Shop Spotlight: OtakuTokyo Talks Synths, Technics, and Techniques

OtakuTokyo may be just four years old, but the shop was born out of years of making music. Only after the owner's personal collection of vintage synthesizers, turntables, and other high-grade gear grew too large did it open its doors for business.

Today, the shop is known for its pristine Technics SL-1200s—the gold-standard of vinyl DJ turntables—and great electronic instruments from the leading synth companies.

From DJing to producing music to flipping gear, OtakuTokyo shares in our interview below how their passion for making music became a full-time business. for providing other musicians with the gear they love.

Tell us a little bit about OtakuTokyo and how you started out?

OtakuTokyo is a company in which we focus on selling vintage synthesizers and turntables, both domestically and internationally. Our main focus is "From Music Lovers to Music Lovers." Everyone in OtakuTokyo is either a producer or DJ. We know how it feels to buy a new piece of gear, so we really value this and do our best to provide an ideal customer experience for our buyers.

We started our store around 4 years back. The owner was a big collector of vintage synthesizers and had a lot of items. He could no longer fit them all anywhere, so he decided one day to sell a few of the pieces, and then felt the demand for vintage synthesisers and turntables. This then led to selling turntables first and then slowly onto synthesizers.

One of the things OtakuTokyo does is repair, restore, and even customize Technics SL-1200 turntables. First, in your opinion, why is the Technics SL-1200 the standard for DJs around the world?

The reason why Technics SL-1200 are still the standard we feel is mainly coming from the quality of the sound. They are also very reliable as a unit, since they are extremely well-built. We feel especially the MK3 is very reliable and from that model onward, the MK4, MK5, and MK6 are very popular and solid choices for turntables to this day.

Left and center photos by Itsuka. Right photo courtesy of OtakuTokyo.

When restoring them, what are some of the common issues that you look at first for maintenance or repair?

The most common issue we find when doing repair or maintenance is noise. This is usually caused by damaged cables or ground wires or caused by problems in the tone arm. The next most common issue is the pitch. This is usually caused by a damaged pitch fader or internal chip.

Tell us about some of the customizations (turntable or otherwise) you've done? Any wild ones?

We have done many customizations. From very simple, basic customization—such as all-white turntables or all-red turntables on to opportunities to customize turntables for some artists and well-known DJs, which were more complicated, based on their needs.

A really wild one we did was an all-platinum Technics turntable. It really looks amazing!

We recently also did a customisation of a Roland TR-909 to all gold. This came out fantastic and it was so good that the owner kept it for his personal collection. We also have a few pairs of all gold Technics customs coming up very soon. These are going to look really cool!

Photo by Itsuka.

You also restore and sell vintage synth and drum machines. As musicians yourselves, what are some of your favorite ones? How about newer synths and drum machines, anything that's impressed you in recent years?

There are so many to choose from. Some of our favourites are definitely the Roland Juno series and the Jupiter series. These are really classic synthesizers, and each model has a very unique sound and feel to it. This is something that I see less in recent synthesizers. The sounds are so fat and warm and the interface is very easy to use.

We feel the recent synthesisers are really advanced in functionality, which is great, but vintage synthesisers have their own magic. It's sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, but there is that unique warmth and character to the sound.

For the newer series, we really like the Dave Smith series. The OB-X and Prophet are really great synthesizers! Very good quality sound and very easy to control. These are some of our favorites among the newer synths.

Photos by Itsuka

With the digital revolution, how much are you using digital in your music? How do you integrate analog with it?

When producing, the digital part is usually coming from software synthesizers. All hardware we use is vintage analog gear. We basically record this into our sequencer and then do edits from there. For software synthesizers, we like to run it through outboard analog EQs and compressors to give it a bit of different texture. Using both digital and analog synthesizers allows us to create different character and depth in our productions.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Tokyo music scene or some of the events you're also involved with? Locally, or participating abroad?

There's a lot happening in the Tokyo music scene. From big festivals to small parties happening in bars. There's a lot to choose from, depending on the kind of music you want. The cool thing is that they also do a lot of experimental sessions and jam sessions using modulars, etc. So it's definitely an interesting scene. It just takes a bit of time figuring out where to go since there are so many choices.

Photo by Itsuka.

When you go to play a show, do you have a particular piece of equipment that you always bring with you? Your lucky charm or "must-have"?

When playing live shows, we sync two laptops and have two Allen & Heath Xone K2 controllers. For one of the laptops, we have pre-made loop parts to use during the show. These parts are recorded parts from vintage analog synthesizers.

What are your plans for the future?

For future plans, we are working on collecting more rare synthesizers in good shape. Also we would like to focus more on customization. We are planning to start customization of synthesizers too and also consider to maybe start a repair service for both turntables and synthesizers, as there are not many choices here in Tokyo. Everything is still in the planning stage.

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