AN EARLY VIEW OF JBL PRO

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AN EARLY VIEW OF JBL PRO
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1974 CalJam Sound System By Tycobrahe using JBL Components
 

 

The following is a recollection by one of the pioneers in tour sound - Ralph Morris. Ralph was Director of Marketing of Tychobrache Sound Company.

I would like to contribute some historical information regarding the development of the MI (musical instrument) series, in which I played a small part.

In 1960 I was tasked with upgrading the sound system in the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California. The rock groups who played there for Spring break ("Bal Week") were so loud that the vocals and acoustic instruments could not be heard over the level of the electric guitars. The existing Altec-Lansing system that had been installed in the ballroom by Stan Kenton was just fine for his unamplified orchestra, but not up to the level of Dick Dale and His Del-tones.

I purchased a pair of D55 horn enclosures, each powered by a Heathkit dual 40-watt amplifier that sat right behind the enclosure. This was a full-range system, with no crossovers, but each driver had its own 40-watt amplifier with short speaker leads, so the result was quite satisfactory.

There was another problem with the new Fender "Showman" amplifier that Dick Dale used for his guitar. He blew out one speaker after another, until Fender built an enclosure with two 15-inch drivers wired in series so they might survive. This was the prototype for the Fender "Dual Showman."

However, they had never seen a guitar player quite like Dick Dale. He is left handed, but he plays a standard, right-handed guitar, so it's "upside down" to the normal string layout. Dick is not the only left-handed guitar player to do this, but he managed to create peaks on the lower notes that was death to voice coils.

A couple of young sales engineers from JBL came down to Balboa, at the request of the Fender company, to see what they could do to improve the speakers for musical instruments. At the best of my recollection, that would have been Art Tarotta and Ray Garner. I believe one of them was killed in an airplane crash a year or so later. Larry Peterson may not have come to Balboa, but he was in Professional Sales later on, and in the late 1960s Bob Taylor and Bob Vendeland were my contacts in JBL professional sales.

The result of this effort was to design modifications to the D130 transducer, which was designated the 130 F, the "F" standing for Fender. From that time on, Dick Dale, The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Bel-Airs, and other groups who appeared there enjoyed an instrument speaker that could survive the sound of a surf guitar.

It's unfortunate that The Rendezvous Ballroom burned down in 1963, because there were some real antique sound system elements in the loft above the stage that should have been preserved. They included tube amplifiers and some very strange looking mid-range horns that had a "loop" in an otherwise straight horn. I believe that system, probably dating from the early 1930s, was identified as having been made by Western Electric.

The photo at the top of this page is the JBL array at California Jam in 1974, powered by 54,000 watts (RMS) of custom amplifiers from Tycobrahe Sound Company. I was Director of Marketing at Tycobrahe at that time, and our contact at JBL was Bill Cara.

© 2003 Ralph Morris
 

 
 


Ralph Morris on His Design of a Unique JBL Based Monitor

I designed the  M-1 enclosure in 1971 during my tenure as Director of Marketing for the Tycobrahe Sound Company, which manufactured portable concert sound systems using all JBL transducers. The design specification was for a reference monitor large enough for a tuned port equal in area to the effective area of the 15-inch cone transducer. An internal volume of 19 cubic feet was selected, which allowed tuning at 40 Hz with a non-ducted port, and at 20 Hz with a ducted port. The transducers specified were a 2215 low-frequency driver, a 2420 mid-range driver with the 2391 straight horn and plastic slant-plate lens, and the (then) new 2405, the high-frequency transducer with more horizontal distribution than the earlier “bullet” type. These were the similar components used in the three-way JBL “studio monitor,” Model 4332/3. Those systems replaced the 2215 with the 2231 woofer.

I was challenged to a 50-dollar bet, regarding the difference between a ducted port tuned at 20 Hz and a non-ducted port tuned at 40 Hz. One of each configuration was constructed out of the finest one-inch Finland Birch, and the pair were tested on a calm day in an open parking lot with the speakers facing the sky, and a microphone suspended above them. The enclosure with the larger, non-ducted port benefited from the balanced loading of the transducer, and it was more than 3 dB louder than the enclosure with the ducted port tuned at 20 Hz.

The frequency response of both was within +/- 3 dB of the source from 20 Hz to 20 KHz, so either design would have been acceptable, but the more efficient one was chosen. The outcome of the wager is still in question, given the non-laboratory nature of the test. The pair of these enclosures, wired for bi-amp, was powered by Crown DC-300 amplifiers for the showing of the Rolling Stones film, “Gimme Shelter,” to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in 1972. The nomination of that film for an Oscar must have riled some of the old guard in Hollywood, because the film contained some violence, nudity and lots of loud music from the free concert given by the group at Altamont, California in 1969.

The Stones wished to make an impression, so they asked for the biggest speakers available from Tycobrahe Sound Company, which provided the sound equipment for their tour of USA and Europe that year. The M-1s were set up on either side of the screen, with two standard Tycobrahe columns at the rear corners to provide four-channel “surround sound” in the small theater. There had been some bad press about the film by some of the critics, and whether the Stones figured they didn't have a chance of winning an Oscar for it, or maybe they just wanted to send a message to the Academy (or the establishment in general), you will have to surmise for yourself. For whatever reason, the Rolling Stones’ staff in charge of the presentation turned up the sound level about as high as the four Crown DC-300s would provide. Most of the Academy members who were assembled for the showing immediately got up and walked out of the theater.

Smaller enclosures of this type were used in studio systems for Stevie Wonder and Frank Zappa. They have a very clean, smooth low-end response that I have never heard from any other speaker, including 16-ft straight horns powered by a compression driver with two 15-inch cone speakers. You would never believe that size doesn't matter, once you have heard these monitors. Since 1972 the original pair have been used for my living room stereo. The low-frequency transducers have been re-coned at JBL, and the aluminum diaphragms in the 2420s have been replaced, the last time in 1997. The old diaphragms appeared to be o.k., but one figures that Aluminum gets hardened after a few years, even at living-room levels.

© 2003 Ralph Morris