Ken Ishiwata, 1947–2019

The sad news comes that Ken Ishiwata, former brand ambassador of Marantz, has died aged 72 after a short illness.

An immensely talented man, Ken was charming, modest and cultured in a way that stood out like a beacon in the hi-fi industry. His ‘KI Signature’ and ‘Special Edition’ versions of Marantz’s CD players from the late nineteen eighties onwards made both him and his company’s brand famous to a new generation of budget-conscious audiophiles.

He joined Marantz in 1978, after a decade-long stint at Pioneer, where he played a part in the success of the iconic PL-12D turntable. At Marantz, he first started tuning the company’s budget loudspeakers, and then began voicing the new generation of electronics in a way that was more recognisable to fans of the earlier, Saul B. Marantz-era house sound.

He worked closely with Philips, and as early as that company’s CD100 Ken was active in modifying it to produce the better sounding Marantz version. This played an important part in forming the idea that the Philips-based machines sounded better than the Japanese CD players of that period. What followed was a string of Marantz special editions, starting with the CD-45 Limited Edition, and then the CD-65 and CD-75 Special Edition, then the CD-50SE, CD-52SE, CD-63SE, CD-67SE and CD-6000OSE, and so on. These proved hugely commercially successful at the time.

To many people’s surprise – including his own – he left Marantz in May 2019, after forty one years of service where he transformed the brand and brought it global commercial success. He was working on a new project with his long term friend Karl-Heinz Fink when he was sadly taken. Ken was a great bon viveur, loved food, art, style, fashion, photography and music – as well as all types of electronics and technology.

Hi-fi’s most colourful character – our rock star engineer – will be sorely missed, but Ken Ishiwata’s Signature will live on…


  1. Christopher Bater

    I have several Marantz “special editions”, this is very sad news, truly an end of a era CB

  2. Mark Sears

    So very very sad… thoughts are with his loved ones another legend leaves us in an imperfect world…

  3. james price.

    A truely talented audiophile desighner , is amazeing masterpieces will live on for ever, an outstanding person and superb engineer will sadly be missed.

  4. Julian Fletcher

    I was expecting a good tribute from you on this site David, thank you for it. I remember the CD63KI-DP, one of the best features to ever grace the hifi press, from a truly talented man. Ken’s legacy is colossal. RIP.

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