The project timeline and challenge
The ONIX OA21 has never been re-made or cloned. We wondered why ? This is why ..
We are to make only 35 more .. just 35 more - For any production this is a really low number.
We sold them at break even so development budget could not run free .
This is the journey of why the OA21 ICON became so much work .
1984 The start of the OA21 classic
The ONIX AUDIO partnership was formed and ONIX AUDIO was a huge success with a British budget amp that looked good and was in a half size case called the OA21 . For the final touch it sounded awesome .This little gem sold thousands of units worldwide over a period of 7 years and was loved everywhere . The ONIX OA21 became an "ICON" of its era .
2019 OA21 Icon - The reason
After a unique offer of service for original ONIX units with over 100 old units in many different states of repair arriving at our service facility, It became clear the love people still had for this little ONIX OA21 . Time sourcing parts for the 5 different models made in 7 years with the OA21s by far the most prevalent return for service of all models (because the slide switch that had failed) was really long winded and in some cases still ongoing . The earlier units being more reliable and now in need of service but needing some rare parts. The state of some units was horrendous and worse still the bodging of other repairers being beyond any expectation. Making matters a 100 times worse, many parts were indeed needed . 30 years for most meant genuine parts are often gone .. We know alternatives may work but not in the same way, so we undertook the hunt as was our agreement to try and find the originals wherever we could .
2019 The OA21 Icon concept
Having been able to get most parts ( OA21s slide switch an exception ) it became clear that to remake the ONIX OA21 in a limited number would be possible . The idea was ONIX offered them for sale at an almost break even figure to be made by Adam Worsfold himself during the Xmas 2019 shut down. Adam being One of the original designers and the driving force of its 80s success. This for a non refundable order fee of 125 GBP with the final price 395 GBP plus shipping . The offer was an outstanding success and all 35 unit sold in less than 24 hrs worldwide. This was done so we could supply parts for years to come and keep the OA21 going . Adam is passionate about this that's for sure .
2019 The OA21 Challenge
Take an OA21 and remake it !! Easy ? right ? Yep we thought so , so let's do it. We made it originally we know how to do it, we know the tricks so whats changed ? We make the board , the case , the front panel, the knobs , the transformer ,and hey we are away the OA21 is reborn the OA21 ICON 2020 easy and only 35, this with little development cost and an easy remake ... right ? ...
WRONG.. Very wrong .
The OA21 Icon became 625 individual parts 22 suppliers 7 new ones
146 Different processes and over 500 Man hours.
2020 OA21 Icon The reality
It soon became clear we had to start again while many of our original design spec sheets and drawings were too far out of date.
Worse than this not updated during the 80s and ongoing updates.
Time had not been kind to the OA21 records or our old methods of making it .. great didn't plan this !!.
OA21 Remake :- What does it actually mean?
The 1984 PCB
The OA21 ICON ( Now code named internally ) Where do we start ? Well the first thing that became apparent was the PCB board. In 1984 all PCB layouts were done using a 10 to 1 ratio with opaque plastic sheet and red translucent tape, they were done by hand. This was then scanned and reduced to actual size it was then screen printed on single sided bare board to be etched . The drill pattern was manually created and the boards were then made . Mostly by hand from etch bath to drill machine .There was no computer files to speak of and it was almost entirely a manual process Board type FR4 FR2 .5OZ to 2.5OZ all made in the UK and good quality. It was readily available and it buzzed along .. That was 1984 but this is 2019 35 years later and the world looks at computers .
The 1984 cases
In 1984 our cases were made in a small workshop in Brighton, this company had a few guillotines and a few bending machines with a drill here and there , they were a sheet metal company and used aluminum as our spec case material . There were original drawings but no updates, It was a "hey Steve" can you make the hole at the back bigger and move it a bit ? Sure how big and where ? this type of deal .
The 1984 Front Panel and Knobs
They were made in a small workshop with a lathe that if I recall did not have a computer. The panel work was actually manually made with the front and the knobs cut from bar stock. In those days it was powder coated bar stock, some saws a few lathes and hey presto our panels and knobs came out. We then had them powder coated so aluminum type was not that important , as it was all good quality but once again this is 2019 quality is a huge issue.
But this is 2019 ! The UK manufacture base is almost gone
OA21 Remake of PCB in 2019
We use a design package called Altium , we thought and were told we could emulate an existing board and just remake it .We then learnt that the only people that can do it is the Chinese that have worked a patch around some software and built a scanner to do the job now at this point you may ask why the Chinese ? Yep let's not go there .. Commercial suicide springs to mind. Convert original circuit to new format design , this involves considerable reverse engineering skills using original product and drawings.This can only be trusted to internal staff and in this case Adam Worsfold our CEO. The conversion is undertaken with a software package called with a CAD , an additional 100 man hours was required to complete this process. 100 Hours not factored or costed in .The result then needs to be made and tested and at no time is this cheap or fast.This is always one of the most crucial parts of any audio product.
The OA21 Icon Board 2019 ( CD3601 )
The power transformer
ILP made our original transformers. It is part of our secret to the OA21 success, it was and still is an ONIX method . Let's get the same guy to make them again was our thought. This was not as easy as it sounds, the files went with ILP. With this situation we decided to use a new transformer developed for our current range made by the same guy but 300VA. Up from 200VA and physically bigger. This involved listening,listening,listening and more listening with each sample we had made. Along with each change we created . The original transformer is 100mm the new one is 150mm this had to be factored in with both the case and the PCB as well as the effect of new switches and regulations of CE approval and crazy additional time required.
The OA21 Icon Cases
We had to completely redraw every single part of the new case for the OA21 Icon, we needed to have all the CAD drawings set for new machines.
We had to source new suppliers and they had to make each part in prototype form for this we used a superb UK company in the south.
The company chosen to make the OA21 Icon cases sneaky shot in the workshop
The old case with the new base and top before finishing.
Re-Make or Re-Finish that create delays
Scratched top covers ( Reject )
Orange Peel Powder Coat ( REJECT )
Back panel V5 ( Reject)
So what is the delay on delivery ... What is the delay ? Why can't you just send out the OA21 Icon ?
The UK by an act of law closed all non essential business we lost 90 days of the year .
"The original idea was to remake the original OA21 with a five month timeline"
It was clear after some effort that today's production methods were not suited to our older methods and every single aspect of production we used before had to be created again. Although this is not a re design and only a re-work it would not be very different .The additional man hours were over 500 Hours for our CEO, and he runs 3 companies in two countries .Reality is 26 weeks of solid non stop work with no other work along the way is the real practical effort required. it became a challenge of pure timing if only as it had to be done by just one person. This person affected by the location .
That's still only 6 months
That's 500 hours of personal work. When you add the time prototypes take to make, and the errors or adjustments required it is clear to anyone that understands manufacturing this became an unexpected huge task. The task once undertaken must be completed or the loss would be devastating to the company in every way . Once we started we had to continue, luckily the worst is behind us.
The icon that the OA21 represents must be perfection of reproduction and like for like product, it can be improved with the knowledge of the original faults in design, but not degraded by modern methods or poor quality parts . Parts must be as close to the original parts as possible, from the board type to the case finish, but more than this pure perfection of OA21 sound for each one of 35 made.
In the middle of a considerable OA21 rework Covid19 hit the world. This alone caused complete collapse of the small UK manufacturing base we could have used. The wheels stopped turning for 4 months. Many companies will not open again . We had to make sure we were not one of them . Like everyone else we were affected, and as ONIX is driven by humans our health came first. This remains the correct choice
ONIX IN 2020
We will deliver all ordered units to the standard we dictate , we will find new suppliers to supply us we will take the loss . We will not bow to anyone that can't see what's going on and we will reward anyone that sticks with us .We find it stunning that so few have seen fit to look at the world not just the country, and we know 2020 will become the year ONIX GB survived and won .. We used 36 years of history and knowledge and as always we WILL supply everything we agreed to . Our real customers appreciate what they get, and its those we thank .