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Analogue evolution: Audio-Technica celebrates 60 years in audio

A high-quality “audio for all” philosophy has kept the Audio-Technica fire burning for 60 years. Let’s track the milestones that have made this firm an icon.

Hailing from Japan, the Audio-Technica catalogue encompasses turntables, microphones, headphones, and more. Nowadays, it’s one of the most recognisable brands in audio. So how did it all get started?

Read on as we head back to the early 1960s and trace the tale of Audio-Technica — which began in a Tokyo apartment — and visit a few key milestones along the way.

A hi-fi quest

Hideo Matsushita
Audio-Technica founder, Hideo Matsushita

Like so many stories of innovation, Audio-Technica’s began with a single spark of inspiration.

Company founder, Hideo Matsushita, was a curator at the Bridgestone Museum of Art in Tokyo and part of the gig was hosting LP listening concerts. But how was this any different to the everyday experience of listening to music? The hi-fi system was of the best quality.

Matsushita was struck by the public’s emotional reaction to the experience. On account of the high-fidelity gear, the full dynamism and warmth of the musical performance were translated for the audience. This was Matsushita’s lightbulb moment. On April 17, 1962 — Audio-Technica’s first product — the AT-1 cartridge — was born.

After three years and three locations within the Shinjuku Ward of central Tokyo, Audio-Technica sought out the greener pastures of Machida City and a bigger factory. The company’s star was beginning to rise on the back of a tiny yet crucial turntable component: the cartridge.

The cartridge: a quick explainer

Audio-Techinca Cartridges

For vinyl fans, the cartridge is where the rubber meets the road. It’s a crucial component in any hi-fi rig and key to ensuring the best possible sonic performance from your beloved collection.

The principle is simple: the cartridge works with the stylus (the little needle that sticks out the bottom) to transform record grooves into an electrical signal. With the AT-1, Audio-Technica pioneered an affordable cartridge that brought inspiring sound to the masses. From there, the company’s cartridge development went from strength to strength.

Audio Technica AT-1
AT-1: the product that started it all

Nowadays, Audio-Technica has a massive selection of moving magnet (which transfers force through a cantilever to a magnet at the other end) and moving coil (the mechanical force of the stylus transfers up the cantilever to a moving coil) cartridges. Alongside a variety of styli (models that are appropriate for mono, stereo, and even quadraphonic sound), there’s a configuration available for every setup and budget.

Listening up

Audio-Technica AT700

After a decade of firmly establishing itself at one end of the signal chain, Audio-Technica launched its first-ever headphone model, the AT-700, in 1974.

Nowadays, Audio-Technica’s headphones are near-ubiquitous as listening trends continue to evolve. People are less likely to plug headphones into a stereo system (though the ATH-WP900 is perfect for that environment), but listening on the go has never been more in vogue.

To meet that demand, Audio-Technica continues to develop and release true wireless earbuds like the ATH-CKS50TW and over-ear models like the ATH-M20xBT. These models tick all the boxes for people who want all the convenience of wireless listening and audio calls.

Audio-Technica 70s poster

The company has also made its presence felt in the studio and DJ booth with the incredibly robust M-series. Perfect for monitoring in all kinds of situations, these reliable, no-nonsense cans are among the most recognisable of all AT’s offerings. Audio-Technica has even stepped into the gaming arena, developing headsets that are designed to give players a competitive edge.

Check one-two

AT5047

Audio-Technica’s talent for designing and building electromechanical transducers was destined for microphones. In 1978, this became a reality with the AT-800 series, and from there, the company further inroads into the recording studio.

44 years on from its microphone debut, you can find an AT mic for just about any purpose. Need to create a podcast? The AT2020 is a cult classic in its own right. A large-diaphragm cardioid condenser, this affordable and stylish mic is couldn’t be easier to set up; it even comes in USB form: the AT2020 USB.

At the other end of the scale lies the AT5047 — a model that represents the peak of Audio-Technica’s engineering capabilities. Its innovative design includes four perfectly-matched diaphragms in a single capsule, resulting in an extremely low noise floor and superior transient response.

Kazuo Matsushita

In 1993, the baton was passed onto Kazuo Matsushita (pictured above), the son of Hideo. The younger Matsushita is still the Audio-Technica President, and still keeps the original mission close to his heart, stating:

“What begins as a simple vibration; a subtle movement, results in an emotional connection – whether that be when listening deeply to an album or sharing your voice with the world.”

To explore the full range and find out more about Audio-Technica’s 60 year anniversary, visit the website.