Sound is Everything– The quest for ultimate perfection begins with a passion for music
The history of Sony and the evolution of music are inseparable. Launched to commemorate Sony's seventieth anniversary, the Signature Series represents the crystallization of seven decades of pioneering analog and digital sound technology, offering music lovers an unparalleled and visceral experience.
Behind the Signature Series Stereo Headphones, Walkman®, and Headphone Amplifier lie the extraordinary stories of three engineers, each of whose personal quest for the ultimate sound was born from their passion for music, both as listeners and performers.
Headphones with an acoustic filter inspired by Japanese papermaking technology that adds nothing to the sound produced by the diaphragm.
First up is Shunsuke Shiomi, one of the acoustic engineers behind Sony's Signature Series MDR-Z1R Stereo Headphones. His motivation for his work, he relates, comes from his love of music and the intense emotions it can evoke.
"Musicians connect with listeners on a very deep level. I love music because it has the power to create intense emotions. That's why I really wanted to work in creating tools to connect people to music."
What was his vision of the ultimate headphones and how did he realize it?
"I want users to experience the real feeling produced by the actual sound at a location. Thinking how I hear sounds live, I design products to cross that threshold. These closed-type headphones control airflow well. Nothing is added to the sound produced by the diaphragm. We searched for a high performance material to use as housing for sound deadening and came up with the idea of using a Japanese paper making method for the acoustic filter. The filter brought amazing results, including the resonance-free housing."
Shiomi says the design for his headphones was inspired by the silence of Japanese houses, which utilize sliding paper doors to eliminate unnecessary resonance in a room.
What similarly astonishing ideas were behind the Signature Series Walkman®?
A gold-plated premium Walkman® born from the need to achieve the clearest sound possible.
Next up is Hiroaki Sato, a sound engineer responsible for the Walkman® NW-WM1Z. With a wry chuckle, he describes how he came to work for Sony.
"When I interviewed here, they asked me if I wanted a job as a system engineer. I said, ‘No thanks.' I thought, If I'm not doing something with sound technology, there's no point in working here at all."
At Sony, Sato soon found that he was not alone in his obsession with sound.
"Everyone worked with the common goal of creating a product with the absolute best sound quality," he says.
The striking gold-plated chassis is key to the Walkman® NW-WM1Z's high-quality sound. But why gold?
"Sounds vary with cabinet materials' accordance with different resistances and weights. Higher purity materials produce a clearer sound. The chassis incorporates gold-plated oxygen-free copper, which reduces contact resistance. For the premium Walkman, a gold-plated chassis turned out well."
Sato is proud to say that he did the best he could with the current technology. "I probably have an obsession with things I like," he admits in a moment of self-reflection. Like all engineers, Sato pushes the limits of technology with every project he undertakes. Surely the engineer behind the Signature Series Headphone Amplifier is no less relentless in his pursuit of perfection?
A headphone amplifier that enables you to hear sound the way you've always wished you could.
Our third featured engineer is Masaki Sato, who worked on the design of the Signature Series TA-ZH1ES Headphone Amplifier. Sato finds time to indulge his love of playing the saxophone, despite a hectic work schedule. But there's a surprising back-story to how he was introduced to the world of music.
"In school, my friends once told me they were going to start a brass band. I didn't really have any interest in music at the time, but I just kind of decided I might as well join up. From that point on, I became pretty determined to work in music. It's a little corny, but that band is the reason I'm here today."
And how does Sato describe the sound that his amplifier has achieved?
"Once you press play, you might hear the background noise of the recording studio or the buzz at the gig. We went for a greater level of high-resolution. I think nobody had ever heard a sound like this before. Today, most audio listeners enjoy music from various digital files. With this amplifier you can listen to your favorite sounds from different sources in varying situations. You can listen to 100% pure high-resolution sources. And even from low-resolution digital files, like MP3, the amplifier, through its signal processing, delivers the sound as it was meant to be heard."
Not content to rest on his laurels, Sato remains passionate about his pursuit of the ultimate sound and what someday he hopes to achieve.
"Recognizing listeners' desire for premium sounds, I will keep on exploring what moves people and how music takes part in it. That's our lifework."
These three stories are representative of the stories of the many music lovers at Sony whose hard work and dedication over the years have been instrumental to the development of the Signature Series. Sound professionals and people who have spent their lives performing and listening to music, their insight and vision is shaping the sounds that we will all hear tomorrow.