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Nagra, the sound of legend

A symbol of Swiss-made micromechanical achievement, the miniaturized Nagra recorder created in 1951 by Stefan Kudelski, then a student, still accompanies the mythical pages of sound history today.

Its dizzying micro-reels, the hypnotic kinetics of its operation, the improbable patterns of its magnetic tapes that wind around themselves while unwinding the history of sound, fascinate even today more than the nostalgic. Because the brand is alive and well in 2020. While focusing on a resolutely Swiss production, it places some fragments of its DNA in a hall open to the world, the Montreux Jazz Café at Geneva Airport.

Apollo, Marilyn Monroe, Chanel N°5 and… Gérard

Gérard Sermier has sparks in his eyes. The former radio captain of the early days of Couleur 3, converted to the media exploits of a science of public relations put at the service of Breitling Orbiter, of the flying man Yves Rossi or of an entirely solar-powered Bertrand Picard, remembers. Like all the famous voices and reporters without frontiers in the history of radio, he drew on one of themoments he spent with this faithful companion called Nagra: it was during a rare interview with the singer Daniel Balavoine. The microphone was outstretched and he had inadvertently leaned his elbow on the transparent reel protector, obstructing the continuous running of the tape for a few precious seconds without realising it. The latter had then curled up on itself until it became clogged. Then she resumed the recording…

It is still the Rolls Royce of recorders.

It must be said that in the Seventies, the Nagra was already an icon. At the same time unattainable in terms of investment, it was the Rolls Royce of recorders, the first of its kind to be transformed into a portable mode, to have been invited in 1969 on board the Apollo mission, to have collected Marilyn Monroe’s Chanel No. 5 confidences about the deep deprivation of her sleeping habits. In fact, in 2012, the Chanel brand managed to obtain the never-before-released original tape of the actress recounting the context of this famous quote, followed by a memorable photo shoot that was particularly disruptive for the time in terms of erotic fervour.

In 1957, six years after the creation of the Nagra, Stefan Kudelski launched the Nagra III.
In 1957, six years after the creation of the Nagra, Stefan Kudelski launched the Nagra III.
The Nagra is used by scientists and explorers. Here on board one of the Arctic expeditions.
The Nagra is used by scientists and explorers. Here on board one of the Arctic expeditions.

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Analog Workshopand back to the future

A historic tape, like tens of thousands of others containing the VOs of Hollywood blockbusters, the soundtracks of sound engineers and the voices of famous interviewers and interviewees, a tape that must have come from a Nagra IV-S or a Nagra T-Audio, two of the the most sought-after and striking beasts of the time. Often still in use by sound engineers and enthusiasts, these players feed the Analog Workshop, a clinic for rebuilding and restoring these pieces of history. This restoration workshop, like a well-stocked small in-house museum, is dedicated exclusively to the restoration and sale of these historic Nagra still in circulation.

For all those who have been around and known it, there was one crucial piece of information missing, something that the world’s sound geeks, purists and afficionados take for granted: the brand is not only alive and well, but still leading the way. It is to world reference sound what Doc Emmett Brown and his futuristic train car are to cinema. For these new generations, in other words, time travel has erased distances, Nagra is always ahead of its time.

For these unconditional fans, Nagra and its products have never stopped dressing up. They justify the slogan More than 65 years of Innovation which, despite a boat-like appearance that contrasts with the timelessness of the timeless products it promotes, is displayed on nagraaudio.com, the official website of Audio Technology Switzerland. It is a corporate structure created in spin-off mode in 2012. It allowed André Kudelski, the creator’s descendant, to take the diva out of his group and give her back the space she deserves. A freedom and absence of constraints that befits its rank. Sprinkled with the spirit of a start-up and with a board of directors made up of some of the greatest names in sound, this new name allows Nagra products to diversify considerably, particularly in the high-end HiFi segment, commonly known as High End.

Analog Workshopand back to the future

  • 1951, Stefan Kudelski, a 22-year-old student, invents the very first portable audio recorder, the Nagra I
  • 1957, release of the Nagra III, the device that would change the world of sound recording, allowing sound engineers to explore new territories.
  • 1969, a Nagra SN is embarked on the Apollo mission to the Moon, the Black-Series is designed following the request of a US government agency for an ultra-compact high quality recording
  • 1971, Nagra IV-S, the first Nagra stereo, opens a new window of opportunity in music recording
  • 1981, the Nagra TA is Nagra’s first studio recorder, flexibility and great stability, respect for the preciousness of the tape
  • 1992, the Nagra D and D II models were launched, the first digital recorders to make 96 kHz 24-bit recordings, which are still references today
  • 1995, the Nagra Ares C, a digital recorder for broadcasting, became the absolute reference for major stations around the world such as the BBC, Radio France, Europe 1 and RTL.
  • 1997, with its PL-P, Nagra makes a remarkable breakthrough in the Hi-Fi world
  • 2008, Nagra-VI, birth of a very ambitious multitrack for music and film recordings.
  • 2017, with this Nagra HD PREAMP, the brand sets new specifications in recording and becomes the reference for the best establishments in the world.
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