For some organ players, less than two manuals just won’t do. You
know who you are, and you know that even portable two-manual
clones are usually bulky. A lighter but messier route is to go modular,
with a single-manual clone, a controller as your lower keyboard, and
MIDI pedals if you kick bass. When Clavia released the Nord C1
(reviewed May ’07), they had a hunch that a lot of musicians would
jump at an integrated two-manual organ that’s as easy to carry, and in
the same price league, as the average synth workstation. That hunch
proved correct, and now, the C2 ups the sound quality, features, and
tweakability even more.
Overview and Controls
If you’re unfamiliar with Nords, your first encounter with the C2 will
feel kind of like driving a Prius for the first time—or since Clavia is
Swedish, maybe like trying to find a Saab’s ignition (it’s on the floor
between the seats). Once you’re hugging the corners in either of those
cars, your initial confusion quickly gives way to appreciation of the
elegant logic of the driver interface. The same goes for Nord keyboards.
Some organ purists will always feel alienated by the LED strips and
“drawbuttons” Nord uses in lieu of real drawbars, but you might be
surprised at who doesn’t. Booker T. Jones had my C2 for a couple of
months, and reported, “Those buttons really aren’t that hard to get used
to. Given how good this organ sounds overall, and how easy it is for me
to carry, they’re more than an acceptable trade-off.”
<- Nord’s optional PedalKeys (approx. $2,300 street price) includes a beefy expression pedal and plugs into a dedicated MIDI input on the C2.
Rather than rewrite the instruction manual (it’s only 24 pages
and you can download it yourself), I’ll showcase a few examples of
the thought that Clavia obviously put into this control panel. As on
the C1, you get separate drawbutton sets for the upper, lower, and
pedal parts. Above the LED strips for the upper and lower sections
are three Drawbar Preset buttons. These change drawbar settings
while leaving everything else about the current program—such
as rotary speed, amp model, and effects—unchanged. Best of all,
switching between them doesn’t cut off any held notes. (Changing
programs does, however.) If you hold the adjacent Preview button
and hit a Drawbar Preset, the LED strips will change to reflect the
new sound, but the sound itself won’t change until you hit the Preset
button again. So there’s no danger of getting tutti when you just
Up to 126 Program slots store the entire state of the C2 (except
for system settings and certain sonic details that are global—more on
this later), and in addition, two “Live Mode” buttons remember every
control move you made before changing programs, even if you turn
the power off .
While I didn’t have a C1 on hand for comparison, the C2’s keyboard
seems smoother for palm wipes than my recollection of the C1. I still
have my Electro 2, however, and the C2’s keyboard feels much better
in all respects. It’s also lighting-fast for solos and “machine gun” trills,
owing to Clavia putting the note-on point fairly high in the keys’ travel.
The closeness of the two manuals also facilitates the classical technique
of “bridging” both manuals with one hand.
<- You can decide which of the C2’s organ models go to the main stereo outs, and which go to the dedicated 11-pin and 1/4" rotary outs. Among other options, this lets you play B-3 sounds through a real Leslie but pipe organ through a stereo P.A.
Since the nine contacts under each key of a real B-3 hit at slightly
different times when you press a key, there’s an almost subliminal
randomness to when the various harmonics that make up a note kick
in. This is probably the hardest thing for a digital instrument to model,
but Clavia has made some progress here. You won’t hear drawbars
come in one by one if you press a key slowly, as that would require
duplicating the original mechanics—which the Hammond New B-3
does for a five-figure price. But when I listened carefully, especially at
full drawbars, I could indeed discern some randomness in what I’ll call
the Nord’s “harmonic attack profile.” Nice work!
Drawbar Organ and Rotary
Remember the first time you played an Electro, and how blown away
you were by the B-3 sound and rotary simulation? It made those
“drawbuttons” almost entirely forgivable, didn’t it? The Electro 2
improved on things, particularly with a less phasey rotary effect. Then
the dual-manual C1 took a big leap forward in terms of sounding more
organic and less boxy. The organ section of the Electro 3 (reviewed Apr.
’09) is based on the C1, but “breathes” more freely to my ears.
The C2 is better still. In particular, the drawbar tones are more
evenly balanced in relation to one another. I reviewed both the
Electro 2 (after which I was impressed enough to buy my review unit)
and the C1 in Keyboard, and in both cases, I felt there was a bit too
much rolloff of the higher frequencies when the rotary simulation
was on. This was even more noticeable through a real Leslie. In this
regard, the C2 fares much better. There’s not much else to say about
the drawbars, vibrato/chorus, or harmonic percussion—all of it
sounds like everything you want and nothing you don’t.
As of OS version 1.2, a new rotary speaker model (“A” in the Sound
menu) has more of the round, woody character that I like to hear from a
Leslie. Option “B” has the rock ’n’ roll scream
you want when soloing in the high octaves.
Fast speed with high drawbars is where
a mediocre rotary effect will begin to sound
two-dimensional and squirrely, but when so
tested, the C2 admirably preserved the sense
of sound moving through real space. There’s
no question that this is an excellent Leslie
simulation, and will easily convince anyone
listening to your live show or recorded
mix that you used the real thing. I can’t
deny, though, that the rotary eff ect in the
Studiologic Numa Organ is a bit
better still, but we’re arguing over increments
above the 90th percentile if we belabor this.
The C2’s Sound menu offers a lot of tweaking
that the Numa doesn’t. You can set separate
speeds and acceleration times for the virtual
treble and bass rotors. The options for all these
are just “low,” “normal,” and “high,” but that’s
what you get on a vintage Leslie—three sizes
of motor pulley to wrap the drive belts around.
Except for normal (medium) acceleration on the
treble horn, everything set at the lowest speed
sounded most like the real thing to my ears.
You get a similar three levels for all of
the following: decay times for fast and slow
harmonic percussion, volumes for normal and
soft percussion, and key click. Four tonewheel
sets range from clean sine waves to a mildly leaky
generator, but neither leakage nor key click can
be dialed to the rude extremes the Numa Organ
allows. You can also decide whether turning on
harmonic percussion mutes the 1' drawbar (as it
does on a real B-3) or not.
Anyone accustomed to how clonewheels
“think” would expect sonic details like the above
to be saved per program, and that if anything
were global, it’d be effects-related—whether the
EQ or reverb is turned on, for example. On the
C2, it’s the opposite. Pick a tonewheel set, key
click level, or anything else in the Sound menu,
and that’s what every B-3 program in the C2
will use. Settings for the tap delay, overdrive,
EQ, and reverb are saved per program, however.
The Vox and Farfisa models are much the
same as on the C1, and they’re a blast, with
full control over the stop tabs on a Farfisa or
the drawbars on a Vox. I compared the C2 to
the real Vox Super Continental that resides in
the lobby of San Francisco’s Crescent Hotel.
Th e emulation sounded perfect.
Clavia have really outdone themselves
with the pipe organ, which is new to the
C2. The samples are clean, interacting with
each other without any bad artifacts. The
drawbuttons become stops for various flute
and reed pipes, and the rotary and percussion
buttons act as couplers that let you layer one
manual’s part with another’s, or double the
principal pipe of your registration with a
duplicate of itself an octave higher or lower.
This makes for some positively huge low
end—especially if you bring the pedal part up
to the lower manual—that you really need a
subwoofer to appreciate. Turn up the reverb,
and you’re the Phantom of the Opera.
All levity aside, this makes the C2 a
clonewheel that a classical organist can take
seriously. I spent much more time playing the
C2’s pipe organ than I thought I would, and
it inspired me to reboot my long-neglected
Bach studies. One more thing: You can put
the Vox and Farfisa organs, but not the pipe
organ, through the rotary effect if you want.
The C2’s overdrive interacts convincingly
with the various amp simulations that you
access by pressing the Speaker Model button. The Rotary model
breaks up the way a real Leslie does, with just the right harmonics
and a bit of compression kicking in as you turn the knob up. Only
in the top 25 percent or so of the knob’s travel do things begin
to sound buzzy and un-tube-like, and with the “Twin” and “JC”
(my ears say that refers to a Marshall, not a Roland Jazz Chorus)
models cranked way up, your lows totally overwhelm your highs—
but that’s what the real amps do. I only wish that you could pump
the non-rotary amp models through the rotating effect.
A tap delay provides guilty psychedelic fun—“Fly Like an Eagle,”
anyone? You can decide whether it affects both manuals, or just the
upper one. Though there’s no way to sync the delay to MIDI clock, a Tap
Tempo button suffices for getting in step with your DAW or bandmates.
Last but not least, the three-band EQ is handy for tuning to different
rooms, and the reverb types sound lush and not at all brittle.
The Nord C2 is to dual-manual clones as Studiologic’s Numa Organ is
to single-manual ones. Which is to say, it’s the current (press time: May 2011) king of sound
and portability. Where the Numa excels at being a no-frills, stand-up-and-shred B-3 machine, the C2’s variety of organ and amp models,
deeper editing options, and effects make it fit a wider range of musical
applications. It can grind, scream, and spin with the best of ’em, but it
can do a lot more. If you need two manuals and extreme portability,
the C2 marks the return of the all-purpose organ—the real organist’s
organ—for the modern gigging era.
PROS Excellent tonewheel and rotary simulation. New pipe organ sounds
gorgeous and adds versatility. Realistic tube amp models and overdrive.
Great feeling, lightning-fast action. No heavier than the average
CONS No MIDI over USB. Parameters in Sound menu, including key click,
rotary details, and percussion decay times, are global and not savable
CONCEPT Dual-manual drawbar organ with integrated rotary effect
plus Vox, Farfisa, and pipe organ.
SYNTHESIS TYPE Modeling; pipe organ is sampled.
MULTITIMBRAL PARTS Upper, lower, and pedal.
WEIGHT 34 lbs.
PRICE List: $3,599
Approx. street: $3,000
*Extra mini-review of the Nord C2 by Booker T. Jones.
*Factory audio examples.