When Japanese Onkyo declared itself dead on Friday, it wasn't the whole story. For the Onkyo brand lives on under American ownership.
Onkyo shuts down. The once-honoured Japanese hi-fi brand has gone bankrupt. Thus ends a chapter in audio history that has lasted since 1946.
With debts of 3.1 billion yen (about 23 million euros), Onkyo could no longer make ends meet. And on Friday, the company itself filed for bankruptcy in Osaka District Court. So writes the business media Nikkei.
There was a time when Onkyo’s demise would have sent shockwaves through the audio world. That’s not going to happen. Probably few will notice. And some will ask: Who was Onkyo?
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A hollow shell
If a tree falls in the forest and no one notices – does it make a sound?
The question, attributed to 18th-century philosopher George Berkely, is a classic thought experiment about the difference between the physical world and the experienced one.
In the case of Onkyo, the answer is no. One of the old trees in the hi-fi forest has fallen. It happened without a sound, and no one will notice. The core had long since rotted away, and only a hollow shell remained.
In the 1970s and 80s, Onkyo was a brand of note. When confirmation money had to be spent on a stereo, Onkyo was one of the brands considered. Especially if Sony and Technics were a bit too expensive.
Onkyo did not keep up with the times
But the world has changed, and Onkyo hasn’t been able to keep up. Gone are the days when hi-fi was a people’s passtime. We still listen to music, but the heavy hi-fi rack in the living room has been replaced by portable audio, car audio and wireless multi-room speakers.
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There are still enthusiasts who spend fortunes on stereo. But then the equipment becomes super-expensive and exclusive. And Onkyo was never that. Onkyo stood for reasonable mid-range equipment at reasonable prices.
Onkyo’s fall comes as no surprise either. The company has been in crisis for years. And while they did manage to come up with good products, like the Onkyo TX-8270 stereo receiver, the market was too small to accommodate the smaller brands.
The rescue mission was cancelled
Three years ago, therefore, the hi-fi world was set for a major merger. Sound United, the company behind Denon and Marantz, was in the process of acquiring Onkyo. It could have been a new start for Onkyo (and for Pioneer, whose home audio division had lived a shadowy existence since 2014). But Onkyo got cold feet and called off the merger at the last minute.
The rest is history. And so is Onkyo. Last August, the company had to delist from the stock market. And in March this year, Onkyo’s OEM division, which made equipment for other brands, filed for bankruptcy.
So goodbye, Onkyo! The sad thing is not your passing – but the fact that no one is left to miss you.