Did You Know? …The History Between JBL and Altec Lansing


Originally founded by James Bullough Lansing, JBL has had an ambiguous history unique to it as much as the personality of the genius inventor, James, was. If anything significant has shaped the company, it is the tough long journey it has evolved through. Lessons learnt the hard way, yet the company has strengthened through the ups and downs and risen beyond its initial limitations. As early as 1939, just over a decade into its setup, the company lost its business manager and in the next decade, lost its founder who practically invented everything he could technologically (1949).

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The company build up from radio speakers to stereophonic cinema sound systems and eventually went ahead to make hi-fi record players as well as home audio speakers. More than tracing the name through a series of innovative audio technological developments, the company managed to survive a series of managerial successions.

A Fresh Venture

Shortly after the company’s entry into improving cinema sound system in Hollywood, a time when Lansing manufacturing was soaring high, it crashed with the tragic loss of Ken Decker. To cover its business sector that was suffering badly, Lansing manufacturing got sold to Altec in 1941.

It was a deal that rescued Lansing Corporation, Altec which was once a service Corporation that handled the maintenance of cinema sound systems came to be known as Altec Lansing. All of its managing passed into the hands of Altec while Jim Lansing focused on inventing and developing new audio technology. One innovative audio system he invented with his team then was the A-4 speaker system and that became a standard for cinema at the time.

James Lansing, as the Vice president of Engineering for the Altec Lansing Corporation, however, clashed with the management and quit at the completion of a five year contract.

Reinvigorated JBL

James Lansing started off again on his own as Lansing Sound Incorporated (LSI) to which Altec Lansing adversely objected that Altec Lansing’s name was so prominently impinged upon. For which reason, the company emerged with a new name James B. Lansing Sound, Incorporated only to develop into a premiere audio brand. Altec Lansing loudspeakers are quite popular in the market, a good specimen from them would be Altec Lansing LifeJacket which is one of the favorite Bluetooth speaker among musicholic. 

The company supposedly hit back on Altec Lansing by making speakers that were virtual copies of the speakers James Lansing created with his team while at Altec, right down to the model names. He subsequently continued with brilliant craftsmanship creating such innovative designs. It was a shame the company did not succeed well at the time because the company suffered in terms of business matters falling into debt. The founder took his own life in depression.

Following his death, the company passed on to corporate treasurer, William Thomas in whose hands the company launched strong, backed by Lansing’s reputation as a superb creator of quality audio electronics. Thomas had the manufacturing going as he pulled the company out of debt. Altec Lansing was still bothered by the use of the valuable Lansing name and thereby negotiations that lasted a considerably long time ended with a branding name JBL; the name of its founder snugly tucked into its new identity. Thenceforth, the company’s products have always been referred by its archetypal name JBL.

By that time, JBL had already moved on with fresh technology and designs. Such innovations have carried the company further on, moving along with the times as such. Hartsfield and Paragon series are two considerable productions made by JBL over the years. But what seems most significant for passionate musicians like Leo Fender (electric-guitar pioneer) were loudspeakers like D130 that he realized ideal for plugging in in their axes. He then went on to work with capitol records; a realm of recording studios.

Then And Upto Now

Over the years JBL has grown extensively, especially merging with Harman, another innovative audio company that created stereo receivers. JBL by then was one of the major players at home audio players and under Harman, it was making bigger leaps applying their expertise in theatrical as well as recording-studio sound systems to home audio systems. It was an enormous success. The company has made a burst of innovations with engineers like Symmetrical Field Geometry and Bi-Radial horn technology.

The company is only set to make it big as it keeps setting new trends and catering to worldwide consumerism. Japan is one country where the company has earned raves for its audio products. JBL today is trending well even in fashion as well as entertainment sectors. Look out for their freshly devised speakers as well as players including headphones, shower speakers, that have  been designed for the likes of Blu-ray Disc technology, high-definition TV and Apple’s latest iPhones or iPods models.

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