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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.