is a historic Japanese high end audio company most famous for its innovative and very high quality cassette decks.
In 1972, Nakamichi launched its first Nakamichi-brand products,
gear that included the world's
first three-head cassette deck
1999, the Nakamichi-brand SoundSpace
audio and home theater
audio systems were introduced, all
design-oriented products that could be hung on a wall. Nakamichi
also sells a line of higher-quality mini systems, to a market
similar to that sought by Bang &
, as well as selling automotive stereo products, home
theater items and as of 2006, DVD
was founded in 1948 as Nakamichi Research Corporation Ltd
(Nakamichi Kenkyujo Kabushiki Kaisha ) in Tokyo Japan.
specialised in manufacturing portable radios, tone arms, speakers,
and communications equipment. Founded by Etsuro Nakamichi
, it was later headed by
his younger brother Niro. Etsuro's son Ted is the only remaining
Nakamichi in the company today. The company was originally
established as a research and development firm in electronics and
optics but later became known as a manufacturer of quality audio
products. While their cassette decks were particularly well known,
the company is also credited with numerous other audio innovations,
such as self-centering record players
ultra-compact slot-loading CD changers. Over the years, the company
managed to garner an impressive level of brand loyalty.
In the 1950s, Nakamichi developed one of the first open reel tape
in Japan under the Magic Tone
In 1957 it developed and made its own magnetic tape heads. With the
advent of magnetic tape
at the time,
the company decided to work with the format. Subsequently it went
onto develop and market its own tape recorder, and during that same
year, launched the Fidela
3-head Open Reel
Stereo Tape Deck.
Because of its experience in manufacturing magnetic tape heads and
equipment, in 1967 the company started making tape decks for a
number of foreign manufacturers including Harman Kardon
In 1973 Nakamichi created stereo cassette
with such high quality that eventually made reel-to-reel tape
obsolete for consumers. The Nakamichi 1000 and 700
were regarded as two of the finest cassette recorders made in the
mid-1970s. They had three heads, dual capstan drive that reduced
wow and flutter
to new low levels,
and Dolby-B noise
to improve the signal to noise ratio
. The feature
that really set them apart was the adjustable record head azimuth
Dolby calibration that could be optimized for each cassette tape.
aspired to but could not
afford a Nakamichi 1000 or 700 (whose model number was derived from
the list price), so Nakamichi came out with more economical
two-head models such as the Nakamichi 500 and the wedge-shaped
A Nakamichi 550.
Portable, though the size and weight of an early VCR.
pushed live recording with their Nakamichi 550, a portable cassette
recorder that had three microphone
inputs: one for left channel, one for right channel, and one for a
center blend channel. This recorder could run from batteries or AC
and was used to make very high quality recordings in the field. All
of these products were known for top-notch engineering and sound
In the late 1970s Nakamichi updated their machines with the
Nakamichi 1000 II, the 700 II, and other midrange and low-end
models. They branched out into other audio components such as
amplifiers and eventually speakers, but these products were never
as highly regarded by the audio community as their cassette
In the early 1980s Nakamichi came out with further refinements in a
successor top-of-the-line machine, the Nakamichi 1000ZXL. Prices
pushed upward with this machine being $3,800 at the time. The
updated 700ZXL was a mere $3,000. Low-end cassette decks sold new
for under $200, with the Nakamichi name on them. This time period
stands as the pinnacle for cassette recorders, as from that time
onwards digital recording
began to make inroads.
The meaning of the brand name & logo
The Nakamichi logo consists, in part, of the stylized
representation of the letter "N"; it is also intended to represent
in a fanciful way the earth, half of which is illuminated by the
The Japanese to English translation of the word "NAKAMICHI" in the
mark is "in the middle of a road" or "midway".
Notable Nakamichi products and advances
Three-Head Cassette Decks
Nakamichi was the first to use a three-head recording technique in
a cassette deck. Separate tape heads were used for playback,
recording, and erase, whereas prior methods combined the
playback/recording function into a single tape head. The three-head
mechanism was optimized for each head and allowed the user to
monitor the recording quality as it happened. This feature was
limited to their higher end units.
Nakamichi RX-505 audio cassette deck
Top view of UDAR mechanism.
Called "UDAR" for UniDirectional Auto Reverse. Used on the
Nakamichi RX series of decks. With the advent of auto-reverse
(playing the tape in both directions), Nakamichi recognized that
the angle of the tape passing over the playback head was not
optimized if the tape was simply turned in the opposite direction.
Thus, Nakamichi developed its UDAR mechanism. This was a mechanical
system that would eject the tape, spin it around and reload it into
the deck. It was available on all Nakamichi RX series of tape
decks, i.e., the RX-202, RX-303 and RX-505.
Tape Pressure Pad Lifter
A cassette tape
"pressure pad" of some type, usually made of felt (Reference- image
). This pad is
within the cassette tape shell (located just behind the tape
opening) and opposes the magnetic head of the cassette deck
, providing pressure against the
head(s) when the tape is being played. Nakamichi found that this
pad provided uneven and fairly inaccurate pressure and was
therefore inadequate for reliable tape/head contact. Furthermore,
Nakamichi found that the pressure pad was a source of audible
noise, particularly scrape flutter (the tape bouncing across the
head, a result of uneven pressure), and also contributed to
premature head wear. Nakamichi's dual-capstan tape decks provide
such accurate and precise tape tension that, unlike other decks,
the cassette's pressure pad is not needed at all. To remedy this
problem, the vast majority of Nakamichi dual-capstan decks contain
a "cage" around the record/playback heads that lifts the pressure
pad out of the way so that the deck itself--specifically, the dual
capstan mechanism--is able to maintain much more consistent tape
tension and tape/head contact during playback. This lifting system
is unique to Nakamichi.
The Dragon and Special Products
In the CD era (post 1983), the top line Nakamichi products were
termed the "Dragon." The Dragon-CT turntable ("Computing
Turntable") automatically adjusted for off-center holes in records
by moving the platter in two dimensions. The Dragon CD playing
system has special mechanical damping to prevent vibrations of the
CD, and holds multiple CDs. The Dragon cassette deck used a special
microprocessor controlled azimuth adjustment called Nakamichi
Automatic Azimuth Correction (NAAC) to implement auto-reverse.
Because it optimized the angle of the tape head when switching
directions, it did not need to eject the tape and spin it around to
maintain proper tape head alignment (as with the Nakamichi RX
Other products from Nakamichi did not acquire the "Dragon" name but
were still notable. These include the Nakamichi 1000 series
products with the 1000ZXL cassette deck being more advanced and
expensive than the Dragon cassette deck. The Nakamichi 1000 digital
audio tape transport and Nakamichi 1000p digital to audio converter
system were Nakamichi's reference digital audio tape
components were intended to establish Nakamichi's dominance in the
field of digital audio tape (DAT), but DAT was not widely adopted
, as the format itself did
not gain acceptance as an industry
Stasis Series Amplifiers
Nakamichi licensed "Stasis" technology from powerhouse amplifier
manufacturer Threshold (a class A
circuit by Nelson Pass, then a designer at Threshold,
now at Pass Labs
). This circuit was used
in a line of expensive Nakamichi PA series of power-amplifiers,
such as the PA-5 and PA-7, as well as their SR and TA series of
Car Stereo Products
In the early 1980s, Nakamichi introduced a line of car stereo
products. The flagship product was the
TD-1200 cassette receiver which incorporated a drawer-mounted,
top-loading cassette mechanism with NAAC, Dolby B and Dolby C.
Other early products included the TD-700 cassette receiver with
manual azimuth correction, a power amplifier and speakers. In the
early 90s, Nakamichi was one of the first companies to produce
automotive CD changers that loaded multiple discs via a single slot
rather than a CD cartridge.
would choose Nakamichi along with
to manufacture the audio
systems for its range of Lexus
The Nakamichi unit was the flagship audio system offered to Lexus
buyers, and this partnership lasted from 1989 to 2001.
Another follow-on flagship head unit was the TP-1200, which
consisted of a headunit and a separate 'black box' pre-amp section.
The casing for both units was made from machined aluminium, and the
internal circuitry for both units was suspended using a mechanical
suspension system. The headunit contained a diversity tuner and
display unit only. The pre-amp section performed input switching,
volume and tone adjustment. The tone controls (bass-mid-treble)
were motor driven analog controls while the volume, balance and
fader were digital.
Other products of note were the PA-100 amplifier and the limited
edition version the PA-1000.Both were identical in specifications
(4x50wrms)and internal layout, the only difference being the case
color. The 100PA was silver and the 1000PA black. The mobile TD-560
was a versatile pull-out-of-dash and remote controlled cassette and
FM tuner head unit, that performed at the level of excellence
matched only by very best Nakamichi mobile decks of the late 1980s
era. Revolutionary was Nakamichi's mobile PA-350 four channel power
amplifier, with extraordinary discrete amplifiers and exemplary
The Decline of Nakamichi
After the 1980s, Nakamichi failed to hold its prominent position in
audio technology. Although the company dabbled with a 6-disc
for use in computers in the
late 1990s they failed to move quickly to the rapidly expanding
computer market as compared to other Japanese electronics
companies such as Sony
who introduced single disc CD ROM
drives. The company tried to promote DAT
launched the OMS-70 CD player in 1984) but their core engineering
expertise remained with cassette based technologies. With the
decline of analog taping, Nakamichi was unable to retain its appeal
to the high end audio community.
By the end of 1990s Nakamichi was largely forgotten. It was
acquired by the Grande Holdings
was allowed to be run independently and with mostly the original
management and design teams. Niro Nakamichi left in 1998 to set up
Mechanical Research Corporation. The company went into bankruptcy
protection on February 19, 2002.
also stopped using Nakamichi systems
in Lexus vehicles at this time, instead choosing Mark Levinson
when Toyota made a deal with
premium audio systems in its vehicles in 2000. Bob Carter, Lexus
general manager, also cited a lack of "resonance" with intended
consumers as reasons for the switch.
The company emerged from bankruptcy and repositioned itself as a
manufacturer of high-end "lifestyle" systems" a la Bang & Olufsen
. They also manufacture
a range of CD changers
Hi-fi, computer, and car audio use.
As of June 2006, Nakamichi released its first portable DVD player
with built-in LCD
screen, the Lumos
In 2001, Niro Nakamichi, designer of many of the historic tape
decks, started a new company, Mechanical Research Corporation,
which introduced ultra high end audio amplifiers, preamplifiers,
and an integrated amplifier, called "engines." The products
featured innovative designs and addressed issues of mechanical
isolation, as well as presenting a unique appearance. Soon
thereafter, however, the "engine" products were no longer promoted
and a line of home theater products was introduced 
- Nakamichi Nakamichi web site.
- Naks.com The
Unofficial Nakamichi cassette deck resource.
- BleusNak CyberSpot Nakamichi cassette deck reference
information, photographs, adverts, etc.
- Pictures of Cassette Decks A Japanese language page,
but containing pictures of historic cassette decks including the
Nakamichi 1000ZXL, Dragon, and RX-505 mentioned above.
- Pictures of Digital Audio Recorders A Japanese
language page, but containing pictures of historic digital audio
tape decks, including the Nakamichi 1000 and 1000p.
- The Nakamichi foundation established by the will of
its late founder, Etsuro Nakamichi, dedicated to the promotion and
encouragement of baroque and other forms of classical music.
Corporation Niro Nakamichi's current web site, HT
- Vintage Cassette Decks Collection of Nakamichi Vintage
Cassette decks and other brands.
- Luis Peromarta'a
Nakamichi Site Pictures and restoration projects of Nakamichi
- Nakamichi manuals archive
- Nakamichi history and classics (German)