Harman Opens New Engineering Facility

Following a recent announcement of "diminished expectations" for the near future (see previous story) and a shakeup of upper management---in which Consumer Group marketing honcho Tom Jacoby was put out to pasture and audio guru Floyd Toole was promoted to senior vice president of acoustic and transducer engineering---Harman International Industries has put the finishing touches on a new 10,000-square-foot audio laboratory. At company headquarters in Northridge, CA, north of Los Angeles, the laboratory includes a 10,000-cubic-foot anechoic chamber for testing and measuring loudspeakers, and a multichannel room with computer-controlled, hydraulically operated platforms for positioning front left, center, and right speakers (a reviewer's dream!).

Another innovative feature is a bank of keypads through which listeners can feed back their impressions to engineers. These impressions are logged into a database that is used to optimize the performance of systems under development. Listeners include both experts and non-experts, company spokesmen explained. The lab also has three smaller rooms, from 2000 sq. ft. to 4500 sq. ft., for speaker evaluation.

While conducting a press tour of the new facility, company founder Dr. Sidney Harman described the lab as "evidence of his company's commitment to the future of the industry." Acknowledging currently sluggish sales---which he attributed to the Asian economic slump---Dr. Harman expressed his confidence in the fundamental strength of the industry, calling present circumstances a "difficult passage."

Harman, which reportedly did $1.47 billion in business last year, is planning two new additions to its top-end Infinity brand of loudspeakers. The Omega line will hit the market later this summer, and the Delta line will arrive sometime this fall. Harman is also making a major push into auto sound, said Loudspeaker Group president Dennis Brown. The company does more than half its business outside the US, he said, calling JBL the "number one" loudspeaker in Germany, China, and Japan.