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Mix Interview: Sennheiser Sharpens Focus on Pro Business

Sennheiser Group co-CEOs Andreas and Daniel Sennheiser sit down with Mix to discuss handing off their consumer business to Sonova—and what comes next.

Sennheiser Group co-CEOs Daniel (left) and Andreas Sennheiser.
Sennheiser Group co-CEOs Daniel (left) and Andreas Sennheiser.

New York, NY (March 4, 2022)—Only a year ago, Sennheiser co-CEOs Andreas and Daniel Sennheiser announced the company was searching for a new corporate partner to take over its Consumer Electronics division. Hearing solution provider Sonova eventually took on that challenge, and with the Consumer division’s transfer now complete as of March 1, 2022, the Sennheisers tell Mix they are looking ahead to their company’s next stage.

“After more than 50 years of having a combined consumer and pro business, we are now in the situation where we can fully focus all our efforts, energy, funds and competencies on the pro business,” said Andreas Sennheiser. “In the pro business, we have three business units—Business Communication, Pro Audio, and Neumann, which is a separate brand. In all those areas, we see significant growth potential, beyond the market average. We’ve gone through a process where we’ve really questioned a lot and reorganized the company to lay the foundation for that future success. We developed strategies for all the business units individually and identified their requirements for future growth, so we’re now ready to accelerate that growth on the pro side.”

As it happens, outside of the consumer division transfer, 2021 was a strong but challenging year for the company. “It was very difficult to plan,” confirmed Daniel Sennheiser, “and as a result, we had to be very agile in how we reacted. Coming out of 2020, we already had some quite cautious plans, but saw a rather quick recovery on the consumer side—and a shift on the pro audio side. Everything that was for live performance and music on stage was down significantly. On the other hand, we saw that audio for video, and especially wired microphones, went up significantly. That was also true for Neumann, where we saw strong growth because artists went to their studios and purchased good equipment to produce new content for streaming, for hybrid solutions, and just for production. It was a significant shift in the profile of our business, but we were able to accommodate that.”

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The pandemic has created more demand for business communications gear than ever before as companies look to accommodate both in-office and work-at-home employees. With that in mind, the Sennheiser group aims to capture more of that marketplace.

“We see [our Business Communications division] experiencing continuous growth for the next few years, for multiple reasons,” said Andreas Sennheiser. “The first is that the market grew faster last year than we could deliver, so we are increasing our production capacities internally in order to cater for what’s needed in the market. And second, the two areas that we will be focusing on the most [are] universities and corporate meeting rooms, which will continue to have hybrid meetings. The need for the right solutions for people in the office and others at home will continue and even increase, therefore we see that the strong growth that started with the pandemic will continue, because it’s become the new normal.”

Daniel Sennheiser cited the company’s touchless ceiling microphones as a successful product category for the division last year—one that proved instructive for mapping out its future. Andreas Sennheiser expanded on that, noting, “Our technology and our competency matter most in the areas where we play—so the example of the dynamic beamforming in our ceiling microphone, that’s a technology which integrates so well into, say, a Microsoft Teams or Zoom environment. It gives so much value-add that you can roam around the room freely without losing any speech intelligibility, so we actually have a competitive edge with our products that allows us to grow over market average [and] we’ll focus on adding parts of the whole production chain…in BizCom, where we plan to bring out new products which cover more of the entire solution for the customer than what we have right now.”

Sennheiser’s burgeoning AMBEO spatial audio tools program is still under development as well, the CEOs report. While one aim is to get the technology into the automotive field (“It’s not in a production car yet, but we’re getting closer and closer to that,” said Daniel Sennheiser), the company is also eyeing content creators venturing into interactive or spatial audio content, as well as Business Communications applications. “There’s a great opportunity for combining the intelligence of our microphones with the right sound rendering to give people a much more immersive feeling of being part of a conference,” said Andreas Sennheiser.

With the Consumer Electronics division now handed off, the Sennheiser Group plans to use its freed-up resources to focus on more than just new products and growth, as the co-CEOs say they plan to make “significant investments in one of our core competencies—being able to develop our core components ourselves. [There will be] investment in new competencies and more people…to manufacture the core components, particularly the higher-end products, all in-house ourselves,” said Andreas Sennheiser. Simultaneously, they plan for a renewed investment and expansion in the Group’s worldwide service and support network. He concluded, “It’s really important that we are strengthening the areas where we are already strong, as the key growth driver for all three business units.”