Wolfgang Fraissinet has worked for Neumann since 1990, yet his involvement in music and sound has been a lifelong journey. Learning how to play piano starting at nearly seven years old, his passion for music, both a player and a musician’s advocate, continues in his work today.
“I have always been enthusiastic about music in different aspects, and also from various points of view,” explains Fraissinet. “I studied the first three years with private piano teachers and then at the Berlin Conservatory for some time. When I got older, I sometimes played in bands and became closer to pro-audio equipment, since I was using Neumann and other microphones in the studio and on the stage. Since I started my work with Neumann and Sennheiser, I became close with many musicians, producers, songwriters and artists from the international music industry. I have always enjoyed this creative part of my job as much as the business side of it.”
Fraissinet enjoys creating so much that, since 2005, he has produced music, too. “This kind of creative work and activity influences my work because it enables me to understand the mental and practical interaction between musicians using our products and other pro-audio technology, in light of the more technical point of view from the engineers who design the product itself. A very important part of my job is to ‘listen’ to pro-audio users—both from a technical and creative perspective—and understand their interactions with our products. There are many things we can see via measurable numbers or digits, but there is much more that can be conveyed between the lines when you listen to the creative people in the music market.”
Georg Neumann GmbH is headquartered in the center of Berlin, while its parent company, Sennheiser Electronic GmbH & Co.KG, is headquartered near the city of Hanover, Germany. Neumann became part of the Sennheiser group in 1991. “The Neumann Headquarters in Berlin consists of the Neumann engineering team and our central service facilities,” offers Fraissinet, which include a measurement center with a brand-new anechoic chamber and a mechanical precision center for individual components. The Berlin headquarters is also where Neumann’s general management, market communications, sales and marketing, product management and international business development practices are located.
A second group of engineers for Neumann’s studio monitors is located in Hanover, and all Neumann microphones are made in Germany. “Our studio monitors are manufactured at the Sennheiser factory in Tullamore, Ireland,” Fraissinet says. “Meanwhile, our sales structure is laid out on a global level through our worldwide network of Sennheiser subsidiaries and our dedicated sales staff in the various countries.”
As Neumann is a longstanding presence in pro audio, moving alongside changes in the musical landscape has kept the company at the forefront of the business. “Neumann has gone through several technological phases in the pro-audio industry, with the microphone, our disc cutting lathe systems, and on through the decades of mixing consoles and desks for the recording industry,” recalls Fraissinet. “Today, we see the change from analog to digital signal processing wherever we go. Whereas the market consisted primarily of sound productions taking place in professional recording studios, stages and broadcasting facilities before, now it is emerging into an area where content can be created, recorded and distributed from virtually anyplace with an internet connection. Many recordings are now done with smartphones, tablets and other devices in home environments such as the living room. As a result, Neumann is becoming closer to the ‘prosumer’ market, creating consumer-related versions of our products, all while retaining relationships with our professional user base. This is changing the way we communicate with our various customer groups, and the reason why we introduced the Neumann Home Studio Academy for audio educational purposes. Meanwhile, the logical consequence on the product development side is that we are adding new products and services to our existing product portfolio to meet the needs of these users and customers.”
According to Fraissinet, the combined culture of Sennheiser and Neumann is driven by a desire to balance customer service and innovation—such as the burgeoning immersive sound marketplace—while also providing the premium product and technical solutions to the audio industry. “My attention is focused on staying in touch with both our professional and new user groups,” he explains. “We strive to understand our customers’ current and future needs in the recording industry, and this gives us broader perspective on new developments and trends in the audio industry. The combined strength of the Neumann and Sennheiser brands is a very powerful, energetic and innovative resource when it comes to introducing new solutions into the world of 3D Audio and the world of immersive sound. Sennheiser refers to this particular field of creativity and its related products and solutions as AMBEO.”
Growth at Neumann and Sennheiser means recognizing both emerging markets and the movements of competitors, and Fraissinet is tuned in. “We are growing our business in many different countries, and this year, the EMEA region is very strong,” he explains. “We are also seeing very good potential and strong business development prospects for our business in APAC as well as in the Americas. Our Neumann studio monitor line-up is experiencing strong year-over-year growth, and according to the very positive feedback from the market, this is likely to continue in 2017. Like our competitors, we are always carefully watching the market and closely monitoring our existing and new target groups. We are constantly seeking out the needs of our customers, and of course, we are on a constant learning curve with new workflows in all parts of our industry.”
What does the immediate future hold for a Fraissinet-led Neumann? “There are several fields we are currently focused on,” he offers. “One of the most relevant fields of action is the world of virtual reality and immersive audio. Right now, we are starting deliveries of our newest VR microphone, which has already been recognized at this year’s CES in Las Vegas and in other events for its level of innovation and uniqueness in the current field of international microphone technology. We will add more solutions, products and a new DSP functionality to our entire range of Neumann studio monitor systems in the near future. The next new Neumann studio monitor will be the KH 80, which we will be showing this at the NAMM Show in Anaheim this month.”