Take Me Back: The Greatest Audio Innovations of the 20th Century

History of Onkyo Part 1: The 20th Century

The greatest inventions create products that fulfill a deeply human need. Consider the telephone. People crave connection, especially when loved ones are far away. The telephone closes a painful distance and invites a familiar voice in your ear.

This is just one example—among so many—of how sound is a powerful driver of emotion. The intonation in someone’s voice often reveals their mood. The way a pianist strikes the keys can either make us feel flighty or ominous.

Likewise, listening to music in the right headphones can change the way you hear music forever. Feeling the theater subwoofer beat in your chest will intensify any performance. The right audio equipment can open a world of sonic colors, a spectrum of nuances that define an experience.

But you already know all of this. As an avid sound enthusiast, you’re well aware of the impact sound quality can have. In this two-part blog series, we uncover the audio inventions that shifted public perception, and how Onkyo has been an integral part of that evolution.

Part One: Onkyo Drove 20th Century Audio Innovation 

1950 – The Speaker Cone

Onkyo developed the first non-pressed speaker cone and it’s still in production today. Onkyo’s passion for distinctive sound can be traced back to this revolutionary idea.

1953 – The Radio

Onkyo released the first radio transistor that refused to compromise sound quality. This transient response remains a critical aspect of audio reproduction today.

1955 – The Television

Onkyo adds great sound quality to mass-produced televisions with groundbreaking acoustic technology.

1957 – Partnership with Toshiba

Onkyo ramps up TV production with capital investment from Tokyo Shibaura Electric Co., Ltd., known today as Toshiba.

1958 – The Stereo

Onkyo was among the first to design a stereo system with separate audio components rather than an all-in-one furniture-type system.

1965 – The Bookshelf Speaker  

Onkyo was at the forefront of developing the compact box speaker.

1966 –The Record Player

Deemed the No. 1 Stereo Product, the Onkyo record player gained instant popularity.

1969 – The Amplifier

Onkyo set out to amplify the input signal with the utmost fidelity while preserving the true dynamics of the recording.

1970 – Headphones

Onkyo’s current range of headphones/earphones has a linage that stretches back 50 years.

1971 – Surround Sound

Stereo systems in the early 70s consisted of three separate components—the source/amp and a pair of speakers. Onkyo was among the first to introduce a second pair of speakers for surround sound.

1973 – The Portable Record Player

Onkyo introduced a carefully engineered direct-drive record player resistant to internal and external vibrations, making it portable.

1978 – The Subwoofer

In the late 1970s, Onkyo released one of the first production subwoofers.

1981 – The Cassette Recording Deck

Onkyo was first in the world to release a consumer-oriented high-speed (2X) dual-dubbing cassette deck.

1985 – The CD Player

Onkyo released the world’s first CD player with optical transmission.

1992 – The Automatic CD Changer

Onkyo released the world’s first six-disc carousel-style CD auto-changer.

1993 – The A/V Receiver

Onkyo produced the first and (at the time) only Hollywood-accredited high-fidelity A/V reproduction standard for movie theaters.

2000 – The THX Surround EX-compatible 7-Channel A/V Receiver

Onkyo developed the world’s first a state-of-the-art THX Surround EX decoder, creating reliably superb sound for home theater systems.

Innovation Changes Perception

Onkyo has been a giant in sound engineering since the 1950s. These 20th century products shaped the way society watched movies, listened to music and recorded audio. The same passion that has driven innovation for the past century is fueling the next generation of sound at Onkyo. In the coming year, you’ll see stories from artists and visionaries around the world who have been inspired by Onkyo. If you’re one of them, share how you’ve been #InspiredByOnkyo.

 Also, stay tuned for Part Two of this series, which uncovers Onkyo’s 21st century inventions as well as where the audio industry is headed.