Our Apps Team guide to the JBL Control Contractor Series install speaker range
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Our Apps Team guide to the JBL Control Contractor Series install speaker range

by Matt Watt
Application Engineering Manager, Sound Technology Ltd

Control Contractor is an umbrella branding that covers many lines of JBL’s install-focused speakers, including wall, ceiling and pendant offerings. The intent of this is to give the designer/end-user a one-series-fits-all palette of products to cover all install eventualities.  Whether you need indoor or outdoor, highs or lows, large or small, the Control Contractor series provides high quality, easy to combine, and simple to install solutions. 

The series includes some long-time stalwarts like the Control 24C/T ceiling speakers (known to designers the world over) as well as some lesser-known products that resolve those fiddly issues such as the Control 50 Sub/Satellite series.  

With such a broad range of products to go through, I’ll be picking through some firm favourites from the Application Team that we go to time and time again when designing projects. I’ll point out some handy tricks/tools of the trade as well as giving a more general overview of the lines and their intended use. With that preamble out of the way, let’s get stuck in!

Control 10 & 20 Ceiling Speaker Range

If you’re an installer you will no doubt have come across the JBL ceiling speaker ranges. The control 24 in particular has been a mainstay in the industry for many years with different variants and iterations. One of the reasons the Control 20 range has been so popular is that the drivers are all 16 ohms, so for smaller low impedance installs it’s easier to run more on a single line than a comparable 8-ohm speaker. They are also voiced in a way that gives real clarity and presence to speech, making the line ideal for speech reinforcement and paging applications. If speech clarity in a ceiling speaker is the requirement of a specification I usually look to the Control 26 C/T.  

A quick aside about the naming of JBL speakers, the Control 26 C/T, for example, tells us that it’s, a) from the Control 20 series, b) that it has a 6” driver (actually 6.5”…), and c) that it’s a ceiling speaker with a transformer (C/T). We also have variants without the 100v transformers (saves a bit of money when it’s not needed) and these are the Control 26 C.

Where the Control 20 series gives you clarity of speech and the benefit of higher impedance, the Control 10 series has always felt more musical to me. For most BGM applications I would start with a Control 16 C/T then either go up to a Control 18 C/T for applications requiring more low-end or down to a Control 14C/T when budget/size is a concern.

Control 40 Ceiling Speaker Range

There are some scenarios where neither of the above solutions (in all their various sizes) will work. These are usually applications where you are looking at higher SPL music or difficult spaces. Of course JBL have a solution to that as well! Enter the Control 40 series.

The Control 40 Series is line of premium, in-ceiling, speciality loudspeakers that combine outstanding pattern control and consistent coverage with superior sonic performance. Featuring JBL’s proprietary conical Radiation Boundary Integrator® (RBI™) technology adapted from the groundbreaking VerTec® Series line-array loudspeakers, the Control 40 series includes six models (including a ceiling sub and a low profile version of the Control 47 for difficult roof voids). Without going too deeply into the waveguide technology, what it essentially does is even out the frequency spread from the speaker. 

We have the Control 47 C/T set up next to a Control 24C/T in our demo room; one of the examples we like to do is play music through the 24 and have people walk under it. As has been the way since the introduction of ceiling speakers, you get more high-end when you are on axis, this is due to the nature of sound waves and how they propagate from a speaker into a space. What a waveguide does is take that wave and spread it out… the result is wide, even dispersion; so where you might need two Control 24s to cover a space evenly, you can often get away with a single Control 47 in the same area. Although the Control 40 series are, inevitably, more pricey than the other series, what I have found is an economy of scale when it comes to amplification. For large installs you end up paying more per speaker, but using half as many. The tap settings on the Control 40 series are generally double that of the Control 10 and 20 series, so actually the amp spec is usually about the same. The result is a very small difference in relative cost for a speaker with superior sonic quality, well worth keeping in mind the next time you design a system.

Another scenario that constantly comes up in large installs (particularly in relation to ceiling speakers) is ceiling height. Generally, ceiling speakers cover more area the higher up they are. The Inverse Square Law tells us that the further away it is, the more energy is lost so the lower the level will be at listener position. In most applications for ceiling speakers this is fine, but what about if you have really high ceilings? 4m+? There’s a Control 47 H/C (high ceiling!) for that – this works by taking the same driver as the Control 47 and moving it back in the enclosure, giving it a longer narrower wave guide; this means the same energy is focused over a smaller area, so it can be positioned much higher and get the same SPL at listener position. 

Control 60 Pendant Speaker Range

Another solution for high or open-ceiling applications is to use pendant speakers from the Control 60 series. These are the same drivers/waveguide tech but built into a rather fetching pendant enclosure. This makes the Control 40 and 60 series ideal partners for spaces with a mix of covered and open ceiling spaces and we have specified many for large warehouses, retail spaces and commercial installs to great success. 

We've taken a detailed look at the whole JBL pendant speaker range in this separate article.

Control Contractor Wall-Mounted Speaker Range

I think when most people refer to JBL Control Contractor they have the wall mounted 20 series in mind. Control 1 Pros and Control 25s have been another standard for install applications for a generation (and the rest!). What a lot of people haven’t necessarily realised is that the range was revitalized some years ago with a new line of re-engineered speakers using some of JBL’s best tech from years of experience, to create some pretty special boxes. 

You will recognise the newer models by their rounded corners (very web 2.0) and the -1 at the end of their name, for example, the Control 25-1 (my personal favorite in the range!). As with the ceiling speakers, these come in variants with and without transformers and are all available in black and white (also paintable – just ask us for instructions/recommended painters). They also have the benefit of coming with an included Invisiball mounting bracket. This neat little ball bracket allows for vertical and horizontal positioning (the JBL badge can be rotated), you then use a long allen key (also provided!) to clamp the speaker to the bracket making a neat, unobtrusive connection. 

Most of the range is IP44 out of the box and IP55 with the addition of Weather Max Grilles and PC2/3 cable glands, making them suitable for outdoor install, making the range even MORE flexible, you lucky ducks! Not only that, but there is a further range of, frankly, underutilised accessories that allow for mounting multiple units together in arrays, for ceiling-mounting, pole-mounting... you name it! In the event that what you need isn’t available from JBL, we can recommend several fabricators that we have worked with in the past for bespoke solutions.

In the interest of keeping this article to some kind of word count (sorry Marketing!) I’m going to be relatively brief in my overview of these speakers, focusing on the tech details for the Control 25-1 (did I mention it’s my favorite?) as much of this is transferable to other units in the range. Generally we would start at the Control 23-1 for BGM and paging applications, going up to the Control 25-1 when audio quality is particularly important, up further to the Control 28-1 when low frequency/SPL levels are required but the addition of a sub isn’t feasible.  

An example I have done a lot of specifications for are bars/pubs where they might have a Control 25-1 BGM system and Control 28-1s in a corner for when the live soloist turns up to play. My general preference is to specify the Control 25-1s with the Control 50 S/T (Sub/Transformer) for background and even some foreground music applications (5.1 home cinema anyone??).

The Control 25-1 is a two-way 200w PGM speaker with 5-¼” woven fiberglass woofer and a ¾ fluid cooled PEI diaphragm tweeter. It has a rich ‘bright’ sonic character (frequency range 60Hz to 20kHz) and wide coverage (100 x 100). That along with the versatile mounting, and contemporary look means it fits unobtrusively into a wide range of decors. This makes Control 25-1 (and the other units of the range) an excellent choice for a wide variety of applications, including retail stores, restaurants, health clubs, theme parks, educational facilities, hospitality, music cafes, leisure venues, and anywhere where a top quality high-output indoor/outdoor foreground/background music (and/or paging) speaker is required.

Control 50 Surface-Mount Subwoofer

As highlighted above, I like to pair the Control Contractor wall series speakers with the Control 50 S/T Sub. This is a really special little box and enables us to include sub bass frequencies unobtrusively into many projects. I often refer to it in demos as being ‘gestalt’, a German word that roughly means ‘greater than the sum of its parts’. It can sit on the floor as per your standard sub or be wall-mounted with the included V bracket. We have seen them built into cabinets, attached under seating (churches!) or even wall-mounted up above ceiling tiles for discreet, distributed low-end coverage. 

One of the other wonderful things about this unit is that it has a 100v line transformer included along with built in crossovers from which to run satellite speakers, making it even more flexible. This means for large distributed installs you can have multiple sub/satellite setups without the need for dedicated extra amp channels/cable runs.  The 150 Watt (600 Watt peak) Control 50S/T subwoofer contains a high-power, long-excursion, 200 mm (8 inch) driver which features an extremely robust high-mass cone for extended low frequency response, a 38 mm (1.5 in) 4-layer copper voice coil for high motor strength, an aluminum former for good transient response, and a rubber half-roll surround for enhanced bass performance. It has a maximum transformer tap of 80w, which when running satellites includes 2 of the 4 outputs. Adding all four takes you up to around 100w draw.

The Control 50 S/T is generally packaged up with our smallest wall mount unit, the Control 52 (which doesn’t have a transformer as it’s not full range, so is intended to be run with the sub). What’s quite clever is that the Control 52 (Wall), Control 42 (Ceiling) and Control 62 (Pendant) units all have the same driver and voicing. This means you can mix and match with your sub-crossovers. So, say you have a retail unit with a high ceiling at the entrance and lower ceiling further in. You can easily run two Control 62 P/T pendants for the entrance with two Control 42 C/T ceiling speakers covering the shop with a relatively small amp.

Control HST

One of the other more recent additions to the JBL range that worth mentioning here is the Control HST. This fits into scenarios where you need wide horizontal coverage as well as some low-end for BGM in an aesthetically tidy box. Good examples of this are corridors and shop fronts. The Control HST is a Wide-Coverage Speaker (180° H x 160° V) with a 5-¼" rear-facing low-frequency driver and splayer ¾“ tweeters, making it similar to the Control 25-1 spec. HST stands for Hemispherical Soundfield Technology, which is a patented technology from JBL which reduces the primary wall reflection, resulting in a flat frequency response and consistent sound character at all listening positions. 

The HST is wall mounted using the included bracket for accurate spacing and provides a surprising amount of low-end for its size. These were used to great effect recently at the Coal Drops shopping area by Kings Cross, with a unit every other shop being used to provide even coverage with subtle aesthetics. As with other members of the Control Contractor family, the HST is IP54 out of the box and can be painted to blend in even further. The HST can run low impedance with 100W (400 W peak), 2 hours IEC and has 100v tap settings of 60, 30 and 15w, making it ideal for distributed 100v line installs.

Other Notable Mentions

The Control Contractor range doesn’t just stop with the products already mentioned (I told you it was a broad palette!), we have in-wall solutions in the form of the Control 100 series, Landscape speakers (for permanent fully-exposed outdoor installs such as theme parks) and the Control 80 and EN-54 compliant variants of many of our lines (such as the CBT100-LA-LS (Life Safety), Control 25AV-LS and Control 16C-VA (Voice Alarm)).  

It’s been mentioned before, but just to re-iterate that JBL offer a range of free software tools for helping design systems with our products. Of particular note for the Control Contractor range is the Distributed System Designer (DSD).

This tool allows you to put in Width, Depth and Height information for a room, select a speaker and setting (e.g. low impedance or 100v taps) and evenness of coverage (the dB variance for the listener when moving from one speaker to another) and even choose if it’s a square or hexagonal layout. This software is invaluable for quick designing with ceiling speakers and pendants and is useful for getting a ballpark number for wall speakers. 

After running the model you get a detailed read-out giving speaker numbers, spacing, a snazzy graphic, expected SPL at listener height, general dB variance and a plethora of other details to reassure your client (and yourself) that this is the correct product for the job. It even suggests what amp power you need! We tend to use it as an initial numbers check against budgets then use some common-sense for odd-shaped rooms – lose one here, gain one there for example.

Hopefully, this article has been of some use in outlining just how broad and flexible the Control Contractor Range from JBL is and highlighting some of the more interesting tricks and tools. Whatever the project, we have a solution that can work and an Applications Team happy to assist with specifying it where needed.  

Whether you are after highs, lows, inside or outside, JBL Control Contractor offers Complete Flexibility, Consistent Sound.