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Every time I make my way into Tokyo, I seem to end up in a massive electronics store. Whether it’s Yodobasi Camera in Akihabara or one of the many BIC Camera outlets, I honestly can’t seem to stop myself.
So, the other day I decided to spend some time in BIC Camera and delve a little deeper than the ordinary surface-level window shopping I’m normally used to. On this occasion, I found myself in a shop that had an entire floor full of Japanese speakers and other popular international brands.
Website: Yamaha Speakers
Founded: 12th October, 1887
Headquarters: Shizuoka, Japan
Perhaps the most well-known Japanese speaker brand of all is Yamaha. Recognized for being the biggest manufacturer of musical instruments in the world, it’s no wonder that their speakers are also top-notch.
Yamaha Corporation Group is a parent company to 7 other music-based companies including Steinberg, Ampeg, Line 6 Yamaha Music Communications, and Yamaha Fine Technologies.
While Japanese Yamaha speakers are popular in practically all of the electronics stores I’ve visited in Japan, I wouldn’t go as far as saying they’re the most popular speakers in Japan. That said, they’re a solid choice for practically any occasion.
Website: JVC Speakers
Founded: 13th September, 1927
Headquarters: Yokohama, Japan
In 2008, JVC and Kenwood established a joint holding which is now called JVCKENWOOD. That’s one of the reasons you’ll frequently see both names together like in the photo I took above.
With almost 100 years of experience crafting expert audio equipment, JVC knows exactly how to create a great speaker. According to the JVC website, they were also the first company in Japan to press a record, which quickly led them to become an innovator in the field of music production, software creation, and product design (like speakers!).
In recent times they’ve expanded their product line and now make things like HD projectors, camcorders (yes, these things still exist, and are incredibly popular in Japan), and professional monitors.
Website: Denon Speakers
Founded: 1910 as Nippon Denki Onkyo Kabushikigaisha
I doubt any top Japanese speaker brand list would be complete without mentioning the incredibly popular Denon. Ever the innovator, Denon takes credit for selling the very first Phonograph, Disk recorder, and the world’s first cd player. While these are all great claims to fame, we’re of course most interested in the speakers.
Well, other than creating the world’s first AV receiver with full support of DOLBY Atmos, they’ve consistently produced some of the best home speakers on the Japanese market. 360 speakers, Dolby Atmos soundbars, and earth-shattering subwoofers are just some of the things they’ve mastered.
Website: Sony Speakers
Founded: May 7th, 1946
Headquarters: Minato City, Tokyo
Has anyone heard of Sony? I thought you might have! While I didn’t manage to take any photos in BIC Camera, the entire shop is full of them, especially Sony MP3 players. If you ever find yourself in an electronics store, entire floors will be filled with Sony products you’ve never even heard of. And the great thing is, you can try them all out!
While Sony gets its name from the Latin “Sonus” (Sound), its first product was actually an electronic rice cooker. Nowadays, the company makes cameras, TVs, projectors, mobile phones, and more. That list includes portable speakers, home theater speakers, wearable speakers, and party speakers, according to the website.
Website: Onkyo Speakers
Founded: September 17th, 1946
Headquarters: Chuo Ward, Osaka
In 1946, Takeshi Godai set out to address what he believed to be a “lack of satisfactory Japanese-made dynamic speakers”. Its name, which literally translates to “Sound Acoustics” in Japanese, is a perfect example of the straightforward and memorable brand image it creates.
While the company still creates spectacular speaker systems to this very day, their innovation and push to better the field of audio has led them to design and build HiFi components, amplifiers, and most recently an Audio DAP smartphone. It’s the world’s first smartphone to feature “twin sabre DACs and amplifiers”, and while I’m no audiophile, I think that’s probably pretty good!
Website: Pioneer Speakers
Founded: January 1st, 1938
Headquarters: Bunkyō, Tokyo
Pioneer’s history of creating Japanese speakers started even before the company was formally founded. The founder, Nozomu Matsumoto, developed the ‘A-8 dynamic speaker’. Fast forward 16 years, and they introduce a HiFi speaker called the ‘PE-8’.
Fast forward again for another 57 years to 2010 and they introduce the “World’s first speaker with HVT (Horizontal-vertical Transforming) technology. Add in a myriad of navigation systems, DVD players, DJ equipment, televisions, and more, and you’ve got yourself an incredibly competent company capable of a lot more than just speakers.
7. Audio Technica
Website: Audio Technica
Founded: April 17th, 1962 (In a small flat above a ramen shop!)
Headquarters: Machida, Tokyo
A bit of a wildcard, while the Japanese audio brand Audio Technica doesn’t actually create speakers, they earn their place on this list by producing some of the greatest turntables in the entire industry. So, just pair one of these with a set of Japanese speakers on the list, and you’ll never go back to listening to AirPods.
Unfortunately, you might develop an unhealthy addiction to buying vinyl, but I think that’s worth it all things considered. Probably…
Website: Luxman Speakers
Headquarters: Yokohama, Kanagawa
I’ve spoken a bit about Luxman in an article about Japanese audio brands, and it’s fair to say they’re n incredible company. In terms of speakers, they don’t really make them anymore but you’ll still be able to find a few vintage ones on eBay or Mericari.jp.
A quick browse through their website shows they’re still going strong with vacuum tube amplifiers, the product that started it all for them. This luxury piece of audio equipment is what Luxman customers have come to know and love over the years.
Minimal, fantastic quality, and highly regarded in the audio community. If you’re after an amplifier for your Japanese speakers, you absolutely cannot go wrong with Luxman.
Website: Hitachi Speakers (eBay)
Headquarters: Chiyoda, Tokyo
Hitachi, like Luxman, doesn’t typically make speakers anymore. In the 70s and 80s however, they made a lot of extremely capable hardware for a pretty good price. Their marketing wasn’t as good as some of the other brands, but the general consensus is that at the lower-end budgets, Hitachi HiFis were some of the best.
Many of the online communities stress the great construction, quality, and looks of such speakers. Here’s a quote from someone who worked at a HiFi store during that time:
“Hitachi made a set of 3-way speakers that were made of all metal cones Alum. They were very good and had some great bass and mids. Great construction and very good cosmetics. We sold a good many of them, they worked great with Onkyo and Yamaha and Rotel.” Source
If you’re looking for a vintage rather than a modern set of Japanese speakers, take a look at some of the second-hand sites to see what you can find!
Website: Panasonic Speakers
Headquarters: Kadoma, Osaka
Like Sony, Panasonic has a wide-reaching arm in the technology sector. From televisions and camcorders to home entertainment systems and appliances, it’s clear they know their stuff.
Diving a little deeper into that list, we of course come across speakers, specifically home cinema systems and soundbars. While they do make electronics for commercial and business use, the majority of their Japanese speakers are based on consumer use.
What international Speaker Brands are Popular in Japan?
While pretty much all of these brands are littered throughout all electronics shops, there is one non-Japanese speaker brand that seems to pop up in most of the shops I visit.
That brand is JBL, an American speaker company. Both sides of the aisle were filled almost entirely with JBL speakers, with far more room than any other brand was given.
While there might have been a few ‘Japan Only’ makes and models of speakers floating around, it’s still the biggest collection of speakers I’ve ever seen or am likely to see.
When you come to Japan, make sure you give yourself enough time to visit either a Yodobashi Camera or BIC Camera, even if you don’t really enjoy technology. Shopping in these big shops is such an interesting experience, and I’ve honestly never known a shop to have so many staff ready to go above and beyond to help make your visit memorable.