Founded in 1946 to develop state-of-the-art cinema loudspeakers, JBL realized early on, the growing and diverse requirements of commercial audio applications. The Control Contractor™ loudspeaker family was born to address the unique, challenging, and evolving needs of stadiums and arenas, theme parks, transportation, retail, restaurants, corporate offices, educational institutions, and other demanding commercial venues.
For the inside story behind one of the world’s most specified commercial loudspeaker lineups, we spoke with JBL experts Rick Kamlet, Sr. Product Manager; Alex Maurer, Commercial Loudspeaker Specialist; and Ashish Barje, Commercial Loudspeaker Product Manager.
How did the Control Contractor family find its place in the JBL Professional lineup?
In the mid-1990s, we introduced Control Contractor, initially as a small subset of our commercial loudspeakers. It started with surface-mount (on-wall) models but soon grew to encompass ceiling speakers, column speakers, in-wall speakers, pendant speakers, landscape speakers, subwoofers, and specialized commercial loudspeakers.
Over time, we have expanded those lines to offer more advanced and more powerful speakers as well as models to serve a range of budget requirements. The result is a complete portfolio that addresses just about any need or budget, without ever sacrificing quality or performance.
Take the Tour: JBL Control Contractor Loudspeakers, Applications & Installations
It sounds like there was a niche market just waiting for this type of product.
Definitely. Before Control Contractor was an established product family, the installation market was more often a DIY process for sound contractors. Manufacturers sold individual components and contractors would select between those pieces and assemble them to make a completed product to install.
For example, in the ceiling market, manufacturers would make separate drivers, transformers, backcans, grilles, and sometimes separate crossover networks, too. As the market shifted towards integrated products, sound contractors found the need to expand into fully integrated systems and there was less interest in combining individual sections of loudspeakers.
Control Contractor Ceiling Speakers, for example, integrated everything needed at the job site – the pre-assembled driver(s), crossover network, backcan, transformer, and baffle/grille. In addition, many install accessories were also included – connectors, c-ring supports, tile rails (for suspended ceilings), dog-ears, the terminal compartment with cable strain relief, cutout template, paint shield, and even a strap point for attaching ceiling suspension cables. We have continued this tradition of highly integrated commercial speakers as the line has grown into other form factors.
In designing Control Contractor models, what requirements are absolute must-haves?
Performance, reliability, and innovation top the list of our many must-have loudspeaker requirements. Of course, audio performance is critical – we won’t put the JBL Professional name on any product unless it delivers a top-performing listening experience that truly underscores JBL’s audio performance legacy.
When it comes to reliability, our engineering teams continually hear from us: “The three most important qualifications for commercial speakers are reliability, reliability, and reliability.” And that’s true. Our commercial loudspeakers are built for rock-solid, fail-safe reliability that our customers can count on day after day, year after year.
And with innovation, one of our paradigms is to always lead the industry in innovative design features and capabilities that not only evolve with our customers’ needs but far and above surpass their expectations.
Speaking of innovation, can you share some engineering milestones over the years?
Absolutely. JBL has an incredible tradition of robust engineering and the Control Contractor Series is no exception. As a practical ergonomic example, our initial surface-mount models incorporated the innovative, patented InvisiBall wall-mounting system that allows versatile aiming and tightening of the speaker from the front.
For our Control 40 Series ceiling speakers, JBL invented the conical Radiation Boundary Integrator (RBI™). This was the first ceiling speaker to provide true source-coherent constant-directivity coverage of a listening space, ensuring that everyone hears the exact same sound character regardless of whether they are on-axis or off-axis from the speaker itself.
And in our CBT column loudspeaker line, we developed a line of speakers that also provide true constant directivity source-coherent coverage of a room. We made passive speakers (CBT) steerable, and we went as far as developing a column speaker, the CBT1000 + 1000E with 3,000 Watts of continuous pink noise (12,000 Watts peak) power handling and a range down to 38 Hz. Then we gave it a patented tapered horizontal coverage waveguide so that it can cover a wide variety of listening spaces more precisely while minimizing overspill. These are just a few of the many examples of ingenuity that have driven Control Contractor’s worldwide market demand.
Are aesthetics a key design consideration?
In addition to ensuring that our products sound great and feature iron-clad reliability, it’s also very important to make sure they fit the design aesthetic of their use cases as well. Many of the latest additions to the Series join a long legacy of Control Contractor industrial design honors, including the COL Series Slim Column Loudspeakers that won the 2022 Red Dot Design Award.
What are some interesting ways that Control Contractor products are integrated into their surroundings?
Except for places like nightclubs – where seeing the loudspeakers can be an important part of the décor – designers and facility managers try their best to minimize visibility of loudspeakers. So, if you look closely, you can often spot hints of speakers in unexpected places. In outdoor spaces, speakers can be concealed in foliage or hidden in the recesses of building facades. Some of the more unique outdoor positions include building them into lighting posts, where all you can see are grilles on the sides of the poles so that you don’t even realize there’s a loudspeaker in there. In some retail stores, subwoofers are installed in the ceiling, hidden behind what appear to be air vents, or built into the wall, projecting through slots in the wall.
In the next installment of this Series, we’ll discuss lineup product categories, the impact of consultant and designer feedback on innovation, helpful system design tools, and how the Series has evolved to continually surpass market expectations.
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