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In memoriam – Dr Fritz Sennheiser

At the heart of the company he founded for nearly 40 years, Sennheiser contributed to a host of landmark technological innovations, including the world's first open headphones.

The audio world has lost one of its great pioneers with news of Dr. Fritz Sennheiser’s passing, aged 98, on 17 May. The development of the first shotgun microphones and groundbreaking wireless radio systems were among the seminal projects to which Fritz Sennheiser contributed during his long and distinguished career.

Having originally considered a life in landscape gardening, Sennheiser opted to pursue his other love – electrical engineering and telecommunications – with studies at the Heinrich Hertz Institute. Early achievements during this period included the co-development of a reverberation unit deployed at the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympic Games. Subsequent to the outbreak of war, Sennheiser worked in the field of cryptography, before beginning a new lab operation that saw an initial significant sale of valve voltmeters to Siemens. Encouraged by the response, Sennheiser and his team, operating as Labor W, geared up to produce their first microphone – the MD-2.

The fledgling company developed rapidly during the 1950s, with its first compensation mic, the MD-4, among the products contributing to sales in excess of 9.9 million marks by the decade’s end. The manufacturer formally took Sennheiser’s name in 1958, presaging another exciting period of innovation that included the development of the world’s first open headphones, the HD 414.

The 1970s saw the manufacturer assuming an increasingly global profile thanks to a growing overseas sales network and high-profile live applications. Holding firm throughout to his policy of independence, Fritz retired from active service in 1982, aged 70, handing the management over to his son, Dr. Jörg Sennheiser.

“I had prepared myself for retirement,” he recalled, “although I must admit that I would have been happy to have carried on even longer, simply because I enjoyed it, and of course because we had always been successful. After all, it took me two and a half years to get used to not being able to make the decisions any longer…”

Needless to say, Fritz Sennheiser continued to take a strong interest in his company and its latest innovations and achievements. His regular appearances at shareholder meetings and Sennheiser factory facilities further consolidated his reputation for courtesy and integrity.

Dr. Fritz Sennheiser: 9 May 1912 – 17 May 2010.