The History of Akai

Akai was founded by Masukichi Akai and his son, Saburo Akai as Akai Electric Company Ltd. (赤井電機株式会社, Akai Denki Kabushiki Kaisha), a Japanese manufacturer in 1929.

Akai is well-known for reel-to-reel audiotape recorders, but also produced tuners , audio cassette decks, amplifiers, microphones, receivers, turntables, video recorders and loudspeakers.

Many Akai products were sold under the name Roberts in the US, Tensai and Transonic Strato in Western Europe, as well as A&D in Japan (from 1987 after a partnership with Mitsubishi Electric). During the late 1960s, Akai adopted Tandberg's cross-field recording technologies (using an extra tape head) to enhance high frequency recording, with the Roberts 770. They switched to the increasingly reliable Glass and crystal (X'tal) (GX) ferrite heads a few years later. The company's most popular products were the GX-630D, GX-635D, GX-747/GX-747DBX and GX-77 open-reel recorders (latter featuring an auto-loading function), 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 (named after the Swiss audio and electronics distributor Tensai International). Tensai International was Akai's exclusive distributor for the Swiss and Western European markets until 1988.

The company's business eventually became troubled and it left the audio industry in 1991. At its peak in the late 1990s, Akai Holdings employed 100,000 workers and had annual sales of HK$40 billion (US$5.2 billion). The company filed for insolvency in November 2000, owing creditors US$1.1B. It emerged that ownership of Akai Holdings had somehow passed in 1999 to Grande Holdings, a company founded by Akai's chairman James Ting. The liquidators claimed that Ting had stolen over US$800m from the company with the assistance of accountants Ernst & Young who had tampered with audit documents going back to 1994. Ting was imprisoned for false accounting in 2005, and E&Y paid $200m to settle the negligence case out of court in September 2009. In a separate lawsuit, a former E&Y partner, Christopher Ho, made a "substantial payment" to Akai creditors in his role as chairman of Grande Holdings.