By ROPPEI TSUDA/ Staff Writer
March 6, 2022 at 07:00 JST
A post on Twitter by a satisfied customer was all it took to pump up the volume for a tiny audio device maker previously known only to hard-core music lovers.
Now, Ashida Sound Co., a company with only 35 employees situated in a residential district in Tokyo, is drowning in the sweet sound of orders pouring in for its headphones.
On Feb. 1, Ashida Sound posted a message on its Twitter account, stating, “We have received as many orders as our ordinary three-month sales today alone. We are sorry for running out of stock again and causing inconvenience to our valuable customers.”
The comment clearly reflects the enterprise’s sense of surprise. But gearing up for the shipment at the cafeteria and elsewhere within the corporation’s three-story main office near Osaki Station in Shinagawa Ward, some 10 workers appeared far more perplexed.
Triggering the sudden demand was a Twitter user’s post. An individual who bought an Ashida Sound item touched on the musical headphones marketed a year and a half ago. This resulted in a succession of comments made by fans of Ashida Sound.
One of them, who relies on the company’s product every day during work, praised its “excellent durability,” while another gave brands of Ashida Sound high marks for their “simple and made-to-last designs at inexpensive prices.” A tweet claimed that earphones from Ashida Sound are “often used by voice actors.”
In tandem with the posts, many orders started coming in through the internet.
As more than 500 purchases were made, the inventory for three months disappeared in only three hours. Four products, including a headgear set for telework, were sold out in a single day.
“We are shrieking with joy,” said Hisashi Yanagawa, 40, the delighted president of Ashida Sound.
Although relatively unknown to the public, Ashida Sound is a well-established name in the audio industry. It was founded in 1942 during World War II to develop speakers made in Japan.
Among Ashida Sound's innovations is a speaker mounted on traffic signals to make a peeping sound to help the visually impaired at pedestrian crossings. It also devised a speaker impervious to the cold for the weather station on Mount Fuji.
Ashida Sound excels at designing hard-duty acoustic tools for pros, such as radio earphones for police officers and headgear specially developed for use at broadcasting stations and construction sites.
Izumi Sakai, the late vocalist for the renowned Zard musical unit, was known as a big fan of Ashida Sound headphones.
Kazuhito Fujiki, 58, who composes and records tunes in Kanagawa Prefecture, said he took advantage of the corporation’s headphones at the Victor Studio in the capital when he worked there during the 1980s.
“The good point is that the original sounds do not have any exaggerated colorful elements added,” Fujiki said of the appeal of Ashida Sound's products.
Fujiki said he relies on the firm’s equipment at his current studio.
“I am happy that Ashida brands are attracting attention, as they have been pursuing audio quality,” he said. “The feel of the gear’s surface is nice and female users would also find it suitable.”
Ashida Sound has produced goods for non-specialist consumers. But they were made under partner businesses’ brand names through contracts called the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and original design manufacturing (ODM).
The enterprise devoted itself to manufacturing articles without raising its own profile. But Ashida Sound lost out in the price competition with overseas producers in those kind of business, and the company’s sales went on the decline.
Under those circumstances, Ashida Sound started making earphones for the nonprofessional under its own brand name four years ago. The product’s concept aims to have users “enjoy comfortable sounds with a simple and light design.”
Tapping into its techniques nurtured over many years, a pair of headphones weighing 110 grams was created to capture the immersive sound quality. The price was set at as low as 6,380 yen ($55.60) after tax by utilizing plain packing material.
Asked why his company’s products have proven so popular, Yanagawa said at least one reason seemingly lies behind the success.
“Exerting an especially large impact is that more people began listening to tunes at home after finding it impossible to attend live concerts during the coronavirus crisis,” he said. “Our simple packaging might also be preferred by those who view it as part of efforts to contribute to the SDGs (U.N. Sustainable Development Goals).”
Kiminori Ono, 60, head of Ashida Sound’s technical department, surmised that there are likewise other reasons.
“Our products come only in the single color variation of gray,” said Ono. “The low-key design can be seen as being nostalgic in a more positive manner. Wireless items are currently in their heyday in the auditory device market, but they cannot compare with their wired counterparts from the standpoint of sound quality.”
Under the same concept, Ashida Sound is developing a new headphone model.
Headpieces of Ashida Sound are made exclusively by craftspeople in the plant in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, so ramping up production dramatically is difficult. Ashida Sound has no plans to transfer its manufacturing abroad.
“Some people must have learned about us following the social media posts as we were not well known,” said Yanagawa. “While cherishing the bonds with them, we will continue assigning top priority to quality just as in the past without committing ourselves too much to improving sales.”
Yanagawa asked customers to “wait a little longer to my great regret.”
When 100 units of the previously sold-out headphones arrived on Feb. 14, all were snapped up quickly within 20 minutes. Ashida Sound is expected to resume the sales in phases as soon as the production of additional units is finished.
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