THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME

Sennheiser is driven by dis­cov­ery. It’s driven by in­no­va­tion. And it’s driven by pas­sion for ex­cel­lence. Here’s how it’s shaped the fu­ture of au­dio through­out its his­tory

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Feature -

It isn’t enough to just re­pro­duce mu­sic. If you want to en­joy a his­tory as long as Sennheiser’s (the com­pany is 71 this year), you need to be able to re­pro­duce mu­sic ex­actly as the artist heard it in their head.

Part of that means know­ing how the mu­sic is pro­duced in the first place – at its cre­ation, in the studio or con­cert hall. You might know the com­pany as an Award-win­ning head­phone maker, but it started life at the other end of the sig­nal chain. Its first mi­cro­phone, 1946’s DM 1, led to a se­ries of suc­cesses in studio and mea­sur­ing equip­ment, be­fore its break­through in­ter­fer­ence tube mi­cro­phone in the early 1950s trans­formed Hol­ly­wood film and TV sets with its hyper-di­rec­tional pick-up char­ac­ter­is­tics. Since then, Sennheiser has ex­celled in pro­duc­ing studio and stage mi­cro­phones (its sis­ter com­pany, Neu­mann, makes the leg­endary U 87 con­denser mic used in top stu­dios all over the world). Cap­tur­ing sound cor­rectly the mo­ment it leaves the in­stru­ment, guitar amp or lips means the lis­tener is far more likely to hear it cor­rectly at the other end of the chain – through speak­ers or, in Sennheiser’s case, head­phones. Qual­ity in, qual­ity out, to turn a pop­u­lar phrase on its head.

The com­pany’s deep un­der­stand­ing, and mas­sive suc­cess, in those two ex­tremes (and all the points in be­tween) means that when Sennheiser says it has the vi­sion to shape the fu­ture of au­dio, it’s not kidding.

Take 1968’s HD 414 – the world’s first open-backed head­phones. They promised (and de­liv­ered) far more nat­u­ral sound than any­thing be­fore, and re­main his­tory’s best-sell­ing head­phones. Or 1975’s in­frared wire­less head­phones. Or 1991’s tube-am­pli­fier-pow­ered Or­pheus hyper-high-end head­phones. The high-end IE 800 in-ears… the list goes on.

The pur­suit of per­fect sound drives the com­pany – and creat­ing emo­tions is its goal. “We can talk about tech­nol­ogy as much as we want. The true test is whether you get goose­bumps or not,” says An­dreas Sennheiser. He, along with brother Daniel, runs the fam­ily-owned com­pany as CO-CEO to­day.

It’s just un­veiled new tech­nol­ogy that is promis­ing to be the ul­ti­mate goose-bumps-raiser. AMBEO is im­mer­sive au­dio, and it’s in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a for­mat of choice in pro­fes­sional record­ing, mixing and lis­ten­ing. As well as the stan­dard 5.1 sur­round set-up you might al­ready have at home, AMBEO uses four speak­ers placed at height to cre­ate true 9.1-chan­nel sound.

“It’s the per­fect rep­re­sen­ta­tion of re­al­ity in the au­dio spec­trum,” says Daniel Sennheiser. “It’s a jour­ney for us with artists and with our en­gi­neers to break down the per­cep­tive bar­rier be­tween what is re­al­ity and what is just re­pro­duc­tion.”

The aim is to have the speak­ers work­ing in tan­dem with your own senses – fool­ing them into think­ing that what they’re hear­ing is real ob­jects in the room with you.

“When you’re in a room, and you see a screen, you see the walls… the ef­fect is there. But if you close your eyes, sud­denly the room dis­ap­pears. It be­comes very, very large,” says Daniel.

The com­pany is de­vel­op­ing the tech­nol­ogy fur­ther. It’s work­ing with artists, record­ing stu­dios, equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers and more at all parts of the au­dio pro­duc­tion process.

Gam­ing, movies and mu­sic are all get­ting the AMBEO treat­ment. And soon, Sennheiser says, you’ll be able to get the ef­fect in a pair of head­phones.

How’s that for shap­ing the fu­ture of au­dio?

1968’s HD 414s

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