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 Forum index » Clavia Nord Modular » Nord Modular G2 Discussion
Nord Modular G2 review
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egw



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PostPosted: Sun Jan 18, 2004 1:02 pm    Post subject: Nord Modular G2 review Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

A review by Greg Waltzer

OK, I'm biased. I've thought for years that the original Nord Modular was the most versatile synth ever invented. And I've been eagerly awaiting the G2 since it was first announced. So naturally my expectations were high, and I was not disappointed. The G2 has all the versatility of the original, and adds many new features that make it an ideal performance synth, as well as improving the sonic possibilities.

For those not familiar with the Nord Modular, check Clavia's site at http://www.clavia.se/
There you can find the manual and even download the editor to get a feel for how it works. The G2 editor is not on Clavia's site yet, but can be found here: http://www.nordsynth.zevv.nl/040_NordModularG2/EditorV1.0/
There is also an active mailing list and web community http://www.code404.com/nord-modular/
and an archive of thousands of patches that can be freely downloaded.

The G2 adds some significant enhancements to both the programming and the playability. The control surface is now a three-octave keyboard with the mod wheel, pitch stick and led-illuminated continuous knobs borrowed from the Nord Lead 3. The three-octave keyboard is a nice compromise between portability and range. Two octaves is just not enough for a decent solo (the old NM also lacks pitch and mod wheels, and aftertouch). Serious keyboardists will probably also have a larger keyboard anyway.

The continuous knobs allow you to switch between patches, and they will instantly be in the right position, ready to be tweaked. The knobs are assignable to any parameter, and there are displays above which show the name and value of the parameter. Although there are only 8 knobs, there are actually 15 banks (easily recalled) giving you up to 120 knob assignments per patch. Morph groups allow a single knob to control multiple parameters. Every patch has 8 variations, which are like presets. They are collections of parameter settings that are instantly recalled by a row of dedicated buttons on the panel. Considering that each patch can be your own creation (from scratch, or modified from an existing patch), the G2 can contain over 1000 custom synthesizers, each with it's own unique behavior completely defined by you. Wow!

There are lots of new modules, including reverb, delays, waveshaping oscillators, and a bunch of new logic and control modules (switches, mixers, flip-flops, counters, shift registers). Also the ability has been added to process and send midi from patches. This can be used to control or sequence external sound modules, or to do all sorts of processing on incoming midi (filtering, merging, routing, transposing, creating zones). Audio, control, and midi signals can be sent between the four slots, allowing multiple patches to be logically connected. This allows patches of greater complexity, or sharing resources such as having one slot do the effects processing for the others.

Performances are combinations of 4 patches that can be loaded and played at the same time. If you edit one of the patches in a performance, the changes are saved as part of the performance, not the original patch. Nice! This is a synth that is really designed for playing live.

Now, when I read a review, I'm most interested in what is wrong with the product (I can find out all the good stuff from the brochures). So even though I don't want to be negative, I'm going to talk about all of the limitations that I found after using it for about a week.

The factory patches do a pretty good job of showing the sounds that the G2 can make. But few of them are suitable for practical use. Some of them are general-purpose synth patches, meant to show off the ability to use programming variations and get different sounds from the same patch. Most of them use effects heavily, which consumes a lot of processing power. This causes many of the synth and pad sounds to be limited to three voices. Also a lot of the sounds have sequences or automatic sweeps that sound good, but are too characteristic. Of course everything can easily be modified, but I find it more satisfying to create my own patches from scratch. That way I get exactly what I want, and nothing more, which makes optimal use of the processors.

I experienced periodic crashes of the editor. When this happened, the synth also locked up and had to be restarted, causing work in progress to be lost. I couldn’t identify any predictable actions that would cause these crashes. I’m running Windows 98 on an older machine, so it’s possible that the USB implementation is not very robust. But I’m hoping this will be fixed in the next version of the editor.

The help files are incomplete, lacking detail, and usually have the wrong module picture in the descriptions. The manual is good, but should be available on line.

The gate input on the monokey module doesn’t seem to work properly. It’s should send a gate on when any key is pressed, then off when the last key is released. Instead, it only sends a gate on when the last key is released. I suppose that the correct behavior could be constructed by combining this gate with the gate from the keyboard module and doing some logic processing.

I got some strange behavior when playing around with midi modules to create zones that mapped the G2 keyboard to different slots and midi channels. I think this was caused by a kind of internal midi loop. I wanted to create zones that had no effect in their default state, but could be mapped to different destinations during a performance by tweaking the knobs. But there is no zone destination of “off” or “none” so I tried sending those zones back to the current midi channel for the default. In a couple of cases I was able to create a corrupted patch that would cause the G2 to hang if that slot was selected. I couldn’t replace the patch without selecting the slot, so I had to go into performance mode to get a different patch in there. Maybe there’s a way to prevent these loops from being created in the editor. Also it would be nice to have a destination of “none.” Some limitations of the midi modules are that they can only send notes and CCs, they can’t send pitch bend or real time controls (sequencer start/stop). You can send pitch bend from the keyboard, but only on the slot’s main channel. I was hoping to use the variation buttons to select the destination midi channel, so that I could instantly choose between 8 different sounds on an external device. I can still do that, but I have to live without pitch bend on those sounds.

The arpeggiator is very basic – there are only four note values (1/8, 1/8T. 1/16, 1/16T). And there appears to be no way to sync up the timing with a rhythm that’s already playing. Fortunately, the sequencers can be synced, so if the arp is playing first, you can get other rhythms to sync to that. It shouldn’t be too hard to create some arpeggiator-like patches that have more sophisticated functions.

It’s nice to have a global parameter page, which allows knob assignments for a performance that are different from the individual patches. But calling up this page requires two hands (the shift button and the global button are on opposite sides of the panel). So you have to stop playing to switch between global parameters and patch parameters. I suppose the work around is to put all of the most important parameters on the global page.

One thing I’ve learned is that when tweaking patches in the editor, you then have to save the patch in the synth, in the PC, and save the performance in the synth and in the PC. If you don’t do this, you’ll have different versions of the patch floating around, and you might not remember which one has the latest tweaks. In some cases you might want different versions of patches in a performance (optimized to work together). I have found that I prefer to have the volume turned down on patches once they’re in a performance, so that they can be faded in to the right level while playing. Solo patches can be at full volume for easier previewing. Another advantage of having the volumes down for performance is that this makes it easier to normalize volumes across the variations. Otherwise, if you adjust volume while playing, whenever you select a new variation, it will jump to the volume it was last saved at.

My biggest concern about the G2 is that with so much power and flexibility, it’s easy to get carried away in patching and use up too much DSP resources. Ideally, I want to have 4 patches active, one for leads, one for pads, one for sequences, and one for noises. The only one that needs polyphony is pads (and occasionally leads), but I like for the pads to have at least 6 voices, 8 would be nice. That’s tough to do with the current architecture, if the patches are reasonably deep and complex, with some effects. So, for me at least, the expansion board will be a must have.

Finally, how can I finish a review without addressing the question, how does it sound? Honestly, I can’t describe the sound, because it can sound however you want it to, within the limits of your programming skills. If you lack confidence in your programming ability, I’m sure there will soon be thousands of public domain patches like there are for the old Nord Modular. And many of them sound fantastic! This is truly the world’s most versatile synth, with unlimited potential for both creative programming and performance.
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djfoxyfox
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 19, 2004 9:47 am    Post subject: Nord Modular G2 review Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks, Greg, for the great review. I can't wait to get my G2. I hope you'll bring it to rehearsal at Howard's tomorrow.
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viger



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2004 2:48 pm    Post subject: Can the modular be everything? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'm wondering that with the different hardware platforms that clavia has (lead 2, lead 3) can the modular emulate both of these platforms? It seems that the modular is just raw dsp. The code that runs on it is dynamically produced via the software on the users PC (it seems just like any other visually/object oriented development platform). If this is true then can't the modular replace both the lead synths?

Thanks for clearing this up for me!
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2004 3:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Can the modular be everything? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

viger wrote:
I'm wondering that with the different hardware platforms that clavia has (lead 2, lead 3) can the modular emulate both of these platforms? It seems that the modular is just raw dsp. The code that runs on it is dynamically produced via the software on the users PC (it seems just like any other visually/object oriented development platform). If this is true then can't the modular replace both the lead synths?

Thanks for clearing this up for me!


I am probably the wrong guy to answer this .. but..

As you know the lead2( and now the 2xx ) and the 3 sound different. Anyway, if you use these as traditional lead synths.. you just might make very similar sounds with the Clavia Modulars... but not 100% the same.. My personal opinion is that a Modular does not make a good subsitution for a Lead2xx or a Lead 3. The Modular and now the G2 are... something else..
And the GUI is important to consider. The Leads have a layout that is pretty much tuned to what they do well.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2004 4:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi, Viger. Welcome to the site. Glad you're here.

I don't have much experience with the Nord Leads. Maybe Greg, EGW, can comment. I've been told the the Clavia company uses the Nord Modular to develop the technology used in their other products, so I imagine that the G2 can be used with appropriate patching to emulate the leads.

IMHO, the G2 is a patchers machine; it's not for the musician that wants to buy a great sounding synth with lots of great sounds and just play. The G2 is for someone who really wants a giant polyphonic modular synthesizer.

I had a friend of a friend come over an visit my studio. He was pretty new at electronic music and wanted to get into techno, he said. I showed him the Nord Modular and he just got glassy-eyed. He didn't want to learn about analog synthesis and make patches. I think the Nord Leads would be much more interesting to him.

Thus, if you had a Nord Modular, the Leads would probably not be of much interest to you.

As for the sound of the G2, it's an almost impossible thing to describe. It can sound like so many different things that it's pointless to talk about it. The G2 has reverb, delay and echo all built in. Describing the sound of a G2 is sorta like describing the kinds of mental images one can get from reading a book. The G2 isn't infinite, but it is VAST.
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egw



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2004 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yes, a G2 can be made to sound like a Nord Lead.
That's probably the easiest thing you can do with it.
You probably wouldn't have as many voices or multitimbral parts.
Also, the control layout of the G2 is variable, not fixed like the NL.
Which is good and bad - you have ultimate flexibility, but you have to put some work into it to set it up the way you want.
If you just want to make the NL sounds, a G2 wouldn't be a good choice.
As Howard says, it's for tweakers, not people who want to play recognizable sounds or presets.
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viger



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2004 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks for the replies! Once upon a time I had a degree in Electronic Music (I guess I still have it:). I do want something where I can call up presets and play somewhat recognizable (although electronic) sounds. I'm assuming that there will be enough websites with patches for the modular to give me that. I do long for the days of a huge number of modules plugged into each other making sounds that you never expected to make. It sounds like this is just the tool!

A few more questions...I think I read somewhere that you can save your sounds as patches onboard and use it without a pc for live applications. How many patches can it hold? Also, I see the new G2 rack is just black (red) box. In the pictures there are several of these rack units together. Can these be chained somehow to expand the parts/polyphony...other than the obvious copy the same patch to each module and play with the key mapping ranges?

I can't wait to see one of these in person!

Thanks!
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2004 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

For the G1, there are over 30,000 patches you can get online. Laughing For the G2, much less but things are just getting started.

Having more than one engine won't be just more polyphony. They don't link together like that. They'll operate as independent uints. You have a good idea there, but unfortunately Clavia didn't get it before you. Smile

Yes, you are right about the patches staying in the synth even when not connected to a PC. This is a great feature. There are many people who use PCs for music, but avoid them like the plague for live performance. The Nord Modulars are perfect for this. I don't know the exact number of patches it'll hold, but it will probably be close to 1000. Maybe Greg can elaborate on that.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2004 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The number of patches it can hold depends on the memory usage of the patches and performances. Clavia says it should be more than 1000.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2004 1:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

viger wrote:
Once upon a time I had a degree in Electronic Music (I guess I still have it:).

where did you get it Question if I may..... Very Happy

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viger



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2004 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The official title of the program was Music Industry but the program was made up of a concentration of courses and independent studies that you choose. I think it was a bachelors of arts in electronic music composition. This was at Syracuse University in New York state...many, many moons ago.

After being an Audio Engineer for a while I decided I wanted to eat and pay the bills so I went into the computer industry...I don't recommend it! The money is fantastic but you basically lose your soul.

Needless to say, it's been many years since I've had my hands on a modular...we had a whole wall full of modules (don't remember which). The nord seems like an affordable, less time consuming option.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2004 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I have recently had the opportunity to use both a Micro and the Modular. Both are great. The G2 is probably insanely good. There are of course software modulars for PC/Mac out there too. The Native Instruments Reaktor is one of these. From my limited experience with the Micro and the Modular, I would say that Reaktor is also an option. One issue with Reaktor is that its CPU demands aren´t quite predictable, but as a modular synth it is quite good. It depends on what you want to do with the instrument. The Arturia Moog Modular is great too, but some of the basic premises behind this product eludes me. OK, the original Moog is way cool, but why not construct a software modular with a Moogish sound.. but with more modern modules.. like what Doepfer and others can offer?
Reaktor allows the user to build instruments and this makes a lot of sense.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2004 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
OK, the original Moog is way cool, but why not construct a software modular with a Moogish sound.. but with more modern modules.. like what Doepfer and others can offer?


i really like that idea...perhaps you should pitch that idea to software companies..seriously

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2004 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well, it has already been done. It has not been done very successfully, but clearly many of the softsynths have such aspirations. In the analog module world, a lot of vendors have copied Moog too.. so this has been done.. a lot of times. When I think about this, I did a mistake in that previous post.. I imagine you can kind of build your own modules in the G2.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

check it out:
Arturia Announces Virtual Minimoog Synth
http://namm.harmony-central.com/WNAMM04/Content/Arturia/PR/Minimoog-V.html
Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2004 6:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The software synths are pretty darn good. The thing that sets the modular above the software varieties for me is that you don't need the computer to play live. I"m a UNIX OS guy. I'll bet that Mac OSX comes a lot closer to being stable than just about any other mainstream OS but I still wouldn't trust taking a microsoft based PC out live...it WILL blow up at some point. The Modular seems to have mitigated the risk of the pc softsynth.

Are people seeing these units shipping in the US yet? Most places I find are pre-order. I'm looking at the G2 Rack Engine. It looks like the street price on this will be $899-$999 on the rack.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2004 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I don't think you should get the rack engine if you want to perform with it.
The performance controls are really what make the G2 stand apart.
The rack engine doesn't even have a display to tell you what patch is loaded. It is designed to be used in the studio with a computer attached.
Unless you want to use a laptop in performance, but I thought that is what you're trying to avoid.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2004 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks for that review of the G2, Greg. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2004 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

You're right, I would have to use a laptop live...I just wouldn't want to rely on it to produce the sounds. If the laptop died with the sequencer I could at least play something while the thing is rebooting. I would also assume that I could call up the patches with an external keyboard controller and midi patch changes right?

I agree too with Elektro...Great review. Thanks for doing it!
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

viger wrote:
You're right, I would have to use a laptop live...I just wouldn't want to rely on it to produce the sounds. If the laptop died with the sequencer I could at least play something while the thing is rebooting. I would also assume that I could call up the patches with an external keyboard controller and midi patch changes right?
The G2 rack does not need a PC in order to be played. You would need a keyboard or other controller to tell it what patch to play as there are no controls on the rack itself. But you don't have to use a computer. You could play it from a sequencer, be it software on a computer or stand-alone hardware, and/or a keyboard. But you'll have to know what each patch is as there isn't even a display on the rack. If you're like Greg, you'll have a computer printed cheatsheet with a patch listing at hand.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2004 6:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yes, you can call up patches (or performances) with a program change.
My gripe about the lack of a display is that midi communications don't always work. Even if you send a program change, you can't be 100% certain that it was received and loaded properly. Especially if you have a complex setup.
Obviously you can work around this by testing the sound first. But I'm not sure I would want to be on stage with a device that offers no visual feedback at all. If you have the laptop connected that's a different story.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2004 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

My take on it is that you'd only get the G2 Engine if you already had a G2 Keyboard. I'll be surprised if they sell very many. I've written more on this, see: http://electro-music.com/forum/topic-475.html

Actually, if you want just a rack, get a G1 rack, it has the display and knobs. The big difference in the G2 is the new control surface and interslot communication. If you just want a very powerful modular synthesis engine, the G1 would be a better choice than the G2 Engine.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2004 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Howard's right - if you want a rack, the orig NM will give you everything you need except for the effects, and for the price difference you can get a very nice single space rack effects unit. Probably still have a few hundred $ left over. If you have limited rack space, that could be an issue as the old NM takes up 5 spaces and the engine is only one.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 10:51 am    Post subject: G2 on back order Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi All,

last saturday ordered a G2 through my local music store
(Music & Vision Antwerp)
today learned that the importer(locate in Holland) has a
huge backlog since demand far exceeds supply.
i'll now have to wait in anticipation until end of this month.

seems like a whole lot a people want this puppy.

my order is down for 1935,- EURO which is about 2460,- USD
(vat included) how are prices in USA and is there 'ample' supply?

Cheers
Digit62 Sad
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi, Digit, welcome to this site. Glad to have you here.

Mine's been on order since late December. Still not sure when it's coming, so I'd say the shortage is here in the USA too. Clavia sells many more synths in Europe than in the USA. The Netherlands is their best marked. I'd think they would ship there first. I've got a much better price than what you're getting, but the dealer asked that we not publish his prices on the internet. We don't have the big VATs that you have in Europe. I'll be surprised if I get mine before March, but would be happy to be wrong.

The worse thing about the G2 for me is that since I know they are coming, I've not spent any time patching my G1.
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