Nagra Room: Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable, Wilson Chronosonic XVX Speakers, Crystal Cable, Shunyata Research, Modulum Audio

There was buzz about many rooms at the High End Munich show but perhaps few were as talked about as the Nagra/Wilson Audio Specialties setup in Atrium 4.1 F130. It seemed to be among the more packed ones, a tough room to get into. I passed by twice before I was able to poke my head in, then was only able to return briefly near the end of the show.

Nagra sales and marketing manager René Laflamme, who's also a mastering engineer, gave a couple of playback presentations of his and (if I remember correctly) Wilson Audio's Peter McGrath's recordings.

Part of the buzz was around the first outing of the new Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable, commemorating the Swiss company's 70th year (well, technically their 71st year now in 2022). It had been in development for four years. The platter is made of exotic Exium Aerospace material that was reportedly developed to reduce resonance and/or vibration in Europe's Ariane spaceship series. In other words, it's beyond capable of fulfilling a turntable's most serious sonic demands.

Nagra's reel-to-reel prowess reportedly inspired the belt drive' turntable's design. The motor system deploys dual decoupled DC motors for speed stability. A Nagra Modulometer (below) displays the platter's speed calibration. Speed control is passive and requires no user touch. According to Nagra's website information, an accelerometer monitors the floating chassis for stability before calibration happens. Platter speed is calibrated over a 20-second cycle during real-time playback. "During this 20-second cycle, the platter's speed is compared with a high precision quartz reference," their site said. So that should take care of speed accuracy and consistency.

The turntable uses a hydraulic spring suspension with a floating weight for "an isolation of 3Hz" so the speakers or subwoofers—here, a pair of Wilson WATCH Dogs—don't interfere with playback. "Even if you have a floor that is not solid, you can dance in front of the turntable," Laflamme added.

This analog heavyweight's MRSP? $175,000. It comes with a carbon-fiber tonearm with Crystal Cable's Mono-Crystal silver cable inside. There's also a new Nagra cartridge ($18,500), whose OCC silver coils run directly from the cartridge's motor to the tonearm cable, Laflamme said. The signal was fed into a Nagra HD Phono phono preamp, also brand-new—a prototype actually. It contains a new silver cobalt input transformer that's reported to supply between 20 and 26dB of passive gain. The first active gain stage uses a pair of low-noise EF86 tubes. Those two, two middle gain tubes, and two E88CC output tubes deliver 70dB of maximum gain in a dual-mono configuration. For EQ curves, there's the requisite RIAA and four other curves that are still TBC. Users can select (via remote control) input loading impedances—values from 35 ohms to 1500 ohms—to suit various moving coil cartridges; 47k ohms fixed for MM. The HD Phono is equipped with four inputs: MC balanced (XLR), MC unbalanced (RCA), MM (RCA); the fourth can be either another MC of choice, or a forthcoming tape-head input.

The rest of the rather comprehensive Nagra-focused setup included: Nagra CDC CD player, Nagra IV-S analog recorder (above), Nagra Classic PSU power supply. From the self-explanatory Nagra HD Series: a DAC X D/A processor, a PREAMP preamplifier, and an AMP power amplifier. Crystal Cable Da Vinci interconnects, uh, connected components, along with Shunyata Research Omega line cables; Shunyata also supplied an Everest 8000 power conditioner. Modulum Audio racks and amp stands supported the system. A Nagra VII Anniversary digital recorder alongside Nagra Audeze headphones was shown in a separate display (below).

A couple of Buena Vista Social Club tracks became a satisfying show closer. The HD gear sounded, well, HD: Highly resolved 3D images, convincing sense of life and scale. Full, flawless-seeming music emerged from dead-silent backgrounds in a seamless, continuous flow. Instrument timbres and vocals sounded right. I closed my eyes and felt swept away.

Anton's picture

I had to pass a credit check just to read this report!

I like this part: "Even if you have a floor that is not solid, you can dance in front of the turntable."

I admit to liking to do that.

Julie Mullins's picture

I like this part: "Even if you have a floor that is not solid, you can dance in front of the turntable."

I admit to liking to do that.

I do too. Sometimes. But most of all it's nice not to have to worry about even average footfalls.

MattJ's picture

Perhaps the first time I've ever seen Wilson speakers and wasn't immediately repulsed. They actually look pretty good in black.

Glotz's picture

So striking and innovative in sooo many ways. Kudos Nagra!

orfeo_monteverdi's picture

[please forgive my poor English]

Thanks Julie for that comprehensive technical description.

The same Nagra "Über-systeme" was displayed at the Brussel's HiFi show, but partnered with the “smaller” Wilson Audio AlexxV .
In my opinion, it was the Best Sound Of The Show this year (according to the Nagra team, it even played -slightly- better in Brussels than in Munich). I was not in Munich.

My personal feedback is here
- original version in French:

- (probably terrible) Google translation (I hope links are allowed)

Though I can copy-paste the images, the text is more important, imho.
XXL display

A vinyl that I brought. As silent as digital.

Going back in that room (for the 3rd time?), I pushed the door, I had barely taken a step, I still had the doorknob in my hand, receiving the direct sound in my left ear, and the reflected sound , in the right ear by reflection on the door still ajar, the first second, I say to myself at the moment: "OMG²!...we are in a concert hall* , here...". But no, as an orchestra, a flying saucer and two black monoliths.

* rather a contemporary hall, designed with modern means of modeling and acoustic measurement, than a "historic" hall (e.g. more like the outstanding Namur Concert Hall (inaugurated 2021), the Koningin Elisabethzaal Antwerpen (2017), or even the Philharmonie de Paris (2015), than a period hall, with a rounder, warmer sound and a little systematically "comfortable" such as, for example, the Palais des Beaux Arts de Bruxelles concert hall, La Monnaie opera house, or even the Musikverein Wien - in my opinion, the Berliner Philharmony is somewhere in the middle)

As die-hard audiophile (and ex-pro) who regularly attends acoustic, unamplified concerts (mainly classical) in the best seats of very good concerts halls, I feel more at home with that kind of comparison.