Nobody loves the audiophile hobby more than the Japanese. They clamor for big-muscle from American audiophile components, and in some cases actually keep some of those high-end-niche companies in business. Our goal here is to take a look back at some of the most important audiophile components in the history of the audiophile business. There are so many. We will add more as time allows but this is a good first start.
No. 10 – Technics SP-10R Direct Drive Turntable –
There are so many items that one could pick for the list of best Japanese audiophile products but without a Technics turntable – we’d be failing. While hip-hop and rap was born with a pair of Technics turntables in effect – I am looking towards the Technics SP-10R direct drive turntable as our example for a record player for this Best Of List. At $10,990.00 this direct drive turntable is no entry level component. Introduced in 2016, this table is rock solid and comes with just gorgeous industrial design as you should expect at these prices. There is very little motor vibration and-or any kind of “wow” or “flutter” which haunt lesser turntables. This deck is a true gem.
No. 9 – Rotel RCD-855 CD Player –
Moving away from the early, First Generation Compact Disc players was hard. Companies like California Audio Labs, Theta Digital, WADIA and Meridian helped along the way but in the more affordable space, the Rotel RCD-855 CD player was a major upgrade for the sound of any good, late-1980s audiophile system. Rotel gets credit for being a U.K. company but let’s call them what they really are which Japanese at their roots. This CD player was often paired with an Audio Alchemy DDE-1 DAC which also was quite affordable and could sit right on top of said Rotel player. The internal, dual 16 bit DACs in the Rotel RCP-855 were pretty state of the art but the DDE-1 sounded even better. I remember as I owned them both back in the day. By today’s standards you iPhone 13 playing MP3 files can crush the performance of this mid-level CD player but back in the day the value and performance offered by the Rotel RCD-855 was second to none. I will say, the player’s reliability was a bigger question mark but that didn’t keep it from selling nicely.
No. 8 – Accuphase P-260 Class-A Stereo Power Amp –
This Japanese audiophile find takes us back to the late 1970s (1979 to be exact). It replaced the A-47 amp from Accuphase as both were class-A operation and stereo amps. The P-650 represented a big improvement in the lowering the noise floor as found in Accuphase’s A-250 monoblock amp. Class-A sound wasn’t as much of a thing in the late 1970s and its “tube sound – without the tubes” appeal was only to grow over time with audiophile in Japan as well as worldwide.
No. 7 – Stax SR-1 Electrostatic Headphones –
Stax had been a player in the electronics business since 1938 but didn’t come out with its most famous product until 1960 with the SR-1 electrostatic headphones. These “cans” were game changers in the studio and audiophile world alike. Their openness and accuracy is legendary. Many audiophiles today collect, restore and repair vintage Stax headphones as part of the historical part of the hobby. Stax went bankrupt in 2011 but was bought up by a mega-Chinese speaker company called Edifier. They have new products on the market today and maintain the audiophile legend.
No. 6 – Luxman L-505UXII Integrated Amp –
Luxman is yet another legendary audiophile brand from Japan that had fallen out of graces but has returned to the marketplace with some umph and enthusiasm in the last few years. The Luxman L-505UXII integrated amp is an example of a modernized 2023-level product with respect for its deep 1950s and 1960s audiophile roots. At $4,995, you are spending big money for power here but you get a lot including retro-tastic industrial design. The new feedback circuit in the amp cuts down on distortion. The preamp attenuator bring high end “separate” level performance to an all-in-one modern integrated amp. Take it from us – these suckers are hard to find today. If you see one and you are in the market – buy it right then and there.