Episode Image


We interviewed Mr. Isashi Tanaka, a famous audio writer.

– How did you get interested in music?

I listened to radio programs which play overseas music. Of course I can’t tell English lylics. The reason why not Japanese music program is just I want to look cool. However I think I was somewhat attracted to them so I still have been listening to them.

My parents was not music lover, so I don’t have the audio system when I was a child. Only I had was a portable player for Sonosheets appended to magazines. I was getting to want hit records but my turntable was too small to play LP records.

However, one day my friend told me that “You can play LP with the cover open.” I tested it and founded my player can play a LP which is bigger than player. So I saved money and bought “A Collection Of Beatles Oldies.” I was very glad when the LP started to make a sound.

After that, I change the cheap speaker of the player. I bought a speaker unit and made  a enclosure. I was very moved by the sound. Of course that is not so good at all, if I listen now. However, I felt the joy of listening to music was spreading infinitely.

ーWhen did you decided to be an audio writer?

It’s in later years. I liked magazines, so wanted to be an editor, but had never thought to be a writer. I worked in the company publishing a job-placement journal having no relation with music.

One day I read “Swing Journal,” which I had read since high school days, finding the words “Recruitment of editors.” I applied for that because I would rather observe the publisher than work in it. I passed the interview unexpectedly, so decided to change jobs with worrying.Then music changed from my hobby to job. When I had worked in former company, the economy was so good and I worked very hardly. I hadn’t used overtime pay, so decided to buy a high-class audio.

After that, when I quit “Swing Journal,”  I didn’t intend to be a free writer but a free editor. However, there is low demand for free editors in the world. One day editors with whom I had interaction told me, “I heard you quit the company. Why don’t you try writing some articles?”So I wrote some, and they said “Thank you. So, please write next one.” After all, I still have kept writing.

– By the way, why do you prefer MM cartridge to MC?

There was a period when I used high-end MC cartridges. MC is said to be higher class than MM and I believed that before, but now I have a different idea. I don’t think that more expensive one can reproduce better sound. Audio is not so simple.

– When I met you before, you said “I tried many cartridges, now I use *44 after all.” It’s impressive for me.

Not a few people think so. MC catches small signal and a system amplify it. MM catch the big signal from the first. Of course it results somewhat rough sound, so I improve it with my audio system. I prefer MM to MC in my sense.

Vintage monaural player. Very rare one.

– Everyone thinks MC reproduces higher quality sound.

It’s natural because many MC cartridges are expensive. The point is whether you like that sound. Reproducing high-fidelity sound is called Hi-Fi. I call the attitude pursuing own taste “My-Fi.” If you like noisy Lo-Fi sound, don’t need to care about other people say. MM cartridge is symbol of “My-Fi” for me.

By the way, I also listen to records with the vintage audio only for monaural. The power of that sound is very speedy and powerful. Hi-Fi equipment cannot reproduce that kind of sound. Cartridges in this time are MM ones. I want to reproduce this type of sound with modern system. You may feel backward thinking, but anything is okay in My-Fi. 

– Do you listen to CDs?

I listen to CDs on my job, but don’t as my own hobby. However, some period after the emergence of CD, I listen to it instead of record. I came back to record after that.

– You have 8-track tapes and 4-track tapes.

I got these recently. The sound of 8 track-tapes is very different sound from records and extremely Lo-Fi. However, it very suit to some American music. Swamp rock, 80’s rock… I like listening to “**Journey” with 8-track. 

Nostalgic 8-track tapes.
He has written many books and this is the latest one, "Jazz cafe and audio."

– What do you think the difference between CD and record? 

It’s more difficult to reproduce good sound with record than CD. If you spend same money for sound systems, CD sounds better. And it’s easy to choose a track and stop playing automatically. However, I like the process of finding good sound. Records have big jackets and sound differently according to press. Some doesn’t like those features, but I enjoy them.

– What kind of music do you play for testing systems?

Changing according to system, but I often play “Sun King”, included in B-side of “Abbey Road (Beatles).” This tune contains singing of insects, and it moves from left to right channel. When system works well, I feel as if insects are behind speakers. (“Sun King”↓ Source: youtube)

In addition to that, I check heavy bass sound and strong kicks of drum. After that, I also check the spreading and timbre of the chorus by all members.And more general checkpoints are dynamics and presence.

It’s very difficult to describe, when system is at best, sound overflows from speakers. Some say speakers and a back wall vanish in best condition. It’s a so-called “sound stage.” However, I don’t feel like that. I feel sound gushes out of speakers. It’s a “good sound” for me. I check whether the system make sound like that, but it’s not so easy. If I catch the glimpse of that, sound will probably get better by setting.

– What is analog record to you?



*Cartridges of SHURE M44 series.

**American rock band.

Isashi Tanaka
He was born in Tokyo and a freelance audio writer (ex-editor of music journal).
He wrote many books and articles about audio and very popular with audiophiles.