Steven Swenson, global brand manager for TDK, still hears it all the time. "Whenever we say 'TDK,' consumers will inevitably say 'cassettes,'" he told Billboard from TDK's booth at CES' Central Hall Tuesday. But as a shiny, nostalgia-enhanced display of new boomboxes, headphones and wireless speakers made quite clear, TDK is moving beyond its outdated roots with a nod to the vintage stereo equipment that made its heritage product so memorable.
Swenson calls the new products "investment-grade audio," a direct response to the trend of disposable headphones and MP3 players. Its new high-fidelity ST800 headphones, for example, contain just as many state-of-the art exterior features as they do interior, with genuine leather, braided cables and a digital equalizer to adjust sound levels. "A lot of headphones are often tailored to one specific genre, like big bass music, but we wanted something that worked for all types of music," he said.
TDK headphones on display at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Coming later this fall, TDK is going wireless, with a quartet of Bluetooth-enabled boomboxes and speakers that harken back to TDK's 1980s heyday. Although they're designed to integrate with any mobile device, the products contain no dock. "We wanted the music to be front and center, not the device," Swenson says.
Expect a marketing campaign later this year to promote the new product line, leveraging TDK's newfound street cred among the indie-rock and hip-hop circles. Artists like Snoop Dogg, Matt & Kim and Rick Ross have featured newer TDK products in recent music videos, while the Beastie Boys recently featured TDK's 3-Speaker Boombox as part of a contest at Madison Square Garden. Even "Glee" asked to include a TDK product in a recent episode. "We're depositing a lot of long-term equity," Swenson says.
TDK boomboxes on display at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.