Joined: Jun 09, 2004
Audio files: 7
G2 patch files: 3
|Posted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:58 am Post subject:
Nord Wave review
|I must admit I am a Clavia fan. I have five red keyboards; the Nord Wave is my sixth. So that may make my view not so clear, but it was also a reason for me to buy it.
When trying it in the shop, the factory sounds was rather lame. On the other hand, the same could be said about the G2 that is a true workhorse in my music. So I bought one, here is a review.
The main layout is familiar to users of NL3. Two LFOs with ramp, square, triangle, random and smooth random can be sent to most targets an parameters, except the VCA (as in the NL3). The maximum frequency is a bit over 500 Hz, so it can be used as a sort of modulation VCOs also. One of the LFOs can be synced to trigger, for simple envelopes, or random values that change by key pressure.
In a hidden place there is an extra VCO that can add vibrato. Anyhow, It cannot be reached except by the vibrato button.
There is also a modulation envelope, with attack/decay, or attack/release that also can be sent to six different sources.
The VCO area has two VCOs. One has triangle, ramp, square/pulse, wavetable, FM and noise. The virtual analog waveforms are pretty fat with more power than for example the G2. The wavetable contains 62 waveforms, short sample loops. The FM setting has nine settings. The first is modulated from the VCO itself; the next eight has a hidden modulation VCO that doubles its frequency each time. There is one more row, with the same frequency ratio but added feedback. It also has sync, with a hidden VCO that gives the frequency of the timbre.
The other VCO has the same basic waveforms, but also sample, 53 in the memory, including vintage Mellotrone sounds, and Samplewave, a sort of wavetable with an attack sample attached in the start. There are 22 of them available.
There is also a Phase Modulation and Frequency modulation knob that can make complex FM sounds. It can also use the samples to modulate a FM-operator for really nice sounds.
The filter has six settings: LP, BP HP, comb filter, multi (with three peaks) and vocal, a resonant dual band pass filter.
The LP filter has more grease and fatness than I expected from a VA filter. On low frequencies, the resonance is great. Getting higher up, it loses some power. It has also an unpleasant drop in output just before it goes to self oscillation. But it is no question that it is possible to get really heavy sounds out of it
The Vocal Filter is the best (or worst) part of the filter section. It is highly resonant, hard to predict, and unstable. To me that is a perfect base for sounds that are above normal synth level.
Finally, there is a FX area with distortion, delay, chorus and reverb. The delay works well and does nothing unexpected. So does the reverb. Concerning the retro attitude of the instrument, with old Mellontrone sounds, I had preferred more Lo Fi-settings, like spring and plate. Now there are three size of room, and two settings with a more mellow sound. A wet plate should have been great as an option.
The distortion is one of the great parts of this instrument. At low setting, it adds a nice warmth to the sounds. At high settings, it is a great FX for leads. I found it very good for coloring the samples. Just a little bit of distortion gives the right bite and attitude to many of the sample based sounds.
What I found
On the paper, this machine is a looser, compared to for example the Roland V-synth XT, that has much of the same idea, but contains hundreds of samples, and very advanced filtering and FX possibilities. And my old Roland XV-2020 has over a thousand small PCM-sounds, compared to the handful in this machine.
But it was not so simple. One thing is the intuitive simplicity that is the trademark of the Nords. It is some minutes work to turn a weak sound into something that can fill a scene with raw power.
The combination of easy patching and synth power makes it a very handy tool for creating sounds. By trimming the filter and the distortion, I made very convincing and fat moog solo sounds. And it is the only synth that I have been able to turn into a true hard rock solo machine, with screaming and unstable feedback.
The combination where a Sample is frequency modulating a FM chain (through the dedicated Osc Mod area) has been a very powerful tool to make new sounds, that is hard to get elsewhere. I even managed to get some blood and desperation into the rather weak tenor sax wave that way.
After having it at home for about a month, I have made about a hundred new sounds. And I have used it in the rehearsal studio with my two bands. That is also a place where it shows its power. The sound has a bite and power that cuts through the sound chaos of a performing band. My Roland synth´s decent and polite sounds have a tendency of being blown away by a live band. But not the NW.
The first, and obvious, is the price. For 19 900 SEK (EUR 2 108, USD 3 092) it is expensive. And Roland, Korg and others has excellent instruments in the same price are.
The second is the limited number of wavetables and samples. I guess other factories are better on compressing them, but the number is not convincing, neither are some of the samples while played just as they are.
The third is the slot system. Both NL3, NM and G2 has four slots that contains patches, they can be layered and be switched off and on as you want. The NW has two slots, but they are not independent. As you change sound in slot A, slot B also change sound. They can be stored together, but that is not a solution. I guess that it is pretty normal with four lead sounds and four pad sounds for a keyboardist in a band. If all those combinations should be stored, that means 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 different combinations, 256 to be exact. The system is stupid; I hope they change it in next OS.
The second is that there is one FX for both slots. So you get distortion on both the fat lead and the smooth pad, or no distortion at all. And that is not good at all.
Finally, there are something weird about the software for handling samples, loading new samples and reorganizing the patches. I have Windows XP that is just a few years old, but it can´t handle the special USB drive that comes with the software. And I have had trouble make it work on other computers as well. So there is no plug and play in that, and no report on bringing home other Samples from the Clavia library either.
It is a great synth when it comes to sound on the stage. It is simple and intuitive, still powerful and capable of making very complex sounds. The sound can bite through a rough rock band without any problems.
It can make very powerful and complex leads that are on the edge of mass destruction, as well as very fat and rich pads and strings.
With the right settings, it is a perfect retro synth capable of Mellotron and Moog sounds, as well as very convincing sounds from instruments like DX7 and Korg Polysix.
It can deliver most of the bread and butter sounds, like strings, choir, saxophone, guitar and so on. Not with the deep quality of, say the Roland XV series, but good enough for a rock band on the stage.
I am glad I bought it, with all the shortcomings that I described above. I have spent many hours programming it, and it has been very rewarding. It is probably meant to be a complement to Nord Electro or Nord Stage, and in that role it is a great instrument.
To use it as a single instrument, I have my doubts. It´s main power is in lead, pad and retro sounds, and there are lots of alternatives that are lower in price and/or more versatile on the market.
And if you do no programming, and only use factory sounds, choose another axe.