Nagra at Ajasom Jazz Festival

Ajasom-Nagra_Kharma full system front.jpg

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Even though it wasn't the first time we, at Hificlube, had heard an audio system with Nagra components and Kharma Midi- Exquisite 3.0 speakers in the Ajasom-Damaia auditorium, this time, with the Nagra 70th Anniversary Reference turntable as the source, the sound quality surpassed all our expectations.

I'll go even further: it was the best sound I've ever heard at Ajasom, and I had no hesitation in saying so loud and clear to the attendees who listened attentively to Kerry St James' technical and musical presentations.

Kerry came to visit from Switzerland with some rare and expensive LPs from his collection for our enjoyment. We had the pleasure of listening to a reproduction of Gil Evans' historical arrangements of "Miles Ahead," which Miles Davis performed at Montreux for the very last time, shortly before he passed away.


In his long and interesting introduction, an excerpt of which you can see in the video below, Kerry explained how the album "Miles & Quincy: Live at Montreux" was recorded live on 8 July 1991. Quincy Jones had somehow persuaded Miles Davis to play earlier versions of his music when he was already at an advanced creative stage.

The concert was also a tribute to Gil Evans, who had died a few years earlier. Jones had the idea of using two orchestras and conducted both the Gil Evans Orchestra and the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band, with guest instrumentalists who had played with Davis, including trumpeters Benny Bailey and Wallace Roney, drummer Grady Tate, bassist Carles Benavent and alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett.

Miles died a few months later, and with this album, he posthumously won his seventh Grammy Award for "Best Jazz Big Band Record".

It's a long story, so here's a brief introduction by Kerry St James and a musical taste for you, which I recorded 'live-in-room', of a record of great quality and enormous symbolic value:

Even though most of these top musicians are no longer with us, we had some of the finest audio components playing their music for us instead:

  • Nagra Reference Anniversary Turntable
  • Nagra MC Reference MC-4 Cartridge
  • Nagra HD Phono
  • Nagra Classic Preamp
  • Nagra Classic Amp (2 x monoblocks)
  • Kharma Midi Exquisite 3.0 (loudspeakers)
  • Kimber Cable Select (cables: interconnect and speaker)
  • Stromtank S2500 (Power Source)
  • Shunyata Research (Power Cables)
Nagra MC Reference MC-4 Cartridge

Nagra MC Reference MC-4 Cartridge

As is always the case with audio, a system is only as good as its source. In this case, we had one of the best turntables in the world playing the LPs: the Nagra 70th Anniversary Reference Turntable, equipped with the new Nagra MC Reference MC-4 Cartridge and yet another new product: the Nagra HD Phono.

Nagra Classic Preamp + Nagra HD Phono

Nagra Classic Preamp + Nagra HD Phono

Nagra Classic AMP

Nagra Classic AMP

As for the Nagra 70th Anniversary Reference Turntable, it's one of a kind:

  • Limited Edition: Only 79 units of this turntable were produced. 
  • Design and Development: The turntable is the result of four years of research and development by a tema of designers, and engineers in applied physics, mechanical and electronic engineering, and material science.
  • Drive Unit: The heart of the Reference Anniversary turntable is its motor drive system. It employs dual high precision Swiss-amde, decoupled, brushless DC motors.
  • Speed Stability: The turntable features a technology for absolute speed calibration. An accelerometer monitors the floating chassis to ensure that it is stable.
  • Belt System: The belt used in the motor drive was inspired by the iconic Nagra IV-S tape machine.
  • Platter: The platter is made of highly specialised, very high density (60% more dense than titanium), non-ferrous alloy with extreme damping properties, called Exium AM.
  • Price: in Europe (depending on country), the Nagra Reference Anniversary turntable costs around €169,500.
  • The good news: Each unit includes an 'in-home' setup and dial-in by Nagra factory specialists, as well as an invitation to a VIP tour of the Nagra factory.

But who better than Kerry St James to present Nagra's 70th-anniversary Reference turntable in his own words:


Finally, I end this jazz session with two musical samples, first from saxophonist Gene Ommans, who performs in the left channel sounding uncannily real, followed by a mono recording from the 1950s when Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington played together for the first time.

Of course, we also heard some classical music LPs, including a breathtaking performance of the New World Symphony by Antonín Dvorák with Istvan Kertész conducting the stunning Vienna Philharmonic; am appropriately devilish Dance Macabre (Witches Brew) by the New Symphony Orchestra of London, conducted by Alexander Gibson, and a Cantate Domino (by Proprius) that moved me to tears.

The music that was heard at Ajasom was wonderful. I hope that the audio from the recorded videos, which I captured with a Nagra SD digital recorder (courtesy of Ajasom), has given a small but authentic taste of the musical event. At least these historical records will be preserved for posterity.

According to Kerry St James, this is a dream system that showcases the full potential of high-end audio. Ultimately, everyone must accept what they have and make the best of it. Such is life.


Many years ago, I wrote an article titled "Analogue Art" where I compared the vinyl record to a mourner dressed in black attending the funeral of the CD. However, Miles’ LP seems to be celebrating his afterlife, with its bright flaming red. It appears that the rumours of the LP's death have been greatly exaggerated.

See you again in Munich, Kerry.

For further information, please contact: AJASOM


Note: all photos by Pedro Henriques

Ajasom Nagra Kharma full system front

Nagra MC Reference MC-4 Cartridge

Nagra Classic Preamp + Nagra HD Phono

Nagra Classic AMP