Industry Watch: March

March 8 2013, 13:01

Passing of a Loudspeaker Pioneer

Clifford B. Digre

Clifford B. Digre

It is with regret that Voice Coil notes the passing of a pioneering colleague. Clifford B. “CB” Digre, one of the audio industry’s stalwart loudspeaker manufacturers, died November 25, 2012, at age 89. More than 60 years ago, Cliff founded what is today known as MISCO—a manufacturer of loudspeakers and related products serving dozens of markets and industries. Cliff was a past president of the Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing and Acoustics (ALMA), and he was awarded three patents for loudspeaker-related inventions:

  • US Patent 3,492,443 (January 27, 1970)—A dust seal and pressure element for the magnet assembly of a loudspeaker
  • US Patent 3,898,393 (August 1975)—This invention was designed to shield and center a voice coil and pole piece, within the magnet, from foreign matter (e.g., pieces of ceramic material).
  • US Patent 4,293,741 (October 6, 1981)—This design relates to sound transducer assemblies and attachments of a ceramic magnet assembly to a loudspeaker basket. The invention enables the front plate and basket to be securely connected without any space between them.

Cliff was the kind of innovator who could turn problems into business opportunities. Case in point: In 1947, Cliff’s wife bought a small radio with “horribly distorted” sound. When the fault turned out to be a rubbing voice coil, Cliff, then a student at the National Radio School in Minneapolis, MN, decided to recone the speaker himself and save $3. That fix inspired a loudspeaker repair and reconing business—Minneapolis Speaker Reconing. When television’s popularity in the early 1950s meant fewer radio speakers to recone, Cliff actively pursued other markets, including drive-in theater speakers. His decisions made Minneapolis Speaker Reconing the largest reconing service in the country.

In 1956, a customer asked Cliff to design and manufacture an 8” speaker with the same high quality as his reconed speakers. The initial 200-speaker production run was a huge success; however, just as Cliff’s team began to assemble the second order for 1,000 speakers, the customer died and his company canceled the order. Cliff didn’t panic. He contacted other sound contractors, trying to sell the 1,000 speakers. They did sell, sometimes out of sympathy for Cliff’s predicament. Then, repeat orders poured in as buyers discovered the speakers’ high quality. The line expanded to automotive speakers and 12” speakers for hi-fi sets. Cliff’s reconing company transformed itself into a full-time speaker manufacturing company—MISCO.

While Cliff knew he had a superior product, MISCO speakers needed to attract more attention in the marketplace. Early on, one customer even referred to MISCO as a company with “me, too” products. Cliff decided in addition to MISCO speakers high audio quality, they also needed to stand out visually. At the time, all speaker cones were black with gray-felt dust caps. After considerable development, MISCO rolled out speakers with red molded cones—the legendary Red Line. Cliff got product recognition, as his company was one of the first to develop brand retention based on cone color.

Cliff’s career in the audio industry was bookended by his service as a World War II combat veteran—first, as a B-17 ball-turret gunner and radio operator based in England. Then, 64 years later, as author of the memoir Into Life’s School. Cliff believed once you left school, you entered life’s school and learned valuable lessons your entire life.

Cliff’s industry legacy, however, is MISCO. Now managed by his son, Dan Digre, MISCO operates out of a new manufacturing facility in Minneapolis. The company’s markets include pro sound, gaming, home theater, aerospace, medical, military, transportation, and audio. Dan said, “Cliff’s speakers have touched the ears of nearly everyone in the United States.” He will be missed. For more information, visit www.miscospeakers.com.


CES Draws 150,000 Plus

It’s possible (we won’t know until the official audit is released), that 2013 was the largest International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in its history. The show held in Las Vegas, NV, drew more than 150,000 attendees, including more than 35,000 from at least 170 foreign countries, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which produces CES. The official attendance number will be audited this spring. In 2012, CES set an attendance record of 156,153 industry professionals.

CES 2013 was physically the largest in the show’s 45-year history, with 1.92 million net square feet. The previous record was 1.86 million net square feet in 2012.


ALMA Symposium a Success

The ALMA Symposium was another successful event. This year’s loudspeaker engineering gathering attracted 16 exhibitors and 110 attendees. Exhibitors included ACO Pacific (measurement microphones), Audiostar Electronics (voice coils), BeStar Technologies (microspeakers, microphones), Dr. Kurt Müller & Co. (cone assembly parts), Dyne Analytics (FEA transducer software), Earthworks (measurement microphones), Ferrotec (magnetic fluid), Globe Plastics (OEM plastic loudspeaker parts), Klippel (test equipment), Listen (test equipment), Loudsoft (loudspeaker design software and test equipment), Materion Electrofusion (Truextent beryllium diaphragms), Menlo Scientific (audio consulting), MSC Software (Actran acoustics simulation software), Phase Group (OEM QA analysis), Pulsus Technologies (OEM electronics), and Voice Coil (an OEM loudspeaker manufacturing publication). Companies represented by the 110 attendees included: Accusonic Voice Systems, American Ally Company, Audio Limited (New Zealand), Audiostar Electronics, Apple, Arrow Acoustics, Atlantic Technology, Beats Electronics, BeStar Technologies, Bogen Communications, Bomatec International, Cabasse, Cisco Systems, CJS Labs, Core Brands, Corning, DB Design, DJB Enterprises, Dyne Analytics, Estron A/S, Far North Electroacoustics, Fujitsu Ten, Globe Plastics, Google, G.R.A.S., Harman International Industries, JBL Professional, HiWave Technologies, Jawbone, Jaguar, Land Rover, Klipsch Audio Technologies, KSC Industries, LAGO Acoustics, LifeSize, Listen, Logitech, Loudspeaker Component, Maeden International, Materion Electrofusion, Matrix Advisors, Menlo Scientific, Merry Electronics (USA), MISCO, Morel, MSC Software, Ole Wolff Electronics, Outsource Services, Parts Express, Paradigm Electronics, Polk Audio, Proficient Audio, Pulsus Technologies, Psychotechnology, QSC, Rockford College, Samsung Electronics, Scan-Speak, Sonos, Texas Instruments, Triad Speakers, True Technologies, THX, VUE Audiotechnik, Warkwyn Associates, and York Lake Partners.

Jim Hunter presents “The Life and Times of Paul Klipsch” at the ALMA Symposium.

Jim Hunter presents “The Life and Times of Paul Klipsch” at the ALMA Symposium.

The ALMA Banquet featured an outstanding presentation by Jim Hunter, Klipsch Group historian, titled “The Life and Times of Paul Klipsch.”. This year’s Driver Awards were as follows:

Paul Klipsch was posthumously awarded the year’s ALMA Beryllium Lifetime Achievement Driver Award.

Paul Klipsch

The Beryllium Lifetime Achievement Driver Award was presented by Dr. Floyd Toole to Paul Klipsch, posthumous, and Vance Dickason, industry consultant, editor of Voice Coil magazine, and author of the Loudspeaker Design Cookbook.

Vance Dickason, editor of Voice Coil magazine, received this year’s ALMA Beryllium Lifetime Achievement Driver Award.

Vance Dickason

Dr. Sean Olive, Harman International’s director of acoustic research, received the ALMA Titanium Driver Award.

Dr. Sean Olive

The Titanium Driver Award (recognizing a specific technical contribution) was presented by Dr. Floyd Toole to Dr. Sean Olive, director of acoustic research at Harman International, and Doug Button, former vice president of engineering at JBL Professional.

Phil Bunch, president of Phase Group, received the ALMA Gold Driver Award from Stu Lumsden, vice president of engineering at Polk Audio.

Phil Bunch

Mike Oslac, of York Lake Partners, received the ALMA Gold Driver Award from Dan Degre, CEO of MISCO.

Mike Oslac

The Gold Driver Award (recognizing contributions to the ALMA organization) went to Phil Bunch, president of Phase Group, presented by Stu Lumsden, vice president of engineering at Polk Audio (see Photo 6); and Mike Oslac of York Lake Partners and ALMA board member emeritus, presented by Dan Degre, CEO of MISCO.

If you missed this year’s ALMA Symposium, you missed a lot. If you are not an ALMA member, you can join by visiting www.almainternational.org.

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