Design of the Year 2015
Dita The Answer Earphones
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Designer
Project Perfection Pte Ltd (Dita Audio)
Danny Tan
Desmond Tan
Darren Goh

“A mantra that we used and reminded ourselves throughout the entire process was ‘elegant simplicity, ultimate purity’.”

Dita, The Answer Earphones, says Danny Tan, was conceived as a solution to the problem of personal spaces shrinking as a result of an increasingly crowded environment. “We wanted to expand the quality of an individual’s personal space so that they could enjoy their music any time in any place. So, the brief we gave ourselves was simple: build the best device we can using the most advanced technics that is at once state-of-the-art and simple to use.”

The team – which comprised Danny Tan, Desmond Tan and Darren Goh – took an engineering approach to the design. Getting the ergonomics right was a challenge, as was the machining of the components and material selection.

The solution was found in breaking each problem down to its most minute detail. “This way,” says Danny, “we could get to the root of the problem.”

For instance, the designers insisted on using commonly available raw materials. “When used creatively, they can produce products that are best in class,” Danny explains. “It is also far easier to predict and control the manufacturing process. This, in turn, allows us to reduce unnecessary manufacturing costs.”

In the same vein, Dita, The Answer Earphones is engineered with standard multi-axis CNC machining and chemical etching to produce a consistent and durable finish.

The result is a high-fidelity earphone that is voiced with reference grade speakers to closely reproduce the tonality and dynamic impact of top-tier stereo systems. The design is packed with intuitive features, not least a tactile nub that enables left and right plugs to be easily identified in dimly lit settings like aircraft cabins, while the flight adaptor is custom-designed to work with most commercial passenger aircrafts and highlights the technical emphasis of the company.

Even the cables have been considered – not only are they weather-tested for heavy use in a tropical climate, they are oversized so as to be less prone to tangling.

What’s more, the main earphone body is flat and compact to keep the centre of gravity close to the ear. This design feature prevents the piece from losing its seal against the ear canal that would result in marginal low frequency perception. The earpieces also stay securely in place so that the user is not constantly adjusting and fiddling with them.

These are design considerations – and there are many more – that result from patient dissection of engineering problems which, in turn, are solved by original analysis. The cause is also aided by a practicality that’s based on thorough research and canvassing of all available options.

“We wanted our products to be as easy to use as possible while also balancing certain specialist technical merits,” says Danny.

From the sounds of it, he and his team have certainly achieved that objective.

ABOUT THE DESIGNER

“Our design philosophy,” says Danny Tan, co-founder and managing director at Project Perfection, “is that a design has got to work the way it’s supposed to. Every time. All the time.”

It’s a philosophy that has stood Danny and his friend and Project Perfection co-founder Desmond Tan in good stead. Dita, The Answer Earphones – their most accomplished product to date – is a pair of sleek, smartly designed earphones that have won universal approval from audiophiles around the world.

It certainly helps that the creative and commercial synergies of the founders, both self-confessed audio and music geeks, are so striking – Danny trained as a mechanical engineer at the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University, while Desmond cut his teeth in his grandfather’s high-end audio retail and distribution business.

Project Perfection was founded in 2012 with the objective of elevating the personal audio experience to “the n-th level”. This translates into a quest for no-nonsense designs that are “visually pleasing, emotionally captivating and musically satisfying”.

This explains why finding solutions is at the core of Project Perfection’s DNA. “I wasn’t schooled as a designer,” explains Danny who is also the company’s project lead. As a result, the creative and minimalistic approach he and his team take is informed by practical needs and a precise focus. “The best advice I have ever received came from design engineers. The human mind is almost limitless and there is always more than one way to solve a problem.”

It’s an approach that has helped the company expand into Shanghai to capitalise on the Mandarin-speaking market in the region, while its products are distributed across Southeast Asia, the Asia-Pacific Rim and Europe. The Singapore headquarters is housed in a fully-equipped, modern factory where prototypes are built and tested in-house, alongside experiments into the visual and sonic appeal of products.

The company is bold in its determination to build “quality products that not only sound good, but are also designed to appeal as time-tested ‘legacy’ products and to continue to push the boundaries in the practical implementation of advanced technologies”.

In that respect, Danny is aware of the impact and recognition that come with securing the President’s Design Award. “The Award is a great platform for Singaporean designers to aspire to. It’s a local award that is at once internationally recognised and has street credibility. As a Singaporean, this is something I am honoured to be a part of.”

Advice to Emerging Designers:

“Persevere. It sounds simple enough, but it’s actually harder to do. In the beginning, think of everything, down to the smallest screw. As your design progresses, start thinking bigger.”

JURY CITATION

The designer, Project Perfection, is commendably undaunted by the crowded market for earphones. Its design team has created a product that is not just meticulously designed and uncompromising in its detailing, it is also a worthy addition to this home-grown brand’s growing reputation.

The team’s passionate attention to detail is accompanied by a profound understanding of how technical and design details can enhance the user’s experience. This is evidenced by the choice of T6061 aluminium as the chassis for the speakers, the etching of the logo onto the housing, the angled nozzle for the earpiece, the thickness of the cables that lead from the housing, the step detail at the end of the plug, the nub detail on the left earphone, the sliding chin stop, and the output jack position in the aircraft adaptor.

All touch-points of the user experience have been considered, not least the oversized box that lays out the components in a beautifully graphic way, and the accompanying tote bag. Last but not least, judging by the effusive praise in consumer reviews and blogs, the all-important sound quality of the Dita, The Answer Earphones achieves the same level of excellence as the design.

NOMINATOR CITATION

Assoc Prof Song Kee Hong
Deputy Head (Administration)
Division of Industrial Design
National University of Singapore

From the perspective of industrial design and audio-technology, Dita, The Answer Earphones may well be one of the most accomplished and well-designed line of audio products ever to be created in Singapore. Since their launch, they have enjoyed great success with the international media and even sold out in some markets such as Japan – despite being priced well above the average cost of most quality earphones from established brands.

The earphones are impressive not just from the perspective of their audio quality, but also from the perspective of the whole user experience. The simple box opens to reveal a neat and well-presented array of contents. The quality of the finish, the choice of materials, manufacturing quality and the well-made accessories that come with the earphones are all exemplary. This good balance of performance and form is a case study of how a high-end product should be retailed. That it is also designed by a Singaporean company, and manufactured here is also impressive.

It is particularly encouraging that world-class products made by a small local company can have the ability to challenge giant global leaders at their game. These earphones have the credentials and capability to carry Singaporeʼs design ambitions far beyond its shores.