On The Bench: Nagra Jazz and MSA Monoblocks

I thought I was imagining things, so I reached out to Gideon Schwartz of Audio Arts in NYC to see if could lend a hand. By way of response, he sent me a Nagra Audio Jazz preamplifier and a pair of MSA amplifiers that he likes to run bridged, as monos.

I don’t hear a lot about Nagra these days, which is a shame, as they’re rather remarkable sounding. I have them here, running them with a pair of TIDAL Contriva Diaceras I rescued. And before all you neat-freaks feel the need to pile on, yes, I need to clean up. Bah. Go away now.

Right off the FedEx truck, the Nagra, it was hard to tell anything other than they’re on the far side of “refined”. Six hours of warm-up later (they’re demos, so they’re broken in), the Nagra are really … ah … good. Hee hee! The bass punch is stunning, and I want to say “for something this small”, but that’s not right, it’s just stunning, period.

I will also say this — I may not care how good the Nagra amps sound. I mean, that’s nice and all, but they’re so easy to move around! I almost can’t get over how compact and livable they are. Yes, there’s a switch-mode power supply in there and that’s why they’re so lightweight, but you know who’s in heaven right now? My lower back. Oh yeah. I just installed two monos and my back feels like a million bucks. That, all by itself, is monetizable folks. Sold! Okay, maybe not, but any day I get to avoid a slipped disc is a winner in my book.

Getting back to my earlier comment, you know, about needing a hand: what I’m trying to do is get a handle on a source component, and thought maybe some alternative electronics would help, just in case the “performance was being limited by” my reference bits — a pair of Pass Labs XA-100.5 monos with an XP-30 preamp.

Yeah, didn’t think so either, but you audiophiles are so picky when it comes to this stuff, I thought it’d be worth exploring it. Side bennie: I get to play with Nagra gear. Schaaaa-WING!

See? That’s “audio winning“.


  1. If I wanted a class D amplifier, why wouldn’t I just buy a Hypex NCore NC400 for a couple of hundred bucks like so many manufacturers are doing and hook it up to a power supply? That would save me about $19,000 on a pair of amps.

    One of my favorite examples of how I see high end audio equipment today is about is a Nagra preamp I saw a few years ago. The reviewer said it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. The signal circuit consisted of just three 6AT7 dual triodes. There are only so many ways to connect them, this is not magic, it’s straight forward electronic circuit design. The signal circuit was less complicated to build than a PAS3X. It could have been marketed in the US in the 1960s for well under $200 and built by hobbyists for well under $100, the only difference being that polypropylene capacitors didn’t exist yet as I recall. The price for that Nagra preamp….$10,000. I do think they come in very nice little boxes and the styling matches those wonderful little Mission Impossible tape recorders.

    I have no problem with people charging whatever they care to for their products. I also have no problem with people buying whatever they like at whatever price they pay (my friend who I thought was a pretty smart guy just went out and bought Blackberry phone, not even a Z10 and hates it. Now he’s locked in for two years.) The problem I have is the reviewers colluding with the manufacturers by refusing to even suggest that many of these products are very poor values, they just aren’t worth remotely what’s being asked for them. But then who pays for the advertising in those mags anyway? Stereo Review Magazine cut their own throat when they reported that in blind tests they could hear no difference between 16 gage lamp cord and Monster Cable. I’m sure Monster dropped their ads and they never made that kind of mistake again.

  2. I love the look of these products. Wasn’t there a Nakamichi amp that had a similar look a long time ago? I think that they were designed with help from Nelson Pass.

  3. I just ordered the Jazz to replace my PLL. I’d take Nagra over all overbuilt garbage. They probably have the longest product longevity on the market – definitely not for neurotic audiophiles on Audiogon. I use the 300i but always wanted an MSA. I doubt any Soulution or “luxury” marketed product can sound as good as this Nagra set. And I agree with Greg – these are so much sexier in that Swiss way than the two tanks sitting in the back of PTA’s room….

  4. Scot, you have got to start ‘working out’ your back. You are 10 years younger than me. Working out with weights twice a week will do wonders for your back. And please, revolve your workout around light Deadlifts. You simply will be amazed at what 3 sets twice a week will do:)

  5. What is the price in USD for the pair. About 15K? Is that each or for the pair. Id say thats why theu are not more popular.

    • They’re very expensive. I think the amps are about $10k each and the preamp is about $12k.

  6. Opposite to Jim , they look lovely in my opinion and they sound so ,too.
    Other way, de gustibus non est disputandum, if you know what I mean 😉

    • Lovely they are! … I’m not much for ‘dead languages’ (latin?) heh heh heh sorry … :-/

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Spring Break: What’s Up Next | Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile

Comments are closed.