Day 180: Aiwa – Remember That Company?

In the late 90s, a lot of us lived in the comfortable bubble provided by MTV. Although at the time, we didn’t realize that we were in a bubble. Instead of being shown what the outside world was like, we were given a false impression of what reality was. What we thought was cool, hip or politically correct might not have been the case and there was nobody besides our parents to tell us different. In that same regard, we were also led to believe that certain products were superior, but that was usually far from the truth. Point in case: Aiwa stereos.

In its time, this commercial was iconic. Not only did it re-introduce me to Queen, it made me want an Aiwa CD Player more than anything in the world. Here I was sitting at home with my chump ass Sony products, when there’s a world of sound that I could be living in. Little did I realize was that Sony owned a majority stake in Aiwa. Even littler did I know, Aiwa “Sound” really wasn’t that special. But man oh man, did it seem groundbreaking. Turns out, they dunked all of their money in advertising instead of their actual products.

Those commercials had me brainwashed to believe that Aiwa “Sound” was going to rock the socks off my ass. Tons of begging and a broken Walkman later, I got a portable Aiwa CD Player for Christmas. It was…okay? It was slightly louder than my old Walkman. There was also a switch that made it even more slightly louder, but it just kind of caused static. I didn’t reveal to anybody that my Aiwa product sucked. I just assumed that I had bad headphones or I didn’t have a discerning taste. It took me a long time to discover what good audio actually sounded like. This was mainly because middle class people couldn’t afford Bose products. Also, the Bose advertisements played out like infomercials and the product seemed scammy and suspect.

Bose didn’t need to dunk their money into advertising because they were doing just fine without it. The product itself didn’t even have to look cool. Where was the laser lights? The oversized subwoofers? Why wasn’t it black? You’re telling me this isn’t available at Best Buy? I have to call an 800 number to buy a stereo? Get real. That’s lame as hell! It was such an uncool stereo. It was the Pure Moods of stereos. You need to have a house with a Southwest motif to even qualify to own one. But the quality of the product spoke for itself. They didn’t bother marketing to kids, because kids couldn’t afford their products. Meanwhile, Aiwa had the opposite approach while still claiming to be a high-end product. It was all a flat-out lie.

With the advent of MP3’s, Aiwa went into a nosedive. In 2001, they invested a lot of energy in promoting the new Slipknot album. Not only was it a letdown, but they failed to even spell the name properly. Instead of being called “Aiwa”, Slipknot opted to call it, “Iowa”, which I guess it a more metal approach to spelling. In 2002, facing bankruptcy, the company was fully bought out by Sony. For a few years, they made a futile attempt to have Aiwa spearhead their teenage market. It was a complete failure and by 2006, the name was wiped off the face of the Earth.

In 2015, Hale Devices acquired American copyright to Aiwa and has since been using the name on their bluetooth speakers. In 2017, Towada Audio asked Sony for the Japanese copyright and they said, “fuck it, have fun”. So now there’s Aiwa turntables in Japan. Based on the reviews, the American Aiwa speakers seem to be pretty good. At $150 a pop, they’re certainly an upper mid-range product. So there you have it. Aiwa finally figured out how to pivot to the digital age. All they had to do was play dead for 15 years and get re-formed from a completely different company that’s only using the name for nostalgia purposes. A true success story!

– TeeCoZee