Nagra HD Preamp

Swiss audio company Nagra won an Innovation Honoree award this year for their ingenious motorized volume control design in the tubed HD Preamp. René Laflamme, based in Montreal himself, describes the product: "The preamp is two channels of mono in a single chassis. There are two Super Cap capacitor power supplies, two independent circuits, and each channel has a single triode input stage featuring a NOS (new old stock) Mullard tube hand-selected by Nagra."

The award however is for the volume control design, "where you select a particular transformer tap with one of the volume controls and the result is the impedance is very low at .2 ohms so you can drive any amp with it," says Laflamme.

Nagra later emailed some information further clarifying how this works: "The voltage amplification is passively done with high-end shielded toroidal audio transformers whose voltage ratio is variable and digitally controlled. The variation of voltage ratio is done switching the multiple windings of the transformers. Multiple . . . relays are used for that purpose while an alternate volume control circuit bypasses the transformers while their windings are being switched in order not to hear any kind of switching noise. With this simple but revolutionary technique, the audio signal remains intact after the voltage-current conversion through the transformer. The transfer of energy is close to ideal. It is not the case with any other resistor-based volume control because part of the signal is turned into heat through the attenuating resistance."

Furthermore, the two motorized volume controls (one for each channel) track each other. Laflamme explains "as soon as you touch one volume control, the other one will, by computer, match the one you are moving. To set balance you can temporarily unlock one control to offset from the other and then they will track with this offset.

Nagra claims a 160dB signal to noise for this preamp, "so probably 60dB better than any tube preamp and 20-30dB better than any transistor preamp," notes Laflamme.

The first batch was shipped just a few weeks ago, but the company is already backordered. Like everything Nagra creates, these are works of metal/audio art with a price to match: $59,500.

tonykaz's picture

$60,000 ?

Well, I guess that Nagra's new Owners will let humble NY'rs in the room ( as well as the 6moon Ireland dweller ).

I'll read every word of your intricate Review if they send you working Sample, I'll bet it sounds good.

Sixty Grand should get them in the Class A recommended list, shouldn't it?

Tony in Michigan

ps. is a batch like cookies? or is 10 a batch?

Ortofan's picture

... to measure that claimed 160dB S/N ratio?
Do they make a power amp with the same spec?
Are there any recordings with 28-bit resolution?

Long-time listener's picture

...doesn't even include tone controls. With that kind of S/N ratio, they've got enough headroom to include tone controls without worrying about "signal purity." I'll stick with NAD, who let me keep control of the listening experience.

Ortofan's picture

... indeed.

For $59K I'll have an NAD C388 amp and C568 CD player, a Technics SL-1210GR turntable with an Ortofon 2M Black cartridge, and a pair of Dynaudio Excite X44 speakers --- plus a Mazda CX-9 Signature in which to cart the entire lot home.

jmsent's picture they come up with 160dB with a tube as the gain element. Without reference to levels, weighting, etc., such a spec is pretty much useless. Using conventional measuring methods, I doubt it's even possible.

Jon Iverson's picture
This raised my eyebrow when he said it, which is why I purposely reported it as a "claim". Time will tell.
Glotz's picture

Man, is that thing sexy! Tubey gorgeous!

If the claims are outrageous, review it and put it to the test.

My guess is Nagra tells the truth.

GeneZ's picture

Does it come with a 30 day satisfaction, return guarantee? ;)