Soviet legend: the history of the plant "Radiotekhnika"

Riga, 1927. There is a massive fad of radio, in just one year the number of radio subscribers in Latvia is increasing from one and a half to ten thousand people. At the same time, the owner of a photo studio, a descendant of a Jewish family, Abram Leibovitz quickly realized that selling radio equipment was quite profitable. Here are just the production of our own models - a very laborious process, but to sell foreign finished equipment is much more interesting.

But Latvia has a competition law that negates all the benefits of such an activity. A born businessman Leibovitz makes a way out: buy ready-made radio sets in Germany, disassemble them right on the spot, pack up spare parts and bring them into the country in the guise of radio components. Already in Riga, the receivers were reassembled and sold under the guise of locals with the label ALRadio. So JSC Ābrama Leibovica foto radio centrāle, became the ancestor of the legendary plant Radiotehnika.

Photo KVK2005 CC BY

Second dad

In the thirties, Leibovitz invites to work a brilliant technician who, at the age of 22, won the MIA contest and assembled two hundred regenerative three-lamp battery radio receivers for the border guards. Alexander Apsitis, who is often mistakenly considered the founder of the Riga factory, worked for Leibowitz for a very short time, since they did not agree on some of the working issues. Subsequently ( in 1934 ), Apsitis decides to register his production: A.Apsitis & F.Zhukovskis, which manufactures Tonmeistars receivers, and also manufactures radio accessories.

At the same time, Leibowitz has a new problem: in Germany, Adolf Hitler comes to power, which exacerbates the "Jewish question." At the beginning of his reign, the enterprises of the country were recommended not to work with representatives of this nationality, therefore Leibovitz loses his main supplier of radio components, and he has to start developing his own models.

The strategies of Leibovitz and Apsitis enterprises were completely different: the first was a “merchant to the bone”, he attracted buyers due to the appearance of his goods and powerful advertising. Absolutely commercial component of the business Leibowitz made itself felt: if there was an opportunity to make a profit at the expense of quality loss, he did not miss it. This still affects - now the original radios of its production are extremely difficult to find in working condition.

Apsitis, being an excellent radio technician, pursued precisely quality. His different models sometimes differed little from each other in appearance, but were collected perfectly. Ultimately, it was Apsitis who made the maximum contribution to the development of the enterprise, which would later be called “Radiotehnika”.

Merchant merger and technology

In 1940, Soviet troops entered Riga, and the new government nationalized the Apsitis business, uniting it with several small private companies, and made the technology itself the general director. Now the union was called "Radiotehnika". In turn, the Leibovitz company was also nationalized - it became part of the Radiopionieris enterprise. During the war, the Germans united Radiopionieris and Radiotehnika, making them a subsidiary of Telefunken Geratewerk Riga.

By the end of the war, in 1944, all enterprises tried to export to Germany, but thanks to Alexander Apsitis, they still managed to preserve most of the equipment (he secretly put bricks and scrap into the shipping boxes), and when the German occupation was removed, the factory received his former director and the name "Radiotehnika".

The company intended to resume production of radio equipment, but had to start with the help in restoring the bridge over the Daugava that had been destroyed during the war. At the same time , the traces of Abraham Leibowitz are lost , the last mention of which can be found only during the German occupation.

New production and legendary designs

In 1945, first the Riga T-689 receiver and then the Riga T-755 hit the conveyor. T-755 was developed with an emphasis on reducing the cost of production, the model ( video ) is placed in a metal case. Although there is an earlier version - in a wooden case, but this can only be found in collectors.

In subsequent years, the demand for the products of the plant increases dramatically, and there is a need for expansion. New workshops are being built: assembly, electroplating, mechanical repair, etc. Already by 1950, Radio Engineering ( video ) became an example of Stakhanov's work, traditional for the Soviet Union.

A year later, the factory was given the name of electrical engineer and inventor A.S. Popov. But for the plant manager Alexander Apsitis, bad times are approaching: at first he is demoted due to “non-fulfillment of the plan”, after which he is completely arrested. Four months later, he was released from prison, but already broken, to the Apsitis plant no longer returns.

But the radio giant continues to work without its founders. At the beginning of the fifties, receivers Riga-6 and Riga-10 appear. The sixth model weighed 12 kg, had six lamps, consumed 55 watts from the mains. She could play records from an external player. The tenth model (ten here also means the number of lamps) weighed 24 kg, consumed no more than 85 W from the network and (like Riga-6) received broadcasting in the HF, MW and LW bands. And to ensure good sound, this model uses a broadband loudspeaker.

According to Inars Klavinsha, who worked at Radio Engineering for 33 years, the equipment of the plant was in demand not only in the USSR - it was bought in Germany, France, Britain and other western countries. Consumers liked the simplicity and reliability of the Riga radio receivers.

Later, one of the first in the Councils compact serial transistor radio " Gauja ", it was released in two variations - with charging for batteries and without it (then he worked on the battery "crown"). By the way, the popular “Gauja” can be seen in Soviet films: “Three plus two”, “Beware of the car” and others.

In the early sixties, the plant produces automobile receivers "WUA-60" and " APV-60-2 ", which were mounted on the "Seagulls" and one hundred and eleventh ZILs. The first model even had a remote control, the receivers had both a manual wave search and an automatic tuning system for the station.

Separately, we note the stereo radioule Simfonija 2 ( video ) - this is an upgraded version of the first Symphony. She had two versions: in one player it was located next to the receiver, in the other - under it, each column weighed 16 kg.

Assembled on seventeen transistors and eight diodes, the portable Neptune was developed for the 60th anniversary of October. By the way, on "Radio Engineering" developed and video recorders. For example, on the " Malachite " reproduced the recording of the docking of the spacecraft "Soyuz" - "Apollo".

Decade of success and withering

Eighties for Radio Engineering have become “golden” - the pace of production of radio equipment is growing, the plant produces about 35% of all Soviet audio equipment. ML-6201 cassette recorders with a tuner, two speakers, a set-top box and ULF appear.

At this time, the Radiotekhnika association also includes the Orbita design bureau and the Emir microelectronics plant. The Duets PM-8401 cassette player appears, to which you can connect two pairs of headphones at once.

The company produces a million radio receivers, amplifiers and tape recorders and more than a million acoustic systems per year. This dizzying success continued until the collapse of the USSR.

The political events in the world, the independence of Latvia and economic reforms were accompanied by a massive entry into the market of cheap Chinese consumer goods on the one hand and products of well-known, first of all, Japanese, brands, on the other. "Radio engineering" was disbanded into several autonomous enterprises, which is why the giant of the radio industry came into even greater decline. Unable to compete with imported models, the plant removes some production from production.

At the same time, prices for parts that are produced in the countries of the former Soviet Union are rising, prices for the products of the plant have to be raised, but they are no longer being bought, since it is morally outdated compared to new products from abroad. The plant cannot afford to develop new models, since its design bureau does not receive sufficient funding.

A typical situation begins for many factories in the 90s: wage arrears grow, and there is almost no profit. Most of the enterprises that emerged after the dissolution of "Radio Engineering", almost immediately "died", including the Orbita Design Office.

Despite futile attempts to adapt to the new market, in 1993 the Riga Radio Factory, which survived after the collapse of Radio Engineering, was divided into two parts by the State Property Fund. One was subsequently declared bankrupt. The second part turned into “Radiotehnika RRR”, which in 1998 was bought at an auction by businessmen Edward and Yuri Maleev.

What is happening with "Radiotehnika RRR"

The new plant director, Eduard Maleev, said that for a long time the company was not in the best shape. The reason is simple: there are orders, they want to buy updated columns in the West and even in the Emirates, but banks do not give money for production. In addition, buyers want to get a "new" sound, improved models and innovations, but for this you need to invest in patents and research.

On the site of the plant in the "today" section, the situation is described more optimistically: "VEF Radiotehnika RRR" has the latest equipment, one of the largest anechoic chambers in Europe and provides excellent opportunities for the development and production of the latest acoustics. "

Judging by the statistics of the Latvian State Revenue Service, now the core business “Radiotehnika RRR” is not developing very successfully. To date, the main activity of the enterprise is the rental and management of its own or leased real estate (most of the buildings of the plant converted into commercial space).

And on October 1 news appeared in the press that the administrative building of the plant would be dismantled within the next five months. In 2015, the building and the adjacent areas were sold to a company managing a network of building stores, which will be built in its place after dismantling until it is specified.

But something else lives

In 2011, World Audio Distribution, a member of the Audiomania group of companies, launched its own full-cycle acoustics production in Riga, from the production of casings to finished products under the Arslab brand. Previously, Arslab speakers were made in China. The choice of Riga fell, including, because of the specialists living there, who previously worked at the Radiotehnika factory. Now the production is headed by Viktor Lagarpov, who used to be the chief engineer at Radio Engineering.

Thanks to the experience gained at the legendary plant, Victor knows everything about acoustics. During the six years of the enterprise’s operation, the plant’s capabilities have significantly expanded - additional German machines have been acquired, and new personnel have been hired. In 2017, the number of workers employed directly in production reached fifteen people.

In addition to the assembly of acoustics and the production of necessary electronic components, the factory also manufactures speaker cabinets (unlike many manufacturers of audio systems that buy ready-made from third-party companies). The company also produces a large number of cases for other manufacturers from Germany, France, Italy and other countries.

In 2014, World Audio Distribution acquired a controlling stake in Penaudio , whose products are now also produced at this plant. As the founder of Penaudio Sami Penttil says, continuing to lead the company, the quality of finished products has improved. And the production capacity is now enough to meet the demand for this acoustics throughout the world.

In addition to the "traditional" home audio systems (under the brands Arslab, Old School and Penaudio), in 2016, the company began to produce equipment for home cinema halls ICE . This is another own brand of "Audiomania". This acoustics is also developed by F-Lab under the guidance of the famous engineer Yuri Fomin .

Acoustic ICE, Old School and Penaudio, assembled at a factory in Riga, is not only sold in Latvia and Russia, it is in great demand all over the world, including China, Taiwan, Japan, the USA, Mexico and European countries.

According to our forecasts, the number of products manufactured in 2017 under the own brands of “Audiomania” will be close to a thousand, which means an almost two-fold increase compared to 2016. Read more about how the production looked a few months ago, you can read in our reports: 1 and 2 .


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