75 Years of Delivering Audio Solutions [VIDEO]

As Dan Digre walks the factory floor of MISCO Speakers, he can hear the voice of his father, MISCO founder Cliff Digre, echoing in his mind.

MISCO's 75th commemoration video

“One of my father's favorite expressions was ‘find a way or make one,’” Digre says, underscoring the mantra on which the company was founded in 1949.

That evergreen business philosophy has held true for the son of the founder. As president and CEO for the past three and a half decades, Digre reflects on his father’s words as MISCO celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2024.

“My parents were very, very innovative,” Digre says. “That value of wanting to make things better; better for themselves, better for their family, better for their employees, better for their customers. 

“That was a pretty important value for them.”

MISCO’s founders, Cliff and Bernice Digre were married after Cliff returned homeat the end of World War II in Europe, where he served as a radio operator on B-17 bombers.

As Digre settled back into civilian life, he went to school to learn to repair radios. When the speaker of a radio that he and Bernice received as a wedding gift began to sound scratchy, Digre, brought the item to the only speaker repair company in Minnesota. 

The results were unsatisfactory, leading Digre to realize an opportunity. Together with Bernice, he created the Minneapolis Speaker Reconing Company.

“In many ways, my mother was my dad's first customer because it was her radio that her parents had given them,” Digre says with a smile. “We still have the radio at MISCO. And the speaker my dad fixed still works 75 years later.”

Gift for Repair Leads to Opportunity

Customers began to take notice of Digre’s repair work, which actually resulted in better sound than when those speakers were new. Soon, Digre transitioned from only speaker repair to speaker manufacturing and began making his own quality product.

Drive-in movie theaters were hugely popular in 1956 and MISCO was there to bring soundtracks alive with their specially designed and rugged outdoor 4-inch speaker.

As the company began to grow, the approach remained the same; and the relationships Cliff and Bernice forged with their customers flourished.

“The values that they had, one of them is trust,” Digre says of his parents. “Trust in each other. And then building trust with everybody they did business with.”

OEM Manufacturing Begins

The drive-in speaker, durable against environmental elements, also served as an effective communications speaker for the new and growing market of drive-thru restaurants. So in the 1980s, MISCO narrowed its focus on original equipment manufacturing sales, or OEM.

“That really changed the nature of the business and really allowed MISCO to grow,” Dan Digre points out, emphasizing the significance of OEM. “It moved us more into a wide variety of markets.”

MISCO further refined its design and manufacturing, tailoring products to provide custom audio solutions for medical equipment, aviation, and military applications.

In 1990, Dan Digre was named president, poised to carry his father’s vision forward. And as the turn of the millennium beckoned, MISCO answered; expanding into a new factory in Minneapolis, which opened in 2002. 

The new facility allowed for increased capacity and new product innovations, ushering in the era of amplifiers to complement the increasing offering of MISCO speakers.

“It was important for us because it allowed us to help a customer create an entire audio system for them to put into their product,” Digre says.

The acquisition of Warkwyn Labs in 2015 was another watershed moment for the company, making it possible to offer sophisticated tests and measurements to customers, as well as provide test and measurement services and Klippel equipment and training to other companies.

Just one year later, MISCO acquired Oaktron, creating an opportunity to partner with NASA to develop loudspeakers for the Orion spacecraft as part of the Artemis project one day taking humans to Mars.

After moving to its present factory in 2019, MISCO launched ToneSpeak, a premium, American-made line of guitar and bass speakers. The company also expanded customized manufacturing with advanced engineering, prototype design using 3D printing, robotic assembly, and increased capabilities to design and build loudspeakers ranging from two to 21 inches in size.

75 Years and Beyond

For Dan Digre, the past is a prologue as he looks forward to more innovations in the years ahead.

“What's next usually involves a customer asking us to do something, and us figuring out a way to do it right," he says, reiterating his father’s timeless core value. “Find a way or make one.”

A company born of the static sounds emanating from a cherished radio, three-quarters of a century ago, continues to provide custom audio solutions to customers around the globe and into the cosmos.

“The legacy of MISCO even goes beyond what my parents started and beyond the work that I've done,” Digre says. “You're building on 75 years, but you're not stopping at 75 years. You're looking to the future.”

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