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Nagra Stories Sound-men won’t ever tell


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If Kudelski had done the same kind of backwards compato thing with the Nagra IVS-TC there might not have been a "Harvey mod".  One of the major pluses of the TCS mod, esp at the beginning of its time, was that one could change to Pilotone sync with the turn of a switch on the side of the machine.   This was VERY handy back when only certain sorts of jobs demanded CTTC, and the rest still wanted Pilotone.  The same changeover in the stock IV-STC required the swapping out of a circuit board, which turned out to be easily damaged.

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On 6/23/2017 at 1:12 PM, Jeff Wexler said:

There is a whole lot more that can be said about music and singing and how it is done for movies and television. What I have stated above is just a rough overview in response to JBond's question about the video clip.

Thanks, Jeff and Phillip for the explanations, very exciting line of work Soundmen have. 





On 6/24/2017 at 8:34 AM, dela said:


Added note: I have just noticed that the part no. format on the carrier board is the same as the one used by Kudelski. So it might be an actual Kudelski product.



Interesting and a nice find for you dela. Maybe it was a Kudelski experiment who else would anodize the knobs green? At this point, we know of at least two units that exist. Another rare Nagra found.  That's a good machine to have in your collection.  Thanks for posting it. Post some posing pictures when you have the time,  showing the front panel and the knobs.   Your collection is growing.

Anybody else have a strange and different Nagra to show and tell about? 

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I don´t know if the Nagra D qualifies as a rare Nagra? In Denmark only three of them were sold, so in my local context they are a bit rare.

I have a couple of them, and even compared to present devices the Nagra D is remarkably well sounding. And mechanically it is also a joy to behold, so I might open one up and post some pictures...


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The Nagra D is certainly very nice, and it doesn’t come up for sale too often, but it is not rare.  dela go ahead and post what you have on yours; they are an impressive recorder.
What I mean by a rare Nagra.
An unusual Nagra is any Nagra or Nagra accessory they only made a few of.
Any of these listed below I consider rare.
*Nagra I  (only 25 made)
*Nagra II  (only 1,000 made from 1952 to 1957) In comparison there were over 13,800 Nagra III’s maybe much more.
*1958 Nagra III  (only 240 made)
*1959 Nagra III  I have no idea how many made or if they ever made a 1959 Nagra III 
*Nagra's like dela's 4.2 timecode.
*Nagra IS model ISS or ISN 
*No Name Nagra SN
Every time I see a Nagra III I check the date.  I have seen (3) 1958 Nagra III’s; I have never seen a 1959 Nagra III.
Do you own a valuable Nagra? 
Everyone who owns a Nagra III or has a picture of one should check the date on it. The first two digits are the year. My1958 Nagra III is 58 58  Any 1959 Nagra III would start with serial number 59 241 since the first 240 were made in 1958.
 I have seen every year from 1958 to 1968 but not 1959. In fact, I saved a picture of the serial number of every Nagra III I come across. 
The earliest 1958 I saw was serial number 58 22  the earliest picture I saw of a 1960 Nagra III  is serial 60 530.  
We know there were (240) 1958 Nagra III’s made so even if the picture I have of 60 530 is the very first one made in 1960 that would mean there were 290 1959 Nagra III’s made see what I’m getting at.
The lower the serial number of a 1960 Nagra means fewer 1959 Nagras were made.
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Does anybody find it strange that from 1958 to 1968 only about 14,000 Nagra III’s were made? Take out all the non-pilot models and that number must drop quite a bit. 

If the Nagra III was one of the leading sound recorders for movies since 1964 or so, were there that few Soundmen in the world in those 10 years or does that number sound about right?

What could the number of Soundmen be for those ten years in your line of work, would you guess? 500, 1,000, 20,000?  

I'm not talking about everybody needed to make a movie, I'm talking about the man sitting behind the recorder?

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On 12/24/2015 at 0:09 PM, mikewest said:

I was shown the JBR by a Nagra rep who came out to NZ the same time that the Nagra D was introduced.

He showed me that the whole mechanism could be lifted out of the milled metal case.

An interesting fact to was that the bias oscillator frequency chosen was that of quartz watches so that

and rf sniffers would not be suspicious of it's proximity!


Well after a longtime I have found the two pictures of a Nagra recorder I mentioned

I do not know though if it is a JBR!

A Swiss gentleman from Kudelski contacted me so I met him at his hotel.

It was there he showed me this recorder.

Later we had dinner and he gave me a brochure for the Nagra D so was it 1996?

I think I questioned why not DAT and also that the D was so big and like a studio reel to reel.

S here are the pictures at last




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Yes, Mike, it is a JBR.  It first came out exclusively for the FBI in 1984. 

At the time they had no way to play back the tape. As Nagra was still working on that. As I have been told. 

Nice pictures Mike,  Thank you for posting them.  

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I received this link from Youtube this morning,  A Russian collector that I know of posted this video of the Nagra SN copy. The Yacht- 1M
 I thought I’d share it here.  Yes, I understand every word.
Nah,  I just look at the pictures. 



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Speaking of "Yacht"... One of my all-time quirky favourites: The Nagrafax. It was one of the first fax machines dedicated to maritime use, designed på print out weather charts via radio. This one actually still works fine, and it is still possible to find old weather charts uploaded to YouTube as mp3-files. Stefan Kudelski was a keen sailor, and he saw the need for a robust device for printing out "on line" weather info while at sea. 

This particular Nagrafax was used by the Bundeswehr; I think that they had quite a few of them, as I have seen other BUND-marked devices. It has an internal demodulator, so it will accept a standard audio signal (with encoded data), but the image quality is not really great. But still: It is a Nagra, as the rear view shows: It is the same motor as in the tape recorders.




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  • 2 weeks later...

I am trying to find out more about the Sound Assist device; it seems that the manufacturer is still in business (Danny Natovich Ltd.). I have contacted them in the hope that somebody still knows anything about it. I have some ideas about its functionality, but I would like to know more. And when I do that, I will certainly get back with a description.

As a comment on the recent posts about the Nagra IS versions, I have found a couple of brochures describing the various versions. Or some of them... I can see that my own IS-TLSP is not mentioned, so who knows what other versions are around? But again: The Nagras were very costumizable, making it possible for clients to get the machines suited perfectly for their individual purposes. So countless variations were made.

The most interesting variation is the ISS for playing back SN tapes. On the pictures of the heads and the tape path, it can be seen that the Nagra machines were a very universal platform. On the ISS-recorders all the mechanical parts are he same as for 1/4" tape versions, only a few parts are different or just modified. Except of course for the jog/shuttle function, which is exclusive for the 1/8" versions. 

A year ago I was in contact with a French owner of an ISS, but unfortunately I am convinced that he wouldn't part with it cheaply, and I am not a rich person. But I completely understand him...


Nagra IS konfigurator 1.pdf

Nagra IS konfigurator 2.pdf

Nagra IS-N brochure 1.pdf

Nagra IS-N brochure 2.pdf

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Maybe I can clarify a little bit the NAGAR 4.2 IRT.

The name IRT is the short name of "Institut für Rundfunk Technologie" This company is owned by ALL German goverment Broadcast companies. In germany the goverment owned Broadcaster are members of  ARD. (ARD means group of broadcaster.)

This ARD members own IRT. IRT is the research & development company for them. (i.e. they developed MPEG Layer2 Audio)

IRT is a customer of mine and I have weekly talkes with them. 

The NAGRA mentioned in the article #556 was changed to the specification of IRT by Nagra.  (It was used in the research department of IRT in Munich/ Germany)


Another clarification about  one topic about  NAGRA  with a plate  CR#11  and SWF.

In Germany every equipment that goes (and used) by goverment owned Broadcaster, has to pass the RFI-Tests. (RFI means Radio Frequency Interference), to make shure the equipment will work properly without disturbe any other equipment by "HIGH Frequencies".

So what you saw on that plate were two things:   

CR#11   =  test for  RFI       

SWF = is the  shortname of the broadcaster SüdWestFunk, the old name of the goverment owned broadcaster located in the  west of germany. (Stuttgart). The name is changed to SWR many years now. 

As Nagra wantet to do business with ALL this broadcasters in the ARD-group in Germany they had to align their NAGRAs to the specific requirements. For this reason you will find other NAGRAs (mainly series IV) with plates showing:

SWF  = SüdwestFunk

NDR = NordDeutscherRundfunk

WDR  = WestDeutscherRundfunk

SR  = SaarländischerRundfunk

and so on.


NAGRA also manufactured a bunch of NAGRA III specifically for TELEFUNKEN. (Telefunken was the main source for all goverment owned broadcaster in Germany.


Mike Bormann-Mayer





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Thank you very much Mike (MBM) for your post and clearing up some things. It's nice to know the facts you have provided.

What can you tell me about the recorder that had CR #11 on it?  How was that type of recorder used in Germany? and what year do you think it was used? 

Thank you. 

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Hi JBond,

I can not tell the exact date, but if you find NAGRAs with the plate CR#11 and SWF, the unit must be older than 1998.

Reason for that is that in year 1998 SWF (SüdWestFunk)  joined with other broadcast company SDR (SüdDeutscherRundfunk)

to  the name SWR (SüdWestRundfunk).

The usage of the NAGARs were "field recording" for interviews and documentary films for TV.

The NAGRAs were the main recorders and was found in any broadcast company here in Germany.

The competitor "STELLAVOX" tried hard to step into that market too, but the only Stellavox SP7 / SP8 I saw was at goverment owned broadcaster SR (Saarländischer Rundfunk). The Stellavox was a little bit smaller, like  the NAGRAS IS, but had a lot of disadvantages, from the point of servicability and adjustments.

As I stated in the previous post, all goverment broadcaster are members of ARD group. And for that reason they had to exchange the "material (audio recordings) at that days physically between the station without hassle. To do that they had a "common" requirements about audio-level, equalization, coloring of the  for-tape, tape-source, etc. That was the reason why EVERY NAGRA (or other units) had to adjust to  that specifications.

(Stellavox had problems to meet that criteria, because i.e. equalisation was pre-soldered in the  head unit. If you want to changed that you had to send the unit back to the factory and they did the job. Not really convinient, if you run 100s of recorders in the field.)

I know this, because SR (Saarländischer Rundfunk) was a customer of mine when I worked for Silicon Graphics. Finishing after 6 years the project at SR I got as a gift from them the "last" used  Stellavox SP7. (To bring the Stellavox back to real life (common equalisation, level) was another story.)

If I have time I will make a couple of pictures from my NAGRAs and Stellavoxs in the next days. Maybe its expanding this thread to much, but  Stellavox was always very strict with schematics about their units. They never distributed that stuff in total and most of the PCBs were sealed in resin.  If sombody has a problem finding schematics he can contact me, because I have "re-draw" a couple (not all) of the PCBs.


Another  information about the NAGRA SN:

This units were used at BR (BayerischerRundfunk) as field recorders for documentary films for TV too. Specifically as the NAGRA 4 was to heavy. I know that because BR is also a customer of mine, and a couple of years ago I bought the SN-Reels from them. And surprisely they forgot to erase one of the tapes, so I heared the audio-shot about a documenary of flowers in the mountain.  BR also used the LPS-unit to  transfer the pilot tone to the
NAGRAs they used in the post-production.





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Would LOVE to see a Stellavox thread MBM. For recording and music composition my Nagra's are incredibly reliable. I have an overhauled AMI 48 (2016), which is ideal. The head assemblies on Stellavox's aren't suitable for my purposes. 

MBM thank you for the super interesting info.

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Hi Mark,

Thanks for the kind words.

I also have an AMI48 mixer. As they had a couple of problems I was forced to repair it. But without schematics that's really hard.

So I re-draw the two major modules in the mixer by myself.

This are the module labelled:
SPA-SOA    (mean:   StellavoxPreAmplifier - StellavoxOutputAmplifier)
SPA-SEM    (mean    StellavoxPreAmplifier - StellavoxEqualizerModule)

For your convenient you can find below in the attachment a picture of an open AMI 48 mixer and two PDFs with my drawings and measurement information for the modules, including everything a technician needs to fix them.

stellavox ami 48 internal view.jpg

SPA-SEM Module Diagram.pdf

SPA-SOA Module Diagram-ver3.pdf

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Has anybody tried to record on this maschine 0Hz - 200Hz (or 4kHz) ?

Most people do not know it, but it seems that you can do that on track 3.

Track 3 (middle between upper and lower track) is normally the pilot and clapper track. 

When you look very close in the schematics of this track 3 you can find out the following:

It seems an Input signal  at the CUE connector (Pin 1) can be recorded in two different ways:

Way one: 
I call it "normal" way. 
If you connect a microphone (or low level source) at the connector "CUE", located at the right side of the NAGRA the signal will
recorded in a normal way. (250Hz - approx. 15kHz) (Frequencies below 250Hz will be cutoff, because you need the lower 50/ 60Hz for the pilot signal itself. With that clever idea you can record the pilot signal 50 or 60Hz AND a speach at the same track.    


Now coming to the funny thing to record 0Hz (DC) to 200Hz (or 4kHz)

Way two:
If you bridge Pin 2 and Pin 5 on the CUE connecter, you switch ON an FM-modulator inside the recorder.
The FM-modulator has a frequency of 13,5kHz (or 17kHz), depending how you set this carrier frequency.
Now with a microphone (or low level source) connected to Pin 1 as before the signal will NOT recorded directly but
this signal will modulate the FM-modulator and that signal will be recorded.
(That means if your input signal is 0Hz (DC) you record a frequence of 13,5kHz.
(If your input signal is i.e. 200Hz the recorded frequence is 13,5khz + 200Hz  =  13,7kHz.


(Maybe someone can guess, why i wrote the (or 4k) too.
Say if you set the FM-modulator frequency to 17kHz and add the 4kHz you come by calculation to a recording frequency of 21kHz.
And I guess that is the absolute maximum you can record on this track 3 head.

Hope this information is interesting.


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Speaking of Stellavox/Sonosax, I have a problem, that somebody out there can help me with?

Some years ago I got a Stelladat with a defective transport system. I have been unable to find any information (service manuals, user manuals, schematics, anything...) about it. Does anybody know somebody who has any experience in servicing the Stelladat?

This particular recorder was scrapped from a rental company after its bankruptcy, as it was alway defective. It went for repair, worked a couple of days and then died again, was sent for repair... and declared dead. But it would be nice to get it running again, for for the fun of it.

As MBM writes about the interior of the Stellavox AMI48 mixer, the Stelladat looks great from the outside, but on the inside it is a bit of a mess..

And sorry for hijacking the Nagra thread; I promise to help it back on track.



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Well if you give up getting it running,  I'll buy it. I could care less if it works. It's a perfect example of the Dat recorder Jeff Wexler used in the movie Clifford, way back in August of 1990,  love to have it in my collection. I believe it's the only movie he used it in. 

Is that a clear window in the top to see the head spinning? Cool!

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You're right, JBond, it is the same machine (model) I used on "Clifford" but my memory is a little fuzzy whether that was the only movie I used the StellaDAT on. It certainly was the movie that made me abandon the machine for any future use. There were lots of things to love about the StellaDAT but the things that were wrong were so wrong, could not be fixed or corrected, finally killed it off in our world. 

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Well, by my records Jeff and of course the use of my working index system on page one of Nagra Stories by clicking the back arrow, it was easy to look up. You listed it as used it in that movie. I could not find another movie in the list you did with it.

You probably were sweating bullets thru the whole movie wondering what scene it was going to quit in. In fact, it sounds like it did quit on you in that movie based on you say it was your last movie with it.

I guess I could have used better terms in offering to buy the machine from dela. 
Now after that build up, the machine is now famous and worth ten times more not working!  And it wasn’t even your machine!   I guess next time I want to buy something not working for a good deal I should probably leave your name out of it…… Until after I buy it!  
 dela if I were you I would leave it not working,  keep it in your collection and have the story Jeff Wexler used one just like it in the 1990 movie Clifford. He used it in that one movie and abandon it because these machines had so many problems.  It will end up as one of the prizes in your collection even not working.  Or sell it to me and let me do it. 
It's a beautiful machine who cares if it works for 10 minutes then eats the tape after many hours of trying to fix it, the story is the value.
 It's all how you look at things. 
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I briefly had a Stelladat from that initial shipment received by Audio Services. I think there were six or eight machines; Jeff got the first and I had the second or third. It was a very nice machine. You can see from the picture that it was a very nice design and layout. Preamp parameters were selected by click-stopped aluminum switches and, as best I recall, navigating the software was simple and intuitive. There was a bit of a worrisome tendency to run hot- excuse me, I mean run HOT! I actually used a dish draining rack to elevate the recorder off the shelf of the sound cart so there could be air flow underneath. But other than that, it was a pleasure to use.

But then there was the matter of recorded files. Word came back from post that there were intermittent dropouts throughout the takes. Again and again they had to retransfer audio from the Nagra back-up tapes.

At first we thought it was a software glitch and that the original recordings ought to be OK. But when ASC sent one of my tapes to Stellavox, they listened and confirmed that the dropouts were on original tape and not recoverable. Dave Panfili intervened, asked me to return the recorder and refunded my money.

As I recall, the machine was designed to be modular; the power and operations circuits were discrete from the audio preamps and the DAT transport module could be removed with four screws and replaced in the field. It was also the intention that the DAT transport might, at some point in the future, be replaced with an optical drive or a hard drive or whatever technology came to the fore. It really was a brilliant design - except for the not-working part.

I still have the original instruction manual among my files and I'll look to see if there is any pertinent information there. But, as I recall, the book didn't go into any detail about the various modules. At most there might be a block diagram.

But, even with all the information in a service manual, getting one of these machines, or any DAT machine, to work is problematic. Stellavox never (I am sure) made the DAT transport; they purchased drives from a larger company. Those drives contain many rubber bushings and other parts necessary for proper tracking that are subject to degradation over time. One can purchase brand new parts and install them only to have them fail after a week or a month because they were actually manufactured many years ago and have degraded just sitting on a shelf.


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Very unfortunately the StellaDAT had the same major issue as all of the pro portable DAT machines, easy to understand once one realized that all the transports for all those machines came from the same two production lines in Japan.  Thus Stella could make its machine beautiful and functional in a Swiss way, but its heart was just as defective (ultimately) as those in HHB, Fostex, etc..  If Stella really did make their machine in a way that would have allowed some other sort of later-tech post-DAT record transport to be swapped in when one became available, then it's really too bad that never happened.... 

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