, Akai is known for making some of the best audio equipment in the world.
But there’s MUCH more to this story as we’ll soon find out!
Akai: From Foundations to Insolvency
The Early Days
It all started with a man and his son, Masukichi and Saburo Akai, who decided to start their own company in either 1929 or 1946. They called it Akai Electric Company Ltd., and it quickly became a leader in the audio industry.
The Peak of Success
At its peak, Akai Holdings was doing great! They had over 100,000 employees and annual sales of HK$40 billion (US$5.2 billion). It seemed like nothing could stop them!
The Fall from Grace
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. In 1999, ownership of Akai Holdings somehow passed to Grande Holdings, a company founded by Akai’s chairman James Ting. It was later discovered that Ting had stolen over US$800m from the company with the help of Ernst & Young. Yikes! Ting was sent to prison in 2005 and Ernst & Young paid a hefty $200m to settle the case. Ouch!
A Brief History of Akai Machines
Reel-to-Reel Audiotape Recorders
Back in the day, Akai was the go-to brand for reel-to-reel audiotape recorders. They had a range of models, from the top-level GX series to the mid-level TR and TT series.
Audio Cassette Decks
Akai also had a range of audio cassette decks, from the top-level GX and TFL series to the mid-level TC, HX and CS series.
Akai also had a range of other products, including:
- Video Recorders
Tandberg’s Cross-Field Recording Technologies
Akai adopted Tandberg’s cross-field recording technologies to enhance high frequency recording. They also switched to the increasingly reliable Glass and crystal (X’tal) (GX) ferrite heads a few years later.
Akai’s Most Popular Products
Akai’s most popular products were the GX-630D, GX-635D, GX-747/GX-747DBX and GX-77 open-reel recorders, the three-head, closed-loop GX-F95, GX-90, GX-F91, GX-R99 cassette decks, and the AM-U61, AM-U7 and AM-93 stereo amplifiers.
Akai manufactured and badged most of its imported hi-fi products with the Tensai brand. Tensai International was Akai’s exclusive distributor for the Swiss and Western European markets until 1988.
Akai’s Consumer Video Cassette Recorders
During the 1980s, Akai produced consumer video cassette recorders (VCR). The Akai VS-2 was the first VCR with an on-screen display. This innovation eliminated the need for the user to be physically near the VCR to program recording, read the tape counter, or perform other common features.
In 1984, Akai formed a new division of the company to focus on the manufacture and sale of electronic instruments, and was called Akai Professional. The first product released by the new subsidiary was the MG1212, a 12 channel, 12 track recorder. This device used a special VHS-like cartridge (a MK-20), and was good for 10 minutes of continuous 12 track recording. Other early products included the Akai AX80 8-voice analog synthesizer in 1984, followed by AX60 and AX73 6-voice analog synthesizers.
The Akai MPC: A Music Production Revolution
The Birth of a Legend
The Akai MPC is the stuff of legends! It’s the brainchild of a genius, a revolutionary invention that changed the way music was created, recorded and performed. It’s seen as one of the most influential electronic instruments of all time, and it’s become synonymous with the hip-hop genre. It’s been used by some of the biggest names in music, and it’s made its mark in history.
A Revolutionary Design
The MPC was designed to be the ultimate music production machine, and it certainly delivered! It had a sleek design that was easy to use and packed with features. It had a built-in sampler, sequencer, and drum machine, and it was the first instrument to allow users to record and edit samples. It also had a built-in MIDI controller, which allowed users to control other instruments and devices.
The Impact of the MPC
The MPC has had a huge impact on the music world. It’s been used by some of the biggest names in music, and it’s been featured on countless albums. It’s also been used in movies, TV shows, and video games. It’s even been used to create entire genres of music, like trap and grime. The MPC is a true icon, and it’s changed the way we make music forever.
Akai’s Current Products
Akai’s VCD players are the perfect way to watch your favorite movies and TV shows! With features like Dolby Digital sound, you’ll feel like you’re in the theater. Plus, they’re super easy to use, so you can start watching in no time.
Akai has you covered when it comes to car audio! Their speakers and TFT monitors will make your car sound like a concert hall. Plus, they’re designed to be easy to install, so you can get your tunes cranking in no time.
Akai’s vacuum cleaners are the perfect way to keep your home clean and dust-free. With powerful suction and a variety of attachments, you’ll be able to get into all the nooks and crannies of your home. Plus, they’re lightweight and easy to maneuver, so you can get the job done quickly.
Take a step back in time with Akai’s retro radios! These classic radios are perfect for adding a touch of nostalgia to your home. Plus, they come in a variety of styles, so you can find the perfect one to fit your decor.
If you’re looking for a way to listen to your favorite music, Akai’s tape decks are the perfect choice. With features like auto-reverse and Dolby noise reduction, you’ll be able to enjoy your music with crystal clear sound. Plus, they’re designed to be easy to use, so you can get your tunes playing in no time.
Akai’s portable recorders are perfect for capturing all your favorite moments. With features like auto-stop and auto-reverse, you’ll be able to record your memories with ease. Plus, they come in a variety of sizes, so you can find the perfect one for your needs.
Akai has you covered when it comes to digital audio. From wireless surround sound systems to Bluetooth, they have everything you need to get your tunes playing. Plus, their professional products like the Akai Synthstation 25 are perfect for creating your own music.
Akai has been a MAJOR player in the music industry for decades, providing innovative products that have revolutionized the way we listen to and create music, and it all almost came to an end because of one bad player.
I hope you’ve liked our take on Akai and its history!
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:Subscribe