Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable Unveiled
Renowned Swiss high-end hi-fi brand Nagra is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and has announced its Reference Anniversary Turntable.
Nagra's Reference Anniversary Turntable not only marks the company's 70th birthday but is a special occasion for a name synonymous with analogue recording and playback.
Four years in the making and apparently hundreds upon hundreds of scientific team hours, accompanied by exhaustive listening tests, we're told that the resulting turntable, the first from the brand, pushes the envelope of turntable design.
The heart of the Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable is its multi-motor drive system that employs dual high-precision, Swiss made, decoupled, brushless DC motors and alone tips the scales at 11.2 kg/24.6 lb - the turntable weighs 80 kg all-in. The company states that this arrangement optimises both torque and speed accuracy.
Additionally, to guarantee speed stability, the turntable features calibration using an accelerometer that monitors the floating chassis to ensure that it is absolutely stable; otherwise, calibration does not occur. If all is OK, calibration takes place over a 20 second window, during which time the platter's speed is precisely calibrated during actual playback, i.e., with the stylus in the groove. During this cycle, the platter's speed is compared with a high precision quartz reference. Any deviation from this absolute speed reference is corrected accordingly.
An easy to read, distinctly Nagra Modulometer on the turntable's front control panel makes calibration (and pitch control) simple. During listening, no active speed control is employed. While listening, the motors are only running in a closed-loop mode. Cogging and associated side-effects on image stability generated by such systems are avoided by eliminating active speed control.
For the belt used in the motor drive, Nagra looked at its own IV-2 tape machine, undertaking chemical analysis of the belt composition of the original high-performance part and faithfully reproduced it as the company that used to make is no longer in business. In recognition of this, Nagra's LP drive has been dubbed Nagra IV – LXX caliber.
For the chassis and sub-chassis, massive plates of aircraft-grade aluminium and phenolic have been precisely CNC machined to form a low resonance, high rigidity, layered structure of aluminium/phenolic/aluminium sandwich. We're informed that this prevents sound colouration from the system's mechanical parts.
Meanwhile, a suspension system that took the HD PREAMP and HD DAC X as inspiration was devised, combining mechanical and hydraulic principles. The substantial suspension pillars employ a spring mechanism alongside a highly viscous fluid in a “diver/chamber” configuration. These combined provide suspension and displacement in three dimensions.
The result, says Nagra, is unparalleled resistance to both self-generated and room/airborne vibrations and resonances with quoted lab measurements confirming “a self-resonance of the suspended chassis of less than 3Hz”.
The Nagra Anniversary Turntable's 6.5 kg/14.3 lb platter comprises a very high density (60% denser than titanium), non-ferrous alloy with extreme damping properties. This alloy is called Exium AM and was developed by a French company after a special request of the CNES (equivalent to NASA in France) in collaboration with the famous Ecole des Mines de Paris. The result is a highly inert platter and the first-ever audio component to be produced using Exium AM alloy.
Beneath the platter is a sub-platter and shaft/bearing system whose most notable features include a sub-platter machined from high strength aluminium. A phenolic interlayer is applied atop the sub-platter for resonance decoupling. The transition from sub-platter to the shaft/bearing system is accomplished via a machined brass adapter which is re-machined while mounted for tightest tolerances. The shaft/bearing housing is machined from spheroidal graphite iron.
The ultra-precision shaft is fabricated from induction hardened steel treated using a centuries-old watchmaker's finishing procedure. The shaft bushing is machined of sintered bronze and high temperature/pressure impregnated with oil for maintenance-free operation. The bearing is comprised of stacked carbide balls polished to the highest grade possible.
On the platter, the antistatic, 22 mm/0.87-inch thick, transparent methacrylate surface is a really lovely touch. Like a skeleton watch case, this allows the Reference Anniversary turntable's motor drive system to be visible. A further nod to Switzerland's watch heritage are the words “Swiss Made” engraved on the caliber. Likewise, parts of the drive mechanism appear in both “Côtes de Genève” or Damaskeening and “soleillage” finishes.
Additional engraving includes a reference diagram of the drive system's belt path, importantly acknowledging Nagra's founder, Stefan Kudelski's genius, as well as Swiss horologic expertise.
The Reference Anniversary turntable benefits from Nagra's supercapacitor-based HD PREAMP and HD DAC X external power supplies. In addition to using supercapacitors in the external power supply, the motor drive system was designed to utilise multiple supercapacitors at the source of demand - the motor drive itself – thus realising the tremendous benefit of having the energy source right next to the demand.
The 10.5-inch Reference Anniversary tonearm was developed alongside the turntable to ensure total symbiosis. Featuring a dual concentric carbon fibre tube, the tonearm wand includes an intermediary layer of wood. The wood is used to form shape as well as to eliminate potential vibration. The manufacturer states that this results in an ultra-rigid, extremely-low resonance platform for the cartridge connection and bearing mounting. Custom silver monocrystal internal wiring is courtesy of Crystal Cable.
The tonearm's bearing is a simple, extremely precise, CNC machined, hardened steel cone captured in a resonance isolating, silicone damped, ultra-high-density polyethylene receiving cup.
The tonearm's traditional counterweight is supplemented by a low hung, saddle-shaped weight providing stability while minimising the tonearm's effective mass.
Precise alignment of stylus geometry in an LP's grooves is critical. A sophisticated magnetic anti-skating mechanism was designed to achieve this goal. In addition, the vertical tracking angle of the cartridge can be adjusted “on the fly”. An oversized, high-precision rotary collar facilitates smooth, exactingly fine adjustments and permits up to 10 mm/0.4-inches of vertical travel. Finally, cartridge azimuth adjustment is facilitated by what Nagra claims is “a simple yet ingenious eccentric portion of the tonearm”, which, via an accompanying dial, permits precise adjustment of this critical parameter.
Even the copper record weight included with the turntable was apparently the subject of intensive research and listening tests.
In Australia, the Nagra Anniversary Turntable has a ticket price of a cool $260,000 and is limited to seventy units worldwide. Each turntable includes in-home set-up and dial-in by Nagra factory specialists, an invitation to visit the Nagra factory for a VIP tour and exclusive accessories.
StereoNET’s resident rock star, bass player, and gadget junkie. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.