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Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser Passes Away Aged 98

Gordon Kelly


Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser Passes Away Aged 98

Sad news I'm afraid people...

Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, the German audio pioneer and founder of Sennheiser, passed away on 17 May aged 98. He had retired from Sennheiser in 1982 handing over the reins to his son Prof. Dr. sc. techn. Jörg Sennheiser and leaves behind a business with over 2,100 employees and generating revenues in excess of 385m euros.

It is all a very long way from 'Labor W', the company Sennheiser founded back in 1945 which would later bear his name. The original name came from 'Laboratorium Wennebostel', the laboratory where Sennheiser and seven fellow engineering graduates from the University of Hannover started the business just weeks after the end of World War II. To this day it remains headquartered on the outskirts of Hannover in Wedemark-Wennebostel.

"In the early years, I just wanted to make enough money with my Lab W to make sure that we could all feed our families," Sennheiser had recounted. "Later, we were virtually forced to grow in order to stay ahead of our competitors."

The first product produced by Lab W was a voltmeter, but it was the production of microphones from 1946 which saw the company flourish. Its 'MD' line of microphones was hugely popular with radio stations and the 'MD21' - made in 1953 - became the defacto reporter's microphone and is still in Sennheiser's product range today.

Sennheiser became the company's official name in 1958 as it looked to shed its single laboratory association, something that it would do anyway when it developed and successfully patented the world's first open headphones. The result was the 'HD414' (pictured) which still sells by the bucket load.

“The success of the HD 414 came as quite a surprise, and when manufacturers from all over the world started to sign licensing agreements with us for our patent on the 'open headphones', things really started to get interesting", admitted Sennheiser. The rest is history.

"Our engineers have always been given a lot of freedom," he explained. "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."

Sennheiser maintained close links with the company after his retirement and still attended shareholder meetings and visited factories and offices. "For me, money was always just figures to calculate with," he had always insisted.

You will be missed sir...




May 19, 2010, 9:22 pm

Very sad indeed. Oddly enough, I was listening to my Sennheiser HD595s as I came across this story.

Still, a grand old age to pass away, may he rest in peace.


May 19, 2010, 9:52 pm

I have owned numerous pairs of Sennheiser headphones over the years and recently bought a wireless pair for the TV, excellent they are to. He is testament to how innovation when combined with good business acumen can achieve great things. The World needs more like him, particularly at the moment.


May 19, 2010, 10:24 pm

98 - a good innings indeed, rest in peace. "passed away on 17 March aged 98" - simple typo - but May not March ;)


May 19, 2010, 10:26 pm

@nirelandman - it is indeed and thanks, good spot. Fixed.


May 19, 2010, 11:03 pm

Lovely piece Gordon.

I knew nothing of him, though sad it was actually uplifting news of a life well spent.

Hans Gruber

May 19, 2010, 11:42 pm

A very interesting and honourable man, thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Some more links to his story:



No doubt the audio and electronics world owes him a great debt, not to mention avionics, telecommunications and entertainment industries, academia and a few other companies like Neumann and Siemens who came to rely on him and his work. And he initially wanted to be a gardener...!


May 20, 2010, 3:42 am

I guess even I owe a debt to him - his company is the reason I enjoy excellent audio quality daily, for pocket change compared to the raft of inferior competitors' prices.

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