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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)



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