The American company JL Audio, founded in 1975, initially produced speaker systems in small volumes. By the early nineties, the company gained fame as a reputable manufacturer of high-quality audio equipment for cars. In 2005, to the existing two directions in the production program – audio for cars and marine yachts – a third was added: High-End class active subwoofers for home AV systems. Currently the company has 300 employees.
JL Audio conducts research, development, production and testing of finished products and their parts at its own facility in Miramar (Florida, USA). Woofers, amplifiers, control electronics, housings are manufactured here… Professional experts and installers, car audio competition participants and audio enthusiasts show significant interest in JL Audio products. In the Home Audio catalog, the company presents four subwoofers in the Fathom and Gotham series (the leader of the model range). These exclusive products incorporate nearly a dozen national and international proprietary technology patents. “Exemplary quality, a benchmark for all subwoofer manufacturers” is how renowned journalist Robert Harley of The Absolute Sound speaks of JL Audio products.
Lucio Proni, capital L in the company name
Both first and last names are written with a capital letter. But in America, the last name is what is written on the driver’s license. Basically everyone calls each other by name. This is an unshakable American tradition. They even had presidents named “Bill” and “Jimmy” while the position was only open to men. Another tradition, equally shockproof: two high school students, passionate about approximately the same thing, occupy the garage belonging to the father of one of them and begin to solder, saw or knock together something there for their own pleasure. One of my classmates says: “Will you make one for me?” No question, a hundred bucks and we’ll do it. Sounds familiar? This happened when the friends’ names were Bill and Paul. Garage-hundred bucks-bigger garage-… Microsoft. The others were named Steve and…Steve. Garage-one hundred bucks-bigger garage-three hundred bucks-… Apple Computers. Yes, there are plenty of such examples, even in our cozy region. And always one of the classmates is a talented (if not brilliant) and enthusiastic (if not fanatical) engineer, and the second, as it soon turns out, knows better than many (if not all) of his peers how to manage a hundred bucks.
This performance of “Garage Rhapsody” took place in 1975. It was then that two young audio enthusiasts, Jim Birch and Lucio Proni, met in Florida, USA, and founded their own business, albeit small. What do you call a garage business? If my friends were English, it would have turned out to be BP (Birch & Proni), and it seems that this was already taken. But Americans have their own glorious history and centuries-old traditions. Jim and Lucio. J and L. Both letters are large and became larger over time.
The mid-70s were the heyday of home stereo and hi-fi, and JL Audio initially focused on selling home speakers, ready-made and kit-built, through its own retail store, Speaker Warehouse.
Time passed, the years passed the 80 mark, and some technology historians in the USA call this time the “car audio revolution,” when instead of a radio and a speaker, a whole category of car audio components appeared somewhere in a corner. Capital J and L were among the first to take each of the important steps along this path. In particular, when the car subwoofer was considered by many to be a strange and unlikely to last long technical curiosity, they offered the market one of the first products in this category. First, without fanaticism: in 1982, the first car subwoofer, JL Audio, 8W2, appeared, which included calculations and dimensions of the bass reflex housing of the pen by the developer himself. And off it went: then a 10-inch, then a 12-inch, and soon one of the first two-coil automotive heads, the W5.
Car audio civilization is unthinkable without car audio sports, especially in the USA, where everything came from. At the end of the decade, in 1989, other capital letters appeared: IASCA, and with them the first clear and recognized rules of judging. The JL Audio/Speaker Warehouse team (at that time they were still formally two different companies with common owners) rushed into the new movement from the moment it started. The team’s performance at the historically first Final of the IASCA Championship-1989 was triumphant: four first and one second places in their classes. In addition to winning the Pro Division category, Lucio Proni also won the “Best of Show” award with his Ford Mustang GT.
Perhaps it was then that J and L saw the true meaning of installation quality. We now know how reverently they treat this at competitions, but not everyone knew then. And it is precisely to make life easier for everyone, and not just those who are ready for anything, that a direction has appeared in the company’s activities, where the role of the pioneer undoubtedly belongs to JL Audio.
The concept of stealth subwoofers did not fall to us from Mars. It was born on our planet and largely thanks to the capital J and L. No company in the world has released stealth subwoofers for a specific car so early, so many and so varied as JL Audio did. And he does, I note, the role of a pioneer has gradually turned into the role of a leader.
Today, more than a decade later, JL Audio runs three parallel lines of ready-made cabinet subwoofers: PowerWedge, later and to this day – ProWedge – subwoofers of the classic “box” architecture with wedge-shaped enclosures; MicroSub – flat and compact, with small heads of special geometry; and, finally, Stealthbox – industrially produced fiberglass stealth for a specific car model.
Such a significant expansion of the range led to the fact that the company became cramped within the framework of a “garage enterprise” and in 1998, the headquarters of JL Audio, together with the production of low-frequency loudspeakers, opened a new plant in Miramar, Florida, USA. Later, a second, no smaller site appeared in Arizona, but the brain center of the company is still here, on the shore (well, on the shore, not far away) of the warm sea-ocean.
Soon after the housewarming, the debut series of high-quality Evolution acoustics was released, and a little later, at the turn of the century, the first JL Audio amplifiers appeared, immediately with a whole bunch of innovations, in particular, intelligent stabilized power supplies RIPS and a rollback protection system (namely: Advanced Rollback Protection). And finally: in 2005, production of reference-level marine acoustics and a family of devices for OEM integration CleanSweep will begin.
What have the big letters J and L come to today, more than forty years later? Today JL Audio is automotive equipment (Mobile category according to the company’s classification), Marine is components for water transport, many are unique and have no analogues in Mobile; Home – years later, J and L decided to remember the origins, now from the height of accumulated experience; and finally – Powersports – components for motorcycles, ATVs, buggies and other outdoor activities.
Time leads to personnel changes, surprisingly few at JL Audio. On the left is Andy Ochsenhorn, president of JL Audio since 1996, who previously headed MB Quart USA. On the right (you can tell by his smile, he’s been wearing it since 1975) is Lucio Proni, the big L in the company name. Since 1975, he has been the permanent executive director and, what is more important in our opinion, the chief engineer of the company.