Modern vs. Tradition…
There are tons of new emerging technologies in the market nowadays – planar drivers, electrostatic drivers, etc. Can you share your thoughts?
Sonion’s electrostatic unit is very interesting. But, whether or not you use it isn’t important – how you use it, is. I still have to study the construction and electrical features of those drivers myself. But honestly, I think I have more interest in FOSTER’s 14mm dynamic drivers. Because, no other company’s using them at the moment, unlike the electrostatics.
Image courtesy of Sonion
Do you think then that it’s more important to continue pushing current tech, rather than pursuing the bleeding edge?
Well, making use of new technology can be important sometimes, but I don’t think electrostatic units are what the Japanese market need right now – the Singaporean market as well. Most important to me is still sound quality. If the electrostatic units can help me improve that, then I’ll use them. If they can’t, I’ll choose not to.
But as we all know, drivers are not the only piece to the puzzle. In a world where driver count has notoriously become the public’s no. 1 spec, do you think the peripheral components (whether it be cables, solder, caps, resistors, etc.) have become underrated nowadays?
In terms of durability, I think people tend to forget about the connector. We offer both MMCX and 2-pin, and personally recommend MMCX to audiophiles, because it can tolerate lots of plugging and unplugging. But, 2-pin is more common for stage performers, so we offer both for the customer to choose. Another overlooked aspect in my opinion is acoustic tuning. Whether it be the size of the filter or the material, it’s a very important component of sound. They can make very big differences.
Then, there’s the very famous cable debate – whether or not they actually make a difference. May I know your take on both external and internal wiring?
To me, the most important factor when it comes to cabling is microphonics. Avoiding that is number one. Next, it’s important to consider the diameter of the cable. A thicker gauge will improve sound in my opinion. Next of course, is the difference between copper and silver. I personally prefer silver in sound, but they can get quite expensive. Internal wiring isn’t as important to me when it comes to sound. My priorities there would be in tolerance or toughness. The fibres of the cable should be very durable.
The Focus by… Who?
Last but not least, let’s talk about your all-new 5-driver IEM: Focus. I believe it was just released a couple months ago?
Yes – on the 28th of October, last Fujiya Avic show.
Why did you opt or a full-BA design for this model?
Well, dynamic drivers do have very low distortion in the bass, but using them in a design is very difficult. Because, we have to create the housing for the dynamic driver to perform in a suitable way. Also, even though BAs have higher distortion in the lows, they provide their own unique bass response. So this time, we decided to use an all-BA solution. And, this allowed us to include the bass-changing system too.
Do you see the Focus as a continuation of the NEXT 5 series? An extended family member perhaps?
Well actually, all our IEMs are designed by different people. The KL-REF and Lakh were designed by Yamazaki-san, the Sanka and the NEXT 5 series (Corona, Meteo and Sirius) were designed by me, and the Focus was designed by our second member – Sasaki-san.
Ah, that’s very cool! I’ve never seen an IEM company have its products designed individually by separate people before.
Having different engineers allows each product to be unique. Three different sound preferences will produce three different types of products. The Focus isn’t just a better Corona, for example. In that way, I think Kumitate Lab products are very unique and independent of each other, too.
What target audience or genre of music was the Focus intended for?
Sasaki-san likes idol music. In Japan, idol basically means young female artists – like AKB48 for example. It’s a very famous genre of music here. He also likes EDM, so the Focus was definitely tuned for those two.
Was this Sasaki-san’s first ever design?
Yes, this was his first IEM.
So, in the design phase, when you’re letting one of your colleagues tune an entire product, what kinds of conversations take place? How does that collaboration work?
He made prototypes of the Focus and passed them on to me, so I could check the sound. If I didn’t like them, I’d return them for him to adjust. But, he does have his own preferences. So, even if I don’t happen to like what he’s come up with, if he likes select aspects of one prototype or another, I’ll let him keep them.
So, you’re letting him have full creative control?
Very interesting – you let your colleagues dictate sound, but you don’t let them build any IEMs.
The Future and Closing…
Do you have any plans for the future?
To be honest, I’ve spent six years in the business. If Kumitate Lab continues to expand in the future, I think a new member will have to come in to handle management. I am the CEO, but personally, I’ve always preferred just building IEMs. All I want to do is continue to challenge myself, creatively. So, I think the company and I want different things for the future – Kumitate Lab needs a manager, while I have to push myself to create more.
And, that concludes the interview. Thanks so much Ito-san, it’s been an absolute pleasure! Best of luck with everything ahead!
Thank you so much!