Guides, Hifi Journey, History, Overview

Accuphase – The Very Early History.

The very beginning

This article is about the audio brand Accuphase and the first products they brought to market. Accuphase is interesting for 2, closely related, reasons; one is that they are known for impeccable quality both in build quality and sound reproduction. Second they are one of the very few audio companies that has retained autonomous control and haven’t been bought by a major corporation.

Our journey starts in 1968 when Trio-Kenwood released the Supreme 1 integrated amplifier. An amplifier built to live up to it’s name. It’s 33 watts per channel was nothing against it’s weights of a whopping 16 kgs, and looking at the construction it featured easy-to-access boards that would make service a dream, but would drive up production cost. The most impressive feature is a built in crossover network and three pairs of speaker outputs, meaning it could function as a combined three way active crossover along with an integrated amplifier. All of these more advanced controls along with a front-accessible tape in/out set was conveniently hidden under a door on the lower front of the unit, so while it looked simple and elegant it boasted a lot of easy-to-access, professional features, hinting at the target audience; the absolute high-end consumer.

The Supreme 1 is a very rare amplifier, and maybe it was way ahead of it’s time, considering the scarcity of the unit on the marketplace today.

(Images courtesy of )

The later pieces in the Kenwood Supreme series would first be released in 1974, but already in 1972 the brothers Nakaichi and Jiro Kasuga left the Trio-Kenwood corporation to setup their own company. The company was named Kensonic Laboratories. Over the next year more like-minded people left Trio-Kenwood to come work for the brothers and together they released 3 products in 1973 under the series name Accuphase; The T-100 Tuner, C-200 Pre-amplifier and P-300 Power Amplifier.

The first year

The first year of the Kensonic Laboratories was spent in Jiro Kasugas private home, where the tiny staff would all work in designing and developing their first series of products. A series that, when released was met with high praise all around, due to the uncompromising features and thought that had gone into the three products.

It is however interesting to look into some of these products with a closer look. Why did engineers from a successful company really go out and start by themselves? Was the supreme series as a project originally discarded after the supreme 1? The stories available all tell this almost heroic narrative of the founders being uncompromising in their work and not being allowed to achieve their true potential at their former employer. But Maybe Trio/Kenwood was focused on a much more lucrative market with commodity products more than high-end? Maybe the boost in consumerism regarding technology in Japan in the early 70’s saw a shift in the market where suddenly a demand for high-end Audio was present, meaning the Supreme 1 was too early and Accuphase just in time?

We can only speculate at this point, but there are some features on the products themselves that tell an otherwise untold story about that first year of Product development, something seems off.

The series becomes a brand, the brand becomes a name

What was initially a product-series became a brand; the Accuphase brand (a name taking the prefix ACCU from “accurate” and the acoustical term, PHASE) the company found that the series name would be more suited as a brand in its own right, meaning that the subsequent products would all carry the name Accuphase. After ten years of existing, in 1982, the company name was also changed to match the brand name; Accuphase Laboratory Inc.

If you look at the early version of their initial products and the accompanying brochures you see this evolution; From “KENSONIC” on the front door to Accuphase on their later versions.

Much speculation has gone into the name change; was Kensonic sued by Kenwood for having a “too close” name? Did Kenwood achieve shares in the settlement? Or was there an early dispute regarding the Trio/Kenwood Supreme 1 amplifier? – as far as I can tell, this is all speculation that I cannot verify. What we do know, is that there is a clear line between the Supreme 1 and the Accuphase debut series and far more for this to be mere coincidence; specifically that flip-down door design – where other companies would fit switches on the back or even inside the unit.

On the Accuphase Units this door not only provides access to a host of input and outputs, but also switches and settings like impedance switches for the preamp and a source selector switch on the power amp.

The Timeline

January 1, 1968

Supreme 1

The Trio/Kenwood Supreme 1 was released sometime in 1968, for export markets it was marked Kenwood and internal Japanese sales feateured the Trio logo

January 1, 1968
June 1, 1972

Kensonic Laboratories is founded

brothers Nakaichi and Jiro Kasuga left the Trio-Kenwood corporation to setup their own company. The company was named Kensonic Laboratories.

June 1, 1972
August 1, 1973

Accuphase C-200 and P-300 is released

In the year between founding and releasing their first 2 products, the staff was small and worked out of the apartment of Jiro Kasuga

August 1, 1973
September 1, 1973

Accuphase T-100 is released

Just a month after the release of the C-200 and P-300, the T-100 follows, completing the debut model and what at the time was known as the Accuphase series

September 1, 1973
June 1, 1982

A goodbye to Kensonic

At the 10-year anniversary of the company, the names was officially changed to Accuphase Laboratories Inc.

June 1, 1982

The T-100 Tuner

The Accuphase T-100 Tuner does exactly what you would expect from a Top of the line tuner; it plays radio but with an impressive ability to pull clean audio from the airwaves. The Tuner is built in a way that is over-the-top on almost all accounts. From the chassis featuring a machined aluminum front-plate, to the black anodized flip-down front. Inside the unit each section of the signal path is covered in a protective matte-black shield to avoid electronic interference. And for ease of service all components are placed on removable PCBs, just like you would expect to find in a modern desktop computer, allowing for easy access in the need for service or cleaning.

Underneath the flip-down lid on the front, you’ll find a Multipath meter, output level controls for both FM and AM, along with 2 FM muting levels, an MPX filter toggle and a switch to dim the backlight in the tuner dial.

Most of these controls are not necessary for a tuner, but they are creature comforts:
Are your Tuner signal higher than your turntable or Reel to Reel?” – Just adjust that once and selecting inputs on your preamp is less cumbersome.
“Is the light too bright in the evening hours” – just dim that backlight so it doesn’t interrupt your reading.
All of these small creature comforts provide evidence and comfort to the a sense that everything has been thought of.

I can’t go too in depth with the tuner unfortunately as i do not currently own one, so my experience is gathered from listening and exploring the unit together with a good friend who has one in his collection. I’ll add findings when I complete my own Accuphase set.

The C-200 Preamplifier

The Accuphase C-200 pre-amplifier or “Stereo Control Amplifier” is a under-appreciated gem. It not only is a very good sounding preamp, it also has all creature comforts you could ask for. I would actually go as far as to say it is maybe the ideal preamp for a vintage audio collector. It features a host of inputs; 2 phono inputs, 3 auxillary inputs, 3 tape inputs, tuner and microphone inputs covering all thinkable needs. be it your overwhelming collection of signal sources including the weekly karaoke night. On the back both phono inputs have seperate volume controls to balance signals from different cartridges to each-other and the rest of your line-level equipment. Impedance switches and phono “low boost” control is available underneath the front-lip.

The tone controls are seperate for each channel and with switches you choose whether the tone-control circuit is engaged or not and where on the frequency curve the adjustment takes hold: for bass you can choose between 200hz or 400hz and for treble between 2.5khz or 5khz.

You can even include a subsonic filter for the phono inputs, or seperate low and high filters available across all inputs. “Comp” or loudness which is a volume dependent boost, meant to boost low-end at low volumes to bring a more dynamic soundstage and then the unusable or at least weird speaker selector switches, enabling you to switch between main or remote (see “Somethings seems weird” section below for an explanation on this feature)

The main reason for my sky-high recommendation of this preamp is not purely from a quality of feature-set perspective, but from the fact again that we have some often overlooked creature-comforts right on the front below the flip-down lid: We have Aux inputs, tape in and outs (the third set of both) AND a seperate preamp out directly on the front of the machine. This means that whatever i carry home and want to quickly test or hook up can be quickly connected without needing to move about the amplifier on it’s designated shelf. This combined with the P-300’s equal functionality means I can suddenly test and play with gear without moving about or risking damaging anything. I don’t know of a single other piece of equipment where this kind of feature is incorporated (if you know, please leave a comment here!) and it was an absolute life-changer in my little listening system.

The P-300 Power Amplifier

The Accuphase P-300 stereo power amplifier is a beast of a dedicated power amp. It features a dual-mono construction where each channel deliver a comfortable 150wpc without any issue. Even if you have an unrestored model today, with careful use it should be rock solid and outperform most heavy-duty power amplifiers. But the amplifier part is just one part of this machine. Like the tuner and preamp it boasts a host of features that I’ve come to appreciate from a powerful main-system amplifier. It features 4 pairs(!) of speaker outputs, where one is conveniently hidden underneath the front-lid. Here we also see a secondary preamp input and switch, allowing for testing a set of speakers or another preamp without moving your unit. The meters and their operation-range is changeable between off, 0db, -10db and -20db. If I don’t position this is -20db it’s hard to even notice the needles move.

Other than those things it’s quite simple. as a good dedicated power amplifier should be. Solid, heavy and purpose-built for a single thing: to deliver energy at an instant. To help achieve that the unit has a huge transformer and two 40.000uF 63v capacitors. That’s a lot of power-supply for a 150wpc unit.

The sound is clean and responsive. But to be honest i’ve always found that unless your amplifier was either broken or massively underpowered, power-amplifiers are the only thing I have a very hard time hearing differences between. I can hear differences between methods of amplification: Tube or transistor, I think i can hear difference between an amplifier from mid 60’s and mid 70’s, but suddenly I have to resort to a “tasty-feely” kind of vocabulary with words like “Creamy, distinct, laid-back etc” which are easy to use but hard to explain and extrapolate any real meaning out of. The short conclusion here is that the P-300 power amplifier is a well-built, easy-to-maintain, powerful amplifier that can drive whatever you hook it up to, and that with an accuracy and comfort that is few and far between. I wish i bought mine earlier and I can’t imagine i would ever sell it off. Looking at the hi-fi marketplace, I can only encourage whoever is looking for a high-quality power-amp to consider these units.

Watch my do some periodic maintenance on my P-300

Something seems weird – (accessories)

For this run of components making Accuphase or Kensonic’s first splash into sea that is the consumer audio marketplace, there was of course a couple of accessories available to purchase alongside your three components. The obvious one being a wooden enclosure. This was a well-known option for almost all serious amplifiers of the era from McIntosh to Marantz and of-course Accuphase had to have them as well – the A-2 enclosure here pictured in it’s original box and packaging, ready for enveloping a unit. just note – when you take something big and wrap it inside a box; it becomes huge!

But there was also another, weirder option. A speaker relay selector box. Or at least that is what is mentioned in the user-manual of the Accuphase C-200. This ties into the functionality of the two speaker selection buttons on the front of the preamp. This unit simply plugs in to the back of the unit and functions as a way to switch between main and remote from a single pair of speaker terminals. Now you may think “But why is that weird? that is a well-known product from other manufacturers as well like JBL and McIntosh?” I’m so glad you asked 🙂

The reason I find the inclusion of this product weird is that the C-200 was made to accompany the Accuphase P-300, they where developed as a pair and they where the only 2 units the entire company released together. When they where introduced there where no legacy products or other kinds of consideration. The P-300 has 4 different speaker outputs that are easily switched between. 4!, 3 pairs on the back and 1 on the front. Why would you ever need separate controls directly on the preamp, and dedicated buttons for that? When I read about the speaker relay box in the manual I started to investigate and at that point in time I couldn’t find any information whatsoever. I even wrote P.I.A in Germany (who has had Accuphase Europe Import since day one) and asked about the product and they responded that it didn’t exist…

Until I bought one. (With a receipt from P.I.A themselves). I own it mostly for fun since it’s utility is quite literally non-existent. Which is propably also why mine was never used.

So this concludes our little venture into the depths of the first products and time for Accuphase. This years marks the 50 year anniversary of these fine units, and I am happy to announce they still contribute to delightful listening sessions as my primary system. I hope for another 50 years with these and for Accuphase to continue to do what they do so well – build without compromise.

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