Continuity Is Strength

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the founding of Audio Accessory magazine, the editorial department asked me to talk about my reminiscences. I vividly recall the time, as if it had happened just yesterday. In the background to the launch of the journal there was the fact that the nationwide audio diffusion rate had exceeded 50%, the population of young people aged 15–26 years was reaching nearly 10 million, and the rates of advancement of the postwar baby-boom generation to senior high school and university were soaring.

At the time remarks were made that a magazine titled Audio Accessory was not a genuine audio magazine. But since the audio diffusion rate had surpassed 50%, the basic policy, I thought, should be one of not only promoting better use and better quality without the need to spend too much money but also recommending upgrades, in other words, replacement buying of equipment. Accordingly, I urged that Audio Accessory should be an audio magazine with wide-ranging and abundant information on accessories as well as audio equipment itself.

Testimony to the correctness of my stance can be seen in the present prosperity of not only the market for high-end audio and single component systems but also the market for cables, power sources, and other accessories. I doubt whether any other audio magazine has contributed so much to raising and broadening the enjoyment of audio fans. It is an embodiment of my philosophy that growth can only be achieved by adhering strictly to the basic policy.

The Audio Excellence Award was inaugurated 38 years ago, in 1978, as a commemorative project to mark the 30th anniversary of our company. In the latest issue of the magazine, No. 162, the editorial department put together a special feature in which I talk about the beginning of the award as well. The objective of the award, I wrote, was that products should be selected on the premise that “in the audio market what are desired are products that users can use for a long time with satisfaction and peace of mind, products that retail stores can confidently recommend to customers and, as a result, maintain their trust, and products that makers can manufacture and supply in a stable manner.”

Whatever the case, the award had to choose products that both retail stores and users could sell and buy with peace of mind. If products were selected only on the basis of the sometimes grandiose perspectives of critics, they might not reflect actual conditions in the market. But at the same time, if they were selected only by retail stores, attention might be directed just to products that boost the efficiency of stores. So we decided that the judging committee for the Audio Excellence Award would consist of the same number of audio retail store representatives and audio equipment critics, with each side having a chairperson. This composition created quite a stir, because it was completely different from other awards.

Furthermore, we set conditions for products to be eligible for the award. At first the award targeted products that were on continuous sale in the domestic market, regardless of whether they were manufactured in Japan or overseas, and excluded items that were not for the general user, such as office equipment and OEM products. But then the judges agreed to target all products that were attractive to users, including, for example, products that were exemplary in terms of performance and quality even though they were not distributed very widely. There was also a debate about the naming of the award until everyone finally agreed to our proposal of Audio Excellence Award, which has stayed the same to this day.

The judging committee for the first awards in June 1978 was co-chaired by Isamu Asano on behalf of the critics and Shichinojo Suzuki on behalf of the retail stores. The judging committee for the 38th awards, to be announced in October of this year, will be co-chaired by Makoto Fujioka on the critics’ side and Seiji Morita on the retail stores’ side. The awards will be grandly announced in Audio Accessory, which is faithfully following its founding policy, as well as on the Phile-web site, which now has 1.5 million unique users a month, and in free papers available at stores. The Audio Excellence Award also attracts attention from overseas. We intend to further strengthen the project in the future and thereby contribute to the industry with a consistent policy. Strength really does lie in continuity!