Aiwa, Technics, Victor making their presence heard again

TOKYO • Remember Aiwa, Technics and Victor?

Here is good news: A revival is spreading among these Japanese audio brands that longstanding music fans once knew and loved.

Many of these brands, such as radio-cassette maker Aiwa, are symbolic of the heyday of audio technology that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.

How well this revival catches on with the younger generation - not just middle-aged and senior consumers reminiscing about the cassette era - will largely determine whether it is a success.

Aiwa products will once again be on sale as early as this autumn, from a local business that has acquired the trademark from Sony.

Jvckenwood, a firm that was born out of the unification of Kenwood and Victor Company of Japan, brought back Victor, a major brand dating back to before World War II, in March.

Panasonic revived its Technics brand, known for products such as record players, in 2014.

In the late 1980s, when CDs became the main medium for playing music, mini stereo systems and dual CD-cassette players sold at an explosive rate.

Using these in combination with large speakers was a fad among young listeners of the time.

Aiwa, in particular, had many products that sold for comparatively reasonable prices, making it one of the more popular brands.

The company, which was established in 1951 and merged with Sony in 2002, ended production in 2008.

The Aiwa name is being revived by Towada Audio in Akita Prefecture, a firm consigned with the production of Sony's radios.

It acquired the trademark this February and established a new Aiwa company that will work on the brand's revival.

It will manufacture products such as CD-radio-cassette players and high-definition 4K television sets at an affiliated factory in China.

Mr Kazuomi Nakamura, director of the new Aiwa brand, said: "We'll adopt new technology while maintaining the brand's accessible prices."

Technics was merged with the Panasonic brand in 2010. Fans, however, strongly demanded a return of the Technics brand name and Panasonic decided to respond.

Victor, which released its final product in 2012, also resumed sales this year.

The temporary disappearance of these audio brands was due to the increasing number of people choosing smartphones and portable music players such as Apple's iPod.

People were able to listen to music wherever they pleased, leading to a decline in sales of stereo players and other old-school devices.

According to the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association, domestic shipping for audio-related devices has seen a dramatic drop over the past 20 years.

It is now about one-fifth of what it once was.

However, the situation is changing. This is because in recent years, "more and more people (especially middle-aged and senior people) are relaxing in their homes listening to music", said Mr Hideyuki Kobayashi of the Fuji Chimera Research Institute.

Experts expect a recovery in demand for items such as radio-cassette players, fuelled by the familiarity of these old brand names.

But nostalgia is not enough.

Mr Ichiro Michikoshi of research agency BCN said: "It's going to take strategies that will get not just the middle-aged and senior demographics involved, but also the younger generation, which doesn't know about the old brands."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline 'Aiwa, Technics, Victor making their presence heard again'. Print Edition | Subscribe