Wolfgang Fraissinet, president of Neumann Berlin, has been in the pro audio business since April 1990, when he started working at Neumann. Growing up as a child in Germany, he had been trained as a musician and later on worked with his band in recording studios.
When he first joined Neumann, Fraissinet was responsible for marketing and advertising. “We changed things a lot,” he recalls. “As many people know, Neumann has been a very traditional company since it was founded in 1928, and it needed some fresh blood. So they hired me.”
Fraissinet reveals, “Before I joined the company, I was a Neumann customer and user. I think that gave me a better feeling and understanding for the needs of our customers. It is one thing to talk about technical specs and audio engineering from a manufacturer side, but a completely different thing to use these products in the world of music and see things from the perspective of the user.”
Until 1991, Neumann was an independent enterprise owned by Georg Neumann’s children and was operated as a limited company. It was then sold to Sennheiser, around the time that coincided with Germany’s reunification and the fall of the Berlin Wall. As Fraissinet points out, “When the Wall came down, basically overnight, Neumann was suddenly located right in the center of Berlin, which is perhaps not a good place to have a manufacturing site. So the company had to be split into several parts.” All the manufacturing and warehousing elements were relocated from Berlin to Sennheiser’s factory near Hanover, Germany. What remained in Berlin were the management, marketing, sales and service departments, as well as the engineering facilities.
As far as the culture of the company is concerned, Fraissinet puts it this way: “There is one sentence that Georg Neumann said as he marked the company’s 50th anniversary. In an official speech, he said, ‘Work is not just for making money, but people must also enjoy their work.’ When I got started with Neumann that is exactly what I found. Since that time, I really learned about the pride people have working at this company. It is perhaps like working not just in the automobile industry, but working at Ferrari. People are attached to the brand from the bottom of their hearts, and there is tremendous loyalty that comes from the brand Neumann. This is true not just for customers, but also the employees.”
Not surprisingly, Fraissinet notes that the biggest change in the audio industry has been the advent of digital technology. “The word ‘digital’ did not reach the world of microphones until quite recently,” he says. “We are now seeing many different kinds of companies working on digital material. This, of course, includes the broadcasters. Everybody who works in digital networks or in file-based formats, realizes that digital microphones provide much more than just a digital signal. There is an entire system of features embedded in the electronics of digital microphones, which are more commonly housed in the console.”
Another focus of the company is the output of the signal-processing chain, which is represented by a newer product group, studio monitors. “Every studio monitor that we install in the marketplace is usually for an existing Neumann customer,” Fraissinet explains. “In many cases, these users are already our customers on the microphone side, so it is an addition of our product line within the group of the same users, wherever they are in the world. Whether microphones or studio monitors, we share the same philosophy on how we define good sound in professional audio. We have a lot to offer because there are already so many proven, legendary products that have come out over the course of the company’s history. We understand our customer’s needs and listen to them very carefully. We try to provide the tools they need to be successful.”
Neumann’s studio monitor business is still developing. The company recently took over manufacturer Klein and Hummel, formerly owned by Sennheiser as a separate subsidiary, and has started to reengineer the product line and create new products. “The line will be expanded,” Fraissinet promises. “We have started with a new subwoofer, and a 2-way studio monitor. The next logical step is to come up with a 3-way monitor. We will broaden the product range to include subwoofers with bass management systems for different applications. There are many other things we are considering as well. For example, in the future, people might see a studio headphone made by Neumann Berlin.
Fraissinet also points out the impact that high-definition television has had on the industry. “High-definition TV requires much better sound than older television systems. If you are watching a tennis match on a wide screen TV for example and the ball is on the left side of the screen, you want to also hear the ball on the left side of the screen. The signal has to be much better in terms of its resolution. This is all a great opportunity for us from a technical point of view.”
Does he worry at all about competitors? Fraissinet purports, “We respect good competition and good products, wherever they come from, and try to compete with innovative solutions and pioneering audio ideas. Technical leadership is something Neumann has stood for over many decades, but we respect other technical leaders and innovators in what they are doing, and competition helps us grow. We are all helping each other to grow because perhaps we are challenging each other in a positive sense.”
Company: Georg Neumann GmbH
13403 Berlin, Germany
Tel: +49 (30) 41 77 24-0
Fax: +49 (30) 41 77 24-50