When in Stockholm: 10 things we learnt about the Nord Stage 3
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When in Stockholm: 10 things we learnt about the Nord Stage 3

It's raining hard in downtown Stockholm ... but nothing is going to dampen our enthusiasm as we're invited to Nord's factory to see some of the first Stage 3 keyboards being built and to get hands-on with the Swedish company's upcoming flagship that will arrive later in the summer.

The Nord factory is located on a side street in central Stockholm. From the outside you'd never suspect it's the home of one the world's most acclaimed keyboard designers, and we'll be honest, we always get a special buzz when visiting this place.  There's a cool factor and dedicated energy that can't fail to impress from behind the graffiti'd shutters.  We're visiting as Nord finalise the software for their new flagship, the Stage 3. Whilst we've seen the major new features - upgraded memory, twin OLED displays, vastly upgraded synthesizer section based on the Lead A1, updated organ modelling section - we had an opportunity to discover some of the smaller updates that will make big differences to future owners.  So in no particular order ...

Reverb is now 'Morphable'

The Morph function is one of the highlights of all Nord keyboards. Using Morph you can change multiple parameters simultaneously using the Mod Wheel, a Pedal or Aftertouch as the realtime controller.  And the beauty has always been how easy it is to use and set-up from the front panel. Now more parameters than ever are Morphable, including the Stage 3's reverb.  


Amp section now has Filters

Staying in the Effects section, the Stage 3's amp simulations (fantastic for the electric pianos, or for creative sound design) now have Low Pass and High Pass filters, with Cut-off and Resonance.  The filters allow the tone of the simulators to be altered dramatically, allowing you to craft the exact tone required.  The Amp Sims are super effective in adding the dirt and warmth that can make a sound stand out, and now with the addition of filters, gives you even more ability to 'make your sound your own'. 


Delay repeats have Filters

Similarly, delay repeats can now optionally be filtered using three feedback filters (HP/LP/BP) which allows for greater sound design creativity!



Synth Section Programmability

The Synth Section of the Stage 3 is quite clearly the most noticeable upgrade to the sound generating sections and will no doubt be the focus of a number of future articles. Based on the analogue modelling of the Lead A1, but with sample integration, the Synth Section not only sounds brilliant but provides incredibly fast, hands-on control.  Thanks to Oscillator configurations (and the new OLED display) programming experimentation is positively encouraged!   There's a little learning curve as the synth does so much in a relatively small space, but it's clearly a continuation of Nord's awareness that speed of programming is critical to the professional players likely to own them in that almost everything can be done directly from the front panel.


Super Waves

As part of the Stage 3's new Oscillator Section there is a category of oscillator called Super Wave (S-wave).  They are specifically designed to sound super fat. And they do.  We can't wait to let you hear them!


The Piano Section has its own 'Piano Filters'

Nord's Piano Library is unsurpassed in the' variety of piano samples available - the sheer characterfulness is breathtaking across it's Grand Pianos, Uprights and Electric Pianos.  To further fine-tune those pianos, the Stage 3 now features new Piano Filters that can adapt the sonics of each piano from Soft to Brilliant.  It allows the sound to be further tuned to your taste, with the Brilliant setting really allowing the Piano to cut through a busy mix. 


Reverb is pre-Rotary

The Stage 3's Organ section as a whole is now based on the flagship C2D Organ modelling.  And it sounds stunning.  For players predominantly using the Stage 3 for organ sounds, the Stage 3 Compact now comes with Physical Drawbars (as well as the lighter action 'Waterfall' keybed).  Its vintage-modelled Rotary Simulator has also been upgraded and, as an additional enhancement, any Reverb is pre-Rotary. This produces a really lovely result which Nord say has been a request of many organ players.


4 Zones

The Stage 3's keyboard can now be split into 4 Zones (rather than 3 on the Stage 2 / EX). Split points are still defined from a choice of set locations. Some have requested the ability to split at any point but Nord point to the huge benefit to a live musician of having  the LED lights above the keybed which indicate where the split points are set - it means no more remembering or guessing where the keyboard may be split. The LEDs are visible on a dark stage too.


Split Point Crossover

Also newly added is a great feature allowing the ability to "cross-fade" at split points. This means that sounds can fade across the split points rather than be a hard split.  In action this means there's not a jump between sounds but a smooth transition.  There are a couple of curves to choose from, or of course can be turned off to act as a 'normal' hard split.  It's brilliantly musical for certain applications - definitely something we encourage you to try once you get your hands on a Stage 3!


Keybed 

Whilst the Stage 3 doesn't use the Triple Sensor keybed of the Piano 3 (due to the fact that the Stage 3 has AfterTouch), Nord say the structural support for the keybed has been improved which results in a more solid feel at the bottom of the key-press with less mechanical noise overall. This is indeed true and is a nice improvement.


The Stage 3 Series is due to arrive later in the Summer, we expect them to land in UK stores in August, and Nord tell us their production capacity is pretty much max'd out for the remainder of 2017 such are the level of pre-orders.  We can only say the Stage 3 is indeed a remarkable package of a keyboard that raises Nord's already high bar even higher. 


Look out for videos and sound demos appearing between now and its release.

  


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