I find it interesting to meet audio engineers and see where they work. It always gives plenty of insight into product development and their company's engineering philosophy.
Recently, I met Ken Ishiwata of Marantz fame (above), and visited his new listening room in Eindhoven. Ken Ishiwata is arguably the best known audio engineer around thanks to years of developing top-class hi-fi, wearing some rather distinctive suits and the little matter of Marantz's special edition KI Signature products bearing his initials.
The new listening room is where Ken assesses and tunes all of Marantz's new European products. Only once he is happy are they signed off for production.
The listening room is a lavish affair, far more exotic than normally found at a manufacturer's facility. It's irregularly shaped with angled walls to control standing waves and has had plenty of acoustic treatment.
This is a large room, measuring 8.6m in length and around 6.6m at its widest. Our listening was done with Marantz's Legendary series equipment – the SA-7S1 SACD/CD player, SC-7S2 pre/MA-9S2 power amplifier completed by a pair of Mordaunt-Short Performance 6 speakers (Marantz distributes Mordaunt-Short across Europe).
We also had the pleasure of listen to vinyl on the company's now deleted flagship turntable the TT100 Mk 2. Back in the late Eighties it cost £6000. Today, if Marantz decided to resume production, it would be as much as £20,000. And that's without arm or cartridge.
The intention behind the room is to provide a listening space that is neutral yet not acoustically dead. It's a tough balancing act, but with £70,000, eight months of fine-tuning and decades of audio experience, Ken has come up with one of the best sounding rooms I've heard.