January 2009 Archives

Industry Close-up: Yamaha PHX Series Drumset

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Flagship Model Opens Up New Standard of Drums

Yamaha commenced distribution of the first drums more than 40 years ago. The PHX Series which the company started receiving orders last December 1 in the Japanese market represents ultimate model featuring new materials and structure combined with rich experience and technical know-how accumulated through the decades of drum manufacturing. Its sound, appearance and price points made a sensation in the drum society.

Design concept of the PHX is quite simple; it should have best conceivable sound and expression capability. Development project started 4 years earlier re-studying every detail from shell materials to structure. The Yamaha engineers built and analyzed countless number of models, and finally a prototype completed in 2007. They had over a dozen professional drummers examined it at YASH R&D and Artist Relations Center in Hollywood. Their response was quite favorable. The engineers convinced that they pursued right direction.

Shinsuke Irisa, assistant manager, Drum Artist Relations, Product Planning Group, GD Business Unit, Wind, String & Percussion Insts. Division, said, "The drum artists unanimously commented that it was wonderful as they examined playing themselves and recorded sound separately. Every one didn't want to leave! They turned their thumbs up. We felt that our extensive works got rewarded." After repeated refinements, the production model unveiled. (photo: from l. to r., Hiroaki Ohmuro, Taketoshi Yamamoto, Shigehiro Okamoto, banri Abe and Shinsuke Irisa.)

Exceptional Materials and Structure

Shigehiro Okamoto, supervisor, Drum & Percussion Design Section, Product Development Dept. looks back, "In the process of seeking distinctive features of ultimate drum, we have come to know full and fat sound are what professionals really want. Several engineer groups were formed to explore new generation of shell, mount system, lug and other parts. It was the first experiment for Yamaha that individual development works underwent in parallel.

Most critical parts that determine the sound of PHX are wood materials and structure of shells as well as bearing edges that supports drum head. Hybrid shell of the PHX was born as a colleague studying wood materials referred to South Eastern wood Kapur that its excellent acoustic characteristics are best applicable to drum shells. So far Yamaha drum shells have been mostly built of single wood material. The engineers thought that composite shells in different acoustic characteristics might improve their tonal characters. After extensive research of best conceivable combination of wood, the 11-ply shell with high density Jatoba at its center sandwiched with layers of maple or ash top completed.

Yamaha's exclusive YESS (Yamaha Enhanced Sustain System) mount system known for its superior sound quality has also been a subject for improvement. Okamoto says, "The new YESSII employs vibration-absorbing rubber between shell and mount system. The idea came from same material used for concert percussions. Usually drummers feel striking pulsation on foot when playing drum with foot on stand. With the YESSII, drums hardly generate vibration."

An wooden plate made of maple plywood instead of conventional metal one employed to mount the YESSII to drums also contributes to delivering fat sound.

The new hook lugs feature refined shape of hook and pin for securer fastening of drum head and easy replacement.

PHX Goes On Improving

In parallel with R & D works a production line for the RHX set up at Yamaha Music Craft. According to Hiroaki Ohmuro, Assistant General Manager, Product Development Dept., manufacturing the PHX required consolidated team of Design and Production sections and an exclusive factory as all works started from ground. Manufacturing can further improve in the future. The team of a dozen or so has established a good communication and working environment in the process of completing the PHX.

About future plans, Okamoto expects that the new ideas and technologies acquired through development of the PHX will be reflected on middle and inexpensive models while seeking best balance between cost and performance. Nevertheless to say, the PHX keeps going ahead as a flagship model.

The engineers say that every drummer will be overwhelmed with the sound of the PHX and wants to keep once they experience it. The spectacular model in the name of PHX (phoenix) will lead Yamaha drum to a new stardom.

Tokyo-based Yamano Music Company Ltd. distributes more than 30 imported brands of music products as exclusive agent. Guitar lines include Fender, Squire, Guild, Jackson Stars, Charvel, Taylor and Benedetto. Mikes Company/Yamano Technical Service, a subsidiary company of Yamano Music is fully responsible for quality control and after sales services of imported guitars and related products as well as woodwind and brass instruments.

Strict Product Inspection
Inspection/Repair section is located on the 6th floor of Asakusabashi Center in Taito-ku where Overseas Division of Yamano Music has its office. It looks like a manufacturing factory with over 10 service counters, partitioned

areas for lacquering, wood working and buffing, myriad of parts drawers on the wall, and a pile of guitars waiting for inspection and repair works.

It has 21 staff members there of whom 12 including 6 part timers take care of guitars,3 including 2 part timers handle amps and some more staff who provide repair worksfor woodwind and brass instruments.

Takashi Sugawara, 30-year repair specialist and technical manager, explains, "All imported guitars go through our inspection when unloaded, and those found with problem are brought in to Yamano Technical Service. They are adjusted here and dispatched to Yamano Music warehouse. Also we accept repair orders from end user brought in through retailers. We have a specialist company for inspection and repair works for amps. Tube amps which handle high voltage electric power can not be delivered to retailers without inspection."

A 20-member team consisted of Technical Service staff members and sales staff of Yamano Music spend one full day for inspection of guitar inventory twice a month. Individual guitars are carefully checked and warranty card is attached when they are dispatched to dealers. Approximately 20% to 30% of the guitars are sent back to experts for more detailed regulation.

Manabu Tsuchiya, quality control specialist, says, "In many cases we regulate neck area and string height which determine playing feeling. What we do here is not only to deliver instruments of assured quality to customers, but also make manufacturers get feedback conditions of their products and requests if any. We believe better communication helps them develop higher quality products." The manufacturers take his comments seriously.

Fast and Meticulous After-sales Services
Yamano Technical Service provides end users with repair and maintenance services for about 700 guitars and 100 amps a month. More than half of guitar problems develop on neck area, and noise and worn out parts for amps.

Except lacquering, the company completes ordinary repair works for guitar within 2 weeks. For artists gears, Fender Showcase Tokyo provides maintenance and repair services.

The company controls customer data and services provided in books for years to avoid data entry error into computer and unexpected loss of entered data. Staff members leave slips with detailed description on damage for the instruments brought in. That is critical to prevent wrong complaints from customers after repair works are done.

It has over thousands types of replacement parts sorted out by individual brands. Sugawara says, "Customers throughout the country contact us about replacement parts, sometimes, over 30

cases a day. Many of the requests are about current models, but we can also advise them which parts were used for old and specific models. We always update stock of replacement parts as new models are announced. It's really a time-consuming work, but we know this helps win confidence of our customers."

Yamano's strict control of replacement parts is well reflected on that every pickup for replacement can only be mounted after electric inspection marked by a seal.

Users Come First
Yamano Music started distribution of Fender Guitars in Japan in 1963 as exclusive agent. Since then for nearly a half century, Yamano has successfully expanded business as a reliable partner of Fender. Yamano's stringent quality control and customer-first policy have, without doubt, raised the good relationship between the two companies.

Tsutomu Iwasaki, Sales & Marketing Manager of Yamano Music Overseas Division commented on the role of reliable product control and after-sales services for sales, "All members of Yamano Music Overseas Division and Yamano Technical Service have worked and cooperated with good communication. We understand product inspection before shipment plays an important role. Understanding specifications of individual instruments lead to improving value of what we distribute. Our mission as sole distributor is to deliver the products in best conditions to customers. We believe the services we provide will meet the requirements of Japanese customers, and increase their satisfaction."

The team work of Yamano Technical Service and Yamano Music has helped establish confidence among end users for the manufacturers and their brand names.