Typically, a teenager’s summer job consists of waiting tables, lifeguarding, or helping out at the family business—it gives them a chance to learn new skills and start to think about what they want to do in their future careers. For Pat Quilter though, that typical summer job story took a nice twist—his first job was borne from a simple challenge to build a bass guitar amplifier for his brother.
As the son of a Marine aviator, Quilter was fortunate to receive a high quality education at a prep school in Honolulu. While there, he took a liking to physics and engineering, which gave him a strong start for a career in audio.
“I experimented in electronics a lot, so when my brother’s bass player lacked funds to buy a high quality bass amp, I did a little research and thought I could build one. I had to do everything twice before we got it to work,” Quilter explained. “It just seemed more fun than washing dishes. That next summer, I made a couple more amps and sold them for more money. By the mid-70s, I realized we weren’t going to make it just in guitar amps, so we revamped into QSC Audio.”
Quilter said that his career and company blossomed with the industry. As technologies advanced and changed, so did QSC.
“Audio in those days was a field that an eager kid could get into and basically teach themselves the basics, and then learn from the ground up,” Quilter said. “I started up in the age of solid state and grew up with that technology.”
Working with his partners Barry and John Andrews, Quilter was able to grow QSC into what it is today. While the company started with amplifiers for music, it’s expanded into the AV and pro audio realms to offer customers high-end solutions for large audio systems.
“We’ve been investing in the area of digital audio for over 15-plus years leading up to our Q-Sys Networking platform. The designers behind this product had experience with what was already out there, and wanted to take things to the next level,” Quilter said.
A big niche for QSC amplifiers and network systems lies in corporate AV, Quilter added, as communication devices continue to advance. “It won’t be long before we routinely have conversations on a large scale video screen. That’s what QSC sees for the future,” he said.
Personally, Quilter said when he designs a product, affordability and reliability are always his goal. “I detest tools that break in your hands, so anything I make needs to be solid, reliable, and go the distance. The QSC amps we made in the ‘80s still work, and that makes me happy. If I can provide a real service and a real value, then I’ve done my job.”
Staying true to his first love, music, Quilter returned to designing guitar amplifiers through his company Quilter Labs. He still remains an active member at QSC, serving as Chairman of the Board.
Quilter has been a part of the audio industry for over 40 years now, and in 2011, he decided to return to his first passion, and started Quilter Labs, where he designs high-end amplifiers for guitars. This initial passion got him interested in audio, and a growing body of players are recognizing his work combining vintage tone with modern high performance electronics. Meanwhile, he still remains active with QSC, serving as Chairman of the Board.
“About ten or 15 years ago, we senior guys decided it was time to groom our replacements and make sure QSC was passed into the right hands. I’m happy to say that the three of us are retired from daily operations, but we’re still active in the strategic direction of the company,” he said.
Kelleigh Welch is managing editor of SCN. Follow her on Twitter @kelleighwelch.