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Nagra Stories Sound-men won’t ever tell


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A person asked Nagra 
Why is my Nagra plain without markings?

There is a simple answer to your question: When the SN was first introduced
in 1970/71 the first machines did not have any printing on the deck-plate.
The printed deck-plates were introduced during the '70s as the
silk-screening process was better understood in the factory. The first
machines were printed with black print which was later changed to RED. All
that your information tells me is that it is a fairly early SN.

The answer Nagra gave about the printing makes sense, but if they were made for the US secretly as a covert recorder as all the talk over the last half century says they were, the US  most likely wanted them with no marking on them. Just like the recorders the US gave up using over the SN at the time.  Which I will show you next.
So it worked out both ways for Nagra, they didn’t need to put any silk screen on them in the beginning, but later once they improved the process and introduced the recorders publicly they knew how to do it, and they did it very well.
I have to say Nagra's silk screening on the SN is the best in the world.  I have never seen any Nagra SN with the silk screening wearing off, flaking etc.
Nagra quality is the best in the world even back then. So whatever they needed to figure out at the factory it surely worked out very well for them.
Just one thing I want to point out in that answer above. 
Notice how he says the SN was first introduced in 1970/71 then he says  “The printed deck-plates were introduced during the ‘70s
Hmm…………so, in other words not during the 60’s, (when they really came out).   It may just be the way he worded it, but he sounds like he is separating the decades since he says first introduced in 1970/71 is the same decade as during the 70’s. 
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It's been a long (fascinating) read.

So if I understand correctly:

The serial number on the SN seemed to stagnate at 118 for a while (the SN un-screenprinted years), but with the addendum of the space and two digit numbers that might indicate the serial number of that particular [covert] SN? EG: 118 29, or maybe 118 41 and so on. After that, Nagra resumed consecutively numbering each product from 119, using serial numbers that continuously rose into the five digit realm, and so on? 

If so..essentially, there were only 118 of these SN's made, 118 118 being the final un-screenprinted unit?

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Just a quick note on the hole/connector on the serial number end of the SN: It is the input connector for external speed control of the SN. It is primarily used by the LPS synchronizer, and it seems like a bit of an afterthought.

Electronically it is also a bit awkward: The unshielded input goes directly to the base of a transistor, without any protection. Not every Kudelski circuit design is a work of art...

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What happened to - Serie Noir (Black Series) ?

Thanks, Nick, dela, and Rachel

Yes, you have it right, Rachel,   just the number is 811, you have it backward at 118 but that's ok.  I have to hand it to you and others, I didn’t think anyone could decipher what I was saying but you did. 

There very well may have been only 811 non-silk screen models. That could be one reason for the change in the serial number format

I don’t know any of this to be true, it's just speculation on my part, I base it all on the following. I shorten it a little here so others don’t have to go back and try and decipher what I said before. 
Now I could've ended this reply right here, but nooooo I have to write a book each time I post. Sorry about that.
Just so it's known, I only started asking these questions after finding out and receiving the first pictures ever released from Marguerite K. of her father’s Nagra SN prototype, developed in 1960 but never produced. This may not mean much to others but to me, it was a very nice thing she has done. I asked if I could watermark them for my collection and she said yes.
These pictures have never been seen before on the internet. The pictures are now part of my collection and will only show them included with pictures of my collection as I already did.  I will not put them out separately on the Internet as long as they are not already out there. I will leave that to Nagra to decide if they want to do that.  I’m thinking now they might not have put them out for a reason. If fact its kind of down played how its displayed in their collection. Before these pictures, I never had any proof the prototype ever existed. Everything was always so secret about the early SN’s.
As Luck would have it at the same time receiving these pictures of something I thought never existed, I was contacted thru JWsound from an Italian couple that had a non-silk screened Nagra SN.  In a private sale, I bought that SN from the young couple in Italy.
The combination of receiving the Non-silk screen SN and receiving pictures of the 1960 Prototype, left me with many questions. 
Nagra telling me the first SN was produced in 1970 and first sold in 1971, just made me wonder then What happen to the Black Series? 
Before I thought the date was 1965, but Nagra says that is wrong.
 I’m sure if Nagra had to do it again they would not have answered my email the first time. 
OK that is where this all started. I’m not trying to change history, I would just like to know What was the history?  
So based on the Nagra SN story that is all over the internet. I’m not making anything up. This is what is already out there.
The US “ordered” or “commissioned” or “ JFK”  commissioned or US military ordered etc.  This is written everywhere, even Nagra has written this. So whats a collector to think.
Could the US have “ordered” or “commissioned”  811 (eight hundred and eleven) no name recorders for Nagra to make for them?  
This seems to be a reasonable question since what famous statements I have read all over the internet for years.
 Whether it started in 1965 or 1970 it's not the big deal But did it happen at all? 
I know now the SN prototype was just the prototype. Not only because Nagra said so but because it doesn’t exist, if it did and many were produced, I or others would have one.
What happened to Serie Noir (Black Series)?
I was only guessing, and  I asked  Nagra this question here in blue  
#  4   The serial number 811  40  - does this mean it’s #40 out of 811 originally ordered by the US government?
This is my guess.  Do I have it right?  Or what does the serial number 811  40 mean?

#4) The SN serial numbers were consecutive, and our records start at # 75 which was probably the first model actually sold. The number following the serial number corresponds to a technical evolution level and is referred to as the “Indice #”. We do not have records defining all the different indices, but they were due to the change in the thickness of the deck plate (from 1 to 3 mm) and the changes made to the motors etc.

All we can certify is that the SN you have is number 811 and it was manufactured in June 1972 and is an SN-S model. The first slow speed SN was number 83 and manufacturer in September of the previous year (1971).

 Nagra told me the serial numbers were consecutive and my serial number was 811  40, 811 was the count and the second number was just a technical evolution level number.
Like a motor upgrade or the thickness of the deck etc.
Ok, so all’s well and good, that's what Nagra says, then, that is what it is. 
 I have a June of 1972 no name plain Nagra SN and I’m very happy to have it.
Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, another plain Nagra without silk screen shows up on eBay from Germany with the same 811 number as part of the serial number, 
the full number is 811  29
So now I’m saying what the??  
The only number I see changing is the second number, 29 changed to 40. This leads me to believe these two units are number 29 and 40 out of 811 made in this series.
Just to let you know how rare a non-silk screen Nagra is, Remember the story about the Yellow Recorder and it took 18 years to find it, well I never saw a non-silk screen Nagra SN on Ebay before last Saturday.  So that is more than 18 years.
So for two to come up for sale within 2 months is very rare. Now factor in they are both 811 serial numbers, well I don’t think I need to say anymore.
So I concluded.
Since there are two Nagra SN’s with the number 811, that number must be the end of the run or series. 
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From what I know there are two other non-silk screen Nagra SN's,  One in Nagra's collection.

The other is Owned by Tim Blackham. There is a Tim Blackham who has a IMDb I’m not sure if he is the same one that owns it or not? Anybody know him enough to ask? I wonder what his serial number is? That sure would be interesting.


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Regrettably Tim who was a UK mixer is no longer with us. He also ran a new/used equipment business with his son Will but this sadly has ceased trading. Maybe this machine was one of his sales items. I don't know what happened to all his stock when Will closed the business. Maybe Simon Bishop might know?

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Hi, I'm new here. About the SN-series, I heard from an old sound engineer that the spy stories may be a smaller part of the real story of usage of these units. They were simply what was used before there was radio mikes in the TV-studios around Europe. Nowadays, the hidden mike-packs use UHF radio directly to the mixer, back then the tapes were dubbed in post production. Makes sense to me, specially the Hi-Fi SN units should have been a good source of sound for this purpose. Sorry, it may not be that all of them was part of a good spy story, but I believe some of them were.

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I used SNs on talent instead of wireless mics a few times, but SNs were so rare, expensive to rent, required hard-to get tape stock and the audio had to be transferred off another SN that they were a tough sell to producers, compared with wireless.  Early wireless (my first was a tube-model Sony) were very clunky, often with AC-powered RX, but they were more common than Nagra SNs ever were.  I "sold" the SN for use on shots in which the talent talked all the time while walking alone at extreme distances from the crew though tunnels, metal buildings etc etc over a long distance (a whole short film in a single take).  They were also great for rigging in situations like race cars etc where the motion of the car would have been a gyro issue for a 1/4" reel recorder.

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Hi Micke 
Thank you very much for sharing this information, I never thought about radio and TV also as users, but you're right.
You’re right about the SN being used in place of radio mics. But only one model was used for that, the SNN. The SNN is full track recording at a speed of 3 3/4 or 1 7/8
I disagree with you that this was the main reason for the SN series of recorders.
The SNS is a slow speed half track recorder, recording 1 7/8 and 15/16 IPS.
This model was never used as a mic replacement because of the quality at that speed. One site list the production numbers as of the year 2000, I have no idea how true it is, but if they got the numbers from Nagra it may not be accurate, meaning there may have been much more SNS’s sold. 
Out of  10,003 units,  3972 were the SNN the rest were the slow speed SNS’s The SNS is only good for one reason long play for voice recording.
The High Fi SN came out in 1999 and was never used as a radio mic replacement. It was very expensive and did not sell well.
Many soundmen on this site were around before and at the time the SN came out, How many actually used the SN in recording movies?  I think you will find very few of them. I could be wrong. 
Maybe more were used in the TV-studios as you said.
I'm beginning to think now the real spy SN was the SNST which was only used for covert recording and no one knew about it for 10 years. Sounds just like the old stories on the internet, doesn't it.
Nagra went on to be the leading manufacturer of covert recording devices and still is today. We just aren’t privileged to that information. 
As I said before the SNST was secret and kept secret for ten years. It was only used for covert activities since it was also Slow speed.

This SNST which I know for a “fact" it was kept secret, may be where the spy statements all over the internet came from. Since recently finding out the SNST was produced since 1974, that makes me believe even more this is

the secret recorder people wrote about. Just mis information and in the wrong decade.
Before I thought the year was 1977
A very credible Nagra source of mine reminded me of this back in February of this year,   as I copied and paste below. 
Unfortunately, he was not with Nagra in the very early years of the SN,  If he was, I would have all my answers. I can’t say any more about my source.
When did quality wireless mic's come out?  
The SNS was still going strong in 1977 shown below in this sales poster, little did anybody know the SNST was out since 1974, yet at this conference of law enforcement, NOBODY knew of it. Even though for three years at this point the SNST was in heavy use by others.
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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All of my "hail Mary" uses of the Nagra SN for talent dialog were before 1999, in one case in the mid 1970s.  We used whatever SN we could rent and lived with the sound.   There were usable wirelesses long before that--I recall that the famous "Never Let a Woman In My Life" patter song sung by Rex Harrison in "My Fair Lady" was recorded live on the set via a wireless in 1964 (Never let a woman in your life! - YouTube).  

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Wonderful information there. For 30 years I have thought of SN as the ultimate spy recorder since I first saw it in a book, "Spy Electronics". I wonder, what did the Soviets have during this period of time? I built my first FM-bug at age 13, a two transistor transmitter easy to hide anywhere. I was a lonely one and only I knew that I was cooler than anybody else. My dream was to own a NAGRA and now I have two, third on its way on Friday. This one, a mod version from Sveriges Radio:image.jpg

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UK members of a certain age may remember Whicker's World, a TV series with Alan Whicker going all over the world and chatting with rich people. Long walking talking shots were a part of this and I heard that an SN was always used instead of a radio mic, possibly because of the distances from the camera and also maybe because of different frequency allocations across the world. The one thing that stuck in my mind about this was that before he began on his piece to camera, Whicker (see this link 

for a Monty Python micky take) would have to say a few words so that the ALC would set itself. I don't recall an STC hand mic being used in Whicker's World...that would have been a hang over from his time on the Tonight programme, I think.

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On 9/17/2016 at 4:05 AM, Micke M said:

The SNN 811 29 has only 7 hours left on eBay now. I wonder what the price is going to be for this one. JBond, are You taking it home?  :-)

No Sir, I already have one 811  40  front and center below. If I wanted it, I would not have made a big deal about it all week. You may never see another one, looks like some guy put in the last few bids to intimidate people.

I have found people that do that never win. They usually bid 3 times,10.00 higher each time. That is so others will say whoa I'm not bidding against this guy. Check out bidder 857. 

For the life of me, I 'll never understand why people bid it up before it's time to go off.


Believe it or not, I don't have two of anything that is the same, with very few exceptions. My collection is 25 years old. I only want the items I'm missing unless it's to upgrade the condition of something I have. I know it looks excessive, but I don't have boxes and boxes of recorders just to have them. What you see is all I have. The item is more valuable to me when I only have one in the best possible condition.


I wonder, what did the Soviets have during this period of time?

To the left of the no name SN and in the front, that Russian wire recorder, 1971  

ehnQnEe.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.

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What do you see?
Fooling around this morning, I wondered if I could zoom in on the Nagra serial number. To my surprise, I could see something there.  614 4?      811 4?      ??
Does anybody have a more advanced picture program, maybe they can get a better view at that serial number, and post it? 


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