This wrap was longer in the wrapping than intended. Blame it on moving halfway across the US in the midst of the review; and the fact that the Genesis Phono Gold for comparison was delayed multiple times as they couldn't keep up with their Asian demand and rightly chose to serve paying customers first. But you also wouldn't be too far off if you suspected that I was really in no rush to return the VPS which proved to be a delightful sounding phono preamp during that time. The arrival of the Genesis a month ago reminded me of my obligations however; and Nagra’s incredible patience throughout the whole process. Being able to compare the Nagra to a similarly priced pure transistor device of very refined pedigree also reminded me that when reaching this level of perfectionist equipment, one does not really deal in 'better than' but differences in gestalt, preferences and varying degrees of system synergy.

Our editor speaks about it often and here again, the primary difference between those two phono preamplifiers was how they presented the inner musical tension. The Nagra favoured a more laid-back approach: relaxed, supple and fluid come to mind. As anybody familiar with the brand could have guessed, the Genesis offered a more unrestrained presentation which, before all else, made sure that the energy of the performance didn't tone down. This isn't about playing faster or slower although often may feel that way. It is about creating a different emotional state. Either state can be potentially as satisfying depending on the situation and needs of the listener. The adrenaline rush of driving a high-performance car on a circuit is nothing like sipping an old cognac whilst watching a gorgeous sunset. One doesn't trump the other. It doesn't even mean that the same person couldn't enjoy both at different times and in very different contexts. So think of the Genesis as a high-performance car and the Nagra as a finely aged cognac and you will be a step closer to their relative gestalt.

I could also hear differences at both frequency extremes. The Genesis offered more sparkle on top without being excessive in any way. Still, the Turkish percussion used by Nikolas Harnoncourt in the overture to Mozart’s Abduction from the serail had more of their natural bite and extension. Bass also showed nuances, with the Nagra being bigger but less defined where the Genesis played the card of tightness and sharper transients, very obvious in the soundtrack of Whiplash with its tremendously dynamic drum solos. And for those who'd like to stereotype tubes against solid state, I must report that I couldn't hear much difference on vocals. Both phono preamps sounded very rich and sensual on both male and female voices. Both had tremendous resolution without the excess of overemphasized sibilants. None of that here but simple intensity without deviation and a clear objective from both designers to create gear that showcases voices in all their unaffected beauty. Rarely do I hear two pieces of gear that offer the same level of refinement across the whole range of voices, from Johnny Cash to Sting, from Eva Cassidy to Marylin Horne or Leontyne Price. Yet both of these preamps sounded stunning on all of them, with hardly any difference to be heard.

As I experienced years ago between the solid-state Esoteric E03 and the triode-based NAT phono, the differences came down to preferences and the fact that my system doesn't need any harmonic reinforcement. Conversely, the widebanders in my Ocellias instantly telegraph any reduction in inner tension and drive. From that perspective the Genesis would be a slightly better mate but I can think of many other systems I heard over the years which would have greatly benefited from the Nagra’s greater ease, fluidity and meatier bass. The Nagra is the perfect remedy for anybody looking to put back a little soul in their system. It is also the perfect phono preamp for anybody owning a large collection of older, less-than-perfect vinyl that needs some TLC to not sound too thin or brash whilst preserving as much resolution as possible. As I pointed out in the first part of the review, the Nagra lets you choose between two flavours: the pure tube version which I did find excessively rounded but in the right context of a high-gain very lean system might be just the right remedy; or activating the extra solid-state gain to split the difference on drive and tension between the Genesis and pure-tube VPS. This versatility will also help fit the Nagra into a wider range of systems and accommodate a broad range of tastes. I can't think of many vinyl lovers who wouldn't thoroughly enjoy time in the company of the Nagra VPS!

Nagra Audio website