JBL Paragon Speaker System: A Mid-Century Wooden Masterwork

Written By: 
ISC Team
Tags: 
Share:
  •  

Art, mid-century furniture design, and stereo system all in one

One of the most iconic speakers ever made, the JBL-Ranger Paragon Integrated Stereophonic Reproductor was the first mass-produced stereo loudspeaker for home use. Art, mid-century furniture design, and stereo system all in one, the landmark product was released in 1957 and featured a horn-loaded, three-way stereo loudspeaker system housed in a single unified wooden cabinet. The Paragon was in production until 1983, and there hasn’t been anything quite like it on the market since. It remains the longest run of any of JBL’s speakers.

Background:

One early issue in the development of stereophonic sound was addressing that the stereo image — the direction sound travels in the room — only provided a single auditory sweet spot. The Paragon successfully mitigated this through a unique design principle developed by industrial designer Arnold Wolf and electrical engineer Richard Ranger, an Academy Award winner and pioneering innovator in motion picture sound technology.

The Paragon’s unique acoustic structure includes a curved panel that intersects the propagation paths of the mid-frequency horns mounted at each side of the cabinet. By reflecting the sound on the wooden surface, called the “curved radial refraction channel integrator panel,” the speaker system would produce an unusually consistent wavefront and balanced stereo effect no matter where the listener was situated. The perfect speaker for hosting a party, the state-of-the-art stereo technology would allow for it to feel like you had an orchestra playing inside your home!

Coastal Vectors

While groundbreaking at the time, the Paragon’s single cabinet system lost out to the clearly more convenient two-channel monaural speaker approach. In fact, one of the issues with the original Paragon design was that it needed to be readily knocked down into three separate parts – the left and right channel enclosures and the curved radiator panel – to simplify packaging for shipment and reduce transportation costs.

Regardless, the Paragon was a landmark product in the development of home speaker systems and its craftsmanship is still celebrated today. Speaker companies continue to develop modern solutions to address the single sweet spot issue including, most recently, Syng with their Cell Alpha Triphonic Speaker.

Construction/Size:

One of the unique appeals of the Paragon was that it looked very much like another piece of furniture in your living room. Measuring 106 × 33.75 × 24.5 inches (8.8 x 2.8 x 2 ft), and weighing in at 850 pounds (390 kg), the speaker is comparable in size and shape to your typical credenza and fit right in with gently curved, wooden mid-century furniture designs popular at the time.

No photo description available.

Further, each Paragon speaker console was a unique work of art. The systems were entirely handmade and supposedly required 112 man-hours to complete a single system. Up until the system was discontinued, there was a devoted manufacturing space set aside at the JBL plant just for the Paragon. At its peak, Paragons were produced at the rate of five per week. The Paragon was available in numerous finishes that included teak, rosewood, birch, mahogany, walnut, oak, antique white, ebony, and custom special finishes.

The original configuration of the Paragon consisted of two 150-4C bass drivers mounted in separate, front-loaded horns. Two 375 compression drivers were mounted to H5038P-100 elliptical horns and each was aimed at one side of the curved panel. Two 075 ring radiators were mounted in the back of the cabinet and aimed at the center listening position. The drivers were crossed over at 500hz and 7000hz. 

Sound:

We haven’t had the chance to hear the JBL Paragon in person, but from what we gather, the speaker has a very distinctive sound “signature” due to its single cabinet curved refraction design. The Paragon is capable of filling up a room in a uniquely powerful way that could be somewhat be compared (not in sound, but effect) to how Klipschorns fill out a room unlike any other speaker. Interesting to note, the sound is supposedly smoother the further away you are from the speaker and can sound a bit strange at close distances.

Here’s one review that summarizes the +/- quite well:

“A JBL Paragon can fill the room with sound in an overwhelming way, without you needing a huge amplifier. What’s more, everyone can join in, as you don’t have to sit in the good chair to get stereo. It does have limitations in the bass. And depth perception – that is, the experience of being able to place instruments in a three-dimensional space behind the speaker – is not present to any significant degree. Here, modern speakers are far more accurate.”

Price:

At the time of its release, the JBL Paragon was the most expensive speaker in the world. Starting at $1,830, which, adjusted for inflation, equates to over $15,000 today, the speaker costs about the price of a car and was more or less intended “for movie stars and executives.” It’s still highly sought after today. One in decent shape goes for about $30,000… For the price, you can easily get a much better sounding modern or vintage speaker, but the Paragon is a beautiful architectural statement and remains one of the most impressive speakers you can place in a room.

Classics In The Wild — Hiroki Nakamura – Paper + Oil
Hiroki Nakamura / JBL Paragon D44000 (Photo: Keisuke Fukamizu)

In Sheep’s Clothing is powered by its patrons. Become a supporter today and get access to exclusive playlists, events, merch, and vinyl via our Patreon page. Thank you for your continued support. 

Related Articles

Sort By
12th Isle
2020
2022
33rpm
45rpm
4AD
5 Selects
7"
99 Records
A&M
Abbey Lincoln
Aboriginal
Abstract
Ace Tone
Acid
Acid Archives
Acid Folk
Acid House
Acid Punk
Acid rock
Acoustic
Adrian Sherwood
Africa
African
Afro
Afro-Cuban
Afrobeat
Alan Ginsberg
Alan Greenberg
Alan Thicke
Albert Ayler
Alice Coltrane
All Genre
Altec
Amazon Music
Ambient
Ambient Jazz
Amoeba Music
Amplifier
Analog
Anatolian Rock
Andy Warhol
Animation
AOR
Aquarium Drunkard
Archie Shepp
Archival
Art
Art & Design
Art Dudley
Art Film
Art Pop
Art Rock
Artform Radio
Arthur Russell
Article
Arvo Part
Ash Ra Temple
Audiogon
Audiophile
Audiovisual
avant
Avant-Garde
Avant-pop
Avant-Rock
Avent-Garde
Balearic
Bali
Ballad
Bargain Bin
Baroque
Baroque Pop
Basquiat
Bass
Bauhaus
Bayou Funk
BBC
BBC Radiophonic
Beats
Beats in Space
Bebop
Belgium
Bennie Maupin
Berlin-school
Best of 2020
Beverly Glenn​-​Copeland
Bhutan Stamps
Big Band
Bill Laswell
Black Ark Studios
Black Jazz
Blaxsploitation
Blue Note
Blues
Blues Rock
Bob Marley
Bola Sete
Bollywood
Boogie
books
Boredoms
Bossa
Bossa Nova
Brazil
Brazilian Folk
Breakbeat
Breezy
Brian Eno
Bruce Weber
Bruton Music
Buddhism
Budget Audiophiler
Cabaret
Calypso
CAN
Canterbury
Cape Verde
Caribbean
Cartridges
Casio
Cassette
Cats
CD
Chamber Music
Channel One Studios
Chanson
Charles Lloyd
Charles Mingus
Chee Shimizu
Chet Baker
Chicago
Chillout
Choral
Christmas
City Pop
Classic Album Sundays
Classical
Classics
Clothing
Coctueau Twins
Coffee
Commercial
Community
Compass Point
Compilation
Concept Album
Condesa Electronics
Conny Plank
Contemporary Jazz
Cornelius
Cosmic
Cosmic Disco
Cosmic Folk
Country
Country-Rock
Covers
Cult Classic
Cumbia
Daft Punk
Dance
Dancehall
Dark
Dark Entries
David Bowie
David Byrne
Davida
Deep Dive
Deep House
Deep Listening
Delia Derbyshire
Demo
Dennis Bovell
Denon
Detroit
Devotional
Diasporic Disco
Dick Verdult
Diggin in the Mags
Disco
Discogs
DIY
DIY / Amateur
DJ
Documentary
Don Buchla
Don Cherry
Donald Byrd
Doom Metal
Downtempo
Dowtempo
Dr. John
Dream House
Dream Pop
Dreamy
Drone
Drum Break
Drum Machine
Drum n Bass
Drums
Dual
Dub
Dub Poetry
dublab
Dubwise
Durutti Column
Düsseldorf School
Eames
Earl King
Early Electronic
East African
Easy Listening
EBM
ECM
ecoustic
ecoustics
Electric Lady
Electro
Electronic
Electronica
Elegant Pop
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam
Enossified
Environmental Music
EOY
Eric Dolphy
ESG
Esoteric
ESP Institute
Essential Listen
Essential Listening
Essential Listenning
Ethereal
Ethiopian Jazz
Ethnic
Event
Events
Exotica
Experimental
Factory Records
Fela Kuti
Festival
Field recording
Films
Fingertracks
Fingetracks
Fishing with John
Fleetwood Sound Company
Floating
Floating Points
Folk
Folk Funk
Folk-Rock
Fonts
Footwork
Fourth World
France
Free Improvisation
Free Jazz
Friends of ISC
Frippertronics
Fundraiser
Funk
Fusion
G.S. Schray
Gal Costa
Gamelan
Garage Rock
Garrard
Gems from the Dollar Bin
George Martin
Gifts
Gilberto Gil
Glam Rock
Glitch
Gogo
Gospel
Grado
Graphic Novel
Grateful Dead
Group Sounds
Guide
Guitar
Hard Bop
Harold Budd
Harp
Harry Nilsson
Haruomi Hosono
Heavy Metal
Henry Lewy
Herbie Hancock
hi-fi
hi-NRG
Hidden Gem
Highlife
Hip Hop
Hiroshi Yoshimura
history
Holger Czukay
Holiday
Hollywood
Holy Grail
Home Listening
House
Hypnotic
Iasos
Ibiza
IDM
Illustration
Improvisation
Impulse!
In Conversation
In Stock
India
Indian
Indian Classical
Indie
Indie Rock
Industrial
Ingmar Bergman
Installation
Instrumental
International
Interview
ISC Classic
ISC Collection
isc guide
ISC Record Store
ISC Selects
Island Records
Isolation
Italo Disco
Italy
Jackie McLean
Jamaica
James Baldwin
Japan
Japananese
Japanese
Jazz
jazz kissa
Jazz-funk
Jazz-rock
JBL
John Fahey
John Martyn
Jon Hassell
Joni Mitchell
Judee Sill
Jungle
K. Leimer
Kankyo Ongaku
Keith Haring
Keith Jarrett
Kid-Friendly
Kitty Records
Klaus Schulze
Klipsch
Kompakt
Kosmiche
Kosmische
KPM
Kraftwerk
Krautrock
kwaito
L.Shankar
La Monte Young
Labels We Love
Lafawndah
Lagniappe Sessions
Laraaji
Larry Levan
Last Resort
Laswell
Latin
Latin Jazz
Laurel Canyon
Laurie Spiegel
Leaving Records
Lebanese
Lee Scratch Perry
Left-field
Leftfield
Lena Horne
Les Baxter
Lester Bowie
Library
Library Music
Liquid Liquid
Listening bar
Live Performance
Live Recording
Los Angeles
Lost & Sound
lost and sound
Louisiana Blues
Lounge
Lounge Lizards
Love Songs
Lovefingers
Lovely Music Ltd.
Lovers Rock
Luaka Bop
Mad Professor
Magazine
Marantz
Marcel Duchamp
Marcos Valle
mbaqanga
McIntosh
Meditation
Meditative
Melancholic
Mellow
Melody As Truth
Meredith Monk
Metal
Michael Franks
Mid-Century
Miles Davis
Milford Graves
Mills College
Minako Yoshida
Minimal
Minneapolis Sound
Mixes
Mixtape
Mizell Brothers
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
Modal
Modern Classical
Modern Soul
Modular Synthesis
Moki Cherry
Mono
Mort Garson
Motown
MPB
MTV
Munich
Music Blog
Music from Memory
Music Interior
Music Therapy
Music Video
Mwandishi
Narrative
Neptunes
New Age
New Music
New Wave
New York
News
Nico
Nina Simone
No Wave
Noise
Non-Profit
Northern Soul
Now Sound
NTS
Nubian Pop
Nubian Soul
Numero Group
NYC
OBI
Obscure
Obscure Sound
On Screen
On-U Sound
online radio
Opera
Organic
Organic Music
Ornette Coleman
Ortofon
Oswalds Mill Audio
Outsider Pop
Overtone Singing
Painting
Painting with John
Pandit Pran Nath
Paradise Garage
Pastoral
Patrick Cowley
Paul Horn
Paul McCartney
Pauline Oliveros
PBS
Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Pensive
Percussion
Pharoah Sanders
Phillip Glass
Piano
Pioneer
Plantasia
Plants
playlist
Playlists
Plinth
Podcast
Political
Pop
Pop not Slop
Pop Rock
Popul Vuh
Post Bop
Post Rock
Post-Punk
Post-Rock
Power Pop
Premiere
Prince
Private Press
Producer
Productions
Professor Longhair
Prog Rock
Progressive
Progressive Rock
Prophet-5
Proto-techno
Psychedelic
Psychedelic Rock
Psyhedelic
Punk
Qobuz
Quadraphonic
QUARK
Quiet Storm
R&B
Radio
Raga
Rare Groove
rca victor
Receivers
Record Fair
Record Label
Record Stores
Record Stories
Reggae
Reggaeton
Reissue
Reissues
Releases
Religious
Remix
Retrospective
Rock
Rocksteady
Roland
Roland Kirk
Roller Skate
Room Recordings
Room Treatment
Roots Reggae
Rotary Mixers
Rough Trade
Rudy Van Gelder
Ryuichi Sakamoto
Ryuichi Sakmoto
Sacred
Sade
Sam Gendel
Samba
Sample
Samples
Sci-fi
Séance Centre
Seefeel
Sensual
Shamisen
share
Shibuya-kei
Shoegaze
Singer-Songwriter
Sisters with Transistors
Ska
Sly & Robbie
Smooth Jazz
Soft Rock
Solid State
Songwriting
Sonny Sharrock
Soul
Soul-jazz
Sound Art
Sound Collage
Sound Installation
Soundsystems
Soundtrack
South Africa
South African
South America
Space Rock
Speaker
speakers
Spiritual
Spiritual Jazz
Spoken Word
Staff Picks
Steely Dan
Stereolab
Stereophile
Steven Halpern
Stevie Wonder
Stoner Rock
stores we love
Stories
Streaming
Street Soul
Studio One
Sun Ra
Sunn O)))
Surround Sound
Susumu Yokota
Suzanne Cianni
Suzanne Kraft
Swamp Rock
SYNG
Synth
Synth Pop
Synth-pop
Synthesizer
Synthwave
Taarab
Takoma Records
Tangerine Dream
Tape
Tapes
TD-160
Techno
Techno Pop
Television
Terry Callier
Terry Riley
The Beatles
The Broad
The Loft
The Meters
The Mizell Brothers
The Music Center
The World Stage
Theater
Thelonious Monk
Third Side Music
Third Stream
This Mortal Coil
Thorens
Tim Sweeney
Too Pure Records
Total Luxury Spa
Traditional
Tribal
Trip-hop
Tropical
Tropicalia
Tuareg
Tube
Turntable
TV
UK
Underrated
Val Wilmer
Vandersteen
Vanity Fair
Velvet Underground
Vice
Video
Vince Guaraldi
Vintage
Vintage Gear
vinyl
Virginia Astley
Visible Cloaks
Visual Art
Vocal
Vocoder
Wackies
Walearic
Wally Badarou
Water
Website
Werner Herzog
West Africa
West African
Windham Hill
World
Wrecking Crew
Yacht Rock
Yamaha
Yann Tomita
Yasuaki Shimizu
Yellow Magic Orchestra
Yma Sumac
YouTube
Zamrock
Zither