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Klipsch Audio Technologies of Hope (Hempstead County) 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, 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.
Paul Wilbur Klipsch was born on March 9, 1904, in Elkhart, Indiana, to Oscar Klipsch and Minna Eddy Klipsch. As a boy, he enjoyed music and was fascinated with sound. 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 in 1926.
He joined the radio division of General Electric, but in 1928, his passion for trains led him to Chile, where he was a locomotive supervisor for three years. Returning to the United States in 1931, he entered Stanford University and received a master’s degree in electrical engineering. For the next ten years, he worked in oil exploration in Texas, researching the design of audio speakers in his spare time and submitting his first patent application for speaker horn design. With the coming of World War II in 1941, Klipsch was stationed at the Southwestern Proving Ground in Hope. 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 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. From the company’s beginnings in a virtual shed, 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 applied for in 1942 and granted in 1945. 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. It is considered one of the finest loudspeakers ever made and is the world’s only speaker to be in continuous production for over fifty years. 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.
Klipsch’s many awards and recognitions include being chosen 1985 Citizen of the Year in Hope, which named its municipal auditorium in his honor in 1995. In 2001, the Little Rock Arts and Humanities Promotion Commission recognized Klipsch with the Award of Distinction. His philanthropic activities in Arkansas include gifts to the Arkansas Ballet, Arkansas State University (ASU), Little Rock Symphony, and Wildwood Park for Performing Arts. His national honors include the Silver Medal from the Audio Engineering Society, induction into the Audio Hall of Fame in 1984, and his 1997 induction into the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame, where he was recognized along with fellow members Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, and the Wright Brothers. Well into his nineties, he was active in his company, selling it to distant cousin Fred Klipsch in 1989. Though some of its speaker cabinet manufacturing and distribution operations remain in Hope, employing more than seventy people, Klipsch Audio Technologies is now based in Indianapolis, Indiana, using components from China. Specialty home speakers and commercial sound systems for movie theaters and the Hard Rock Cafe chain still garner Klipsch speakers high praise.
On May 5, 2002, Klipsch died at the age of ninety-eight.
Klipsch Audio Technologies 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. Along with the company-owned manufacturing and distribution facilities in Hope, the Klipsch Museum of Audio History is housed at 200 East Division Street. The museum is dedicated to the life and achievements of Klipsch, containing a replica of his office, model railroad trains he built, speakers, photographs, and other memorabilia. 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 Audio Technologies. http://www.klipsch.com (accessed February 8, 2013).
Nancy HendricksArkansas State University
Last Updated 8/21/2014
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