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Sound of Success:
How One Company Transformed the Cassette Tape and Music Industry

In the 1960s, the creation of cassette tapes produced specifically for music recording revolutionized the way we listen to the world around us. TDK, established in 1935 by Kenzo Saito in Japan and formerly known as Tokyo Denki Kagaku Kogyo, significantly advanced this technology. The company’s initial focus was on the commercial production of ferrite, a magnetic material that could be used in a wide range of applications. 

One of TDK’s business arms was involved in the production of magnetic tapes, which were primarily used to record speech for radio broadcasters. Given the niche nature of the market and the limited demand, this sector ultimately proved unprofitable for TDK. The team’s general manager at the time, Yutaka Otoshi, was pressured to either improve performance or shutter the tapes business. Unwilling to give up on the product’s potential, Otoshi instead came up with an idea—to develop a cassette that could be used to record music. 

TDK’s Tamagawa Factory, established in 1958, produced open reel tapes for radio broadcasters.

A Symphony of Innovation

To turn this vision into a reality, Otoshi’s team set themselves a goal: to accurately record Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor Op. 64 on tape. Featuring a wide range of tones, the team believed that a high-quality recording of this concerto would signify their successful reinvention of the cassette tape for the home consumer market.  

There was, however, a challenge ahead; measuring just 3.81mm, the standard magnetic tape was not wide enough to capture the full range of high to low pitches in Mendelssohn’s concerto. After researching different methods to overcome this obstacle, the team concluded that they could arrange fine magnetic material on the tape to increase its retention capabilities, thereby enabling the recording of a wide sound range. 

Guided by a fierce will to create what they believed would be a world-changing product, Otoshi and his team reached out to another Japanese company that had the technological capability to produce fine particles of high purity. The joint innovation between the companies led to the development of a fine needle-shaped magnetic material that, when arranged on cassette tape, could capture the full grandeur of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. 

The innovative fine magnetic material enabled cassette tapes to record and capture the full range of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.  

Creating Value for the World 

TDK’s innovative efforts marked a watershed moment for music both as an art form and as an industry. Once available to only the most dedicated and passionate music fans, grand symphonies such as Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto became accessible to all with the advent of TDK’s cassette tapes. 

The company’s journey to becoming a household name known for its cassettes reflects its unwavering venture spirit. The innovations in cassette tapes for music recording showcased not only the company’s creativity and expertise but also its openness to engage and innovate with industry partners, helping them produce a boundary-breaking product. 

Cassette tapes made portable music accessible to a much wider audience.