Nakamichi was founded in 1948 by Etsuro Nakamichi. Nakamichi rose to prominence as the most respected and enamored cassette deck designer and manufacturer in history. While Nakamichi extended its design brilliance into the categories of turntables, CD playback, and amplifiers, and car stereos, it never could restore its preeminent status in the world of high end audio. After a series of bankruptcies and re-organizations, the company still does business today (mostly in the lifestyle audio category), albeit without much of the acclaim and fanfare that marked its prime years.
Nakamichi built on the success of its first models by releasing a slew of new models in the mid to late 1970s, including the 480, 580, 680, and 680ZX models, the latter introducing the company’s Auto Azimuth Alignment feature and overall raising the bar in the category. Late in the decade, Nakamichi followed up on the 680ZX by introducing its most ambitious decks to date, the 700ZXL and 1000ZXL.
From there came the onset of digital audio, and the beginning of the (relative) end for Nakamichi. After CD began to dominate the market, Nakamichi released its Dragon CD playback system. While featuring a stunning cosmetic and mechanical makeup, and a robust dampening system within a multi-disc transport mechanism, the unit’s sound quality didn’t fully impress audiophile critics, delivering a stunning blow to the company as it tried to reclaim its industry leading status within this new format. Utilizing its state-of-the-art mechanical engineering capabilities, around the same time Nakamichi also released the groundbreaking ‘TX-1000’ and ‘Dragon’ turntables, which featured the amazing “Absolute Center Search” that compensated for off-center holes in LPs by custom aligning a platter and subplatter mechanism. To this day, many consider these two turntables the finest ever made.
This consistent string of minor but significant setbacks eventually led to the departure of many of its most respected personnel, an its aforementioned acquisition, and a bankruptcy. The company ultimately re-emerged, but as a minor player in the high-end lifestyle audio and home theater system category, similar to Bang and Olufsen. While certainly a far cry from its acclaimed heritage, for those who remember, the Nakamichi name still elicits the highest levels of respect and admiration, along with a reminder of a time when mediocre formats ruled and state-of-the-art engineering dynamos flourished by improving them.
Current products include the SoundSpace line of personal music and HTIBs, along with car audio, and even LCD TVs.