Klipsch Group, Inc.
Klipsch Group, Inc., of Hope (Hempstead County), formerly Klipsch and Associates and later Klipsch Audio Technologies, is one of the leading loudspeaker companies in the United States and a world leader in premium-quality audio products. The company’s official motto, “A Legend in Sound,” has also been applied to its founder, Indiana native Paul Klipsch, who was eulogized as “a great inventor, engineer, scientist, pilot and legendary eccentric.” Holding patents in acoustics, ballistics, and geophysics, Klipsch had a revolutionary vision for audio design and founded the company that bears his name in 1946.
As a boy, he enjoyed music and was fascinated with sound, although he was not satisfied with the sound of recorded music. At age fifteen, he built a radio receiver a year before the first scheduled commercial U.S. radio broadcast in 1920 at station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Klipsch attended college at New Mexico A&M (now New Mexico State University), graduating with a degree in electrical engineering. He went on to work for General Electric, as a locomotive maintenance supervisor in Chile, and in oil exploration in Texas.
With the coming of World War II in 1941, Klipsch was stationed at the Southwestern Proving Ground in Hope. It was during this time that he set about using scientific principles, particularly physics, to develop a speaker system that created more lifelike acoustics by using a room’s wall corners as part of the speaker itself to transmit sound. According to company lore, visitors to his quarters at the proving ground were amazed by the sound coming through his speakers and encouraged him to start his own manufacturing business. After the war, he remained in Hope and devoted his career to designing and building superior loudspeakers.
He rented a tin shack behind a dry cleaner in Hope, where he manufactured components for his first Klipschorn. He registered the name Klipsch and Associates in 1946, though he did not hire his first employee until 1948, making his products by hand. His wife, Belle, served as company secretary. Klipsch was granted twelve patents in acoustics (along with eight in geophysics and three in ballistics). The low-frequency section of the Klipschorn corner speaker was patented in 1945, while the high-frequency section was granted a patent in 1951. The Klipschorn as a complete system never received a patent for acoustical or electrical properties but was granted a patent for ornamental design in 1951.
According to the company, by 2021, the Klipsch system was the world’s only loudspeaker to be in continuous production for over seventy years. Due to its innovative design, the sound moves from the speaker using the walls of the corner of the room as part of the speaker to create a rich audio quality similar to an orchestral setting.
Well into his eighties, Klipsch was active in his company, selling it to distant cousin Fred Klipsch in 1989. Though some of its speaker cabinet manufacturing and distribution operations remained in Hope, Klipsch Group, Inc., moved its base of operations to Indianapolis, Indiana, using systems from China. Throughout its history, the Klipschorn speaker has remained relatively unchanged, although different styles were offered, such as the Belle Klipsch, Chorus, Cornwall, Forte, La Scala, Legend, Quartet, and ProMedia. In addition to home speakers for individual consumers, the company began producing Klipsch sound systems for dance clubs, theaters, and music festivals around the world, as well as the Hard Rock Cafe chain of restaurants. Klipsch died in 2002 at the age of ninety-eight.
In 2011, the Audiovox company purchased Klipsch, although manufacturing continued under the Klipsch name. Headquartered in Orlando, Florida, Audiovox was renamed Voxx in 2012. Klipsch Group, Inc., continues to make some of the world’s finest concert-quality loudspeakers, speaker systems, and electronic audio products, including theater-quality surround sound for the home, commercial audio products, and speakers for mp3 players.
By 2021, the former Klipsch factory area in Hope had been transformed into the Klipsch Museum of Audio History, dedicated to the life and achievements of Klipsch, featuring speakers, photographs, audio equipment and recordings, and Paul Klipsch’s technical library and archives. The museum is maintained by the Klipsch Heritage Museum Association, founded by admirers of Klipsch’s work; the organization seeks to foster interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as inspired by Klipsch’s example. New Mexico State University also hosts a museum dedicated to the legacy of Paul Klipsch.
For additional information:
Friedman, Mark. “Klipsch: Hope’s Sweet Sound since 1946.” Arkansas Business, July 31–August 6, 2006, pp. 1, 22–3.
Klipsch Group, Inc. http://www.klipsch.com (accessed July 14, 2021).
Klipsch Museum of Audio History. https://www.klipschmuseum.org/ (accessed July 14, 2021).
Paul W. Klipsch Museum. College of Engineering, New Mexico State University. https://engr.nmsu.edu/the-paul-w-klipsch-museum/ (accessed July 14, 2021).
Arkansas State University
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