Sennheiser founder dies, aged 98

Andrew EverardWed 19th May 2010
Prof Dr Dritz Sennheiser

Prof Dr Fritz Sennheiser founded the audio company bearing his name in 1945

The death has been announced of Prof Dr Fritz Sennheiser, who founded the audio company bearing his name in 1945. Prof Dr Sennheiser passed away on the evening of May 17, just a few days after his 98th birthday.

When he left school, Sennheiser hoped to become a landscape gardener, but the depression in Germany forced him to decide in favour of what he called his 'second love'.

'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,' he recalled, and as result of this he studied electrical engineering, specialising in telecommunications, at the Technical University in Berlin.

At the Heinrich Hertz Institute he and his fellow students helped develop a reverberation unit that was used at the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, using a modified grand piano: used with an electric organ at the Olympic Stadium, it made music sound as if it was being played in a huge church.

He worked in cryptography and encoded radio transmissions during the Second World War, and founded his company in Wennebostel in 1945, with seven fellow wartime workers, as Labor W. They started out making valve voltmeters, moving on to microphones and later headphones.

The company made its first wireless microphone system in 1957, and later developed the famous and innovative open-backed headphones: the latest version of its original HD414 is still a best-seller.

In 1982, aged 70, Fritz handed over control of the company, which now employs 2100 people, to his son, Prof. Dr. sc. techn. Jörg Sennheiser. He later joked that 'it took me two and a half years to get used to not being able to make the decisions any longer…'

Andrew Everard

Andrew Everard, Audio Editor of Gramophone since November 1999, read English at Queens' College, Cambridge a very long time ago, and was a member of the Westminster Abbey Special Choir even further back in the mists of time. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, High Fidelity, Audiophile and Home Cinema magazines, as well as contributing a monthly column to Japanese title HiVi.

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