The founder of Milwaukee-based Koss Corporation and the man credited with inventing stereo headphones has died.
John C. Koss died Tuesday, Dec. 21 at the age of 91, according to a post on the company’s website.
Koss, a former chairman of the company that bears his name, started the business in Milwaukee in 1953 as a television rental service for hospital patients.
According to the post it was five years later that Koss and partner, Martin Lange, Jr. developed the SP/3 Stereophone, which was key in launching the stereo headset industry worldwide.
“Dad loved music and the experience of a live performance,” said Michael J. Koss, current chairman and CEO of Koss Corporation.
“Like many legendary entrepreneurs, our founder channeled his passion to create a revolutionary product. Today, it’s clear that his innovation changed the way the world listens to music.”
Headphones that the senior Koss developed gained countless uses, including in the recording industry. One such product, the Pro/4 Series became the official headphones on the presidential jet, Air Force One, eliciting special pride.
“As a member of the reserve Air National Guard, it’s safe to say, one of Dad’s proudest moments in business was when Koss Stereophones became part of the Air Force One in-flight entertainment system,” said Koss’ son.
An MPS alumnus, Koss graduated form Riverside High School, and earned honorary degrees from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Koss was involved in many causes, serving as a director and Chairman of Junior Achievement of Southeastern Wisconsin and a director of the Milwaukee School of Engineering. He and his company also helped create the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Koss Hearing and Balance Center, and the Koss Cochlear Implant program, as well as the John C. Koss Endowed Chair in Otolaryngology.
In addition to numerous awards, Koss has been inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame, The Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame and the Audio Hall of Fame.
In the 1970s, he bought WFMR in an effort to save the area’s last remaining classical music radio station.
“Dad was a music lover that pushed hard to maintain the ‘Sound of Koss.’ He always wanted to bring people closer to the music they loved. It’s why he coined the Koss tagline ‘Hearing is Believing’,” said the younger Koss.
“Ask anyone who knew my father, and they’ll tell you he was one of a kind. He distinguished himself as an eternal optimist that never let anything stand in his way. We’re all proud of his achievements, not just with the Koss Corporation, but through the contributions he’s made helping others. John C. Koss made the world a better place. We’ll miss him dearly.”
I bought a number of headphones from Koss and anytime there was an issue of any kind, the company always eagerly replaced them, no questions asked. That's a rare guarantee these days and one that says a lot about its founder.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.