January 22, 2014

JBL Hearing the Truth: History

We showed you guys a trailer last month for our JBL Hearing the Truth series. This is our first part in the series appropriately titled “History.” JBL Professional veteran Mark Gander walks us through the legacy of founder James B. Lansing’s historic trek as the iconic designer and manufacturer for loudspeaker systems across nearly every media industry around the world. Mark also discusses the evolution of loudspeaker design from the early 1900s all the way to today’s professional loudspeaker technology. This is a great introduction for anyone looking to take a peek inside not just JBL, but how speaker technology was developed and implement throughout the last 100 years.

Check out the video above and feel free to post your questions and comments below.



Well hi. My name is Mark Gander. I’m the director of JBL Technology here at JBL professional division of Harman and what I wanted to take the time to do today is to go through a little bit of history but try to show you how that history sets the tone for what we do at JBL. And in fact JBL does in fact stand for somebody’s name: James B. Lansing. He is the founder of the company. He actually was doing radio speakers in the 1920s. Followed through from those radio speakers when the industry was called upon to make the movies talk and a requirement was there to reproduce sound for large audiences. Hundreds of thousands of people in large movie theaters. In fact the system that Lansing worked on became the first industry standard cinema loudspeaker system. This is a small version of it. A high frequency, multicellular horn, crossed over to a folded horn with woofers in it for the low frequencies. From that system, Lansing created a very small system for the production rooms. A small multicellular horn, a single 15 inch woofer, and a small vented direct radiator box, and this system was developed in the 1930s and was called the iconic system and essentially this is the first studio monitor. Here you can see the early days of four track recording. They would actually have four monitors, one for each of the four tracks. Above the window looking into the recording room and the engineer at the console. This is how it was done in the 1960s. We also then developed the first bookshelf monitor. This is a 3 way, 12 inch direct radiator type system. 12 inch woofer, 5 inch midrange, 1 and a quarter inch tweeder and that became the first standard of the industry for the console top monitoring. Here’s an example of that system. You can see the white cones. JBL was actually the first to use the white dampening material to make a laminated cone, to make a very neutral and low distortion woofer. In fact that was such a successful speaker that JBL made a consumer version of it. Same exact parts but in a walnut box with a very distinctive pancake grill design and it was called the L100 which was a very very popular high fidelity speaker. Through the 1970s, JBL was the creator of multi way monitors. Not just two ways, but three ways and even four way studio monitors. This was in fact the largest of the 1970s 4300 series it was called the 4350. Two 15 inch woofers, a 12 inch lower mid range, a very large compression driver with one of those acoustic lenses, and a ultra high frequency slot ring radiator. People like Frank Zappa and Pete Townsend of The Who would use four of these experiment with quad during the 1970s. When we move from the 70s into the 1980s, JBL created the bi-radial studio monitors. We created a technology called bi-radial horns that sweeps a radial arc in both the vertical and horizontal directions and gives a very very consistent response. But Lansing himself, one of the first products created by the early Lansing company in the late 1940s was a 15 inch woofer called a D130. Lansing used very innovative techniques at the time. The most advanced magnet material alnico, aluminium, nickel, and cobalt that was developed during World War II. Doing things like cast pot structures with the magnet is behind here. The voice coil diameter was 4 inch. No one had ever used a very large 4 inch diameter voice coil before. Using edge wound Aluminum wire on the voice coil. Using cast frames, the curved linear cone, the aluminum center dome to extend the high frequencies. All these were brought together by using new materials and new technologies. For instance one of the claims to fame is Leo Fender adopting this and other similar speakers as the premium step up for Fender Guitars starting in the late 1950s. Actually in the 1960s JBL created amplifiers that mounted in the loudspeaker enclosures and they were essentially the first powered systems both for studio monitors, and for sound reinforcement in the 1960s. JBL was the first to adapt titanium into a thin foil and have it be formed into diaphragms. Here’s an example of one of our titanium diaphragms and that’s thin titanium foil formed just like some of the preceding aluminium foils were formed. We also have patents on the ribbing pattern on the dome on these diamond shapes on what we call the surround on the edge that allows the motion of the diaphragm. In the lobby we have a number of different displays starting with some of the classic JBL products from JBL’s history. The first being the D130. This is a 15 inch full range loudspeaker that Lansing developed when he first started the JBL company in 1946. Next to it here is a cut away version of the D140. Very similar using the same pot structure which we call it, the rear magnet assembly, the central alnico magnet. You can see the voice coil in the magnetic gap. This is the 4320 studio monitor. A classic, two way loudspeaker. 15 inch woofer. An acoustic lens, these plates and this precisely mathematically derived cut in the middle allows the high frequencies to disperse in a consistent horizontal pattern. Right next to it is the original studio monitor, the first studio monitor from the 1930s the Lansing Iconic. Next to it is the cabaret series which was first developed in the late 1970s and all through the 1980s. Along the way here is another kind of acoustic lens. We talked and showed the slant plate lenses. This is actually a perforated plate lens. A circular or conical sound coverage pattern and this was used in the 1950s for cinema systems as a high frequency to disperse the sound across the whole audience. And finally in our history section, the classic JBL 3 way 12 inch studio monitor the 4310. The white cone, still a very large voice coil and in this case a three inch diameter voice coil with an alnico magnet. A 3 way system, a five inch cone midrange and a 1 and a quarter inch cone, high frequency tweeder. Lots of artists rely on JBL. Just a few of them are Jimmy Douglas, Frank Filipetti works with Paul Simon and a host of artists. Nathan Kunkel, Paul Sandweiss who’s the mixer for the Emmy Awards for the Grammy Awards. Eddie Kramer Grammy Award winning engineer for Jimi Hendrix in the old days along with Led Zeppelin and many modern applications as well. JBL has been awarded with many prestigious honors over the years. JBL was awarded with a Technical Grammy Award in 2005 by NARAS, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences the Grammy organization. JBL overall every year subsequently has been awarded over 15 of the prestigious TEC awards, Technical Excellence in Creativity awards for both sound reinforcement loudspeakers and studio monitor loudspeakers that create and present the highest fidelity in sound production and reproduction. In this section of the JBL Professional lobby we have our awards but first a number of our friends over the years have signed loudspeakers. There’s Les Paul wishing us a 60th anniversary in 2006. Phil Ramone, the famous recording engineer and producer doing the same. This one’s signed by B.B. King, a classic D120 guitar speaker. A 12 inch version of the D130 and all of the members of The Who have signed one of our LSR 6325P studio monitors. Also the plaques in the back. This is a thank you from the Motion Picture Academy the Oscar organization and one from the television academy for our service in sound systems at their reference theatres. Also Jim Lovell from Apollo 13. He was a speaker at one of our meetings. Down the way you can see three cases with our more than 15 TEC Awards, Technical Excellence in Creativity awards for specific products as well as many other awards in both the tour sound industry, the studio industry, and all aspects of loudspeaker use by customers. The key to JBL if you characterize what really makes up JBL, it’s the striving for sonic performance through the use of technology and innovation in design, quality and reliability in delivering those products, and the company’s stability and longevity that we have done that for many many years and plan to continue well into the future.