One crazy genius – Paul W. Klipsch

Often a genius will be described as strange or perhaps a little eccentric, maybe even a little bit mad. And most of the time that description would be an outright falsehood. There are plenty of brilliant people that lead quite normal lives, such that people could comment something like.. “They were just as normal as could be. You would never think that they had just won the Noble Prize in….”

Well, Paul W Klipsch wasn’t one of those people.

He was one that could be classified as… “eccentric”.

One example told is when he attended church, he would often take notes and get into heated debates during the sermons. He was known to wear a long coat while attending and on the inside of this coat, letters spelling out “Bull” were on one side and “Shit” was on the other. When a particular idea was presented that he thought was outrageous, he would stand and flash the inside lapels to the person delivering the sermon.

Paul Klipsch was born in 1904 in Elkhart, Indiana. Growing up he had the same mechnical inclinations that most “engineer” type kids have. Building several contraptions during his childhood, one of them was a loudspeaker made of a cardboard mailing tube. The sound produced by this mailing tube speaker fascinated him, developing interests that would help him define his future.

He went on to college in New Mexico State, getting his EE in electronics in 1926. In 1931, he attended Stanford for his Masters in Engineering. After getting his Masters in Engineering, he started working in the oil fields of Houston but his interests continued in audio.

In 1941, he was drafted into service during WWII and was stationed at the Southwest Proving Grounds in Hope, Arkansas. His contributions to the defense of this country were in the form of ballistics and photography. He was discharged with a rank of major and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the reserves in 1953.

After WWII, he remained in Hope and continued his research and experimentation on audio loudspeakers. He had come up with this design to take a bass horn, normally about 35 foot long, and fold it into itself 3 times over so that the normally huge horn would be small and fit in a corner of the room with the corners of the room acting as the final mouth of the horn.

Working in a tin shack, he eventually perfected this complicated design of his new loudspeaker. Not an easy task considering he worked with hand tools only, no power, and the design had over 100 boards cut at all different angles.

He applied for and was granted patents and trademarks in 1945. The name Klipsch and Associates was registered in 1946, although his first employee wasn’t hired until 1948.

The Klipschorn loudspeaker that Paul Klipsch designed is still being produced today, 65 years later, with minor variations and improvements. Because it is fully horn loaded, the efficiency is incredible. It can fill up a huge room with sound that can only be described as stunning with the smallest of power.

I personally witnessed a demonstration of a pair of Klipschorns being driven by a transistor radio that ran on a tiny 9 volt battery. The sound was louder than any concert that I have been to.

Getting back to some of his eccentric stories, later when his company became successful he purchased a very expensive Mercedes Benz for his transportation. One of the selling points of this Mercedes was how quiet it was on the inside, the rider was alway in complete luxurious silence. Later when his sales staff went out to see him and his new car, they found him drilling a hole in the top of the dashboard of his new car and installing a gauge so he could measure how quiet it was on the road.

Always looking at new technology, he was one of the first to buy a new calculator back in the 60’s. This may not seem like much today, but a calculator back in the 1960’s was a big deal. The manufacturer had several instructions for it’s use and one of the warnings was the calculator would stop working in high temperatures.

He was found stripped down to his skivvies with the temperature in his office to broiling so that he could dissect that calculator to discover why it would quit. He later sent the calculator and explanation to the calculator manufacturer, explaining why it would stop working.

The years 1993,1994 and 1995 saw the dedications of the Paul W. Klipsch Lecture Hall, the Paul W. Klipsch Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and finally the Klipsch School of Electrical Engineering, all at New Mexico State University.

The city of Hope, Arkansas honored him in 1995 with its dedication of the Paul W. Klipsch Municipal Auditorium.

Paul W. Klipsch held 23 patents and was inducted into the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame in 1997, putting him in the company of Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers, among others.

Paul Wilbur Klipsch, a great inventor, engineer, scientist, pilot and legendary eccentric, died May 5, 2002, at the age of 98.

PWK in Shed One crazy genius   Paul W. Klipsch

Dedicated to Jess and her “Toys in the Attic”.

 One crazy genius   Paul W. Klipsch
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Posted by on June 30, 2010. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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21 Responses to One crazy genius – Paul W. Klipsch

  1. Jess Reply

    June 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    :) Hey that speaker he is standing in front of is shorter than the ones we have here. Was that his first attempt at them or was he really tall? I did tell MH, when hubby decides he has had enough, you will be the first person I contact, even if I don’t like you anymore ;) to give you dibs on them before I sell them off. I did also put a link to a guy selling some in LA from EBAY.

    • Krell Reply

      June 30, 2010 at 3:07 pm

      LOL! Jess, I often see some on E-Bay in the various years built and for a pretty wide selection of prices. Thanks for the offer though. Judging by your story, I suspect yours are from the late 60’s to early 70’s if your Dad bought them. Those ARE considered some of the best years as far as quality and woods used.

      It was just funny that MH and I had this running funny history and up pops your story.

      Klipsch had a very interesting life path. Hope you liked the story. One of the many “eccentric” people that make up this country.

      • Jess Reply

        June 30, 2010 at 3:58 pm

        Hey it is a small world with these here tooby things you know and getting smaller all the time. If I had any idea what I was looking at, I could look behind them and tell you. All I can see is a big old horn looking thing, wires and a whole lot of dust bunnies that I will now have to a) either clean, or b) give them all names and they can stay back there with some shh, papers I put in between the horn and the cabinet thing. I was too much of a lazy ass to put them in a junk drawer or get rid of them. I know, probably some kind of blasphemous, sacreligious thing in your book isn’t it?

        • Krell Reply

          June 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm

          Jess…what are you talking about? Are you looking at vacuum tubes that you have? When you say tooby things, it sounds too much like booby things and I start to wander off wistfully.

          Are you looking in the back of your Klipschorns? If so, you will see a small black board with some electronic stuff on it.

          That is called the crossover. On the crossover, it should have a sticker with a serial # and a “Inspected by xxxx”. You may have to get a damp rag and wipe the dust bunnies off. If you can tell me the serial number, I can tell you the year it was made plus other stuff.

          • Krell Reply

            June 30, 2010 at 4:24 pm

            Klipsch Date Codes
            DATES
            DESCRIPTION

            EXAMPLE
            1946-1947
            ###

            001 (ending #021)
            1948-1961†
            ####

            0121 (starting #0121)
            1962-1983
            ##letter####

            20Y1234
            1984-1989(?)
            YY WW ####

            89281234
            1990-1997(?)
            DOY Y2Y1 ####

            135791234
            1998-2000
            YY WW ####

            00281234

            1962-1983 Letter format

            A = 1962 F = 1967 K = 1972 R = 1977 X = 1982
            B = 1963 G = 1968 L = 1973 S = 1978 Y = 1983
            C = 1964 H = 1969 M = 1974 T = 1979
            D = 1965 I = 1970 N = 1975 U = 1980
            E = 1966 J = 1971 P = 1976 W = 1981

            NOTES

            1946-1961 dates can only be found in log book (eng. Library)

            DOY = day of the year
            YY = year (i.e. 99,00…)
            Y2Y1 = 2nd digit of year, 1st digit of year
            WW = week of the year

            Date code on drivers (1994) Example – 9429 = 1994, 29th week of the year / YYWW

            † Klipschorns of this vintage had the s/n hammer stamped into the tailboard, woofer access door or inside the woofer chamber.

            • Jess Reply

              June 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm

              Ok the only number I could find is 17N or W789, it is kind of rubbed off on the old yellowing paper thingy, inspected by someone named John something or another, couldn’t make out the last name.

              • Krell Reply

                June 30, 2010 at 5:06 pm

                Jess, IF and this may be a big if, I am not mistaken…..That 17N represents the 17 week of 1975 and that W represents Walnut.

                That was the 789th speaker made of that style. Your other speaker probably says W788 or W790 at the same place.

                • Krell Reply

                  June 30, 2010 at 5:15 pm

                  This comment thread is starting to sound like the Antiques Road Show…..

                  Miss, so you say you paid 10 dollars at a garage sale for them.

                  Yes that right, she says.

                  Do you have any idea what they are worth?

                  No, not really. My husband has always kept them in his man-cave with the beer frig sitting on top.

                  Well, I can say for certain, right now, that these shouldn’t be insured for less than 10 million dollars..

                  Arrrrrrghhhh…

                  Clean up on aisle 3, we have another that just shat themselves.

                  • Jess Reply

                    June 30, 2010 at 5:22 pm

                    :) It does sound like that doesn’t it? Trust me I found some stuff in that attic that after mom passed, shocked the hell out of me. I had no idea some of the stuff they had up there and am still finding, that I have had appraised. Hummels my mother had been collecting, Lalique and Waterford crystal stuff, that I now have sitting out because it is just so pretty. Cranberry glass from the 60s?, I have in our bedroom, very retro. My dad’s bongs and pipes, he didn’t have in the garage boxes. He probably sat up there or in the garage smoking his weed, so I would not see him. Wanted to project that lawyerly dad non dirty hippie thing. If he only knew, he would have shared.

                • Jess Reply

                  June 30, 2010 at 5:16 pm

                  Hmmm, I will have him pull the other one away from the wall tonight when he gets home. The other one, I could kind of contort myself with a flashlight to see, other one is close up next to my cat tree and my kitties are sleeping right now. I won’t disturb them till he gets home and they get off their toy.

  2. Holte Ender Reply

    June 30, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Thanks for this, eccentrics make the world go round, and they are definitely very interesting people. I knew one such eccentric, he invented a grain dryer for small time farmers, 250 acres or less, in England it tends to rain a lot especially at harvest time, 30 years ago, using new computer technology, he developed a grain dryer for the wet days and he has been living off it every since. He is the only person in the UK that prays for a wet summer.

    • Krell Reply

      June 30, 2010 at 3:22 pm

      Frank Zappa was quoted as saying….
      Without deviation from the norm, ‘progress’ is not possible.

      But I also liked Zappa’s comeback during an interview.

      Interviewer: “So Frank, you have long hair. Does that make you a woman?”
      Zappa: “You have a wooden leg. Does that make you a table?”

      • MadMike Reply

        June 30, 2010 at 5:05 pm

        LOL…Brilliant!

      • osori Reply

        June 30, 2010 at 8:36 pm

        Zappa had the amazing ability to divine where a person came from simply by observing the contents of their pocket. He was taking tickets at a concert in LA the Mothers were doing and he spotted a “short dog” of cheap wine in my friends pocket and correctly announced “You guys must be from East LA.”

        • Krell Reply

          June 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm

          maybe the wine was from the vineyards of East LA?

          • osori Reply

            June 30, 2010 at 9:06 pm

            amid the lawnchairs and junked cars they doth toil picking the grapes for their cheap wine-Robert Frost

            • Krell Reply

              June 30, 2010 at 9:25 pm

              Oso, did you have that quote in your pocket just waiting to use it today? Quite profound actually.

              • osori Reply

                June 30, 2010 at 9:58 pm

                LOL Krell, yes an old favorite I made up just now!

  3. fourdinners Reply

    June 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Eccentric rules!!!!! I like him!!!!!

  4. Gwendolyn H. Barry Reply

    July 1, 2010 at 10:03 am

    :-)

  5. The Lawyer Reply

    July 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Ah, that was tremendous. If I recall correctly, you have tinkered with a little speaker technology yourself.

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