We’d like to tell you a little bit about our long-term history with Klipsch, as we are excited to once again be a Klipsch dealer. Here’s an article that appeared in our most recent Source Book. Scroll down for more on the Heritage series, which features speakers originally designed by Paul Klipsch…
ListenUp co-founder Walt Stinson talks about his relationship with audio legend Paul Klipsch
In the summer of 1972, after paying a visit to the Klipsch factory, I walked out having just landed the first brand partner for a store that was still nothing more than an idea with a name: ListenUp. The factory was in Hope, Arkansas, and I’d walked in without an appointment at the tender age of 22, requesting a meeting with Paul Klipsch. Thankfully, not too many folks made the pilgrimage to Hope in those days and Paul took the time to meet with me. I was there to discuss Paul’s white paper, recently published in the journal of the Audio Engineering Society, and to compare the Klipschorn loudspeaker to my reference pair of bookshelf speakers, which I hauled around in the trunk of a Saab.
Paul’s white paper got my attention because its conclusions ran against the prevailing thoughts and trends of the day — that state-of- the-art performance no longer required high efficiency speakers. The idea was that new breakthrough “acoustic suspension” bookshelf speakers could do just as well and maybe even better, even though they require higher power to play at the same volume level. Paul thought otherwise. He argued persuasively that clarity goes hand in hand with loudspeaker efficiency and that the best way to get that efficiency was with horns. While he conceded that other designs might produce bass a little deeper, with a bit less coloration or a smoother frequency response, he believed that clarity was the characteristic that should be most prized in loudspeaker performance. When accosted by non-believers, he’d flip over his tie, revealing a bright yellow button with the word “bullshit” printed in fancy script. It became the company’s unofficial motto.
Klipsch installed in Colorado’s top music venues
Ultimately, ListenUp found a place for both types of speakers, as well as a third type, called planars. Each engineering approach had its own set of strengths and weaknesses, but one truth quickly became very apparent: Klipsch speakers played louder before distorting — a lot louder.
So in 1974, when I had the opportunity to pitch a sound upgrade to concert impresario Barry Fey and his young club manager, Chuck Morris (now president of AEG Rocky Mountain), I pitched Klipsch. Once installed, the speakers distinguished themselves for their durability, clarity, range and headroom over a decade of service at their legendary clubs, Ebbets Field and the Rainbow Music Hall. Barry even put a pair in his house and played them at “excessively high volumes” for the Rolling Stones at an after-concert party. ListenUp was having success putting Klipsch speakers in residences, too. While a few “over the top” customers went for the very same models we put in the live clubs, most were quite content with smaller models that fit nicely into (and didn’t dominate) their rooms. For a while, people were so excited about owning them that our installers were often invited to stay for wine and partying. One installer didn’t come back for three days! I had to write a new policy on that.
Paul comes to Denver
The brand’s big Colorado success caught Paul’s attention and he flew his light plane from Hope up to Denver to find out what was going on. I took that opportunity to pitch him on supporting a permanent sound installation at Red Rocks and made arrangements with Barry to check out the facility. I picked up Paul, who was wearing three watches adjusted to different time zones, and drove him to Red Rocks at about 4:30 p.m. As I drove through security to the stage entrance, I noticed that the parking lots were full. It was a concert evening.
In those days, all Red Rocks seats were general admission, so the earlier you got there the better chance you had to get a seat close to the stage. I gave Paul and his wife, Valerie, a tour of the facility, and when we walked out onto the stage (already set up with instruments awaiting their performers) a murmur went through the crowd of 9,000 fans. As I pointed out the possible locations for the speaker installation, the murmur turned to applause. At that
point, Paul turned to me and said, “Walt, I want to congratulate you on the remarkable job you’ve done building our brand recognition in Colorado.” As we were leaving the stage, I asked the stage manager what was going on. “They think it’s Bruce Springsteen’s Mom and Dad,” he replied.
The next time I hosted Paul was at an event introducing digital audio to Denver. It was at the Rainbow Music Hall on East Evans, and 1,200 people came to hear Paul and me talk about the history and future of sound reproduction. It was one of the first public demonstrations of the CD in America. Paul told the history of analog sound and then I resurrected Edison’s “tone test” and tricked the audience into believing they were listening to a live band (Grubstake) when it was actually a digital recording. The story of that day later found its way into Greg Milner’s book, Perfecting Sound Forever.
Back together again
In 1989, Paul sold the company. After that, Klipsch and ListenUp drifted apart as our business models diverged and Klipsch became a popular mass market brand. In 2011, Klipsch became a part of the public company AudioVox (VOXX) and has made a determined and sincere effort to preserve and promote the true heritage of Klipsch. Naturally, we wanted to be a part of that, so we decided to add Klipsch back into our lineup.
Paul believed in us when few others did. He helped a couple of college kids get ListenUp o the ground. We helped him build the brand in the Colorado market, and we all had a lot of fun in the process. It’s great welcoming Klipsch back into the fold and to once again showcase Paul’s engineering genius.
Pushing the boundaries of art and science
To be labeled part of the Klipsch Heritage Series, a speaker must have had founder Paul W. Klipsch play a pivotal role in its design, development and engineering. Each Heritage model is designed and assembled in the U.S.A. with furniture-grade wood veneers and features Klipsch’s cornerstone horn-loaded technology to deliver an unsurpassed acoustic experience.
High efficiency + high performance
The Forte III is a three-way floorstanding speaker with a 12-inch woofer and horn-loaded midrange and tweeter. Its new midrange horn utilizes patented technology to improve coverage and control of the key midfrequency band. A mammoth 15-inch sub-bass passive radiator operates on acoustic pressure generated by the woofer for greater bass output and extension.
Klipsch Forte III Floorstanding Speakers $1,799 ea.
Some call it Heresy
First introduced in 1957, the Heresy, a three-way design, started out as a compact center channel speaker to accompany the Klipschorn® in three-speaker arrays. It eventually stood on its own. In 1985, Klipsch made some improvements and re-released it as the Heresy II. Today, the new Heresy III has a more powerful woofer, a bi-wire network and a titanium diaphragm tweeter with a larger magnet assembly.The result: smooth, dynamic and low-distortion sound.
Klipsch Heresy III Floorstanding Speakers $1,998/pr.