Sunday, 8 November 2015

30 Years of Revelation III

Hello to everybody following,

today I want to find more and further explanations about the fundamental historical change initiated by Japanese audiophiles in the 1970ties. Before such comprehensive evaluation based on extensive human sense perception was brought into culture, a typical pure technical analytical understanding of logic measurement arguments was state of audio fidelity perception. Even the mode of highly professional products with a necessity for definition and standards, for the broadcasting and television industry was mainly defined by ingenious superiority of their designers and their compliance to a purely technical understanding of audible processes. Here Japan didn't constitute any exception like everywhere.

Denon turntable unit from 1970ties for the Japanese broadcast industry

Listening experience and aural competence never have been a natural given qualification of mankind, it is as many other refined human senses are a result of intensive training of abilities. The ear is a sense organ, which relies in a tremendous grade to a wide spread individualized experience search. A conductor of a complex symphonic orchestra for example acquired his listening competence, i.e. the opportunity to difference out several dozens of singular instruments at once, just because of his regular training. This might have trained him as well a ability of distinction for tonal refinement, which will be up to a factor of 10 higher than ordinary people will show, let's say by a bus driver. The typical daily noise floor might have effected here the ear into opposite direction.

Several hundred years of man made insistent experience with acoustic instruments, equally with their evolution in design, manufacture and performance, have created a deeply rooted sense for natural originated tonalities and detailed harmonic structures in almost any culture. "Unplugged (i.e. without electrical amplification)" musical performance practice with solely acoustical arranged instrumentation is a perfect base for such training and improvement of the own listening ability. Serious practice and internalizing of these senses bring us straight into all limitations within musical recordings, these are inherent to any form of acoustical reproduction and are so typical with audio playback technologies. Here a always more or less prominent compression of the general dynamic attitude together with a loss of detailed expression of micro harmonic details are the foremost problems of all forms of audio reproduction. Such losses have been accepted traditionally more or less over decades as to be typical, so a overcoming of such limitations was one major intention of the early evaluation shoot outs in Japan of the 1970ties. Early sound transducing units from the 1930ties cinema installations like the Western Electric Horn Systems together with their dedicated amplifying units with direct heated triode tubes demonstated in these days a highly graded superiority in almost any case of such former explained attitudes. Well experienced and typically Japanese cultivated listeners detected apart from commercial market mechanisms within such old technologies a stage of aural realm and refinement within music reproduction, which never again reached a similar successfully completed level again in history.
The technically seen most simple stage of early amplification, a single ended tube amplifier with one power triode, namely the Western Electric 300B in cooperation with its dedicated designed receiver unit (WE555A compression driver) using a wide band horn transducer telephone, outperformed any newer, technically advanced technology in many terms. The horn development with its wide range frequency dispersion (between 70 and 5000 hz) and its dedicated compression driver unit works physically seen like a typical acoustic instrument in giant form. It shows the typical attitudes known from such wind instruments (and the typical efficiency in dynamic and loudness response), which have physically seen different properties than a wave radiated by a paper cone. Fed by the advanced organized harmonic signal structure of a direct heated triode, such a system can convince with a by far less technical appearance in its tonal structure. Lot more naturally radiated wavefronts and even exceptional micro dynamic performances did make the much higher THD (typically 5% for directly heated triodes) of such systems to a forgettable incidence. From these early days of rediscovery in Japan in 1970 the Western Electric Systems obtained cult status first in Japan and Korea, before their legend started as well in Europe. The WE300B triode got in the coming 20 years to be a synonym for direct heated triodes, may be even to a synonym auf audio tubes in general. But within these days vintage original Western Electric made original tube samples had been still available in useful amounts and were even still in production together with other US brands like Cetron till the end of the 1980ties. Their disappearance gave way for more and more Chinese, Russian and other remakes, all unable to perform at a similar advanced level of properties which is inherent with NOS original tubes.

Typical installation of a WE16A (in untypical colored red) in a traditional Japanese timbering house.

From today it clearly can be seen that in Japan in these days a drastic change of music perception did take place. It took two decades to influence the listening attitude of audio aficionados all over the world and to create interest for more individualized sensations as listening preferences. The definition of quality with electric amplified music reproduction was not any longer evaluated by a printed superiority of technical data sheets. Instead a human emotional significance and sensitiveness as general base of audible evaluation criteria broke ground outgoing from a small group of elitist circles in Japan (Read the interview with Hiroyaso Kondo to understand). There in such a fondness hedonistic culture exceptional vintage horn installations did find a nutrient-rich soil to set out. Allocated to the small scaled size of the country Japan and its typical high density of population and resuming minimalistic apartment sizes in its metropoles, a incomparable audio culture did find exceptional unique preconditions for its solely hedonistic realizations of historical intended audio installations.
So former cinema horn installations got installed into tiniest rooms. A exceptional developed collecting mentality of rarest items forced such preconditions to sometimes unbelievable peaks and drove iridescent flowers.

Who does not remember the widely published under earth build horn developments, which ended with their drivers far outside in the garden? Additionally a highly advanced sense for product qualities exaggerated some of the most interesting, elaborated and unrestrained audio installations existing in the world, even within smallest space conditions for its realization.

WE16A matching perfectly the widths of the room

WE16A in a Japanese apartment

A small selection of images (only three rooms from altogether six are shown here) with respect to one of the most interesting collections of vintage audio arranged as a private museum in an apartment of Dr. Takeshi Mikami (images with respect to gokudo ) in Japan:

Mastery of Meaningful Listening 

or: like hearing took back to emotional integrety of music

Looking at the above shown images shows very clearly that a completely different understanding of audio culture did have taken place in Japan after the 1970ties. The interest of such lively, vivid and intense scene still existing in Japan, created incomparable products made with the highest degree of mastermind culture in order to find the last and tiniest compromising aspect in a audio playback system.

Such research was objectivated to a major intention of finesse and ease, both typical adjectives with natural instrumentation. It was the base for such evaluations to give them a almost religious inspired mission of perfection. Their resulting amplifiers didn't explore "the" common targets of standards, than to find individual definitions of least incomparable qualities and subtile harmonic expression. The amplifier "shootouts" (name est. in the US-american english) reminded me more to the traditional wine or food tasting events in the western world, than to typical technical evaluations with precisely arranged target lines and a resulting hierarchy as quality reference i.e. better selling argument in commercial terms which is the common practice over here.
In Japan as well a wide spread community established a do-it-yourself made audio product culture to before unknown levels of refinement (speakers, amplifiers, crossovers, etc. and fed by a comprehensive accessory business with transformers, enclosures, components and almost any part of high quality). This scene was mainly intended to overcome the typical limitations of commercial mass market products and to find alternative solutions of highly increased quality preferences and not, like in the western world established definition of diy, as a "low cost side business". It was said in the 1980ties that more than 100.000 people were involved into such movement. It was a energetic market, that even internationally acting audio companies like Lux-Corporation (Luxman), tried to establish from specialized branches high quality products. At the same time lots of small accompanying side businesses, like Yoshimura Labs, GOTO, GIP, Onken, Tamura, Tango, etc., established with highly focused product ranges of dedicated parts. Several individual figures acting as forerunners of exceptional sophisticated audio standards defined individuality as unique position and as highest claim in amplifier design (read the interview with Mr Matsumoto of Mactone.Co for better understanding). Names like Morikawa, Sakuma, Anzai, Shindo, Kondo or Kaneta established as to be exceptional significant designers or better said sound creators of mostly handmade instruments. They were respectively connoted to a highly valued master degree like the typical Japanese cultivated graduation "san", instead of been evaluated with the adjective "best".

Read on soon, Volker