Sony/Taiyo Monozukuri - supporting microphones on the front line ~ "C-38B" and "C-800G," legendary professional microphones

Case:03 Sony/Taiyo Monozukuri - supporting microphones on the front line ~ "C-38B" and "C-800G," legendary professional microphones ~ Sony's professional-use microphones have been used in the television and music industries for decades. The expert craftspeople at Sony/Taiyo Corporation, a company at which 67% of employees have a disability, are the ones who have been responsible for the consistently high quality and reliability of these microphones. We went behind the scenes to chat to Yoshihiro Murakami, who has been involved in creating microphones together with Sony/Taiyo for many years, to ask about this special workplace, where monozukuri takes place seamlessly and without any noticeable issues relating to disabilities.

Sony's microphone manufacturing began
with a desire to be better than its foreign competitors

Sony has been developing professional-use microphones for over half a century. Japan's first condenser microphone, the "C-37A," was released in 1958. Foreign-manufactured mics were still mainstream at that time, but the "C-37A" became highly sought after within the industry after quickly gaining a reputation for excellent audio quality. In 1965, the "C-38" series was born. This series continues to be widely used in the television and music industries today. In comparison to the vacuum tube microphones that had been used until that time, and which took approximately 40 minutes from the time they were first switched on to reach optimal condition, these new mics were primed and ready to go in just one minute. In addition, they offered superb sound, so they really were seen as a ground-breaking mic that changed the workflow of the industry.

In 1992, the "C-800G" vacuum tube condenser microphone was developed for recording studios, and was widely praised by professional musicians and recording engineers alike for its high quality. This excellent reputation remains unchanged today, and many artists still specifically request the "C-800G" as their microphone of choice. In this way, Sony has consistently worked with new technologies to build the reputation and reliability of its professional-use microphones.

Sony/Taiyo continues to
maintain reliability and quality

Sony/Taiyo first began production of microphones in 1991. The company had always embraced the philosophy of Masaru Ibuka, one of Sony's founders, that "One should hold the belief that persons with disabilities should be treated under the same standards, without requiring any special privileges, and still be expected to accomplish work of even better quality than able-bodied persons." They therefore took on the task of manufacturing professional-use microphones as a product with high value-added quality. Making mics would also mean only minimal physical challenges would be posed for persons with disabilities. Having been relegated with this manufacturing task by Sony, Sony/Taiyo set about ensuring that its workplace environment would not pose any barriers to people with disabilities. Modifications included building anechoic chambers that could be entered by people in wheelchairs to perform inspections. In 1999, the customized cellular manufacturing system was introduced (workstations customized to suit the individual needs of each person with a disability), and productivity skyrocketed. It was at around this time that the current style was established, with one employee being responsible for all production processes, from manufacturing through to packaging, for microphones such as the "C-38B" and the "C-800G."

Although it is almost fifty years since the "C-38B" was first manufactured, its audio quality remains exceptional. Some modifications have been made during its long history, such as the stopped production of certain components, or certain materials becoming unavailable for environmental reasons, but with each new challenge, the company has developed new technologies or materials in order to maintain its high quality standards. Each microphone is individually handcrafted to protect its delicate audio quality. This could not be accomplished without the professional skills and careful efforts of the craftspeople at Sony/Taiyo, known as the "Monozukuri Masters." It has been said that the superb audio quality could be maintained precisely because it was Sony/Taiyo that took over the manufacturing operation - the sound may have been affected if these microphones had been entrusted to any other office.

The pride of capturing
the sounds of the world as a Sony employee

I've been involved in microphone design for more than thirty years, and I love it! I believe everyone else at Sony/Taiyo feels the same way. More than anything, however, I believe that all Sony/Taiyo employees feel great pride to be delivering sound to the world as employees of the Sony group. Regardless of our disabilities, we are professionals in microphone manufacture, and our high standards and thorough attention to detail have ensured that we continue to create microphones used by professionals in the television and music industries.

Reflections of a Sony/Taiyo craftsperson on making microphones

We will continue to maintain the Sony sound!

Sony/Taiyo offers an environment that's really easy to work in. They've made everything so convenient for us that we don't notice any difficulties. I couldn't even single out any one particular favorite aspect - it's just great to be able to naturally concentrate on my work in every way. It's really wonderful. Since the introduction of the customized cells, I've been able to perform all stages of the manufacturing process for a single microphone by myself. It's a bigger responsibility, but I feel that this makes the job that much more enjoyable, as well as giving me a great sense of accomplishment. I naturally feel more devoted to the product, and I think this is really manifested in the extra attention I give to each individual item. The other day I was watching TV, and I saw a scene where the "C-800G/9X" was being used by a famous singer in a recording studio. It was a proud moment to be reminded that our microphones are loved by others, as well.
The biggest change I've noticed in my twenty years working here is probably the change in people. I think that the employees are several stages more advanced than before - not only in their skills, but also in their attitudes towards work. I think we've become true professionals in every sense of the word. I will continue to maintain and develop the techniques passed down to me by my veteran colleagues, and I, in turn, will ensure that these are handed down sequentially to the younger employees who will carry on our traditions of excellence in the future.

Hideto Sonishi
"Monozukuri Master" Sony/Taiyo Corporation