Old Lyme, CT -- Germany has experienced social and technical change on a major scale since WWII. One company that has experienced and contributed to this transformation is Sennheiser, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. From its humble beginnings in a former university laboratory with a team of only seven to the global corporation with a workforce of more than 1,600 that it is today, Sennheiser has made a name for itself in the manufacture of microphones, RF wireless technology and headphones. Today, the Sennheiser Group is comprised of 11 subsidiaries around the world as well as the Denmark-based joint venture Sennheiser Communications A/S.
Even with its global presence, Sennheiser remains a family-owned company. At the head of the organization are 93-year-old founder Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, chairman of the supervisory board Prof. Dr. Jörg Sennheiser, Karin Sennheiser and the third Sennheiser generation.
The company got its start building millivolt meters from stock left by occupying forces after WWII. In selling these to the technical office of Siemens in Hanover, Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser changed the pro audio industry forever when he accepted the challenge of building microphones for Siemens. Sennheiser's team began its study of microphone technology theory, and in 1947 the company presented its very first microphone, the MD 2.
"Very few people in the industry today were there 60 years ago," observed John Falcone, president and CEO of Sennheiser Electronic Corporation. "But if you look at the industry over a long period of time, most of the people who are still here started their companies more out of passion than simply having a plan for getting rich quick."
Sennheiser's first innovations led to a chain of technology development that has carried the company into the pro audio market we know today. "The work they did with wireless transmission led to the wireless microphone genesis that happened in the '50s, driven mostly by the advent of television," explained Jeff Alexander, Sennheiser vice president of sales, professional products. "Sennheiser was really the first innovator of wireless transmission, and a lot of the products that we see in the marketplace today are offshoots and enhancements of Sennheiser's early work."
From the beginning, Sennheiser has made a significant investment in research and development. "The courage and inspiration that Fritz Sennheiser exhibited back in the '40s and early '50s is still a part of the overall Sennheiser ethos," Alexander said.
Today, innovation in the way business is done can be as important as product development. "In the installed sound market, and probably every market we serve, everybody is looking for things to be simplified," Falcone said. "So we're working hard to be a solution provider, and that extends to the additional product lines that we've added at a local level. While organizationally we are a company that's involved with headphones and microphones, we're also bringing in products like Australian Monitor power amplifiers, or Turbosound loudspeakers so that we can offer a complete audio system."
Even with its multi-faceted distribution operation in the U.S. market, Sennheiser is one of few audio companies to remain autonomous over the years, and Falcone sites this as part of the foundation for the company's success. "As a family-owned company we're not doing things for the next quarterly earnings forecast, we're doing things that make good sense long-term," he said. The majority of Sennheiser products are still manufactured in Wedemark, Germany. There's a loyalty to the community and to the country, and that in turn begets loyalty."
1947 Then known as Labor W, the fledgling company expands its measuring instruments and microphones portfolio to include amplifiers, staff locator systems, duplex intercom systems, geophones, microphone transformers and magnetic head-phone capsules
1953 Development of the MD 21 microphone, still manufactured today
1956 The MD 82 'tele-microphone' was the first microphone that was able to pick up sound at great distances
1958 Labor W renamed Sennheiser electronic
1961 First radio frequency condenser microphones
1968 World's first open headphones (HD 414), (shown) launch of the first professional condenser clip-on microphone, the MK 12
1976 Dr. Jörg Sennheiser, Fritz's son, becomes technical director
1975 First cordless headphones
1978 First multi-channel rack receiver, the EM 1026
1982 The SKM 4031 TV handheld transmitter, which lay the foundation for Sennheiser RF wireless systems
1988 PLL synthesizer technology introduced, allowing wireless systems to transmit even more precisely and making them even more agile in changing frequencies, making applications with a large number of wireless microphones possible
1991 Sennheiser acquires Georg Neumann GmbH
1993 Launch of SKM 5000 wireless microphone
1995 First RF wireless headphones
1998 Launch of the evolution microphone series marks company's return to the MI business; world's first RF wireless stethoset headphones
2000 First studio condenser microphone to fully utilize the wider frequency range of the new digital audio formats with only one transducer, MKH 800
2001 guidePORT visitor information system introduced
2002 Sennheiser/Neumann SKM 5000 N/KK 105 S RF wireless microphone
2003 Sennheiser Communications A/S joint venture founded
2005 Klein + Hummel loudspeakers join Sennheiser Group