Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sounding It Out

The name "Soundhouse" alone was enough to tickle the attention of a musician or sound artist. Hearing Mr. S talk about it, it almost sounded like some kind of audio wonderland, a sort of paradise on earth for people keen on things that make and shape noise.

I first heard about it back in 1997, when the music club at Ye Olde Academy was suddenly given a throbbing wad of money to be used to buy a SOUND SYSTEM for the school's 20th anniversary celebration. (We'd already been using a sound system, but for an event like this we definitely needed a SOUND SYSTEM.) Mr. S was no longer really a faculty supervisor of the music club, having been put in charge of the kyudo (Japanese archery) club right at about the time I'd come on board, but he had long provided various kinds of support since, unlike the rest of us, he'd had actual working experience as a stage hand and sound engineer. He was the one who knew everything there was to know about microphones, mixers, amplifiers, noise reducers, pink noise generators, white noise generators, sound spectrum analyzers, equalizers, digital and analog reverb, drum-type washing machines, machines that went "bing", and a partridge in a pear tree. After Herr Maestro Ogawa had pored over various catalogs and spoken with consultants, he finally gave up and put the whole SOUND SYSTEM project into Mr. S's capable hands. It wasn't long before an eye-popping array of gear started arriving, not least of which was a giant mixing console that looked like it belonged in a Roppongi studio rather than in a modestly-sized private school in the middle of the sticks. Nevertheless, it all somehow wound up being well within the budget. We asked Mr. S how he'd done it, and he smiled and said, "Soundhouse!"

The catalog he showed me was enough to get my senses spinning. However, he said that was nothing compared to their warehouse showroom at their main complex in Narita. He also warned me that, as a musician and home recording artist, if I actually went there, it would be at my own peril.

It turned out that I'd been driving by that main complex every time I'd gone on shopping runs to Narita. However, it just looked like an old warehouse or shipping depot and didn't seem very welcoming. After just a short period, it didn't look very open, either. Mr. S insisted that it was still in operation and showed me the updated catalog to prove it, but my attempts to make an intentional trip there always ended at a locked gate. Not long after that, the signs were all gone, and the place looked dead as a ghost town. I finally just gave up, and the Soundhouse fantasy disappeared from my consciousness.

Cut to a few weeks ago. As part of my recently-renewed interest in guitar-related gear and especially effect pedals, my attention had been drawn by a new line of pedals put out by TC Electronic. I already have (and really like...and have already used quite a bit) their Nova Repeater delay/echo, and would be happy to own ANY of the new line (he he he...he he he), but I was limiting my focus to their Hall of Fame reverb unit. My old BOSS RV-3 delay/reverb, though definitely not bad, was a bit too limited for my satisfaction, and my Marshall Reflector reverb, though having great sound despite its low price, has some design flaws which make it problematical to use (and got it taken out of shops after only a year or two). On the other hand, the demo video for the Hall of Fame pedal had me very much in love (with the PEDAL, you moron!), so I started shopping around. It was considerably less expensive than I'd expected, but I wanted to avoid getting yet another item from Amazon. It was listed for the same price on the catalog for my usual chain music store haunt, so I made the rounds...without success. Other online music shops had it listed, but were more expensive, so I was about to bite the bullet and call up Amazon again when I suddenly found it for quite a bit cheaper in a very unexpected place: the online catalog for Soundhouse! Prowling around the site like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, I found that they had the Hall of Fame pedal in stock at their NEW complex in Narita...for which they provided a map complete with a video showing how to get to it! I don't need to tell you where I went on my next Thursday morning substitute holiday...

Once again I was greeted with what looked like a factory or warehouse rather than a customer-direct store...complete with a customer parking lot located on the opposite side of the street requiring a walk through a security gate, but there was no problem finding the showroom and order desk. It was interesting to note that I came in right behind a foreign-looking heavy metal band who proceeded to serenade me with some impressive (and LOUD) shredding as they tested out a Bogner amp. Meanwhile, I walked drooling around stacks of amp heads, cabinets, and combos (Marshall, Matchless, Behringer, Bogner, Carvin, Peavy, Fender, Vox, Line 6, Roland, Mesa/Boogie, Soldano...)(*pant pant pant*) and then checked out the rooms dedicated to studio and club equipment before I finally went to the order window and asked about the little, red pedal. I had to register, but soon I was carrying a receipt downstairs to the pick-up room, where I had to ring a doorbell and provide numerous body scans (well, I DID have to ring the doorbell) before they'd unlock the door and give me my order. Considering the items they had in stock, I could understand the need for all the security, but it was still a bit unnerving. At any rate, I had my Hall of Fame pedal, and now I know where to go if I want to get good gear for a lower price than the regular retail outlets.

Now I just need time to play with the toys I have...


  • Kid. Meet candy store. Enjoy.

    By Anonymous Kehlwok, at 3:14 PM  

  • Congratulations! I feel that way every time I go into a Fry's Electronics. Ever been to the one in Wilsonville, OR? So what's next on your shopping list for Soundhouse?

    By Blogger Andy, at 6:08 AM  

  • Way cool. What a great find. Now that you have found the way, the challenge will be to pace yourself. :^)

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 3:20 PM  

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