JBL’s 70th Anniversary: A Look at the Sound Industry

JBL & James B Lansing timeline

The first 100 years

1902 – James is born in Illinois 9th of 14 children

1927 – Moves to L.A. and continues his work on loudspeakers with his partner Ken Decker. Together they work on the development of loudspeakers.

Due to the first talking film “ the Jazz Singer “ there’s a push to develop audio systems for movie theaters. Westinghouse is part of the development projects.


1938– Congress forces Westinghouse to sell off it’s amplifier/speaker business to a group of engineers for $1. These tech form the Altec Lansing company.


1941– Lansing and Altec merge and James signs a 5 year contract with Altec as VP and chief engineer. During WWII Altec works on a submarine detection system which leads to the Alnico magnet.


1945– Leaves Altec to form his own company


1946– Founds JBL and works of the “Voice of the Theater” full range speaker. He forms a partnership Arnold engineering to supply Alnico magnets. ( Aluminum- Nickel- Cobalt ) used in his new speaker line.


1948– JBL develops the D-130 15” speaker with a 4’ voice coil. Which becomes JBLs first successful product. James is a great engineer, but a bad business person and the company falls into hard times.

Marquart Aviation invests in the company , but is soon to be bought by General Tire which has no interest in the speaker company.


1949– James commits suicide and leaves a $10k insurance policy to his partner which helps revitalized the company.


1950’s– the D-130 is used extensively in high-end home hi-fi systems.


1955– Leo Fender offers the JBL speakers in his guitar amps leading to the first use of JBL’s in the music industry.

1960– Sound companies use JBL in there professional systems and engineers like Bill Hanley create the first touring systems.

Capital records begins using the 4320 studio monitor in it’s recording studios.


1969– Hanley uses JBL’s in his system at Woodstock.

Sydney Harman buys JBL .


1970’s – Recording studios become fond of the JBL studio monitors and by 1977 the 4320 is used by more studios than all other companies combined.


1979– the Cabaret series is introduced and is a hit with small sound companies and local bands.


1995– the JBL EON – a big gamble for the company because of R&D costs becomes a huge success.


2000– the Vertec Line Array is introduced to the Pro-touring market and becomes one of the most successful pro-audio products of the 21stCentury.


This timeline is the product of my research into the James B Lansing company and the mark it has made on the music industry. It is my hope that these points are found to be as interesting and give some insight into the development of the sound industry.

Andy Bergsten. 4/20/17