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SoulNote  Background History
发布时间:2014/7/29 23:22:43 【字体:

1.  Why has Soulnote started ?  - Background History

     When it comes to the background history of Soulnote, we can not even open the book of legendary history without mentioning about the passion that one Japanese (Nippon) gentleman held in his mind long long time. President Nakazawa of CSR, Inc. is the one whom we would like to start Intro with.    


     The history of Soulnote begins with the passion of one man,  CSR President Nakazawa.


 After graduating from collage, President Nakazawa joined Standard Radio Corporation. The company’s major business of amateur & professional wireless product development and premium audio equipment development. President Nakazawa started as an R&D engineer and developed a number of new technology products, cassette tape recorders, for example .....  yes, it’s an old good analogue age ........  and also at the dawn of the new digital technology,  CD players in 1982. President Nakazawa widened his sphere of work activities, that we are going to talk about later.


      Standard Radio Corporation was selected by SUPERSCOPE (partial owner of US Marantz) to manage R&D for mid class HiFi compo, receivers, and mainly for low cost models as well as sales distribution in Japan.   


     Around then, the digital audio that started at professional field also started  at consumers field, yeah, it was In 1971, SUPERSCOPE became owed 50% share of Standard Radio Corporation, and brought most of manufacturing line base to Japan. 1975, Standard Radio Corporation changed the company name to Marantz, Japan, Inc. very naturally. The drama continued, in 1980 SUPERSCOPE sold its assets in oversea (except America and Canada) to Philips Netherlands, various intellectual properties i.e. Marantz brand, its sales rights, and other oversea assets were transferreed to Philips including the company, Marantz Japan, Inc.  Philips audio division aimed to lift up its image to premium segment by Marantz high quality audio, and conversely, Marantz could enjoy the cutting edge technology that Philips audio can provide. Thus first Marantz CD player CD63 was introdcued to this World in 1982, led by his engineering team.


     Mr. Nakazawa led this exciting project with his team there, created remarkable firsts in the history of the audio. The legend continued especially in Philips brand products launched then such as LHH1000, the World first 2 bodies CD player in 1988 ... LHH500, the World first bitstream CD Player (1Bit) in 1989 ...  AV1000, the World first standalone AV controller & power amplifier (2 bodies) in 1989 ... LHH800R, the World first Non-NFB CD Player in 1993 and LHH A700 Non-NFB power amplifier in 1994 .... Those machines remains as stunning masterpieces today, with second hand equipment being traded with high premium value in HiFi web forums.


    Mr. Nakazawa’s slogan for products development in addition to “ To develop the World first, the industry first products”, is “ To develop the products that can deliver good dream to customers “. M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions) of big enterprises was sensational event here and there in the Would around years 2000 till 2006 ...... Marantz, Japan, Inc. who left the consolidation with Philips, was also one of companies who struggled to survive, and found Denon as a business partner, who also left Nippon Columbia and sold to the paper company called New Denon formed by the US investment fund company Ripplewood Holdings LLC. They got under umbrella of newly formed D&M Holdings, Inc. by their stock transfer in 2002.


     The working environment changed once the ownership of the organization changed. Investment company managements care about the bottomline and production efficiencies rather than sound quality. Many high end audiophile products are uncompromising in quality and integrity, with financial considerations very much a secondary consideration. The question for Mr Nakazawa and his team was what was more important, quality and integrity or financial gain? The answer was unquestionably – quality and integrity.


      Mr. Nakazawa had a wish to have a dream company to develop dream products for customers. This meant creating a company free from M&A risk, to develop dream products by engineers having the freedom without having to compromise on time and financial constraints.  In 2004 when management were desperately looking for clues that they can conclude that this M&A was right decision at PMI meeting (Post Merge Integration), he decide a MBO (Management buy out) together with engineers who had same beliefs & passions.  Thus a number of quality engineers around 50 people followed Mr. Nakazawa to his new organization. It was significant decision for staffs in a sense to resign 1st Listed company in Tokyo Exchange stock market and go to newly formed company, CSR, Inc. ... But you can imagine they all were trembled with joy and dream ...  Mr. Nakazawa came to think his role is not only to fulfill the dream for customers but also to support the dream for engineers in CSR, Inc. ........  The brand, Soulnote was borne by the passion Mr. Nakazawa had long held in mind along with many experienced engineers, including Mr. Kato, head of quality engineering team, previously responsible for Philips LHH series development.  




2.  Why is Soulnote extraordinary ? - Brand Philosophy

     Many HiFi magazines were impressed with the products appearance of quite professional, with refined design, and especially compact sized and made a good first impression. But they thought Soulnote as one of lifestyle new comers to HiFi industry. Having studied the history and  philosophy, it was a product brand far beyond this. Comments after product reviewers of HiFi magazine listened to the sound that Soulnote reproduced. They are quite interesting ones but funny and somehow strange. Standing at the position they should be at work to fulfill calmly, justly and fairly. However the first voices came out of them were “ I love this !! “, “ Great, totally fascinated by this sounds , give me one whole set !! “ ....  Are those attitude right as professional reviewers !? .... They are just right. When man touches fabulous sounds, he comes to be very honest to his own overwhelming feeling. When man listens to great music, his heart will be trembled with joy. Because the resonance to his soul.


      The kick-off of Soulnote project has started with quite simple question. The every single member of the team Nakazawa engineering are musicians, some are professionals. They are at the same time great fans of music no matter what genres like Classic, Jazz, Rock, Pop, Instrumental, Ambient, Latin, Indie, etc. When visiting recording studios in Japan, it was a fact the monitor sounds were various by each studios. There are many good quality sound studios, but when the same song was played back at home, the result were far from the same, in fact the sound degraded on home systemes.


     Now we got a question ...... Why ???      


     The team engineers had one strong hope that music and audio are to be considered as one. Music software and audio hardware are both respective wheel of the car, non of them can be ignorable and both needs to be connected perfectly. Now looking at the engineering scenes for hardware and software.  We found some interesting facts. They are actually incompatible somehow like hardware developer works in daytime, whilst, software is made from night to dawn, of-course in general speaking. It shows the people who works in diligent environment of day time, meaning office workers vs the people who works in the night time mostly. Both 2 respective phenomena can hardly be compatible. To our regret, they can even hardly undertand each other.  For easy example, it is rather difficult to find hardware engineers who can play musical instruments, who go to live concerts in our industry. Most of engineers rely on Oscilloscope data or even reply on brand value of famous, expensive devices for development. On the other hand, people who has experiences on music doesn’t mean he can develop excellent audio products either.  In developing stunning superior audio product, profound knowledge and experiences, the way of thoughts about electronics, great inspirations are the essencial factors.


       Most valuable experience for Soulnote development team was to attend number of recording sessions. The studio engineers attempted to record whole orchestra sounds by even 4 microphones. They were not only trying to record orchestra’s performances but also the air & ambiences existed there !! Because recording every single tonal information there is most important, since we can not add anything that wasn’t recorded from the beginnings, although recorded data could be cooked later on ...  As a matter of fact, Soulnote products has passed severe scrutinizing through chief recording engineers at World class recording studios in Japan. It was tough but passionate procedure of try & error of products development stage. 


       The brand slogan of Soulnote is “ Sound resonating to the Soul “. The basic concept of Soulnote is bridge over those two phenomena between recording stage and listening stage, as well as software development stage and hardware development stage, although we are sometime annoying standing at the middle of these positions. And we are trying to be transparent between these two phenomena, simply ...  If you touch fabulous sound, your soul will be resonated and trembled, no matte how it comes from live performance, stereo HiFi system. In this sense, our engineering team sometime discard many prototypes even though the technical specification is correct, because the soul wasn’t trembled !!!  We do develop like that way by putting aside all commercial and financial considerations .....  We, as software developers deny ourselves as hardware developers.  It’s quite tough one but again passionate moment. Specification is only one of product aspect but not all. Vice versa, if it sounds great and real, we tried to enhance it.    


       Now you may be wondering what is stunning fabulous sound !?  It’s hard to explain preciously but if we raise up just one example now, we may say it’s a fair tone penetrating the air ...  Imagine when you go to live concert, when you listen to the real professional musician’s playing sound, it clearly reaches your ears with fair and strong tone no matter how the back sound were loud, chaos, or with lot of noises. And it is so called professional’s sound, so does audio. It’s inexplicable somehow physically, but, we know there exist tonal sound which can ride well on the air wave, or can penetrate the air waves ... Soulnote is aiming at the reproduction of that quality.         



3.     How it’s done ? - Development technology

       2008, SA710 Soulnote amplifier first launched. Soulnote engineering team developed this amazing equipments focused on high speed, extraordinary broad dynamic range, delicate detailed sound reproduction, even at the small volume. It’s not a Valve amplifier but just having 2x10W. SA710 didn’t adopt common type transistor TO-3 which is used for 100W kinda amplifiers but adopted much smaller transistor TO-220, for example. If COB (Capacitance of the transistor) was big, high frequency will be declined unexpectedly. So we used compact sized one so that it can maintain highest possible frequency even over 350kHz to 500kHz. Secondary to gain highest S/N, we dared to adopt Full discrete, Non Negative Feedback circuitry (Non-NFB) for whole driving stage and power output stage, which is World first circuitry technology. To maximize this circuitry, powerful 120VA R core transformer, and fast recovery diode, also high speed power supply consisted of ±9 para small capacitance but high speed flat smooth capacitors were adopted. 


     It is not exaggerating to say the miracle of those combination could realize that impossibly high dynamic range, stunning fresh sound quality with liveliness, yes, it a ultimate monitor products !! and we can really listen to fair tones penetrating the air out of the products. 


     Soulnote products adopted compact case, with just 3 points spikes. The technology to develop that compact size products is as you can imagine, much more difficult than big case in placing PCBs, transformer, devices and so on. For example, SC710 CD Player has double layers of PCBs inside. The reason we insisted in that compact size came from kinda golden ratio of case room capacitance and minimum surface touching to the ground. That know-how could embody minimum distortion and release liveliness sound stage free from the case.  This resulted fair affordable price designing since Soulnote doesn’t need to sell unreasonably thick metallic covers and even air existing inside of empty case.  That may’ve lead many voices saying Soulnote sounds like 4 to even 10 times price HiFi products in the World.   


      Chief engineer, Kato says, the limit of contemporary technology of CD players can extract only 80% of tonal data out of a piece of CD disk. But he  believes there must be some room to do more on CD. Waoo, interesting story isn’t it !? 


      We sopke to our Soulnite chief engineer Mr. Kato.


Q.    We recall the remarkable character of Philips LHH series as excellent sound stage   

          and its highest grade musicality, what kind of know-how or gimmick have you 

          adopted to realize it !?  


        It's rather basic but ultimate method, I should say. What we needed to do was 

         try & error to draw out 100% of every single devices abilities. Many CD players

         in the World can hardly extract 100% information recorded in CD software.

         Besides, many engineers were caught their eyes by Oscilloscope measurement

         data and been confused. However we need to trust on our own ears, and

         develop products in the way we believe it's " right " in sound stage. 


    Q.  Philips and Marantz used to launch 1bit CD players, and they still got big fan for 

         their high quality reproduction capability. On the other hand, as you know it’s

         undeniable that the multi bit is main stream technology today. When it comes to

         real high quality reproduction capability, what do you think of it in mind ?       


         I believe bitstream had unique delicate and smoothness on the sound quality.

         Amongst those equipments, TDA1547 that called DAC7 was bitstream DAC 

         machine that enabled quite strong and linear sound reproduction. However I felt

         already then that muti bit like TDA1541A on behalf of all those lineups, must be 

         more suitable in viewpoint of strong linear sound reproduction. Anyway it was era

         that many HiFi brands were struggling to draw out latent abilities of devices. The

         quality of DAC nowadays was much improved that can not be even compared

         with those old days in reality. Therefore if we can really draw out the latent 

         abilities of devices, we believe we can develop sound quality that transcends the

         sphere of those 1bit or multi bit matters. Many are still fascinated by 1bit CD

         players until today. The reason we believe is simply because contemporary CD   

         players in the World can not draw out 100% of the devices abilities. We will

         continue whatever good to approach sound reproduction of ultimate realism, by

         not only the electronics experiments but also mechanical structure. You can see

         somehow crazy structure of CD mechanism support on newly launched high end 

         CD transport ct1.0 (1st market launch in Japan & Asia.). The CD mechanism of

         this model is supported in the center part of base chassis, by 3 point spikes.  Our

         Soulnote products adopts those best possible approach not only on CD players or

         DAC but also any models like Amplifiers, CAS (Computer as source) players, and

         coming Headphone amplifier etc. 


  Q.   Yes, as you’ve just refered to new red hot model ct1.0, well, today it’s undeniable 

         situation that download music is replacing CD package media. We’ve heard,

         nevertheless, you would dare to launch CD transport now !!  We saw 

         some strong beliefs in your mind. Also we guess just because of it’s your

         product, there must’ve been hard challenge to reproduce sound data that all other   

         World players could not do by now. So are you confident you coud make it !?




         Talking about the challenge, we adopted quite unique structure like CD   

         mechanism penetrating case chassis. When it comes to challenge on electric part,

         the theorical grounds are actually inexplicable. We just would like you to find it out

         by listening to the sound. All we’ve done was to have enjoyed luxurious choice of

         highest quality electrically conducting polymer capacitors, Nichicon LF series, fast

         recovery diode are Japan Inter FSF10A20 and Shindengen D4SBL20U. As for

         the capacitor, we normally use ELNA RA2 series, so this time capacitors costed

         over 10 times. Anyway it’s just as we believe the principal of pin point

         extravagance on essential key devices. And attempted best method to get rid of

         distrotion, noises to extremely minimal level.  ... How come I’ve mentioned that

         the theorical grounds are inexplicable ?  Alright, for example it’s very impossible to

         explain the real reason why CD transport can improve the total sound quality. It

         was proven that the method of CD mechanism support can not change any

         digital spec data first of all. Therefore if we dare to conclude it, we assume that      

         the way of CD mechanism support may transform the servo electric current and

         that’ll influence the elements of noises in better way, even though that’s all we are

         guessing. For your reference, the noises willi be transferred together with the

         sound signal transferred through the optical cable. Or, you may say the jitter

         issue could be the reason, by the way .... However the jitter factor is not enougn

         to explain why CD transort support can improve the total sound quality, since

         even if DAC absorbs the jitter with memory buffering, still the sound quality can

         be improved with CD transport equipped. We believe Soulnote products are the

         fruit of those exciting miracles. 


         ... Last but not least, our Non-NFB circuitry is unlike some other brands in the        

         World, adopted not only on the power-stage but also on all stages over. And

         symmetrical design of circuit diagram shows it already as off-set of possible

         distortive circuity factors. If we still dare to explain the theorical grounds, we have

         just chosen the best operating area that transistors can generate the most

         minimal distrotion, and adjust the combination amongst all devices on the PCB.

         Before attempt of-course, we can guess from our long time experience about

         how every single devices, of what brand, and of what model will meddle in one

         another, and work out. But it’s still a stupendous works dreaming to see the

         miracles again !!!   






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