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JBL Trims Line, Taps Pro Heritage

JBL said it is reclaiming its heritage with a trimmed-down selection of speakers built around pro-audio technologies.

“Thirty years ago in 1969, the JBL L-100 was the first product to bring our pro technology into the home,” said brand manager Paul Bente. “We adhered to that [philosophy] through the late ’80s, but as we became more enamored of promotional price points and broader distribution, we lost some of that edge.” With the new speakers, he said, “we’re emphasizing our classic stature” by adopting technology used in JBL’s Linear Spatial Reference (LSR) series of professional speakers to deliver a “well-defined image” and a wide sweet spot.

The new speakers, due in September, are split between the Northridge and Studio lines, which are priced at $199 to $799/pair and $399 to $1,699/pair, respectively. Both lines also include a center-channel speaker, and Northridge adds two pairs of all-weather models.

With the launch, JBL is scaling back its assortment to 20 SKUs from 43, Bente said, as the result of a decision to drop out of Circuit City, which continues to carry speakers from sister brand Infinity.

“In the past, we had a parallel-line philosophy,” with both national chains getting separate lines that featured similar price ranges, Bente explained. But since January, when Best Buy became JBL’s sole national retailer, parallel lines aren’t needed.

Both new lines are available to Best Buy, regional chains, and “capable specialists,” Bente noted. And both deliver greater accuracy and “soundfield consistency” in roughly the same price ranges as their predecessors.

Both lines use dome tweeters in conjunction with the pro division’s Elliptical Oblate Spheroid waveguide to deliver “the same re-sponse off-axis as it does on-axis” and to “virtually eliminate” side-wall re-flections, yielding more precise imaging and localization, the company said. Both series also mount the tweeters and midrange close together to approximate a point-source configuration that enhances sonic accuracy.

Some Northridge enclosures are made from an acoustically inert, molded-plastic composite material. The step-up Studio series features wood finishes, including cherry, beech and black ash.

“Voice-wise, the two series are similar,” Bente said, “but the Studio series offers more detail and guts. It’s a sharper lens on a very good camera.”

At the top of the Studio series, the $1,699/pair S412P powered tower is a four-way speaker with 12-inch forward-firing subwoofer powered by a 150-watt Class AB amp.

JBL rounds out its line with such products as powered subwoofers that use Class D amplification and electronics/ speaker “system solutions.”