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Yodobashi Camera, Shinjuku – 2013’s top audiophile moment

  • With the axe about to drop on 2013 I’ve been ruminating on the past twelve months. What was my favourite hi-fi moment of the year? It could almost have been the first time I heard ALO Audio’s Studio Six or clapped ears on the Andrew Jones designed Pioneer SP-BS22-LR, both at T.H.E. Newport Beach Show in June. Equally, it could’ve been the Antipodes Audio’s DS music server (review to come) that has knocked my computer transport expectations into another dimension….

    …but no, not quite.

    My favourite hi-fi experience of 2013 wasn’t something I heard but something I saw. In late September I went shopping for a new pair of portable headphones in Tokyo. Whilst doing the rounds at the big stores in Shinjuku I dropped into Yodobashi Camera. Actually, you don’t simply drop into Yodobashi Camera, you set aside an entire afternoon so that have time to take in floor upon floor of consumer electronics.

    At the back end of the headphone floor was the two channel hi-fi area. The rear wall was covered floor to ceiling with amplifiers and CD players. Silver is very much the casework colour of choice here.


    On the adjacent wall, the motherlode: an entire wall of loudspeakers. Check. It. OUT:


    Getting closer…


    People dig choices.  Here you have more choices than you can probably handle. I noted the following brands: Fostex, LS3/5a from Rogers and Stirling Broadcast, Wharfedale, ELAC, lots of Dali, an abundance of B&W, Quad, Klipsch Tannoy, Denon and Monitor Audio.

    (Have I missed any?)

    THAT was my favourite audiophile moment of 2013. Mindblowing. What was yours? Let us know in the comments.

    Further Information: Yodobashi Camera

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Mine was also Japan-related, though I wasn’t physically in Japan. In any case, it’s a far more humble compared to your globe-trotting, sake-sipping, geisha-fondling experience, John.

      Fostex TH-900. The most euphonic, engaging and downright fun headphone I’ve heard. Couldn’t afford it so I got the next best thing, it’s baby brother, the TH-600 (just arrived 2 weeks ago, in fact). My Audeze LCD2.2 is now up for sale.

    2. Hi John and all the best for a great holiday season!
      My high water mark for the year was fairly mundane by many standards, but being newly bachelored this year, I found myself in a new house, with a new Peachtree novaPre/220 – ASW Genius 310 combo to run from my trusty MacBook, with my ’80’s vintage Dual CS5000 sitting off to the side waiting for a lube, oil and filter (and phono stage) before getting put back in service on all the vinyl I have been steadfastly refusing to part with.
      I have been delving deep into my music collection with much greater freedom than I’ve had for 22 years and it’s been fun and very satisfying. I’m relocating for a new job shortly, so I’m hoping 2014 will find me in a house with a better room to dedicate to all things audio and some disposable income to pick up some more gear.
      Thanks for all your great writing this year and I look forward to lots more in 2014.
      Cheers, Shel

      • Thanks Shel – nothing like relationship ‘freedom’ to get the music flowing! All the best to you for 2014.

    3. It was that moment at a Head-Fi meet in Phoenix, Arizona that I first heard some Fostex TH600’s, and I instantly stopped thinking about Audeze and Sennheiser and started thinking about how I could come up with $799 U.S. for the Fostex TH600’s…

      Now that’s a rock headphone!!!

    4. Back in 2006, I went to a Yodobashi store in Yokohama as a naive 20 year old sailor and listened to the Sennheiser HD 600, AKG K701, & some Stax Cans for the first time. My wallet has been begging me to go back in time and prevent that from happening ever since.

    5. Mine was March 12th. The day my replacement UK credit card FINALLY finished it’s torturous route to China. I’d been unable to use Spotify for 2 months without my subscription. Relaunch Spotify on my Mac Mini, add all the new albums I’d been longing to tryout, put on the kettle and just listen. I can’t live without Spotify, it’s my goto place for 90% of the music I buy.
      John, thanks for all the effort this year, I’ve been reading your site since I found it when you did the Omega 6XRS speaker review. But over the last year it’s become my 1st stop for equipment related reviews and info, IMO you get it just about right in terms of review tone and trying find interesting products with a focus on relative value – sorry but I just don’t read reviews of $20,000 speaker, DACs or just about anything unless it’s a car. Can’t wait for your review of the Antipodes DS especially as comparison to the Mac mini.

    6. Mine was my 1st listen to my newly acquired Mac Mini with all my CD’s run in at AIFF attached to a $99 Schiit modi and $8 Belkin gold USB cable. What a revelation. And to think I had lived with a high end system for 10 years never happy with it but did not realize it was shortchanged by a $700 CD player. I reread all the reviews of my equipment and can now concur with the findings. Now I have the Schiit Bifrost Uber – even better. And just last week my thin sounding Ortofon 2M red finally, finally broke in and transformed itself. So I ran a high quality 5 metre RCA cable out the line (tape) out of the basement preamp straight up thru the floor and into the back of my ground floor integrated. Now I can enjoy all these sources in 2 rooms (gave up on the Apple TV as audio streamer). My wish for 2014 – an Ortofon 2M Black and that Schiit will build an affordable ADC so I can digitize vinyl. And of course more great reviews at DAR.

      • Schiit really are leaders in their field, aren’t they? I think they’ve a whole bunch of new stuff about to drop…I’m looking forward to the integrated they teased at RMAF.

    7. Late to the party, mine was two major products.

      In late Dec 2012 I decided to go and buy the nicest IEM’s I could afford, and as Heir Audio had rave reviews for the 4.Ai’s and it was discounted, I went for it with Burl wood faceplates and Magnus 1 cable upgrade.
      As a long time purchaser of JDS Labs amplifiers, I also pre-ordered their upcoming C5 amp, to replace my C421 amp (AD8620 opamo).
      I thought both would have be my highlights for when it arrived in early 2013, but they were not.

      Through I found out about the CEntrance HiFi-M8! So I pre-ordered that too.

      (In April 2013 at The Gadget Show Live in Birmingham, UK, I also picked up a pair of Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro headphones. I initially thought they were nice for music but eventually did not like their darker intonation on music. They are fantastic for single player gaming and media, and that’s what they have been relegated too).

      For must of the year my HA 4.Ai’s and C5 did me well, but when the CEntrance HiFi-M8 4XL came by in Sep/Oct, I was simply blown away! This is the greatest audio product I own.

      In December 2013 I wanted to purchase a truly portable set of over-the-ear headphones, and was torn over Sennheiser Momentum, Philips Fidelio L2, and KEF Audio M500 on-ear headphones.
      When I went to a local SuperFi audio retailer store they had the M500’s to demo. I was astounded at the portable nature if them, they way they fold up and the way the earpads have three axis of movement to place on your ears, the enlarged sunglasses-like hard case, the aluminium alloy and pleather feel and look, and the sound. THE SOUND!
      I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing! So beautiful, so balanced, so MUSICAL!
      They were not as detailed as my HA 4.Ai’s or AKG K 701’s, but my they did exactly what I wanted for quick, easy, musical joy on the go.
      The second best product of 2013 and I hope KEF make a true over-the-ear headphone statement!
      The staff at SuperFi were equally flabbergasted at my CEntrance HiFiM8 4XL that I take everywhere and demoed the KEF M500 headphones, and I let them play Grado, Sennheiser and even (urgh) Beats headphones. I think one of them was jealous…
      They also used it as a DAC, and couldn’t believe at how technically well accomplished it was (another did some research and realised that CEntrance are big in the pro audio world. This made me happy! So great to talk audio with like-minded people. You can constitute this as the third best moment for me audio wise, just talking audio with passionate people!).

      I did have an old aging pair of AKG K 701’s but with poor earpads, so I bought some gel earpads for them at the end of Dec 2013. Then I saw the AKG K712 at a reasonable price online, and bought that too.
      Got both this month, and right now the AKG K712 are my highlight of this year, but not sure for how long.
      What I do know is that I haven’t heard what my old AKG K 701’s (with gel earpads) were capable off until I paired them to the CEntrance HiFi-M8. However, the AKG K712 beat it in every area except the very top high frequencies, but I liked that it was a tad less airy as the bass response was more than worth it!


      • Oh, sorry, I forgot to add:

        The above is correct for my audiophile best products, but incorrect for audiophile moments.

        If talking about audiophile moments of 2013, then the CEntrance HiFi-M8 4XL DAC/balanced headphone amp and KEF Audio M500 headphones are second and third respectively.
        However, one moment trumps those, and any other audiophile moment in my entire life.

        In May 2013, as part of my birthday, I went to London for two things. One was to see The Great British Tattoo Show at Alexandra Palace, but the other way to go to the Barbican Centre to see the London Symphony Orchestra play Final Symphony, an assortment of Final Fantasy VI, VII & X
        musical pieces in completely new arrangements! This was produced by Thomas Böcker and promoted by Merregnon Studios.
        Singlehandedly beats seeing Muse, Massive Attack, and Linkin Park live (though those are not fair comparisons, they were, on a technical and musical points, truly amazing gigs in their own rights).
        Nothing compares to seeing Nobou Uematsu live, and listening to true live music and not a reproduction.
        Genuinely one of the greatest moments of my life.

        This year I’ll be seeing Nine Inch Nails in May (I have been waiting an extremely long time for this, as I got into NIN just before Trent Reznor put the band/project on hiatus):

        However, in July 2014 I shall be going back to London to see the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre play Symphonic Legends, music from The Legend of Zelda series!
        I may or may not be drooling at this moment of time!!! :P”’

        We often forget that audiophile products are just artificial reproductions of music, so live music should (generally) trump all.

        Thus, for me, my greatest musical audiophile moment of 2013 was seeing Finial Fantasy music scores being played by the London Symphony Orchestra.
        In one of the world’s greatest orchestral venues, by one of the world’s greatest orchestra’s, and conducted by none other Eckehard Stier!

        I predict 2014 is going to just as significant when I see Symphonic Legends (with Thomas Böcker being the exec. producer again)! Can’t wait!


    8. My excitement of writing about products I love, and doing this on my Android Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone = bad grammar & odd spelling mistakes.

      Sorry :s

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