Daishin Kashimoto, violinist listens to the latest

Asahi Kasei Microdevices’ separated DAC chip reproduces sounds and atmospheres in Real Live Sound.

Publisher: "Stereo Sound" No. 214 (issued March 2020)

The first-ever, separated AK4498 + AK4191 have be added to VELVET SOUND series of DAC chips developed and marketed by Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM). It will be incorporated in a variety of digital audio equipment starting this coming fall. How will the sounds from the latest VELVET SOUND impress Mr. Daishin Kashimoto, 1st Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, as brand ambassador of AKM? He joined Mr. Tomonori Sato, AKM Audio Meister, to listen to the Berlin Philharmonic’s latest recording sound.

Daishin Kashimoto

Mr. Tomonori Sato:

Are you particularly conscious of the differences between a live performance and a recorded performance?

Mr. Daishin Kashimoto:

In my view, they are basically different things. Recorded sound depends on factors such as the type of a microphone, how it is placed, and which cables are used. The environment for playing recorded materials also depends on the listener. From a performer’s standpoint, however, I always wish that the differences could be small.


By using two ICs, we have minimized the effects of digital noise within the analog output, resulting in a perceived improvement of the ratio of signal to noise. This improvement, while not easily quantifiable via traditional measurement techniques, is easily experienced during controlled listening tests. we also pursue the minimization of the differences between live performances and recordings. Today, we install a prototype AK4498 + AK4191 in our listening room reference equipment, and you can listen to the Berlin Philharmonic’s latest recording. How did you like it?


The first movement of Pathetique* starts very quietly. Carefully representing the quietness is very important when a recorded material is played. What we heard right now sounded so real that I vividly recalled the atmosphere of the venue on the day it was recorded. I was impressed. The atmosphere of a concert hall or a studio is an important factor for shaping a performance. If the audio equipment is good at reproducing the atmosphere of the space where the music was performed, it should add to the motivation of performers and impress listeners even more.


In the world of audio equipment, we often use the phrase, “It sounds as if the music is performed right in front of you.” In our view, this requires high quality reproduction of the first sounds of a piece. In that regard, your comment makes me very happy.


I was also impressed by the beautifulness and quality of the tone, which is something I cannot compromise. I may have never listened to any other recorded performance whose gap from what I hear while performing is as small as this one’s. The thoughts and the sense of color we put into each phrase effectively overlap one another and add profundity and depth to the quality of the tone.


To faithfully reproduce the sounds of live performances, we have been committed to improving D/A conversion technology in accordance with our philosophy of the importance of the original sounds. It also utilizes the know-how we have accumulated in A/D conversion which is performed closer to the recording location.


Earlier I mentioned live performances and recorded performances are different. In my view, the difference largely comes from two factors, the qualities of the tones of musical instruments and the reproduction of the atmosphere of the space performance is recorded in. The new model achieves these at high levels. When I make a piece of work in a recorded form, I try to ensure that the outline of my performance is clearer than usual. This is because I have had some experiences where nuances that were successfully communicated to the audience at the venue were not reproduced as well on a compact disc. But you don’t have to worry about it if the equipment is capable of reproducing the quality of tone and atmosphere at this level of closeness to the live performance.


It is the audio equipment manufacturers, our clients, that ultimately deliver the sounds to listeners. Our mission is to provide the best materials so that the unique characteristics and spices of each performance can be maximally drawn out.


Advances in music reproduction technology help audio equipment shorten the distance between performers and listeners more than it has ever done. I truly felt it during these valuable moments. Thank you so much.

* They listened to the first movement of Tchaikovsky Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op. 74, “Pathetique” performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Kirill Petrenko.

AK4498 + AK4191

AK4498 + AK4191 is greatly characterized by their discrete structure with the AK4191 playing the role of a delta-sigma modulator ahead of the AK4498, AKM’s latest DAC chip.

Conventionally, conversions from digital to an analog signal are performed by a single chip. Assigning the digital processing to the AK4191 and separating the digital and analog signals has improved the sound quality that is easily perceptible while listening to music. The test listening involved an experimental D/A converter built by mounting AK4498 + AK4191 on a Grandioso P1X, Esoteric’s SACD/CD player which is the reference equipment in AKM listening room.


Daishin Kashimoto

Daishin Kashimoto, violinist

1st Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic 

A Japanese classical violinist, born in London in 1979. Kashimoto started learning and playing violin at 3. After moving to New York, he entered the Pre-College Division of Juilliard when he was 7 years old. In 1990, he entered the Lubeck Academy of Music at 11 on a scholarship. He is a first prize winner of five renowned competitions including the fourth Bach Junior Music Competition. Having performed with renowned conductors such as Maazel, Seiji Ozawa, Jansons and Myung-Whun Chung, Kashimoto was appointed as 1st Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic at 31 in 2010. He is also extensively active as a soloist. He plays a 1674 Andrea Guarneri violin. Currently, Kashimoto resides in Germany.

Tomonori Sato

Tomonori Sato, Audio Meister 

Solution Development Unit 1,
Marketing & Sales Center, Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corporation

Sato entered Asahi Kasei Corporation in 1998. Since then he has been involved in the development of ICs for audio equipment and internationally pioneered the planning of 32-bit DAC and ADC. In 2009, he became the Audio Meister of Asahi Kasei Microdevices. Since then, he has brought into the world VELVET SOUND series of DAC chips, including the AK4490, AK4497, and AK4499. They are used in numerous pieces of audio equipment. One of the recordings he uses to review sound quality is the 1988 Philips Saint-Saens: Carnival of the Animals performed by Argerich, Kremer and others. His hobby is making speakers and he uses an exclusive Fostex unit to listen through his own enclosures.


VELVET SOUND is a sound philosophy and brand concept for AKM’s next-generation audio devices, featuring new chip architectures and core technologies.

The new circuitry found in VELVET SOUND devices is designed to maximize dynamics and ensure pure, unaltered audio data, prioritizing the accurate capture and reproduction of the source material in order to achieve high performance and rich musicality. These devices were designed specifically for the high-resolution digital audio era.

* VELVET SOUND ™, VELVET SOUND | VERITA ™ and Audio 4 Pro ™ are trademarks of Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corporation in Japan, Europe and the United States.