Paul Wilbur Klipsch

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Paul Wilbur Klipsch
Klipsch logo.png
Born March 9, 1904
Elkhart, Indiana
Died May 5, 2002(2002-05-05) (aged 98)
Hope, Arkansas
Residence Hope, Arkansas
Houston, Texas
Palo Alto, California
Tocopilla, Chile
Schenectady, New York
Las Cruces, New Mexico
El Paso, Texas
Lordsburg, New Mexico
Silver City, New Mexico
Elkhart, Indiana
Occupation Engineer, inventor, entrepreneur, Lt. Colonel, geophysicist, pilot
Employer Klipsch Audio Technologies
Klipsch & Associates
US Army
Subterrex
Independent Exploration Co.
Chilean Nitrate Mining Co.
General Electric
Title Paul Wilbur

Paul Wilbur Klipsch (March 9, 1904 – May 5, 2002) was an American engineer and high fidelity audio pioneer, known for developing a high-efficiency folded horn loudspeaker. Unsatisfied with the sound quality of phonographs and early speaker systems, Klipsch used scientific principles to develop a corner horn speaker that sounded more lifelike than its predecessors.

The Klipschorn, which today is still manufactured and sold worldwide, proved popular. The resulting acoustics career of Klipsch spanned from 1946, when he founded one of the first U.S. loudspeaker companies, to 2000 when the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society published one of his papers.[1] He died on May 5, 2002 at the age of 98.

Fred Klipsch, current Klipsch owner and chairman and cousin to founder Paul Wilbur Klipsch, said, “Paul was a verifiable genius who could have chosen any number of vocations, but the world sounds a lot better because he chose audio.” [2]

Honors[edit]

In 1978, Paul W. Klipsch was awarded the Audio Engineering Society's second highest honor, the Silver Medal, for his contributions to speaker design and distortion measurement. In 1997, he was inducted into the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame.[2] In 2004, at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), he was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame.[3]

Klipsch received a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from New Mexico State University in 1926, an EE (Engineer's degree) in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1934, and a Doctor of Laws from New Mexico State University (NMSU) in 1981. The NMSU engineering department was renamed the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1995, in honor of Paul W. Klipsch.

Education and career[edit]

Klipsch's interest in engineering was influenced by his father, an instructor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Although he was only 12 when his father died, Klipsch's interest in science and engineering endured. He built his first speaker using a mailing tube and a pair of earphones at the age of 15, which was a year before the first public radio broadcast.

After graduating from El Paso High School, he enrolled at New Mexico State University (NMSU) where he played cornet in the university band and was an award-winning member of the school rifle team. He credits his four years as a member of the Aggie Band for developing his love and knowledge of music and musical instruments.

Following graduation from NMSU, Klipsch went to work for General Electric designing radios that were then sold to RCA. In 1928, he responded to a notice on the GE bulletin board. This resulted in a new job maintaining electric locomotives in Chile for three years before entering graduate school at Stanford. After receiving his EE Degree, Klipsch worked as a geophysicist for a Texas oil company. He later served in the U.S. Army during World War II, earning the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

It was during his service at the Southwest Proving Grounds located in Hope, Arkansas, that Klipsch refined his corner horn speaker design. Visitors to his officer's quarters were amazed by the lifelike reproduction and encouraged Klipsch to start his own manufacturing business. He received a patent on his loudspeaker design in 1945, registered the name Klipsch & Associates in 1946, and made each loudspeaker himself until he hired his first employee in 1948.

During a videotaped interview in 1999, Klipsch claimed that he did not, in fact, name the Klipschorn himself. He said that he made a sales call to a man in New York City during the first years of operating Klipsch & Associates and, surprisingly, the business prospect already knew about the revolutionary new loudspeaker. "We've heard all about your corner horn," the man said. "We call it the Klipschorn."[2]

Eccentricities[edit]

The eccentric touch and no-compromise spirit of Paul W. Klipsch is well known in the industry. For example, Klipsch related that when he was developing a smaller speaker for use between two Klipschorns, an acquaintance declared that he couldn't possibly introduce it to the public because it was in direct violation of Klipsch's own corner horn principles, and amounted to acoustic heresy. "The hell I can't," Klipsch said. "And that's exactly what I'm going to call it!"[2]

A year later the Klipsch Heresy loudspeaker was introduced and it became a bestseller in the church sound reinforcement market.

While the official company motto is “The Ultimate Sound Experience,” the unofficial one is “Bullshit.”[2] Klipsch started using the slogan after reading a competitor’s loudspeaker ad that made claims of supposed “breakthroughs.” After that, he wore a yellow "Bullshit" button behind his lapel and showed it to anyone he felt was making an outlandish claim.[4]

Many of the eccentricities of Paul W. Klipsch were captured by author Jim Shahin in a 1989 interview for American Way Magazine, who told of his taking notes during sermons so as to better take issue with exasperated ministers after the service. Parishioners even remember his walking over pews to get out of church. He also retells of an audio retailer’s recollection of Klipsch drilling a hole through the top of his Mercedes to install an altimeter.

Legacy[edit]

In addition to the Klipschorn and Heresy, the Klipsch Rebel, Shorthorn, Cornwall, La Scala, and Belle Klipsch are among the most well known loudspeakers developed by Paul W. Klipsch. Many of these models are still manufactured and sold around the world today.

The Klipschorn is the only speaker in the world that has been in continuous production, relatively unchanged, for over 60 years.

Patents[edit]

Small dimension low frequency folded exponential horn loudspeaker with unitary sound path and loudspeaker system including same. US patent 4138594. (1979)
  • Stock-and-barrel assembly for firearms. US patent 2205982. Klipsch, P.W., 6/25/1940.[5]
  • Wave synthesizing network. US patent 2230803. Klipsch, P.W., 2/4/1941.[6]
  • Electrical prospecting with alternating current. US patent 2231013. Klipsch, P.W., 2/11/1941.[7]
  • Recording seismic waves. US patent 2232612. Klipsch, P.W., 2/18/1941.[8]
  • Seismic prospecting. US patent 2232613. Klipsch, P.W., 2/18/1941.[9]
  • Equalizer. US patent 2238023. Klipsch, P.W., 4/8/1941.[10]
  • Electrical prospecting. US patent 2243428. Klipsch, P.W., 4/27/1941.[11]
  • Mixing circuit for electrical prospecting. US patent 2251549. Klipsch, P.W., 8/5/1941.[12]
  • Method of electrical prospecting. US patent 2293024. Klipsch, P.W., 8/11/1942.[13]
  • Firearm vibration control. US patent 2302699. Klipsch, P.W., 11/14/1942.[14]
  • Horn for loud-speaker. US patent 2310243. Klipsch, P.W., 2/9/1943.[15]
  • Loudspeaker. US patent 2373692. Klipsch, P.W., 4/17/1945.[16]
  • Rotating band tester. US patent 2450003. Klipsch, P.W., 9/28/1948.[17]
  • Loud-speaker horn. US patent 2537141. Klipsch, P.W., 1/9/1951.[18]
  • Crossover filter network. US patent 2612558. Klipsch, P.W., 9/30/1952.[19]
  • Loudspeaker (Rebel). US patent 2731101. Klipsch, P.W., 9/30/1952.[20]
  • Logarithmic converter circuit. US patent 3330966. Klipsch, P.W., 7/11/1967.[21]
  • Small dimension low frequency folded exponential horn loudspeaker with unitary sound path and loudspeaker system including same. US patent 4138594. Klipsch, P.W., 2/6/1979.[22]
  • Low frequency folded exponential horn loudspeaker apparatus with bifurcated sound path. US patent 4210223. Gillum, G. C./ Klipsch, P.W., 7/1/1980.[23]
  • Crossover network for optimizing efficiency and improving response of loudspeaker system. US patent 4237340. Klipsch, P.W., 12/2/1980.[24]
  • Anechoic chamber arrangement. US patent 4387786. Klipsch, P.W/Hunter, J. R., 6/14/1983.[25]

References[edit]

External links[edit]