In 1896, the company that would eventually become DENON was founded by Frederick W. Horn. It was called Nippon Chikuonki Shokai (Japan Recorders Corporation), and imported machine tools recorders into Yokohama, Japan. Horn soon realised that there were better prospects in the actual manufacture of recording and playback equipment, and he set up Japan-U.S. Recorders Manufacturing in 1907. The operation was so successful that in 1909, he had set up a studio to record the discs as well as a purpose-built factory to create the actual records.

In 1910, Horn also created Japan Recorders Corporation, which was responsible for the selling the products his other company was rapidly outputting. However, he soon realised that separating the creation and selling of his products was counter-productive, and the two companies merged in 1912, starting the highly successful tradition of integrated sales and manufacture within the company.

In 1927, Horn's company attracted major financial backing from Columbia, a major record company in 1927. The partnership was so successful that in 1928, the company was renamed Japan Columbia Recorders. This name was changed in 1946 to Nippon Columbia, probably in response to the hostile political climate of the time.

In 1947, Nippon Columbia assimilated Japan Denki Onkyo, from which DENON's eventually name would come. Japan Denki Onkyo, commonly known as Den-on, was an established company with a solid track record in producing business-purpose audio equipment. It was this merger that set DENON on the track to international success, as the advanced technology Nippon Columbia posessed admirably complemented the experience and expertise of the Den-on engineers. Many successful products now emerged under the new name of DENON, including the DL-103 MC cartridge system and the massively popular DP-5000, a phono-motor that boasted a brand new design and unmatched performance.

With DENON now an established leader in audio equipment, its parent company, Nippon Columbia branched out into new areas, including stereos, radios, TV sets, musical instruments and electric calculators. Despite this diversification, DENON was set to eclipse its creator with its increasing success in digital electronics.

The stream of new products continued to flow out of DENON, with many world firsts among their number: in 1972, the first 8-channel digital recorder was released, while in the early 1980s the world's first professional- and consumer-use compact disc players were created. As a result of their work with compact discs, in 1992, DENON announced to the world their "ALPHA Processing" technology, which tackled the quantization errors caused by digitization of analog signals. This technique was so successful that it was given a European Audio Award for Innovation in 1994

Although DENON itself would no doubt be recognised as one of the most influential audio equipment manufacturers of all time, the company's distinguished heritage bears just as many design classics and novel ideas as DENON's relatively brief existence. For this reason, the company must be viewed as being a major factor in most of last century's audio and visual innovations, from gramophones to DVDs.

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