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Golden Age of Japanese Audio

Zerimas

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#2
For those of you who have not seen it before, below is a link to a long running Japanese Website featuring mostly '70s through '90s gear. A lot of it was never imported to the US, and those that were often carried different designations. Just for fun.

http://www.niji.or.jp/home/k-nisi/
Very cool. I appreciate this. I pretty much always buy Japanese everything (knives, guitars, jeans, et cetera). Stuff from that era seems to be of especially good value and value and quality. My preamp is Pioneer C-90. I use a Pioneer SX-3800 for a power amp (I found it in the garbage!) and my turntable is Sony PS-X800.

I've also got a 1985 Ibanez Proline (which has been modified by both its previous owner and myself) which is an excellent guitar (save for the fact that they put a terrible tremolo on it which I have a replaced) and 1987 Ibanez RG440. They are guitars, not audio equipment, but they were pretty inexpensive and they are of excellent quality.
 

anmpr1

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#3
I've also got a 1985 Ibanez Proline (which has been modified by both its previous owner and myself) which is an excellent guitar (save for the fact that they put a terrible tremolo on it which I have a replaced) and 1987 Ibanez RG440. They are guitars, not audio equipment, but they were pretty inexpensive and they are of excellent quality.
I use an Epiphone Les Paul Standard model (Pelham Blue). Made in the Gibson Qingdao factory. Nothing fancy. The body, machine heads, and bridge hardware are fine. After a year I pretty much had to replace pots and switches as they started to fail. I expected that, on a four hundred dollar guitar. Since I was at it, I went ahead and replaced factory pickups with Seymour Duncans--I think the entire operation was less than $250.00.

The weird thing about guitars, is that there is as much nonsense over them as in hi-fi. On the other hand, what hi-fi gear has going for it is that no electronics manufacturer has made a reproduction of a beat up, road worn, Crown DC-300 (with dents and all), and tried to sell it as a 'tribute' amp for many thousands of dollars, like Fender and Gibson do with their 'custom shop' designs. LOL
 

q3cpma

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#4
Well, fortunately, Yamaha is still here to save the day with their Pacificas. And they already produce one of the most solid studio monitor line at its price point.
 

JJB70

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#5
The big Japanese outfits like Sony, Yamaha, Marantz, Pioneer, Denon and Kenwood made some extraordinary equipment in their prime which was manufactured to a standard we may never see again and which was the result of serious R&D. I remember having a bit of a Damascene moment many years ago in the early 90's when I compared the fit, finish and build quality of some entry level Japanese gear with high end exotica of the time I was familiar with,never mind the flagship series made by Japanese brands.
 

Zerimas

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#6
I use an Epiphone Les Paul Standard model (Pelham Blue). Made in the Gibson Qingdao factory. Nothing fancy. The body, machine heads, and bridge hardware are fine. After a year I pretty much had to replace pots and switches as they started to fail. I expected that, on a four hundred dollar guitar. Since I was at it, I went ahead and replaced factory pickups with Seymour Duncans--I think the entire operation was less than $250.00.

The weird thing about guitars, is that there is as much nonsense over them as in hi-fi. On the other hand, what hi-fi gear has going for it is that no electronics manufacturer has made a reproduction of a beat up, road worn, Crown DC-300 (with dents and all), and tried to sell it as a 'tribute' amp for many thousands of dollars, like Fender and Gibson do with their 'custom shop' designs. LOL

True, although with amps you do have the SET thing. Not quite the same, but they charge thousands of dollars for what is simple (and by objective standards) not a very good design. Actually I feel like there are lot of designs like that. At with the custom-shop "relics" you are getting a custom built guitar, and they do spend a lot time and labour to make it look like a beat-up piece of junk. I mean still totally overpriced though.

I dunno. Stuff has gotten so expensive lately that I doubt I'll ever be able to afford a new MIJ guitar.
 

Zerimas

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#7
The big Japanese outfits like Sony, Yamaha, Marantz, Pioneer, Denon and Kenwood made some extraordinary equipment in their prime which was manufactured to a standard we may never see again and which was the result of serious R&D. I remember having a bit of a Damascene moment many years ago in the early 90's when I compared the fit, finish and build quality of some entry level Japanese gear with high end exotica of the time I was familiar with,never mind the flagship series made by Japanese brands.
I agree. I have Sony PS-X800 and it is a remarkable piece of engineering. Despite being based on what is now 40-year-old technology (the first Biotracer table came out in 1978) there is nothing on the market that is similar at any price. This arm is the closest I've seen to something like the linear biotracer arm on my PS-X800. It is certainly better in some respects, but I don't think it duplicates all the features it has (electronic tracking, resonance reduction, et cetera). It is also $120,000 or something. The PS-X800 new in 1981 was only the equivalent of $4000 or so.

With today's technology you could probably recreate what Sony did in 1981 much more cheaply. The PS-X800 is a mess of coils, Hall Effect sensors, and ICs. If you were to try recreate its functionality today you could probably do so much more easily. Phones have a plethora sensors which are just off the shelf components. I imagine the myriad of complex ICs that control the whole thing could probably be replaced with a cheap computer running some code. I'm not an engineer or anything so I don't know for sure.

It is probably feasible for someone to make it, but who would buy it? There is no way you could convince most audiophiles to buy such a thing. They'd much rather spend $25,000 on Shindo 301 which uses a drive unit that was designed in roughly 1954. The tonearm doesn't even have anti-skating.

Most audiophiles are hostile to the notion of linear arms in general (I have no idea why). The idea of servo-driven tonearm infuriates them. They claim it is inaccurate because it relies on error to make its adjustments (somewhat, but not totally true). The PS-X800 boasts a tracking error of 0.05° or less (the arm actually moves in sync with the rotation the record and can compensate so that it doesn't need to be in error in order to move) and even my cheap plastic Hitachi HT-L70 claims somewhere around 0.1° of error. Compare this to any pivoting arm. Pivoting arms are only aligned at the two null points (at least that is how most alignment scheme work). At every other point they are in error, and that amount of error is generally much greater than the tracking error on servo arm. It's like comparing a broken clock (exactly right twice-a-day) to a decent mechanical clock which might lose or gain a few seconds over the course of an hour, but tells the time correctly. In the mind of vinyl enthusiasts the former is somehow more preferable to the latter.

Maybe I am just talking nonsense, but that it was it seems like to me. Servo-linear arms do work well (except for maybe the very cheapest tables). My unscientific, "subjective" experience (the only kind of observation that audiophiles seem to accept) tells me they aren't noisy either. I feel like they'd disagree if I said that though, as I've obviously never heard a real "high quality" table, or my system "isn't resolving enough", et cetera.

Sorry. I have a lot of rage. I like this place though.
 

Daverz

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#8
Most audiophiles are hostile to the notion of linear arms in general (I have no idea why). The idea of servo-driven tonearm infuriates them.
Where are these enraged audiophiles? I've been hanging out on the Vinyl Asylum for 20 years, and while it's true that the folks using linear trackers are a small dedicated group, I don't recall any hostility to the idea from the other inmates. I also searched on the biotracer and found only a few comments about complexity and difficulty of repair among general positive comments.
 

Zerimas

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#9
Where are these enraged audiophiles? I've been hanging out on the Vinyl Asylum for 20 years, and while it's true that the folks using linear trackers are a small dedicated group, I don't recall any hostility to the idea from the other inmates. I also searched on the biotracer and found only a few comments about complexity and difficulty of repair among general positive comments.
Audiokarma? I don't know. Every time I've searched for information on linear trackers someone with "years of experience" always claims that servo-linear arms are total junk and do not work at all. The only "correct" way to linear-tracking is with air bearings. The common complaints are that they are noisy (not true in my experience) and that they are "fundamentally flawed" because they "rely on error" (a gross exaggeration). People also make claims that they "crab" their way across the record (not true) and so on.

I'm pretty sure the "air bearing" type solution is the one that is flawed. Pretty every linear tracker uses some kind of motor to move the arm. While an air bearing does reduce the friction the it doesn't take away the mass. The whole arm and base has to be moved by the force generated by the stylus and cantilever. I would think that would cause problems with loading (cantilever being pushed to one side of the groove as it tries to shift the whole mass) and I've seen at least one person claim that lesser cantilevers can be snapped under the strain. I am not a physicist.

Admittedly my personality is kind of warped, so I may be exaggerating the extent to which the hostility exists.
 

restorer-john

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#10
The common complaints are that they are noisy (not true in my experience) and that they are "fundamentally flawed" because they "rely on error" (a gross exaggeration). People also make claims that they "crab" their way across the record (not true) and so on.
Unfortunately, most of those claims are perfectly true. The do rely on error, all of them. And they all overshoot only to stay stationary again until the error becomes great enough to elicit another movement. That said, the best ones offered virtually invisible micro-movements.

Take any of the motor driven linear trackers and monitor the rotation of the tracking motor either visually or electrically. They jump in fits and starts and must overcome the lash/friction in the mechanism to move.

The linear motor units (Yamaha, Pioneer, Sony etc) send bursts to the coils. They refined the feedback system as best they could and some even respond to outwards movement (Pioneer), but in-order to prevent eccentric records triggering unnecessary arm movements the integration (time) has to be many seconds for normal (not rapid spiral track transistions) playback.

The Biotracer (Sony and Denon's version for damping/vtf etc) was IMO, the really brilliant design by Heitaro Nakajima (his patents).
 

Zerimas

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#11
Unfortunately, most of those claims are perfectly true. The do rely on error, all of them. And they all overshoot only to stay stationary again until the error becomes great enough to elicit another movement. That said, the best ones offered virtually invisible micro-movements.

Take any of the motor driven linear trackers and monitor the rotation of the tracking motor either visually or electrically. They jump in fits and starts and must overcome the lash/friction in the mechanism to move.

The linear motor units (Yamaha, Pioneer, Sony etc) send bursts to the coils. They refined the feedback system as best they could and some even respond to outwards movement (Pioneer), but in-order to prevent eccentric records triggering unnecessary arm movements the integration (time) has to be many seconds.

The Biotracer (Sony and Denon's version) was IMO, the really brilliant design by Heitaro Nakajima (his patents).
I've got an inexpensive Hitachi HT-L70. I don't have any means of testing its accuracy, but I've watched it in action. It doesn't do anything that resembles "crabbing". I've only used it a few times (I soon found the PS-X800 which is a Biotracer), but it appears to work correctly and from a subjective standpoint it doesn't sound broken.

Here's someone else's video of the same Hitachi I have. Maybe my eyes are broken, but I don't see anything that looks like unusual movement (I mean it is moving up and down, but I presume that is because the record isn't flat). And yes they do rely on error, but how great is that error in comparison to the amount of error you'd have on normal pivoting arm? I've seen figures stating the maximum error to be around 2°–3° but I am stupid and don't know how figure out what the average amount of error would be. It also depends on the length of the arm as well (a 12" arm is going to better than 10" one).
 
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Wombat

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#12
Well, fortunately, Yamaha is still here to save the day with their Pacificas. And they already produce one of the most solid studio monitor line at its price point.
I have a Yamaha Pacifica (Same as this one) 812W(Taiwan) - a Fender beater. Purchased used(mint) in a little-used Al roadcase for less than a mid-level Squire.

Yamaha NS10Ms - no arguments please. Yamaha CD player. Yamaha carousel CD player. Yamaha Pro amp, for below 500Hz, powering my 15" Altecs 416Bs. All purchased new over the years with no repairs as of yet.

Yamaha still stands tall in my view.
 
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Krunok

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#13
The big Japanese outfits like Sony, Yamaha, Marantz, Pioneer, Denon and Kenwood made some extraordinary equipment in their prime which was manufactured to a standard we may never see again and which was the result of serious R&D.
Not mentioning Sansui here is a serious crime in my book.. :p
 

Krunok

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#15
Or Nakamichi or Accuphase, did any audio company ever match the depth of engineering quality implemented by Nakamichi in their prime or Accuphase?
Not that I recall, but I used to own Sansui amp so it's kind a personal.. :)
 

anmpr1

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#16
Stuff has gotten so expensive lately that I doubt I'll ever be able to afford a new MIJ guitar.
That's another thing with guitars v hi-fi gear. With the exception of possibly an old Marantz or McIntosh tube amp, maybe a few top of the line Levinson stuff, like an LNP-2 or Audio Palatte, which are collectables and pretty much maintain value, all audio gear depreciates badly. An old Les Paul or Strat, typically rise in market value. If it was owned by someone famous, you can forget it. Even a run of the mill guitar holds value more than run of the mill hi-fi gear. And for the hobbyist, guitars are a lot easier to repair/modify than a lot of hi-fi gear--at least for the average cat, a music lover without a lot of specialized electronic knowledge.

The Les Paul auction catalog is still on-line. Les' McIntosh MC2300 went for 4 large. Inflation corrected that's less than what it cost in 1980, the last year it was made. I don't even have to tell you what his old beat up guitars sold for! o_O

mc2300.jpg
 
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#17
Awesome site. I spent a lot of time wandering around used electronics stores and they are stacked to the ceilings with interesting audio gear.

From the golden age of Japan, I picked up the Yamaha B2 V-FET amplifier and Sansui 717 tuner; fantastic gear that still is reasonably priced today.
 

Hypnotoad

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#18
The Biotracer (Sony and Denon's version for damping/vtf etc) was IMO, the really brilliant design by Heitaro Nakajima (his patents).
This is what I have now, although don't use it since I got a DAC, used to have a Project Perspective 2 with 9cc Carbon Fibre arm and speed box, I like the Sony PS-X500 more, easier to use, and sounds nearly as good.

 

restorer-john

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#19
And yes they do rely on error, but how great is that error in comparison to the amount of error you'd have on normal pivoting arm?
With a pivoting arm, the tracking error is a gradual increase to maximum and then a decrease. With a linear tracker, from the second it hits the grooves it goes through tracking error cycles hundreds of times across the record. I've yet to come across an electronically controlled linear tracker where you can't hear the tracking system.

Even the PLL-1000 Pioneer I had would induce noises in its own cartridge from the linear tracking motor coils. It also had one of the noisiest DD motors I've ever come across. That was a flawed design if ever there was one, and yet people seem to love those decks.

I think linear tracking was most useful for making very compact turntables in the 'midi' component era of the early 1980s. I've got a pile of them, especially some of the cool programmable ones. There's a nice little Onkyo on my coffee table with a die-cast metal plinth, an unique motorised lid and a sophisticated DD motor. I'll make a video of it just for fun.
 

Zerimas

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#20
Even the PLL-1000 Pioneer I had would induce noises in its own cartridge from the linear tracking motor coils. It also had one of the noisiest DD motors I've ever come across. That was a flawed design if ever there was one, and yet people seem to love those decks.

I think linear tracking was most useful for making very compact turntables in the 'midi' component era of the early 1980s. I've got a pile of them, especially some of the cool programmable ones. There's a nice little Onkyo on my coffee table with a die-cast metal plinth, an unique motorised lid and a sophisticated DD motor. I'll make a video of it just for fun
Really? That is surprising. My PS-X800 has a less sophisticated drive system for the arm (it is a DC and some rubber bands) and it is only audible on the lead out grooves. I don't have record with just unmodulated grooves, but I have a pressing of F♯ A♯ ∞ that is ludicrously quiet. For some reason this particular album is almost entirely free of surface noise. During the quiet and silent passages I can't hear anything that sounds like mechanical noise from the turntable.

Looking forward to that video.
 
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