e-earphone is Japan’s premier portable audio chain. With five outlets spanned across Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, they’ve near-single-handedly provided the nation with a world’s worth of headphones, in-ear monitors, digital audio players and accessories. During my most recent trip to Japan, I visited both of e-earphone‘s flagship stores in Tokyo and Osaka, and auditioned a wealth of in-ear monitors. Read on to discover what the Land of the Rising Sun (and beyond) had to offer.
Page 1: About e-earphone, e-earphone‘s Custom IEM Specialty Store
Page 2: FitEar
Page 3: Rhapsodio, LEAR and FlipEars
Page 4: FAudio
Page 5: ACS Custom and Astell&Kern/JHAudio
Page 6: Kumitate Lab and Sony Just Ear
As mentioned in the introduction, e-earphone is Japan’s go-to portable audio hotspot. Despite a near-equal split between more affordable, mainstream brands (like Bose, Nakamichi and Audio-Technica) and artisan, niche entries (like STAX, Ocharaku and HIFIMAN) the store maintains a constant influx of consumers young and old. Throughout my multiple visits, the store was constantly packed with all sorts of audiophiles auditioning classic and cutting-edge products alike.
Unlike audio retail stores I’ve seen in Singapore and Indonesia – where demo units are typically kept behind glass doors or plastic cupboards – e-earphone proudly displays their entire arsenal of products on makeshift stands for people to freely audition to their heart’s content. I believe the constant disproportion between store employees and visitors to be the main cause of this, but it does make way for creative marketing as far as those stands are concerned. And of course, every detachable in-ear or headphone is sternly secured – albeit, crudely – to their posts to avoid tomfoolery of any kind.
Their flagship store in Akihabara is actually split into two separate units. One is on the 4th floor of a commercial building which houses headphones, amplifiers, sources and universal IEMs. The second unit is in a storefront a minute’s walk away, which is where their all their custom IEMs are located – we’ll come back to this later. The former unit is far larger, more fully-staffed and crowded as well. Alongside rows and rows of in-ears, players and headphones, they also sell a myriad of accessories – like cases, screen protectors, dehumidifiers and carrying pouches from a wide variety of brands.
e-earphone also cater to a rich, thriving segment of the Japanese audio market: Second-hand products. Stores like Fujiya Avic basically make a living off of used products, and so do e-earphone. Their website houses a detailed inventory of their second-hand items with photos, descriptions, where they’re available, etc. Here, you can see the used-headphone shelf littered with high-end flagships looking for a new owner, with the used-DAP-and-accessories section right next to it.
e-earphone‘s Custom IEM Specialty Store
e-earphone‘s custom in-ear store is located at street level – far more compact and intimate than the main unit.
Two staffers man the shop at all times. Unlike the main store, the demo units in the specialty outlet are locked in glass cabinets that only employees can access. Auditioning and purchasing in-ear monitors require their constant assistance.
As one might expected, e-earphone‘s custom IEM inventory is packed with brands from all across the globe – the total number being 30! Hailing from the US are Empire Ears, JHAudio, 64Audio, Westone, Ultimate Ears and Sensaphonics. South-East Asia is represented massively by HUM, Unique Melody, Lark Studio, Jomo Audio, AAW and many more. Of course, one shouldn’t exclude the Japanese brands on display too, including FitEar, Kumitate Lab and Canal Works.
Europe is also a huge player in Japan’s custom in-ear scene. Custom Art, Lime Ears and Vision Ears’ products seemed to be what most people wanted to audition most. The latter of the three had their own row of open demos for the public to try, which certainly boosted their appeal. On the left side of the frame, you can also see the wide array of accessories the store had to offer. They ranged from a mix of stock cables, to wireless upgrade cables, desiccant, pouches and more.