Review: Nord Stage 4

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Review: Nord Stage 4

Nord Stage 4
Words by Simon Lewis

Nord Stage 4 | Electric Factory | RRP: Starting From $7099

Nord Stage 4 73-key RRP: $7,799.00

Nord Stage 4 88: $8,199.00

Nord Stage 4 Compact RRP: $7,099.00

The Nord Stage 4 was announced earlier this year, and as a fan, I have been using a Nord Stage since the first model was released way back in 2005. Before that, I was breaking my back lugging a Hammond with Leslie cabinet to gigs, and sometimes even a Rhodes Stage piano. I could just squeeze it all into my trusty 1986 Volvo 240 wagon! To try and ease the lug, at some gigs I tried using controller keyboards with plugins on my laptop, which sounded pretty good at the time, but could be unreliable and often distracted me from just playing the music. 

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I still remember the first time I gave the Nord Stage a test drive and fell in love instantly. Everything was laid out on the front panel and it actually felt very close to using the real thing. I purchased the Compact 73-key version and I loved the fact that it could fit in a backpack case, and I could even get to some gigs by tram! No Volvo required. I had a hard case made that could fit the keyboard while inside the soft case, which allowed me to easily take it on interstate or international flights. At the other end I could move around with just a backpack needed. I had the case made with some extra room so I could fit two expression pedals, sustain pedal and all the leads I needed in the one box. If there was an 88 keyboard in any backline I could easily run a two keyboard rig using just the sounds from my Nord. Too easy!

To cut a long story short, over the years I went through all the models and in 2017 found the Nord Stage 3 Compact to be my favourite of them all. Finally, it had the physical drawbars plus C2D organ along with a long list of amazing features. The only downside for me was the new file format which meant that all the sounds I had programmed on my previous model were not compatible with this new beast. I could either complain about it, or just get to work setting up my new Stage 3 from scratch so I could be ready to gig. To my delight, the new improved workflow meant that I could set it up super fast and had everything ready in no time.

Nord announced the release of the Stage 4 in February of this year and the new feature list was incredibly impressive. I put my name down to buy one from the first shipment when it arrived. Along with all the excitement was a fair bit of moaning about, you guessed it, another new file format, and the omission of the much loved ‘Song List Mode’. The workflow had been substantially improved yet again, which makes setting up your patches a dream and lightning fast. Even though I did really like ‘Song List Mode’, the new enhancements with presets and patches allowed me to easily find a new way to be organised.

The front panel has been redesigned with the introduction of ‘mixer style’ sliders to adjust the level of each of the sound engines which include two organ, two piano and three synth engines, all with their own fully dedicated effects. In the past you had to decide which engine would use a particular effect section. Now you have the ability to use all available effects on everything in any combination which really opens up your sound design options massively. Both organs share the same effects layer, but everything else is fully independent. The new triple sensor keybed feels fantastic to play and gives you a more expressive experience and more control over the nuances of the sounds when you play.

The piano library has been updated and enhanced to make use of the new keybed and the result is a truly beautiful and realistic playing experience, with details such as dynamic string resonance and pedal noise adding to the vibe. The new Unison feature and dynamic compression gives you even more options to quickly layer or fatten up your sound to cut through.

Nord Stage 4 lifestyle

The Synth section is based on the Nord Wave 2 and now includes three independent layers with plenty of polyphony to handle some massive sounding patches. The synth engine features Virtual Analog synthesis, FM, Wavetable and Samples. The new arpeggiator features Polyphonic, Gate and Pattern modes, so the creative potential is huge. Imagine three separate synth patches with their own unique arpeggiator patterns working all in perfect sync, then layer this with two different pianos and organs on top!

Even the organ section has been enhanced with the addition of physical drawbars on all models as well as the LED indicators which provide an optimal hands on playing experience and make it easy to get an overview of drawbar settings when changing patches. B3 Tonewheel, B3 Bass (new), Vox, Farfisa and Pipe Organ have you covered for all your organ needs.

Nord Stage 4 Effect Section

The new Effect section is very impressive indeed. All the tasty effects from the Stage 3 are there with the addition of a new Pump effect that simulates the classic ‘side-chain’ effect. There is a new Spin effect and new variations of Reverb, Delay, Amps and Modulation effects. Having all this available for every sound engine offers a huge amount of flexibility and allows creation of some truly massive and expressive sounds.

The Stage 4 now enables you to save presets from all of the three engines complete with all effects. In previous models, the synth presets would only save without effect settings. This update is a game changer for setting up complex patches with splits and layers in no time at all. The sample memory has doubled in size and polyphony of the synth section expanded to 48 voices. The Nord Sample Library is huge, and with a steady flow of new additions over the years, has you covered for everything. If you need something unique that is not in the library, you can easily create your own samples using the Nord Sample Editor.

Nord Stage 4 Overview

There are many other upgrades and improvements that I haven’t even mentioned here. The Nord Stage 4 really is a wonderful instrument with an impeccable build quality and style. It does come with a fairly hefty price tag that may deter some but just like my old Volvo, it will serve you reliably and faithfully in all musical situations for years to come. Those that do make the leap will not be disappointed.

Nord Stage 4 73-key RRP: $7,799.00

Nord Stage 4 88: $8,199.00

Nord Stage 4 Compact RRP: $7,099.00

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