Nagra IV-L: the pinnacle of tape recorder UI


One of the hardest finals I ever took in college involved correctly identifying every knob, switch, and component of the Nagra IV. I still dream about it from time to time.


The Nagra IV-S…the stereo version…was so good in its day that a lot of record albums were mastered from 16 or 24 track tape to Nagra back “in the day” in the Bay Area in the early 1970s. The Nagra recorded and sounded better than most of the best studio 2 track machines of that day, surpassed only by the Ampex MR70 and later the ATR100, and then just barely. The Nagras still stand up as among the best tape machines of all times. My oldest son has one up at his recording studio in Marin…beautiful piece of kit!

1 Like

O lord yes. I was offered one of these second hand in the late 70s but couldn’t afford it. But I really wanted it. Wonderful machines in every way. Now I have an acute attack of nostalgia.

I used it in film school in the early 2000’s. The mono version sounded effing AMAZING. And to this day it has the best, gentlest limiter I’ve seen on a portable device.

We took an old one apart once and it was so cool seeing all the analog electronics they crammed inside it. Way different than a computer circuit board.


Post photos of the guts please!

I have a tiny Minifon wire recorder from 1952 with a similar level of miniaturization but not quite as high build quality (molded plastic case). Still, amazing little machines.


First time I ever heard of a Nagra was in this movie:


I owned a Nagra III and IV in the early '70s when I worked as a motion-picture sound recordist. Both recorders were amazing tools. I still get excited when I see one as a prop in a film, so your post was one I couldn’t pass up. Thanks, Cory!

Needs more Nixie tubes.


A couple of my instructors mentioned them (EDIT: Nagras, that is). I had the impression that using one would be the audio equivalent of wielding Excalibur. (I believe we had the Pro Walkman for location recordings; we had still-sort-of-new DAT machines in the studio.)

Anyway, later on I saw “Nagra” pop up a lot in the liner notes of field recordings (e.g. Ocora).

Sometimes, nothing is more beautiful than a ton of knobs and switches. Looks like power.



I have always wanted a Nagra, and nearly bought one on several occasions. Stellavox recorders can also be preposterously swanky.

I’ve got two nice portable reel-to-reels which are decent, but not in the same league. A Uher 4400 Report Monitor and a Tandberg Model 11.

Have not used one of those since the late 80s. Amazing gear.

Been wanting to rewatch that movie lately but can’t find my DVD of it.

It could be yours for a measly $2500:

Chump change, compared to some of the high end digital audio cables these days!


Holy crap, this thing is porn.

But mono? Geez, talk about yestertech.

1 Like

I’ve spent hundreds of hours driving one of these things, or one of it’s siblings. I would argue that the IV-L’s replacement the 4.2 had some significant upgrades, both in UI and performance, but for sheer amazement value nothing beat the stereo model, the IV-S. Its double-needle modulometer is nothing less than an engineering work of art.

Me too, and Diva is a fantastic movie!

Oh yeah. Pity Jean-Jacques Beineix didn’t do much more cinema work after that. Lovely cinematography. On the basis of the movie I read the novel it was based on. Not nearly as good, though.

I’m having a hard time with scale here. The only Nagras I know of are reel-to-reel. Is this a cassette recorder?