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2015-12-02 - TEAC's TD-102 – Japan’s First 3-motor, 3-head Stereo Tape Recorder

TEAC Tape Decks Enter the Overseas Market

TD-102In 1957, when the newly established Tokyo Electric Acoustic Company was operating from a small factory, two Americans came to visit. The visitors were from a large wholesale radio company, called Lafayette Radio. Their CEO and chief engineer had heard about TEAC from another audio retailer called Maruyama Musen. TEAC founder Katsuma Tani showed a prototype for the latest TD-102 tape deck. The Americans said, “Add a playback amp, turn it into a tape player and change the casing it to a cabinet, and we’ll take it!” They ordered 25 units, introducing TEAC’s technology to the overseas market for the first time.

Unfortunately, that order and several others were unable to move forward. Many factors led to this. At the time, a TD-102 cost 60,000 yen, a huge sum when a graduate bank clerk would have earned a basic salary of 15,000 yen. Furthermore, tape decks had not reached the mass market yet and there was still doubt that sound could really be reproduced on tape.

In April 1958, an engineer named Bretz came to visit the factory. He was from a radio-manufacturing firm called Philco and had heard about the TD-102. He exclaimed, “You’ve got such amazing products! Why don’t you tell anyone about them?” Bretz then invited TEAC to perform a demonstration of their products at the Far East Audio Club that he managed on the Tachikawa military base. 

TEAC brought fifty TD-102 units to demonstrate, and they were all purchased with cash. Tani said later, “It was so busy at the factory after that. There would be foreign cars parked outside the shabby factory in Sumida, day after day, paying in advance for the TD-102. Mr Bretz really was like a God of Fortune for TEAC. He taught us what it meant to do business. He also gave TEAC a vote of confidence for overseas buyers, sewing the seed for future overseas expansion.*”

TEAC’s Open-Reel Tape Decks

TD-102 package

After the TD-102’s initial success, TEAC’s open-reel tape decks gained wide commercial notoriety. An influential American consumer magazine, Consumer’s Report, listed the TD-102 as #5 out of 17 tested audio products. When Tani heard this he remarked, “No matter how difficult it is, if you make a technically superior product, it will gain recognition.” It was this strength of conviction that formed the backbone of TEAC’s mission statement “It is from our ability to produce the best products in the world that we derive our reason for being”

For more information on the TD-102, visit the Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording’s page on the product.

* From The Development of Magnetic Recording in Japan, by Nakagawa Yasuzo