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Sennheiser Celebrates 50 Years of Wireless Microphones

Sennheiser reports that the year 2007 marks 50 years since the company introduced its first wireless product. Sennheiser’s first transmitter (pictured), created in 1957, required a tube and several batteries to operate. As a result, it had a short life span and was replaced in 1958 by the SK 1002 pocket transmitter, which was considerably smaller thanks to its use of transistors. Around the time of its launch, Sennheiser teamed with Telefunken to create wireless microphones under the brand name Mikroport, which transmitted on two channels licensed by the German postal authorities.

“The story of our wireless microphones has been dictated by the evolving needs of our customers,” explains Professor Dr. Jörg Sennheiser, “and because our wireless products were so quickly embraced by the broadcasting community, their needs play a prominent role in the story.”

Sennheiser SK 1008

In 1962, Sennheiser introduced the SK 1004 and the Mikroport Junior, which allowed users to listen to their own wireless transmissions live over a normal UKW radio. In the late 1960s, the SK 1008, a transmitter with a plug-on microphone head, and the small MKH 124/125, an RF condenser microphone with a frequency response of 20 to 20k Hz, were both used on countless TV shows. In the late 1970s, Sennheiser introduced its first modular rackmount receiver, the EM 1026, which housed up to six receiver modules.

Also in the late 1970s, Sennheiser engineered HiDyn, a proprietary compander system. HiDyn technology found its first use in the SK 1012 transmitter, which was used in every segment of the broadcasting industry.

In the 1980s, UHF broadcasting made wireless audio transmissions dramatically more robust. In 1982 and 1983 Sennheiser developed the SKM 4031 TV handheld transmitter, the SK 2012 TV pocket transmitter, the EM 1036 TV receiver system and the EK 2012 TV mini receiver. In 1987, Sennheiser engineers developed remote computer monitoring for the EM 1036, the first of its kind. It allowed sound engineers to control and monitor all-important transmitter and receiver parameters on a single computer.

Sennheiser SKM 5000

In 1988, the SER 20 reporting transmitter was the first Sennheiser product to make use of new PLL synthesizer technology. It allowed Mikroport to be used in the UHF frequency band with complete flexibility and meant that large wireless multichannel microphone systems could be created without interference. In the early 1990s, Sennheiser introduced the SKM 5000 handheld transmitter, the SK 50 and SK 250 bodypack transmitters, and the modular receiver system EM 1046, later renamed the 5000 Series. HiDyn plus technology further enhanced noise suppression.

In 1999, Sennheiser created the Evolution Wireless Series. In 2001, the SK 5012 bodypack transmitter was introduced. In 2002, Sennheiser teamed with studio microphone expert Georg Neumann to create the SKM 5000 N for concert stages, which combined a Sennheiser transmitter with a Neumann capsule.

“It would be great if we could simply enjoy this wireless anniversary and our top new products, but all of our success has been placed in jeopardy by the impending sell-off of UHF spectrum,” says Volker Bartels, Speaker of the Sennheiser Executive Committee. “If a spectrum isn’t reserved for wireless microphones, the consequences for the whole entertainment sector will be disastrous. It will spell the end of lavish stage shows, major productions, concert tours and musicals. Complete freedom of movement on stage—as made possible by wireless microphones and wireless monitoring—will be a thing of the past. But I’m an optimist. I think that everyone involved can reach a sensible solution together, with our pioneering RF technology guaranteeing breathtaking stage shows for the future.”

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