NAGRA 70th Year Anniversary Vinyl Album Review.

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, Nagra has introduced its 70th Anniversary 45 RPM double LP. The set consists of all analog material sourced from analog master tapes. The LPs include tracks by Bill Evans, Louis Armstrong, Monty Alexander, and Buddy Tate as well as some full-blooded audiophile tracks recorded on the legendary Nagra IV -S tape machine. 

This double vinyl LP 45rpm 200g AAA vinyl (all-analog recording, mixing & mastering) was mastered by René Laflamme at 2xHD on Nagra equipment, cut by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering, plated by Master Craft and pressed at Le Vinylist in Quebec.
Cover design Michel Bérard. Produced by Matthieu Latour and René Laflamme at Nagra.

The Music

This is pure analog recording and one of the rare 45 RPMs where I did not mind standing up, switching sides, and sitting down with a big smile on my face in anticipation of taking more. 
The careful selection of Matthieu Latour and René Laflamme makes this double LP a musical and sonic gem. 
Side A
Bill Evans – Very Early – from Some Other Time
I was immediately pleasantly taken with the clean, realistic presence of the piano, the vivid overlays of piano notes, the natural separation of instruments, the forte quality, and the non-rounded tops leading edges. It was super easy to get immersed in the music without being distracted by any particular sonic attributes or flavors, escaping often-induced tonal tinting. 
The small club spirit was presented most impressively. The double bass had the necessary vibrancy reflecting life-like ambisonics. As with a piano, every note of double had a crystal clear presence and realistic harmonicity.
Piltch and Davis – Horizontal Blue – from Take One
I was surprised by the pulsating rhythm hiatus where the precise timing of ride cymbals and their physical presence were bestowed holographically escaping the 2D phenomena. It was startling to observe solid, focused, and captivating bass descending into the submarine depths.
Not only did the snare snap with lightning speed, but it did so with that familiar lifelike energy and timbre. The same goes for the toms, which were laid clearly and distinctly as a true drum battery should be.  
There is this unique lightness and smoothness in the flow of the music, mixed with the vivid vision in which the piano escapes from the speakers, making it ethereal yet super tactile, and both notes and percussion beats not only have the required metallic timbre and tangibility but also materialize with realistic plasticity. 
Side B:
Buddy Tate – Stardust – from I Cried for You
The raw energy, massive dynamics, and sheer presence of the Tate saxophone are breathtaking, to say the least. The requisite timbral accuracy, super-clear foundation in the sound sphere, and unique energy effect create a particularly strong bond. It literally bites the ears and gets under the skin and into the bones, but not in an intrusive, artificial way. “Stardust” exudes a raw sharpness and vibrancy that can be encountered in real life 
Not only did the tonal mass of the saxophone impress. The sound and color of the instruments, and the sense of space and air around them, were also remarkable.
Marlene VerPlanck – Deep in a Dream (Rudy Van Gelder rec.) – from I Think of You With Every Breath I Take
The intoxicating beauty of “Deep in a Dream” gives an intimate, soothing yet rejuvenating encounter, a propulsive interaction with the most impressive being there factor. 
“Deep in a Dream” is all about the gentle tones, a glorious aural vista with a unique alacrity that exudes a vibrant glow in the music.
Not only VerPlanck’s voice, but every note of the glorious, mute trumpet oozes the same sonic opulence. 
Side C:
The L.A. Network – Take 5 – from Dave Brubeck Redux
this wonderful rendition of Dave Brubeck’s most famous composition begins with a concise blend of drums and piano, topped by hypnotic interplay.
The L.A. Network makes “Take 5” a delightfully inviting musical encounter with the newfound, off-the-charts horizontal and vertical expansiveness that left me amazed with everything  so well defined and the notes appearing concisely (according to their nature) in the sound matrix 
On a few occasions during the track, the natural reverberation astounded me with the way the drums lingered with extended decay times and delays without losing the magnificence of pure energy and moving mass of sound.
At some moments the drums became startlingly real, especially the physical presence of the toms visualized with pinpoint fixation.
Monty Alexander Trio – Samba de Orfeu – from Love You Madly
With Alexander in action, there is never any holding back, the music just moves you 
It seems as if the core rhythm of the music is deeply embedded in Alexander’s DNA. The Nagra LP gives “Samba de Orfeu” a firm feel, where the music never falls apart with a dynamic shift, but keeps the sheer drama intact, maintaining the tempo and all the sublime details with brilliance. The sublime inner action is quickly revealed, with the congas maintaining their pulsation and not digressing from the main narrative, but remaining a singular, yet unseparated potent harmonic part.
Drum Sound Check – Dynamics demo (Recorded and played by Matthieu Latour)
Not everyone knows that Latour is a drummer and also has the luxury of setting up and playing the drum kit in the official Nagra listening room. 
So a pure audiophile drummer recording of the drum check on a legendary Nagra IV -S with a pair of iconic Neumann U-87 is something out of the ordinary, and what was captured on the tape only proves it.
The drum recording was made in the new 30 m2 Nagra studio room (second listening room) with a monitoring system consisting of the complete Nagra Classic line and a pair of Wilson Audio SASHA DAW loudspeakers. The room is highly treated to be as neutral as possible.  
Making a drum kit sound full, natural, and real is a daunting task. It can quickly go wrong if you overdo it and make it sound either too lively or too pale. 
“Drum Sound Check – Dynamics demo” gets you as close to reality as possible, capturing the poly directionality of drums playing in multiple directions without blurring the leading edges of metal and wood drums, nor dispersing the timbre.  
The almost eerie actuality of ride cymbals and wind chimes expand and fixate themselves extraordinarily in a three-dimensional holographic sphere. They have physical weight and dynamic expansion from the lower registers to the highest heights that stand out with a natural burst popping out at once when call upon. 
Drums can easily sound too cluttered or amplified in the listening room if not recorded properly, accentuating the room, fueling room modes, and making the drums and music sound unsettled. Not so with Latour’s Magic in Action!
This is a great, tantalizing sonic affair, and I’d love to see Latour turn it into a longer interactive dégustation. 
Still, the essence of what is possible is superbly captured. Clearly defined drumming, topped with the requisite drum forte attitude is probably the best I have encountered on vinyl to date. 
Side D:
Marc Vallée Trio – Caméléon (Recorded by René Laflamme on a Nagra IV -S with a Fidelio RL-1 custom tube microphone in M-S technique) – from Hamadryade
“Caméléon” sparks instant goosebumps and a salient scale of music with an excellent lower foundation, clear presence, and remarkable continuity where the music hits you directly and immediately and you escape the sensory guards 
There are many moments in “Caméléon” that capture the attention, such as the slack bass with its dense harmonic richness that cuts through the sonic clout with real-world tone and a taut forte quality 
The didgeridoo adds unexpected drama, and again nothing falls apart. Neither sonically, nor dynamically. All this is crowned by tonal correctness that works sublimely in the golden triangle of timbre tone and color.
OSL – The Soldier’s March (Igor Stravinsky) [Live recording. Recorded by René Laflamme on a Nagra IV -S with only one microphone (Neumann SM -69 tube) using Blumlein microphone technique]
It is always extremely difficult to capture the natural rawness of brass instruments no matter what the medium, but Laflamme has managed to make “The Soldier’s March” an incredible acoustic and musical collage obliquely radiating with no hidden undertones or particular sonic underpinning.
“The Soldier’s March” carries a sheer drama and weight of instruments throughout the track without collapsing when the percussion crescendo kicks in, and continues its sonic equilibrium with micro and macro dynamics, keeping the essential dynamism intact to the very end, with a clear sense of space of instruments placed in their designated positions. 
“The Soldier’s March” reflects a real reverberation, captured by the enormous amount of acoustic cues and anchor points, and rendered without overemphasis, creating a most favorably coherent musical momentum.
Trio de Curda – Oblivion recorded by René Laflamme on a Nagra IV -S with only one microphone [Neumann SM -69 tube] in Blumlein microphone technique – from Liber Tango
The Piazzolla mood of Oblivion melts the heart already with the first opening notes.
Again, Oblivion cements a remarkable bass foundation that fills the room with an unusual sense of authority and energy, enhanced by the requisite lifelike resonant roughness of the bow and the harmonic richness of the accordion.
It is always difficult to speak of moving air. But the “Oblivion” moved the air molecules without artifice making them liquidated. 
If this track does not set the internal clock in motion, get the blood pumping, and create an emotional bond, something in the system must be out of balance. “Oblivion” is a real thing, a straight-shooter, no chaser!


The NAGRA 70th Year Anniversary Collection offers simply beautiful music selected, recorded, mastered, and transferred to the black grooves by René Laflamme with fanatical dedication and the utmost passion, resulting in a reference authority of music with instantaneous immediacy and lifelike presence.
This album is a pure audiophile reference collection of recordings that can be enjoyed with full concentration on the music, rather than analytically dissecting the sound.
The spot-on tonal balance and realistic dynamic range are the silver lining on both disks, on which (on a well-balanced high-end audio system) the fabrics and colors of the music enter into an exciting interactive dialogue.
It’s also impressive how the real ambiance takes over the sonic sphere without any particular frequency spectrum dominating, which again points to the careful work of and painstaking efforts of getting everything right 
When true balance is achieved, sonic excellence needs no subsequent belated recognition, and that was precisely my first and last reaction to the NAGRA 70th Anniversary vinyl. The musical and sonic panacea is served up immediately and in full, with no need to foreground the contrast between sound and music. Laflamme has hit exactly the right sweet spot 
The NAGRA 70th Year Anniversary Collection album offers a sovereign analog experience with too many exuberant bejesus moments to count. This sybaritic experience elicits spontaneous reactions and costs only a fraction of what other high-profile sensory delights usually demand.
The NAGRA 70th Year Anniversary Collection album is not the usual analog ahoy, but a true balm for the soul with precipitating effects and tactile reality checks on all four sides of the Nagra double vinyl album.
For what it represents musically and sonically, I am pleased to present the NAGRA 70th Year Anniversary Collection with the Mono & Stereo 2022 Editors Choice Award. •
Matej Isak


  • $79.99


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