I’m always fascinated to hear about the unique development histories of various products, I learned the decade-long background today of JBL‘s new CBT Series Line Array Columns. Chatting with Rick Kamlet, Senior Director of Commercial Installed Sound for JBL, I found out the new series, personified by the CBT 50LA (50cm high compact column relying on a line of eight 2-in. drivers), CBT 100LA (100cm high with 16 2-in. drivers), and CBT 70J speakers (two-way coaxial line array with 16 soft dome tweeters and four 5-in. woofers that is 70cm high) on display at the JBL booth was 10 years in the making. The technology is based on the research of former JBL and longtime audio engineer Don Keele, an inventor of constant directivity loudspeaker horns, who started publishing papers on the concept back in 2000, when he was still with JBL.
Rick Kamlet, in this case, supported the hyperbole of his marketing guys with words like “revolutionary” to describe the speaker technology, in the sense that it solves certain longtime problems with passive columns, such as inconsistencies in the listening area, frequency response changes, and so on. Plus, they allow listeners to control directivity of sound coverage at the push of a button, something that was previously possible on powered line arrays but not on passive speaker systems.
The speakers have all sorts of applications designed to provide the line array feel in a more compact form in train stations, lecture halls, performing arts centers, multi-purpose facilities, and so on. And, according to the JBL marketing gurus, the CBT-70J will shortly be available for $750 MSRP each, a development which, from a marketing standpoint, is, indeed, worth using the word “revolutionary” over.