Etsuro Nakamichi, a radio engineer in the Japanese Navy during World War II, founded Nakamichi Research in 1948. In 1957, Nakamichi released the first Fidela reel-to-reel tape recorder for the Japanese market. In 1969, Nakamichi became the first Japanese company to license Dolby B. During the 1960s and first half of the 1970s, the Nakamichi brand was little known outside of Japan; in the American market, its products have been sold since 1967 under the brands Fisher, Concord, Wharfedale, Elac, Leak, Goodmans, Sansui, Saba, Harman/Kardon, etc.
With the advent of compact cassettes in 1964, Etsuro and Niro bet on a new format, and by 1973 they offered the market models 1000 and 700, which were the absolute best cassette decks at that time. Subsequently, until 1993, Nakamichi’s flagship models essentially defined the technological ceiling of magnetic sound recording of their time. At the same time, starting from 1979, two “flagships” with approximately equal sound capabilities were produced simultaneously; one of them had automated calibration control, the other was completely manual.
1973-1984: Nakamichi 1000. In addition to a two-shaft tape mechanism, a pass-through path with separate recording and playback heads and a noise reduction system, models 1000 and 700 had built-in means of calibrating the bias, setting the nominal recording level and azimuth of the head installation angle. In subsequent years, calibration of the bias and (much less often) the recording level appeared among competitors, but the operational correction of the head installation angle forever remained the “highlight” of Nakamichi.
The first generation Model 1000, with manual level calibration, was discontinued in 1977; its new versions continued to be released in small quantities in 1978-1984, regardless of the release of the latest flagship models to the market. The Nakamichi 1000ZXL Limited, released in 1981, with a gold-plated front panel and tape mechanism elements, a mahogany body, with automatic setting of the azimuth of the recording head, recording level, with fully computerized four-frequency calibration and equalization, became a kind of unsurpassed peak of cassette decks, and at the same time, the most expensive model of the company, designed for private buyers ($6,000). Moreover, until 1984, it was equipped only with Dolby B UWB, and Dolby C could only be used through an external noise reduction unit.
1978-1981: Nakamichi 580. If the upper models 700/700II/1000/1000II were supplied in a “cabinet”, then, starting with the model 580, simpler (in the Nakamichi classification) models began to be produced in a low “rack-mount” case. The second generation models, starting with the Nakamichi 580 M, launched in 1978, as well as the 1979 models (480/481/482/581/582/660ZX/670ZX/680/680ZX), first had an attachment on the playback head, moving the felt pressure pad (the standard element of a compact cassette that presses the tape against the head) away from the tape. The tension of the tape was set by two drive shafts, and the cushion, according to Nakamichi engineers, simply began to interfere with the uniform movement of the tape along the heads. Subsequently, this solution was used by Nakamichi on all produced models, including models with two heads. The Nakamichi 580 model does not have this attachment and the tape passes through touching only one playback head, made of Cristalloy, the erase head is located above the left roller. Starting with the 582Z, Dolby C appears as standard equipment, and inputs and outputs for connecting an external noise reduction unit disappear as unnecessary.
1979–1984: Nakamichi 1000ZXL. Following the world’s first triple-head cassette recorder, the Nakamichi 1000, manufactured in 1973, the first cassette recorder to reach 20,000 Hz and defining an incredible level of quality in compact cassette recording unachievable by any other cassette recorder manufacturers in the 1970s. The Nakamichi 1000ZXL has set a new unattainable benchmark for quality recording, with guaranteed data sheets for any type of film from 18 to 25,000 Hz. Nakamichi created the ideal tape recorder, which contained everything needed for impeccable high-quality music recording. It automatically set ideal playback and preparation conditions for recording on any type of cassette tape. Whether it’s an old tape, or a tape released at the end of the era of cassette recorders. The tape recorder had 2 microprocessors: ABLE (Azimuth, Bias, Level, Equalizer) and RAMM (Random Access Music Memory). Automatic computerized calibration of the compact cassette occurred at four frequencies. The Nakamichi 1000ZXL remains to this day one of the most expensive, unsurpassed and generally recognized as the best tape recorder, incorporating all the best in the history of recording and playback from compact cassettes.
1980–1982: Nakamichi 700ZXL. Together with the 700ZXE, which was produced for only two years (1981-1982), and the 1000ZXL (1979-1984), they are generally considered second-generation cassette decks that came close to the sound of reel-to-reel tape recorders. Nakamichi 700ZXL is a fully computerized cassette deck with automatic setting of the azimuth of the recording head, calibration of tapes at three frequencies and equalization (ABLE system (Azimuth, Bias, Level, Equalizer). Like the 1000ZXL model, it had a RAMM (Random Access Music Memory) system Their younger successors are the Nakamichi LX-5 (1981-1984) and the dual-head deck, the Nakamichi LX-3 (1982-1984)
1981–1984: Nakamichi ZX-7. With the release of the ZX-7 model in 1981, and the third generation model ZX-9 in 1982, and the simultaneous release of the second generation model 1000ZXL, the development of cassette technology had essentially exhausted itself: a limit in sound quality had been reached, which is still considered irresistible. All subsequent changes affected either the user experience or the cost of the product. From that moment on, the gap between Nakamichi and manufacturers of mass brands of tape recorders began to close, which soon approached the leader, if not in sound quality, then in functionality and numerical indicators. A unique feature of the ZX-7 and its modified model, the ZX-9, was the presence of three parallel calibration units – each type of tape had its own set of adjustment potentiometers. All adjustments, including setting the head azimuth (unlike the 681XZ/682ZX/700ZXE/700ZXL/1000ZXL models) remained completely manual.
1982–1993: Nakamichi Dragon. The Dragon was produced more than all other Nakamichi models. During these years, approximately 3,800 Nakamichi Dragons were produced each year. Dragon is unique among flagship models in having auto reverse. For this convenience we had to pay with a particularly complex mechanism, a unique playback head and a more complex electronic path. It had automatic azimuth adjustment and fully manual calibration adjustments for three types of magnetic tapes. Dragon is a model of the second generation of cassette decks from Nakamichi. During the entire production period they were subject to modifications. Tape recorders released in the last 6 years were considered the most reliable, in which some of the shortcomings inherent in this model of early releases were eliminated. On the back side, all Nakamichi tape recorders, without exception, have a serial number by which you can find out the release date.
1985–1994: Nakamichi MR-1 and MR-2. This series was released for the professional market with XLR connectors and rack mounts. The MR-1 triple-head through-channel tape recorder and the MR-2 dual-head tape recorder (professional versions of the BX-300 and BX-150 tape recorders, respectively). 1986—1993: Nakamichi CR-70. In 1986, in parallel with the Dragon, the “regular” (without reverse) flagship model, already the third generation, was launched – the CR-70 and its simplified version CR-50 (for the American and European markets these models were designated as CR-7A / E and CR-5A/E respectively). The Nakamichi CR-50 was produced from 1986-1990. The Nakamichi CR-70 and CR-50 in the first years of production turned out to be not so reliable. The later CR-70/50, in which the shortcomings were corrected, became the best models of the third generation of Nakamichi. Only the top models of Tandberg, TEAC, Alpine/Luxman tape recorders could compete with them.
In parallel with the listed flagship models, Nakamichi also produced mid- and lower-level machines in the Nakamichi classification (prefixes ZX, BX, RX, DR, as well as Cassette Deck (CD)); Of these, the most interesting are decks with the UDAR system (prefix RX) – “one-way auto reverse”, which physically turned the cassette over while the direction of tape advance remained unchanged. RX-202, RX-303, and a model with three discrete heads RX-505.
In the second half of the 1990s, Nakamichi, under the leadership of Niro Nakamichi, entered the car audio market and also released a unique six-disc CD-ROM computer drive at that time. Neither direction turned out to be competitive, and in 1998 Niro Nakamichi left the fading company, and in 2002 it was declared bankrupt. Having become the property of the Chinese Grande Holdings, the brand continued its life. The company currently develops and produces televisions, home audio systems, car audio systems, headphones, home theaters, DVD and Blu-ray players under the Nakamichi brand, striving to match the Japanese quality of the legendary brand.