Each piece of Nagra equipment undergoes play testing and functionality checks once the preceding inspections for spec tolerances have signed off with a clean bill of health. The consumer audio play-test room contains JBL speakers for high-power tests because this model withstands abuse; Canadian Verity Audio speakers for audiophile subtlety; and purpose-built Supravox high-efficiency two-ways which act as noise sniffers. While most Nagra equipment traditionally won't find itself mated to ulta-sensitivity loudspeakers, the company insists that its equipment perform without noise regardless. The only way to be sure is to test
with such transducers. It's common sense but alas, not widely practiced at all.
The front end of the play-test system - all Nagra save for the turntable and cables.
For its CD player, Nagra's slightly modified Philips PRO2 transport is viscoelastically suspended on a slick motorized sled with integral display to hearken back to the days before quartz movements when analog watches and complex mechanics ruled our imaginations. In fact, the planetary reduction motor activating this drawer was developed by a NASA-approved supplier which equipped the Mars Rover robot. Matthieu 'don't do this at home' Latour demonstrated how the entire Nagra CD player can be safely picked up by its opened drawer. Now that's
don't try this at home with any non-Nagra machine. And, don't sharply angle the Nagra player whilst showing of this stunt or the ball bearings will eventually unseat as Greek importer Costas Kekemenis who routinely dazzles his audiences accordingly discovered one fine but overly exuberant day. In short, best not to - even though you could
In this play-test room, I also spotted one of Nagra's fancy DSM location monitors which I'd later encounter again in their model museum.
Also in this room was one of Nagra's Ares-P pocket recorders mounted right above a microphone for test purposes. Vertical integration and Nagra are virtually synonymous.
Equipment with a wide range of complex functionality must by necessity be tested for all its functionality and here one of Nagra's professional recorders was under scrutiny. The older gent in the white kilt too was merely days away from retirement and here supervised proper test protocol as the benign referee for his younger successor.
The array of test gear serving this station was suitably comprehensive.
The Ares-M II is an ultra-portable recorder with 2 or 4GB of internal flash memory, a USB 2 port and built-in microphone. Two Nagra-built optional microphones are either mono omni or stereo cardioid and as shown below, plug right into the top. Power derives from two AA batteries for more than 10 hours of operation. This is the only component which Nagra presently outsources to China to break into a lower price bracket. Still the Swiss facilities add a custom board and run extensive QC tests.
The perforated silvery wall facing this employee is a sophisticated ventilation system that generates quasi clean-room conditions for her work. Here we see one of the optional microphones for the Ares-M II which is intended primarily for speech recordings, i.e. journalists (with a lot more of these factory tours planned for next year rather than show reports, perhaps I should get one of these). This once again reminds us that Nagra the consumer audio company rides on the coat tails of Nagra the professional recording company. How does the old chestnut put it? "If you want to know what it really sounded like, talk to the recording engineer." Nagra's intimate ties to the recording arts distinguish their playback efforts from those of most competitors who work exclusively in the consumer domain.
Nagra's ever-present tie-in with the recording arts
directly reflects the appearance and functionality of this Nagra DAC with Swiss Anagram module. This machine more resembles a laboratory instrument than traditional hifi component..
On the ground floor of the K2 building, we walked past one large 'room' that was filled with stacks and stacks of rack-mount components to convey the impression of a computer server facility.
Around the corner and through another security gate, we entered the machine shop with its lady operator.
Here project just then was to create a metal version of this sub enclosure.
Nagra takes great pride in being more self-sufficient than many to depend less on subcontractors. Wherever parts fabrication is farmed out, Nagra buyers can confidently counter 'can't be done' by showing the vendor just how to do it. This became mandatory for example with the cleanly bent sheet metal cover of the pyramid amplifier. When Nagra requisitions with targeted specialty shops were turned down, the company's mechancial engineers developed the necessary jigs to prove that it could be done and how. This practical in-house expertise also assists the Nagra buyers in negotiating realistic parts pricing. Whenever vendors claim excessive labor times to accomplish some specific job, Nagra can retort with exactly how much time it'd take their own people. Dealing with Nagra, the other party knows their bluff is called and negotations get back on firm ground (or said vendor disqualified themselves in the process). Sometimes it's good to be big.