Komiyama: Although there are five models, each with its own shape, they are all actually derived from the same basic approach to the shape. As the minimal element representing both fashion and technology, we pictured a slender shaft. Imagine bending an elastic shaft firmly. It seems as if it will break, yet it doesn't, and there's a feeling of tremendous energy and tension in the pliant part. That pleasant feeling of tension is a design concept expressed in all five models. In variations on this theme, some models have a sinuous shaft, and others trace an arc. Some shapes are designed to apply just the right amount of lateral pressure. Others wrap around your ears from the front or back. They all represent new ways in which headphones can fit well.
Take MDR-AS100W, for example. This is a traditional headband-style model, but it incorporates driver units as powerful as those in the EX series. Earbuds normally fit well without falling off, but we added a band for an extra-secure fit. Of course, we paid attention to other details as well. Rubberized cushions between the driver section and shaft offer a more comfortable fit. Anyone can adjust the angle so it's perfect for their ears. The cord connected to the driver unit is also carefully designed in a shape that repels sweat from your ears. We pursued high performance as much as possible.
Imagine an ice-skater casually twirling around while wearing the headphones. That's the kind of image we had in mind during design. And because there's no trace of a "heavy-duty" audio equipment look in this minimal form, the headphones don't even look out-of-place with a business suit.
Yuyama: I designed the MDR-AS50G headphone. You might call this a behind-the-neck version of the MDR-AS100W model that Jun designed. But the funny thing is, it isn't easy to say which was designed first. After we agreed on the basic concept together, we set to work designing our own models independently. Later, when it came time to share our ideas, we were surprised to see that they looked similar. When you're working from a solid design concept, inevitably, you seem to settle on particular shapes.
Headphones have some special requirements that make innovation difficult. Everyone has different ears, and offering a better fit takes expertise. Both Jun and I struggled with this issue, and ultimately, it was inevitable that we reached the same goal. Design backed by inevitable solutions. There's little room for doubt or compromise after you reach that point. Our objectives were perfectly clear in this project, from initial sketching until the final products were ready. The appearance of the mock-ups carried through to the final products nearly unchanged.
Komiyama: The hardest part was probably convincing people at Sony that the concepts and new fit were better. People who had imagined something like the original Sports series were pretty confused. At one point, we enlisted the help of our graphics team to make a short video presentation expressing the world view of these Active Style headphones. This work was not very glamorous, in some respects.