JBL TO 1981

6900 McKinley Ave. Under Altec Lansing Ownership
© Harman International, Courtesy Mark Gander and John Eargle



With the stability offered by the merger, Lansing was at last free to pursue his work without financial worry. During these years he perfected many of the process that have become standard in loudspeaker manufacturing around the world, including high-speed winding of ribbon wire voice coils on metal mandrels and hydraulic forming of high frequency aluminum diaphragms. Two notable systems were designed by Lansing during these years, the model 604 coaxial loudspeaker and the first of the Voice of the Theatre systems, the A-4.

Original Altec Lansing 604
© Altec Lansing Technologies, Courtesy Dr. Bruce Edgar

Radio broadcaster Art Crawford suggested that Altec Lansing design a 2-way coaxial loudspeaker embodying the company’s leading technology. What eventually emerged as the model 604 combined a small multicellular horn mounted concentrically on a 15-inch woofer, with an 801 driver mounted behind and firing along the axis of the system. Introduced in 1944, it soon gained a leading reputation as a broadcast monitor and became one of the most successful monitors in recording history. It continues in production to this day.

Original A4 of 1945
© Altec Lansing Technologies, Courtesy Scott Pratt

The A-4, co-designed with John Hilliard, inaugurated the Voice of the Theatre series which kept Altec Lansing at the forefront of the motion picture exhibition industry until the mid-1980s. Similar in overall size to the earlier Shearer MGM system, it consisted of a large ported low frequency section with its dual woofers additionally front-loaded with a straight horn. The multicellular high frequency section was driven with the 288 driver, a 3-inch diaphragm design with aluminum ribbon wire. The low frequency drivers were the model 515, a 15-inch diameter design with a 3-inch aluminum voice coil, the first 15-inch low frequency transducer to make use of flat wire. The Voice of the Theatre systems used Alnico V magnets.

During the war effort the company also worked on a magnetic airborne detector, a submarine detection system of extreme sensitivity. This represented the company’s first application of Alnico V, a material that would later revolutionize the loudspeaker industry. During those years, Lansing’s energies and talents were channeled solely into transducer and systems engineering.

When Lansing sold his company to Altec Service Corporation in 1941, it was with the understanding that all company trade names, good will, and assets would remain the property of the new company. He also agreed that he would not go into competition with the Altec Lansing for a period of five years. While there were continuing disagreements with Carrington during this period, Lansing honored the contract to the letter until its expiration in 1946. Lansing was then free to enter the loudspeaker business on his own, and it came as a surprise to no one at Altec Lansing when he announced his intentions to do so. Generally, the parting was amicable – but no one at Altec Lansing was prepared for the success that would ultimately accrue to Lansing’s new venture.

© 1981 John Eargle
(updated 2003)