Ionovac History

Here is a very interesting bit of fact I had received from a gentleman named Laurie Prior of Devon England. I personally was unaware of this so I decided to pass this story along. The following is an excerpt of a couple emails.

Thanks! Laurie for submitting this bit of history

Cheers and Beers!

Hi from the UK

I was sent a nostalgia picture of the Ionofane speaker today in email and so

I went on a search to Google and found your paragraph about extending the

life of the glass cell.  Very interesting. However I was puzzled to find no

reference to Bowers and Wilkins Ltd of Worthing Sussex England, who marketed

the P2 Speaker that I owned for thirty years nor to Sony Corporation who

also marketed the P2 B and W speaker under license in Japan.

The "Ionofane" ionic tweeter was made by Fane Acoustics who were originally

into PA equipment for Rock Groups and so forth,  but they branched out into

developing this unit for the hifi.   They went out of fashion as people

started to lose interest in "tubes" and went for Solid State, even Quad

stopped doing tube amplifiers or "valve amplifiers" as we call them in the

UK.   But then Valves made a come-back and now you can get some very

sophisticated high performing valve stuff and it costs a mint. When I

started having trouble with my ionofanes the valves were starting to get

scarce and the makers were borrowing them and swapping them from old defunct

units in the workshop and from wherever they could find them, to get repairs


You may be interested to know that the Fane unit was also sold in speakers

with the SONY name on the front.  I walked into Bowers and Wilkins factory

and shop in Worthing Sussex in 1970 and saw a stack of their B & W P2

Monitors with the Sony badge on the front showing neatly in silver with the

Sony name and wavy line.   I asked Mr Wilkins (the financial partner of the

business) why there were P2's with Sony name on the front out in the

despatch department, and he said, "Sony have asked us to send them some P2's

and we have agreed to let them market them under license in Japan with their

own name on them" Such contractual arrangements I knew little about in my

humble days as a Sales Rep for EMI Records but I knew that somewhere people

will have bought P2's equipped with Ionofane tweeters quite legitimately

believing them to be made by Sony when they were made by Bowers and Wilkins.

I don't know how many were involved but I do know that this happened having

seen it for myself. So that may be relevant to your site information or not,

depending on how important you feel it is.

Bowers and Wilkins have as far as I am aware, long since washed their hands

of any work on Ionic units.   At one time in the 1980's Wilkins himself

kindly used to deliver my repaired units back to me at home when he visited

his ageing mother. His family owned a Real Estate Agents in our town who

still thrive.

It got rather boring sending the transformer unit and ionic horn back to

them for repair so often,  and they hung on to the units for months before

they could get them running that I just jacked in using them.  I still miss

them. But life goes on with or without Ionofane tweeters!

The P2 H "monitor" model speakers were used by the BBC as monitors for

high-quality use in the studios for some years in the late 1960's and early

1970's.  Nowadays they use the term "Reference" speakers in that role.  The

mid range and bass unit was a special laminated-glass speaker cone

manufactured in Wales at one of EMI's factories.  It was a 13" x 8"

eliptical speaker and had a bass porting to a piece of plastic drainpipe to

tunnel the bass out through a port at the bottom which was possible to blank

off if room acoustics demanded less bass. It was always said that the

speaker was heavily bass-colored, and its saving grace was the Ionic tweeter

that was as sweet as an "electrostatic" when reproducing speech and music.

Someone said the transformer and driver unit for the ionofane was a very

efficient radiant heater and was little more use than that.  This might

explain why the design caused the transformers to regularly burn out.  In

fact mine burned out long before the glass cell was needing changing.

©Copyright Adam Chambers 2024

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