Ken Ishiwata, legendary hi-fi figure, dies aged 72

(Image credit: Future)

Sad news reaches us today: Ken Ishiwata, legendary hi-fi personality and audio engineer, has died. Ishiwata died on 25th November, 2019, after an illness. 

We suspect many readers would have come across Ken Ishiwata’s work, even if they might not know it. If you’ve ever heard or owned a Marantz product made any time in the last forty years then the chances are that he had a hand in it.

Over the years he became synonymous with the brand. His demonstrations at various hi-fi shows were legendary thanks to his eclectic choice of music and unusual but highly effective set-ups. His penchant for sharply cut and boldly coloured suits was also hard to miss.

Up until his recent departure from Marantz his job title was Brand Ambassador. What that rather vague title never made clear was the scale of the impact he had on the brand’s products and by extension the rest of the industry. He was the flag bearer for the brand for decades, working tirelessly to ensure that every new product measured up and displayed that distinctive Marantz-ness in its sound.

(Image credit: Future)

There are a small number of prominent people in the industry that do similar jobs for other companies, but Ken Ishiwata’s influence spanned decades and extended to massively successful products across the price points from affordable to mortgage money. 

Many of these even carried his name, in the form of the long-running KI Signature moniker. His work in the earliest days of CD players, particularly those at more affordable prices, was instrumental in making the format more attractive to the audiophile masses on a budget. 

The Marantz Team sent an official comment to What Hi-Fi?, saying: "We will keep him in our memories with his love for music, the outstanding demonstrations he gave, and his passion to create the most musical audio components. We could extend the list and fill several pages with our memories, simply because Ken was so versatile and talented in countless fields... Let’s keep him in our memories whenever we enjoy music."

It was a little over a month ago that he attended the What Hi-Fi? Awards ceremony to receive our Outstanding Contribution accolade. His speech went down a storm, stirring the soul in a way that only Ken ever managed (and you can watch it below).

More than just the products, the man brilliantly represented the industry we love. He was always enthusiastic and happy to talk, whether that be about the latest technology and the direction of the industry, or by regaling us with stories from the past. He was a real gentleman and he will be missed.

You can also read our interview with Ken Ishiwata from May 2019 on preserving the Marantz sound and his life in the hi-fi industry.

Ketan Bharadia
Technical Editor

Ketan Bharadia is the Technical Editor of What Hi-Fi? He's been been reviewing hi-fi, TV and home cinema equipment for over two decades, and over that time has covered thousands of products. Ketan works across the What Hi-Fi? brand including the website and magazine. His background is based in electronic and mechanical engineering.

  • jjbomber
    Very sad news indeed. That speech at the awards was so beautiful and really summed up what music is about. RIP.
  • gaz2867
    Very very sad news I still own a Marantz 63 OSE
    it has stopped reading discs so needs attention it’s built like a truck bomb proof in fact but so good I am definitely going to get it seen to.
    if I can find someone reliable.
    thank you Ken for years of amazing Sound.
  • bigfish786
    I had read many reviews of Marantz gear over the years, and always wanted a K.I setup. I’ve got as near as damn it to the best K.I kit I could afford.
    I genuinely wish I had bought Marantz gear a long long time ago, such has been my happiness with the products I have bought.
    The audio world has lost a true legend.

    thank you Ken, for everything.
  • Sad news indeed, we've lost a legend in the hi-fi industry. Marantz every time for me. Here's to you Ken :beercheers: RIP sir.
  • Gray
    Had the PM66 KI amp, still got the CD6000 OSE KI both very nice.

    Once got to shake the hand of KI to show my appreciation.

    His legacies live on. R.I.P. KI
  • hybridauth_google_107034794912473782700
    R.I.P sir. Thanks for your legacy. Hope Marantz launches some commemorative models in your honor.
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    Ishiwata, who was brand ambassador for Marantz, was a tireless champion for high-fidelity sound.

    Ken Ishiwata, legendary hi-fi figure, dies aged 72 : Read more

    An excellent testimony to one of the great gentlemen of the industry. I had met him at a number of hi fi shows. He combined prodigious knowledge with refined dignity and yes, he had a degree of sartorial flair. He did indeed design some outstanding high end products as well as more affordable options. He will be missed by many.
  • charliefarnsbarns
    Reading this whilst listening full blast to an HD CD1 and HD AMP 1 set up - long enjoyed the quality and passion of Marantz gear - admit to not knowing too much about Mr Ishiwata until now but now reading these and other articles he was indeed an inspiration gentleman.
  • Dalesman
    The Industry has lost a Legend, Marantz gear stirs my soul and brings joy every single time I've switched it on. I'll always cherish the KI Pearls cause I know the Master created it with passion.
  • ChrisE
    Thank you Ken for everything you gave this world, deep respect, rest in peace...