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 Japanese Audio via M. Jean Hiraga

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Sonic Voyager

Posts : 118
Join date : 2018-05-25

PostSubject: Japanese Audio via M. Jean Hiraga   Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:48 am


Sonic thinks that Jean Hiraga needs more credit as a pivotal figure in the world of audio – it is he who brought the discoveries of the Japanese audiophiles to the attention of audiophiles in the West, making these views, once esoteric, now mainstream worldwide.

In this series, Sonic draws on things Hiraga-san has presented at various European Triode Festivals and other events he has been part of.  Here is Jean Hiraga at the 2018 Lenco Heaven Meeting in Belgium and he is still going strong.

In this thread, Sonic will be quoting (and sometimes commenting on) texts of his presentations, lectures or quotations.  I will mostly be posting selected material from Jean Hiraga mostly verbatim, so some things might appear to be disjointed with odd grammar.  The pictures, where included, are not all from Hiraga, some have been pulled from other sources by Sonic for illustration (but see the picture credits).  

This man is a genius, a visionary and he has amazing audio stuff. Let’s start!

Next challenge? : recording the impossible

Titanium sticks sound.  These sticks were made in limited series. Only 40 pairs of them were made and sold confidentially, around 2002, by Sony, microphone division.

Few months later sale of these special sticks was definitely stopped, because this was as a kind products destroying Sony reputation, specially face to latest microphones versions.

Sony hardened titanium stick. Sticks length is around 28 cm.

Only one man in Japan was able to make such titanium stocks with old swords knowledge.

Metal as molded to form the heart a each stick.  Outside part of each sticks, added later, as hardened after long hammer work, just like old Japanese swords. Steel versions <<Myochin>> are famous and sold to tourists. Outside hardened titanium version sounded totally different.

Source: from PicClick for illustration, these are not the Sony sticks

Only one antique Japanese sword maker living near Himeji Castle was able to make such sticks. He died last year, in august 2012.

When these sticks are suspended vertically and when they touch together, high frequency clear sounds <<Ting>> sounds are mixed with low and intense lower frequencies beats intermodulation sound like “vvvvv”, with amplitude vibration and frequency changing at each millimeter along each stick.

When these sticks sound was optimized, Sony staff, microphone research department, considered as the most difficult acoustic sound, totally impossible to record, even with the help of best digital devices.

This last remark remains true, even with the use of latest Sony DSD recorder PCM-D100 (DSD, 24 bits/192 khz recorder)

Source: B&H

Sony PCM-D100 DSD  / 24/192 ultra compact recorder (launched in Japan market in October 2013).

Sonic remarks: This text is extracted from a talk by J Hiraga in 2013 at the European Triode Festival.
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Sonic Voyager

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Join date : 2018-05-25

PostSubject: Re: Japanese Audio via M. Jean Hiraga   Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:48 am

From M. Jean Hiraga:

Encountering key Japanese audiophiles, in 60’s and 70’s

Isamu ASANO – was one of the pioneer in this domain. He started to experiment triodes for audiophile use around 1955.

Katsutaro ANZAI – RF tubes specialist, designer of first SRPP circuit for audio use.

Seiro SHINAGAWA – the most important phonograph and SP disc collector in Japan. He is still active in this domain.
[Sonic adds: at the time in 2013 when Hiraga delivered the talk].

Tadaattsu ATARASHI – he was the first in Japan to design a triode amplifier using 845 (1971).

[Sonic adds that Atarashi-san was a senior management of Philips Classics Productions (Record Label) in Japan is a luminary of Tube Kingdom Magazine].  

Last edited by Sonic Voyager on Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:37 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Corrected spelling)
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Sonic Voyager

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PostSubject: Re: Japanese Audio via M. Jean Hiraga   Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:24 am

From M. Jean Hiraga

Japanese Audio Pioneers

Four Japanese “audiophiles” pioneers have been concerned by prosperous future of talking movies systems:

Kei IKEDA (1915 – 1990)  (a famous WE collector)

Source: diyaudio

Kitao ITO (1920 – 1990), importer of Klangfilm products, Siemens products [to Japan]. He taken later in charge after service of movie theater products. He contributed to audio field with many DIY creations published in audio magazines.

Sadao YOSHIMURA (1920 – 1985) and

Seiya GOTO (1927 --   ). Both of them, working at NEC, have beenm the first in Japan to promote high quality, high efficiency speakers and compression chambers units with products named YL (later ALE) and Goto Unit.

In mid of the 60’s, high fidelity market started in Japan. Several audio tunes were imported into Japan, but these tubes were mostly tetrodes and pentodes, for replacement purpose such as McIntosh, Marantz, Dynaco, Sherwood, Quad, Leak, Radford: L34/6CA7, KT66, KT88, 6L6GC….

October 1969: Foundation, in Kobe City of Sunsey Enterprise Company (owner: Jean Hiraga)

Imported products and items:

.          Audio tubes, importing direct hearing triodes from U.S.A. and Europe.

.         Audio passive components, resistors, capacitors, transformers (Partridge, U.K.).

.          Measuring audio instruments, microphones

And another guy to add to the list,


Mr Masanobu OUE

1969 – 1973 period

Mr OUE was the owner of an large Japanese bread and pastries located in Amagasaki, near Osaka city.

He lived in a small space on the first floor located above his factory.

He was an real audio addict of professional tape recorders such as: Ampex, Scully, Studer, Telefunken.

He used in his very small listening room a pair of large Tannoy Autograph speakers.

Space between speakers was on 55 cm! [about 22 inches]

He listened to these speakers at very short distance, at only 1,80 m [about 6 feet] from them.

This was considered by his not as a problem, but as a great advantage : the possibility to listen very timy sound details.

Between 1969 and 1973, extensive listening of tube comparisons, resistors, audio cables were experimented with Mr OUE, with mutual enrichment in audio field.

This work leaded to a major discovery in audiophile world: sound of audio cables, sound of passive components such as capacitors, resistors, power transformers, fuses, solder, audio connectors, solders, potentiometers, switches and selectors, All these studies have been compiled and published several years later, in Revue du Son (1976) and in the new magazine “L’Audiophile” that started in 1977.

Sonic comments: you can see from this the contribution of Japanese audiophiles like Mr OUE and M. Jean Hiraga to what is now conventional knowledge in audio.  As far as I read in the old magazines Sonic collects, before the late 1970s – the time Hiraga mentions – the audiofans in the West and the magazines appeared to know nothing about the contribution of the various wires, capacitors, resistors, fuses in a system to the sound it produced.

I can imagine Mr OUE in his tiny room listening top these speakers, just a few feet ahead of his chair:

While he is surrounded by his turntables and his huge tape machines (which Michael would know well from his work in pro-sound engineering):

Ampex 440, 2 tracks

Ampex 350 professional tape recorder

The Studer J37, two racks or full track, with heads bloc plug-in system

And this – the Scully 280, the preferred model of Mr OUE:

Zonees should understand that these pictures are of Mr OUE’s room, but are shown for illustration.

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Sonic Voyager

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PostSubject: Re: Japanese Audio via M. Jean Hiraga   Fri Aug 03, 2018 11:17 am

From M. Jean Hiraga

The Sparkling Noise of SP Records

1969 – 1971 period:

Encountering Seiro Shinagawa

Know during this period as the most important phonograph and SP collector, More than 2 000 phonographs.

More than 200 000 SP records.

Seiro SHINAGAWA was also collecting Western Electric speakers and amplifiers.

[Sonic says: pardon the poor reproduction]

Between 1969 – 1971 periods, rare and very expensive SP records of Seiro SHINAGAWA collection needed care, good preservation and quality copies of magnetic tapes.

At first, standard copy on tape, full track, 19 cm/sec speed [7 ½  ips] was supposed to be enough for correct quality dubbing, because of narrow audio bandwidth of 78 rpm SP records, estimated from 150 Hz to 4 khz.

After tests in Mr OUE audio room, it was found an important experience:

Even with Scully tape recorder, full track, under 76 cm/ sec. speed [30 ips], it was not possible to ensure a 78 rpm SP record perfect copy.

An important advice from Masanobu Oue in 1970:

“Jean, believe me and never forget that:

“Perfect transfer from 78 rpm SP record to some recording device is an incredible challenge.”

If, one day, you are able to reproduce perfectly the “sparkling noise” of SP record, you will open doors of true “High Fidelity”.

78 rpm SP “sparkling noise” is like the sound of a thick glass engraved by a diamond, listened, at few centimeters from our ears.

Perfect dubbing need a “near perfect” impulse response. When this is become a reality, noise and sound are listened “separately”, without sound quality degradation.

Just imaging an opera singer singing while taking a shower. Shower sounds and voice are listened separately.

On classic “Hi-Fi” systems, 78 SP records listened without high frequency filer gives the sensation ton listen to a sound made of 90% of noise and distortion, while masking 10% of music content.

October 2013, the challenge:

Playing perfectly the unique “sparkling noise” of 78 rpm SP records.

A)Choosing one of the very first electrical recordings using Western Electric condenser microphone designed by E.C. Wente in 1920.

October 1920: E.C. Wente (Bell Labs), with his first condenser microphone.

Western Electric 47A condenser microphone

Back to the 2013 challenge:

Playing perfectly the “sparkling noise of SP records”

1 – in search of perfect condition, never played, rare 78 rpm SP record.

2 – Japan, October 2013: a rare perfect SP record was found. Cost: 250 000 yens. [approx US$2,200]

3 – First check: microscopic groove analysis

4 – Cleaning the groove

5 – Tone arm used: Gray (USA) [model not provided]

6 – Phono cartridge: Western Electric WE 9A. [Sonic wonders what turntable was used]

7 – Matching transfer coupled to WE 9A:

Ultra-high performance version,

Ultra-thin layers; ultra-high permeability core.

Time needed to cut the core with wire, in water, with the help of two wire cutting machines: 5 months and 10 days!

Estimated cost of special core (just cost price!) around 11 000 euros (1 450 000 yens) [approx US$12,800]

Recording choice:

Jeno Hubay (violin, Hungary),

December 1928, electrical recording.

Piano accompaniment: Otto Hertz

Microphone: Western Electric 47a

78rpm SP record: Victrola, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Recording duration 4’ 10”.

CD transport: Teac DV 50, first version, unmodified.

D/A Converter: non oversampling, Doede Douma base (Germany)

TDA 1543, 120 chips connected in parallel.

Power Supply: Bruno Plouvier concept (France), 12 Volt, 12 Amps.

[“Wait a minute!” says Sonic “Has Hiraga-san missed a few steps in his presentation? How was the analog signal from the matching transformer amplified then converted to digital and recorded – what was the A/D converter and bit rate used, what was the recording device? A possibility: Jean Hiraga talked about the Sony PCM-D100 (see post of July 26, 2018 on this thread) in this presentation. Was this the A/D converter and recorder that was used?  He does not say so in his presentation notes. Given the use of a Teac DV50 player means the signal was burned to a CD-ROM.  The Teac DV50 is a multi format player.  The Doede Douma is some sort of a DIY kit device, non-oversampling used with TDA 1543 chips used in parallel.  It MIGHT just be a Red Book device though it is surprising if after the use of the super, ultra-esoteric SP playback front end and the mind boggling replay system described after this, the digital file format used for storage and playback was Redbook 16/44.1! The Sony PCM-D100 can record at 192/24 bit, the Teac can play such a file but can this DAC convert it? Sonic does not have the answer to this one.”]

Preamplifier: passive, with 1:4 ratio, Partridge transformer, special order model designed in 1991.

This prototype was never on the market.

It was used one time, in 1994, for Espace Kiron demonstration, with Western Electric 15A horns, in a 4 ways active system.

Power amplifier: single end stereo,

WE300B, two stages,
STC 3A/167M input,
With regulated power supply.

Rectifying tubes: Philips AZ 50 x 2

Output stage using speaker Counter EMF blocking circuit (version not yet on the market)

[Counter EMF blocking devices are interesting thinks Sonic]

Output transformers / Partridge TH4163 (circa 1980) replaced by ultra high performance version that will never be on market.

Time for manufacturing ultra high permeability, ultra thin layers core:

Around 11 months (!), with two wire machines cutting ultra thin layers core under water.

Estimated cost of these pair of transformers (core only, besides 15 days work for coils winding): around 25 000 Euros (3 250 000 yens). [approx US$29,000]

RC connecting cables: Isoda, 2013 version, four metals, double S magnetic field cancelling.

Loudspeakers: Grundig 10”, full range (circa 1951).

Enclosure: Japan JIS standard folded open baffle. Size patented.

Enclosure made by Georges Dupays, Lille, France.

Tweeters: JBL 2403, with horns modified by Bruno Plouvier. Used above 9 khz, 6 dB/oct. filter.

“Please enjoy four minutes of intense music pleasure” said Jean Hiraga

[Here is the system Hiraga-san used for his demonstration! These posts are extracted from the notes used by M Jean Hiraga for his presentation at ETF 2013 and pix from

Last edited by Sonic Voyager on Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:48 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Added missing info, corrected typo)
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Sonic Voyager

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PostSubject: Re: Japanese Audio via M. Jean Hiraga   Fri Sep 28, 2018 10:27 am

Here are some pictures of Japanese audio from the 2017 Japan Triode Meeting (from Magic Moment blog)

Good to see Jean Hiraga in action, though Sonic has not found much on what he is doing this year….

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Michael Green
Michael Green

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Join date : 2009-09-12
Location : Vegas/Ohio/The Beach

PostSubject: Re: Japanese Audio via M. Jean Hiraga   Sun Sep 30, 2018 2:06 am

Hi Sonic

Nice historical reading! Plus great pictures. I enjoy these types of threads over the "brand" salesman ones that the U.S. got stuck on for so many years. And, I love looking at wood "the ultimate passive sound making material".


michael green
PH 702 762 3245
Email mgtune@yahoo.com
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Sonic Voyager

Posts : 118
Join date : 2018-05-25

PostSubject: Re: Japanese Audio via M. Jean Hiraga   Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:53 am

From more recent Magic Moment blog posts, we see that M. Jean Hiraga participated in the 2018 Lenco Heaven Meeting in Belgium.  Good to see him in the thick of things.

What amazes Sonic about DIY gatherings like this and the European Triode Festival is how people are willing to pack and transport entire and valuable/fragile audio systems and set them up for a few days at a convention for others to listen to.

Source: magic moment

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Sonic Voyager

Posts : 118
Join date : 2018-05-25

PostSubject: Re: Japanese Audio via M. Jean Hiraga   Fri Jan 25, 2019 7:27 am

The Thailand Triode Meeting 2019

Here are pictures from the Thailand Triode Meeting which took place from January 16 – 19:

Good to see Jean Hiraga at the Meeting.

Source: monoandstereo


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