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Exquisite balance you can feel in your hand

image Yashiro: We also sought the perfect size. For better sound quality, manufacturers tend to make headphones bigger and bigger, but it's also a problem if headphones are too small, which undermines confidence in their performance and makes listening less engaging.

Fortunately, if you see enough people modeling headphones, the best size becomes clear. People who try them on also know what feels right. If people think headphones are the wrong size, they'll set them down immediately, without any emotional attachment. But when they fit well, people tend to check out the size and weight of headphones in their hand after taking them off. Even in a utilitarian product, the impulse to admire a product in your hand is important.

That's why this time, designers took the initiative and determined the external sizes that would serve as parameters for internal work by our engineers. They were certainly on our side, because they knew how people evaluate headphones. After repeated discussions, we finally arrived at the ideal sizes without compromising fit or sound quality.

How high-end headphones resonate with us


Aoyagi: Color, material, and finish also matter to Sony. Usually, products take shape, to some extent, before we begin exploring these qualities. In this project, though, I was fortunate to get a head start on considering the overall image conveyed by these details, as well as headphone color schemes, by observing our market research.

What colors we should offer largely depends on how products should resonate with people. This time, we chose a combination of unmixed black to symbolize the quality with red that signifies the vibrancy of Sony premium headphones. It's an extension of the XBA color scheme, where red is an accent color. Maintaining a similar color scheme between premium "Listening Series" in-ear headphones and the MDR-1 range gives consistency to Sony high-end headphones.

image The distinctive red rings encircle subtly curved surfaces, instead of flat ones. It's a narrow band, but using metallic red gives it nuance. As for the arms, brilliant silver would stand out too much, next to the black. In fact, the finish has three layers. Over a mirror-like, gleaming layer created with thin-film deposition, we apply a gray smoke layer to reduce the brightness, followed by a matte finish to reduce it further. It's an extravagant production process that achieves this depth and understated elegance.

Turning technical requirements into opportunities

imageAoyagi: We also focused closely on the segment from the headband to the arms. The headband incorporates sliders for length adjustment, so both the headband and the arms have stoppers. Because there are so many parts, this area of the headphones tends to look complicated.

How could we find a neat, simple solution for this structure? The answer was to use glossy silver stoppers on the headband. Instead of trying to hide these parts, which are a structural necessity, we made them more noticeable. This approach is the opposite of what designers usually do. The neat, gleaming bands contrast nicely with the matte silver arms, and the model number serves as a reminder of MDR-1's prestige.

Color options that introduce new perspectives

Aoyagi: You have a choice of colors in MDR-1R headphones. Sound quality is paramount, but people interested in these headphones also care about materials. They may appreciate the brown and silver color option, developed to be true to the original colors of materials.

This model was inspired by leather and aluminum. Choosing colors that might otherwise clash introduces a breath of fresh air, with the warm, old-school brown contrasting nicely with cool, hard silver. The colors give the headphones quite a different aspect than that of the black and red ones, which may interest music lovers who also appreciate fashion or interior design. This combination of "hard" and "warm, nostalgic" elements is new in the Sony design palette, and it gives us yet another product that may become a cherished, personal favorite.

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