DD55000 Project Everest of 1985
Harman International, Courtesy Greg Timbers



The Competition
Telex Communications,
Courtesy Mick Deutsch

JBL's Hartsfield was arguably the first statement speaker by any manufacturer to gain acceptance in Japan. Copies were manufactured in Japan well into the 1980's. It established a market for statement systems that eventually resulted in the Everest. However, JBL was not alone in building such no-holds-barred systems. The year before Everest was introduced, Electro-voice introduced a statement speaker of their own. It was the Patrician II that traced its legacy to the famous Patrician of the 1950s. Above are excepts from EV's 1985 catalog (click images to view) that gives the specifications of this system. It utilized a massive 30" bass driver that was a legacy of the last production Patrician. However, this was combined with state-of -the-art horn and mid-bass drivers. It was honored with Stereo Sound's 1984 Golden Sound Award and arguably represented the best of American loudspeaker technology. That is, until challenged by Everest.

The Project Everest was a loudspeaker designed to inherit the legacy of the great speakers from JBL. In this respect, it was a remarkable success. It was a visual and sonic statement that defined the art of JBL in the 1980's. It was described as JBL's third "Project" speaker, with the first and second being the Hartsfield and Paragon. These project speakers were meant to be the "absolute peak of every technological, material and engineering innovation available to the art and science of audio at that time."

The Everest was the brainchild of Bruce Scrogin, the then President of JBL International. Bruce recognized that there remained demand for a "statement" speaker after the Paragon ended production in 1983. This demand was almost exclusively from Japan, so it was decided that a follow-on to the Paragon should be targeted at that market. Development was undertaken from a team approach with Bruce providing the concept and leadership, Greg Timbers the engineering, and Dan Ashcraft the industrial design. To provide input on the unique requirements of the Japanese market, Keizo Yamanaka, a preeminent Japanese audio reviewer, was hired by JBL on retainer to consult on both acoustic and visual issues.

"Defined Directivity"
Harman International

The design went through a fairly extensive evolution before arriving at the final configuration. Originally, the concept was to develop a "super L300" with a similar sonic character. It was given the working designation of the L400. However, that designation had a notorious past and was soon dropped (see sidebar below). The system would be designed around a new acoustic concept referred to as "Defined Directivity" (the DD in DD55000). This concept had been pioneered by Don Keele in the professional 4660 ceiling speaker. That speaker was intended to provide rectangular coverage with constant volume from front to back. Bruce Scrogin realized that mounting this horn sideways in a home system could provide constant horizontal coverage. The asymmetric design would force more sound to the distant axis compared to the near axis so that someone walking a horizontal line between the speakers would be exposed to a constant sound level.

Everest Prototype
Audio & Video Life Magazine (Japan), Courtesy Greg Timbers

The first prototype was developed in 1984 and consisted a four-way configuration. The Japanese press toured Northridge at that time and sketched this original prototype. It was later included in a cartoon on the development of the Everest. It is the only illustration that remains of this system. Numerous problems existed in this prototype related to the integration of the four drivers. It was decided to simplify the design to result in what was fundamentally a two-way concept. A super tweeter would later be added to provide extension to the highest octaves. Therefore, the final configuration became a three-way system.

Harman International, Courtesy Greg Timbers

Above is an excerpt from JBL's 1975 catalog illustrating a "mystery speaker" referred to as the L400. The only description says, "Coming soon. The L400, with the promise that it will be the most exciting fusion of art and technology yet presented by JBL." It never came. 

Originally, the speaker was planned to be a domestic conversion of the 4340 monitor, similar to the L300 conversion of the 4333 monitor. It would be a four-way speaker using a 15" low frequency driver, 10" midbass, 1" throat compression driver midrange and slot tweeter. The main development work in converting this speaker for domestic use centered on network design changes, a revised midrange horn and aesthetics suitable for a home environment

There were three separate attempts to bring this speaker to market. All failed before a final decision was made to cancel the project. The primary difficulty was developing a system that could be sold at a reasonable cost. However, there were also technical issues and no one was satisfied with the ultimate sound of the prototypes.

The bass driver selected for the Everest was the professional E145. It was chosen because it was the "fastest" bass driver in JBL's inventory. While initially intended as a guitar speaker, its remarkably flat given an underhung voice coil topology and maintains pistonic action throughout its range due to a deep, straight-sided cone. The magnetic motor is oversized compared to other JBL 15" drivers and was based on LE15H. It resulted in a very efficient bass response that would match the target system sensitivity of 100db/w/m. The deep cone was accommodated by an extension ring added to the rim of the speaker basket that was very similar to the 150-4C of the 1950's. Therefore, it was not a complete stretch to label it a 150-4H as was done in the Everest product literature.

Normally, the bass extension of the E145 is considered somewhat limited, but given a large enough box, it could provide real, deep bass. This was the reason for the huge enclosure. The bass section was designed for an internal volume of 8 cu ft. Initially, it was planned that the volume behind the midrange horn could be used as part of the bass enclosure. However, the fiberglass horn was not sufficiently rigid to prevent resonances from the back pressure. Ultimately, this part of the enclosure was partitioned off and compounded the need for a huge cabinet.

Everest Driver Configuration
Harman International, Courtesy Greg Timbers

The Everest used a one inch throat compression driver (pro model number 2425) attached to the previously mentioned asymmetric horn (model number 2346) for the midrange. A one inch driver was selected since the original 4660 horn was designed around such a driver. A two inch driver could have provided superior response, but the larger throat would have presented problems in pattern control. A 2405 slot tweeter was added for extreme high frequency response.

The overall system was designed for a specific sonic character that appealed to the Japanese market. In general, it is marked by an overdamped bass response with the lowest octave gently rolled off. The bass is expected to extend to the deepest octave but not at the same volume level as the upper bass. This is not meant to be a euphonic characteristic, but rather a reflection of typical Japanese listening rooms. Their smaller rooms, compared to North America, tend to equalize the in-room response to result in a bass response that is relatively flat.

The industrial design was primarily the responsibility of Dan Ashcraft of Ashcraft Designs, with input from Bruce Scrogin and Keizo Yamanaka. This was Dan's first commission from JBL. It was somewhat of a trial by fire at which he succeeded admirably. It was a very complicated design since a goal was to make this massive system visually less imposing. The inventive use of angled faces deliberately concealed the depth of this system. .The woofer was angled a bit to "cheat" the low frequency directionality and the super tweeter was purposely angled to aim at the center listening position due to its directionality.

The Everest was an immediate success. It was named "Product of the Year" in 1985 by Japan's Stereo Sound magazine. There was no predetermined production run, but it is thought that around 500 pairs were produced. It continued in regular production until the introduction of the K2 in 1989. However, it was still possible to special order the Everest for the next couple of years. They were never marketed outside of the International Division and were almost exclusively sold in Japan. However, some made it into Canada and Europe as they were territories within the International Division.

2001 Don McRitchie
based on information provided
by Greg Timbers