Transcription Turntable Development

The JAPAN LP Tradition & Legacy

It may sound strange but it seems that many people do not really know where Japan is. And this is not at all surprising since Japan is a Far East country which is rarely included in the shortlist of vacation destinations, positioned in the very first places in the list of the most expensive places on earth. In addition, the communication with the Japanese is very difficult as they barely speak English.

More specifically, it takes 16-20 hours to fly from Greece to Japan, including stop overs. Nevertheless, after committing ourselves to be patient enough and a little adventurous we fly to Japan, visiting many Japanese cities including Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, Nara and Kyoto. Tokyo is the capital city of Japan with Nara and Kyoto being the sacred cities of Japan, while Osaka is Japan’s biggest industrial city. The country itself is consisted of 7,000 islands, covering a total area of 380,000 square kilometers (nearly equivalent to Germany and Switzerland combined), that is located in the Pacific Ocean, with a population of about 127,000,000 inhabitants.

If we look at a world map with Pacific Ocean in the center, we observe that Japan is  very near to the centre of the world. This is not accidental as Japan can be considered as the centre of the World of Commerce, since it is one of the biggest manufacturing and exporting countries universally, that produces millions of top quality products.

The philosophy of Japanese is dominated by their obsession towards Perfection of Detail. This attitude is not only evident in the products they design but even more in their manners, as their courtesy towards others can be characterized as exaggerative, by the people of the western world. This perfection of detail however, is their strongest advantage when it comes to product promotion. And speaking of products, it is more than well known to everyone that LPs & CDs produced in Japan are of top recording quality, that in many cases are considered to be Reference recordings.

Japan is the second largest music market in the world following the US market, accounting for approximately 20% of the worldwide sales, which covers more than 83% of the total amount of sales in Asian region. The most popular music medium in Japan is the Compact Disc (CD), accounting for 90% of the local sales, leaving Vinyl LP much behind in terms of sales performance.

 The music distributed in the Japanese market consists of all genres from almost every part of the world.

 We have to examine though, how Japanese have been able to become the second largest music market. The answer is one and only. Since the beginning they concentrated on Quality, not only in terms of musical content but primarily on the Recording Quality. By using the best quality original masters and premium quality vinyl for LP production, Japanese managed to offer the best attainable performance quality to the audiophile, that elevates any system set up, simultaneously improving the musical content itself.

 A good example is the case of the high quality US recording company “Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs”, that for many years manufactured their LPs in Japan’s Victor Musical Industries, commonly known as JVC.

 The same manufacturing method targeting to top recording quality, is also followed in Japanese CD production. By taking advantage of digital mastering technologies such as, “20bit K2 super coding”, “K2 HD coding”, ”DSD”, “SHM CD” et all., during mastering process, they improve the quality of the musical content, simultaneously bringing out hidden parts that were not audible in the past.

 Very well known Jazz albums of the 50’s and the 60’s are much improved acquiring a new, deep, three dimensional soundstage with rich harmonics.

 The Japanese obsession for perfection however, is also much evident in the LP/CD album Cover production. The covers are produced from top quality paper, very carefully printed, so that the original creative idea is clearly reflected on them. There are many cases where the Japanese releases of a LP/CD album are much better than the original editions in terms of cover quality, that makes them collector’s items, since in addition, they do not only include the original material (lyrics, pictures, comments etc.), but also additional supportive material addressed to Japanese consumers only, not existing in other releases.

What is very interesting also, is that the Japanese music industry during the last 15 years, has proceeded to the CD release of many classic Rock & Jazz album titles of British and American artists, in LP replica miniaturized form. These releases look exactly like the originally released in Japan LPs, both in terms of cover (Paper Sleeve) and disc. They are called either MINI LP CDs or Paper Sleeve CDs, released in limited quantities of 2000 to 2500 copies for each title. When these limited quantities are over the specific titles become high valued collector’s items. The musical content of the MINI LP CD or Paper Sleeve releases has been re-mastered in most of the cases, using the abovementioned mastering techniques for sound improvement.

The Japanese are not only famous for their top quality recordings, but for their music education as well. They “love” using valve amplifiers partnered with big scale sensitive speakers or horn design speakers. They listen both to analog & digital and in their HI-FI/Hi End set ups, one finds components manufactured many years or decades ago, mostly Japanese, which are perfectly preserved, offering exquisite musical performance.

The audio result from the majority of the Japanese setups is characterized as soft that sometimes can be even called mellow. There is almost no case that one will find a serious Japanese system presenting a harsh attitude.

We reckon that Japanese are extremely talented and organized people that are able to introduce new, innovative ideas, always pursuing perfection of detail in everything they produce, simultaneously sticking on their traditions.