Akai (Japanese: AKAI in Romaji) is a consumer electronics brand, founded as , a Japanese manufacturer in 1929. It is now headquartered in Singapore, and is part of Grande Holdings, a Chinese Hong Kong-based conglomerate, which also owns the formerly Japanese brands Nakamichi and Sansui. The Akai brand is now used to rebadge electronics manufactured by other companies.
The manufacturer's products included reel-to-reel audiotape recorders (most notably, the GX series), tuners, audio cassette decks (top level GX, mid level HX and CS series), amplifiers, video recorders and loudspeakers. Akai is also generally regarded to have built the best 8-track player/recorders that were popular during the 1970's It's best known models were the CR-80 series which are still in use over 35 years later.
Many Akai products were sold under the name Roberts in the US, as well as A&D in Japan and Tensai in Western Europe. In the late 1960s, along with Tandberg, Akai pioneered cross-field recording (using an extra tape head) to enhance high frequency recording. Later, they switched to glass-ferrite "epitaXial" (GX) heads, known for their reliability.
Popular open-reel models were the GX-747 and GX-77 (unique models with auto-loading). Prominent cassette decks included the three-head, closed-loop GX-F95, GX-9 and GX-R99 models. Akai manufactured and imported most of its Tensai-branded hi-fi products (including the popular TA-2045 stereo amplifier) for the Swiss audio and electronics distributor Tensai International/EXTAL AG. In the 1990s, the company limited its consumer hi-fi product line in the United States and Europe.
The first product released by the new subsidiary, the S612 12-bit digital sampler, was the first in a series of (relatively) affordable samplers. It held only a single sample at a time, which was loaded into memory via a separate disk drive utilizing proprietary 2.8" floppy disks. The maximum sample time at the highest quality sampling rate (32kHz) was one second. The X-7000, a keyboard version of the S612, was introduced shortly thereafter. Unlike the single-sample S-612, however, it allowed the use of six active samples at once.
Other early products included the Akai AX80 8-voice analog synthesizer, and the Akai AX-60 and AX-73 6-voice analog synthesizers. The AX-60, borrowing many ideas from the Roland Juno-106, but with a "real" analog VCO, also allowed the performer to "split" the keyboard (using different sample sets for different ranges of keys).
In 1985, Akai introduced the MG1212, a 12 channel, 12 track recorder. This innovative device used a special VHS-like cartridge (a MK-20), and was good for 10 minutes of continuous 12 track recording (19 cm per second) or 20 minutes at half speed (9.5 cm per second). One track (14) was permanently dedicated to recording absolute time, and another one for synchronization such as SMPTE or MTC. Each channel strip included dbx type-1 noise reduction and semi-parametric equalizers (with fixed bandwidths). The unit also had innovations like an electronic 2 bus system, a 12 stereo channel patch bay and auto punch in and out, among others. The unique transport design and noise reduction gave these units a recording quality rivaling that of more expensive 16 track machines using 1" tape. The MG-1212 was later replaced by the MG-1214, which improved the transport mechanism and overall performance. Although Akai sold a modest amount of these units, sales never took off, and the company was not able to catch up with Tascam's PortaStudio series, which were much more affordable, utilizing conventional (and cheaper) media such as cassettes and 1/4" reel tapes.
The S612 was superseded in 1986 with the introduction of a "professional" range of digital samplers, starting with the 12-bit S900 in late 1985, the 16-bit S1000 in 1988, and the S3000, which notably featured a writable CD-ROM and hard disk recording. Additional releases of note were the Z4 and Z8 24-bit 96kHz samplers.
Akai also produced several Digital MIDI sequencers and digital synthesizers such as the MPC range (MIDI Production Center), a line of integrated samplers–drum machines and MIDI sequencers that resemble drum machines.
In late 2004 the Akai corporation was bought by the Grande Group and came out of bankruptcy.
Also in 2004, following a US distribution deal, the Akai Professional Musical Instrument division was acquired by Jack O'Donnell, owner of Numark, and audio-electronics corporation Alesis. The three brands operate under the banner Numark Industries, LLC of Cumberland RI.
Akai HDTVs can be found at select RadioShack locations, some of which also carry Scott HDTVs which are rebranded Akai TVs with a few added features. Akai TVs can also be found in select Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Costco locations, on Wal-Mart.com, Target.com, and various comparison shopping websites. In Canada, Akai portable DVD players were sold at 'The Source by Circuit City', and at Zellers, a division of the Hudson's Bay Company.
The Akai Headrush looping pedal has been made famous by artists like KT Tunstall, who uses it to loop her own instruments, vocals, and percussion in her live performances. She does this to build up a song from scratch, using sound effects and looping percussion to create the layers.