Water buckled the fuselage of his F4F Wildcat, as Charles Quilter,
newly married Marine aviator, ditched his bullet-riddled aircraft in the
nearest lagoon. Although shocked by the rapidity of the inrushing
water, he remembered his training, grabbed the survival kit and managed
to deploy the life raft just as the plane's tail disappeared under the
waves. He paddled ashore, ever fearful of enemy outposts, and was
greeted by two French children, crying for fear he would be eaten by the
"big fish" (sharks) in the lagoon. After rejoining his unit he
participated in the epic air defense of Guadalcanal, eventually earning
the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In 1945, Charles J. Quilter would return from WW2 to a loving wife, a
growing family and a long and distinguished career culminating in an
appointment as the commanding general of the First Marine Aircraft Wing
in Vietnam. It is remarkable to consider how one near disaster in a
distant and forgotten land would ultimately change the history of
Patrick H. Quilter was born to Elizabeth and Charles Quilter in the
late '40s, the third of four boys. Every two years the family moved to a
new and exotic location, but two places in particular had a profound
impact on Pat. Living in Laguna Beach, California and Honolulu, Hawaii
connected with Pat in ways that none of the other homes had. Surrounded
by the lush green hills of the Manoa Valley, Pat began to discover the
music of Hawaii, which left an enduring impression on him. Although the
hipper kids were listening to the Beach Boys and Beatles, playing their
chiming guitars through now-classic amplifiers, few knew that the
earliest guitar amps were developed in the 1930s for Hawaiian steel
guitar players, so they could be heard in boisterous tropical night
clubs. Pat fell in love with the instrument and the sound.
In his high school physics class, Pat learned the fundamentals of
electronic components. As a physics nerd, it was expected that Pat would
proceed on to college and a major in science, but the lure of music and
audio began to take over his fevered mind. Poring over the pages of
hobby electronics magazines and primitive car-radio schematics, Pat
began the process of shaping a long-lasting career that would ultimately
change how we all experience audio. Pat took great pleasure in
re-tracing the steps of the pioneers of electronics from the early
1920s, teaching himself the basic principles by trial and error.
After a stint in Washington DC, General Quilter was stationed in
Southern California, this time as Commanding General of El Toro Marine
Corps Air Station, followed by a tour in Vietnam. The overseas
deployment meant that the family needed to resettle again in dear old
Laguna Beach. Pat attended classes at Long Beach State College and soon
began to feel like something of a California boy. His college career
gradually buckled under the distractions of learning hands-on
electronics, and when his younger brother Matt started a high school
rock band, the "Blown Mind", the challenge to combine musical
appreciation and technical skills proved irresistible.
In 1967, of course, the cranked-up electric guitar erupted like a
volcano onto the musical scene, blasting away a mountain of traditional
respectability. Steeped in the music of the Yardbirds, Cream, and
Hendrix, a whole new realm of youthful high energy was emerging. The
Blown Mind's bass player complained that he couldn't afford a decent
name brand amp. After ascertaining how much he actually had to spend,
and mentally adding up the parts cost, Pat agreed to make him a suitably
powerful unit. After all, "How hard could it be?"
The first "Quilter Sound Thing" took shape over the summer of 1967 and
although everything needed to be done over twice, the end result, crude
as it was, managed to impress friends and even some experts. Even more
amazingly, it continued to function for many years, eventually returning
to Pat's hands as a trade-in for a newer model.
"Flushed with success", Pat embarked upon a journey to build bigger
and louder amps, using solid state technology which at the time was
clearly the wave of the future. On a shoestring budget, augmented by
funds from his mother and older brother Charlie, Quilter Sound Company
was born. Pat assembled a ragtag band of friends who shared a vision of
"serving show business" without having to get a real job.
Pat and his early partners, John and Barry Andrews, often found
themselves up against pretty big odds in the early '70s, given the
fierce competition in guitar amplifiers. Despite the impact of negative
cash flow, their eternal optimism and persistence kept them going, even
when "returning to square one" became heartbreakingly common. Then came
the ultimate blow. "I remember Barry calling me one morning and asking
if by any chance I had taken home all our inventory.", Pat recalls.
It turns out that thieves had cut a hole in the roof and cleaned out
their small warehouse, just after they had finished building a
respectable collection of all their best models. But these setbacks just
strengthened their resolve to "make it" and it never diverted them from
their values of hard work, honesty, and integrity. If there was one
thing they believed it was that "Nice guys finish first (eventually)."
By the early seventies, it became obvious that business setbacks
precluded Quilter Sound Company from becoming a market leader in guitar
amps. Other, better-financed firms had gained the upper hand. Although
Pat had made significant progress in building high energy solid-state
amps with better reliability than still-popular tube amps, the guitar
amp scene was highly fractured and it was time to look for a steadier
Looking back on what they had learned, Pat and his partners identified
the power amp section as their most challenging accomplishment.
Knowledge from the "school of hard knocks" could serve as the foundation
for products focused to the pro-audio market. Quilter Sound Company was
re-born as QSC Audio Products and a small but reliable series of power
amps began to give QSC a solid reputation in pro-audio . An ever-growing
line of good, reliable, and reasonably priced power amps would remain a
mainstay of QSC's business for decades to come.
As QSC stretched out from the world's leading power amplifier company
to the world's leading pro audio systems company, Pat never lost his
love for music or those who make it. As the decades passed, Pat
developed, tested and shelved many prototype guitar amplifier designs,
each demonstrating small yet signification improvements over the last
one. Since these products fell outside QSC's main focus, the guitar amps
remained nothing more than a spare-time project.
As QSC continued its stellar rise to prominence in the world of pro
audio and continued to add more engineering talent in multiple
disciplines, Pat began to contemplate the possibility of retirement. But
if retirement means "doing what you enjoy", Pat could think of nothing
more enjoyable than finally solving the problem that got him started in
the audio business. Surprisingly, after all this time and despite many
alternative approaches and claims, no other researcher seemed to have
the combination of technical experience and musical appreciation that
would enable the development of a modern lightweight guitar amp that
"thinks it's a tube amp".
After decades of developing top-line QSC products, Pat had become a
world-class designer of compact, high power amplifiers. The final years
of Pat's QSC career saw his mastery of Class-D technology, the third
wave of power technology that would replace traditional solid state,
just as solid-state had replaced tube amps, except in the guitar field
where tube amps continued to be respected as having the best and most
natural tonal properties. Having built tube amps, Pat was well aware of
the properties that they brought to the game. As a veteran of analog
design, he could see what it would take to duplicate the behavior of
tubes, but using modern, high efficiency, lightweight technology to
design an amp that would serve the needs of musicians better than
anything else on the market.
Using some of the proceeds of a long and profitable career, Pat Quilter, with several partners and long-time friends, founded Quilter Laboratories at the stroke of midnight, January 1st, 2011. With all the supplier relationships and manufacturing expertise of QSC, this new company could be focused on research and development and not be burdened by managing a large corporate infrastructure. With these foundations, developing, manufacturing, marketing and selling great products should be well in hand. And in the true California tradition, the partners planned to have some fun along the way!