Major contributions to acoustics, ballistics, and geophysics
(1904 - 2002)
Major Field of Study: Engineering
Specific Accomplishment: Made contributions to acoustics, ballistics and geophysics
Home Town: Elkhart, Indiana
Youth Activities: At the age of 15, he built his own radio receiver. This was during the infancy of the radio, prior to the first commercial radio broadcast in 1920.
High School: El Paso High School
Bachelor’s Degree: New Mexico A&M University, Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering, 1926
Master’s Degree: Stanford University, Master of Science, Electrical Engineering, 1934
Engineering and Science Achievements:
A man of many talents and passions, Paul Klipsch is best known for his development of the folded-horn loudspeaker known as the “Klipschorn.” First patented in 1945, the Klipschorn can be purchased today and is the only speaker to be continuously produced for over 50 years. The genius of the folded-horn speaker’s design is its ability to transfer mechanical energy generated by the diaphragm into acoustical energy, increasing the level of sound by factors of 10 or more while simultaneously decreasing distortion. Klipsch designed the speaker to be placed in the corner of a room for optimal results. The end result was heralded as the ability to reproduce the sound of a live orchestra in a living room—the beginning of the “hi-fidelity” era in acoustics.
Klipsch developed the first prototype of the Klipschorn in 1938. He entered the Army in 1941 and in 1942 was assigned to the Southwest Proving Grounds in Hope, Arkansas, where he continued to work on speakers during his spare time. After mustering out, he established the firm Klipsch and Associates in a tin shack in Hope in 1946 and began hand-producing speakers by himself. He didn’t hire his first employee until 1948. Nonetheless, the firm subsequently flourished and continues to operate today under the name Klipsch Audio Technologies. Klipsch went on to design numerous other speakers until he sold the business to a second cousin in 1989.
Prior to his Army time, Klipsch held various positions, including:
- Designing radios for General Electric (1926-28)
- Maintaining GE electric locomotives in Chile (1928-31)
- Working in Texas as a geophysicist in oil exploration (1934-41)
Klipsch is often referred to as an “eccentric,” and his unconventional personality was reflected in many ways:
- A deeply religious man, he was known to take notes during homilies and refer to them while challenging the homilists afterwards. He was also seen stepping over pews to get in and out of church.
- When Klipsch developed a speaker that was designed according to principles at odds with the folded-horn approach, a friend suggested that it would be heretical for him to market such a speaker. Unfazed, Klipsch responded by selling the speaker under the name “Heresy.”
- He was an avid airplane pilot and was known to relish placing his aircraft in precarious situations, once putting the plane in a stall position with the engine on just to see what would happen.
- Upon reading an overblown claim of a competing speaker manufacturer, Klipsch blurted out “bulls--t.” He then took to wearing a BS button behind his lapel and flashing it at anyone he thought to be making an unfounded assertion.
Klipsch’s work netted him 23 patents, including:
- 12 in acoustics,
- Eight in geophysics in the areas of electrical and seismic prospecting, and
- Three in ballistics for subjects such as firearm vibration control and stock and barrel assembly.
“Paul Wilbur Klipsch,” Wikipedia, retrieved 16 August 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Wilbur_Klipsch
Dave Gans, “How Do Klipschhorn Loudspeakers Work?” The Klipsch Joint, retrieved 16 August 2016 from http://www.klipsch.com/blog/how-do-horn-loaded-speakers-work/
“Paul W. Klipsch,” Klipsch, retrieved 16 August 2016 from http://www.klipsch.com/founder
“Milestones, The Journey of a Legend,” Klipsch, retrieved 17 August 2016 from http://www.klipsch.com/milestones
“Klipsch Audio Technologies,” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, retrieved 17 August 2016 from http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=2764
Lorena Sanchez, “Paul Klipsch, ‘A Legend in Sound’ Dies at Age 98,” New Mexico State University, retrieved 17 August 2016 from http://newscenter.nmsu.edu/Articles/view/1972