TDK Will Re-Enter U.S. Audio Market



TDK, known originally for blank media and then audio, will re-enter the U.S. audio market next year with a new audio line debuting at International CES in January.

There the TDK brand will launch premium home and portable audio products that include AC/DC boomboxes priced up to $499, belt-drive turntables up to $399 and a CD-microsystem.

The TDK brand has been out of the U.S. home and portable audio market since around the mid 2000s, when the brand was marketed by TDK Corp. In 2007, Imation purchased TDK’s blank-media business as part of a corporate strategy to acquire storage brands and leverage their products and names to generate faster growth. A year earlier, Imation purchased Maxell.

Imation already markets TDK audio gear outside the U.S., and earlier this year, the company introduced U.S. consumers to two headphones under the TDK Life on Record brand.

Now, seven new audio products, also marketed under the TDK Life on Record brand, will leverage TDK’s high brand awareness in the U.S. and the brand’s stillstrong association with high-quality audio, thanks to its years in the blank-media market, said Steven Swenson, global brand manager for TDK Life on Record.

All will be available through select online retailers in January, followed by brick-and-mortar distribution in the spring. The company is targeting CE chains as well as A/V specialists for its brick-and-mortar distribution.

All feature premium finishes and deliver premium hi-fi-quality sound. The products include a $499 three-speaker “boombox audio system” with active subwoofer, two coaxial speakers and 2x10-watt plus 1x15-watt amplification. The smaller two-speaker boombox audio system at $399 lacks subwoofer.

Both are AC/DC models with AM/FM tuner and  connectivity to multiple audio sources. The models’ USB Host port streams music from the digital PCM outputs of a cable-connected iPod/iPhone, which rests face-up on an inset on top and recharges while connected. The USB port also plays MP3- and WMA-encoded music streamed from USB drives and hard drives, allowing for song selection by artist, title, album or genre. Other audio inputs include stereo RCA inputs, a 3.5mm input, and a quarterinch input to connect music instruments for playing along with recorded music.

Both boomboxes eschew the traditional embeddeddock design of traditional docking speakers to create a bolder industrial design, Swenson said. It’s also easier for consumers to navigate iPods when they hold them in their hand, he added.

Each boombox features aluminum handle, gloss-black finish, 2.6-inch four-color display that displays metadata, bar-type EQ display, capacitive backlit touch controls, and rotary knobs with real-aluminum finish to “bring some analog feel to these products,” Swenson said.

A three-piece AC-only Micro Audio System with a similar industrial design features separate two-way speakers and a vertical 2.9-inch-wide main unit that incorporates AM/FM tuner, vertical slot-loading CD player, and 2x20-watt amplifier. Inputs include USB Host that accepts PCM streams from a USB-connected iPod/ iPhone, RCA and 3.5mm analog inputs, optical and coaxial digital inputs for videogame sources, and an RCA output to drive a powered subwoofer or second zone. It also plays WMA and MP3 music files from USB drives and hard drives. Pricing was unavailable.

A fourth product is the AC/DC Sound Cube Audio System, a 13.6-inch by 13.6-inch by 15-inch system with 5.25-inch coaxial speakers firing from opposite side and two 5.25-inch passive radiators on the two other opposite sides. The $299 system is equipped with carrying handle, FM tuner, 2x10- watt Class D amplifier and same inputs as the boomboxes. It’s designed for placement in the center of a room, enabling sound to reflect off opposite walls to deliver a wide soundstage, the company said.

The two turntables are belt-drive models, both with embedded phono preamp and one with USB output and included PC software to rip vinyl to MP3. They retail for $299 and $399, respectively. Both feature gloss-black acrylic finish, bar-type equalizer display in the acrylic finish, aluminum frame, vibration-isolating feet, and included cartridge. The 33-1/3/45rpm turntables feature an optical feedback circuit to automatically deliver the precise rotation speed without manual adjustment. Their tonearms feature universal head to accommodate almost every type of standard cartridge.

The sixth new product is an on-ear stereo headphone, the $249 ST-800.

To promote the products, the company will sponsor consumer events, place products at events such as concerts, provide in-store merchandising, and launch a website in which three music groups — The Strokes, Nas and The Walkmen — recount their affinity for the TDK brand and their memories of using cassette tapes to create mix tapes for friends and occasions.


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