I think the Nagra in general is overlooked by
restoration/preservationists. I used that machine as a field recorded on
film projects for years and every single aspect of that machine was
outstanding. They were overbuilt in every aspect and the sound quality
of each subsequent machine just got better and better. Another thing I
liked(and is rarely mentioned) was the fact that even though it was an
open loop transport it did not beat the tape up. Likewise, from a
machining standpoint except for the Studer it was the most perfectly
made transport on earth. I know that some direct to two track recordists
also sing the praises of the high end Stellavox
from a recording standpoint, but for sheer mechanical perfection and
beautiful audio I think the Nagra is a real gem.
Steven Smolian wrote:
> You know, the best tape transport I ever saw was the console Nagra.
> Its wow and flutter was way under everyone else's. And the frequency
> response was terrific.
> It was over double the cost of its competitors. In the early 80s, I
> think, I was offered a 2 tr as a dealer closeout for $ 17,500. I
> passed (out.) Apart from the money issue, the matter of parts and
> service and being locked into a Steve Temmer "name your own price"
> exclusive parts distributorship put the chill on this fantasy.
> I can't imagine this dandy device shows up frequently on eBay- or
> anywhere else for that matter. I think I still have the literature in
> my somewhere file.
> Building a better perfect transport is only part of the problem.
> Steve Smolian
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Tom Fine"
> <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Monday, July 28, 2008 7:40 AM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Playback on contemporary machines (was Send me
> a kiss by wire, baby my heart's on fire!
>> I was thinking further about this. There's a big money opportunity in
>> here, if someone runs with this and finds it, buy me a steak dinner
>> sometime ;)!
>> For the commercial copyright owners, it seems to me that this concept
>> may offer an excellent and highly-accurate way to once and for all
>> migrate their tape libraries off of the deteriorating original media.
>> Even under archival storage, many tapes are nearing the end of their
>> functional lives, and some masters have been played enough times as
>> to be badly deteriorated already.
>> Here would be one system I could see as being viable and very
>> sensible for a large music company:
>> 1. a super-precise tape transport with excellent-quality magnetic
>> heads is used to transfer the raw signal off the tape. The transfer
>> should probably be to both DSD (read on, there's sense to this) and
>> high-resolution PCM. Much testing should be done to make sure that
>> the digital system is as precise and accurate as is possible for the
>> formats (which, if the resolution is high enough, should
>> theoretically mean that just about every bit of meaningful
>> information should be transferred from the magnetic tape).
>> 2. the standard operating MO from here would be to have these digital
>> files live in a very robust archive with as fail-safe as possible
>> replication, migration and backup. This is more in the realm of an IT
>> expert than a music company and I would suggest there is an
>> outsourcing model that makes some sense here.
>> 3. for run-of-the-mill reissues (ie stuff with budget and time
>> constraints), the remastering could be done all DSP, probably all or
>> mostly automated. I would expect a middling but not terrible net
>> quality level here, and over-aggressive use of DSP extras like
>> dynamics control and hiss-reduction would probably degrade the net
>> result, but tasteful application of the usual mastering tools (which
>> would run up the budget since human hands and skills would be
>> required) could improve the average quality substantially.
>> 4. here's where the DSD transfer could come in. Perhaps the record
>> company itself, or a specialty mastering house, would rig up an
>> interface between a DSD stream and a rack of different tape
>> electronics (it's a simple level and impedence matching thing -- and
>> the intial input stage can be bypassed on some tape electronics with
>> 10 minutes of solder time). These "deluxe" remasters would be "played
>> back" to gain the desired euphonic results. Meanwhile, the tapes
>> would not have to be played again and the "warm analogue sound" from
>> the tape electronics could be gained in any combination or tweak
>> desired. The further benefit is no need to maintain a precise
>> mechanical transport, just more-simple electronics maintenance. But
>> the big win here is, the master tapes don't get played and
>> transported in their fragile condition. Assuming the transfer at the
>> source was done properly (ie azimuth was correct and the A>>D chain
>> was superb), this would be audibly identical to playing back the
>> actual tape using the heads used at the source.
>> 5. indeed, there may be an audiophile market in selling the raw
>> digital transfer and letting the audiophile play it back thru the
>> tape electronics of his choice. Never before could a listener be so
>> close to the actual master tape. Again, the weak link here is that
>> the source transfer needs to be azimuth-perfect and the A>>D chain
>> needs to be superb.
>> 6. a final benefit to the copyright owner is, he now has in his
>> archive an unprocessed, uncolored and un-EQ'd version of the source,
>> a digital "clone" of what is falling apart on the reel in the box.
>> As technology, especially DSP, improves, he can hope to achieve
>> better and better results even with the run-of-the-mill releases and
>> can get out of the expensive business of analog expertise as the
>> tapes crumble to dust.
>> More morning musings. I have no idea how much of this is already
>> being done and what is totally impractical about what I'm suggesting.
>> And, as I said before, I have no dog in the fight -- except as a
>> collector and fan desiring better reissues than are the norm.
>> -- Tom Fine
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Tom Fine"
>> <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Sunday, July 27, 2008 1:37 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Playback on contemporary machines (was Send
>> me a kiss by wire, baby my heart's on fire!
>>> Along these lines ...
>>> As DSP improves and higher-resolution and even DSD transfers become
>>> the norm, I'm wondering if it's time to start thinking about
>>> eliminating the analog electronics altogether for non-NR tapes. To
>>> wit -- a tape head connected directly, with proper
>>> impedence-matching, to a high-resolution A-D converter, perhaps with
>>> one stage of gain between the head and the converter. The EQ curve
>>> and level-normalling is then performed in the digital realm via DSP.
>>> The main advantages I could see to this would be: 1) perhaps more
>>> accurate EQ curve than can be achieved with analog components, but
>>> this may or may not be the case at the present state of the arts.
>>> 2) elimination of all noises and distortions from analog components
>>> -- now it's a whole can o' worms whether the DSP would just add
>>> less-euphonic distortions of its own. 3) perhaps less cost due to
>>> no need to maintain and/or repair old analog electronics (even the
>>> solid-state stuff will wear out eventually). 4) the creation of a
>>> market for digital-realm expertise in analog issues like EQ curves
>>> and magnetic head interfaces, thus leading perhaps to some new and
>>> innovative audio-cleanup/restoration tools and better
>>> analog-to-digital interfaces.
>>> I have no dog in this fight, just doing some Sunday musings on an
>>> interesting topic.
>>> One other point. As the world's fleet of tape machines get older, I
>>> think more and more are falling permanently out of spec. I think
>>> it's a great stretch to expect a 50-year-old Ampex 350 to sound
>>> anything close to original unless you are a restoration expert and
>>> have done an expert restoration on the machine or have paid plenty
>>> of $$$ to have it done by someone else. The same can be said of just
>>> about any machine ever made that has more than a few hundred hours
>>> on it and/or has not been stored in an ideal environment its whole
>>> life. And some machines have built-in manufacturing or design
>>> weaknesses that cripple them over time no matter what. Belts stretch
>>> and fall apart, for instance, even if the machine isn't used. Some
>>> of the connectors used on MCI machines corrode, no matter what. Etc.
>>> -- Tom Fine
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Richard L. Hess"
>>> <[log in to unmask]>
>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Sent: Sunday, July 27, 2008 1:06 PM
>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Playback on contemporary machines (was Send
>>> me a kiss by wire, baby my heart's on fire!
>>>> Hello, Mark and Jim and Shiffy,
>>>> I think it's important that we reinforce the lesson of playing
>>>> magnetic media on the best available equipment. While there are
>>>> times when playing a tape on the machine that recorded it will
>>>> provide the sound that the producer originally heard and intended,
>>>> in most instances, playing a magnetic recording on a high-end,
>>>> late-model (but not necessarily last-model) machine will provide
>>>> superior results. This means that Shiffy's one-off device is
>>>> probably the best device to reproduce a wire, and it means a small
>>>> handful of the best tape machine models should be chosen and
>>>> preserved for playing tapes. I won't bother enumerating those
>>>> models here, as I think that list is well-known.
>>>> The philosophical approach that works for me, and I suggest that
>>>> everyone consider, is that machine perturbations are additive. Play
>>>> deficiencies/perturbations rarely if ever "cancel out" record
>>>> deficiencies/perturbations that are already recorded on the
>>>> magnetic record. Therefore, the machine that adds the fewest
>>>> deficiencies/perturbations that is compatible with the speed and
>>>> track format (or can be made compatible) is generally the one to
>>>> There are usually other competing factors driving the selection of
>>>> the reproducer, but having a machine to play the magnetic records
>>>> with performance better than the record machine is generally the
>>>> best way in my opinion/experience.
>>>> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
>>>> Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
>>>> Detailed contact information:
>>>> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.