Japan only – two words that continue to terrorise the bank accounts of avid CD collectors. Japanese CD releases invariably punch with the one-two of bonus cuts; additional content added as an incentive for local buyers to purchase the Japanese release over the UK/US import. For international completists, such circular irony is agonising.
The Japanese also get special treatment on the audio hardware front. At e-earphone’s Potafesu 2015, Astell&Kern displayed their original AK100 in a range of different finishes – burgundy, black, silver, gold and blue. These are available only to Japanese consumers. Everyone else gets the stock standard charcoal grey (‘cept perhaps Hong Kong).
Another company giving local punters the exclusive finish treatment are OPPO Digital. Their HA-2 portable DAC/amplifier (review here) is available locally in a red or blue suede wrap (as well as the original black leather); each correspond to the PM-3 headphone’s (review here) more colourful 2015. According to local distributor Emilai, the limited edition finishes’ leather is sourced locally but stitched onto units at OPPO Digital’s factory in China.
Emilai mainman Kenzo Kono has also collaborated with local manufacturers for a Japan-only, audiophile-centric refresh of OPPO’s flagship Blu-Ray player. The BDP-105D JAPAN LIMITED applies numerous modifications to a stock unit, all fully sanctioned by OPPO HQ.
Kono explains: “We replaced several key metal components to more robust metal. In addition, we use special material to reduce internal electric noise. We also swapped out the feet for metal versions. We updated the clock to support DSD256. The main point of JAPAN LIMITED is that we did sound tuning over many of hours comparison tests.”
This 105D refresh has reportedly revitalised sales of the player in Japan in spite of its price hike over the original: the BDP-105 JAPAN LIMITED sells for 248,400JPY, a full 63,500JPY more than the standard version.
One man who knows the pulling power of exclusivity its associated limited availability is Jerry Harvey. His Japan-only Triple Fi universal IEM (US$500), designed for Ultimate Ears in 2005 and discontinued several years later, went on to become one of the best-selling IEMs in South East Asia of the last decade. As Harvey tells it, it earned him his reputation amongst head-philes in this part of the world – his bio was printed on the side of the box.
The Triple Fi design was apparently never patented and therefore remained public domain design – open for other manufacturers to re-introduce something similar.
At the cumulative behest of e-earphone and JH Audio’s Japanese distributor Mixwave, JH Audio are doing just that. For 2015 and launched at Tokyo’s Portable Audio Festival comes a 10th anniversary re-work called the TriFi. Siren Series thinking has been in applied in full: the TriFi arrives with all new drivers, a new crossover, and Harvey’s time-aligning Freqphase tubing.
Watch JH Audio’s Andy Regan introduce the TriFi IEM in this ‘ere video:
The TriFi’s earshell is smaller than anything seen in Harvey’s Siren Series – “It’s more feminine,” says Regan – and its sound is direct, clean and crisp, which I’m told is how many Japanese listeners like their sound.
The TriFi will be manufactured as a limited run of 1000-2000 pieces, will sell for the same price as the original (62,000JPY) and is strictly Japan only.