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The Story behind Phonon & the SMB-02 Headphones

The philosophy behind the Phonon & SMB-02 by Isao Kumano (Phonon CEO and engineer)

Music and Sound quality are essential to me. I have been listening to music everyday for more than 20 years, spent long hours building sound systems in clubs and even longer hours working in the studio. When the sound is not right it bothers me and I can’t listen to it for a long time. I need to fix it.

Music tuned correctly makes you enjoy music so much more. You really enjoy music when your monitoring set up is right. In the studio, as a sound engineer it is important to have correctly tuned studio monitor speakers.

It is the same for headphones. I have always corrected, adjusted and modified my sound environment. After long hours of using headphones your ears fatigue. One of the things that bothered me when I used headphones in the studio was that there was a difference between the sound of the headphones and the sound coming from the speakers.

I like to use headphones to check very carefully for noise, distortion and how the low frequencies sound, so when I compared headphones to speakers, I always heard a difference in the sound and that was always a problem, and it always bothered me.

It takes some time until the brain corrects this issue, it is a very big burden for sound engineers.

I made the SMB-02 with this purpose, to eliminate this essential problem, to correct the difference between monitoring speakers and monitoring headphones.

Using all my experience as a professional sound engineer experimenting and tuning headphones I finally came up with the phonon SMB-02 for studio use and for pure enjoyment of music.

When Japan’s top legendary sound engineer Mr.Shinichi Akagawa listened to the SMB-02 for the first time, he immediately understood this development and philosophy and gave us some very good feedback and comments:

According to him, when you give the SMB-02 to a musician or a singer who is not on form and not performing well during a recording session, their performance surprisingly improves so much!

For me most of the headphones in general are muffled or clogged, or they have aggressive high frequencies so I have a fear of using them. And the ones that have a good sound I know cost a few thousand dollars. But they are big, heavy and have a strong pressure on your ears, so you get tired.

Also, I find it important to have a good long length cable so that you can keep your headphones on when you move around in the studio and to grab your coffee.

For all those reasons above, I was able to come up with a pair of headphones that you can use for long hours and seamlessly with monitor speakers.

We continuously get great feedback from audio professionals. One great point they made was that “adjusting studio monitors can be difficult as it depends on the tuning of the room, so when you can’t come up with a good set up, the SMB-02 are the perfect reference headphones for your music!”

Another point we hear is that the Phonon SMB-02 are comparable to headphones that cost a few thousand dollars. I am very pleased to hear this as I have had a similar feeling when i am mastering songs. I feel I came up with the same sound quality required by today’s top studios, engineers and producers.

The SMB-02 started from a pro audio perspective, it’s a perfect combination of art and science, we engineered them but most importantly we tuned them as best as we could. This is where we feel we create the magic. Today its sound is what hi end audio users all around the world are looking for. It is the right natural sound as it was originally produced.

Please enjoy music in a stress-free playback environment and you will probably re-discover music!

Isao Kumano

Phonon CEO and Mastering Engineer

(phonon studio, February 2015)



Read the Blog for reviews and testimonials

Buy here: SMB 02

Check out the New Phonon 4000

More info here



The best studio headphones I have ever come across, Laurent Garnier

Laurent Garnier (DJ/producer)

“I have never used headphones before to finalise any of my studio productions, just because i feel that Ive never found the right pair. Since I got my pair of Phonon SMB-02 headphones , they have become an essential element when it comes to checking my studio mixes. From the very crisp highs to the low fat basses, these headphones simply never lie. The Phonon headphones have become now an essential part of my studio work, as they are the best studio headphones I have ever come across”

More info on the Phonon SMB-02

More info on Phonon 4000 




"The SMB-02 is the best pair of studio headphones i've experienced"

"The SMB-02 is the best pair of studio headphones i've experienced. the sound is absolutely true and not colored in any way. they're comfortable to the point that, with the sound being so natural, sometimes i've forgotten i was wearing them! i'll definitely be getting a lot of use out of these."

Mark De Clive-Lowe

Father, Husband, Pianist, Composer, Live Remixer, Producer. Japanese-Kiwi, Coffee lover


More info on the Phonon SMB-02

More info on Phonon 4000 




"Simply the best" AME

We have been very happy since we first got the SMB-02. They are our go to headphones not only in our Berlin Studio, but when we are on the road, producing, performing live and Djing. They are simply the best reference headphones on the market, we can’t live with out them!!

Kristian Beyer & Frank Wiedemann, AME, Innervisions


More info on the Phonon SMB-02

More info on Phonon 4000 



This is an excellent sounding and beautifully built headphone

"This is an excellent sounding and beautifully built headphone that consistently delivers a sound that is lively and powerful without being ruthlessly revealing of less than perfect or compressed material. I’ve no idea if I’ve been bowled over by the PHD driver but I do know that I’ve listened to the Phonon by preference over the many pairs of headphones in the house over the last few weeks and that has to count for something. If you are looking for a compact home headphone, you need to try a pair of these.

It is also a very civilised one too. My notes (such as they are- I’ve never been one for pages and pages of shorthand) keep referencing the exceptionally civilised way that the Phonon goes about making music. ‘Civilised’ should not be taken to be a polite word for ‘dull’ however. The SMB-02 manages to be detailed and usually very entertaining but it is able to get the best out of recordings that are a bit rough around the edges. The very fine Head Down by Rival Sons is a fine album but not a masterpiece of the recording art. The Phonon manages to capture the energy of the record while helpfully masking some of the roughest edges of the piece.

This means that the SMB-02 is very easy indeed to listen to for long periods. By avoiding any superficial excitement, you get a consistently rewarding presentation that has plenty of drive and attack when needed but is relaxed and refined when it isn’t. If you exist solely on a diet of speed metal and the most amphetamine fuelled drum & bass, you might find that the Phonon is a little too polite to truly deliver what you want but for a more varied musical repertoire, it does rather well."

By Ed Selley

read the full review here

Read the story about the SMB-02

buy here: SMB-02

the new Phonon 4000, they are the mobile version of the SMB-02






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