GAS (second-hand variety)

…-a NAGRA!!!

I went to a flea market today held by the Danish Television Broadcasting System. They had a lot of stuff going cheap, office stuff, furniture, inventory, costumes, and, of course, a lot of electronic stuff too.

I heard that they had a lot of portable NAGRA reporter’s recorders for sale, and I picked up a second-hand NAGRA IS (idiot safe :D ) for about $85. That is about 1 % of the asking price when new.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems to be built like a tank - very sturdy. Mono, 7.5 ips, no-nonsense operation, and specs beyond comprehension - and beautiful, too. It wasn’t designed to break, it was designed to keep working… - and I have been wanting to own one for many years.

regards, Nils

Cool. I did a Google - is this it?

Looks like a real work-horse. Congrats on the purchase.

Oh, man… :)

Speaking of 7.5 ips - I was surprised to learn (and guess I shouldn’t have been) that all of the safety masters at Stax are 7.5 (they have some boxes on display). I infer that the original masters were also 7.5. #### good sounding - I sort of forget that 7.5 can still have a wide freq response.


BillClarke - is this it?

Yes, the excact model. Since my first post I have obtained batteries (for a small fortune, BTW - it takes 8 [eight!!] D-type cells in order to rock and roll) and taken it for a spin. It works like a charm, and sounds fantastic. I have made sample recordings with my SM-58 mic and this sounds great, too. And the mechanics… - beautiful and runs like a clockwork - you know, that ‘determined’ jerk a good tape recorder starts up with… It has certainly benefited from the great deal of TLC it must have received over the years. (a small orange label says “Attend to service february 2002 at the latest” - it has been in regular use until rather recently, I guess.) - I am looking forward to making some really cool field recordings with it.

TomS - The 7½ ips is ‘good enough’ - if you keep all mastering machines meticiously aligned and serviced. The main reason for going faster, say, 15 ips, is the ability to make tighter and more precise edits. A sound lasting 1/10th of a second takes up 38 mm at 15 ips, but only 19 mm at 7½ ips, making it easier to find the edit spot at the higher speed.

The gain in frequency response at speeds above 7½ ips is marginal at best. The largest gain is in the signal-to-noise ratio, which will theoretically go up by doubling the speed, the amount depending on the tape, the condition of the recorder, the electronics, and a couple of other factors.

In the broadcasting world, 7½ ips is preferred for speech, and 15 ips is preferred for music. Often 7½ ips field recordings are transfered to another tape prior to editing at 15 ips to save the original recording in the case of an editing error, and to facilitate the actual editing. Well, nowadays, every edit in the radio is performed in the digital domain…

regards, Nils

As much as I know… I film/movie industry used these machines to tape the on-set audio that went to the “Folie” studios for producing the real audio you hear on the big screens… At one time… that is how it was done… I have little knowledge of how it’s done today…

I don’t think you could break these machines… even if you tried…


Hmm. I never knew that - the switch to 15 is mostly for noise reasons. Very interesting. Must also help with transients?

I really know little about tape.

I think I read that some of the old Elvis recordings were 30 ips, and that they suffered low end loss because of it. I can’t see why that would mess up the lows. I can’t imagine a machine running at 30 ips that long ago anyway, so maybe I’m mistaken.

Some remastering during the 70’s were taken to half speed during transfers, but I remember Zappa talking about the low end having significant loss when the transfer was done. The reason the transfers were done at half speed was that the frequencies were cut in half — a 20k sound would be 10k making it well within in the normal range of audio that wouldn’t normally get messed with too much during a generation loss. And that resulted in the transients being well preserved. On the down side, low frequencies were also cut in half – 100hz becomes 50hz. It makes total sense that the lows could be rolled off. Maybe that’s the deal with the Elvis stuff.


The gain in frequency response at speeds above 7½ ips is marginal at best.

So much for my memorisation for the equation of extinction frequency. And also no doubt, for generations of other BBC Engineers who also wasted time their time learning it! :(

:p :D

Anyway, :D , yeah, Nagras and Uhers, they were used exclusively during my stint in BBC TV News Dept during my stint in that department during the early 70’s (and probably before and after too).

Bomb proof is the right expression, the reporters sometimes used to come back shell-shocked from some war zone, but the tape machines never did. :)


Please disregard the occasional unnecessarily repeated word in the above two posts.

It’s what comes of having too many keys on my keyboard. :(

I found some figures in my ancient Ferrograph Series Seven manual (i have a decripit Ferrograph 702 HKD stowed away somewhere). It states that the frequency range is 20 - 17.000 Hz, +/- 2 dB, at 7½ ips, and 40 - 20.000 Hz, +/- 2 dB, at 15 ips.

This does not imply that the machine cannot reproduce frequencies above 17 kHz at 7½ ips, only that the frequency range 17 - 20 kHz isn’t within the +/- 2 dB range…

The electronics and the head gap is usually optimised for a specific speed, too. When doing half-speed transfers, specially designed equalizers are called for. If I remember right, prerecorded cassette tapes were transfered at 32X speeds, and the recording amplifiers had to have a frequency range from 640 Hz to 640 kHz in order to capture the full frequency range.

I have been doing some out-of-the-box tests of the Nagra since yesterday, and as far as I can tell, the apparent S/N ratio is somewhere around 65 dB, but this includes the facts that the signal went through my Alto mixer with a fair amount of gain (adding noise), the room wasn’t silent (more noise), and that the tape had been used an unknown number of times before I recorded on it (yet more noise). I am just in love with that tiny machine… :D

regards, Nils

Yes, yes, yes, and we are all green, green, green - and I don’t mean environmentally, I mean with one of those deadly sins. :D

I mean, the thing just looks good, even if it weren’t any good.