Greg Timbers - Chief Development Engineer for Harman Consumer


Greg Timbers has had responsibility for more significant loudspeaker designs at JBL than anyone else since starting with the firm in 1972. He carries on the tradition of JBL from the days of William Thomas, Bart Locanthi and Ed May in the current environment of the hugely successful corporation that is Harman International.

Greg's interest in loudspeakers began at the young age of 13 when he first began tinkering with home built systems. He later undertook a university education in electrical engineering at UCLA. The job market was depressed when he graduated and Greg decided to continue his education and obtain a masters degree in acoustics. All through his university education, he kept his hand in the audio industry by working part time in hi-fi sales. It was a result of this work that he was made aware of an opening at JBL. He was successful in gaining a technical position, but it was not due to his advanced education. As Greg put it. "JBL told me that they would have to ignore my masters degree or they couldn't afford me." He was hired as an associate engineer and trained under Ed May and Pat Everidge. His first assignment was to assist in the development of the Decade and Prima series of loudspeakers.

L300 and 4333 of 1975
Harman International, Courtesy Robert Hamel

At the time, JBL was experiencing exponential growth in sales and was expanding aggressively into professional markets, particularly for studio monitors. With demands for new products, and limited staff, it was only eight months after his start that Greg Timbers was given sole responsibility for a major loudspeaker project. This was the development of the 4300 series of monitors. Greg first worked on the 4315, where he developed a concept for a four-way speaker that he has continually refined to this day (more on this later). He next worked on the 4330/31, 4332/4333 and 4340/4341. He also worked on the domestic conversion of the 4331 and 4333 that became the L200B and L300.

Greg worked in all aspects of loudspeaker development including transducers, networks, enclosures and overall systems. With regard to transducers, Greg was involved in the transition from Alnico to ferrite magnet structures. A civil war in Zaire in the late 70's resulted in a complete embargo of cobalt used in Alnico magnets. Almost overnight, Alnico was unavailable commercially. A mad scramble ensued to develop replacement designs based on ferrite magnets. Terry Sorenson had primary responsibility for this conversion. Greg was responsible for standardizing these designs to replace a half dozen Alnico motor structures with only two. These would be used in virtually all of JBL's large bass drivers. He later adapted one of these motor structures to a transducer of his own design, the 18" 2245 driver. This driver was partially responsible for setting off the DIY subwoofer craze that continues to this day. A seminal article he co-wrote on employing this driver was published by Audio Magazine in the mid 80's. It generated significant interest in home built subwoofers and helped define this new genre.

L250Ti of 1984
Harman International, Courtesy Greg Timbers

Network design is arguably at the core of Greg's art. Greg has an uncommon talent for voicing overall system response by using subtle refinements in network tuning. It was this ability that made his four-way speaker designs so successful. Starting with the 4315, Greg proved that it was possible to combine high output with very accurate response in a multi-way design. Previously, such designs had been frowned upon by many who believed that the greater number of cross-over points yielded a greater number of response discontinuities. Greg was able to seamlessly match the multiple drivers and tune them individually to result in an inordinately flat and coherent output. Through a series of intermediate designs, Greg refined this concept to result in the speaker that would become his favorite. That speaker was the L250 of 1982. It remains in production to this day as the limited edition L250Ti Jubilee. Greg has recently evolved this design into a new multimedia version marketed as the Performance Series.

DD55000 Everest of 1985
Harman International, Courtesy Greg Timbers

An integral part of Greg's work in system design involves enclosure tuning and this is another field for which he has become a master. The best evidence for this is the engineering he performed for the K2 series. Greg has had overall engineering responsibility for all of JBL's statement speakers of the past two decades. It started with the DD55000 Everest and continued with the more recent K2 Series. The latter series introduced new concepts in enclosure and driver tuning to combine stunning transient attack with deep bass response. The "Imaginary Equivalent Tuning" he developed for the K2-S5500 and M9500 speakers set new standards in this regard.

Greg has an interesting philosophy to loudspeaker design. While he enjoys, and is rightly proud, of the no-holds-barred statement speakers, these are not necessarily his favorites. What motivates Greg is to achieve elegance in design and innovation that results in performance that exceeds original expectations. As an example, Greg was responsible for JBL's current core product lines - the Northridge and Studio series. These are mass market products, but Greg tackled their design from the perspective of achieving new levels of performance at their price points.

Studio Series S412 of 1998
Harman International

Greg works best in a focused team environment. He is proud of his role in establishing a team approach to system design at JBL that he has employed for over two decades. Nonetheless, he recognizes, that within the team, there has to be a clear mission. "It doesn't have to be my vision, but there has to be someone's vision". He realizes that audio is becoming just one aspect of a larger multimedia experience. The challenge will be to provide more and smaller loudspeakers that integrate into a home environment, while providing the highest levels of performance. Nonetheless, when the opportunity arises to develop a speaker that represents the current state-of-the art, Greg will always jump at the chance.

2001 Don McRitchie

P.S. When asked how long he had to work at JBL before he could forego the suit and tie, Greg answered August 1, 1972 - the day after he started. Greg prides himself in maintaining an average of three "Tie Days" a year, although his average is slipping. Last year resulted in seven "Tie Days".