Loud and Clear: Improving School Communications with American-Made Speakers

Wahsega is on a mission to improve communications in schools. Obviously, the importance of this can’t be overstated when you consider safety during severe weather conditions, power outages, or in an active threat on campus.

Wahsega offers schools a full solution with its Carina platform, which includes in-ceiling loudspeakers, digital display boards, and an intuitive control dashboard. However, listening to their customers, Wahsega now offers external horn speakers so a school can instantly communicate inside and out, covering an entire campus. 

“Our goal when we started this product was to perfectly reproduce human speech and make it extremely loud,” says Greg Coonley, President and CEO at Wahsega.

As Wahsega’s engineers iterated on the horn shape, they looked for the right speaker to put behind it. It came down to two choices: a manufacturer in Italy and Minnesota-based MISCO.

Wahsega bought a couple of sample speakers on MISCO’s website to test. When they paired them with the uniquely shaped horn, the volume was adequate, but high frequency extension wasn't.

“The human voice is basically from 200Hz to 8 or 9kHz,” says Greg. “And the first speakers were not performing as well above about 4kHz.” 

Partnering with Speaker Experts

Washega asked MISCO if they could improve the frequency response and still beat the price of the European manufacturer. MISCO’s transducer engineers went to work. 

“We added a very customized curvilinear polypropylene cone we had originally developed as an outdoor application for a motorcycle speaker,” says Dan Digre, President and CEO at MISCO. “It was already waterproof, which was another requirement from Wahsega.”

MISCO then changed the magnet assembly design by swapping out a 5-ounce ferrite magnet for a specially designed 10-ounce ferrite magnet, and then boosted the flux with an additional powerful neodymium magnet to increase the total magnetic energy. Neo magnets can also have the effect of a shorting ring, reducing the inductance of the coil to increase the high frequency output.

Over the 75 years that MISCO has been making speakers, it has produced thousands of products and prototypes for every audio application imaginable—from aerospace to drive-thrus. This stockpile of solutions allows MISCO engineers to quickly ideate and test options originally designed for one industry to see if they can meet the needs of another. 

MISCO sent Wahsega the prototype to test. “MISCO was really nice because they helped us maximize the volume and maximize the frequency response.” says Greg. “We liked the speaker so much that we ended up going with MISCO for a second product line of ours that has much higher sales.”

Reshoring Manufacturing

Greg says he was “risk averse” to changing manufacturers before seeing what MISCO could deliver and how the company operated. 

“I had an offshore supplier for the speaker on this other product line,” says Greg. “They kind of struggled…we had a pretty high failure rate out of the box. So even though they were lower priced, we also need to count the shipping cost, the default rate, and the capital efficiency costs. You also have to place a much larger order in situations like this, and you either need to store the inventory or sell it. So you've got cash tied up. They require all of it to be paid before it leaves their loading dock. If you make a mistake, then you're not shipping product. So what does that cost you? So the nice thing with MISCO is I place an order and they deliver on a schedule, and I pay them.

“I can’t discount the business relationship,” says Greg. “Because, honestly, us working with Chinese companies, I don't even know that I'd call that a business relationship that's just transactional.”

“Quality is important for us because these aren't consumer-type products,” says Greg. “They need to stay in a school for years, so they have to last. So we're looking for higher quality stuff. And we don't want the paper just to degrade and start rattling in a few years…The fact that MISCO 100% tests each speaker individually—that was important.”

Wahsega partnered with MISCO to create an outdoor horn loudspeaker for schools that’s clearer and louder than anything else available. Highlights of the partnership:

  • Rapid engineering and prototyping support
  • Exceptional frequency response and volume achieved 
  • 100% of units fully tested for quality control
  • USA manufacturing

“When you can build in America you can control both the design and manufacturing process,” says Dan. “You can take an off-the-shelf part, customize it for a customer, and control the recipe. And Greg can visit the MISCO factory any day he wants, he doesn’t have to travel to the other side of the world.”

“It's a relationship-building thing,” says Greg. “We’re a U.S. manufacturer that's looking to, as much as we can, work with another U.S. manufacturer so that we can both flourish."

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