We wrote the piece below in April 2019, on the news that Sound United, owner of Marantz, had chosen to continue without the talents of Ken Ishiwata. Now with the news of Ken's passing, it has added poignancy as we mourn the passing of the man who did so much to fine-tune the joys of music reproduction, and to enthuse a wider public through his personalisation of his 'Signature' products for Marantz. Below is a message he sent to Australia on his departure from Marantz, and below that is a short history of Marantz compiled on the occasion of Sound+Image's 30th anniversary. May our condolences to Ken's family, friends and colleagues be added to those which are already flooding from around the world, as we say, with quadruple exclamation marks as always punctuated his friendly emails, vale Ken!!!! Jez Ford, Editor, Sound+Image
"I never thought this day would come…" says Marantz's longstanding audio guru Ken Ishiwata, as he steps down from his role with Marantz, which appears to be part and parcel of the newly announced acquisition of Onkyo, Integra, Pioneer and Pioneer ELITE by the parent company of Marantz (and Denon, Polk Audio and others), Sound United. The goal of owner Viper Holdings Corporation is rumoured to be seeking a turnover of US$1bn globally from the enlarged raft of products.
But the raft has no space for Mr Ishiwata, who has been the face and ears of Marantz for more than 40 years, as celebrated by the recent KI-Ruby series, the latest 'Special Edition' from Marantz to bear the Ishiwata 'signature'.
Those ‘Special Editions’ and KI-Signature models have been great successes for Marantz ever since 1986, when the CD-45 Limited Edition was released at Ken's instigation, originally to repurpose a large number of units left in stock — very successfully, as it turned out, shipping 2000 ‘LE’ units in its first two weeks of sale.
The CD-63 model number was another to get the special treatment, culminating in the legendary CD-63II KI Signature with Ken Ishiwata’s personal tweaks and sign-off, in1996 becoming the best-selling CD player Marantz had ever produced.
We asked Mr Ken if he had a message for Australia as he exits his longstanding role.
"I very much enjoyed my relationship with Australia…. It started in 1980 !!!!" he replied to us, with his usual enthusiastic superfluity of exclamation marks. "I had a wonderful time over so many years with so many people down under…. I will never forget that !!! Please give my own words “Because Music Matters” to all readers. I came up with this so many years ago but it is still the tag line Marantz uses…. And hopefully it will stay that way, since it’s the truth in people’s lives…."
He certainly well deserves a happy retirement, being now 72, though we have our doubts as to whether he'll be able to stay away from the world of audio entirely in the years to come. Because after all, as he says, music matters...
NOTE: We produced a history of Marantz in 2017 for Sound+Image's 30th anniversary edition. It has never been published online, but this seems a good opportunity. Click below for the original pages as PDFs.