DERANGED FREAK'S REVIEW
First minute with another Nord Lead and I'm already kinda pissed off.
Those delivery bastards squashed the box. If the box had been carrying
an Oberheim OB12 inside, or Alesis Ion, or Korg Z1, nothing would have
happened. But da NERD LEAD is so flimsy that the casing got disfigured
at the edges. I would really appreciate it if the Swedish alloy was 2
milimeters thicker. Right now I could smash this synth to pieces with
one drunken-monkey kungfoo kick.
OK, calm down, it's
just a momentary mishap. I'm forgetting all the previous negative
experiences with my Nord 2x and I try to rediscover the Nord series in
a fresh way. This is series 3, after all! So it's logical to assume
(at least according to my type of logic) that
this is going to be a much improved synth, free of the bugs or drawbacks
of the 2 series. It was 2000 euro new, it's still 1000 euro used.
It's gotta be top-notch.
Let's have some fun
with the Arpeggiator for a start. Set the ARP on, play some notes,
and... uhm. What's that? Why is the arpeggio sequence choppy and why
does it retrigger with ugly intervals at key-strikes? I can't find any
solution for that in the settings. I'm starting to feel nervous, but
at the same time I tell myself "don't let yourself get nervous, it's
too early". Let's read the manual
inside out. Nothing about that issue. Okay... so what other cool
features does Clavia mention about the Nord 3, eh ? Let's see...
"MODULATION HEAVEN !
The Nord Lead 3 offers one Modulation Envelope and two LFOs per voice
plus Global Vibrato. The LFOs can be hard-synced to the internal
Master Clock or to MIDI Clock. Imagine the combination possibilities
with hard-synced LFOs and the Arpeggiator!"
Oooookkayyyy, so let's
hard-sync the LFOs to the tempo! Hmm... What's happening? I don't
understand. The LFOs drift out of the tempo. Let's check everything
from the beginning, let's use external midi feed instead, let's get
back to the manual, let's fucking click the fucking synth inside
out... Nothing helps. Hours pass, no clue. Conclusion? I've just
bought a calculator that can't count!
I contacted Clavia. The
"NL3 team is no longer there" and some person at the support
department told me that the
arpeggio issue is an "unfortunate bug" that Clavia is NOT planning to fix and I need to find some "workarounds"
for myself. Oh man... workarounds? Am I dreaming a bad dream?
This is the deal as
figured out by me: If you want to do away with the arp bug, you need to replace the latest 1.20 OS with
(but by doing so
stripping the Arpeggiator down of all of its cool functions back to its basic
Now, if you want to hard-sync the LFOs and still retain the access to
the later-version cool arpeggiator - Start on 1.08, make a patch with
the LFOs in sync, save it. Then export that patch outside, get back to
the synth, throw away the current (old) OS and fit in the latest one.
Import the patch to the newly set-up synth. The result - even though
you now have a non-syncable buggy OS, your patch keeps in sync,
because it acts on settings memorized from the previous OS. Voila.
Actually I don't know
what I'm ranting for and what I'm fighting for. Because no-one on the
Internet seemed to care about clock-syncing, no-one seemed to
have noticed that in their Nords when I asked them. At one moment I felt like some
deranged freak talking some mumbo-jumbo. I was even told by
some pioneer not to blame Clavia because "synths have bugs, that's the
way it is"... Wow. People are stupid and unambitious... that's the way
it is... evil men have itchy dicks and they need to attack women
sometimes... that's the way it is... yep yep yep... But for those of you who
do care, I write all this crap. Now f* off;)
POLITICALLY CORRECT REVIEW
WOW, this is such a
great synth, I've spent 1 grand on it and it blows all my cheaper
synths away, it was used by all those superstar studios all over the
world including Dizzly Fizzly and Srizzly Grizzly and
Brothers and their fathers and mothers and it was given the award of the "Best hardware synthesizer
2002". It sits great in the mix and I can get any sound I want [I mean
the BAsS and the zaPP sounds which I mostly use in my songs] with just one
tweak on the panel. And it's red!
QUALITY vs VERSATILITY REVIEW
One has to admit it;
Clavia are geniuses when it comes to designing a user-friendly
interface. I think the NL3 has the best, quickets, most logical and
natural interface of all synths EVER. Assigning sources and destinations
by just 1 click,
knob lights showing actual and morphed values, convenient buttons - just brilliant. You
can feel a direct bond with the sound, unlike in Waldorf Q for example
(let alone the A6 Andromeda),
which seems to have a force field around. This fact alone could make
NL3 the most favorite piece in people's collections.
than that, the old story recurs; in terms of versality the synth is sort of crap for the money
it costs. Of course it very much depends on what you're looking for in
a synth, but if we have a similar idea of a synth and our favorite
models overlap then it's very probable that when you buy the NL3
you're gonna feel like you've made a somewhat stinky deal. It was supposed to be a beefed up improvement over
the Nord 2. And it is in the specs; it has syncable (sic) LFOs, broader FM engine, fancy multi filters and what not. But the soul of the
Viking-Nord is still here,
and the idea of being able to control only one set of modulator &
destination is also still here. (As much as I'm disappointed, it would be unfair to say that the Nord 3
is no more than a Nord 2 with just some additional modulation options
- it is a little bit more that that. How? Well, it tries to
transgress the borders of sound domains and mimic tones generally
ascribed to "ditigal" eg. associated with the Roland D-50 or Korg
DW-8000. The ratio of
analog / digital tonality is around 70%-30% (or sometimes I think the
other way round;P). So if you want to decorate your
traditional analog Oberheim cake with that atmospheric, glassy cherry on top, it
works nice in this synth.
With Nords it's always a question of making
a trade-off. What you lose in plasticity and depth / freedom
of creation is rewarded with
absolutely glitch-free, shiny-happy sound creating process within
their Nordy scope. So either favor this scope, in which I admit it
being quite fantastic and unparalleled and extremely
enjoyable, or go for a more versatile animal. One point not to be
that this is the only (or one of the few) synth which lets you stack sounds [layers] on
top of each other and they still sound great. Each next layer adds to
the grandeur of the overall sound, whereas in other synths this
process will just muffle and discredit the whole venture (again, the Waldorf
Q is so fucking uncooperative at this).
I myself do like many
sounds I wrung out of this board, I generally appreciate this
unadulterated, thoroughbred, hi-fi hygienic Nordy timbre and, as I
said, I think it's special and inimitable - this simple but
unmistakably striking quality of the airwave that is born under the
red hood and hits your ear like nothing else. And even if the price
seems too high in relation to this narrow scope of sound, I guess a big part of the budget went to the excellent
interface and the quality craftsmanship. Still it
would be nice to have a ribbon controller or some other gizmo next to that lone modwheel and pitchstick.
But shut the fuck up - the encoders are of great quality and there's
as much as 27 of them.
Look at it this way:
Nord Lead 3 is like a Hollywood celebrity, a Haris Pilton. She's on
all the covers, looks great with all those flashy thingies and cute
little dogs on her, storms every party, sneaks up and hits you like a
fucking tornado, but after a short chat you feel sorta put off by the
flimsiness and limits of the subject matter being discussed. Of course
there are going to be people who love her to death because all they need is
a whiff of glamour each Saturday, easy-mingling, and with her they get it. Choose
your destiny, as the
So to consolidate what
might look like ambivalence on my side;
if there is any VA to give you that ultra-crystalline classic
patches, ultra-quick access to reso-sweep pads and squelchy basses; a decent set of well-behaved electro
staple for performance-oriented music
projects, plus that additional inclination toward digital timbres - this is it.
It will earn a solid place in
the studio and music-making process. All in all I guess you buy this
synth for the simplicity and the healthy, sitting-well-in-the-mix sound.
Because the rapacious idea of trying to make the Nord Lead stand up to the versality
or creativity of other cheaper synths like Blofeld or even Radias is just flogging a dead horse.