By Gordon Reid
Clavia have considerable experience and expertise when it comes to designing stage keyboards. Is this the best one yet?
It’s been more than six years since I reviewed the Nord Stage 2, which was, in essence, a hybrid of the Nord Piano, much of the Nord C2 organ and a simplified version of the Nord Lead virtual analogue synth engine. But things have moved forward since then, and the
Stage 2 no longer embodies the best of Clavia’s stable; the Nord Piano libraries have expanded, new algorithms have appeared in the C2 and C2D organs, and the Nord A1 synthesis engine has superseded the traditional Nord Lead engine. So it came as no surprise when, last year, Clavia announced the Stage 3. Incorporating many of Clavia’s latest technologies, this comes in three incarnations: a 73-note model with a waterfall keybed, a 76-note version with a lightweight hammer action, and the fully weighted, 88-note hammer action variant that I have here, which not only feels good and plays well but (unlike some recent instruments from elsewhere) has the correct dimensions, both in terms of key length and keyboard width.
Like its predecessor, the Stage 3 isn’t one instrument — it’s (almost) two. Think of it as one Stage 3 with its Organ, Piano, Synth, Extern (external control) and seven effects sections in what Clavia call ‘Panel A’ and, with a few interdependencies, a second, almost independent Stage 3 in ‘Panel B’, totalling six sound engines, two external control sections and 14 effects sections. But while the Stage 3 looks much the same as previous models — the overall design is the same, the dimensions are the same, and the weight is only slightly increased — a closer inspection shows that there are many significant differences.
The Stage 3 retains the fully polyphonic Hammond, Vox and Farfisa models of previous Nords, updated with the latest algorithms from the Nord C2D. In truth, there’s nothing new to say about the Hammond model. It offers the same underlying sound and the same key-click, percussion and chorus/vibrato facilities as the dedicated organ, as well as the three tonewheel modes — clean, vintage1 and the ‘leaky’ vintage2 — that I have praised on numerous occasions in the past. In contrast, the Vox model has changed slightly, although not in a good way. For some reason, Clavia have changed the configuration of the drawbars, replacing the Stage 2’s sine wave and triangle wave drawbars with an historically inaccurate...
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