You might have heard: Sony hasn’t been doing so well on the financial front of late. Money troubles of such magnitude invariably force diversification and, in more drastic circumstances, total reinvention. Sony must live on. Even if that means the tech giant becomes a different company to that of its 1980/90s glory years.
As exemplification of the Japanese tech giant seeking new directions it has birthed as custom in-ear monitor (CIEM) company: Just ear, behind which sits some serious engineering grey matter.
Just ear is helmed by chief engineer Matsuo BanMasaru whose white lab coat getup isn’t just for show. He worked under the direction of Naotaka Tsunoda on the very successful Sony MDR-1R headphone. BanMasaru-san beams with pride when describing his involvement in the Sony over-ear headphone’s development.
BanMasaru-san also tells me that the Just ear side project has been cooking since April 2013 but only officially launched in April 2015 (despite being teased at last October’s Nakano Sun Plaza event). Two years is a long time in gestation. At the very least, would-be customers know that Sony haven’t rushed their custom in-ears to market.
Silicon-moulded ear impressions are taken at the Tokyo Hearing Care Centre in Gaiemmae (near Shibuya) by one Satoshi Kanno.
On offer are two models: the XJE-MH1 (JPY200,000) and the XJE-MH2 (JPY300,000). Both have ear shells moulded from dual-layer acrylic – hard on the back, soft inside the ear. Both are hybrid in design – one dynamic driver and one balanced armature.
What sets the two models apart from each other?
As you can see from the video it took me a while to get a handle on the model names and variations.
The XJE-MH2 arrives in three distinct set flavours, each of which were available for demo as universals throughout the Fujiya Avic headphone show: ‘Monitor’ (clean and direct on the transient attack), ‘Club Sound’ (big up to the boom-tizz) and ‘Listening’ (a little more laid back than ‘Monitor’ and this commentator’s pick of the three).
Drop an additional JPY100,000 on the on the XJE-MH1 and you get full frequency range tailoring – any flavour you like, no set menu. Want a more rotund bass? You can have that. Need a more prominent midrange? You got it. Don’t care for needle-point incision up top? Just Ear can dial that down for ya.
With everything bespoke, the XJE-MH1 is perhaps the ultimate in tailor made in-ear listening solutions.
At the Fujiya Avic-hosted event, Just ear could be found offering a third model – Night Of The Knife (NK1) – named after the Japanese hit song of the same name but voiced for Japanese anime music and strictly a show exclusive. If you’re reading this, it’s already gone. Sumimasen.
For anyone outside of Japan though, Sony’s engineering talents here are moot: the Just ear CIEMs are just for Japanese ears.
Further information: Sony Just Ear