A record label may press different records at different plants so you can't just go by the label. You need to look at the back cover to see where it was pressed. IMHO, anything pressed by JVC Victor is exceptional.
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I have bought alot of Japanese Vinyl with mixed results. The benefit is that the vinyl itself is better, lower noise floor, pressing quality is high. But the rest depends on the master tape, is it 2nd generation, mastering process, amps, etc. If you are talking about Jazz, almost all the 1950's/60's Verve or blue notes sound pretty good and an improvement to me (case in point Stan Getz). Classical I couldn't tell you, Pop/rock: sometimes better, sometimes less soundstage/"air" spacial detail and more inner groove distortion. Example (don't laugh if you hate Yes): the Yes recordings "Fragile", "Relayer", "Going for the One" all sound worse in regards to above on Japanese Vinyl; all sound best on original 1st pressings from U.K. But I would say the Jap. pressings are perhaps better than U.S. The above is true for almost all U.K. progressive/art rock bands: Camel, King Crimson, ELP, etc.
the japanese version of 'the yes album' actually has a volume change MID-SONG(!) - on one track. unbelievable! (but I do agree that, for jazz, japanese vinyl is almost always a good bet. a lot of the US jazz pressings were really bad.)
the bottom line is that you should try to research individual albums before shelling out the big bucks.
i like the victor pressing and king pressings which are a great value for jazz as they are usually clean and can sound great. Other stuff is hit and miss. japanese vinyl usually has quiet surfaces and a decent amount of detail, but the source material has to be questioned on a lot of the presings as they may be using generations down safety masters or digital masters, depending on what they could get.
Like anything, it's hit and miss.
Well there is no danger of me finding out about the Yes album first hand... just not my bag.
I am buying jazz ablums almost exclusively. The noise floor on these things is amazing, even compared to some more recent 180 or 200g reissues I've got.
Does anyone know of any good sources for this stuff here in the US?
i have the same set. it is mastered a little funny but you know chuck's stuff is often thin. I don't know what masters they have but i know from my originals, that there are cut hotter in the mids and they sound better but i think p-vine commands high prices because they issue hard to find stuff in mono, and people in the states dont seem as interested in doing that, especially in mono. so the rock and roll stuff and r&b ike turner and ov wright things the japanese put out really has no competition. try finding a super clean little willie john early record and you see their market.
As for chuck, the mixes ar so all over the place song to song, i dont envy anyone mastering that stuff.
As to classical vinyl, of which I have a fair stack of the Japanese pressings, it's pretty much as described above...the pressings themselves are generally about as good as pressings get, but there is inconsistency in the sound apparently because different generations of master tapes are used, or there are just different approaches among the Japanese engineers that make the stampers. I would say that I've had generally good luck with the King Super Audio pressings (related in some way to Cisco), for what that's worth, and some really excellent EMI's. But I've also had some disappointing EMI's. I seem to recall that the few Columbia's I've heard were pretty darn good.
But the classical info doesn't get you entirely where you want to go. I have few Japanese pressings of jazz, but do have some Columbia Miles and Thelonius and Weather Report, and have a few Verves. (And I probably have some others that I can't recall.) Again, the pressings were all great. But the Thelonius (a 2 Lp retrospective) was edgy sounding. I seem to recall the Miles was pretty darn good. Same with the Weather Report. However, I would say that the Mosaic Miles pressings were more satisfying.
Like you, I've been searching for Japanese vinyl, albeit somewhat haphazardly, for some months. It does show up on Ebay, and that's mainly where I've found it since the 80's (the good old days...when you could go to Tower Records and find good amounts of it...sometimes).
I have gotten a fair amount too from a place called Audiophile USA, a website, very good to do business with, and you can search by country of origin. Come to think of it, that's probably your best bet...although Acoustic Sounds has some good things, too. That's the only place that I've found new Japanese vinyl. The rest is second hand (though not infrequently in great condition).
Send me an email separately if you want more info.
The Japanese vinyl that is really great are the lp's that are recorded, mastered and manufactured in Japan. Labels like Three Blind Mice, Yupiteru, AudioLab, Toshiba Pro-Use, RCA Direct Cutting Series, etc. These tend to be jazz labels.
Everything else (IMO) is equal to original U.S. pressings at best, and often very sub-par.
The Yes issues are a good example. The Japanese pressings are awful - especially Close To The Edge. (For the record, my favorite Yes pressing is the UK original of Time And A Word.)
I dod have one Toshiba pro label - Ray Brown, Shelly Mann and someone else... recorded, mastered and pressed in Japan. The sound is very spacious and the bass and drums sound amazing, but on any loud piano passages the record distorts. I don't think its my TT because I don't have this problem with any thing else.
Its a shame too, because it really has the makings of a great album.
Piano is one of the most difficult instrument to reproduce on Vinyl. I believe the distortion you heard was caused by mis-tracking. It might be setup problem such as not enough VTF or dust accumulation on the needle. It is also possible that your cart is wearing out or it just simply can't track at that level.
I have some unbelievably dynamic Pro-Use Series' that reproduce piano amazingly (for example "Jun Fukamachi At Steinway" is the most dynamic piano recording I've ever heard). I don't think any compression or peak-limiting was used at all, which WILL reveal any TT/cartridge setup issues. Of course, it's also possible that if you bought the LP used and it had previously been played with a bad setup by someone else, that the more difficult passages were damaged by mistracking before.