JBL, a unit of Harman International Industries, Incorporated, designs and builds audio equipment for consumers, the entertainment industry and the automotive industry.
JBL takes its decades of experience making speakers and other equipment for concert halls and other public venues, and uses it to create audio equipment for consumers around the world. You can enjoy a movie, ball game or concert as part of a huge crowd or in your home - but either way, you can catch all of the sounds with superb clarity through JBL components.
The Founder: JBL started with J.B.L. – James Bullough Lansing. An obsessed and possibly manic-depressive genius, Lansing invented practically everything he could – even his own name.
He was born James Martini on January 14, 1902, in Macoupin County, Illinois, to Henry Martini and Grace Erbs Martini. Macoupin County, located north of St. Louis, was farming and mining country, and Henry Martini was a mining engineer.
His son (the ninth of the Martinis’ fourteen children) took after him. Engineering and machinery fascinated young James. It’s said that around age 12, he built a small transmitter that put out a signal strong enough to disrupt a local radio station.
James attended middle school and high school in Springfield, Illinois, and took courses at a small business college there, but he never got a formal degree in engineering. At some point in his young adulthood, he added the middle name of Bullough (after a family he knew in his late teens) and – for reasons that seem lost in the past – changed his last name to Lansing.
He spent the early 1920s as an auto mechanic. After his mother died in late 1924, Lansing moved to Salt Lake City. The town apparently had work for an ambitious, driven young man who knew and liked electrical machinery, and Lansing became an engineer at a local radio station.
But he wanted more. Not long after arriving in Salt Lake City, he founded Lansing Manufacturing Company to build radio loudspeakers. Soon thereafter, he found a businessman named Ken Decker to run the financial and marketing side of the business, and Lansing settled in to concentrate on technology.
The south-western United States’ centre of electronics manufacturing wasn’t Salt Lake City, though. It was Los Angeles. Lansing moved his company there in early 1927.
Welcome to Hollywood
His timing was perfect. On October 6, Warner Brothers premiered the first talking feature film, The Jazz Singer. The film was such a sensation that every studio in Hollywood suddenly demanded sound equipment for their sound stages and for the networks of cinemas that they owned.
Unfortunately, the new talking film technology was crude. In particular, it was too weak and rough for Douglas Shearer, chief sound engineer at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. MGM, Hollywood’s biggest and most prestigious studio, specialized in lavish musicals and other films that needed great sound reproduction.
Shearer consulted experts who said that the best man to improve movie sound was Jim Lansing. From 1933 through 1935, Shearer and Lansing developed a system of horn-shaped speakers to improve cinema sound. The Shearer-Lansing system worked so well that in 1936, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave it an award for technical excellence.
Lansing Manufacturing was flying high until Ken Decker crashed – literally. A reserve officer with the Army Air Corps, Decker was killed during aerial manoeuvres in 1939.
Without Decker’s talent for business, Lansing Manufacturing suffered. By 1941, the only way its founder could keep it going was to sell it.
Altec Service Corporation, which handled maintenance and repairs for cinema sound systems, needed a source of parts. In December of 1941, Altec bought Lansing Manufacturing for a reported $50,000 (about $730,000 in 2009 dollars).
Altec to the Rescue
As the newly renamed Altec Lansing Corporation’s Vice-President of Engineering, Jim Lansing was free to focus on developing new technology. He and his engineering team invented, among other things, the A-4 speaker system, which became a standard for cinemas.
But Lansing had gotten used to running his operations his own way, and he clashed with Altec Lansing’s management. His contract ran for five years. When its term was up, he quit.
On October 1, 1946, he founded Lansing Sound, Incorporated. Altec Lansing complained that using the name Lansing so prominently impinged on Altec Lansing’s rights to the word. LSI soon tucked its founder’s name snugly inside a new identity: James B. Lansing Sound, Incorporated.
J.B.L. and JBL
Lansing soon developed speakers for cinemas. His first components were virtual copies – right down to the model names – of the speakers that he had created at Altec Lansing.
Lansing was a brilliant engineer with an eye for innovative designs and materials, but he was a poor businessman. His company lost money and by late 1949 was about $20,000 (roughly $180,000 in 2009 dollars) in debt.
Lansing had always suffered from bouts of depression. On September 24, 1949, apparently upset over the decline of his beloved business, the founder of JBL took his own life.
JBL after J.B.L.
Lansing had had a $10,000 life insurance policy, one third of which went to his wife and the remaining two thirds to the company. Using the company’s share, about $60,000 in 2009 dollars, corporate treasurer William Thomas began to pull the firm out of debt. In the early 1950s, Thomas bought out the share of the company that Mrs. Lansing had inherited and became the sole owner.
Thomas knew that he had a great asset: Jim Lansing’s name. Despite Lansing’s financial agonies, he still had a tall reputation for creating top-quality audio electronics. Thomas launched the Jim Lansing Signature series of loudspeakers, devoted to superb quality in design and manufacturing.
But one series of speakers wasn’t enough to keep the company going – especially after Altec Lansing objected to Thomas’ use of the valuable Lansing name. After long negotiations, Thomas agreed to stop using the word. From then on, James B. Lansing Sound, Incorporated, would refer to itself and its products as JBL.
Consumers and Professionals
Thomas kept his company moving with the times. As cinemas added stereophonic sound, Thomas signed contracts for JBL to design new components for cinema audio manufacturers Ampex and Westrex.
The early 1950s saw the birth of high-quality consumer audio. The phrase “hi-fi” (high fidelity) entered the American vocabulary, and popular magazines presented photo spreads on new record players. To take advantage of the new market, Thomas hired industrial designer William Hartsfield, who produced a loudspeaker named, naturally, the Hartsfield. The speaker was a hit, and JBL was suddenly a power player in home audio.
In 1957, engineer Richard Ranger and designer Arnold Wolf created the striking sound system Paragon. Housed in an elegant hardwood cabinet, the Paragon appealed to consumers as both a superb record player and a stylish piece of living-room furniture. It proved so popular that JBL continued to make and sell the Paragon for a good 25 years.
Even while it was growing strong in speakers and other components for the home, JBL was also spreading into what is now called pro audio. In the 1950s, electric-guitar pioneer Leo Fender called JBL’s model D130 the ideal loudspeaker for his creations. Guitarists everywhere started plugging their axes into D130 speakers.
A few years later, in the early 1960s, JBL worked with Capitol Records (home of the Beatles and the Beach Boys) to develop monitors for recording studios. The resulting system, the 4320, was so successful that to this day, JBL’s professional division develops components for recording studios worldwide.
Encouraged by these successes, William Thomas formally established JBL Professional as a separate division of the company in the late 1960s. The consumer division continued on, known simply as JBL.
JBL, Meet Harman
Sidney Harman was the founder (with Bernard Kardon) of the audio company Harman Kardon. The company was as innovative as JBL; Harman Kardon had, among other things, created the stereo receiver.
But Harman wanted to grow stronger in the audio business. Harman Kardon had made him so prosperous that he could and did acquire the Jervis Corporation, a small conglomerate based in New York. Jervis made an offer for JBL.
After twenty years building one of the biggest successes in audio, William Thomas was willing to sell him JBL. In 1969, the deal was done. JBL now belonged to Jervis, which would eventually be renamed Harman International Industries, Incorporated. Arnold Wolf, designer of the Paragon (and the JBL logo), became JBL’s president.
The Boom Years
Under Harman, JBL grew into something close to what it is today: an audio maker that takes its expertise in theatrical and recording-studio sound systems and applies it to the home. In 1969, the company installed the technology of its model 4310 and 4311 monitors (very popular in recording studios) in the L100 speaker for home systems. The L100 became an enormous success, selling more than 100,000 units over the 1970s.
In addition to using its existing technology, JBL spent the 1970s and 1980s developing new bursts of innovation. In the middle 1970s, for instance, JBL engineers developed Symmetrical Field Geometry™, a speaker assembly that reduces sonic distortion. A few years later, the company’s engineers created Bi-Radial® horn technology, which improves sonic performance over a range of frequencies.
Meanwhile, Harman International’s worldwide reach helped JBL serve people who might otherwise never buy JBL products. The company has made particularly strong inroads in Japan. Since the 1980s, for instance, ultra-high-end loudspeakers such as the prestigious K2 and the powerful, room-dominating Everest DD6600 have earned raves in Japanese audio magazines and high sales in Japanese stores.
JBL Today and Tomorrow
For decades, Sidney Harman continued to lead Harman International Industries. In May of 2007, as he approached his 88th birthday, he hired Dinesh Paliwal as the company’s chief executive officer.
Paliwal, an engineer with degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology and Miami University of Ohio, came to Harman having previously headed up global power and automation technology leader ABB Ltd. About a year after coming to Harman International, he succeeded Sidney Harman as the company’s chairman.
The engineers, executives, and other employees of JBL watched these changes with considerable interest, but none of the changes swayed them from their usual concern: making great audio products. They’ve been setting new trends in fashion by partnering with sportswear company Roxy for a line of colorful headphones. They’ve been devising speakers and players for fresh sources of entertainment such as high-definition television, Blu-ray Disc™ technology and Apple’s latest iPod and iPhone models. And they’ve been keeping an eye on every other new opportunity coming down the road.
What exactly are those opportunities? Well, we can’t say what they are (we have to have some corporate secrets, after all), but we can say one thing. As JBL’s people continue the traditions of high-quality craftsmanship and technological innovation that have always marked the company, we’re sure that Jim Lansing would be proud of us.
About JBL Professional
Play back the last 30 years of music and motion picture recording, and one name stands alone: JBL® Professional. Before THX® and Dolby®, before stereo and even hi-fi, there was JBL. Today, you’ll hear JBL Pro sound in 70 percent of all professional venues, including legendary recording studios, famous concert halls and premier movie houses, around the world. JBL Pro loudspeakers are the one benchmark for quality and the singular reference for accuracy in the playback of recorded sound.
A Journey of Engineering Excellence:
At JBL, audio technology is at the core of everything we do. For over 65 years we have employed the best methodology and tools, and, as established at the very beginning by our founder, James B. Lansing, we develop everything from the ground up. This not only ensures success in the marketplace, it guarantees our efforts exceed the needs and expectations of audio professionals throughout the world. Never straying from this exacting formula, our journey has produced a prolific list of audio achievements, groundbreaking technologies, revolutionary advances in the art and science of professional audio, many patents, and many awards. It’s a journey that is legendary worldwide and has positioned JBL as the world leader in professional audio. Not just as a brand, but as a company known for consistently blending creativity and science as a manifestation of our passion for sound and our commitment to those who create it. Purposeful invention is no accident. It requires leadership, persistence and an unfaltering commitment to JBL’s ultimate design goal: create the best tools for better, more accurate sound. The technologies highlighted in these pages are not only part of a lasting legacy, they are at work every day at the core of all JBL products used by audio professionals worldwide
The technology of transducers is truly the starting place for the entire JBL engineering legacy. Building on James B. Lansing's historic foundation, JBL engineers continue to break ground on new and better ways to design transducers, reaching beyond what is commonly understood as possible and consistently setting new performance benchmarks for the audio industry. Starting from scratch and often developing patents in the process, JBL engineers always develop from the ground up, resulting in technologies, such as Differential Drive woofers, CMCD Cone Midrange drivers, and the D2 Dual Voice Coil Compression Driver, that cover the entire practical bandwidth of professional audio devices. Simultaneously addressing performance-robbing challenges such as power compression, heat dissipation, distortion, component weight, and physical footprint, JBL has created a range of transducers that are unparalleled in their ability to deliver extraordinary performance throughout a wide range of applications.
Building better loudspeakers is only the first of many performance challenges that face all audio design engineers. Controlling the sound as it leaves the speaker enclosure is as critical to the performance of the system as the quality of the source component. The goal is always the same: create a consistent sound pattern throughout the desired vertical and horizontal plane without introducing artifacts, while ensuring the full bandwidth and SPL capability of the transducers, and providing a seamless transition from high frequency to low frequency components. JBL engineers relentlessly test new shapes and develop new materials to achieve the desired performance, often inventing new testing methodologies to ensure that nothing is left out of a thorough and rigorous examination of the design. The resulting technology has produced such groundbreaking designs as the Progressive Transition Waveguide, Image Control Waveguide, Slip Stream Port, Radiation Boundary Integrator, and Constant Curvature Waveguide. With multiple patents, and many successful installations in use worldwide, this critical component of JBL technology continues to evolve through our continuous pursuit of better, more accurate sound.
Low TCR voice coil wire
Thermal Coefficient of Resistivity (TCR) Maintains constant impedance
For electric coil windings, particularly in moving coils such as the voice coil of a heavy duty bass loudspeaker or other electro-acoustic transducer, the present invention has found metallic materials, as alternatives to copper or aluminum in the voice coil wire, that can provide increased available maximum SPL (sound pressure level) exceeding an empirical limit, just under 120 dB/1 m, that has been found to apply to various loudspeakers of known art regardless of efficiency and structural differences. Through study of known art regarding this limitation and theoretical analysis of the factors in voice coil structure and design that limit the maximum attainable SPL, a novel basis for selecting voice coil wire material has been developed. By selecting wire material for low TCR (temperature coefficient of resistance) along with suitable resistivity and density, rather than for low resistivity alone which has conventionally dictated copper or aluminum, the present invention has led to the identification of new wire materials that can increase the available SPL. Such materials include alloys of aluminum containing between two and five component basic metals selected from the following group: magnesium, silicon, manganese, zinc and copper. The alloy Al Mg(3.5%) in extruded form yields maximum SPL 1.5 dB above that of pure aluminum and 3.32 dB above that of pure copper.
All audio products have a useful life, and JBL engineers are committed to making that as long as possible, not only in terms of reliability, but also in terms of how good the sound is the very first time a system is turned on. Every JBL Professional product undergoes stringent testing above and beyond what the product would face when deployed in the real world. To ensure longevity, our 100 Hour Torture Test is unlike any other testing procedure in the industry, so that audio professional know they can rely on JBL components in mission critical applications - in all applications. To ensure the quality of the sound in real-world acoustical spaces, JBL's LSR Linear Spatial Reference Technology measures systems in a 360 degree field around the loudspeaker, enabling the entire system to be engineered for consistent response of all direct and reflected sound at the listening position. JBL also has multiple application specific anechoic testing chambers, and has developed the only known 'Speaker Shuffler' that allows rapid and precise re-positioning of speaker systems in the exact same space for truly accurate A/B testing. This rigorous, uncompromising adherence to testing results in continuous breakthroughs in performance and ensures that JBL users worldwide can always work with confidence.
Line arrays with lineage.
Integral fixtures including premium heat-treated alloys create rigid, reliable hanging arrays and enable the quick, secure assembly of variable-curvature vertical or modular, constant-curvature horizontal line arrays. Inter-box hinge-bar coupling is achieved with stainless-steel quick release pins, secured with coated lanyards. The overall mechanical design follows JBL’s patented, road-proven pattern established with larger compact, midsize and fullsize models in the VerTec family.
Ease of set up and takedown is critical to ensuring high quality sound reinforcement that meets both time and cost restrictions. JBL’s exclusive integral rigging hardware for the VRX900's allows the enclosures to be quickly and securely locked to one another by simply swinging a hinged bar into place and securing it with the included quick release pins. The optional VRX-AF or VRX-SMAF array frame attaches to the rigging hardware of each enclosure providing an easy to use, elegant suspension system for flown arrays. A second array frame may be installed at the bottom of an array for applications where the system must be aimed down sharply.
VTX S.A.F.E™ Suspension
& Lazer setup
Next Generation Line Array
JBL’s patented S.A.F.E suspension system is streamlined for speed and efficiency with improved hardware for faster setup with fewer pinning operations and greater security. A custom-designed protective cover and dolly makes transport easy and the suspension process fast, efficient and safe. Vertical Transporters are also available allowing for transport of four V25 enclosures or three S28 enclosures in either front-firing or
All suspension hardware is integrated into the enclosure and strategically-positioned for fast and secure operation. Front flip hinges and captive rear hinge bars utilizing a unique Angle Stop Mechanism (ASM) allow for efficient assembly that is not only secure, but anti-rattle. Also included is provision for mounting a Laser Sighting Module accessory for greater ease and precision in array focus and system tuning.