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Interview: Isao Kumano of Phonon Details Their Headphones Success - Magnetic Magazine
7 years into the company's start, Phonon has set the standard in professional-grade headphones
Isao Kumano in the studio with the SMB-01 

Isao Kumano in the studio with the SMB-01 

Phonon might not be a company that is all that familiar to you, but it should be for a couple of different reasons. First, the incredible sound and second the even more fantastic price. Phonon is a Japanese company dedicated to one thing, and that's creating great sound. 

Magnetic Magazine caught up with Isao Kumano the founder and lead engineer to find out more about the inspiration and inner workings of the Phonon brand.

MM: The headphone market is so crowded and seems completely saturated. What sets Phonon apart from the competition?

IK: When we started phonon and entered the market 7 years ago, it wasn’t a booming market like it is today, it was a tough market. However, as much as a technically sophisticated field it is, I couldn’t find a pair of headphones that I could use feeling no stress, so I felt it was necessary for me to make a pair of headphones I could use for my own work, and I developed the SMB-01.

I have never thought about trying to be different but I am very happy that there are people who support our uniqueness.

You have done something truly unique with the tuning of these headphones, can you explain what makes the Phonon sound unique?

Thank you very much! We produced and commercialised what we consider a natural sound. For over 20 years, we have been having a great music experience working with sound systems, studio monitors, audiences and artists, which has created the personality of PHONON today.

The design and the packaging are rather simple and utilitarian, is there a reason for this? 

We love simple designs. If the package arrives to the user safely, won’t it be more user-friendly to not add extra cost in packaging? We are making products focusing on sound quality.

What is the big difference between the SMB-02 and the 4000 model aside from more portability? is there a different sound profile? It seems that you could use both of them for the same purposes?

Both have the same 40mm drivers, our approach was to have the SMB-02 as studio monitors and the 4000 as sound systems. I decided on the name 4000 because although it has a 40mm driver the sound image is large! 

I am always in the studio and depending on my mood I switch from one to the other.

What can we expect next from Phonon? Are there any other headphones planned like an in-ear model or perhaps some speakers?

We are planning a crowdfunding campaign for a PHONON sound boombox size speaker (with Bluetooth).

You have some pretty big name DJs using the headphones, what other guys are starting to use the brand?

We are very honored to have all those big-name people supporting us. Recently, we have had prominent rock engineers like Tom Lord-Alge and Mister sound designer Dave Whitehead―professionals that are different from DJs―using and supporting our headphones. Here in Japan, top programmer Daito Manabe has been loving our products as well, and there have been a lot of supporters in the classical music world too. We are more than happy to see that true professionals from different music genres and occupations are into our products.   

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