NXT Exclusive Interview with Tomoaki Sato, Senior Engineer for Sony at CanJam 2019

Tomoaki Sato

A good audio product is not just about good sound quality. During the 2-day CanJam Singapore 2019 held at Pan Pacific Singapore, we spoke to Tomoaki Sato, Senior Engineer for Sony, and listened to some of his insights on the brand’s direction.

Good afternoon, Sato-san! Please describe your journey of developing digital audio players for Sony.

I started developing high-end digital Walkman from 2013 with the NW-ZX1. It received great feedback from consumers and we improved with the ZX2 two years later. Then, we launched the signature series NW-WM1A and WM1Z, which received praise for its high-end quality, but these products were predominantly designed for portable headphones. We find that many consumers are looking to listen to premium headphones with high impedance that requires higher power to drive them. That led us to design the DMP-Z1, a new concept player which is a battery-operated transportable audio player.

Tomoaki Sato

What is unique about the DMP-Z1? Well, all DAPs require these components – a power block, a digital block, and an analog block. Small DAPs with smaller components will lack the power to drive demanding headphones. We attempted to make the music player small but it resulted in compromise in audio quality. We ended up with the DMP-Z1 at the current size.

High-end home audio uses AC power supply which generates noise, hence we opted to power the player using batteries. We also isolated the analog and digital circuit boards to further cut noise level. These boards are then powered by separate battery cells to reduce internal electromagnetic interferences.

Among other technical improvements are the gold-plated brass and copper volume knobs, two mono-DAC to achieve better stereo separation, Kimber Kable for internal wiring. The DMP-Z1 also works as a Bluetooth receiver so it can connect to other music players to play audio.

Chester interviewing Tomoaki Sato

What is the next step after developing this concept audio player?

We believe that the NW-WM1 series remain as our best quality digital Walkman players that caters to the high-end market. The new DMP-Z1 further extends this vision to demanding customers with high-powered headphones. We will continue to introduce new A-series Walkman which is our line of affordable audio players for the mass market.

What is Sony’s mission in developing the audio product line?

Our mission is to expand the music lover base. With smartphones, more people are listening to music, and as they become more discerning, they would want better audio quality. Sony wants to meet their needs, and we have developed many integrated products like running Walkman, swimming Walkman. We will also develop products like true-wireless earphones, to reach out to all market segments, from the entry-level to the high-end.