Only One Company in the World for Laser Record Players to Play Vinyl Records
ELP is the world's only company developing, producing, and selling laser record players (laser turntables or "LTs") for playing back old vinyl records by laser, that is, without the traditional pickup needles. The company's LTs uses two beams for reading audio information, two for tracking, and one for height control, that is, a total of five, and can play back vinyl records without contacting them at all. Consequently, the LTs can play back even LP disks warped 5 to 6 mm or records which cause groove skipping.
Even with records with damaged sound grooves, since the audio information is picked up from above the parts worn down by the needle (top parts of V-shaped grooves), there is also the effect of restoring the sound of analog records. On top of this, the laser pickup system and computer control enable an ease of use like that of a CD player and a user-friendly operating environment.
Up until now, ELP has delivered its LTs to Stevie Wonder and other famous musicians, NHK and other national broadcasting stations, central government libraries, national theaters, and other public facilities, universities and other educational institutions, etc. Since 1995, however, 80 percent of its sales have been from private music lovers.
The Laser Turntable
Business Based on Strong Commitment and Determination to Pass on Culture Embodied in Old Records to Later Generations
According to President Chiba, the idea of LTs started with theoretical studies of American researchers on optical playback of analog recordings in the early 1980s. They established their own company and spent seven years for the successful development of basic technologies for scanners and other devices. Total investment amounted to about 2.4 billion yen. However, they failed to commercialize the basic technologies. In 1989, just about ready for commercial production, Mr. Chiba proposed joint ventures with various Japanese manufacturers. All of the Japanese audio equipment manufacturers, however, turned him down on the grounds of the lack of marketability.
Despite this, Mr. Chiba was of the strong belief that the 100 years of culture embodied in analog recordings should not be allowed to die out and that this is one of the major missions of new technology. He consequently hired some American researchers and set out to produce LTs on his own.
For commercial production, Mr. Chiba judged that due to the different shapes of audio grooves of record disks designed for playback by pickup needles, costs could not be cut much by automatic production. He therefore decided to produce the LTs by hand so as to ensure the quality and reliability of the products. In the 10 years from 1989 to 1998, ELP ran a deficit due to R&D costs and later poor sales. Mr. Chiba put up everything he had and succeeded in avoiding bankruptcy.
One of the reasons for the initially poor sales was that ELP had targeted audiophile - who turn out to be not that interested in LTs as a group. Mr. Chiba then narrowed the focus to record music lovers and succeeded in getting sales on track.
Right now, ELP receives orders for about 25 units every month. It only has a monthly production capacity of 15 to 16 units, so has a considerable backlog. Right now the problem is how to increase the production capacity.
Fielding Orders and Inquiries From Around the World Through the Internet
ELP has only nine employees. It uses the Internet for sales. Mr. Chiba feels he has the duty to meet global demand as the world's only LT manufacturer. Due in part to this social responsibility, he accepts orders from anywhere in the world. Since everything is made by hand upon order, ELP requires advance payment.
(By: Chieko Ogaki, Business Services Center,