Inside Denon

Shirakawa Audio Works

Where the magic happens

Approximately 185km northeast of Tokyo, in the Fukushima Prefecture, is the historic city of Shirakawa. Here, at the foot of the volcanic Nasu Mountains you’ll find Japan’s oldest public park, over 100 restaurants specializing in Shirakawa Ramen, and a city that has quietly become synonymous with cutting-edge audio technology.

Shirakawa Audio Works has been Denon’s manufacturing home since 1983. This vast facility employs around 200 people, a mix of local talent and audiophiles from around Japan, all driven by a collective passion for better audio technology. Many come straight from school, while some have been there since it was established almost 40 years ago.

Shirakawa Audio Works

Fukushima Prefecture Japan

Dedicated to the cause

Throughout Japan, traditional practices fuse seamlessly with technologies designed for the future, and the same is true in Shirakawa. While one engineer might test the latest nanofiber composites, another will handwind a DL-103 phono cartridge the same way it was wound over 50 years ago.

An Audio Works apprentice will spend years learning from Denon engineers before the torch is eventually passed on to them. In this way, Shirakawa Audio Works feels less like a factory and more like a workshop or laboratory; its employees a combination of artisans and scientists.

The Japanese philosophy of Kaizen is based on the belief that continuous, incremental improvement adds up to substantial change over time. With that in mind, the Audio Works team invests heavily in planning and research so that when a product is released, it performs perfectly and lasts. Much like the Shirakawa Audio Works family.

Exacting standards

It is with a combination of scientific precision and artisanal craftsmanship that Denon ensures its high-end products are built and tested to the most exacting standards. It could be argued that the high-end audio equipment built in Shirakawa is more rigorously tested than any other consumer electronics.

Denon’s QC procedures border on fanatical, ensuring every piece is resistant to heat, cold, vibration, submersion, and any other potential mishaps. Even packaging is repeatedly dropped from a height and exposed to extreme temperatures.

Resiliently built

Denon’s products can survive whatever life throws at them, and that is perhaps a reflection of the engineers themselves. In 2011, Shirawaka was devastated by the Tōhoku earthquake, the most powerful ever recorded in Japan.

Audio Works was badly affected by the disaster but only four months later the facility was reopened, and the team – now in hardhats – were back at work. To this day, cracks caused by the earthquake run along the walls, floors and ceilings, a permanent reminder of the resilience and fortitude of the Denon family.

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