JohnRgt

Imported CDs from Japan

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I repeatedly hear CDs printed for the Japanese market are of far higher quality than those made for the US. I've seen some proof of this when I've listened to some of the imports in the collections of audiophiles, though I can't know how much of the improvement I heard was attributable to the CD and how much to the incredible equipment. (I own a Japanese LP copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall. When I've listened to it back to back with the domestic edition on the same equipment, I've most certainly noticed significant differences.)

Does anyone have any insight into these differences?

Does anyone know of a source for Japanese market CDs for US consumers?

My thanks in advance.

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I repeatedly hear CDs printed for the Japanese market are of far higher quality than those made for the US.

The production quality may very well be different, but this has nothing to do with the media. "Modern" CD's produced by major labels in the USA have garbage sound quality, because of the "loudness wars".

Does anyone have any insight into these differences?

Sounds very suspicious. CD's store the information in a digital format, so it is either 1's or 0's. So long as the laser etched a pit in the CD precise enough that it can be detected, then either further precision is meaningless. You could increase the density of the pits to store more or richer information, but then your CD player probably couldn't read it.

Scientists I know doing research in the field of materials used for CD's have said that "research on the CD is dead". There isn't much more you can do with that medium, and things like flash-memory are the future.

Probably mindless commercial hype, and the people listening to it are imagining the difference. When you are excited about something it is very easy to trick yourself into seeing or hearing a difference that isn't there.

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Ack, that was supposed to read

So long as the laser etched a pit in the CD precise enough that it can be detected, then any further precision is meaningless.

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I repeatedly hear CDs printed for the Japanese market are of far higher quality than those made for the US.

The production quality may very well be different, but this has nothing to do with the media. "Modern" CD's produced by major labels in the USA have garbage sound quality, because of the "loudness wars".

So they do sound better, then? Do we know of a source for these releases?

Scientists I know doing research in the field of materials used for CD's have said that "research on the CD is dead". There isn't much more you can do with that medium, and things like flash-memory are the future.

Yeah, we've all been waiting for "them" to decide what the next medium will be for some time now. (I don't know how they've survived the past couple of decades without a new medium to justify a major reissuing of their songbooks . . . )

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I repeatedly hear CDs printed for the Japanese market are of far higher quality than those made for the US.

The production quality may very well be different, but this has nothing to do with the media. "Modern" CD's produced by major labels in the USA have garbage sound quality, because of the "loudness wars".

So they do sound better, then? Do we know of a source for these releases?

I don't know what they sound like. I had never heard of this until this thread.

The "Loudness War" has been discussed on this forum before, and there are lots of really neat articles on teh internetz describing it.

When listening to two cd's you have to take into account lots of things. The "masterings" or production effort that when into them, i.e. were they "remastered" to clean up the sound, did the remastering make it worse because they amplified all the wave-forms to make it sound louder, etc?

At the end of the day it's a string of 1's and 0's. If the music device can read the 1's and 0's then any issue of how "precisely" the pits were etched or how robust the medium is is irrelevant. This isn't analog.

Scientists I know doing research in the field of materials used for CD's have said that "research on the CD is dead". There isn't much more you can do with that medium, and things like flash-memory are the future.

Yeah, we've all been waiting for "them" to decide what the next medium will be for some time now. (I don't know how they've survived the past couple of decades without a new medium to justify a major reissuing of their songbooks . . . )

The next medium is already here, it's flash and magnetic hard drives. I have 6 days of music on my laptop right now. I can plug my laptop into my stereo/TV system and listen to my heart's content :-D

Or even better, it will all be on the internetz. Think of Netflix for movies. You pay a small subscription fee, then can watch all the streaming films you want. You never download it or own it, but just stream it from their servers. Someone clever will probably do the same thing with music. Because wireless internet is ubiquitous both in devices and sources, there really isn't a need to possess a copy of the song/movie anymore, as you can stream it remotely from some server anytime you wish. This generation will probably see an interesting evolution in the concept of "ownership" of music, where no one will actually own personal copies of music, but have the right to stream anything whenever they want. An entire world could be at our fingertips...

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I don't know what they sound like. I had never heard of this until this thread.

Maybe this will help:

WHAT IS A JAPAN "MINI-LP-SLEEVE" CD?

Have you ever lamented the loss of one of the 20th Century's great art forms, the 12" vinyl LP jacket? Then "mini-LP-sleeve" CD's may be for you.

Mini-sleeve CDs are manufactured in Japan under license. The disc is packaged inside a 135MM X 135MM cardboard precision-miniature replica of the original classic vinyl-LP album. Also, anything contained in the original LP, such as gatefolds, booklets, lyric sheets, posters, printed LP sleeves, stickers, embosses, special LP cover paper/inks/textures and/or die cuts, are precisely replicated and included. An English-language lyric sheet is always included, even if the original LP did not have printed lyrics.

Then, there's the sonic quality: Often (but not always), mini-sleeves have dedicated remastering (20-Bit, 24-Bit, DSD, K2/K2HD, and/or HDCD), and can often (but not always) be superior to the audio on the same title anywhere else in the world. There also may be bonus tracks unavailable elsewhere.

Each Japan mini-sleeve has an "obi" ("oh-bee"), a removable Japan-language promotional strip. The obi lists the Japan street date of that particular release, the catalog number, the mastering info, and often the original album's release date. Bonus tracks are only listed on the obi, maintaining the integrity of the original LP artwork. The obi's are collectable, and should not be discarded.

All mini-sleeve releases are limited edition, but re-pressings/re-issues are becoming more common (again, not always). The enthusiasm of mini-sleeve collecting must be tempered, however, with avoiding fake mini-sleeves manufactured in Russia and distributed throughout the world, primarily on eBay. They are inferior in quality, worthless in collectable value, a total waste of money, and should be avoided at all costs.

CD tech may be have gone as far as it can go, but as anyone who as listened to remastered CDs can tell you, there is a huge gap between the average release in that format and what's possible.

At the end of the day it's a string of 1's and 0's. If the music device can read the 1's and 0's then any issue of how "precisely" the pits were etched or how robust the medium is is irrelevant.

But these aren't the only parameters that determine the quality of the recording. At the end of the day, I don't care if a Japanese market CD sounds better because of etching and medium robustness or better mastering. They, apparently, sound significantly better.

This isn't analog.

That sucks, doesn't it?

LoL!

(Given what it costs to get the analog sound that has no counterpart in the digital audio world, I'll go digital. But the sound of a top notch analog audio setup remains untouchable.)

The next medium is already here, it's flash and magnetic hard drives. I have 6 days of music on my laptop right now. I can plug my laptop into my stereo/TV system and listen to my heart's content :-D

I guess I should've made clear that I was speaking of the next medium that will represent a huge leap in sound quality (MP3? Really?!)

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But these aren't the only parameters that determine the quality of the recording. At the end of the day, I don't care if a Japanese market CD sounds better because of etching and medium robustness or better mastering. They, apparently, sound significantly better.

If we are talking about the Japanese "SHM-CD", made by Universal Music Japan and JVC, then we are specifically talking about the material used for the cd. The specific claim is that the "special polycarbonate" material employed for the disk allows for superior performance. This is very suspicious, and sounds like nothing more than a marketing gimmick to trick gullible audiophiles into a purchase.

Just google "SHM-cd" and you will find many discussions on random forums about it.

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Despite having one of the best Shure cartridges available, and buying direct to disc LPs, I wanted something more durable and with the highest dynamic range possible. I bought one of the first CD players out; the Sony CDP101. There was a huge resistance to CDs in the beginning, but I was never able to find an objective test that confirmed the superiority of the LP. It seemed to me that the so called 'warmth' of LPs was actually due to it's limitations of reproduction.

No CD will overcome a bad original recording, and it's been my experience that it is the quality of the original recording that is most important. The secondary recording medium, CD vs. LP is less important if one ignores the limits of the dynamic range that may show up on a classical recording done on LP, along with clicks and pops.

One doesn't need an expert ear to pick a good recording. One only needs to compare what one hears with the real thing. With a blindfold on, and the music cranked up to live levels, some of my CDs (made from analogue originals no less) make me believe I am in the dance hall.

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Despite having one of the best Shure cartridges available, and buying direct to disc LPs, I wanted something more durable and with the highest dynamic range possible. I bought one of the first CD players out; the Sony CDP101. There was a huge resistance to CDs in the beginning, but I was never able to find an objective test that confirmed the superiority of the LP. It seemed to me that the so called 'warmth' of LPs was actually due to it's limitations of reproduction.

No CD will overcome a bad original recording, and it's been my experience that it is the quality of the original recording that is most important. The secondary recording medium, CD vs. LP is less important if one ignores the limits of the dynamic range that may show up on a classical recording done on LP, along with clicks and pops.

One doesn't need an expert ear to pick a good recording. One only needs to compare what one hears with the real thing. With a blindfold on, and the music cranked up to live levels, some of my CDs (made from analogue originals no less) make me believe I am in the dance hall.

I agree with the main thrust here, but I have to say that it's digital recording and mixing that seems to be the issue, not the mastering or medium used during listening. I still say that a side by side comparison gives analog the edge. (I used to go from LP on a great turntable to a great tape deck. The results blew away label cassettes, the copied LP and CD to cassette. I just wish I had the time and money it takes to generate the best analog sound. Digital makes it so easy to live with "only" a decent sound, getting on with the business of owning and enjoying all the music that's out there.)

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Does anyone know of a source for Japanese market CDs for US consumers?

I've regularly ordered from www.cdjapan.co.jp.

I can definitely confirm that far more care is taken in at least the packaging and presentation of Japanese CDs than in the US.

All CDs are treated as collector's items. Inserts are carefully presented and artfully designed. Catalog numbers are the primary identifier for discs, and they are consistently and unfailingly printed on every insert, the "obi", in nearly all cases on the underside rim of the disc itself, and any stickers on the packaging. (I have purchased used CDs where the original buyer had cut out stickers on the shrinkwrap and kept them in the case.)

Every CD, nearly without exception, contains an "obi" which is a slip that wraps around the binding onto the front and back and contains full identifying information for the disc. It is underneath the shrinkwrap but outside the disc case, so once unwrapped, the obi should and can easily be kept within the case with the rest of the inserts.

The standard price for a CD is 3000 yen, about $40. (Back in the years when I was regularly collecting Japanese CDs, this converted to around $25-$30... how things have changed.) Note that this isn't merely the price you pay to import them to the US... this is the actual price in Japan. Shipping to the US adds around $15-$20 per order plus around $4/CD.

One reason that Japanese CDs sometimes have bonus tracks exclusive only to Japan is that Japanese licensors negotiate and pay extra to get these, to discourage Japanese residents from importing the cheaper releases from elsewhere in the world.

In my case, my reason for buying is just to get Japanese music--not to get supposedly better Japanese releases of music created elsewhere. Although exclusive bonus tracks are one thing, I would be greatly suspicious that sound quality is any better on a consistent basis. I suppose it's possible certain albums could have been remastered for a Japanese exclusive release, but I'd guess that's uncommon.

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Oh, one more thing that's worth posting again to mention. The detailed attention to quality goes right down to the shrinkwrap. Most CDs that I bought had very neatly, carefully applied shrinkwrap with a "pull slip" that would easily and neatly tear the lower edge off, leaving the rest of the wrap to slip off like a sleeve. A nice contrast to CDs and DVDs here where you're tearing your fingernails on a tiny edge, then again on the sticker underneath the wrap.

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