MS Alumnus Harro Heinz Inducted into the SCN Hall of Fame 2023

January 10, 2023

He thought adding electronics into loudspeakers would lead to better sound quality. While audio purists disagreed early on, he's now recognized as a true innovator.

Originally from Germany, Harro Heinz arrived in the United States in 1957 with his wife, Erika, bringing along a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and five years of experience at Germany’s Grundig Radio. Avery Fisher of Fisher Radio financed the couple’s trip from Germany to New York, and Heinz began working as a junior engineer with a starting salary of $125 per week.

Heinz continued to advance through the company, being promoted to chief engineer while taking night classes to earn a master's degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University and an associate's degree in business from New York University. He left Fisher Radio for the opportunity to become the vice president of operations at Bogen Communications, and eventually went on to become president of Rauland Borg in Chicago.

“My wife and I are proud graduates of the American Dream,” Heinz said.

In 1979, Heinz was ready to start his own business, and Renkus-Heinz was officially born. Built on Heinz’s expertise in electronics, today the company is synonymous with premium sound and innovation. When making plans for his potential new company, audio felt like the natural choice—it was a specialty Heinz was comfortable with that also allowed him to broaden his experience beyond engineering.

“My technical background suggests that I know more about electronics than acoustics,” said Heinz. “Not surprisingly, I kept trying to somehow integrate electronics into loudspeakers. I knew the combination could lead to better sound quality, aimed propagation, and higher reliability.”

Audio purists at the time begged to differ, believing using as little electronics as possible was the way to go. Eventually, time proved them wrong, and Heinz shined through as a true innovator. “Today, all high-performance loudspeakers rely heavily on integrated electronics," he observed, "and our early-on inclusion of electronics enabled RH to evolve into an industry leader in steerable sound.”

The early years of the company were spent trying to settle on its differentiator. During a meeting, Charles Boner, the son of the famous acoustics expert C.P. Boner, told Heinz the professional sound industry needed not only good sound but good coverage as well. That advice led to Renkus-Heinz’s future: highly directional loudspeakers that place sound exactly where it's needed, with the addition of high SPL and concert sound quality.

“Over the years, we successfully met this challenge, and that’s the exciting part," Heinz said. "We’ve been developing and innovating high-quality loudspeaker technology to lead the audio industry for decades now.” 

Heinz recently retired in 2022, at the age of 92, but continues to serve as chairman of the board of directors. His children, Ralph and Monika, now lead the family business as chief technology officer and president, respectively. “Ralph remains the ideal man as CTO, and Monika is perfectly suited to her role as president, as she knows how to keep an organization running,” said Heinz. “I am looking in from the side, and whenever I see a need to help, I am available.”

The AV industry, like other industries, is currently trying to adapt to changes impacting products, manufacturing, and procurement. Heinz believes the companies that will be successful moving forward—whether manufacturers or integrators—are those that put a high level of intelligence behind their products and solutions.

“The future of AV is with the nimble,” said Heinz. “Be ready to adapt and experiment. It will be harder than following the status quo, but opportunities are always there.”

Original story here.