As an eleven-year-old boy, I witnessed the introduction of the radio. I built my own receiver out of the simplest of components: a slide coil, a tungsten tip, a crystal and a 20-metre-long radio frequency antenna.
–Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser.
Even as a young child, Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser was drawn to the science of sound and its power to move people emotionally.
The company he founded in 1945, Sennheiser, has advocated these two pillars throughout its 68 year history by developing a range of audio products rich in both innovative technology and a plutonic adoration of sound.
Sennheiser was founded as Laboratorium Wennebostel (Labor W) from the quarters of a half-timbered house in Germany.
At the time, Prof. Dr. Sennheiser led seven studious employees, each driven by a desire to produce quality products.
The company’s first invention was a voltmeter, but their focus quickly progressed to microphones with the introduction of the DM1 and DM2. A rapid succession of successful products followed and by 1955, the company had 250 employees.
Two years later in 1957, Sennheiser wowed the public with the first wireless microphone:
“There was some nice free publicity for us on television involving a sketch by the famous German TV presenter Peter Frankenfeld,” began Prof. Dr. Sennheiser. “He had a wireless microphone with a long cable attached. While he was telling his jokes, he kept getting tangled up in the cable. So he picked up a pair of scissors and cut the cable – and carried on with the show! Of course, everybody was talking about this new microphone afterwards, and that helped us a lot.”
In 1968 Sennheiser introduced an innovation that “significantly revolutionised the headphones industry.” In a time where headphones were big, clunky and uncomfortable contraptions, one Sennheiser engineer realised sound quality would be improved by keeping the back opened, which in turn would also make them lighter and smaller. It was a simple revelation which led to the development of Sennheiser’s HD 414, the world’s first “open aire” headphones. Sennheiser sold 10 million HD 414s, making them the best-selling quality headphones of all time.
As the decades passed, Sennheiser continued to influence the soundscape: they introduced infrared transmission technology in the seventies, multichannel cordless transmission in the eighties and head related sound systems in the nineties.
“Our engineers have always been given a lot of freedom. They are allowed to give free rein to their creative ideas, no matter how crazy they might seem. Often, it is these very ideas that result in the best developments and the best products.
“Any reservations expressed by financial managers who first of all had an eye on profit were thus reliably dispersed. After all, a company doesn’t only sell products but primarily sells ideas.”
Today Sennheiser has 2,100 zealous employees working in more than 90 countries. They have “the world’s most modern production line” and they continue to shape “the audio world of tomorrow.” To do so they’ve formed Sennheiser Innovation AG; an arm dedicated to inspiring the future of audio by hypothesising the trends to come in five to fifteen years’ time.