Ken Shindo, 1939–2014

Photograph: Jonathan Halpern

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 casework—inspired, in part, by the characteristic color of certain vintage Altec products—had become another of the company's informal trademarks.

Over the years, with the help of his wife, Harumi, and their youngest son, Takashi—the builder of various Shindo amps and preamps presently in circulation—Ken Shindo produced an astonishing number of different hand-made amplifiers and preamplifiers. Some were designed around traditionally popular tubes—there was almost always an EL 34 amplifier in the line—while 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 years—including new RoHS regulations that effectively prohibit the sale, in Europe, of electronics containing vintage capacitors—Shindo 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.

otaku's picture

I will never be able to afford his stuff, but I would love to look at it in the window at "Living Stereo" in the Village.  We should all have something like that to aspire to.

tmsorosk's picture

Sadly missed .

jimtavegia's picture

He and his business is a great story of someone who took his passion and ran with it and gave others products they could love for what they did, not how they measured.  He is clearly to me the untimate DIY person who could seemingly take a wide range of parts and make a quality product that soneone could love and totally enjoy the music that poured through them. 

I am glad to hear that the company will live on.  My condolances to his family and friends. He will surely be missed. 

volvic's picture

Very sad news, have heard his gear many times, loved them but could never afford them.  A shame when creative visionaries leave us so soon.  I can only hope he taught his family everything he knows about his craft and that his legacy continues.  Our hobby is a little poorer with his passing. 

Jceaves's picture

One of the lucky ones, I guess - I have a Shindo pre-amp and amplifier.  A wonderful way to enjoy music.  I wish his family all of the best.   

DetroitVinylRob's picture

Another true master has fallen. RIP Shindo-san