Otani: Ideally, it should be sculpturesque. Sculptures are quietly assertive in any room, and they accent the interior design. For this effect, we sought a powerful, unadorned shape to let the unit "speak for itself" in design.
The first thing you'll notice about the shape is that the front surface is tilted back 15°. This is the perfect angle for viewing any Walkman players in the unit, as you look down at it, and at this angle, the front mesh shimmers with light shining down from above. You'll also notice the gently curved front surface, which recalls the full soundstage it reproduces. The back is curved, too. Both curves converge on either side, creating an organic shape that looks like a leaf, from above. It's a perfectly logical shape to wrap around the space for the CD player and speakers inside. It also helped us reconcile contradictory needs-a body large enough to remind you it's powerful but sleek enough to seem slim and not overpowering.
Surfaces are distinguished by different functions and finishes. The speakers on front are covered by mesh, for example. The control panel that users touch has a matte finish, while the tilted display screen is glossy. On the screen, we chose this finish for the effects it creates. It's pleasantly surprising how the information displayed appears to hover in a totally black space, and the upright reflection of Walkman players in the unit looks beautiful.
Otani: We also paid attention to how the back looks. On most mini hi-fi systems, the back panel is like backstage at a theater. With vents and ports exposed, it's usually the part of the system you want to hide. In contrast, the back of the NAS-V7M/V5 is neatly organized, and you don't need to put it against a wall. It looks stylish even from behind, or in the middle of a wide living room partitioned by low furniture. This arrangement is popular now, because living rooms look more open and have separate zones for relaxing in various ways, but only a few high-end audio systems look this nice on a partition.
Unlike how awkward it looks when traditional, boxy systems are installed at an angle, the gracefully tapered sides and neat back panel of these models eliminate any distractions if you place them at an angle. In this regard, you won't find other systems that can be freely positioned for the best listening experience wherever you relax.
Otani: The final shape that emerged after we narrowed down the desired appearance is remarkably simple, but to make it happen, we had to clear many engineering hurdles.
After product design, practical engineering requirements often give rise to details outside the scope of the designers' vision. In this case, screw holes in unexpected places, grooves to facilitate assembly, and other details threatened to ruin the simple contours we had in mind.
Similarly (focusing only on what's easier to manufacture), rounding off the front edges would make the mesh more resistant to tearing, and a wider gap between the display screen and control panel also seemed practical. That's because the control panel is made of ABS plastic but the display screen is an acrylic panel, and these materials expand and contract differently based on temperature and humidity. If they push against each other, they might warp or even come off.
Fortunately, our engineers solved one problem after another to keep the final product faithful to our original design sketches. In both design and engineering, we were prepared to take on the challenges of breaking the mold in styling. For me, the project proved that at Sony just as in general, good design can motivate people.