“Kiri Headphones”: Aizu Paulownia and Japanese Luthier Techniques Combine for Rich, Natural Sound Reproduction
Strong, lightweight paulownia (kiri) timber from Aizu is used not just for chests of drawers and other furniture but also for the finest koto and other Japanese musical instruments. Now, Onkyo & Pioneer has developed another acoustic application for Aizu kiri: headphone housing. Their closed-back, stereo “Kiri Headphones” use this natural materials to produce rich, clear sound—and recently finished a successful round of pre-sale crowdfunding.
“Housing” is the part of the headphones that covers the ears—the main “body,” in other words. The housing is where the drivers that produce the sound are set, which makes it very important for both sound quality and durability.
Aizu kiri comes from the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture, where the unique combination of cold and humidity makes the timber harder and stronger, with beautiful grain. Onkyo & Pioneer’s Kiri Headphones also have a special pattern of grooves behind the drivers known as ayasugi-bori. Ayasugi-bori is a traditional type of carving used inside koto as well, invented during the Edo Period (1603–1868) and said to absorb unwanted reverberations and improve clarity and resonance.
Left: Ayasugi-bori inside the kiri housing. Right: The headphones come in a deluxe box, also made of kiri.
Not only do these headphones offer a clear sound image and broad sound field, the high-tech, high-quality materials used in the wide headband and ear pads are so comfortable that you’ll feel enfolded in luxury as you wear them.
Pre-sales for the headphones recently ended on the crowdfunding site Mirai Shopping, where the project more than reached its funding goal. They aren’t inexpensive, but each one has an individually carved serial number and is designed to last a lifetime.
◆ Kiri Headphones
Price: 300,000 JPY (excluding tax)
Crowdfunding campaign (complete): https://shopping.nikkei.co.jp/projects/kiri-headphone (in Japanese)