QSC Celebrates 50th
...the introduction of the 747 jumbo jet and the first humans to orbit the moon, in Apollo 8. In music, as the Beatles sang “Hey Jude” and the Rolling Stones rocked “Jumping Jack Flash,” the premier audio manufacturer known today as QSC was born as Quilter Sound.
The company’s current success belies its humble origins. “We had four complete financial meltdowns in our first few years of business, and if it weren’t for funding from my ever-patient parents, we wouldn’t be here today,” says QSC founder Pat Quilter. These colorful tales of flirting with bankruptcy seem at odds with the company’s current scale and sophistication. However, they provide a window into the qualities that account for QSC’s longevity: namely, a proven ability to adapt and overcome adversity. Recently retired CEO Barry Andrews sums up, “We’re turtles with attitude.”
Founded in 1968 in a 20' x 40' warehouse, QSC managed to survive the inexperience of its founders, a lack of capital, and withering competition. What the fledgling business lacked in tangible assets, it made up for with tenacity and a creative approach to product development. By the early ’80s, QSC evolved from a maker of boutique guitar amps into a top industry player on the strength of a line of power amps that offered durability, excellent audio quality, and an attractive price. QSC amps were never designed to have the best specs in any single category; rather, Quilter and his engineers worked to achieve an optimal balance between total output, distortion, slew rate, frequency response, and reliability. This pursuit of an “optimal balance” has guided every other decision as well.
By the mid-’90s, QSC claimed leadership in the power amp market, but there was little opportunity to celebrate. As audio buyers began shifting to powered loudspeakers, the power amp market stagnated, and several major amp manufacturers folded. QSC management responded to the challenge with a well-crafted plan for building loudspeakers. Starting in 1999 with a limited product selection, the “turtles with attitude” adapted, refined, and expanded the product, to the point where today QSC speakers are top sellers worldwide and account for more than 50% of revenues.
Andrews explains the methodology behind the speaker launch, “We listened carefully to our customer feedback to develop the K Series, established an entirely new standard in powered loudspeakers, and rapidly became number one in the category. The same customer-focused approach established QSC as a global market leader in the cinema business. Our passion to serve our customers is the mission in every aspect of our business.”
Beyond its commitment to close customer relationships, QSC consistently placed a priority on quality and reliability. John Andrews, Barry Andrews’ younger brother and a co-founder of the company, adds, “We have always strived to achieve operational excellence by sharpening our focus and building a state-of-the-art factory in Southern California utilizing computer-controlled precision assembly and rigorous testing and control to provide build-to-order flexibility. From that first build-to-order manufacturing facility, we’ve continuously expanded to our manufacturing footprint and supply chain capabilities, which span multiple countries and serve millions of customers throughout the globe.”
QSC was also an early pioneer in networked digital audio systems, being the first licensee of CobraNet, the first commercially successful implementation of audio over Ethernet. One of the first applications of the technology was in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XXXI in 1997. Today, the Q-SYS integrated audio, video, and control platform is installed in venues around the world.
Staying true to its heritage as a customer- and people-first organization, the company has plans to lead in areas beyond just technology and operational excellence. “Looking forward, we will continue our commitment to be both a technology platform leader and a customer experience leader in the markets we serve,” says Joe Pham, QSC president and CEO. “The future at QSC is about continuing to innovate and deliver connected, integrated technology platforms that elevate customer experiences while creating new opportunities for our employees, more value for our partners, and new applications and capabilities in the markets we serve. In this world, everybody wins.”
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