Saturday, July 19, 2014

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Nakamachi headphones at K-Mart and Sears

Back when I was a kid in the 80s, Nakamichi was synonmous with high end audiophile gear. They were considered one of the high-end brands.  As a teenager, I didn't know much but I did know Nakamichi products were ultra expensive - tape decks were $1000 and car audio systems cost around $4000 back in the eighties. Today, you can get Nakamichi branded headphones for as low as $15 in the aisle of K-Mart and Sears (both are owned by the same Sears corporation).

There was an offer for one Beats-like fashion headphones for $23 with $20 back in reward points so I got myself one out of curiosity. With the reward points, it was basically getting a pair of headphones for $3. The model I got was the NK2000  but the other models usually have similar promotions at both Sears and K-Mart.

This takes me to today's post. Nakamachi is an example of a great brand that just fell to the wayside.

What happened?

I don't profess to know the exact details. I remember one of their defining moments was in 1989 when they were introduced as high-end car audio gear for the newly minted Toyota's division called Lexus. The first Lexus LS400 featured an interesting Nakamichi stereo system with a single CD front loading dash that stored 7 CDS internally. It was like having a CD changer without using a cartridge or carousel.

Then the digital revolution happen and Nakamichi simply did not keep up. The company went bankrupt in November of 2002.The brand was eventually sold off to a Chinese Holding company. After some research, this totally explains why you now see Nakamichi at K-Mart.

The particular pair of headphones I got is pretty crappy. The fitting, the material is very cheap. You can't even adjust the fitting. The sound is a bit bassy and abysmal. I guess they work in a pinch if you are into bass heavy music. I read some reviews of some of their more fancier looking professional studio headphones, NK2030. They cost around $40 but are always on sale in the $20 price mark. Apparently, they are rebranded cans that are often found on Ali-baba and other wholesale Chinese electronic outfits. However, according to some, they sound pretty decent for $20-30 cans.

My advice, resist your youthful urges and curiosity if you see a set of "Naks" on sale anywhere. They're not the same company you remember from the 70s or 80s. It is a shame actually but at least I was only out $3 dollars. Unfortunately, I don't think kids today even know or even realize Nakamichi's past. They just look like trendy Beats like gear.



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  3. Lol, your article is DEAD ON. I had a 15X2 Nak amp for my car in 1988 and it cost me almost $400!!!! FOR 30 WATTS!!!! What's sad is another brand a/d/s is no longer around either. They were at the top of the scale also. What happened? We had the best brands in the 80's but some couldn't hang on. Now everyone is in the market selling junk