By Lam Seng Fatt
After I had tried the Nagra Classic Preamp with the Bryston 4B SST (see http://av2day.com/2019/12/nagra-classic-preamp-using-the-balanced-outputs-is-a-must/) and paired the Lamm LL2 Deluxe preamp with the Nagra Classic Amp (see http://av2day.com/2019/12/nagra-classic-amp-another-smooth-operator/) the next thing to do was to match the two Nagras together the way they were designed to be.
I used a YS Encore CD transport (which features a Philips CDM4 transport) with a van den Hul Digi-Coupler coaxial cable and a van den Hul AES-EBU Professional cable connected to the Wyred4Sound DAC2. From the DAC, I used a pair of WyWires Platinum interconnects and a pair of Oyaide QAC-212R (which uses the much-praised Hitachi LC-OFC copper) XLR interconnects to connect to the Nagra Classic Preamp.
From the Nagra Preamp, I used a pair of Mogami 2803 terminated with KLEI Absolute RCA plugs interconnects and a pair of Mogami 2534 XLR cables connected to the Nagra Classic Amp. Speakers were the ATC SCM50 floorstanders and speaker cables were the Kimber 12TC. All power cables were plugged into the MIT Z-Strip power conditioner. I used the supplied power cables and sLAM Tenaga power cables (which are my own design).
When paired together, Nagra’s sonic signature of neutral and natural sound was amplified. This can be very pleasant or it can be a bit too smooth and dull. Your reaction would depend very much on what you are seeking in terms of sonic perfection. If you want tons of PRAT and a hard-hitting sound, especially when you play rock songs, and you desire a harder leading edge, then you may find the Nagra Classic preamp and Amp combination a bit too smooth with rounded-off leading edges of music. After playing several CDs, I felt that it sounded too smooth. So I ventured to tune the sound to be more dynamic and exciting.
First I have to mention the differences between the single-ended and the balanced connections. It was a simple matter of switching the connection from the YS Encore CD transport to the Wyred4Sound DAC2 to the van den Hul Digi-Coupler coaxial cable. From the DAC to the Nagra Classic preamp, it was a pair of WyWires Platinum interconnects and from the preamp to the Nagra Classic Amp, it was a pair of Mogami 2803 terminated with KLEI Absoute RCA plugs.
The single-ended connections throughout resulted in a congested sound within a narrow soundstage. However, it was not as congested and narrow compared with the Nagra Classic preamp and Bryston 4B SST pairing.
Then I switched to an all-balanced connection. From the CD transport, it was a van den Hul AES-EBU Professional cable that sent the digital data to the DAC. From the DAC to the preamp, it was a pair of Oyaide QAC-212R XLR interconnects that was used, and from the preamp to the amp, it was a pair of Mogami 2534 XLR cables. This resulted in a wide soundstage and well spread out sound with more space between the musicians and singer. If you own the Nagra Classic Preamp and Amp, it is essential to use them in balanced mode to have the best performance. However, the sound was a bit too smooth and dull.
So I switched the Mogami 2534 XLR cables with a pair of Audience AU24 SX XLR cables and the Kimber 12TC speaker cables with a pair of Audience AU24 SX speaker cables. Connected this way, the sound became a bit leaner (which seems to be the trademark signature of Audience cables) but more hard hitting. There was more excitement when the system was connected with the Audience cables in the loop.
So it goes to show that while the Nagra Classic Preamp and Nagra Classic Amp are designed for each other, there is a need to use interconnects and speaker cables to tune the sound quality to your liking. It also goes to show that the Nagra pre and power amp combination is transparent enough to reveal differences in sound quality between different interconnects, speaker cables and even power cords. I had a Nordost Frey 2 power cord and when I used it for a while, I could discern that it sounded brighter than the power cord that came with the Nagra.
As to whether the 100 watts pumped out by the Nagra Classic Amp are sufficient, I played music real loud with the ATC SCM50 speakers, which are 85dB in sensitivity, and the Modulometer showed that the power output barely peaked at 10 watts.
The Nagra Classic preamp retails at RM75,000 while the Nagra Classic Amp retails at RM72,000. For more details, contact Perfect Hi-Fi (Kuala Lumpur branch) at 03-2142-1693.