Manville Smith – JL Audio

By Maureen Jenson
Published on: December 29, 2017

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I recently talked to JL Audio’s VP of Marketing, Manville Smith, about the company’s history, new product lines and how to sell in the crowded subwoofer market.

Maureen Jenson: It seems like JL Audio has been around forever! You are legendary for high performance speakers and now you are in the car audio business and over the years the company has branched off into marine, power sports, and home theater subwoofers.  Tell us how the company got its start?

Manville Smith: JL Audio began in 1975 when high school buddies, Jim Birch and Lucio Proni decided to turn their interest in speaker design into a small business. Their initial offerings were not car audio products, but rather home speaker systems built on Jim’s back porch, with drivers purchased from audio parts catalogs. They began selling them at a local flea market, and once they got rolling along, they opened a retail store in Hollywood, Florida, which would eventually turn into Speaker Warehouse, a three-store chain in South Florida. During this time, the JL Audio name was used for a variety of audio products, including car audio speakers, DJ speakers and home audio speakers. Among these were a series of woofers that Mr. Proni developed specifically for car audio, and which were used in the stores’ competition and demo cars.

In the early 1990’s, following success in the car audio competition circuit, JL Audio became a national brand, at first known for high-quality automotive subwoofer drivers. The company grew exponentially in that decade, establishing itself as a premium car audio brand and expanding its offerings to include full-range speakers and electronics. Andy Oxenhorn joined as President in 1996, and a few years later JL Audio turned its attention back to its home audio roots, planning a line of high-performance home subwoofers. These were introduced at the 2004 CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis. And here we are, thirteen years later, with a full line of home subwoofer products and plans for a lot of interesting things in the future.

In the home audio arena, what does JL Audio do to differentiate itself from the crowded subwoofer marketplace?

MS: We are fortunate to have a very powerful, highly experienced engineering team for transducers, amplification, signal-processing and system design. This team is particularly experienced in designing high-power, long-excursion subwoofer systems. Every one of our home subwoofer products is designed from the ground up, and built by us with a deep commitment to delivering best-in-class performance. A lot of companies will make similar claims, but anyone who visits our Miramar, Florida factory, and sees our team in action, will tell you that JL Audio is the real deal… and we feel it comes through when you listen to our products.

What types of tools and training do you provide dealers?

MS: We offer on-site training to dealers, as well as video and online resources that help with product sales, installation and setup.


MJ: What advice do you offer dealers to help sell a customer on purchasing one or more subwoofers for a theater or audio system?

MS: There are very few things you can do in an audio system design that will have a greater benefit than multiple subwoofers, properly distributed. So, our best advice is to not even offer the option of a single subwoofer. If pressed, explain the benefits of even bass coverage, and smoother frequency response at every seat. If budget is an issue, you can spec two less expensive subwoofers, rather than one more expensive model. If aesthetics and/or floor space are an issue, you can spec one of our dual-cabinet in-wall subwoofer systems. Either way, giving the customer the very best is what JL Audio is all about!

Maureen Jenson

Maureen Jenson

Maureen is editor-in-chief for the Technology Insider Group. She has been the editor-in-chief of Audio Video Interiors, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, Home Theater, Technology Integrator, E-Gear and CEDIA’s Electronic Lifestyles Magazines. She is a CEDIA Fellow and IPRO Lifetime Achievement Award honoree.

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