The history of the JBE range of turntables from the late '70s and early '80s is very difficult to pinpoint with real accuracy, but since launching this website several years ago, I have been contacted by many owners, each with a story or turntable which has helped to fill in the blanks. Most recently (November 2012) I have received an early JBE brochure which has offered the clearest yet summary of early JBE models. My thanks to Roland in the Netherlands for sending it to me, and indeed to all those who have helped with images and information.
Many of you who find this website will probably do so after having seen a JBE Series 3 (perhaps on eBay where they come up for sale on a reasonably regular basis). The distinctive Welsh slate platter and equally distinctive 6-disc platter are JBE trademark features, but it's now clear that the JBE story starts much earlier that the Series 3, which I’m pretty sure was launched in 1978 and remained in production until the latter part of 1982, when the firm ceased trading.
It now seems increasingly likely that the origins of JBE can actually be traced to another product, sold under the Environmental Sound banner. This company was run by one John Bryant and was a trading name of his parent company, called JB Manufacturing Acoustics and Design Ltd. Originally based in Sussex, I believe Bryant moved the operation up to Northallerton on the promise of some form of enterprise grant (possibly in 1976), which subsequently did not materialise. He subsequently launched Yorkshire HiFi with a small range of speakers which were called the ES 1-3 and 2-3. One can only assume that the ES stood for Environmental Sound. Yorkshire HiFi ceased trading in 1985, but the JBE story had, I suspect, moved on considerably by that point.
What we can be sure of, is that Environmental Sound launched a range of turntables, all with the now distinctive 6-disc platter design. These featured a black acrylic plinth and the platter itself had a smaller central disc. Mounted on a black acrylic sub section of the plinth, the outer discs on these turntables were fully supported by the base, where on later JBEs the discs just clip over the edge of the sub platter.
The first JBE branded turntables began appearing, I suspect, from around 1975 and following the brochure I have recently been supplied (November 2012) I can be certain there was a range of turntables from the JBE 3001 to the JBE 8001. Three different plinths were on offer, a clear acrylic, a black acrylic and a black acrylic with top skin of anodised aluminium. Two different sizes of plinth were available, these being 17 1/8in wide by 13 1/8in deep or 19 1/2in wide by 14 1/2in deep. This gave you the six different models, with the wider plinth designed specifically to accommodate the Dynavector DV505 tonearm. Each turntable could be order with either the distinctive JBE platter or a more conventional platter which I suspect was of Technics origin.
Who was marketing these? Well I suspect they may have still been under John Bryant's control and sold via a new company he may have established, which I know was called JB Electronic Systems and Equipment. And the JBE name itself? Well that has to stand for John Bryant Electronics, doesn't it?
Just to add a little confusion at this early stage, you'll see elsewhere on the site that I have images of another JBE style turntable which is called an FP2001. This surely has to be a predecessor to the 3001, but shows little plinth resemblance to the Environmental Sound offerings. You'll also see another unnamed model in the JBE models section of this site, which does show clear development from the FP2001 to what we know to be a JBE style product. Thanks to Richard Dane I now know that FP stands for Freelance Plastic Company Ltd. The brochure Richard also included within his email shows the company based in Epsom, Surrey (more information within the model section).
Got to Page 2