The Stellavox was the only true alternative to the Nagra portable audio recorder.

Also made in Switzerland and reputedly by some ex-Nagra employees, these machines were more
compact, rather better finished and felt perhaps more developed than the Nagra. It was as if Nagra
had left their own masterpiece slightly unfinished and that the Stellavox was something of an
advanced refinement. But things are never that simple and in addition to the interesting
relationship that existed between these two companies, their products also show quite strongly
differing personalities. As an amateur enthusiast I was inclined to think that the Stellavox was the
best portable reel-to-reel recorder ever made. It certianly was a very expensive and rare beast,
and when I had the opportunity to acquire one of these Swiss portable recorders, it was a
Stellavox that I went for. However, I was not going to earn my living with it or try and build a
reputation with one. But I imagine that many professionals did, and having had the chance
reciently to re-acqiaint myself with some Nagra machines, I concluded that they were just
differing 'solutions' to a similar set of problems. Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to
compare their audio quality, but have included their specifications on the site.

An impression might be formed that the smaller and more compact Stellavox recorder seems to
contain rather more contradictions in it's make up. I believe that it was not as well accepted in the
film industry or as widely known generally (though this could be down to discontinuities of
representation, at least in the UK). but they were used when a highly portable, non sync but high
performance audio recorder was needed. Like the Nagra, variations of the Stellavox were made
for multi-channel instrumentation recording, and there were versions for 4 track 'Quadraphonic' as
well as higest quality stereo mastering (this version was known as the 'Stellamaster'). Subject to
encouraging though mixed reviews by Hugh Ford in Studio Sound in the early 1970's, to use a
Stellavox was to be rather 'diffrent', which perhaps was also part of their attraction. However on
these pages are examples of both the Nagra and the Stellavox, so perhaps some own conclusions
may be drawn.
The above picture is my own Stellavox SU8, and this was one of the last models from the
original Stellavox company, this particular example dates from the mid 1980's. The 'U' stands
for universal, because this version of the recorder came 'loaded' with a full range of modules
and options as follows:

MSP module - switchable mono, stereo, 'snchrotone' and 'neopilot' head assembley
SXQ module - crystal pilot tone generator
SQS module - in-built synchronizer module and associated front panel controls
SOT option - balanced 600 Ohm input/output transformers and seperate connections.
AMC tape counter unit

The recorder also has switchable 48V phantom or 'T' microphone powering together with a two
position low frequency microphone filter, peak limiters and three position gain attenuators
(these were fairly standard options I beleive). The microphone gain controls have the optional
'ganged' gearing arrangement, and can be mixed with adjustable line inputs. Stellavox also made
a recorder powered external microphone pre-amplifier (and various other external modules), so
that one could have a fairly self-contained set of 4 microphone inputs if required. Oh, and the
moulded plastic reel cover had the machined-satin-chromed 'thingy' fitted, for actuating the slate
toggle while the machine is sitting in it's leather case.

The recorder's specifications may be found here.
Portable Reel-To-Reel Audio Tape Recorder
The father of the Stellavox, Mr Georges Quellet himself was kind enough to send me this image of
his earilier SM5 recorder*.

It would seem that in 1950's in addition to those in America and Britian, a number of people in
Switzerland were also developing high quality reel-to-reel magnetic tape recorders. Whereas Mr
Studer would go on to produce his superb professional full size machines, Stephan Kudelski and
Georges Quellet made far more 'pocketable' tape recorders. As a school boy I can also just
remember the British Fi-cord brand of minature audio recorders, though 30 years later I found out
that these tiny exotic machines were also made in Switzerland (by Georges Quillet it would
appear). It was though perhaps obvious that the combination of minature electronics and precision
mechanics needed to make a high quality tape recorder would suit a country also known for
watchmaking, and one could argue that the end results would be some of the finest examples of
20th Century electro-mechanical engineering.

* It is possible that he will collaborate in a book about hs machines, do please let me know if you
think this a worthwile project and I can advise the author.
The
I am told that Mr Quellet was proud of the robust, compact and recessed control panel of his
recorder. In contrast to the unique coaxial peak metering of the Nagra, Stellavox used an
opposing pair of conventional VU meters. Though in this model there are also a couple of peak
indicating LEDs. These actually show the limiters in action if that mode is selected. This
machine also has the extra LED and meter rotary switch for the in-built pilot tone resolver. The
circular disk between the microphone gain controls is actually a gear wheel that can be pushed
inwards to engage with the transparent 'gears' surrounding these controls to 'gang' them together.
Here is a view of the right side of the machine, with (left to right) speed change switch,
balanced 600 Ohm input and output 4mm sockets and headphone socket with volume + mode
controls (left only, right only, stereo).
Left side of the machine containing input and outputs: power, sync heads, line outs/external
noise reduction loops, and microphone inputs. There is also a mono/stereo switch and a 2
position bass cut switch. The vertical pin on the extreme right is one of the carrying strap
attachment points.
(Click on any of the above images to get pictures of the machine's insides.)