Two-channel audio alive and well in Japan’s megastores

So hi-fi as we know it is on its last legs, is it? The huge selection on sale in a couple of Japan’s consumer electronics superstores suggests otherwise…

yodobashi electronics

A wall of amps and players in Yodobashi Camera Kyoto

Some will have you believe that hi-fi as we know it is on its way out, replaced by small speakers, Bluetooth whatnots and streaming services, but having done a bit of busman’s holiday in the huge Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera stores here in Kyoto, it was hard not to be impressed by the sheer range of products available to keep audio enthusiasts salivating.

Huge selection of speakers in Bic Camera

Huge selection of speakers in Bic Camera

t-itaniFrom a wall of electronics to as many speakers as you could ever want to see in one place, they were all still there, including some emphasis on hi-res audio, centred around the Sony products launched around 18 months back, but with other manufacturers making a showing – including promotions for the new Technics ranges.

Bic Camera held a launch event for the Technics R1 Reference system and C700 Premium line-up a couple of weeks ago at its store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Over the course of the day, groups of ten enthusiasts got the chance to spend an hour hearing the systems and the thoughts of Technics chief engineer Tetusya Itani (pictured above).

HR audio products in Bic Camera

HR audio products in Bic Camera

Sony hi-res in Yodobashi Camera

Sony hi-res in Yodobashi Camera

Miniature Olasonic components in Bic Camera

Miniature Olasonic components in Bic Camera

I was very taken with these little NanoCompo products from Japanese company Olasonic, including a little DAC, amplifier and CD player, all in matt white and just under 15cm wide – very cute.

But if you like your hi-fi rather bigger and more traditional, then there are those traditional Japanese favourites from Tannoy…

Tannoy Prestige speakers in Yodobashi Camera

Tannoy Prestige speakers in Yodobashi Camera

…and JBL.

JBL range in Yodobashi Camera

JBL range in Yodobashi Camera

Major manufacturers have their own display areas, forming showrooms within the shop: here’s the D+M Group’s section, showing Denon and Marantz…

D+M Group display in Yodobashi Camera

D+M Group display in Yodobashi Camera

…an assistant gets up close and personal with a customer looking at a home cinema solution…

A Yodobashi Camera assistant advises a customer

A Yodobashi Camera assistant advises a customer

… and here’s the strong showing from Onkyo, based just an hour or so away in Osaka.

Onkyo in Yodobashi Camera

Onkyo in Yodobashi Camera

Finally, just in case you want to keep it personal, here’s just a small area(!) set aside for headphone auditioning, amidst a section where there must have been at least a thousand models on display.

Yodobashi Camera headphone demo stations

Yodobashi Camera headphone demo stations

Looks to me like audio, from conventional to hi-res, and from big speakers to serious cans, is set to have a pretty good 2015 here in Japan.

Written by Andrew Everard

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9 comments

  1. Is not Akihabara in Tokyo the main retail area for Hi-Fi ?. What is the connection between your site & Steve Huff Photo

    1. a) Yes, in Tokyo – but I’m not in Tokyo. And Akiba’s not what it used to be for hi-fi – now much more about computer games and the like.
      b) None whatsoever – in fact I’m not even aware of that site.

  2. plastic penguin · · Reply

    looks like a mini-renaissance in Japan. Hats off to them for trying to put 2-channel back where it belongs — nose-to-nose with multi channel. It looks like Japan’s equivalent to Richer Sounds (a bit more high end).

  3. Gerald Bearman · · Reply

    The UK Hi-Fi magazines are full of expensive 2 channel audio large & small speakers , amps dacs etc someone must be buying otherwise the manufacturers would go out of business. No doubt most British brands go for export ,they can not survive on UK sales.

  4. Paulreso · · Reply

    I was in Tokyo just before Christmas and the popularity of sacd format struck me when I visited Tower Records in Shibuya, and Yodabashi Camera. By the way, what does Andrew think of the big beast sacd players, yamaha cds3000 and CDs 2100 and Marantz SA11S3?

  5. Gerald Bearman · · Reply

    SACD is best in mch I would not purchase a Stereo only SACD player.

    1. SACD is very good in stereo, too!

      1. Gerald Bearman · ·

        MCH SACD has following advantages especially for Classical Music:

        In the 1960s major Companies experimented with Quadraphonic sound which . failed to catch on mainly due to fair sex refusing to accept multiple large speakers, However the arrival of mch SACDs revived the project.( Contrary to the ITU set up GB). , back speakers can be very small, even hidden , for their purpose is only to add a subtle background ambience to the recording. With small groups of artists this can bring a subtle but tangible feeling of presence, with large-scale works, especially choral music, the result can be a very thrilling fourth dimension, and one really has the sense of sitting in the Concert Hall itself. ( not with stereo GB)

        mostly from The PENGUIN GUIDE TO THE 1000 Finest Classical Recordings.

        comments in brackets are from myself GB.

      2. Ah, the ‘fairer sex’: so often the bane of our life, the little woman, sweet fluffy decorative things though they can be…

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