By TOM BRISLIN
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
adds a new sample section, new effects, key splits, and layering. Along with
tasty new features, the Nord Piano 2 looks to cover more of your gigging needs
than ever before.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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