Clavia Nord Piano 2

November 21, 2012
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By TOM BRISLIN

Clavia's Nord Piano 2.

THE ORIGINAL NORD PIANO (REVIEWED SEPT. ’10) BROUGHT CLAVIA’S KNACK for great-sounding, intuitive, and portable instruments to the gigging pianist. Taking a good thing to the next level, the Nord Piano 2 HA88 (88-key hammer action) adds a new sample section, new effects, key splits, and layering. Along with some tasty new features, the Nord Piano 2 looks to cover more of your gigging needs than ever before.

What’s New
Like the original, the Nord Piano 2 weighs less than 40 pounds, making it manageably portable. It’s solid, made of metal with Nord’s signature red wooden end caps.

As before, the Piano 2 can access the ever- expanding, downloadable Nord Piano Library. The “long release” feature is now selectable on the front panel. The panel has been expanded to accommodate the new features, the most prominent of which is an entire Sample Synth section. With access to the entire Nord Sample Library (distinct from their piano library), you can now layer or split a sound from the Sample Synth with the piano. You can tweak the sample’s at- tack, release, and octave shift from the panel, and have independent sustain control over the synth part using the sostenuto (center) pedal from the included Triple Pedal (a solid unit that also recognizes half-pedaling).

Several new effects include stereo versions of autowah, phaser, fl anger, and chorus. There’s a new delay with dedicated front panel real estate, including tap tempo. If you want to achieve the pitch-bending that analog delays produce when you change the delay time while playing, there’s an “analog” delay mode that does this. Unfortunately, due to the panel layout, you need two hands (one to hold down the Tap Tempo/Set but- ton, the other to adjust the delay time with the up/down buttons). I’m hoping that they’ll assign it to a knob in a future firmware update, so you can take advantage of those delay-bending hijinks while playing; it’d go great with Rhodes sounds. Otherwise, speaking as a longtime Electro user, I find the interface intuitive and easy.

Nord Piano 2 with included triple pedal and optional legs.

Sounds Aplenty
One of my favorite features of Nords—the Electro, Stage, and now Piano series—is the ability to load in new piano (and now sampled strings, synths, etc.) sounds. Nord’s commitment to developing and improving new sounds, which are downloadable free of charge, is one of their most endearing qualities. The Piano 2 matches the flagship Stage 2’s 500MB of memory dedicated to the piano section, accommodating their largest and most detailed piano sounds. It’s easy to create a bank that’s optimal for the studio (like the full-size “Grand Lady D”), but if you need lots of sounds for a gig, there are smaller file sizes and other types of pianos to choose from. Electric pianos, Clavinet, and harpsichords reside in the Piano Section memory as well.

The Sample Synth Section has 128MB of memory, which is enough for a tasty palette of Mellotron, Chamberlin, orchestral instruments, synth, sampled organs, and a steadily growing online library including bass and drums. Need a bass/piano split for the gig? Check. Want to layer a Bösendorfer Imperial Grand with a Yamaha CS-80? Of course you do.

To turn these ideas into a reality, I installed the Nord Sound Manager software, connected my Mac to the Piano 2 via USB, and loaded the new sounds in a matter of minutes. I was pleased to find that the latest version of Sound Manager (6.14 as of this writing) makes it even easier to organize and back up sounds and programs. The available libraries are extensive, and if that’s not enough, you can use the Nord Sample Editor to create your own sample libraries from any WAV files. That’s right, folks: your own samples, in a stage piano. You’d have to go into workstation territory to find that feature elsewhere. Upon critical listening, I noticed a strange fluttery tremolo on the tail end of the Clavinet sustain over a certain note range. This is clearly an anomaly Clavia could fix in a future update.

Closeup of Nord Piano 2 front panel.

Keyboard Action
The weighted keyboard isn’t graded, nor does it have simulated escapement. (I was, however, able to achieve silent notes by pressing a key very lightly, like on a real piano.) I didn’t miss those attributes; the keyboard feels substantial and meaty, yet nice and fast for rapid repeating notes. There are four touch settings to choose from; the heaviest (the default) provided a natural response I had no urge to mess with. Lighter curves are available if you want to hit top velocities with less effort. I’ve been playing Yamaha and Bösendorfer grands lately, and while I can’t say the Piano 2 feels like they do, I was comfortable playing the way I usually play without needing to adjust my technique or timing.

 

Conclusions
I’ve always had the impression that Nord key- boards are made by and for real keyboard fanatics. It’s nice to have this attention to detail in a stage piano. In addition to great grands, it’s one of the only stage pianos to offer sampled uprights, and they’re charmingly realistic. Add convincing electric pianos and samples of classic synths like the Oberheim OB-8 and Prophet-5, and you’ve got a vintage-lover’s paradise. It’s easy to navigate and sure to inspire the piano-centric musician.

Snap Judgment
PROS
Excellent sounds. Synth section splits or layers piano and EP sounds with anything from the Nord Sample Library. Separate wave memory for piano and synth sections. Meaty weighted keyboard. Onboard delay and other new stereo effects. Transmits MIDI over USB.

CONS MIDI control of external gear is one channel only, not multi-zone. Synth editing is limited to attack, release, and octave. Arguably pricey.

Bottom Line
If the piano is at the heart of your music but you also have a passion for vintage sounds, the Nord Piano 2 is an outstanding one-axe solution for the discerning ear.

$3,295 list | $2,995 street nordkeyboards.com

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