American Musical Supply Releases a New Article Detailing the History of QSC

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Music Industry Journalist Malcolm Doak reveals the real history of QSC on AmericanMusical.com

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Just as the early company began to turn a profit, thieves cut a hole in the roof and stole all of the finished and working amps. This is the point in the story where most people would give up, close the door, and move on.

All too often, tales of a music company’s humble beginnings conclude with an even humbler finish. Not so with QSC. Malcolm Doak, a music industry journalist for AmericanMusical.com, a top supplier in QSC products, has written a ground-breaking article detailing the complete history of QSC.

American Musical Supply is proud of their strong relationship with QSC; and the feeling is mutual. Perry Celia is the Senior Director of Sales for North America at QSC. In his words, “we are a like-minded manufacturer and top-tier retailer, working in tandem towards loyalty, reliability and satisfaction for the end user – which can only result in a prosperous working partnership.”

A Long Journey

From their inauspicious start, QSC evolved from crafting handmade guitar amplifiers to become the foremost name in audio power amps. From there, QSC has continued to grow, and is now one of the manufacturing leaders in amplification, loudspeakers, digital signal processing (DSP), and digital mixing products for the professional audio market. QSC K Series, KW Series, and KLA Series of pro audio loudspeakers feature the latest innovations in lightweight digital power, advanced DSP signal processing, system-building connections, and convenient remote control.

Q Who?

Patrick Howe Quilter is the Q in QSC; it once stood for Quilter Sound Company, before the name was officially shortened to simply QSC. According to Quilter, his high-school interest in physics and electronics gave him a head start in designing his first circuits at college. About this same time – 1967 – the bass player in Quilter’s brother’s high school band (The Blown Mind) was desperately seeking an affordable bass amp. The available amps of the day seemed wildly unaffordable to this young player.

On learning that the young man’s budget was around $250.00, Pat Quilter announced “I could probably make you something for that kind of money.” That was and is the first QSC amp. Quilter dropped out of college in favor of real “hands-on” electronic knowledge. An article on “bridging” transistors to increase the output power caught quilter’s eye, and he began working with germanium transistors that were, according to Quilter, “the size of doorknobs.” From there, Pat Quilter began producing and selling hand-crafted amplifiers out of industrial park garage in Costa Mesa, California.

The Motorcycle Story

It is one of the most serendipitous stories in the musical instrument business, and one that is often repeated. But it’s a great one. In 1968, Barry Andrews was riding through this same Costa Mesa industrial park when his motorcycle broke down. Waiting for a ride, Barry struck up a conversation with Patrick Quilter, who was hard at work in his shop. Quilter gave Barry Andrews a guided-tour through some of the amplifiers he was building. Barry Andrews discussed some of his experience in building speaker cabinets, and things just clicked. The two men became partners, and began plying their trade.

Early Adversity

Quilter and Andrews took advantage of some early funding, hired a small staff, and started up their fledgling amp business in earnest. To spread the word, they managed to have their amps placed and used onstage at prominent nearby rock clubs on West Hollywood’s famed Sunset Strip. There, the amps were heralded by the Doors, Cream, and other top bands of the day, yet big sales numbers remained elusive.

Just as the early company began to turn a profit, thieves cut a hole in the roof and stole all of the finished and working amps. This is the point in the story where most people would give up, close the door, and move on.

Amps are the Answer

By 1975, the guitar amp market was saturated and ruled by large established names. Mixers, multi-track tape recorders, portable club-sized PA systems, synthesizers, and effect pedals were all beginning to appear on the market. Each of these products alone marked a turning point and offered a new direction, yet all had one thing in common: in order to be heard, they would need a power amplifier. This electronic common denominator would prove to be the key to success for QSC.

The Trail to the Top

With the target of being the world’s largest amp company in mind, QSC stepped up their manufacturing game by acting as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) supplier to companies such as Pignose, Furman, Alembic, and Mitchell.
Orders came in on a regular basis, and QSC was able to sharpen their manufacturing techniques, and to hone their business skills. QSC attended their first NAMM trade show in 1977. New companies were springing up with unique products, and established companies sought relevance through specialization.

Reaching for the Stars

QSC continued to explore new opportunities for growth in the 1980s. The touring and fixed sound systems that had once been custom creations were giving way to a more modular format, where components from various manufacturers could be mixed and matched to create an optimized system at a lower cost. In this fertile environment, QSC took to building the Series Three, their most advanced power amplifier to date. Packed with high-end features designed to satisfy the audio professional, the Series Three was seen as the way to announce the QSC brand to the audio elite. To bring the audio performance of the Series Three to the wider clientele of working musicians, QSC distilled the essence of the Series Three into the Series One.

Strawberry Fields (Not) Forever.

By the 1990s, QSC could clearly see the hurdle that they needed to cross to advance the company to the next level. QSC was left with the choice to either outsource manufacturing, or to bring everything under one roof, and to centralize manufacturing using latest in flow production techniques. After extensive consultation, the hiring of a task-force, and much soul searching, QSC broke ground on a totally new 55,000 square foot state-of-the-art production facility that was capable of producing close to 3,000 units a week.

Meet the Speakers

After decades of focus on creating the world’s finest audio amplifiers, QSC expanded their breadth in 2001 to embrace the design and manufacture of world-class pro audio loudspeakers. The QSC ACE Series was introduced in 2001 to wide acclaim. Based on that success, QSC added their WideLine line array speakers, the DCS Digital Cinema Series, as well as the AcousticDesign and ModularDesign series of passive and active pro audio loudspeakers. Again, a new facility – this time over 42,000 square feet – was added to accommodate the increased demand for QSC loudspeakers.
Within five years, QSC had already established themselves as a major player in the loudspeaker arena. Today, QSC loudspeakers bring together versatile cabinet designs, proven power amps, cutting-edge DSP audio processing, convenient remote control, and superior transducer components for accurate and reliable sound that goes above and beyond the call of duty.

The Quality Equation

One underlying principle unites all of the QSC people and products: the commitment to reliability and the assurance of quality.

Ray van Straten, Senior Director of Marketing at QSC takes a broader view. Quality is not limited to you what has happened, but includes meeting future challenges as well, “We let the customer’s needs become our challenge to meet. Quite uniquely, QSC has loudspeaker, DSP, software, mixer, and amplifier engineering and support teams located all under ‘one roof’. That gives us the ability to look at the customers’ needs not from the perspective of ‘what product do they need,’ but in terms of how, given our competencies and experience, are we going to solve this problem? For years we were just an amplifier company. Then we added DSP, followed by loudspeakers. Our experience in those three disciplines helped create the K Family phenomenon. Fast-forward to today and we’re now a leading manufacturer of mixers, software, and most recently, conference room video. The common thread through all of this is a pattern of learning, growing, and innovating – always with the goal of being the best solution for the customer, both before and after the sale.”

This is an abridged version. To read the complete story, scroll down to the bottom of the official AMS QSC brand page.

Copyrights: use of this story, in part or in full, is granted provided source is referenced.
By Malcolm Doak, the music industry journalist behind this story.

Full story references:

https://web.archive.org/web/20111214234245/http://www.qscaudio.com/corporate/history.htm

https://www.namm.org/library/oral-history/pat-quilter

https://www.namm.org/library/oral-history/john-andrews

https://www.namm.org/library/oral-history/barry-andrews

https://www.namm.org/library/oral-history/barry-andrews

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T8LQbG2gfow

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Jonathan Poston
American Musical Supply
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