Acoustic Sounds
By: Jonti Davies

February 18th, 2024


Editor's Choice

Tracking Angle Visits Japan's New "Technics café KYOTO"

Technics serves up a high-end vinyl listening space (and sandwiches)

Opened in December just gone, Technics' new café in downtown Kyoto is a minimalist space dedicated to the pleasure of listening to records on the company's latest and greatest equipment. That means a 7 million yen ($50,000) system featuring the company's flagship SB-R1 speakers, SL-1000R turntable (with Audio Technica ART1000 MC cart), SU-R1000 amp, and SL-G700M2 universal player.

Although this place popped up out of nowhere, it's not a pop-up per se: it's apparently here to stay for the long term, occupying the ground floor of a new Technics/Panasonic building on central Kyoto's Shijo-dori (the city's main high street). The Technics rep I spoke with on-site explained that once the building was in place, there was an internal conversation along the lines of "Any ideas for the lobby?" What they came up with is described as a café but doubles as a dedicated listening space and venue for DJ events.

For example, DJ Spinna was playing here just a couple of weeks ago, having taken the opportunity to stop by before a larger gig down in Osaka. The concept behind such events is to have DJs play using a couple of SL1200s permanently installed at the bar next to the entrance (see below), but with the sound funneled purely through the high-end system in the main space 10 meters away.

So DJs perform at the bar pictured above, but the music is played entirely through the system in the background, which you can see here:

As I walked in, first glance at the space suggested only one ominous possibility: MASSIVE ECHO CHAMBER HORROR. Glass, concrete, hard edges, brutalism. It could surely only mean a brutal assault on the ears. But no. For starters, the huge wall erected behind the system is a actually web of acoustically-tuned panels and absorbent material about a foot deep.

Combined with the obligatory heavy rug, treated ceiling panels, and an arboretum's worth of potted plants (the pots themselves cloaked in high-density foam), unwanted reflections are diminished with a fair degree of success.

Okay, it's not perfect, but it's a fine effort given the need to ensure space for plenty of visitors while also projecting a certain aesthetic and working within the confines of a building that was constructed for a completely different purpose.

As for the system itself, I took a central position on the large concrete-block seating/table (cushions provided) directly in front and found a highly resolving, natural, open-sounding setup with intricate detail in the mids and highs and not even a hint of harshness. (For my taste, it lacks a little in the bass, but then again, I'm a King Tubby fan running Tannoy Ardens at home...)

The music played from noon to night is selected by various local DJs and record labels. On the day I visited, the vinyl menu had been planned by dublab DJ Atsuko Satori and included Sam Wilkes' DRIVING (smooth indie folk), Alex Ho's Move Through It (soulful, synth-infused downtempo), and Alice Coltrane's Journey In Satchidananda (a modal jazz masterpiece featuring the great Pharaoh Sanders). So a pleasingly eclectic mix. Albums are played in full (as they should be!), with sides turned over by a technician wearing a technician's coat.

It may not have the atmosphere of Japan's more compact listening bars or the personality of its jazz kissa, but Technics café KYOTO has youth and potential (and capital) on its side, and it'll be interesting to watch how the space develops as word spreads and more diverse events are programmed. Next month there's a "Pink Floyd is Forever" event arranged by noted music author and film soundtrack producer Naoki Tachikawa, and next weekend will see the space hosting a used record fair, so it's clearly going to be more than just a hipster hangout.

Footnote: I didn't try the food, but the sandwiches looked appetizing (avocado and cream cheese, anyone?), the coffee is good stuff, and there's a range of quality local beers by the bottle.


  • 2024-02-19 12:33:22 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    Love this! What a great use of space, while keeping to aesthetics of the building and still employing solid approaches to sound control. I love the minimalist look and I am sure I would feel tranquil and refreshed for the work day if I lived around there. Cool, Jonti!