If you, like me, has been on forums concerning hi-fi for the last 10 years or so, there is a tiny little chance that you might have read the name John Iverson somewhere. The context might be different, maybe it is concerning the rare and seldom seen Electro Research gear. Maybe someone is posting about the build quality of the Marantz 250… or was it the Model 33? Whatever the case, if there is an opportunity to mention it, John Iverson’s mystery disappearance comes up, along with tales of his amazing ingenuity.
But who was this guy? From the small amount of testimonials one can read, he seems like an absolute genius, but was it just fueled by the mystery concerning his disappearance?
For myself it all started when researching the Marantz Model 33, where I was told by another hobbyist that “someone seems to think the head-amp is the work of the brilliant John Iverson”. I haven’t been able to confirm this however, but I have found mention somewhere that it might have been the later Model 250 amplifier instead.
So who was he, and what is the deal?
John Gordon Iverson (1948) was an audio engineer from Seattle who showed great aptitude for electronics, from a very early age. When his father and family moved to California, his father opened a TV sales and repair shop.
John would experiment with electronic projects, including a missile guidance system while he was still at school, (at least according to himself), which after it started following a jet-plane, landed him a job at NASA. Another version of the story is that the missile guidance system was seized by the FBI along with all documentation of its existence.
His venture into audio started in the early 1970’s where he started working for Marantz while it was under the Tuchinsky family’s (who has started Superscope) ownership. If he was too “Revolutionary for them” or he just couldn’t work alongside others, the story tells nothing about.
After Marantz he started his own company, Electro Research, which would go one to produce a range of amazing, but weird pieces of audio equipment. Later he would expand the production into the more affordable Electron Kinetics brand as well.
That was until 1992, where he disappeared. Some mentions he was kidnapped by he government, either to be killed for knowing something he shouldn’t or to work in all secrecy, because he knew too much. Whatever the case is, the internet is a dark and mysterious place, and while there are ideas – no-one knows the truth. 1
Electro Research gear
John Founded Electric Research and made some very serious gear – it appears, not in a high volume but with a quality that was hard to overlook.
The location seems to be Chatsworth2 – however i haven’t been able to confirm this.
There was some speakers – but they are not mentioned that often, and hard to obtain solid information about, most notably was however the Power and pre-amp combination of the A-75 and EK-1.
The A-75 was a big pure class-a amplifier, apparently built to military spec inside a Hewlett Packard chassis. And also, based on the rumours on the great internet, sold mainly for experimental usage in the military. which seems odd, compared to John Iverson’s supposedly strained tie with “the man”. My theory is that it sold poorly because it was too big, expensive and had to be serviced in Arizona if something went wrong – Boutique products have their downsides that way.
I’ve seen only 1 or 2 for sale in Europe the last ten years total – but it’s an amp I would love to hear personally.
The EK-1 was a preamp with a Strain Gauge cartridge preamp – This was really revolutionary, but it only worked with the included Panasonic cartridge, and if you had to exchange the cartridge, the entire machine should really be calibrated to the new cartridge at the seller again. However, it was built like a tank – not a single piece of aluminium, and with all components in small epoxy-like enclosures inside the unit. Nice for shielding, but today it is almost impossible to service.
I was lucky to hear one with a strain-gauge cartridge at a vintage-hifi meetup in Denmark a year ago. unfortunately only the preamp worked so i couldn’t get a good picture of the characteristics of the amp in total – and with it being impossible to service, this is still on the dream-list.
apparently John had a project, that he was working on towards to end of the Electro-Research days. As innovative as his work with the EK-1 and A-75, he was building a “Force-field” speaker. Rumours has it it had a so narrow field of audio, that you had to sit in a perfect spot to hear anything at all. Since they never materialised above being a prototype, all we have is testimonials from people who knew John Iverson, and maybe try to make themselves seem more interesting by this connection.
You can read some of these www.whatsbestforum.com – what is the most highly resolving speaker you have ever heard?
“Think we’re done? Not yet. Iverson absolutely insisted that with a slight modification (he didn’t specify), the speaker could be used to transport objects through time. He swore that he witnessed that small bugs and flies flew into the speaker (sort of configured like an electrostat with plate like panels) and never came out again. He was convinced they left our temporal dimension and were transported to another time (but did not specify if it was backwards or forwards.)3
In 1981 John Iverson shot down Electro Research and in 1982 he founded Electron kinetics and made the Eagle A7 amplifier – the Electron kinetics stuff was cheaper and sold well, which is maybe why they do not retain any “legendary” status today, apart from the connection to John Iverson and the mystery around him. They where good amps, but not as special and revolutionary as the Electro Research pieces.
But what about his Marantz years?
But this all started with me researching what John did at Marantz – is one of the more known pieces made at Marantz in that time, graced by the genius of John Iverson?
We can start by establishing what is possible – John worked for Marantz at the start 70’s – If we correspond the location to Chatsworth, (as one source indicates Electro Research was located here, and it would be logical that John started his own business where he was working beforehand) we can assume that it was the Chatsworth years. Those years the headquarters where in Chatsworth, but production was in Sun Valley, the earliest Marantz products came out in New York, but the production and HQ moved to California in 1965 – that same year the Model 7T was introduced as the company’s first transistor-based product. (T = Transistor)
The Marantz model 33 was introduced in 1970 and became the common compliment to the Model 16 amplifier (introduced in 1969).
The Marantz model 250 was introduced in 1971.
The dates in the above are based on TheVintageKnob.org timeline4 – however hifiengine states other years, namely 1973 for Model 33 and model 74 for 250. In any case, both would be candidates for John Iversons hand. I am going to continue my investigation into the production years, and see what i find.
- The Strange Life and Bizarre disappearance of John Iverson – The Absolute Sound Journal, Special Report 1994.
- Audioinvestigations – Wizard on the Hill 26/10/206 (http://audioinvestigations.blogspot.com/2016/10/wizard-on-hill.html)
- user “Marty” – www.whatsbestforum.com – what is the most highly resolving speaker you have ever heard? 06/02/2017 (https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/what-is-the-most-highly-resolving-speaker-you-have-ever-heard.8390/page-7#post-434049)
- see MARANTZ TIMELINE