The compositional dependence of the soft magnetic properties of the nanocrystalline Fe–Zr–Nb–B alloys has been investigated. The magnetostriction (λs) and the grain size of the (Fe90Zr7B3)1-x(Fe84Nb7B9)x alloys, which are two typical ternary alloys mixed with the best soft magnetic properties, show intermediate values between those of the Fe90Zr7B3 with negative λs and the Fe84Nb7B9 with positive λs. However, the soft magnetic properties of the Fe–(Zr, Nb)7–B alloys are inferior to those of the Fe90Zr7B3 and the Fe84Nb7B9 alloys. The best soft magnetic properties have been obtained at Zr+Nb=6 at. %. The Fe85.5Zr2Nb4B8.5 alloy shows a high μ- ;e of 60 000 at 1 kHz, a high Bs of 1.64 T, and zero λs, simultaneously. The alloy also exhibits a very low core loss of 0.09 W/kg at 1.4 T and 50 Hz, which is extremely lower than that of Fe–Si–B amorphous alloys. The nanocrystalline Fe–Zr–Nb–B alloys with improved soft magnetic properties are therefore suitable for pole transformers. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.