For our latest entry in our HARMAN Innovator Series, I had the opportunity to meet Douglas Button, Chief Engineer in the Corporate Technology Group. Doug, like Ralph Hyde, was recruited by JBL back in 1988. He and Ralph had both been working at Electro-Voice at the time. Doug’s particular expertise was heat dissipation, a key element in determining how much power a speaker can handle. Knowing this, JBL brought Doug on to use his expertise to increase JBL’s power handling.
During this same period, Gerald Stanley and others were working to push the power capabilities of Crown amplifiers, resulting in what Doug describes as a sort of “horserace” of power between amplifier and loudspeaker manufacturers during the period. Amps could output more power, so speakers needed to handle more power. Then when the speakers had higher power ratings, the amplifier manufacturers worked to up their wattage output. Doug admits, “For the time being, Gerald is winning.”
Doug invented a number of new technologies during this period that resulted in loudspeakers that could handle higher and higher power levels. First, Doug developed the self-cooled loudspeaker, a major innovation and step up in power handling at the time, and then a few years later, he created the dual coil drive. Dual coil technology has become a foundation of JBL’s speaker technology to this day, and 8 of the 20 patents Doug has earned over the years are related to this technology.
In 1993, Doug’s career moved to the development of integrated systems. Applying the lessons he learned about head dissipation from his time working on transducers, Doug invented a way to combine a mixer, amplifier and speaker into a single powered PA unit. This became the JBL EON, the portable PA line that now leads the industry. He has since continued to work on a variety of other inventive loudspeaker technologies, including the renowned VerTec line array, the EVO intelligent speaker, and the Constant Beamwidth Technology™ (or CBT) line array column speakers.
Outside of work, Doug is a self-proclaimed “gadget head and early adopter.” Doug vividly recalls his first digital projector and digital camera, which both had resolutions of 320 by 240 pixels (0.0768 megapixels). “I had to take out a $4,000 loan to buy that projector in 1991.” Doug recollects that if digital imaging had come along a little earlier (or he was born a little later) he would have gone into that field instead of audio. With both an office and home full of 4K TVs, Doug says he can’t wait for 8K. Doug’s other love is sports cars. His pride and joy is a Special Edition 1991 Mazda Miata in British Racing. “At the time I really wanted a Mercedes roadster.” Now I am lucky enough to have both. He says the car he really wants now is the rerelease of the Tesla roadster due out by 2020.
Doug keeps active with golfing, bowling, swimming, hiking, snorkeling and sailing. Doug lives with his wife Liz in Simi Valley California..
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