The Best of SANSUI - Vintage Stereo, Classic Audio Products and Company History -
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International v.s. Japanese Domestic Market
It's very interesting to correlate the relationship between the quality of Sansui products and the establishment of international version of its product lines. The last Sansui product lines sold in both domestic and international markets were Professional and Definition Series with the exception of AU-X1 to AU-X1111, and some high-end separates.
The first 07 Series introduced in 1976 in Japan consisted of AU-607 and AU-707. They did not have the highest model AU-907. In the international market, they named those models as AU-517 and AU-717 respectably. If you compare those, you can find that they are identical in build, but carry different names.
In 1979, AU-919 was introduced in the international market. This is identical to the top of the line model, AU-D907, the second generation of the 07 Series, . AU-D907 Series consisted of AU-D607, AU-D707, and AU-D907 itself.
In the same year, Sansui introduced AU-719 in the international market. This was the step up model of AU-717, and was not the step down model of AU-919. It means AU-719 was newer than AU-919, but used older technology.
I believe that this was the beginning of the down trend of Sansui international models. In other words, AU-919 was the last Sansui top model made the international market, of course, with the exception of AU-X1 to AU-X1111 and high-end separates.
As mentioned elsewhere in this site, all consecutive international top models, such as AU-D11, AU-D11II, AU-G99X, AU-X901, AU-D901, AU-D901X, and AU-911DG, were less powerful and lesser built than domestic top models.
Why? There have been some discussion on this issue among Sansui enthusiasts.
The year 1979, the last year Sansui introduced the top of the line model, the exchange rate between U.S. Dollar and the Japanese Yen was about 260Yen to a Dollar. This was about 38% appreciation on Yen for just a few years compared with the traditional 360Yen to a Dollar that was set at the end of WWII (Yen means round in Japanese - one circle is 360 degrees - this was the rumor why Gen. Douglas MacArther decided the exchange rate at 360Yen.)
With this rapid appreciation of Yen value, many Japanese companies had to adjust their cost structure. Sansui must had to face with the same problem since Sansui was heavily depending upon exports for its bottom line. The best way to cut the costs immediately is to eliminate excess employees. I have the credible source told me that Sansui had union problems since the middle of 1970's. This means Sansui could not get rid of excess employees easily. The second best way to cut the cost is to use less expensive parts and shrink the operation. This must be what exactly Sansui did.
Having the brand name that represents the quality, and worsened the quality as quick and as much as Sansui did. This was the worst thing Sansui could do. As mentioned in the another section, Sansui tried to improve the quality in the middle to the end of 1980's; however, it would take a lot of resources to change the tide. The reason Sansui changed the logo in 1987 must be trying to emphasize that new Sansui is not as same as the early 1980's Sansui.
By the end of 1980's, the exchange rate hit somewhere 120Yen to a dollar. This was another 216% increase in costs. The worst trend hit audiophile industry in the middle of 1980 to today as well. The increasing popularity of personal computers. Every house hold has limited budget to spend on electronics. Most yapees went crazy on computers, including myself ....
Internationally, Sansui have never recovered from the bad reputation of early 1980's. Domestically, Sansui kept producing the high-end products with tremendous loss. There was no mass market for high-end audio during 1990's even in Japan. It's believed that personal computers are to be blamed. Most specialized audiophile companies went out business, including Akai and Nakamichi. Sansui was bought out, and it closed the headquarters in Shi-Yokohama in 2001.
Today, Sansui brand still exists as a cheap electronics manufacturer. However, vintage Sansui equipments still keep playing fantastic sounds, and many people are still discovering once how Sansui was the greatest.
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