The Clavia Nord Electro 3/73 Keyboard
3.5
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  • First, it contains a set of organ tone generators set up to imitate three of the best-known elecronic organs
  • I enjoyed playing it, probably because the action suited that type of instrument
  • This is badly designed because the shift button is some distance from the drawbar preset buttons, and definitely does not enable easy operation
  • Another issue is that if a change of instrument is made to a piano from an organ or vice-versa, or from one sampled instrument to another, the current instrument is either silenced until all keys are released, or the new instrument is not effective until all keys have been released
  • These critisms may not matter in a lower cost instrument, but this is the third iteration of the Nord Electro, and by now its ergonomy should be perfect, and its memory provision should be up-to-date

    • by Kenneth Spencer
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      This review describes and assesses the Clavia Nord Electro 3. The review is in three parts: a brief description, followed by an assessment of the design and function, and completed by a summary.

      PART 1: The Description

      The Clavia Nord Electro 3 is an electronic musical keyboard available with either 61 or 73 keys (5 or 6 octaves). The keyboard, like most of the Nord range, which includes the Nord C2 single and dual manual organs and the Nord Lead synthesisers, is a distinctive red with a set of controls behind the keybed and connectors on a rear panel.

      The Electro 3 is more than one instrument. First, it contains a set of organ tone generators set up to imitate three of the best-known elecronic organs: the Hammond B3, the Farfisa Compact Deluxe and the Vox Continental II (Vx). These instruments are fixed content for the Electro 3, but there are, in addition, a set of many other instruments, including acoustic, digital and electronic pianos, as well as other organs, sampled instruments and synthesisers, which are not fixed: they can be loaded or unloaded from the device’s memory via a PC or Mac using software applications supplied.

      The Electro 3 has a good Leslie speaker simulation, which significantly helps the realism of the Hammond B3, but can also be used as an effect on many of the other instruments.

      The controls provided include a set of nine so-called “drawbars” which are not drawbars at all, but rather columns of LEDs which represent electronic drawbars. These are used to control the harmonic content of the tones of the B3 and the Vox, but only switch on or off the various tonal components of the Farfisa. Clavia makes the point that the use of these electronic drawbars allow preset drawbar positions to be displayed - to do that with physical drawbars is quite costly and complex.

      Each organ has 17 presets and a “random” option, and these are editable. The presets are selected by button switches which also serve to set the position of each drawbar.

      As well as the drawbars and presets for the organs,


      a set of “Piano” controls permit the selection from the several “instrument banks” which include the various pianos as well as the samples and synthesisers.

      There is also a set of Program controls, which allow the storage and selection of up to 128 programs. These can be organ presets as well as any of the stored sampled instruments or synthesisers.

      The instrument is provided with a useful panel of effects which include equalisers, panning, tremelos, wah-wahs, ring modulation, flangers, choruses, phasers, distortion/compressions, amplifier modelling, and a rotary speaker (already mentioned), as well several reverberation types.

      Many of the parameters in the effects panel are saved when a program is edited or created and then stored in a program memory.

      A wealth of connections are provided on the back panel. A standard “figure-of-eight” socket is used for the mains supply. Standard jack sockets are used for audio outputs (headphone, left channel and right channel), sustain footswitch, rotary speaker footswitch, and an expression pedal. There is a standard MIDI-OUT socket, and a USB socket for connection to a PC or Mac for loading and unloading instruments. The USB output does not include MIDI-USB. Note that the Electro 3 is a true stereo instrument, easily demonstrated by the panning effect, although it can be switched to mono if required.

      The keybed is speed-sensitive, and is described as “semi-weighted”, rather than simply electronic touch. The keys are of piano, rather than organ, design.

      PART 2: An Assessment of Design and Function

      Physically the unit is well-built and likely to stand up to fairly heavy use. I did not like the legend printed on the case relating to a few of the more obscure settings. The rear panel is of acceptable design and function, except that the headphone socket is in the wrong place as the headphone cable will interfere with your playing.

      The organ sounds are acceptable, but I could not rave over them as some have done. Although some paramters are settable, it seems possible only to reduce the key-click on the B3 organ rather than remove it completely where necessary. It would be most informative to ...


      • try this instrument alongside a Hammond XK-1 or an XK-3.

        The acoustic piano sounds include several Steinway and Yamaha grand pianos. They are quite realistic but frankly they simply aren’t the real thing and maybe keyboard manufacturers should stop claiming that they are. They do not ring like real piano, nor is there the same tactile feedback, because although the keyboard is described as “semi-weighted”, all this meant to me was that the springing is a little stronger than the typical electronic organ keyboard. Free downloads of several other Steinways and Yamahas are also available, some models having so-called “string resonance” but which I couldn’t detect. I have a real acoustic Yamaha baby grand, and quite simply the Electro 3 pianos are just not the same.

        The digital piano is the Yamaha C80, and I did like that, although my wife claimed that it did not sound like a piano to her! I enjoyed playing it, probably because the action suited that type of instrument.

        There are several different electronic piano models, including variants of the EP4 Tine piano, and the Wurlitzer Reed piano. These are perfectly playable, as once again these instruments do not have the complex tonal structure of an acoustic piano. There are also several variants of the Hohner Clavinet, which was a string-based piano-like instrument, and which is reasonably reproduced. I remember that instrument well as my band had one in the 1960s!

        Many of the sampled instruments and synthesisers are a little disappointing. There are a few good string samples amongst the many. The harmoniums and classical organs are not as good as I had hoped. Nor are the harpsichords as good as I get from my Hauptwerk virtual organ software with several harpsichord sample sets. There are a selection of orchestral instruments delivered with the Electro 3, and on the Nord website, and I really liked several of them, but not enough of them are as realistic or as playable as, for example, the excellent instruments provided in the Acoustica Mixcraft library.

        One important criticism: much is made of the recently expanded sample and instrument memory of

        256 Mbyte. But why so little? If one loads the largest Steinway Grand it means serious sacrifices must be made regarding other instruments, samples and synthesisers. These days, with flash RAM being so cheaply available, this instrument should have at least 16 Gbyte! Let us see this change made urgently.

        Ergonomic design is a crucial aspect of an instrument like the Nord Electro 3, especially but not least because it is designed for the stage and live performance. And this raises many important issues with this instrument.

        First the omissions: why is there no pitch-bend or modulation wheel? The solo violin, which makes a good ‘cello in the lower registers, cries out for this.

        Then the drawbars: I did not like the drawbars. They are too fiddly to adjust in a hurry. Why not provide a touch-sensitive strip above or alongside each column of LEDs so that each drawbar could be set by a single touch. The use of the preset buttons to set the drawbars would not then be required, and they could set a preset directly. Currently, preset selection involves holding down the “shift” button and tapping preset button. This is badly designed because the shift button is some distance from the drawbar preset buttons, and definitely does not enable easy operation.

        Another issue is that if a change of instrument is made to a piano from an organ or vice-versa, or from one sampled instrument to another, the current instrument is either silenced until all keys are released, or the new instrument is not effective until all keys have been released. It would be better to simply enable an instantaneous instrument reselection consistently, as soon as a new instrument is selected.

        These critisms may not matter in a lower cost instrument, but this is the third iteration of the Nord Electro, and by now its ergonomy should be perfect, and its memory provision should be up-to-date.

        PART 3: Summary

        This is a good electronic keyboard instrument marred by a not-so-good key touch, some poor ergonomic design, several disappointing instruments and samples, and a lack of pitch-bend and modulation wheels.

        Kenneth Spencer (c) 2010, October.




    0
    Simon Beck says :

    The reason the Nord Electro has no pitch or mod wheels is simply that the main purpose of it is to emulate vintage pianos and organs, none of which have these controls. If you want a synth, buy a synth. It seems to me that you are expecting too much from an instrument which was designed to do a very specialised task, and which has gradually had extra facilities added.

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    Kenneth Spencer replies :

    Many thanks, Simon …

    I am sorry, but I have to politely disagree with your view on the purpose and the design of the Clavia Nord Electro Three.

    The fact is that the instrument is capable of being played as a synthesiser, as there are synthesiser samples available for it. It is a multiple-purpose instrument. And if we followed your argument, then it would have to properly actioned keys for the pianos, and proper physical draw-bars for the organs (which I wish it had ).

    I feel that it is not sufficiently imaginative in its realisation, and fails to use currently available technology effectively in its implementation - for example much too little RAM is provided.

    It is not really that I am expecting too much from the instrument - it is what it is - it is more that I am really disappointed in what has been produced, and would wish for more from its designers

    All the best and thanks so much for reading and responding to my review.

    Regards

    Ken.

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    The review was published as it's written by reviewer in October, 2010. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 1414101297051131/k2311a1014/10.14.10
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