In the before time, when international flights were frequent, members of the audio industry would meet each other again and again at trade shows around the world. With contemporaries within the industry regularly sharing meals and ideas with each other at tables around the world.
It was a chain of these friendly exchanges and a formal introduction facilitated by Dr Alpha Chan, the founder of the Hong Kong Audio juggernaut, ECT, that led to a dinner meeting in 2015. After which DITA became final Audio’s distributor in Southeast Asia, kickstarting a longstanding relationship between the companies.
This partnership proved to be enriching for both companies, who held similar principles in the area of tuning, product development and attention to material science. As well as a constant desire to push the envelope in material use and customer experience in the field of personal audio.
As such, this distributor-principal relationship soon became a friendship, culminating in final Audio officially becoming DITA Audio’s Japanese distributor in 2018.
During periods of casual conversation, Danny and Hosoo discussed the possibility of pooling the tech and experience between both brands to develop a pair of earphones.
During an early-2019 sharing of both company’s flagships, the A8000 and Dream XLS, both teams were so impressed by each other’s work that the idea finally took root, becoming the catalyst of the SHICHIKU.KANGEN project
SHICHIKU.KANGEN (SK) is an IEM project jointly developed by Japan’s final Audio and Singapore’s DITA Audio.
Powered by a true beryllium driver and channelled through the OSLO Cable GEN.SK, the SHICHIKU.KANGEN’s components have been tuned by both companies from scratch, aimed at giving the listener a visual and sonic experience different from anything in both brand’s line ups.
The delicate ASANOHA gold patterns found on the SK’s shell is created through the art of Chinkin, a lacquer technique with its origins in China, later developed in Japan. Machine-etched, hand filled.
Each shell has passed through the hands of designers, engineers and lacquer craftsmen. Weaving new and old together to bring the the SK to life through their skills.
Shichikukangen, 糸竹管弦 is an old Japanese phrase with its roots in Chinese, serving as the general term for music and musical instruments.
Shi,糸 (Thread); Gen,弦(String)
Musical instruments that produce sounds through vibration of threads or strings.
Chiku,竹 (Bamboo); Kan,管(Tube)
Musical instruments that produce sounds through the vibration of the air inside the bamboo or tube
final x DITA’s SHICHIKU.KANGEN is engineered to sound vivid and lively regardless of genre— as if the listener is in the presence of performers and their instruments.
The SK performs like a musical instrument in itself: Improving with the passage of time and bringing you increasingly richer experiences with each use.
As with a musical instrument, we hope that these earphones will become more and more familiar to the listener with every use, bringing you joy for a long time to come
CHINKIN: SUNKEN GOLD
"Chinkin" is a decorative technique in which a pattern is carved on the surface of lacquer ware with a special knife (Chinkin knife). Then urushi, lacquer is rubbed in, and gold leaf or gold powder are applied repeatedly to create multiple thin gold layers which stacks up to present the best shininess. After the lacquer has dried, the surrounding gold leaf or gold powder is wiped off, leaving only the gold powder on the engraved pattern, creating a beautiful and delicate image.
The beautiful hemp leaf pattern found on the SK’s shell is made possible thanks to this exacting technique.
A FUSION OF NEW AND OLD
Being a technique normally executed on wooden lacquerware, there is no precedent for Chinkin on metal, which the SHICHIKU.KANGEN’s chassis is constructed of.
Exacerbating difficulty levels is the fact that the SK’s ASANOHA pattern was designed to be carved on two planes of the earphone’s shell, this, and then fact that the SK ‘s shells are stainless steel, made carving even grooves of around 0.1mm near impossible, especially when using traditional methods with a Chinkin knife.
While chemical etching techniques might have been viable, it was challenging to ensure that this method would yield the precise, 90 degree carved edges necessary for a clean resulting pattern.
A new type of carving technique had to be develop to achieve the sort of even, intricate groove-pattern that the SK’s ASANOHA demands, fusing modern etching technology with the ancient art of Chinkin carving.
The ASANOHA is an ubiquitous hemp-leaf pattern representative of Japanese culture.
Known for its fast growing, anti-parasitic properties, the hemp leaf is believed to possess the ability to ward off evil, making it a sacred motif in ancient Japan.
It appears throughout history in myths, family crests and kimono.
Its appearance on the SK represents final and DITA’s growing friendship.
Unlike many traditional Japanese patterns, the ASANOHA has its roots in mathematics instead of nature. It is an equilateral triangular tiled pattern known as “kisdeltille”, with the hemp leaf association coming later. This is in line with final and DITA’s attempts to fuse the human touch into works of engineering, encapsulating the philosophy of the SK project.
WAJIMA’S CHINKIN CRAFTSMEN
The most crucial step in Chinkin is laying the gold powder into carved grooves, a task requiring immense concentration.
For this step, the SK project enlisted the help of Chinkin craftsmen from Wajima in Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture,
Wajima is a forested region rich in resin-producing trees, making it the Urushi capital of Japan since olden days.
PURE GOLD POWDER
The beauty of Chinkin is in the brilliance and delicacy of the patterns it produces, making the production of gold powder an integral part of the art.
Each groove on the SK measures 0.1mm across, preventing large granules from entering and making it necessary to process the gold powder into very fine particles before application,
Melted glue and gold leaf are kneaded together to make a gold paint, this leads to an exceedingly fine gold suspension, with each particle featuring a diameter of 0.2μ to 0.3μ.
The gold powder is obtained by rinsing the glue off with water.
It is said that the decorative technique is called Chinkin “Sinking Gold” because beautiful patterns emerges when gold sinks into the lacquer which has been applied into the carved groove. And the key to maximizing the brilliance of the pure gold is the finest natural lacquer, tapped from the forests of Wajima.
Appropriate humidity is essential for the hardening of lacquer. Different from most hardening processes, urushi lacquer hardens best in a a moist environment, ideally 70 – 85% humidity in temperatures of 24°C to 28°C. The lacquer hardens as it absorbs oxugen from the moisture in the air.
It is said that in general lacquerware production, it takes about 10 hours just to harden the surface, and more than a month to completely dry it.
Wajima does not only produce high-quality natural lacquer, it also has the ideal climatic conditions for the urushi hardening process.
A new driver, the “True Beryllium Driver Gen.SK” was developed with thorough attention and detail. This driver imparts its vivid, lively sound, beautiful presentation and exceptional transient response to the SHICHIKU.KANGEN’s sound signature.
In a bid to create a wide, rich and distortion-free low range, both companies have also developed a new method to attach the voice coil to the diaphragm.
This requires a customised jig design, and a new bonding method, which DITA with its parent company’s expertise with plastics and resins was able to develop. Allowing the voice coil to drive the diaphragm while having very little impact on its sound signature.
This should result in a maximally coherent sound signature.
The SHICHIKU.KANGEN uses a diaphragm made from ultrathin Beryllium foil.
Beryllium’s lightness and stiffness gives it an edge over other diaphragm materials, producing a sound that’s generally clean and speedy.
With a specific gravity of 1.85 and a sound propagation velocity of 12,900m/s, second only to that of diamond, Beryllium has ideal characteristics for diaphragm material.
Pure beryllium drivers have only just been implemented in the market. In part due to the sheer difficulty in crafting thin pure Beryllium foils. This is due to Beryllium’s inherent brittleness, leading it to fracture easily if not machined properly.
These characteristics mean that Beryllium requires stringent and practiced process controls. Dull tools or ill-kept machines run the risk of breakage and stress for the material, making beryllium diaphragm production a rigorous test of quality for a manufacturer.
Ordinarily, a Beryllium diaphragm is created by vacuum deposition of a thin coat of Beryllium onto a resin film. This was effective as an improvement measure but the characteristics of the resin film remain predominant.
When pure Beryllium is used as the only material for the sound producing part of the diaphragm, the sound and characteristics are completely different, taking on the clean, agile qualities of beryllium.
THE OSLO CABLE GEN.SK
Since its inception, DITA Audio emphasises the use of a quality, custom-built cable in all its products, Truth cable, co-developed with Van Den Hul, and the OSLO oil-soaked copper cable that is supplied with a bottle of contact enhancing fluid.
These innovations are led by a belief that cables matter even more in personal audio where differences in sound quality are even more readily apparent due to the absence of room acoustics. The co-developed OSLO used in the SHICHIKU.KANGEN product is once again specifically formulated to elevate the performance of the product.
Over 30 different configurations were tried and tested before arriving at a version of the OSLO cable that would suitably elevate the performance of the product.
The OSLO Cable GEN SK comes terminated with an MMCX connector on the earphone side as well as interchangeable 2.5mm -balanced, 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced plugs.