Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable – Setting new standards

Nagra is celebrating its 70th birthday in a very special way, with a turntable that defies conventional standards and will only be available in an edition of 70, the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable.

The Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable is not only the first ever record player of the Nagra brand, it is a turntable that occupies a very special position. Designed and manufactured to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nagra brand, this record player is intended to defy conventional standards, with the manufacturer Audio Technology Switzerland SA itself referring to it as the “Ultimate analogue grail”.

Nagra also underlines this special status by not producing more than 70 units of the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable.

Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable – The reference for the debut…

It’s quite remarkable that a premiere here is intended to put the company at the top of an entire product class. The Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable can thus be understood as a kind of statement by the Swiss, who want to celebrate their 70th anniversary in a particularly stylish and fitting way.

According to the manufacturer, Nagra was founded with the aim of providing outstanding performance in the field of sound recording and reproduction. It has a long history of producing some of the world’s finest analogue recording and playback equipment. This year, as described, Nagra is now looking to add to its quite remarkable product portfolio on the occasion of its 70th birthday with the introduction of its first turntable and tonearm system.

Three years of development

Nagra has often considered developing a record player, the company says. Finally, three years ago, development and design began. The goal was to create a turntable that would be completely in line with the philosophy and high quality standards of the Swiss company. What’s more, the aim was to explore what was technically feasible, without compromise – in view of the result, one could even speak of “whatever it costs”.

With the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable, this has now been achieved, and a turntable has been created that not only corresponds to the current state of the art, but even sets new standards, the Swiss are convinced of this.

Precise, powerful motors as an essential component

First and foremost, Nagra emphasises the drive as an essential component and, in the case of the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable, opted for a multi-motor drive system to guarantee outstanding speed stability combined with high torque.

The turntable features two high-precision, decoupled, Swiss-made brushless three-point DC motors. According to the manufacturer, this massive motor-drive system alone weighs 11.2 kg, although they do not want to reveal any further details here, as they have applied for a patent for this and are therefore still waiting until the corresponding patent procedure has been completed.

The drive also uses a sophisticated technology for absolute speed calibration, as described by the manufacturer itself. An accelerometer monitors the floating chassis to ensure that it is absolutely stable, otherwise, according to the company, no reliable calibration could take place.

Calibration takes place over a 20-second window in which the speed of the turntable is precisely calibrated during actual playback – the stylus is in the groove.

During this 20-second cycle, the platter speed is to be compared with a high-precision quartz reference. Any deviation from the absolute speed reference is corrected accordingly. An easy-to-read, so-called Nagra Modulometer on the front panel of the turntable facilitates calibration as well as pitch control, according to the manufacturer.

Interestingly, no active speed control is used during listening. During listening, the motors only run in a closed loop, says Nagra. By not using active speed control, the so-called “cogging” and the associated negative effects on sound quality caused by such active systems are avoided, it says.

Specially manufactured belt

Another interesting detail is the drive belt. According to Nagra, this immensely important part was inspired by the legendary Nagra IV-S tape machine.

As the original supplier of these belts no longer exists, chemical analyses of the belt’s composition were carried out and this element, which Nagra describes as a high-performance component, was faithfully reproduced.

To pay tribute to the heritage of Nagra analogue recorders, the Nagra LP drive was christened Nagra Precission Caliber N° IV – LXX.

Exium AM turntable

For the turntable, after long trials, a very special material was chosen: Exium AM. According to the manufacturer, this was developed by a French company at the special request of the Centre national d’études spatiales, or CNES, the French space agency, in collaboration with the Ecole des Mines de Paris.

This alloy has an extremely high density, 60 per cent denser than titanium, says Nagra, and requires a complex, special manufacturing process to ultimately realise the frame of the 6.5 kg precision platter.

The top of this frame, by the way, features another special construction: an anti-static, 22 mm thick, transparent methacrylate cover.

This means that the turntable is ultimately transparent, allowing a view inside.

This special design is said to have been inspired by Swiss watch manufacturers, who also like to allow the user to look at their masterpieces. Of course, the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable is engraved with the word “Swiss Made”. Likewise, parts of the drive mechanism are finished in both Cote de Geneve and Soleillage. An additional engraving includes a reference diagram of the drive’s belt path.

Suspension systems of the Nagra HD PREAMP and Nagra HD DAC X

The most striking feature of the chassis of the new Nagra Reference Anniversary turntable is the special suspension system, inspired by the Nagra HD PREAMP and Nagra HD DAC X, at least on the outside.

Inside, however, there is a sophisticated system that combines both mechanical and hydraulic principles. The massive suspension columns use both a spring mechanism and a highly viscous fluid, which combine to provide three-dimensional suspension.

This creates a perfect suspension that eliminates any vibrations or resonances. Laboratory measurements confirm a self-resonance of the suspended chassis of less than 3 Hz, according to Nagra, guaranteeing freedom from colouration or feedback even at significant listening levels.

The Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable thus ultimately relies on a sub-chassis construction, with a sandwich construction consisting of aluminium and phenolic resin being used in the manufacture of the cabinet. The elements are CNC-milled to the highest precision, resulting in a low-resonance, highly rigid, layered structure.

Precision Swiss watchmaker in the tonearm

The tonearm of the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable is also a proprietary development of the Swiss manufacturer and – incidentally mentioned again – the first tonearm ever from Nagra.

It is remarkable that the manufacturer says that the tonearm itself consists of only eight parts. Simplicity is the highest level of sophistication, Nagra quotes none other than Leonardo da Vinci as a reference for this concept.

The core of the actual 10.5-inch tonearm is made of hardwood, sheathed in numerous layers of cohesive fibre, and is manufactured in one piece throughout.

The bearing of the tonearm is said to be a simple, extremely precise, CNC-milled cone made of hardened steel, which is mounted in a resonance-insulating, silicone-damped receiving shell made of ultra-high-density polyethylene. The traditional tonearm counterweight is complemented by a low-hanging, saddle-shaped weight that provides stability while minimising the effective mass of the tonearm.

A sophisticated magnetic anti-skating mechanism, a simple azimuth adjustment and the option to adjust the tracking angle “on the fly” via a swivel ring similar to a Leica camera lens are further outstanding features of the tonearm.

Even the cabling relies on a cable specially developed for the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable with specially optimised material and geometry.

Sophisticated power supply

Of course, a lot of attention was also paid to the power supply, relying on decades of experience in this field. Three years of development have resulted in a super-cap power supply that is on a par with the quality of the Nagra HD PREAMP or Nagra HD DAC X power supplies.

Pure copper panel weight

Even the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable’s platter weight was optimised over many months of extensive listening tests, according to Nagra, which considered numerous shapes and materials before finally settling on a clear copper form factor design.

For completeness, the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable measures 661 mm wide and 451 mm deep. Even more impressive, however, is its weight, which is quoted at around 80 kg.

As already mentioned, there will be no more than 70 units of the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable, with delivery scheduled for early 2022. As a guideline for pricing, Nagra is quoting US$ 175,000.

Getting to the point

Nagra was founded to deliver excellence in sound recording and playback, and believes it has a long history of producing some of the world’s finest analogue recording and playback equipment. This year, Nagra celebrates its 70th anniversary and takes this as an opportunity to launch its first turntable and tonearm system, the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable.

The fact that this turntable defies all comparison is due to the limited number of units and, of course, the price it commands. It is a product that was developed without regard to conventional constraints and is intended to represent what is technically feasible.

To draw a comparison: how much can a luxury watch cost, since it only shows the time anyway? How much is an exclusive car allowed to cost, it also only drives from A to B? From this point of view, it is ultimately irrelevant what price Nagra announces for this drive, it will find its buyers…

PriceUS$ 175.000,-
ManufacturerAudio Technology Switzerland SA
DistributionAudio Technology Switzerland SA
More about this manufacturer at HIFI BLOG
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Michael Holzinger

Michael Holzinger, founder and editor-in-chief of HiFi BLOG and sempre-audio.at, has been working for years as a journalist in the fields of IT, photography, telecommunications and consumer electronics.

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