So what of the slate JBE turntable? Firstly, I'm pretty confident that it was not available until 1978. Whether John Bryant joined forces with another company, I cannot be sure, but JBE Limited appears to have been (re) launched as a specialist hifi division of Janorhurst Limited (Arnold Electronics). Much of my information has been gleaned from Gramophone magazine's online archives, and the earliest mention I can find of Janorhurst is in 1977, when the company had launched the Groovac Mk111, a record cleaner with a vacuum action. By 1979 either the same product or a revamped version of it was being marketed as the Disc-A-Vac. Other hifi ancillaries were also available, with Janorhurst launching a range of audio switching units in 1978 and, in 1979, a range of speaker stands.
Janorhurst operated from Century House, Shortmead Street, Biggleswade, in Bedfordshire. Janorhurst continues today as Jantech, working within the electronics industry. Original JBE MD, Tom Arnold, remained a Managing Director of Jantec until recently. The company is still based in Biggleswade.
I'm pretty sure the JBE Series 3 was launched in 1978 (it's mentioned by Gramophone magazine in this year). One good way of dating any JBE turntable is via a manufacturing date sticker on the side of the Matsushita Electric Industrial phono motor used throughout the life cycle of the turntables. On my 3001 the date of Sept 1976, and the 7001 has a date of January 1977. The mystery JBE ???? shown in the JBE Models section of this website has a date stamp of December 1974.
A copy of the HiFi Yearbook of 1979 does not help to clarify matters! While it does not list JBE as a turntable manufacturer (Janorhurst is in there, with regards its other products) it does list Environmental Sound and shows a number of JBE style turntables (EST 4X, EST 5, EST 6 and EST 7). The yearbook may well have actually been released at the end of the previous year and this may have therefore been before JBE launched the slate based Series 3, but why are these turntables still in existence when the JBE 3001 to 8001 turntable range has already been available for several years? It's a question that I cannot currently answer with any certainty.
By 1980, Janorhurst was actively developing JBE as a brand in its own right, with the launch of the JBE Diamond speakers in 1980. As with the slate plinth of the Series 3 turntable, the Diamond speakers were also launched with slate tops and bottoms. Gramophone describing them… "unusual cabinets with Welsh slate tops and bottoms were dispensing unusually uncoloured sound when I called."
In 1981, JBE moved out from the shadow of Janorhurst, moving to dedicated premises at Unit 5, Industrial Estate, Dean Street, Bedford. The plan at this stage was to build a broad spectrum of hi-fi components, in addition to the JBE turntables and Diamond loudspeakers it was already manufacturing.
My suspicion is that two factors conspired against the company's future success. Much is made on the hi-fi forums today of the battle between belt-drive and direct drive turntables, and the trend at the time was certainly towards belt-drive offering a superior performance. So the JBE was fighting against the tide of belt-drive offerings at the time.
Secondly, I also suspect that the separation of parent company Janorhurst and its sibling probably also played a part. I can find no mention of JBE after April 1981, when the separation of the two operations was covered by Gramophone. How long it lasted after this I’ve yet to establish. My suspicion is no later than 1982!
And as a final intriguing thought, enthusiast Allister Hardwick contacted me with a huge amount of information, including the fact that when he met Arnold while the company was still in existence, Arnold hinted that just one Series 4 had been produced, which Arnold was keeping at home!
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