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Nagra Stories Sound-men won’t ever tell


JBond

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That’s amazing. I’ve been listening to some podcasts where people are having to go back and remaster DATs and are really having a hard time of it!

 

On a side note, I just did some vinyl transfers and the cleanup and remastering was a breeze thanks to recent technological advances. I remember cleaning up M&E stems that came from tape about ten years ago and that was rough!

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On 12/6/2018 at 8:51 PM, Philip Perkins said:

...and...re: DAT playability...   We're coming up on about 30 years now for the early tapes.   I'm in the process of remastering some albums that were mixed to DAT back then or shortly after, then stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment (a bank vault in fact).  They played perfectly.

 

Philip: You’re very fortunate regarding the DAT’s. Most people don’t realize that they require even better storage conditions than analog masters do. And God save you if you get some with sub-standard shells (you know the ones I’m talking about!)

 

I recently had to transfer a few tapes that weren’t particularly well stored, and I had to try five different decks before I found one that was happy with them (interesting to note that the high end Sony PCM -7040 machines are frequently the least forgiving in terms of what they’ll accept).

 

And then there’s PCM-F1😕....

 

-Scott

 

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2 hours ago, Scott Smith said:

 

Philip: You’re very fortunate regarding the DAT’s. Most people don’t realize that they require even better storage conditions than analog masters do. And God save you if you get some with sub-standard shells (you know the ones I’m talking about!)

 

I recently had to transfer a few tapes that weren’t particularly well stored, and I had to try five different decks before I found one that was happy with them (interesting to note that the high end Sony PCM -7040 machines are frequently the least forgiving in terms of what they’ll accept).

 

And then there’s PCM-F1😕....

 

-Scott

 

I'm sorry to hear about your friend's DAT woes, and certainly do not want to return to using them for anything anymore.  But I've found that even DATS just stored in my studio, NOT a greatly temp/humid controlled place, are still working ok.  I never could afford a high end DAT like the Sony 70xxs, and in any case the conundrum with DAT is that while most of the hardware and electronics got better as you spent more and more (and more) $ on a deck, the transports they were wrapped around stayed the same (shit, basically).   My tapes are playing ok in a Fostex D10, a very middle-market machine in its day.  So far so good, but am being very conservative about how much I wind the tapes at high speed (with next to no searching) and know that the end of it all will arrive, soon probably.

 

If you can find a VHS deck in good shape I think F1 tapes are far more forgiving of playback errors.  We did terrible things to our portable VHS decks, that they were really not designed for (like working out in the weather, hot/cold/wet/dirt etc) and the F1 tracked them all.  Before I gave my F1 away I transferred some really beat VHSs that had been used as searchable SFX library etc tapes, and the F1 skated over the dropouts fine.  Vs. DAT. it seems like F1 was maybe more robust in the long run. 

 

Sorry for this early-digital digression on the Nagra thread.  Maybe we should have a "necro-format-transfer" thread for this kind of thing, for the tiny number of us who care!

 

 

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Whats new, 
 
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and what's missing since January 2015
 
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Dela, the VPR-5 is a special recorder as you know, I just had to add it in there somewhere. I was even able to find a spot for a couple of the Sennheiser’s 805 and 815 shotgun mics. In case you missed them.   Going forward I don’t know how much longer I will be able to say 


“always room for one more”


Besides how can I not put the VPR-5 in there.

 

 

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Old pictures from 14 years ago,  

 

 

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On 12/13/2018 at 7:35 AM, dela said:

You managed to squeeze in a VPR-5? I would love to have one, but the only one I have been able to track down, is with a seller, who is almost impossible to get an answer from...

I'd like to know what you did with that ISN, tell us more about it. How was the transport?

 

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Hey guys.  New member here and I have to say that this is a wonderful thread!  I've read nearly the entire 38-page thread while waiting for my membership to get approved! First, I'm not a collector but I've lusted after Nagra recorders for years.  So the other day, while walking through an electronics surplus business in San Diego, I came across a Nagra IV-L marked at the lowly sum of $35.  What I didn't know is everything that day was half price.  So naturally, I bought it.  While I was never a sound guy for any movies, I've done a little boom work for independent filmmakers in the Minneapolis area in the past.  If its ok, I'd like to post about it here along with all the other wonderful equipment on these 38 pages!  The private museums some of you have are breathtaking.   

 

What I know so far is that it was owned by Continental Film Group and has their property sticker on the bottom. Looks like they ran things from an old school in Sharon, PA in 1987 and held auditions for several films there.  they abandon that old school some years later.  I have not taken detailed pictures of it yet, but I'll do that this week and update this post.  I have included an image of the serial number.  It's quite dusty and dirty and has clearly been used, and could use a cleaning for sure.  

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Hi jrsphoto

Congratulations on your Nagra find. The Nagra IV-L was my very first Nagra, never saw a Nagra before I bought it, it worked great, it looked great and sounded better than anything I had before. Once I had the Nagra IV-L  I wanted anything Nagra made,  that was about 20 years ago.  Soon after that I bought an SNN from a Hollywood supply house. It was quite a while after that at least a few years later I bought my next Nagra,  a Nagra III,  bought and sold about 4 Nagra III's until I finally found a mint one with the original box for 300.00.  

How do you tell a Mint Nagra III?  Look at the footless bottom.

Starting with the IV-L you have,  protective feet were added to the bottom. 

 

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You probably got the best price ever for any Nagra product, you couldn't buy just a knob for it today at that price.
Cannot decipher any later model Nagra serial numbers, the only serial numbers that tell the year made and are consecutively numbered are the Nagra II and the Nagra III serial numbers and the accessories made for them. The numbers on all other Nagra products never make any sense. 1866903 means nothing to anyone but Nagra.
 I'll bet Nagra doesn't even know what it means unless they can research it.  Maybe they didn't want anyone to know how many were made, who knows.

Enjoy your newly found Nagra IV-L and may you have the will power to stop right there.😊

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Speaking of Nagra finds... The Trew Audio Atlanta store has an outstanding Nagra IV-L for sale on consignment. It is officially listed as "very good condition", which matches our protocol for that description, but considering its age, and compared to others I've seen, I consider it to be in excellent condition. Even the 7-inch lid is in great shape. I can't vouch for it's operation (I haven't powered it up), but I visually inspected it inside and out. It looks great and the action feels right. I bet it would take very little for us to dial in the tensions, which nearly all need after sitting unused for a while. Time sensitive notice: Now that I've seen it, I'm considering recommending a higher price (seriously). https://www.trewaudio.com/product/nagra-iv-l-recorder/

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I took a few images of the Nagra IV-L today,  Nothing nearly as fancy as the stuff Mr. Bond takes, those are pretty cool.  All-in-all, it's in pretty good shape.  The top plastic lid is melted a bit in the front left corner and has the expected scratches, but no cracks.  I also installed batteries and things work as one might expect.  I don't have any 1/4" tape yet to try it but a friend is bringing me one tonight.  It came with the case and strap as well.  The case is in pretty rough shape, however.

 

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Thats pretty clean, you stepped into a super deal for $35,  I would say who ever priced that should not be in that business and should be fired on the spot. 

Trew's,  post is a super deal, I had to do everything I could from buying his consignment for resale.  Your price of $35.00 is just ridiculous. You did very well. Who ever buys Trews will do very well.  

 

 

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When I got into the broadcast business many years ago (though perhaps not as many as some of you...), I soon encountered the golden standard of broadcast mixers: The SQN series. I don't know how widely used they were in USA, but here in Europe everybody used them. They were small, good sounding and very, very robust and easy to use. A couple of years ago I was helping clearing out a storage, and there I got a SQN-3 mixer, and I was happy to get a little piece of broadcast history. At that point I had started collecting Nagra recorders, and I was immediately intrigued, when I found out that the SQN-3 was originally built as a mixer front end for the Nagra SN, and I started looking out for one. But I did not see any, until a month ago, when there was an auction at a british rental house, and suddenly it was there: A SQN-3 C in a Portabrace bag. No mention of Nagra, so I gather that it went under the radar of other collectors, but I fell in love with it, made a bid on it, won it and, after a great deal of work, got it shipped to Denmark...

 

So here it is: The "original" SQN-3 C mixer, complete with the special "plug box", which a.o. contained a 10 Hz quartz reference. 

 

The background for it is, that when the Nagra SN was introduced, it was much awaited, but it turned out that the automatic gain control on the input made it unsuitable for proper film work. A bit later the SMR preamplifier came on the market, but it was rather limited in use. At that point BBC started looking for a way to make a mixer solution for documentary work, so that the SN could be used like its larger siblings, just with a much smaller weight. SQN (Sine Qua Non) had made a couple of other Nagra related devices, so they were commissioned to build a small mixer that could serve as a front end and control unit for a SN, complete with power supply and quartz controlled pilot reference. SQN came up with the SQN-3 C (C for "Control unit"), and the result was quite good. Actually so good, that they began producing a stand-alone mixer for general use (the SQN-3 M), and the rest is history.

 

As you can see from the photos, it is a really handy little unit, and the SN is kept in a vice-like grip by the clamps, so there is no wiggling and shaking when the SN is attached. It is a very simple solution, but it was so elegantly and robustly built and designed, that it looks like they were made to be used together, and I find it quite amazing that in 1980 it was possible to make a mixer/recorder of just about the same size as two Sound Devices units stacked...

 

And how does it sound? Well, I am looking forward to hear it, once that I get it fixed... It was working (without SN) for app. 5 min, after that the mixer became hot, the batteries drained and I switched it off. It seems that the power supply is shorted somewhere, and once I get the schematics I will start looking into it. Or be lazy and simply replace the board with a functioning board from a donor SQN-3; fortunately the upper boards (which contain the power supply) are similar enough to be altered to fit in both types. As it goes in Game of Thrones: Winter is coming, but in stead of hunting White Walkers, I will spend time chasing the fault, which is probably going to be exciting in itself.

 

I really like the SQN-3 C, both as an amalgamation of two brilliantly designed units, and for it history. As the label on the back of the plug box indicates, it is literally from "The Old School"...

 

 

 

 

 

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dela, you got a Richmond Film Services sell-off!

 

Although I used rented SQNs for years and rented from RFS for as many years I'm sorry to say I am sure I never hired that particular unit!

 

I vaguely think that the SQN was developed for and originally used by ITN (BBC's rival ITV news body) rather than the BBC - though I'm sure the BBC would have been soon to follow. Obviously I post my opinions/memory before checking my facts (as-is-my-wont) but it is worth pointing out that the story of the SQN3 and the Nagra SN is illustrated on the SQN website.

 

If you haven't done so already open those SQNs up and look inside - I was astonished at how every picometre of space was used inside my SQN4 when I opened it to set the direct out connection.

 

Best, Jez

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 2/5/2015 at 9:27 PM, al mcguire said:

I came to Production Sound from 48 Track Music Recording. The Nagra 4.2 blew me away starting at the preamps and continuing to its incredible flexibilty. I loved everything about it but the 7" lid and reels where the take up would stop turning and tape would build up inside of the lid until I noticed it. i had to train the set PA's not to tell the First AD that there was a Sound Problem until the Sound Mixer declared there was a Sound Problem. Full Track mono rules.

Hi al mcguire

 

I'm a new member and I just read your post from Feb.5 ,2015

 

That reminded me of an incident I had in 1992 being sound mixer on set for „THE INNOCENT“ directed by John Schlesinger with Anthony Hopkins, Isabella Rosselini and Campbell Scott as main cast. The movie was shot entirely in Berlin, Germany and it was my biggest job so far. Seeing the advances in Cinema Sound I thought it would be a good idea to record with the best quality possible – that would be 15'' per second. Nagra IV-S had quite a lot of noise in the 7,5'' mode compared to the 4.2 full track. But 15'' speed and 5'' reels would mean max 12 minutes of recording. So I got a 7'' lid amd found out that BASF PER 368 was not available on 7'' reels. So I recalibrated my NAGRA IV-S to PER 468 and had nearly 17 minutes of recording time.

So far so good. Then I noticed that the 7'' take up reel was not turning smoothly but nearly stopping from time to time and the accelarating again – It did not really affect the recording but it did not look good and I was afraid of just not hearing the problem while recording dialog. Then I noticed by not pushing the pinch roller to the full play position the problem dissapeared. But that did not look good either an I was afraid that the tape transport would be not correct.

So I looked for the problem inside the machine. ( that was in between takes while shooting dialog with the main actors) I thought of dirt in the transmission or not enough grease somewhere. During the search for something unknown I lost the tiny red rubin bullet which is the bearing for the take up reel drive. Big problem because the take up reel was not moving any more. I had opend the machine on a billiard table on the set and I asked the electricians to put some light around the table and asked them to help my find the tiny red ball. ( 3mm diameter ?) At this point there was no denying that the was a sound problem, specially because the next set up was ready and everybody was waiting.

So I closed the machine and started recording with my right reel rolling up by hand. After some takes which were not forgotten by me and the other people on set: Next set up and I could continue the search. The red ball was inside the machine glued on a little dot of grease! So I refitted it and could record normally again.

But the problem remained the same until I found out shortly after that it was not the machine but the poorly manufactured empty reels by BASF ( or was it EMTEC already?) So I had to check with every reloading the empty reel: if there was a contact between empty reel and pinch roller: bad! Usually you had only to turn it around and the other side would run smoothly. That was quite a relief to find that easy solution.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you, Axel Arft, from Germany for posting one of your great Nagra stories with your Nagra IV-S and the memories you have using your Nagra to record the movie "The Innocent". That movie is forever recorded in time as one of your movies as Sound Mixer.  I think that's so cool that for eternity whenever that movie is played your name will scroll as Sound Mixer.  I think the Sound mixer is one if not the most important job in making any movie.
Your story and Al McGuire's story is exactly why I started this thread.  It was called "Nagra Stories only Soundmen Could Tell". I don’t think Soundmen today with digital can’t relate to the stress and the improvising that was sometimes needed back in the analog days.  

 
Sorry for the late response,  I have been away from the thread in recent weeks. Your Nagra story post was really great and puts one reading it right into what you were going through at that point in time with a Nagra.  

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Agreed and well said @JBond  I’m a younger guy but I shot a couple movies recently with a Nagra, if those movies ever are released then I’ll be able to share some insight on here. As for now, my biggest contribution to the Nagra world seems to be the fact that a lot of people know that I have some, so I’ve been asked to talk about them on podcasts and documentaries, and bring them around whenever there’s is some kind of use for them. I still don’t have my dream machine, which I doubt even exists: a Nagra T that has been hotrodded by Dan Dugan. I would stop collecting if it meant that I could have one of those! As of now I have a Dugan 4.2 and STC, and boy there is really something special in those machines!

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  • 2 weeks later...

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