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Our Guide to JBL AE Compact loudspeakers
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Our Guide to JBL AE Compact loudspeakers

Kenny Doherty, Application Engineer

Alongside JBL’s extensive Control Contractor install range (which have been covered in our previous blogs), there are also more specific loudspeaker ranges such as outdoor focused speakers, column speakers and high output speaker applications.

The Application-Engineered (AE) series is an extensive range of permanent installation speakers with models found in almost any scenario, including (but not limited to!) performing arts venues, houses of worship, sports facilities, corporate boardrooms, cinema, bars and clubs.

Sitting at the smaller end of the AE family is the AE Compact Series. I like to think of it as the high sensitivity, high SPL version of the Control Contractor range.

AE speakers incorporate the latest loudspeaker technology, a wide selection of driver sizes, waveguide dispersions, high performance features, reliability and a uniform systems approach making them a versatile family of loudspeakers.

The AE Compact family consists of eight high-output, two-way loudspeaker models incorporating either single or dual woofers, including 5¼, 6½ and 8” transducers. The high-frequency sections include a 1" dome tweeter for two models (AC15 and AC25), while the remaining six models incorporate 1" exit compression drivers.

As ever with JBL speakers these boxes are available in Black and White (churches, we’ve got you covered!), are paintable and have many mounting options via JBL and off the shelf third party accessories. The AE Compact range can be flown using the integrated M8 points, stand mounted with the MTC-CBT-SMB1 (AC16 and AC18) or a third party bracket (for the larger models). They can also be used with the compatible JBL U-bracket MTU-XX (model number). The AC18 and 28 have rotatable wave guides so are ideal for horizontal mounting and all boxes can also be weatherised at the factory on request for outdoor use.


  • 1" dome tweeter with 90° x 90° coverage
  • 51/4" LF transducer
  • Ultra-compact enclosure
  • 300W program power
  • 16 ohms (ideal for multiple box under balcony fill)


  • 1" exit compression driver with 90° x 90° coverage
  • 6.5" LF transducer
  • Ultra-compact enclosure
  • 400W program power
  • 16 ohms (ideal for multiple box under balcony fill)


  • 1" exit compression driver
  • 90° x 50° (AC18/95) or 120° x 60° (AC18/26) Progressive Transition field rotatable waveguide
  • 8: LF transducer
  • Compact enclosure
  • 500W program power
  • 8 ohms
  • AC25
  • 1" dome tweeter with 90° x 90° coverage
  • Two 5 1/4" LF transducers
  • Ultra-compact enclosure
  • 450W program power
  • 16 ohms


  • 1" compression driver with 90° x 90° coverage
  • Two 6.5" LF transducers
  • Ultra-compact enclosure
  • 600W program power
  • 8 ohms


  • 1" compression driver
  • 90° x 50° (AC28/95) or 120° x 60° (AC28/26) Progressive Transition rotatable waveguide
  • Two 8" LF transducers
  • Compact enclosure
  • 750W program power
  • 8 ohms

Now that we know the different models in the range, let’s have a look at what sets the AE compact series apart from the rest.


In fact, we confidently say “best in the business”. This is because the technology of transducers is truly the starting place for the entire JBL engineering legacy. Building on James B. Lansing's historic foundation, JBL engineers continue to break ground on new and better ways to design transducers, reaching beyond what is commonly understood as possible and consistently setting new performance benchmarks for the audio industry.

Starting from scratch and often developing patents in the process, JBL engineers develop from the ground up, resulting in technologies, such as Differential Drive woofers, CMCD Cone Midrange drivers (both used in the AE series), and the D2 Dual Voice Coil Compression Driver (found on JBL line array). Simultaneously addressing performance-robbing challenges such as power compression, heat dissipation, distortion, component weight, and physical footprint, JBL has created a range of transducers that are unparalleled in their ability to deliver extraordinary performance throughout a wide range of applications.


Traditionally horn design involves balancing compromises. Key parameters that are controlled by the design include frequency response, horizontal and vertical beamwidth, directivity index, electrical impedance, harmonic distortion, and low frequency cut-off. Usually a few of these are selected to be optimised and the rest become an indirect result of the other choices made.

However, JBL Professional decided to start with a clean sheet of paper in developing Progressive Transition (PT) Waveguides and not settle for compromise. In developing these waveguides, JBL combined advanced acoustical modelling, computer-aided surface modelling, in-house rapid-prototyping, and an automated acoustical measurement system. What makes Progressive Transition waveguides unique is a single mathematically-continuous surface which defines the waveguide from transducer throat to waveguide-mouth. This results in the following benefits.

• Smoother frequency response.

• Electrical Impedance is smoother (and is free of typical “high-Q” peaks that compromise passive crossover design).

• Advanced constant beamwidth and directivity is achieved.

• Wide coverage angles are achieved without compromise.

• Harmonic Distortion is minimised to allow the maximum SPL capability of the compression driver to be used to its full advantage without a harsh “horn sound”.

• A continuous transition from the transducer exit to the rectangular or square waveguide mouth ensures uniform projection in the intended coverage area.


The fact that the waveguide is rotatable means you can allow both horizontal and vertical orientation. You can hang the loudspeaker in the optimum position for the application without having to compromise on getting the best coverage. Having this option extends the versatility of the range even further.

AE Series speakers in horizontal orientation at SuperMax London (photo Ed Reeve)


JBL’s Filtered Array Technology, utilised in the AC25, AC26 and AC28 models, is a process where each of the Low Frequency transducers is independently controlled for magnitude and phase response, resulting in smoother power response and constant coverage. 

You can read more about this in the JBL white paper: Loudspeaker Array Low-Frequency Pattern Control using Filtered Array Technology. It is research like this that has led to JBL’s wealth of technical nous that gives them a leading edge on ground breaking technological advancements and improvements such as the ones listed here.


The new JBL Professional FIR (Finite Impulse Response) Tunings for the AE-Series provide further enhanced performance for the premium installation loudspeaker line. 

AE Series FIR filters optimise frequency response and phase response to a finer degree of precision than traditionally possible with standard IIR “parameter-based” filters. The result is overall enhanced sonic quality from the loudspeaker, along with improved, more consistent coverage, and improved array-ability. In addition, built-in LevelMax™ Limiter settings further protect speakers from damage due to overpowering. 

To cover the broad spectrum of AE Series models in their various configuration modes, the release contains 70 individual tuning files for use with Crown DCI-N and DCI-DA install power amplifiers. In addition to new installations, these tunings can also be retrofitted into existing AE Series installations. 

The latest update to these tunings were released in March 2021 meaning that although the range has been around for several years now, they sound better than ever.


Not only is there a lot of cutting-edge technology built into these loudspeakers but they also have been designed to all work together in a total system approach. With the implementation of common dimensions, shared appearance, and Coverage Patterns the AE-series all sit together harmoniously. The AE Compact Series products for instance, can easily be integrated into larger AE Series system designs to address areas such as under balcony, front stage lip fill, rear delay zones and a wealth of other applications where larger AE Series enclosures are not required. 

AC16 used as under balcony fills, complementing a JBL VTX A8 system at Bristol Hippodrome

There is also a range of nine AE-subwoofers (including the team favourite ASB6112, shown below) that are compatible with all the Application-Engineered models. One brilliant use for the AC18 and 28’s is as delay speakers for our 8” VTX A8 line array. The single or double 8” and ring radiator HF (as well as recently updated FIR tunings) mean they sit very nicely sonically with the front of house.


Don’t just take our word for it, here are some examples of how these loudspeakers have been implemented in the real world here in the UK and worldwide. From new trendy restaurants and fine dining to major London post production studios, cruise ships, universities, hotels, nightclubs and theatres.

One Pound Lane a former Canterbury jail converted into a chic new leisure venue.

Galvin la Chapelle a Michelin starred restaurant set in the Spitalfields development area of East London, occupies the landmark Grade II-listed, late Victorian St. Botolph Hall — a former chapel and school.

Happy Face Pizza / SUPERMAX the award-winning pizza restaurant and bar is the second venue by sound engineer turned restaurateur Paul Noble incorporates some of JBL’s classic vintage pieces from yesteryear with modern AE-series loudspeakers.

Hide an opulent Michelin starred Mayfair restaurant uses the AC-series in it’s three private booths known as The Broken Room, The Shadow Room and The Reading Room.

Gilbert Scott restaurant at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel ended up using the AC-series in their bar after being impressed with the JBL Professional solution in their restaurant.

London EDITION Hotel is the first of Marriott’s EDITION Hotel in Europe. The template for a cutting edge sound system, originally specified by Marriott’s long-term partners, Clair Systems in the States, had been adapted by Staffordshire-based AV3, and is built around components from the Harman Professional range JBL AE Compact Series.

halo the major London TV and feature film post production studio carried out a major £300k upgrade of its main Studio 1 film dubbing stage including the AC-range for their overhead channels in their Dolby Atmos environment.

Marella Explorer 2 the luxury cruise ship turned to the AC-range for their 1000-seat Broadway Show Lounge theatre for their front fill, stage monitoring and balcony fill.

University of Leicester, Gilbert Murray Hall is a state-of-the-art conference venue that comprises of a large central space, four seminar and break out rooms and a hospitality area. In this install JBL AC28 loudspeakers are suspended high from the vaulted ceiling on tension wires, via custom brackets.

International Finance Center Seoul, South Korea is a large commercial complex containing the Conrad Seoul hotel, the IFC Mall and three IFC office buildings. Located inside The Forum at IFC is a world-class meeting space for executive seminars, board meetings and more. In order to meet the needs of various industry professionals, IFC Seoul recently decided to upgrade the existing AV system in The Forum to a JBL professional solution including the AC-range.

Urban Foundry, India with several locations in Mumbai and Pune in India’s Maharashtra state, The Urban Foundry is a unique bar and eatery with an industrial aesthetic that incorporates brick, metal and glass materials. The Foundry’s new location features a performance area for live music with AC-speakers used as fills.

Open Union Church, Malaysia a Korean ministry church located in Malaysia recently relocated from its old building located in Ampang Jaya to a newly renovated 4,000 square-foot building in Kuala Lumpur. In order to provide clear intelligibility and excellent sound quality for its growing congregation and new 500-seat worship space, Open Union Church decided to include a new state-of-the-art sound system as part of the renovation with AC18s as delays.

ISHCMC, Vietnam, in order to ensure exceptional audio quality and intuitive control for musical productions on the stage of the 350 seat theatre, ISHCMC needed a premium audio, lighting and control solution which they achieved with a complete AE-series install including AC25 and AC18 loudspeakers.

Guru Nanak College, India the new the 7,200-square-foot Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Auditorium at Guru Nanak College, India houses 900 seats and is used for various student activities, cultural programs, convocation and other ceremonies. The main system is an AE-series solution with AC-series side fills.

Emmanuel Baptist Church hosts three worship services each Sunday and activities that serve a broad range of adults, youth, students and other groups in the community. The church’s pastor is known for delivering passionate sermons and wanted to be heard by the entire congregation, even when he whispers. This is achieved by using various AC-models alongside VerTec line array.

Incheon SK Happy Dream Stadium, South Korea which seats 25,000 fans, plays host to home games by SK Wyverns, a professional baseball team based in Incheon, South Korea. This Harman Professional solution includes the WRX weather coated version of the AC26 alongside other WRX weather treated AE-series loudspeakers.

If you would like to find out more about any of the projects or technologies discussed in this article, then please get in touch with your sales representative or the Sound Technology Application Team on 01462 480000. We are able to assist with system design including supporting documents and modelling for your projects.