Japanese/OBI Vinyl - good or bad?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by SH Whatley, Apr 8, 2011.

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  1. SH Whatley

    SH Whatley Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Somewhat new to record collecting but it seems that there is general disdain for Japanese/OBI vinyl, at least in the U.S. Any insights as to why?
  2. Laservampire

    Laservampire Down with this sort of thing

    First off, it's obi. It means "sash". No need for capitalization. It's a word, not an acronym.

    Second, Japanese pressings generally feature very high quality vinyl, but can sometimes be mastered too quietly or from an inferior source tape, especially when it comes to western music.

    I haven't noticed any disdain myself, they're usually great collector's pieces, but maybe not the best choice for audiophiles.
    marcfeld69 and Kevin Williams like this.
  3. George Blair

    George Blair Senior Member

    Portland, OR
    Where did you get that? Japanese vinyl is often fantastic, even if it isn't the best source always.
    Philog likes this.
  4. HiFi Guy 008

    HiFi Guy 008 Forum Resident

    New England
    These vary wildly - but on one thing you can usually be certain: the pressings will have the hole in the middle (a seemingly insurmountable challenge for US and UK record manufacturers to this day) and the vinyl will be dead quiet.

    I have a few and love most of them - even those without the obi (although some forum members contend the obi will enhance a cd's sound, no such contention for vinyl...yet.)

    Bowie, Eno, Genesis (not Duke - that one stinks on my Japan pressing, US better), Police (not Zenyatta, that one stinks on my Japan pressing, US and Nautilus better), Supertramp, Talking Heads, Thomas Dolby, Peter Gabriel. All are 1970's and 80's pressings not too much later than their original pressing - none are recent reissues.
    Philog and ExRecordist like this.
  5. dbz

    dbz Bolinhead.

    Live At Leeds (UK)
    In my experience, Japanese vinyl is superb.
    However, it really depends on which tapes were used as there can often be a little more hiss and a little less clarity compared to UK/USA pressings.

    I may be wrong here, but a high profile band will have better sound than an obscure one. Sometimes a high profile band's LP will be from a dupe tape if it was before they "broke big". e.g Queen's early Japanese LPs are from non-first generation sources, but by A Night At The Opera, they are much better. Similarly, something relatively obscure like post-Joe Walsh James Gang, is from lower generation tapes (still beautiful vinyl, but with added hiss).

    By the way, I'm talking about the early 70's here. I have no idea about 90's pressing. But, I can say that my most prized and best sounding Lps are often "Japanese obi vinyl".:)
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  6. McLover

    McLover Senior Member

    Athens, Tennessee
    Japanese vinyl is superb, mastering is good but often to Japanese tastes. They like brighter top end as a rule. Western Music is usually from higher generation tapes than country of origin. I love their quality control and silent pressings as a rule. They're centered 99% of the time (something which is rare in the USA)
    Philog and shutdown66 like this.
  7. My son bought me a DSOTM from Grimey's for $50 sealed...a few months later, we needed cash, and since I have an original 1973 US, I let it go for grocery money...it DID sound great, but now when we go to CD Warehouse, there it sits in a prominent place, with a $79.99 price tag. :laugh:
  8. drbryant

    drbryant Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    Disdain is sometimes expressed by collectors who feel that Japanese vinyl pressings are woefully overpriced when you can find a US pressing (that might be from a better source) for a fraction of the cost. The problem, of course, is finding the good quality US pressing. For those with the time and the know-how to cover used record stores, conventions, swap meets, thrift stores and the like, great. For the rest of us who might not have the free time or who might not live in a city with a good selection of vinyl, buying US pressings online is a gamble (and the odds aren't good). For us, Japanese vinyl is the "safer" purchase.

    In the 70's, it wasn't just the US pressing plants that were bad. The distributors were horrible - I worked part time in the record department of a major store chain, so I know. I would actually see them toss boxes of records from the truck. Even worse, if there was extra space in the packing box they would toss some cassettes on top of the records to fill up the space. Of course, since they never paid attention to which side was up, the box would get turned upside down, and all the records in the box would warp around the cassette as they were being delivered to the retailers in the Hawaii heat. Just crazy.
  9. btf1980

    btf1980 Forum Resident

    Excellent. I have a lot of Japanese pressings, and most are damn good. Great packaging too. Never any paper record sleeves to boot.
    Philog and Robert C like this.
  10. greelywinger

    greelywinger That T-Rex Guy

    Dayton, Ohio USA
    I like purchasing Japanese records & CDs with the obi.
    This is only from a collecting standpoint.
    I don't believe that the obi does anything to the sound.

  11. :tsk: It enhances the SQ. You know that. :winkgrin:
    Numanx, GullGutt and Robert C like this.
  12. Satrus

    Satrus Forum Resident

    Cork, Ireland
    My preference is for Japan vinyl, all the time! There may be sound issues for some, on a few occasions, but it really depends on what pressing you get. A budget reissue, say a Y1,500 price obi, may not sound as good as the first issue (Y2,300, Y2,500 or Y2,800) in Japan of that same title. One of my first Japan LPs was a 1980 reissue of 'The Pretender' by Jackson Browne, (the obi says WEA WAY 80s Hot Rod Y2,000) and I was totally knocked out by the sound quality on that one and it wasn't even the original Japan pressing! I started buying Japan vinyl in 1980 because U.K. WEA vinyl at the time was atrocious. That was before WEA quit pressing in the U.K. and moved to Germany, R.S. Alsdorf/Teldec, as far as I recall.

    I have a Y1,500 copy of Rod Stewart 'Every Picture ..' and it sounded bad in comparison to a 'crackly' U.K. original in sound quality but I have got what appears to be a 2nd Japan pressing (Y2,300) since although I have not compared it to the U.K. original which a friend owns. I have an original Japan pressing w/o obi of 'Gasoline Alley' and it sounds wonderful but again I have not compared it to the original U.K. issue which my buddy also has.

    You will get superb, quiet vinyl with a properly centred spindle hole, most of the time and even if you don't this is quite easily fixed, as it won't be 'off' by that much, from what I have seen and I have a lot of Japanese vinyl. Warner Pioneer Corporation, in my experience, had this problem (endemic to vinyl it seems), nailed.

    Michael Fremer says that the Japan issue of Paul Simon's 'Graceland' is the best version there is and if there is a better sounding version of 'Gaucho' by Steely Dan than the original Japan pressing, I would find that hard to believe. I'll go further, I would not believe it. It certainly impressed the heck out of two visitors to my home over a decade ago.

    I would not have stuck with vinyl had it not been for Japan vinyl. I just hate that sinking feeling you get when playing new vinyl from other countries and you are left disappointed over the quality or because of some defect like warping etc. I never ever feel like that when I get vinyl from Japan.

    German and Dutch vinyl is also very good most of the time, but for me Japan is a vinyl junkie's fantasy come true.
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  13. Mike in OR

    Mike in OR Through Middle-earth...onto Heart of The Sunrise

    Portland, Oregon
    I have had a large quantity of JPN vinyl over the years. My experience has been that sonically, JPN issue LPs suffer in comparison to their US/UK counterparts. Sure I have kept certain titles where the JPN issue beats the other pressings, but that certainly is in the minority overall, in my experience.

    But of course, packaging and pressing quality are almost always excellent.

    Personal taste dictates how this is viewed, and what one collector values. For myself, packaging falls to a distant second over sound quality. If I can't spin it and enjoy what I am hearing, it gets moved out of the collection.
  14. CaptBeyond

    CaptBeyond Well-Known Member

    Above the Ozone

    Wrong on all counts. It is an acronym, not a word. It means Outer Band Insert.
  15. BryanW

    BryanW Likes his pop sunny.

    I'm afraid that your etymology is faulty. Obi is the Japanese word for the wide fabric sash that a woman wears around her waist with a kimono. The term came to refer as well to the paper sashes around LP covers.
    Clucking, weaselriot, JunQue and 2 others like this.
  16. Monsieur Gadbois

    Monsieur Gadbois Senior Member

    West Coast
    A little Wiki search: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obi_strip

    An obi is a strip of paper looped around a book or other product. This extends the term obi used for Japanese clothing; it is written with the same kanji.

    The term is also used for a strip on the left side or folded over the top of LP albums released in Japan, and folded over the left side of music CDs, video games, Laserdiscs, or DVDs. This is also called tasuki.) Obi are unique to Japan and are used to provide the title of the product, track listings (if applicable), price, catalog number and information on related releases in Japanese. It is used by the consumer to determine what is included in the album or book, and the store can use the information for ordering. Products with an obi have become popular with some collectors, can fetch premium prices, and are collectible items in their own right.[2] A record or CD with an intact obi is worth more than the same item without.
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  17. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    An 'insert' would go inside the sleeve. An obi is known in the printing industry as an outsert or onsert.
    weaselriot likes this.
  18. readandburn

    readandburn Active Member

    Vancouver, BC
    Someone's been telling you stories. :eek:
  19. Matthew B.

    Matthew B. Scream Quietly

    Tokyo, Japan
    Very funny.

    The other stupid story I've heard is that it stands for "original band intact."
    Robert C likes this.
  20. LordThanos1969

    LordThanos1969 Forum Resident

    Phoenix, AZ, USA
    My Japanese vinyl pressings are among the most cherished albums in my collection, especially the Zeppelin and Floyd ones. I know I am in the minority here, but I would rather have a set of pristine Japanese Zeppelin records than the ones produced by Classic Records.
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  21. 93curr

    93curr Senior Member

    But the word "obi" isn't English, so how could it be an acronym for three English words? :confused:

    I never understood why the Japanese went so enthusiastically for CD when it first came out when they had the world-standard for vinyl pressing quality. If every other country wasn't so hell-bent on cutting corners whenever they could find them, I would have stuck with vinyl myself.
    Satrus likes this.
  22. c-eling

    c-eling They're made of light,We never would have guessed

    Picked up Thomas Dolby's Golden Age a few months ago, superb press and can be had for relatively cheap
  23. antonkk

    antonkk Senior Member

    Are there any specific cases where japanese vinyl sounds brighter and more sterile than US/UK originals?
  24. Lashing

    Lashing Well-Known Member

    I love Japanese vinyl. Often really really quiet. As other have mentioned source tape is the only issue. Record Co's sent copies not the actual masters out.

    At the top of the list and also as others have mentioned - hole in center. How hard is that? In Japan its not. In America it seems a real challenge.

    MOFI would never have existed if it wasnt for JVC Japan. The early MFSL stuff was all pressed in Japan.
  25. Preston

    Preston Forum Resident

    KCMO Metro USA
    Others have already listed the positives and negatives of Japanese vinyl above. I think it varies from title to title, but allow me to provide an example of how good Japanese vinyl can be. The last year or so, I've been on a bit of a funk tear vinyl-wise. I've been buying U.S. pressings of Brick, early Commodores (74-77), Ohio Players, Tower of Power, etc. In most cases, it is nearly impossible to find excellent condition LPs of these groups. In the case of the Commodores and Tower of Power, I bought 10-12 titles, and perhaps three were VG++ to NM. The others were noisy. I just happened to find Japanese pressings of the s/t Commodores and Back to Oakland by Tower of Power. These two pressings sound like they used the same tapes used in the U.S. versions: the bass, tonality, soundstage, etc. were identical. As a result, I've been buying as many Japanese pressings of these groups as I can find. So far, I have yet to be disappointed.

    I'm not saying that you can extrapolate my experience for every title, but you should try titles on a case by case basis: you might be pleasantly surprised.

    PS I buy these only for the improved sound quality: I'm not a collector. Just a music lover.
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