“After the end of World War II our grandfather sat in a farmhouse here in Wedemark near Hanover. He and his fifteen colleagues moved here with the Institute of Vibration Engineering and they had to think about how to feed their families. As they did not receive money for research any longer, they started building measuring devices such as voltmeters from the available materials,” he said.
“Soon they also built microphones because the institute of vibration engineering naturally had to deal with all kind of waves, including sound waves. Our grandfather and his colleagues gained a good reputation by developing the microphone ever further.”
It wasn’t until the 1950s that stereo headphones, which had previously only been used by the German air force during WWII, started to be used for music. In 1958 the Kloss SP-3 became the first commercially available stereo headphones, which changed how people listened to music forever.
In 1968 Sennheiser invented the first pair of open headphones, the HD 414, which Dr. Sennheiser credits for starting the portable music revolution.
“In the 1980s listening to music became mobile with the Walkman; this was only possible because of Sennheiser’s invention of open headphones,” he said.
“iPods and smartphones brought the second wave of mobility. Now we have the third wave where everything is only connected via Bluetooth and software plays a crucial role.”
To celebrate its 75th anniversary this year, Sennheiser is releasing a special edition of its current monitoring headphones, the HD 25, with yellow ear cups to evoke memories of the HD 414.
Nowadays completely wireless, noise cancelling earbuds are at the forefront. The first noise cancelling headphones were introduced in 1986, invented by Bose for pilots. Sennheiser followed with their own version in 1987 for Lufthansa. Twelve years later, Bluetooth was unleashed upon the world and changed the game for wireless headphones.
By 2014 we had the first true wireless earbuds, Motorola Hint, which were released to lukewarm reviews. True wireless headphones that could play music got a warmer reception in 2015.
While most people are looking to true wireless as the future of audio, and while Sennheiser produces its own with the Momentum, Dr. Sennheiser is keeping his eyes firmly on objects.
“The audio world will be a lot about object-based formats in the future. This means that we place audio objects virtually in a room and rely less on predefined formats,” he said.
“This is relevant in the field of music and also in other application fields such as virtual meetings.”
Alice is a freelance journalist, producer and presenter.