From a "kitchen-table startup" to one of the largest and most successful pro-audio companies in the World.
3,000 MUSIC Group People That Are Incredibly Passionate to Build Your Quality Product
The BEHRINGER Story
From a "kitchen-table startup" to one of the largest and most successful pro-audio companies in the World.
It all started in 1989 on my kitchen table and I would have never thought that the “one-man kitchen-table startup” would develop into one of the largest and most successful pro-audio companies in the world.
But whenever you celebrate you have to remember the people who have helped you get there as success is always a team effort.
First and foremost I would like to thank our employees who are the most phenomenal, dedicated and passionate people I have ever met in my life. Many of them have stayed with us for over 20 years and my heartfelt gratitude goes out to all of our 3,500 people. Thank you guys and let’s make this an even better place. The best is yet to come. :)
But I also want to thank You, our customer. You are the most important part of our Company and I want to thank you for supporting us for all these years. By buying our products you have not only helped us build this Company but also enabled other musicians to acquire affordable equipment. You are the real reason for BEHRINGER’s success and hence it is my personal goal to build an even closer relationship with you.
How Did it All Start?
I’d like to take this opportunity to share a little history with you. I was born 1961 in Baden, a tiny little town in Switzerland close to Zurich. I grew up in a musical family where my mother taught me to play the piano at the age of four. Her motivational skills were pretty impressive as she figured out that I would practice harder if she would feed me a grape for each scale I played on the piano. Later we upgraded to a piece of chocolate for each scale. My piano teacher quickly discovered that I had perfect pitch and gave me the nick name “The Ear” - the symbol that later became our company logo. My father was a nuclear physicist and church organ player who built the world’s first electronically controlled pipe organ in 1966. I was able to watch my father build this 1000-pipe monster in our house and every Sunday he would entertain our neighbors, whether they liked the music or not.
In my early years I repaired basically anything from coffee makers to TV sets in our neighborhood and established a pretty professional repair shop in my bedroom; though my mother was not too excited about the solder residue that got burnt into the carpet. Later I stepped up to build my own synthesizer at the age of 16 which sadly never made it into mass production (maybe it's better that way).
"Can You Please Stop Playing the Piano?"
Obviously both music and electronics inspired me to later study classical piano as well as sound engineering. In 1982 I moved to Dusseldorf, Germany to take up piano studies at the Robert Schumann Conservatory as well as Sound Engineering at the Fachhochschule.
During my early years in Dusseldorf I was extremely passionate about playing piano and I practised up to 6 hours a day, simply with the goal to become the best pianist I could. One day I walked into a jazz club called Front Page where the owner Harald Rehbock sang the whole Sinatra repertoire. The place was also a mecca for all working musicians and I was so fascinated about the music, that I brought my cassette player with me, recorded all of the songs over several nights and practiced non-stop. After three months, I got the job. Harald's passion for Sinatra was truly inspiring and it went so far that he would use the same microphone brand as "Old Blue Eyes" as well as sip the same whiskey. I played at the Front Page for several years, often 4 nights a week while studying at the same time. I greatly enjoyed these years but I also got to know the tough life of a working musician as sleep became a luxury.
One day I played at a hotel lounge as a substitute for another pianist. At the peak of my musical career I was extremely excited to play any song a customer would request. One of the guests walked over and put $50 on the piano. "Can I request something?" he asked, "can you please stop playing the piano?"
I left the money on the piano and walked out of the hotel, never to return. I knew this was not the career I wanted to pursue and it was time to shift focus in my life.
All My Friends Faced the Same Dilemma
At the university where I studied, we had exactly two microphones for over 100 students and one had to queue up for several months just to be able to use them. The mixing console and tape machines were under “constant maintenance” and made by a company called Telefunken, a brand which you can only find in museums nowadays.
I realized that it was simply impossible to become a Sound Engineer without having my own studio.
I desperately wanted to have my own equipment but as a student I couldn't afford to establish my own recording studio. One day I opened up a signal processor of an established brand and I realized that despite a selling price of $1,000 the components inside were just worth $100. It was then that I started to design equipment; initially for myself, but surprisingly I had immediately sold ten pieces to my friends and fellow musicians before I had even built them. I discovered that all of my musician friends faced the same dilemma. There was simply a tremendous need for good and affordable sound equipment.
A Personal Mission
It became my personal mission and later the Company’s philosophy to provide professional products at prices every musician could afford. This formed the BEHRINGER mantra “Double the Features at Half the Price” which literally created a new “Prosumer” or home-recording market that had not existed before.
Over all these years we relentlessly invested in the best people, infrastructure and quality systems. Just look at our immense investments in MUSIC Group City, in over 250 R&D engineers, in cutting-edge infrastructure, and in the best manufacturing equipment and you will understand that BEHRINGER has become a truly industry-leading enterprise.
But I have never forgotten where it all started and why we are in business. Over the past twenty-plus years we have received countless letters from musicians who thanked us for helping them to become a musician or recording artist because of our affordable equipment.
This still is the major motivation to keep us going.
An Amazing Journey That Has Kept Me in Asia for 20 Years
Once I had set my mission to provide professional products at affordable prices, I realized that Europe was not the right place for manufacturing. I knew that most electronic components were coming from Chinese vendors and the cost of manufacturing in China was significantly lower than in Europe. It only made sense to get the production process as close as possible to the source of materials and labor. In 1990 I flew to Hong Kong to look for a contract manufacturer and was impressed that every question was answered with “mo mantai” which means “no problem”. Of course I quickly learned that these statements had little meaning and this was the beginning of an amazing journey that has kept me in Asia for more than 20 years. We started working with contract manufacturers but it became clear that it was impossible to manage a relationship from a distance of 10,000 miles. While samples appeared perfect, we often received containers full of lemons.
In 1997, I decided to relocate to Hong Kong in order to be close to the action as I realized that you can't run a business by fax. We opened an office to engage in sourcing as well as managing our contract manufacturers. Over the next few years we realized that it was impossible to manage contract manufacturers as quality and delivery was a constant problem. Attempts to improve manufacturing standards lasted only for the short period of the factory visit. One has to accept that contract manufacturers have agendas other than those of their clients, including switching client priorities or cutting corners on components simply to maximize profit. There is a general conflict of interest.
MUSIC Group City was Born
In 2002 we finally decided to establish our own manufacturing facility in China which marked another milestone in our Company’s history. To describe all the challenges we faced in China would fill a book, and many books have been written on exactly that topic! If I had to put my experience into one sentence I would say: “If you don’t totally understand the Chinese culture you won’t succeed”. It has taken me twenty years to fully understand, respect and embrace the culture and its people.
We have incredibly motivated and hard-working employees in China that I am very proud of. These are the people who take great pride in assembling your BEHRINGER product.
In addition to the equipment we manufacture, we now produce many of our own internal components such as our speakers down the pulp for the speaker cones. In the relentless pursuit of quality we even hand-sort through massive shipments of vacuum tubes to test and match them so that every amplifier that uses those tubes sounds the same.
We do this because two things matter to us most – achieving the highest possible quality and lowest possible cost so you can enjoy an incredible product that does not break the bank. In fact I always encourage you to do a simple blind test and put our products next to ones that cost 10 times the price - just listen and judge for yourself.
By making this fundamental and substantial investment in “MUSIC Group City”, our state-of-the-art factory in Zhongshan (Guangdong province), we have now achieved total control over processes as well as aligning all employees to share the same goals and values.
This makes all the difference as we no longer rely on subcontractors and thereby control our own destiny, which gives us a tremendous quality and consistency advantage over our competitors. We go to these efforts because we want you to enjoy every single BEHRINGER product that you use.
100,000 Volts of Motivation
There are incredible initiatives ongoing in BEHRINGER and the MUSIC Group overall, and we will continue to lead the industry. Our aim is to constantly provide better products, better services and once again, we’re heavily investing in R&D and have just opened two new high-tech RnD centers in China and the UK. Our focus is to create value-added products by investing in new technologies, and for this purpose we are hiring the best engineers we can get - everyone is welcome to apply. :)
But the project I am most excited about is called “MUSIC Group University”, where we are providing E-Learning tools so our employees can study even from home to help them build careers within the Company. Whether people want to study management or learn a language, we offer courses for an array of learning opportunities. Over the last few years I have developed a passion for coaching people, something I greatly enjoy. It’s incredibly rewarding to see people become confident, grow and succeed. There is nothing better than creating an infrastructure where people can succeed and then pumping 100,000 Volts of motivation into them.
Otto Pahnke - The Mentor Who Changed My Life
Shortly after I arrived in Dusseldorf I met and dated a beautiful girl who was also a great singer (guess that did the job) and whose father was the general manager of one of the most famous chocolate manufacturers in Germany called Storck.
His name was Otto Pahnke. We would walk around his factory and I noticed that he knew 2,000 employees by name. Everyone adored him as he truly cared for his people. He was a clear marketing genius and every night at 7 pm the whole family had to sit down on the couch when he would comment on TV ads that were aired around that time. I got free marketing lessons and once I decided to start my business I naturally asked him for advice.
I thought I was pretty smart when I came up with a name for my new company. I wanted to call it "SAL" which stood for "Scientific Audio Lab". After I revealed my idea to Otto, he just shook his head in disbelief, looked at me and said "do you believe in your business?" I answered "of course I do" and he said "then your company has to carry your name".
A few weeks later I went back to see him and we went for our usual walk in the forest. I told him that I wanted to call the company "BEHRINGER Professional Studio Equipment" as I thought it sounded impressive. Otto looked at me, just shook his head again and said "professional? You are a little fart, you are a one-man show and you want to compete with the big boys?" He continued "no way are you professional yet but I watched how you carefully listen to your products when fine-tuning them. You have to call your company ‘BEHRINGER Specialized Studio Equipment’ and add an ear symbol in your logo since you design your equipment by ear and not only by cold specs".
Otto Pahnke called in one of his graphic designers and said "draw this young man a stylized ear so he can use it for his company logo". I was now left with my name BEHRINGER, a drawing for a technical ear and I tried to figure out how to combine them. The only way it would work was to draw a triangle around those elements and that was the birth of the logo which until now is our Company trademark.
Otto Pahnke has been a true mentor and he helped me getting this Company on its feet.
Sadly he passed in 2005. He was a great man and I owe him a lot.
Two Books That Turned Everything Upside Down
The New Logo Was Born
The X32 That Changed the Industry
Passion is the Essence of Life
I have always been a very passionate person and truly believe that passion is the essence of life, no matter if you collect stamps, compete in sports, or otherwise pursue your dreams. Have you ever wondered what drives an athlete to sacrifice his life including his health just to be 1/1,000 of a second faster than everyone else?
Personally I believe in a healthy and simple lifestyle; I enjoy sports, yoga, Japanese food, and most of all good books. And whenever I have a chance I play piano for a glass of red wine.
Someone once asked me "what's the best thing about being Uli Behringer" and I answered "that I can live my passion and surround myself with great people that are smarter than me".
In 1989 I started this Company because I wanted to become a Sound Engineer but could not afford good equipment. Since then my personal mission has remained the same – to offer you the best equipment at fair prices so you can pursue the most beautiful passion of all - Music.
So what could possibly be more fun than the next 20 years to come?
Founder and CEO