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Jim S. Saito – Chairman of the Board
Yasumasa Ishizuka – Advisor of the Management
Tatsuki Tozuka – International Sales

Visits of audio company owners, including those biggest ones, are quite common nowadays in Poland. It turns out, that we are an attractive market, with an audio scene with traditions and an interesting shade. However a visit of three important people, who do not go anywhere often, the people from Accuphase in Krakow, my city, is something special.


Text: Wojciech Pacuła/Accuphase
Photographs: Bartosz Łuczak/Piksel Studio | Accuphase

Interview published: in Polish on Jan 1th 2012, No. 93

The meeting took place on October 13th, 2011 in Krakow, in the company salon of the Polish distributor of this brand, the company Eter Audio. Three guests from Japan were there: Mr. Jim S. Saito (Shigemasa Saito) – director and co-founder, Mr. Yasumasa Ishizuka – Advisor to the Management, one of the founders, and a representative of overseas sales, much younger than both the founders – Mr. Tatsuki Tozuka. I talked with all the guests, but most questions; quite understandably, I posed to Mr. Saito and Ishizuka. The first of the gentlemen – is known: he founded the company and knows everything about it. Mr Ishizuka turned out to be an equally interesting interlocutor – we was the co-founder of the company, when together with a group of engineers from the company Trio-Kenwood, led by Mr. Nakaichi Kasuga and Jiro Kasuga, which were later joined by people from Marantz (Japan) and Luxman, responsible there for expensive audio systems, who were disappointed with the company politics and decided to fulfill their wildest dreams and ideas. Mr. Saito, currently the head of the company, and previously their vice-director, one of the engineers from Trio-Kenwood, decided to put everything on one card – and he was not disappointed. So the company Kensonic Laboratories, Inc. was founded, which was later renamed to Accuphase Laboratory, Inc. Now it is one of the most recognized high-end brands in the world, and inspirations with the design of the American McIntosh are long time gone – now this is a common wealth, shared with - for example - Luxman. Almost from the very beginning the design, production and sales – all company operations – are run from the company headquarters based in Yokohama.

Wojciech Pacuła: When exactly was Accuphase founded?
Jim S. Saito: On 1st June, 1972

WP: Where was it?
JS: Started at the private residence at Yukigaya, Ohta-Ku in Tokyo of Mr. Jiro Kasuga, using it as a laboratory

WP: Who exactly did it?
Yasumasa Ishizuka: Accuphase was founded by the Kasuga Brothers (Nakaichi and Jiro Kasuga), who were the founder of KENWOOD Electronics of Japan with some other staff members, who joined from KENWOOD. Those included Shigemasa Saito and Yasumasa Ishizuka.

WP: What is the background of the first people in Accuphase?
JS, YI: The Kasuga brothers were the founder of KENWOOD Electronics. The staff members, who initially joined the Kasuga brothers at the start of Accuphase, were all from KENWOOD, enjoying important positions of responsible manager class at KENWOOD Electronics. However, the company KENWOOD was struggling for its profitability and survival, as it expanded too quickly to follow the hyper economic expansion of Japan at that time. Whereby there were some conflicts over the operational ways and means of the company among the management. The Kasuga brothers, who were tired of keeping up with the demands by stock holders for higher dividends and of the ever increasing expansion of the size of the company, decided to muster together those people who had the same common interest as theirs to establish a new high-end audio equipment manufacturer of outstanding excellence and quality.

WP: Why did you make this?
JS: Prevailing in the audio market some 40 years ago, were mostly those products of medium price categories, allowing the class of top quality equipment to be shared by the manufacturers of foreign countries. This gave us a motivation to challenge to the development of products of a step or two higher in quality gathering all of the engineering expertise and knowhow gathered by that time. The very first group of the products developed were a power amplifier Model P-300, a pre-amplifier C-200 and an AM-FM stereo tuner T-100. Those products received an instant acceptance of the then audio market, enjoying an excellent reputation for their sound quality and performance characteristics.

WP: How did you come to digital products?
JS, YI: Audio equipment can be classified in the following three categories:
First of all, speaker systems that works as a transducer of electric energy to sound one.
Secondary, players and tape decks that convert the signal information recorded on disc and tape to electric signals.
Thirdly, amplifiers that amplify the aforementioned electric signals, and produce energy to drive speaker systems.
Each category of the product groups has its own feature and specialty. As we are a group of specialists in the part of electronic amplification, we started with the aim to manufacture products of the best and first class quality of the world. In the second half of 1970s, there became available the converting technology of analog audio signals into digital signals with the birth of the CD Disc and CD Players.
When the digital technology was introduced, we first thought the analog disc might tread a dwindling path and might affect our own businesses too. As learning more about potentials of the digital technology, we came to know it would open new areas that our accumulated engineering expertise and knowhow serve well for the digital audio technology.
Having started engineering works in 1980, we could unveil the first digital CD player combination of the DP-80 and DC-81. As expanding the range of digital equipment, we took the advantage of the technology to further the perfection of our analogue audio engineering technology, and brought out excellent products highly appreciated in the markets.

WP: Who is responsible for it?
JS: The senior managing director & chief engineer Mr. Masaomi Suzuki has been taking the responsibility of the development, assisted by a number of other specialist engineers. He was hire perfectly for the purpose to develop digital side of Accuphase.

WP: How come SACD format – it seems that it is niche one, right?
YI: SACD is a super Package Media being able to store information of 7 times of the CD format. The CD format of 44,1kHz/16bit can store far larger information than analog audio can. It was considered to be large enough at that time, but the CD format as it was not enough to satisfy the demands of audiophiles. To meet the demands of the industry and audiophiles, the new SACD format was proposed. We remember how much we were moved and impressed with its superb sound quality on our first listening. Compared with the CD, it provides a far deeper soundstage of other dimensions, extending deep in width, depth and producing the sound that subtly diminishes to an eternal end. Therefore, we jumped on it to produce a SA-CD player.

WP: Do SACD players have to be made different than CD ones (decoder and transport aside)?
JS: As mentioned before, The information density of the SA-CD is 7 times more of the CD. To reproduce such high density of information needs engineering technologies of much higher and different dimensions. The SA-CD is avaricious, proposed to be compatible with the CD format that requires such entirely new basic devices and technologies as the beaming angle of the laser pickup, twin beams, disc rotation speed, etc. Whereby, it is not so easy to design and produce like as the CD player is, resulting in limited number of the manufacturers to our regret.

WP: How about analog products you made recently (AC-5 and C-27?) Do you believe analog will survive?
YI: Following the introduction of the CD technology in 1982, most of the audio manufacturers and the distribution channels withdrew from the analog disc business. As mentioned before, there were a number of audiophiles, who were not satisfied with the sound quality of the CD and who learned the analog disc has some advantages. Moreover, the number of analog disc produced by 1982 mounted to a several millions. Realizing this valuable asset of the analog disc should not be wasted, some audio equipment companies came back to the production of analog disc playback equipment.
Accuphase have been providing their products with equalizer amplifiers in option boards to enable the analog disc playback, and therefore, Accuphase remained prepared for the possibility of analog disc playback. The C-27 was developed to meet the demands of those, who wished to have a higher quality equalizer amplifier than those option boards. We recently released the new MC phono cartridge MC-5 following the experiences of having once produced such reputable phono cartridges as AC-1, AC-2 and AC-3. We firmly believe that any of good sounding analog discs and equipment would remain in the market, as the analog disc is one of the important music sources of AUDIO. It is our company policy to keep and build the analog audio equipment among our product program now and on.

WP: You made “anniversary” products like C-3800 and DP-900/DC-901 – will you output partnering mono amps?
JS: We have a plan to release the third of the 40th year anniversary models. It is not yet the time to unveil it. Please wait and see with great expectation.

WP: Are you going to prepare book about Accuphase history? Like McIntosh, QUAD, KEF by Fremer or Marantz in Stereo Sound (in English)?
JS: We have no such plans to our regret.

WP: How about recordings by Accuphase?
YI: We are a group of reproduction equipment specialists, and have no intentions to go beyond this specialization.

WP: Could you explain me how your instrumentation amplifier principle differs from regular balanced mode?
YI: The employment of a balanced connection between stereo equipment and circuitries makes them effectively not susceptible to the influences of external noises. Thanks to the fact that by amplifying the signal differences transmitted through the two cables (Hot and Cold), it effectively cancels out external noises at the input sides of the balanced connection.
The instrumentation amplifier is an amplifier with two inputs that are perfectly electrically balanced. Therefore, it can ideally amplify the differences in two signals. In order words, the employment of the instrumentation amplifier at the input sides of the balanced connection can form an ideal system that is not susceptible to external noises.

WP: Please tell me something about the DAC-30 – this is a very interesting add-on.
JS: This optional card was designed personally by Mr. Masaomi Suzuki, the head of our constructors, responsible initially only for digital products. I have to say, that he had a lot of fun with that, because he did not design anything on his own for a long time, not helped by a group of engineers. He put his whole heart in it, what can be heard – in my opinion.

WP: Thank you for the conversation!
JS, YI: Thank you too – it was a pleasure. Krakow is fantastic!

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