Sennheiser's Legacy Heard Around The World

This past week saw the passing of a man whose name is practically synonymous with the word microphone. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, founder of the famed German electronics company, died this past week at the age of 98. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Jim Anderson from the Audio Engineering Society about Sennheiser's legacy.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

I'm speaking to you now through a microphone with a very famous name emblazoned on its side: Sennheiser - an MKH-40, to be exact. Broadcasters have used Sennheiser products for decades, ever since the family-owned company was founded in 1945. This past week, founder Fritz Sennheiser died at the age of 98.

Jim Anderson is a member and past president of the Audio Engineering Society. He's attending its annual convention this weekend in London, and he's in our studio there. Welcome to the program, Jim.

Mr. JIM ANDERSON (Member, Former President, Audio Engineering Society): Thank you, Liane.

HANSEN: Tell us more about Dr. Sennheiser. First of all, his legacy - I mean, I'm looking at right now while I speak to you - in the world of sound recording.

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, you know, I was thinking about it where if the average person, if you go to a theater, they're probably not aware that the microphones, the lavalier microphones theyd be using are probably Sennheiser microphones. If they're using assisted listening, it's probably very likely a Sennheiser device. If you're listening to recordings, a record or the radio, you know, very likely, again, Sennheiser microphones are being used at some aspect. And even in film, the dialogue pickup could very well be used in a Sennheiser shotgun.

HANSEN: Tell us about that. I mean, that was one of his biggest innovations, what we call the shotgun mic.

Mr. ANDERSON: It's very difficult to actually create a microphone that has high directionality. And they were one of the originators of a highly directional microphone, like a pin spot practically.

HANSEN: And that was in the '50s.

Mr. ANDERSON: It was, right.

HANSEN: And he was also, I understand, a kind of modest guy.

Mr. ANDERSON: Very modest. You know, he really at first wanted to be a landscape architect. You know, I think of his passing as the passing of a generation. You know, if you think about, he was part of the big three. If you think of Eugene Beyer from Beyerdynamic, and Georg Neumann from Neumann Microphones. You know, these were companies that were based on individuals. And this is, I believe, the last one left of that generation.

HANSEN: Sure. And in Sennheiser's family, who's running the show?

Mr. ANDERSON: Jorg, his song, Jorg Sennheiser is now - he took the reigns in 1982. You know, the one thing that's nice about the Audio Engineering Society Convention is you never know who you're going to bump into. And it was 2004, I was at the Sennheiser booth and who's there but Fritz Sennheiser, and we ended up having a discussion about microphone design.

HANSEN: Wow. He was at the convention, a lifetime achievement award in 2002.

Mr. ANDERSON: Mm-hum.

HANSEN: And this year, I mean, his death must be the buzz. Are there any plans to honor him?

Mr. ANDERSON: We will be saying some very nice words, probably, at the AES banquet.

HANSEN: Jim Anderson is past president of the Audio Engineering Society. He's remembering Fritz Sennheiser for us. Jim joined us from London. Jim, thanks a lot.

Mr. ANDERSON: You're very welcome, Liane.

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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