Ken Shindo, 19392014
Ken Shindo, the Japanese audio designer whose electronics, loudspeakers, and accessories have influenced the parallel worlds of tube audio and analog audio, and who is shown above (right) with loudspeaker designer John DeVore, died late last month after a brief illness. He was 74.
A former design engineer for Matsushita, Ken Shindo inherited from his father an interest in recorded music and playback gear. In 1977, after years of devoting his spare hours to learning the sounds of different vacuum tubes and other vintage parts, Shindo-san struck out on his own and founded Shindo Laboratory in Tokyo. Among his first commercial products were the model 1474 preamplifier and a push-pull 350B-powered amplifier called the 124B, both of which were built using new-old stock parts: a Shindo calling-card to this day. By the 1980s, metallic-green caseworkinspired, in part, by the characteristic color of certain vintage Altec productshad become another of the company's informal trademarks.
Over the years, with the help of his wife, Harumi, and their youngest son, Takashithe builder of various Shindo amps and preamps presently in circulationKen Shindo produced an astonishing number of different hand-made amplifiers and preamplifiers. Some were designed around traditionally popular tubesthere was almost always an EL 34 amplifier in the linewhile others used such relatively obscure tubes as the 6B4G, the PX25, the E2d, and the VT52. In every case, Ken Shindo designed his circuits to play up the characteristics of the tubes he chose to use: a not-insignificant point, considering that most other manufacturers do things the other way around. Consequently, the Shindo Laboratory line is comprised not of multiple amplifiers offering different output-power specs, but of multiple amplifiers with similar specs, each one highlighting somewhat different aspects of musical performance.
Despite some business obstacles in recent yearsincluding new RoHS regulations that effectively prohibit the sale, in Europe, of electronics containing vintage capacitorsShindo Laboratory continued to thrive, and their product line expanded to include vintage-inspired loudspeakers, many with field-coil drivers; an AC isolation transformer; various step-up and impedance-matching transformers; and a widely imitated record player built around the Garrard 301 motor unit.
An amateur mountaineer, Ken Shindo reportedly enjoyed good health until his sudden passing. According to Jonathan Halpern of the US distribution company Tone Imports, shown above (left) with Ken Shindo and Kertu Halpern (right) in John DeVore’s photograph, Shindo Laboratory will remain in business, operated by Shindo-san's family and employees.