Milestones

Oct 1, 2000 12:00 PM, GEORGE PETERSEN

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25 YEARS OF INNOVATION AT NEUTRIK In 1975, Bernard Weingartner founded Neutrik with two employees in a barn in Liechtenstein - a small country that's about the land area of Washington, D.C., and bordered by Switzerland and Austria. Still based in Liechtenstein (a half-hour drive from Zurich), Neutrik outgrew its barn headquarters long ago and today is a major supplier of connectors, cables, patch assemblies and test gear for the professional audio industries.

Formerly with AKG, Weingartner developed the successful CMS (Condenser Microphone Modular Series), combining interchangeable capsules with the C-451E preamplifier body. He also worked on the classic C-414 mic, the first plastic artificial head mic and AKG's reverb products. Despite his long tenure with AKG, Weingartner decided to try something outside audio and took a job with Liechtenstein-based Hilti, a leading maker of demolition tools and air drills for mining and construction.

Weingartner never lost his love for audio, and eventually he left Hilti to form Neutrik. Around 1973-74, the XLR was gaining popularity as a mic connector in Europe, though no European companies were building them. Weingartner seized the opportunity, and with one 5,000-XLR order for a large broadcast supplier, Neutrik was born. Early on, Weingartner used the concept of a drill chuck (thanks to his engineering days at Hilti) to create his first XLR, where tightening a threaded rear cover bears down on a three-sided strain relief to hold cables securely in place. Another Neutrik innovation was screwless XLRs, which simplified assembly while eliminating the problem of connector failure due to lost screws in the field.

A few years later, Neutrik expanded into test gear. Its 1977 AudioTracer frequency response chart recorder and 1981 AudioGraph were followed by the software-based A1 and A2 analyzers and the more recent pocket-sized Minirator tone generator and Minilyzer analyzer. Earlier this year, Neutrik's electro-acoustic division became the now-independent Neutrik Test Instruments company (NTI), with the parent company focusing entirely on connection systems.

In 1987, fueled by European Union mandates regulating systems carrying more than 34 volts (i.e., pro power amp outputs), Neutrik unveiled Speakon, the first connector designed specifically for speaker cables. Now offering 2/4/8-pole versions for mono- or multi-amping, Speakon prevents arcing damage if disconnected under load and - unlike 11/44-inch and banana plugs - it is touch-proof and locks into place. Today, Speakon is the accepted standard worldwide - no easy feat in any industry.

Arguably the best RCA plug ever devised, Neutrik's ProFi features a retractable sleeve that makes ground contact before signal and, when disconnected, breaks signal before ground. Unlike other phono connectors, ProFi's "make first/break last" approach prevents noise and destroyed speaker cones when used under load.

In 1992, Neutrik debuted Combo, which puts a 11/44-inch TRS jack in the center of a female XLR receptacle. A perfect example of "why-didn't-I-think-of-that-first," Combo saves valuable real estate on today's I/O-packed gear, simplifies hookups in this pro/semipro world and costs Radio Shack millions each year in lost adapter sales. That's innovation!

In 1998, Neutrik acquired British patchbay specialists Re-An and now offers a wide array of patching systems. This year, Neutrik entered the BNC market with both traditional bayonet-twist and a clever push-pull locking version for connecting in spaces too tight for fingers to grasp.

Now, after 25 years of success, Weingartner has retired, selecting current managing director Werner Bachmann as his successor. But don't expect radical changes - Bachmann joined the company as the second employee in 1975. There's definitely a connection here.






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