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Nagra Stories Sound-men won’t ever tell

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On 8/8/2016 at 5:25 AM, dela said:

I think that the 6Moons writer isn´t too familiar with Nagras professional product line... He also states that the pictured TRVR is a clandestine machine, and that it is not listed. Which it is (in his own list), and it is not really a secret recorder, just not widely known (being used for voice logging in f.eks. airports/flight control)..   So I wouldn´t read too much into that source..

At this point , I have to concluded this is what happened.

That has been the problem all along the “sources”  There were never any credible sources that wrote anything, thats my point. The agents or Nagra are not going to write the story.

I went back and added something to that last post I made about 6moons. They (6moons) may of had it right all along in that article, just sloppy reporting and poor editing. I think that was back in 2009 when the story was written.

Its just another perfect example of the mistakes and misconceptions along the way, this has been going on for years.   That is the point to my whole post.

 
 There was NO secret Black Series Nagra SN in the 60’s, only the SN Prototype. The first plain spy looking no name SN's, were the slow speed long play models in the early 70’s, before the silkscreen lettering and the Nagra name was put on the recorder. Were these first, plain no name recorders considered the Black Series? I don't have any information about that one way or another at this point.
But ask yourself this, Who makes a brand new product and does not put their name on it?
Maybe someone who wants a secret covert recorder?  Could the first plain Nagras have been the SN serie noire or Series Black 1970 -1972
 5CGeeXl.jpg
Photos marked with RJW are copyrighted.  Any use other than private with or without the RJW watermark is strictly forbidden, without written permission from the owner.
 
Beginning in 1973, the SNS (slow speed) Nagra SN now with the silkscreen directions and the name
NAGRA SN were printed on the recorders.
The SN continued to be the main covert recorder for the US agencies and law enforcement. That lasted well into the late eighties and possibly the nineties. With many small changes over the years.
 
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Photos marked with RJW are copyrighted.  Any use other than private with or without the RJW watermark is strictly forbidden, without written permission from the owner.
 
Look at this large poster I have from the October 1977, IACP  (International Association of Chiefs of Police) Conference. It shows Nagra was front and center still promoting their SNS as the worlds leading surveillance recorder, shown below.
 
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Photos marked with RJW are copyrighted.  Any use other than private with or without the RJW watermark is strictly forbidden, without written permission from the owner.

In October of 1977 when that Poster above was hanging at that Conference. Unknown to anyone at the time, "even" the Chiefs of Police in attendance at this convention.

Nagra released the brand new 2 channel SNST only to the high level three letter agencies of the US Government.  
Not for law enforcement.  Law enforcement continued to use the Nagra SNS's. Unaware of the SNST.
 
The SNST was secret and "exclusively" for the US government for most of the next ten years.
This was Nagras 10 year secret surveillance recorder ordered by the US Government, that I know about.
 
In 1984 another secret recorder the JBR (shown below) was delivered to the FBI,  with no means of playing back the tape at the time of delivery. (per my Nagra source)
 
Nagra made that special adaptor for the SNST to play back the tapes, as shown below, front and center with the JBR tape loaded on the SNST.
It wasn’t until 2 years later in 1986 the PS-1 JBR playback unit was ready for delivery, shown behind the SNST.
 
From 1977 to at least that time period (1986) the SNST was secret. Nagra did not list the SNST as a recorder of theirs until the mid to late 90’s on their web site. Law enforcement most likely knew about it sooner then this. 
 
So the SNST is the first secret recorder Nagra made for the US government, as far as I can tell.
I do not know where one would fit the "Kennedy Administration" in this timeline.
 
foAKfBa.jpg
Photos marked with RJW are copyrighted.  Any use other than private with or without the RJW watermark is strictly forbidden, without written permission from the owner.

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Great poster - interesting it reads "The go anywhere ... record anything 1/4" magnetic tape recorder" when it's an 1/8" recorder ....

In fact I'd have loved it if they'd made an SN with a 'deeper' head stack and reels (and at least 3 3/4ips) but I guess this was thought of and rejected ...

jez

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53 minutes ago, The Immoral Mr Teas said:

Great poster - interesting it reads "The go anywhere ... record anything 1/4" magnetic tape recorder" when it's an 1/8" recorder ....

In fact I'd have loved it if they'd made an SN with a 'deeper' head stack and reels (and at least 3 3/4ips) but I guess this was thought of and rejected ...

14 minutes ago, JBond said:
The SNST-R has a tape speed of 3.75,  see below.

The machine uses 0.15” (3.81 mm) tape on special open reel spools. Operating at a tape speed of 3.75 inches per second (9.5 cm / S), it yields duration of approximately 40 minutes per reel of tape. The Nagra SNST-R uses two “AA” size batteries or rechargeable cells. This enables more than 5 hours of operation.

 

I meant more the 1/4" rather than 1/8"(ish), to make it a 'compatible' rather than totally separate brother to the bigger nagras. Either full track or stereo. Of course the mechanics would undoubtedly have been far far more complicated than just having a deeper head and reels. To push the fantasy further, it would have a higher (also compatible) speed selection of 7 1/2ips as well as 3 3/4. As I swing in my hammock and daydream I think, no, it would do 15ips (for 5 minutes?) and my IV-SJ would do 30 ... But in the 1970s I wasn't yet operating a Nagra, I was using a Grundig. And it was remarkable what Nagra actually DID achieve with their beautiful machines (they just messed up the copy on their adverts!)

Jez

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Quote

(they just messed up the copy on their adverts!)

Hmm.... you mean Nagra put out uncorrected information over the years?    My point continues..... 

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In all fairness to Nagra, they may have meant to say “1/4”
 
“The go anywhere … record anything 1/4” magnetic tape recorder”  “another words”  a small surveillance recorder with all the benefits of a high quality 1/4 inch machine in a tiny footprint.
 
 
One of the limitations of the 1/8 SN it can’t be played back on normal 1/4 inch machines. By using this Transfer Unit, the reordering can be transferred without loss to more common 1/4 recorders.
I know this LPS is used for transfers, and thats about all I know about it.
 
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The Nagra LPS description.
Synchronizer and frequency multiplier for sound and pilot signal transfer from the SN to another tape recorder or on magnetic film, with postequalizer, 4.4 V amplifier and speed varier.
 
Maybe you Soundmen know more about it then I do, I have no idea what that LPS description means.

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Just a quick note on the LPS:

On the 1/4" recorders the pilot signal ( a 50/60 Hz signal generated by a tacho arrangement on the camera motor) is recorded on a separate, narrow center track on the tape. The pilot signal recording is done using a pilot head, situated between the recording head and the playback head. On playback, the pilot head acts as playback head, and in that way the connected equipment can monitor the variations in camera speed using the recorders pilot output.

It is all fine if you have a nice, large recorder with a relatively wide tape, but on the SN models the tape width is 1/8", and it is also hard to fit in an extra head (the pilot head). So the SN records the pilot signal in another fashion: It converts the 50/60 Hz input pilot signal to a 10 Hz sine signal, that is added to the audio signal (obviously adding the original 50/60 Hz signal wouldn´t be smart). The conversion from 50/60 Hz pilot signal to the 10 Hz SN signal is done by a little external frequency divider, that on the exterior looks like another popular accessory: The 10 Hz crystal refence generator.

But the problem is that the 10 Hz output signal from the SN is quite unusable in itself; no other equipment will accept a 10 Hz pilot signal. Enter the LPS: In that little sexy unit, the 10 Hz pilot frequency is multiplied by 5 (or 6) to give the standard 50/60 Hz output. It also have the "normal" synchronizer features, i.e. it can either output the pilot signal to a slaving recorder, or it can compare the SN pilot signal with a reference signal, usually derived from the mains frequency, and thus change the SN playback speed to compensate for the camera speed variation. As the recorder is locked to the (precise) mains frequency, the recorded signal will be in sync with the recorded film. Much like when using f.ex. the Georg Jensens synchronizer and the SLO.

The LPS can also make a high frequency boost, probably to compensate for the somewhat limited frequency range of the SN, compared to the larger machines, as well as it has a low pass filter (my guess is that it is a simple noise reduction function, but I might be wrong on that).

The LPS is a very, very cute piece of equipment, and it seems that the Kudelski people felt the same: There was no real reason that the synchronizer should be that small, except that they wanted it to match the diminutive SN body. But cute it is, and still of very high mechanical quality. At some point I will be lucky and get one...

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Thank you very much for that complete easy to understand and well written description. I have been looking for a description of what it does for 2 years now, since I owned it. The only description I had is what I posted. I bought that little unit new still in the package, from what I was told from a film guys estate,  it was never opened.  Thank you for taking the time dela to post it, I appreciate it. 

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That description might apply to how the sync signal was generated for the Nagra in the 1950-60s or so, but after that Nagras generated their own 50 or 60 Hz signal onboard, referencing an internal oscillator.  This feature was avail on later Nagra III (also as a retrofit) and later model 1/4" Nagras.  By that time the cameras had their own tuned oscillator to control motor speed.  The documentary revolution brought by the Maysles brothers, DA Pennebaker et al was partly made possible by eliminating the sync cable needed to run between non-xtal controlled cameras and recorders (not just Nagras).

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Phillip, I used to have an external crystal sync for my Nagra 3. I can't remember the make although it might have been Cooper. Nick Flowers may remember the makes as he was the location Nagra Guru. Vaguely remember David  Lane fitting an internal one in the early seventies.

 

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On the Nagra 4.2 (and also the IV-L in many cases) the crystal generator was internally mounted, so that if you fitted a little plugged cap in the pilot input connector, the generator signal was looped back to the pilot input.

At the time of the design of the SN both crystals and standard integrated circuits were too big to fit into the SN body, so that it was necessary with an external generator. The standard SXG generator is pretty much as small as it was possible at the time, finding space for that on the inside of the SN would make it larger. And since most users would use it without crystal sync, it would have been impractical to make the body more bulky.

I am sorry for any mistakes about the pilot system; I have worked in film post after the main Nagra-era. So my knowledge about it comes mainly from written sources, handling my own Nagras and studying schematics. So comments and corrections are welcomed...

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In addition to the Nagra LPS, there was also a crystal generator and resolver made by Ryder Sound, which operated at 30 Hz. For a 60 Hz. Based system, the incoming source simply needed to be divided by 2, and when played by multiplied by 2. As I recall, their resolver wasn't quite as stable as the LPS, but did work pretty well.

Will have to look around for the data sheet on it.

-S

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8 hours ago, Malcolm Davies Amps CAS said:

Phillip, I used to have an external crystal sync for my Nagra 3. I can't remember the make although it might have been Cooper. Nick Flowers may remember the makes as he was the location Nagra Guru. Vaguely remember David  Lane fitting an internal one in the early seventies.

 

Tycho CN3 (for the Nagra III) and Tycho CN4 (board to fit inside a IV). ?

Jez

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All those SN pictures - rubbing salt into the wound. I scared my seller off with my enthusiasm. I am in no way connected to the following ebay listing, but as it was discussed earlier I thought folks might be interested:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Nagra-Noriyuki-SNM-3-for-Nagra-SN-audio-recorder-Leather-Case-Kudelski-/291845245309

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 It's been mentioned in earlier posts that the Bulova Accutron watch served as the clock for early pilot tone generators, used for double system filming with 16mm cameras and Nagra III.  The generators were handmade units (used by David Maysles, and others ).  These contained Accutron watch movements encased inside a box with battery and transistor electronics to divide the tuning fork frequency to a 60 hz sine wave--no crystal.   I worked with a cameraman who had a sound kit including one of these.   The Accutron tuning fork was pitched somewhat higher than 60Hz--possibly 200 Hz or more.  .  It was wrapped in foam to keep it quiet, but even so the tone was clearly audible in a quiet room, esp if you put the generator down on a resonant surface.  Legend had it that this design originated with the technical team assembled by Robert Drew (1924-2014)  to make documentaries for Life magazine.  The camera dept included Jim Lipscombe, D.A. Pennebaker, Albert Maysles, Richard Leacock.    Mitch Bogdanowicz was the machinist and camera engineer, commissioned to build equipment for the handheld battery-operated methods Drew required.  He had a genious for finding available existing components (such as the watch)  which could be repurposed into agile tools.   The starting point for the cameras was the Bach Auricon Cinevoice Pro600 newsreel camera which was cumbersome.  The camera  was heavily modified -- chopped, channelled, its single- system sound was ditched,  its AC synchronous motor was battery-powered by an  inverter.   Camera inverters used the  Accutron tuning fork.  Although this specific portable design effort started around 1954, the Accutron watch was not released commercially until around 1960.   The new lighter and more portable sync sound equipment was emulated by others, esp the New Wave people in France, and in Canada and England, and by the early 1970's, the commercial designers Nagra, Stellavox, Ryder, and established camera companies had begun to design crystal pilot circuitry,  more efficient equipment, crystal DC motors, etc.. 

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21 hours ago, Malcolm Davies Amps CAS said:

Phillip, I used to have an external crystal sync for my Nagra 3. I can't remember the make although it might have been Cooper. Nick Flowers may remember the makes as he was the location Nagra Guru. Vaguely remember David  Lane fitting an internal one in the early seventies.

 

External crystal sync generators for Nagra III that I used and remember (and there were certainly others that escaped me) were both by Kudelski. One was as long as the width of a Nagra III and lived in the bottom of the Nagra's leather case, and the other was a neater device very approximately the size of an SN which you just shoved down the back of the case. Two flying leads emerged from them with Tuchel plugs, one went into the accessory socket on the Nagra and the other went into the pulse input socket.

I once used one of these to sync up a multitrack recorder that was recording an orchestra in rehearsal - the OP from the 50Hz generator went onto Track 8 to provide a reference and the generator was powered off a 9 volt battery. My memory is a little hazy on how we got clapper boards on to the 8 track machine without messing up the audio: perhaps the editor had to match up the multitrack audio with the audio on my Nagra, which got its clapper ID from a radio mic on the board; the clapper/loader had to announce the takes sotto voce and do a quiet clap. We should have used a QRRT!

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39 minutes ago, Nick Flowers said:

External crystal sync generators for Nagra III that I used and remember (and there were certainly others that escaped me) were both by Kudelski. One was as long as the width of a Nagra III and lived in the bottom of the Nagra's leather case, and the other was a neater device very approximately the size of an SN which you just shoved down the back of the case. Two flying leads emerged from them with Tuchel plugs, one went into the accessory socket on the Nagra and the other went into the pulse input socket.

I once used one of these to sync up a multitrack recorder that was recording an orchestra in rehearsal - the OP from the 50Hz generator went onto Track 8 to provide a reference and the generator was powered off a 9 volt battery. My memory is a little hazy on how we got clapper boards on to the 8 track machine without messing up the audio: perhaps the editor had to match up the multitrack audio with the audio on my Nagra, which got its clapper ID from a radio mic on the board; the clapper/loader had to announce the takes sotto voce and do a quiet clap. We should have used a QRRT!

We called them "Hershey Bar" crystals- the long narrow ones for the Nagra III.  I briefly owned a Nagra III of the "NPH" type that had the xtal stuff installed by Kudelski.  Later I had an older III (PHO?) that had originally been made w/o the extra head and pilotone electronics and had had it added by a field tech, I think in the USA (it had been done long before I owned the machine).  Both worked very well, with the somewhat steampunk looking SLP resolver.  As I recall, my later, modded III had a different looking "Maltese" than the one that had been done by Kudelski.

Later on in the Nagra era we did a lot of "pilot-suppression" slating for long rolls, back to a sync cable where the camera turnover would "suppress" the pilotone for a moment coinciding with the "gate flash" light on the camera.  The loss of pilotone would cause the SLO resolver to make a beep, which could be added to the audio going to the magfilm recorder.  Of course, this interrupted the audio, so sometimes we ran 2 Nagras, one getting "suppressed" and the other clean.  All this was why a lot of us adopted the 2 channel Nagras when we could--they lacked a whole lot of cool stuff that the 4.2 etc had but you could put a bloop on one channel and not mess up the other while rolling.....

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The Ryder units I referred to earlier were the TSR-260 resolver, and TSG-30 pilot generator. I only used this system a few times, and recall that the resolver was a little squirrelly at times. Don't recall if it was due to interference from the audio at low frequencies, or some other issue.

-Scott

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Those Ryder resolvers could be used with 1/4" machines too-- I had a friend with a small transfer business in the '70s who had a Nagra (III, I thought), this resolver and a 16mm magfilm recorder.  Nice little cottage business.

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NAGRA the legend lives on … with the prototype

rhFBFdL.jpgPhotos marked with RJW are copyrighted.  Any use other than private with or without the RJW watermark is strictly forbidden, without written permission from the owner.

ehnQnEe.jpg
Photos marked with RJW are copyrighted.  Any use other than private with or without the RJW watermark is strictly forbidden, without written permission from the owner.

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A friend of mine just purchased a Russian SNST with mains power supply and playback amp. As I'm new in this forum, please let me know whether this is the right place to talk about this topic.

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You have come to just the right place...

Strictly speaking it is not a SNST, actually it is probably/certainly not even a Nagra. But a really good copy, and judging from the exterior not made to be cheaper than the original. Probably the export of the Nagra products are more or less embargoed, and the different russian secret services were not interested in Kudelski SA knowing what equipment was used in the Soviet Union (Kudelski SA had tight connections to the US secret services). In that case a more "acceptable" solution was to copy, even though the copy might be more expensive than the real thing.

I would love to see some pictures of the interior; they might have had a harder time figuring that out.

A "fake", but actually a somewhat more interesting collectors item than the real SNST...

Okay, I might have been a bit optimistic about the performance:

http://www.tapeheads.net/showthread.php?t=50789

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This is the best place I know of to post your friends recorder. 

Since the SNST could only be sold to the US government, Russia could not get one. 
Somehow Russia got a hold of a secret US SNST and made almost an exact looking copy for themselves. 

Im sure there is a really good Cold War story behind that Russian SNST copy.
As dela said 
It was not made by Nagra. 
I wonder what happened to the agent who was carrying the SNST. 
Thanks very much for posting it. 
The pictures in dela's link show the covers, 
they look so very cheaply made compared to Nagra.
 
 
Vienna. Please post all your pictures here so others  can see them also. 
Thanks 

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The Russians of that era put fantastical resources behind reverse-engineering Western etc technologies.  They reverse-engineered an entire B-29 bomber w/o plans or specs, and in the process converted everything to metric!   Later larger attempts (Buran, SST transport) didn't work out as well, but this recorder looks to be beautifully made.  Imagine what it cost the Russians to accomplish this!

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Here are some more pictures of the "Яхта-1М" ("Yacht-1M"). These were provided by my friend, I hope to get access to the recorder soon so that I can add more detailed pictures of its interior.

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