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History

 

Introduction


More than 55 years separate the first Nagra I professional recorder from the NAGRA VI presented in 2009. During the intervening period, Nagra Audio has developed and marketed a complete range of analog and digital tape recorders as well as, more recently, a line of audiophile products. The reputation of Nagra equipment is firmly established among audio professionals. Whether in the television and cinema industries or among radio journalists, Nagras are always appreciated for their sound quality and reliability. Equipment such as the Nagra 4.2 and the Nagra IV-S Time Code are seen as benchmarks in terms of sound recording for cinema productions and have been used on film sets the world over. The performance of this equipment has been recognized with three Oscars® and an Emmy® Award.

In 1997 a range of high-end equipment aimed at the audiophile community was introduced as a diversification into a hitherto unknown market.

Historical account of the Kudelski Company

The Kudelski company was founded in 1951 by Mr. Stefan Kudelski. Born in Warsaw, Poland on February 27th 1929 where he completed his primary schooling. In 1939 the declaration of war in Europe saw the Kudelski family flee to Hungary, then France and finally Switzerland in 1943. Stefan Kudelski returned to his studies at the Collège Florimont in Geneva and later to the Ecole Ploytechnique de l’Université de Lausanne (EPUL), the Swiss federal institute of technology in 1948. In 1951, his prized invention, the “NAGRA” (meaning “will record” in Polish) takes a concrete form: a portable audio tape recorder with exceptional specifications, i.e. light, small, self-contained, portable and high quality.
Stefan Kudelski:
The Father of “NAGRA”


 

In 1952 the first customers, Radio Lausanne and Radio Geneva placed official orders for the NAGRA I.

In may 1952, following the first international sound recording contest, some well-known reporters become interested in the NAGRA. Stefan Kudelski then obtains a firm order for six NAGRA 1’s from Radio Luxembourg.

He leaves the EPUL where he was studying electrical engineering and devotes himself to the manufacture of his machines.


The NAGRA I



The NAGRA II

Assembly of such equipment meets many obstacles. Parts ordered elsewhere often arrive late, or do not meet the required specifications and the customers are always in a hurry. As a result, as many parts as possible for the new NAGRA II were to be made by the company. Production of the NAGRA II began in 1953.

The NAGRA II is quite sophisticated, driven by a Grammophon spring from language laboratory equipment , and with excellent subjective and audio quality. The recorder is extremely sturdy; No advertising is needed, every day new reporters become acquainted with the machine and immediately try to buy one.

The manufacturing was done at a house in Prilly (West of Lausanne) where a small staff were employed by the Kudelski company, listed in the trade register of the city of Lausanne in 1953.

Improvements are in the making; towards the end of 1954 a printed circuit board is mounted in the NAGRA II and the microphone jacks are standardized. By the end of 1953 eleven employees work full-time. By 1956 this number has risen to 17.

Although the NAGRA II has well served its purpose, it must be improved still further. A much better machine, with exceptional specifications in all respects has to be created; in 1957 this is done.

In 1958 the NAGRA III sees the light of day. It is a solid-state machine employing an electric motor with closed loop servo speed control. It is a fully transistorised machine with all the modules enclosed in metal cases. It is powered by conventional “D” type batteries. Moreover, it is equipped with a true peak meter called a “Modulometer” . Orders come flooding in and 240 NAGRA III machines are completed in 1958.

In 1959, for the Olympic games in Rome, the RAI orders 100 NAGRA III’s and pays for them in advance. As soon as machine tools and a larger premises are bought in Paudex, near Lausanne, industrial production begins. In 1960 there are over 50 employees, and important customers are won: ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC, etc. and the network of agents grows rapidly around the world.


Air Nagra
The Air Nagra Cessna 320


Stefan Kudelski was a very keen sailor and aviator, and during the 1960's this passion led him to the foundation of an aviation company "Air Nagra". Initially with a Cessna 172 and later a Cessna 310 and 320 twin engined planes were acquired and the young airline was used princiapally to transport businessmen, from both the Nagra company and other local companies around the world. When Air Nagra was disolved during the '70's this Cessna 320 (HB-LCE) was put in the name of the company Kudelski SA and served until 1976 when it was replaced by a pressurized Aero-Commander until 1990.

The NAGRA III was becoming a standard in many different industries. The system “PILOTTON” for lip synchronization of audio recordings with moving pictures, made good results possible, but a better system was needed. Stefan Kudelski invented the “NEOPILOT” system, and the first NAGRA III machines equipped with the system were sold in 1962.

Success of the NAGRA III was huge, and delivery times were between 6 and 8 months. Production has to be increased continually. In 1964 office space and manufacturing space is rented in Renens, then in 1965 in Malley. At the end of the year a factory in Neuchâtel is purchased. A vast piece of ground is purchased in Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne, for the construction of a dedicated factory. In 1967 the 10’000th NAGRA III is celebrated.


The NAGRA III

"Crevette"
The Crevette
As early as 1967, Nagra's first "deviation" from the traditional recorders for broadcast was made into the military defence market. An area that over the years lead to developments in many areas of military and defence projects for governments around the world. The "Crevette" (left) was designed to fit inside a torpedo, and was used for measurement purposes.

In early 1969 the NAGRA III is replaced by a more efficient machine: the NAGRA IV offering many more features, is easier to operate and gives better intrinsic audio performance. To rationalize the production and achieve better co-ordination between the different work-units a new factory in Cheseaux–sur-Lausanne is inaugurated, and 2510 machines are built in 1969.

In 1970 the NAGRA 4.2 was introduced to replace the NAGRA IV. It once again offered improvements on its predecessor with new features and better audio performance.

The NAGRA 4.2

NAGRA SN
The NAGRA SN

In 1971 the NAGRA SNN is introduced. Although developed as a prototype some 10 years previously, this miniature masterpiece did not see production until now. Using cassette width th inch tape, they were predecessor to the walkman introduced in the late '70s. Designed as a pocket recorder for cinema actors to carry, it was equipped wth a pilot system for studio synchronization.

In the same year the IV-S was introduced. A Stereo machine destined towards the music industry, allowing musical performances to be captured in Stereo in a portable format. Using a revolutionary frequency modulated central track for commentary or pilot information. Th IV-S was in principal a stereophonic version of the monophonic 4.2.


The NAGRA IV-S

The NAGRA IV-SJ

 

1972 saw the adaptation of the popular IV-S into the IV-SJ. This was an instrumentation recorder for noise and vibration measurement and other scientific audio analysis organisations. Equipped with special microphone pre-amplifiers, modulometer and stepped input attenuators the IV-SJ is used for a multitude of different environmental and industrialization applications. Customers for the IV-SJ varied from NASA to Rolls Royce and Greenpeace.

 

Tthe NAGRA SNS was also introduced in the same year. This half-track slow speed version of the SNN became a standard tool with law enforcement agencies around the globe. The SN series were so compact, that rewinding the tape had to be done with the aid of a small mechanical crank handle. On the SNS the tape could be "turned over" to give twice the recording time.
The NAGRA SN-S


The NAGRA IS

In 1974 a new extra lightweight recorder for broadcasters was introduced. The IS (Idioten Sicher) was initially designed as a simple recorder to operate, and was rapidly modified to twin speed (IS-T) and pilot (IS-L) and fitted with an ALC circuit. Even ISN and ISS versions were built allowing tapes from the SN series to be replayed.


The IS was followed in 1976 by the NAGRA-E which was a single microphone input, single speed recorder for reporters. Aimed to suit developing countries and based on the same ¼” tape format as its predecessors, the NAGRA-E was fitted with many novel features not previously seen.

In 1977 the SNST a stereo version of the successful SNS machine for the security industry was also developed.


The NAGRA E

The NAGRAFAX
1977 also saw the introduction of the NAGRAFAX. Drawing on Stefan Kudelski's vast nautical experience, he saw the need for a weather faxcimile receiver system for meteorological monitoring for the use in commercial and private yachts. This system, until now reserved for the military was introduced into areas as diverse as airports, ski resorts and coast guard stations, lighthouses and aboard commercial shipping. Used in maritime events such as the “Whitbread round the world race” on-board boats such as “UBS Switzerland”. It was installed aboard 23 yachts of the first "Route du Rhum" and the first 22 finishing boats were those equipped with the NAGRAFAX (the 23rd boat was forced to abandon the event and did not finish).
1978 saw the introduction of a sophisticated instrumentation recorder, the NAGRA TI. This transportable recorder offered measurement possibilities never before seen in portable mobile recorders. Used extensively in miliatary applications the TI was renowned for its tape transport ability and its special "Twin" capstan platform. Widely used in military and naval applications, but also frequently used to delicately play back analogue tapes retrieved from the "black boxes" following aircraft accidents. NAGRA TI
The NAGRA TI
TRVR
The TRVR
In 1979 the T-RVR (Remote Voice Recorder) was built. The capstan-less machine was designed as a logging recorder for radio broadcast transmission logging as well as telephone lines. Mounted vertically, the T-RVR was often mounted in multiples to be able to monitor quantities of phone lines around the clock, by automatically starting the following recorder once the tape was fully recorded. It was equipped with a time code system - the first developed by the company.
The modular chassis of the TI made it a very flexible machine and was the corner-stone for the audio version the T-Audio, probably the most sophisticated studio machine available at the time which was introduced in 1981. Both the "TI" and "TA" models used a unique twin capstan tape transportation, allowing handling of master tapes with great care. The T-Audio was initially introduced as a broadcast machine in a two track configuration. This was followed by a traditional Stereo version destined towards the music industry, particularly to play back recordings made in-the-field on the NAGRA IV-S.

The NAGRA T-AUDIO Studio Machine

The AMPEX-NAGRA VPR-5

In 1983 the Kudelski company entered into a commercial joint venture with the AMPEX corporation of America, with the aim of building the worlds smallest, lightest professional portable C-format video recorder. The development and construction was entirely completed in Cheseaux. The resulting machine was baptised the AMPEX-NAGRA VPR-5. Using rotary head technology and the state-of-the art SMD (Surface Mount Devices), the project came to fruition and great leaps in technology were achieved. AMPEX ordered 100 machines, which were to be used to cover the Mexico World Cup in 1986.

The JBR security recorder was introduced in 1984 with the aim of replacing the ageing SNST technology with a smaller, undetectable covert recorder for the security industry. Using a proprietary cassette format the JBR gave a new dimension to body recorders. Measuring only 4½" by 2½" it was the smallest audio recorder available at the time.
The NAGRA JBR


The NAGRA PS-1 playback unit

Although the dedicated playback unit, the PS-1 was not available until 1986, the JBR tapes were played back on a specially adapted STST recorder. The success of the JBR was immediate, and was openly accepted by law enforcement agencies, immigration and customs around the world.
In 1984 the IV-S was adapted to accept the SMPTE / EBU time code system for motion picture synchronization previously only used in video recorders, and the IVS-TC was born.  In 1985 the NAGRA T-AUDIO was also adapted to this new universal synchronization format. It became the most sophisticated transfer machine ever built and was to be found in post-production facilities all over the world.
Time code version of the T-Audio


The NAGRA RTU

A joint venture with Honeywell then absorbed all the R+D of the Kudelski company and in 1989 a specialized transport for military applications was invented in the form of the RTU. This project was abandoned overnight when the "Cold-war" ended, while still at the prototype stage. Being built to military specificationss while incorporating state-of-the-art technology created a new challenge.

1992 saw the return to the traditional location sound acquisition with the introduction of the company’s first digital audio recorder the NAGRA-D. Using technology borrowed from both the VPR-5 video recorder and the RTU, the NAGRA-D used standard ¼” digital audio tape to offer 4 tracks of high quality audio for film, television and music recording.

The NAGRA-D was the ultimate mix of Swiss high precision mechanical engineering and the intricate complexity of modern digital techniques. Offering performances second-to-none, it could really be considered the “Rolls Royce” of all audio recorders.

In 1999 it was redesigned a little to create the DII version but kept the same overall format and look.

The NAGRA-D


The ARES-C and C-PP

In 1995 the ARES-C recorder was introduced with the aim of replacing the ageing NAGRA-E in the broadcast market. Based on a tapeless platform using PCMCIA computer memory cards as a recording medium, the ARES-C offers a recorder, editer and ISDN codec in the same portable, battery operated box. Accepted by radio stations around the world it formed the basis of a new generation of digital recorders for the NAGRA company. The C-PP was a studio 19"rack-mountable version of the ARES-C and gave broadcasters a full system for journalistic transmission. The C-PP extensively used in broadcast OB vans and small radio studios.
In 1997 the company broadened its product range by branching off into the High-End audiophile market with a range of products starting with the PL-P vacuum tube pre-amplifier designed initially as a high quality tube based pre-amplifier for vinyl records.


The PL-P Pre-amplifier


The VPA mono block amplifiers

In order to extend the range, a tube amplifier the VPA (Vacuum Power Amplifier) followed in 1998. This unique mono block pair of amplifiers saw enormous success. Being a new market for the Kudelski company, the High-End audiophiles needed a complete product range. Building an entire range from scratch was a challenge taken up in parallel with the professional equipment development.
The following year 1999, the MPA (Mosfet Power Amplifier) was introduced. This solid-state amplifier offering 250 Watts of pure power, employed a power factor correction power supply, again a new invention for the company. The addition of this second amplifier offered an alternative to the tube solution offered by the VPA.
The MPA


The ARES-P/RCX220

In 1999, the SNST was adapted to suite the audiophile market. Modification of its overall performance to offer a wider frequency response, the SNST-R was built as a very small specialized production run specifically for the High-end market.

The year 2000 saw the introduction of the ARES-P and RCX220, which are pocket versions of the popular ARES-C machine.

Recording on PCMCIA flash memory cards they offer journalist a compact and handy tool for in-the-field reporting. These were the worlds first hand-held digital recorders for broadcast applications.

In 2001 the PL-L, a line input pre-amplifier, was intruced to the Hi-Fi range for those who do not require a phono front-end. Equipped with a remote control it offers a pre-amplifier well adapted for music enthusiasts who only use line level audio input sources.
The PL-L


The NAGRA V

In 2002 the long awaited NAGRA V was introduced. Designed as a replacement for the analogue reel-to-reel machines as well as two channel DAT machines. Recording the Audio to a standard Computer Hard drive and offering advantages enabled by the use of computer technologies.

In 2003 the Hi-Fi range was extended with the introducing of a high quality D/A converter. The DAC, equipped with remote control was designed to b e yet another element in the ever increasing product range.


The DAC


The ARES-PII

Towards the end of 2003 saw the introduction of the ARES-PII. This new version replaces the older ARES-P and RCX220 and offers FAT16 operation and linear PCM recording in the .WAV file format. This recorder, greatly demanded by the broadcast industry rapidly found its place in journalism.

The succes of the ARES-PII was so enthusiastic that it was decided to bring out a companion version of the ARES-PII in a different housing.

The ARES-BB was thus introduced. Carrying XLR input and output connectors and using a folding keyboard the ARES-BB is designed as an "Over-the-Shoulder" version of the ARES-PII. Offering identical features to the ARES-PII it is alternative solution to the Hand-held version it was derived from.


The ARES-BB


The NAGRA V-PP

Based on the chassis of the ARES-C-PP, the NAGRA V-PP rack-mount version of the NAGRA V was introduced as a studio or "OB" version of the portable hard disk recorder. Offering basically the same features as the NAGRA V, the V-PP is mounted in a 19'' rack mount housing, but can easily be used as a stand-alone machine if necessary.

2005 saw the introduction of two new amplifiers for the Hi-End range. The PMA mono-block pyramids and the PSA stereo pyramid are both entirely solid-state amplifiers designed to extend the product range.


The PMA


The ARES-B+ and ARES-PII+

The ARES-PII and ARES-BB were also replaced by the ARES-PII+ and ARES-BB+ versions. They are mechanically identical to their predecessors but with larger internal memory. This allows FAT 32 operation and an optional on-board editor function to be implemented.

The ARES-M Ultra-miniature hand-held recorder was also introduced in 2005, providing a viable alternative to minidisk machines. Equipped with a built-in 1GB memory and an on-board editor this little machine represents the latest in solid-state technology.


The ARES-M

NagraCD
The CD player CDC

In the autumn of 2006, three compact disk players CD-C, CD-P and CD-T are introduced to provide a source unit for the HiFi product range. Available as "Transport" only, "Player" including the D/A converter or "Concept" with full output controls, this range of CD-Players completes the product line.
2007 saw the introduction of the ARES-MII, a 2 GB version of the popular ARES-M hand-held recorder. Equipped with identical features to the ARES-M this 2GB version offers double the recording time. In addition the MII offers USB 2.0 for faster file transfer to a computer.

ARES-MII
The ARES-MII

Nagra VI
The Nagra VI


The NAGRA VI multi-channel digital location recorder for music and film applications was introduced in 2008. A continuation in the tradition of robust units for on-location "in-the-field" recording, the Nagra VI is the latest generation of Hard disk / Compact flash based digital recorders. Equipped with full time code and iXML compatible it also offers mixing facilities and recordings of exceptional audio quality. With its 3½" TFT colour display it probably one of the most ergonomic machines available today.
2008 also saw the introduction of the NAGRA LB, a small compact two channel compact flash based recorder. Designed to replace both the ARES-C and the BB / BB+ this robust broadcast recorder offers communication possibilities not previously seen in portable recording.

 

NAGRA LB
The NAGRA LB

ARES-MII
The ARES-ML


2009 saw the introduction of the ARES-ML a simplified version of the popular ARES-M. Supplied as a naked machine, and with a simplified on-board software the "ML" is a lower cost more affodable recorder. Available with either a 2 GB or 4 GB internal memory.



The latest addition to the range of hand-held recorders, the Nagra SD was introduced in March 2011 NAGRA SD, a small compact two channel recorder with and extractable SD memory card. Designed follow on from the popular ARES-M / MII and ML range of recorders this robust broadcast recorder uses the same cli-on microphones and accessories.
NAGRA LB
The NAGRA SD

ATS Logo In January 2012 NAGRA AUDIO division is spun off from the Kudelski Group, and forms a new company "Audio Technology Switzerland", still owned by the Kudelski family. The new company will be able to focus more clearly on the specific audio business and will continue to serve NAGRA customers as before.
October 2012 the NAGRA LINO is introduced as a lower cost alternative to the SD. With built-in microphones and an SD removable media it fulfills many recording applications.
NAGRA LINO
The NAGRA LINO
NAGRA PICO
The NAGRA PICO
October 2012 also saw the introduction of the PICO. An ultra-tiny hand-held recorder with an internal 4GB memory and built-im microphones.
The JAZZ is the newest introduction for the HiFi product line. A beautifully designed tube preamplifier designed to replace the PL-L and PL-P units. Equipped with motorized pots and a remote control.

JAZZ

The NAGRA JAZZ

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