Japanese CDs - reliably good?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Vincent3, Jul 9, 2016.

  1. Vincent3

    Vincent3 Member Thread Starter

    Do Japanese market CDs usually sound good enough that it's safe to buy them on spec?

    I ask for two reasons. First, I see a fair amount of recommendations for Japanese releases. Second, I lived in Japan for several years (before I was aware of different releases and mastering quality) and know the Japanese to have a keen eye for quality. Slop generally doesn't have a market there, and especially not enthusiast items.

    A local music store has a Japanese import Van Halen s/t that I'm considering.
     
  2. Endymion

    Endymion Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    Japanese CDs are even more often brickwalled than american and european CDs.
    Many japanese releases in the 80s and early 90s were very good but even for those you have to be careful because they often did not have access to the original master tapes.
     
    Dennis Metz likes this.
  3. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Forum Resident

    Location:
    Greater St. Louis
    For sound quality, every CD is on a case-by-case basis, regardless of country of origin. That said, Japanese CDs are usually of unmatched quality. The pressing, the artwork, and even the jewel case is usually better, especially the ones from the '80s. Built like a tank. :)
     
  4. xcqn

    xcqn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Gothenburg, Sweden
    99% of modern japanese cd's share the same mastering as Ger/UK/US cd's. Older japanese cd's (82-90) were often unique masterings made from master-dubs sent to the japanese record-companies from abroad. Many of these sound better than the European/American counterparts. Many sound worse. It's case by case.

    Japanese cd's are often better manufactured than European/American pressings. OBI, additional art and bonus tracks makes them highly collectible.
     
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  5. Andrius Dobrotinas

    Andrius Dobrotinas Active Member

    False. So false... There are several possible scenarios:
    * Most contemporary Japanese releases/reissues are exactly the same as American/European ones. They use exactly the same mastering. Suppose, some band released or reissued some albums in 2011 in America/EU and in Japan at the same time - 98% chance that they use exactly same mastering.
    * Some Japanese reissues of older records that don't have corresponding American/EU reissues might be louder - I don't know if they're brickwalled or just have a slight volume gain. For example, in 2010, Japanese reissued Metallica albums in mini LP CD format while there were no Am/EU reissues for these albums that year. These used exactly the same mastering as earlier releases but with volume boosted (could probably be brickwalling). Very similar story with 2014 Iggy Pop mini LP CD reissues. These haven't been reissued in American/EU since 1990, so Japanese 2014 reissues use the same masters just with volume boosted (don't know if they're brickwalled, but certainly don't sound terrible).
    * In very rare cases contemporary Japanese issues/reissues use different mastering from their American/EU counterparts. Plus from time to time, you get Japanese only releases. For example, in 2008, first two The Who albums have been reissued in collector boxes with all the B-sides and unreleased stuff. I think they sounded better than then-current American/EU releases.

    As for older (pre-2000s) releases... There was a myth that Japanese CDs sound better.
    * Until early 1990s, some Japanese issues used dedicated Japanese only mastering. The best example is Metallica CDs which by some are considered better sounding than American/European counterparts.
    * However, I read somewhere that very early 80s Jimi Hendrix Japanese CD reissues were actually inferior to European or American mastered CDs OR used an inferior mastering that was used in American/Europe. Don't remember the details. I had a 1991 CD issue of Discharge "Hear Nothing Say Nothing See Nothing", and let me tell you, it did sound worse than the original UK CD issue. I had an early 80s CD of the first two Ramones albums, and they did sound very different from the early American/European CDs, but I can't tell whether they sounded better or worse. I suppose, objectively, they sounded worse, but had their strengths, and considering the type of music and my preferences at the time, I personally liked the Japanese CDs better.
    I believe the quality of mastering was limited to the source that the Japanese would receive to work with in the 80s.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2016
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  6. xcqn

    xcqn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Gothenburg, Sweden
    Yeah well, 80's mastered European/American cd's were not always from the orginal master-tapes either so in many cases a tie. It's simply up to the mastering and pressing quality.
     
    32XD Japan1 likes this.
  7. Endymion

    Endymion Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    So the answer to the OP's question is: No, they are not reliably good. Next subject...
     
    Dave likes this.
  8. Vincent3

    Vincent3 Member Thread Starter

    Thanks, everyone. Point taken.
     
  9. sszorin

    sszorin Active Member

    It depends on music genres. Something like various forms of Heavy Metal is hit and miss, like it is on this side of the ocean, but then, how would one recognise an inferior mastering and pressing of recording of music which relies on noise and on deliberate sound distortion to carry the 'message' ?
    The Japanese pressings of carefully selected music of timeless quality are the audio cream. Classical, sophisticated 'Pop' of the 1940s to 1970s, popular Jazz of bygone decades, intelligent Rock... Of all the Japanese releases which I have there is one which is an incomprehensible failure and another one is almost a borderline case of unacceptable dynamic compression. The majority of them are better than US / Europe releases and the rest are at least on an equal audio footing.
    Further, the digital cutting machines in Japanese plants used to be better maintained and less worn out so the rate of their random bit writing error was smaller, the Japanese discs contained fewer bit errors. Japanese have used, for valuable releases, superior cutting methods and technology, like K2, Sony Blu-Spec and JVC and Toshiba patented cutting to bring down the bit error rate.
    Further, Japanese have been using better, cleaner and more transparent polycarbonate material on their CDs to reduce laser "jitter" and enable it to read 'bits' smoother and thus again reduce reading error rate. I speak of their super-material CDs, including SHM-CDs. Releases of music on CDs with superior material and with superior cutting technology has been coupled with more careful mastering of better quality. The combination of these factors is bound to have an increase in audio quality of a music release.
    A caveat - I carefully pick music of good quality, so I cannot comment on releases of music which is only a 'flavor of the day' music.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
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  10. sszorin

    sszorin Active Member

    Believe it or not but many "shared" masterings are still audio tweaked a little when released in Japan. It is like the Japanese have to have them at least a little bit "unique".
     
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  11. SKATTERBRANE

    SKATTERBRANE Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    I find they like to eq to favor treble. It matters not the format. There packaging is not to be bested however.
     
  12. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Forum Resident

    I have some Japanese CD's that are "unique" to Japan, and some that are not. One example are the Van Halen Sammy-era Japanese Forever Young series CD's from 2005, which I stated here over 10 years ago that sound like good and modern remasters tome, louder but not compressed or brickwalled, and in the case of 5150 and OU812 they have real bass, the international versions of those albums are famous for being very bass-shy. Another example, the soundtrack for the film Gattaca released by Virgin in 1997. I have the US and Euro CD and the Japanese CD made by Toshiba. The US and Japanese CD's sound identical, the Eropean CD has a glitch (I've checked with several Euro CD's of this album, all of them have the glitch) on the first track of the album. Visual inspection, although the US and Japanese CD's sound identical to me, the Japanese CD look shinier, with better reflectivity and the music takes more space on the Japanese CD 'though the US and Japanese CD last exactely the same.
    Van Halen's A Different Kind Of Truth, a moder example of Japanese using the same internatinalmastering. I have the US CD and the Japanese SHM-CD and both sound the same.
     
  13. edenofflowers

    edenofflowers Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Nay lad! In a lot of cases modern issues are viciously eq'd and bricked, it's pot luck in recent years. Back in 'the day' you were more or less guaranteed to get a good sounding disc but in the last 10+ years, when some albums have seemed to get yearly re-issues in Japan, it's a gamble and with the price of JPN issues it's an expensive gamble. It's a case by case situation.
     
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  14. Marc Perman

    Marc Perman Forum Resident

    Location:
    West of the Hudson
    Classical CD shopping in Japan is especially great; there's a parallel universe of releases, reissues, remasterings, box sets and the like on both western and Japan-only labels that are only released there. Tower Records even has its own releases available only in their stores. The used CD market is spectacular.
     
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  15. edenofflowers

    edenofflowers Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    As a collector of quite a few Japanese Pop bands from the 90s and early 00s I'd love to be able to go used CD shopping in Japan. Not just for CDs really but memorabilia in general. I have a feeling that I'll never be wealthy enough to afford to go and spend the amounts of money I'd want to spend though. I'd be like a kid in a candy store out there.
     
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  16. ranasakawa

    ranasakawa Forum Resident

    I brought some Hendrix, Taste, Cream Japanese BluSpec and other format CDs recently, cost me a fortune and they don't sound 'any' better than my old Polygram CDs so I say they are hyped up.
     
    Dave likes this.
  17. Matthew B.

    Matthew B. Scream Quietly

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    If you're able to get a look at the obi, you can sometimes figure out which mastering a reissue is using. Look for a year in close proximity to the characters "リマスタ," which is the beginning of the Japanese words for "remaster" and "remastering." Unfortunately many releases don't have this.
     
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  18. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    most, if not all, japanese CDs contain mastering info on their obi, so customers know what they're getting. do your research before buying and then you won't have to accuse anyone of hype because you wasted your money.

    edit: my fellow japan resident above made the same point. i'd argue that the majority of reissues (especially major label blu-spec, shm etc) do state this info on the obi.
     
    Matthew B. likes this.
  19. Matthew B.

    Matthew B. Scream Quietly

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    Yeah, I wouldn't bother paying extra money for a Blue-Spec CD or an SHM-CD unless you're sure it's a unique mastering, or you really like the packaging. They're often digitally identical to the standard discs.
     
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  20. Marc Perman

    Marc Perman Forum Resident

    Location:
    West of the Hudson
    Which brings us to the Led Zeppelin mini-LP set from around 10 years ago, which was released as standard and SHM CDs. I have and enjoy the standard set, which I believe is the 1990s remasters slightly tweaked or sweetened, others will know more about this. The replica sleeves are really well done.
     
  21. Matthew B.

    Matthew B. Scream Quietly

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    Yeah, the ones aimed at collectors usually give the info nowadays. Indie releases and older discs in general typically don't.
     
  22. jkm

    jkm The Medium is the Massage

    Location:
    Vancouver, CANADA
    I was thinking of replacing my RVG of Bobby Hutcherson Happenings with the upcoming SHM. Is that a mistake?
     
  23. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    i'd wait for confirmation of the master, but i would expect it to be a straight reissue of the 2013 Blue Note "The Masterworks" 75th anniversary edition (and at the same price). some in this series are mastered loud but generally receive favourable reviews. sourced from 24/192 transfers.
     
  24. jkm

    jkm The Medium is the Massage

    Location:
    Vancouver, CANADA
    That sounds promising. I'm not happy with the RVG.
     
  25. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    probably a mistake but the amazon jp entry for the forthcoming reissue has the Van Gelder master for its sound samples. i'd wait to be sure before ordering.
     
    jkm likes this.

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