I’ve been in love with the Nord Stage since I played a model one in high school for the first time, and Nord continues to impress me with how it makes its Stage series better with every new release. Here’s why this is my favorite keyboard of all time:
Great basic sounds.
Nord really shines at the basics. They have the best piano and upright piano sounds I’ve ever heard in a hardware keyboard (and far better than most software libraries). The electric pianos are authentic and usable, the clavinets are funky, and the organ/Leslie combo cuts through the mix. It’s also possible to download different sounds from their website if you want to change up your patches, too.
2. Really nice synth section.
The synth section of the Nord has a really solid subtractive synth with hands on control for every parameter (which is huge when you’re building a patch on the fly). The hidden secret of the synth is it has a full FM synth built in, too. I’ve found their are few things this synth can’t pull off live.
3. Simple but powerful sampler.
Not only does the synth section use traditional oscillators, but you can also add sampled instruments into the oscillator slots and play them back. There’s a huge catalog of really good sounds on www.nordkeyboards.com available for free download, or you can get free software from their website to make your own sampled instruments. The software has kept me from taking out a laptop so many times by letting me sample some sounds I couldn’t reproduce.
4. Stompbox-style FX.
It’s possible to layer up to 5 FX using some on panel buttons, including autowahs, tremolos, choruses, delays, reverb, filters, and more. The quality is surprisingly high, and rival many of the stomp box pedals I’ve used.
5. One knob per function interface (no submenus)
Speaking of on panel buttons, my favorite feature of the Nord is that there’s almost no sub menus. This allows you to adjust almost every single parameter in real time using a knob, button, or other control. As a hands on guy, this is the biggest reason I’m in love with this synth. It’s blindingly fast to dial in the sound you want.
6. Easy to program modulation options.
Nord excels at modulation options, too. To get a parameter to modulate, all you have to do is hold a shift button, move the control you want to modulate through how far you want it to modulate, and you’re done. I’ve assigned and controlled up to 18 separate modulation parameters in under a minute, which allows you to create amazing sweeps, fades in and out dynamically for different sections, and more.
7. Fairly light as hammer action keyboards go.
At 41 lbs, the Nord Stage isn’t the lightest keyboard out there but far lighter than most of it’s competitors. When you’re dragging it up a staircase going to a gig, every pound counts.
8. Insanely sturdy build quality.
The Nord is made up mostly of sturdy metal frame, wood sideboards, and quality knobs and buttons. I’ve used my Nord in 100+ degree festival shows, and in one unfortunate case in 2 degree weather. I’ve never had it glitch, crash, or break.
9. Quality hammer action keybed.
While not as firm as other keybeds, the Nord Stage walks a fine line between a solid hammer action that you can actually practice piano on, and something light enough to play organ. As a guy that learned on an upright piano, this thing feels really natural.
10. Software based patch organizer.
The cherry on top of Nord is it’s simple but powerful patch organizer. It’s easy to export, save, load, and organize patches via usb cable with the Nord, which is huge if you’re creating a patch for each song you play (which I do).
As with all things, there’s always room for improvement. I’d love to see them add a basic audio interface for when I want to use a laptop with my Nord, and an iOS patch organizer would be really helpful for on the road when I don’t have my laptop.
Nord’s one other major deal breaker for some is it’s lack of support for multisampled instruments, meaning that you can’t create or play samples that automatically switch between different samples based on velocity (how hard or soft you hit the keys). Personally I haven’t found this to be a major problem for most gigs, but if you play a lot of orchestral sounds this could be a dealbreaker.
Aside from this and that the Nord Stage is prohibitively expensive for some (the Nord Stage 3 is $4,500 right now at most shops) I don’t have any major things I don’t like about it.
I haven’t played a single gig since I’ve moved to Nashville without a Nord Stage, and it’s become the single most important instrument I bring to any gig or session. If you’re looking for a new keyboard and can afford the pricetag, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with a Nord.
Disclosure: I am not endorsed or receive compensation from Nord keyboards.