Denon headphones have been around for more than half a century, but what are the features of their sound?
Fukushima: Denon sound is described as "subtle and powerful," "precise and stable," and "Vivid and Spacious," and our headphones are engineered to achieve those qualities.
To be specific, the first thing to note is well-balanced sound. In particular, we enrich the vocals and bass to achieve this balance. This also contributes to the real-ness of the sound. On top of that, our sound character has a tight, neat treble, and a good representation of the information that the music source has to offer.
Next is "linearity," or the quality of soundstage expression. We emphasize the dynamics of linear sound from small sounds to large ones. It also creates a sense of speed by responding quickly to the music on the time axis. The sound is engineered so that the sound stage feels like it’s in front of you instead of localizing it in your head, which is common of headphones. Most of what we’re able to execute is because of Denon's 100-plus years of accumulated technologies. For example, the “Free Edge” driver and Denon's patented nano-fiber diaphragm used in the Real-wood series have been in use since the previous generation, but a continuous improvement of these technologies is the key to achieve richer dynamics and more linear reproduction.
What do you find the most challenging about engineering headphones?
Fukushima: Engineers look at three factors when it comes to headphones: (1) great sound, (2) comfort, and (3) durability. If you do not satisfy these three elements you cannot make a pair of good headphones. No matter how good they sound, they will fail if they can be broken after a year of usage, or they cause pain to your ears after a long period of time of usage. Finding the best balance of these three factors is both the most challenging and most fun part of building headphones.
You do not need to worry about the comfort or weight to make a good sound if you are designing component audio. For example, there was a power amplifier called the POA-S1 made by Denon in the past, and it weighed 79 kg (~175 lbs.). It tends to be heavier if you want to improve the sound in an audio equipment, but when it comes to headphones the heavier they are, the less comfortable they are. Finding that balance between sound, comfort, and durability is what ultimately leads to successful products.
Denon’s headphones, including the Real-wood series, are very well-received in Japan. You are currently based in Germany, what is the reputation of Denon’s headphones overseas?
Fukushima: Sales are steadily increasing in Europe as well. Most headphones in Europe are open-back headphones, but Denon's Real-wood series are really well-received by many people here even though they are closed-back. I think this is because our headphones provide a wider soundstage despite their closed design, enhanced midrange sound expression which is distinct from the open-back, and a high level of craftsmanship.