Apr 29


I have been anxious to get my hands on a Nord keyboard and it is very strange that at the time Nord have just announced the release of the Electro 4D at Musikmesse in Frankfurt, I am about to look into the Nord Electro 3. This maybe the right time as there is a possibility that the Electro 3 will come down a little in price, with its successor just around the corner. Obviously the Electro 3 is the third incarnation of Clavia’s virtual electromechanical range of bright red wonders. The first is now over ten years old and Clavia have slowly updated the software and hardware.


I know I have said this many times in the past, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time. Many keyboard players want one keyboard to be able to do it all, but that just is not possible. Even the Korg Kronos with its nine synth engines was very let down by its keyboard action on all of its models. Your requirements may be that you want a great fast moving keyboard action to play organ and synth sounds and then at the same time you want the feel of an Acoustic Grand Piano to play all the subtle dynamics. You also want a vast range of sounds which does not just include the bread and butter sounds and for these sounds to be of a very high quality and the sound very natural and believable. On top of this you want it to be user-friendly and be very portable, possibly lightweight.

Compromise is the word and Clavia set out to achieve many of these needs. The Electro 3 is part of their virtual electromechanical range of keyboards. They now have three Electro 3 keyboards in an attempt to supply you with exactly what you need. There is the 61 Key, the 73 key and the Electro 3 HP with a hammer action keyboard. All three give you authentic vintage sounds with Acoustic and Electric Pianos, modelled organs that have rotary speaker simulation, strings and other real instruments. To meet your other needs you have full access to Clavia’s large and ever-growing sample library. You have to bear in mind that the Electro range of keyboards are not synths and whilst there is a great sample library available, you do not have all the controls on the Electros that most synths have today. All three keyboards have a great weight and here is the model comparison:- 61 note is just 7.65 kg (15.3 lbs), the 73 note is an incredible 9.1 kg (18.2 lbs) and even with weighted keys the Electro 3 HP is just 11 kg (24.25 lbs).


As always this is different for everyone and before you make any decision, I always recommend you try before you buy. Personally I still want this to be much better, but Clavia have attempted to please everyone by giving you the fast synth-like feel combined with a springiness that can assist with a piano performance. If you consider that the Piano has a greater priority in your requirements then perhaps the Electro 3 HP is the model for you. I must say I do prefer this action to that of the Korg Kronos when comparing the 61 key models. I think it is a reasonable comment to say that nearly all the big companies do not provide us with fantastic keybeds. I really wish they would stop trying to impress us with their new sounds and new effects and controls and spend a much greater amount of time creating the keybed and then come and impress us with it. After all it is the main part of the keyboard, it is the tool we use to make our sounds but more importantly it is the key to a good performance.


You can control the Nord Electro 3 easily as you play Live from the front panel which has four main areas, Organ, Piano, Program and Effects. There is also a Master Level knob which is not programmable but Clavia have very cleverly given that function to the Gain Control in the Effects Section. There is no modulation wheel or pitch bend as you may have expected and the LED with its, three-character display, although very small does an adequate job for your needs. The slight issue I have here for live use is remembering my patch locations. Strangely enough the Nord Electro 2 had a better although somewhat smaller setup for its preset patches and it allowed you to save a bank of 8 patches in Banks A to F. However, the Electro 3 has only 2 Bank buttons (Patches A 1-64) and (Patches B 1-64 patches). With the Electro 3HP, Clavia must have listened to user feedback because they have implemented four program buttons that access four sound banks, making it quicker to navigate than the Electro 3.

The Nord Electro 3’s 128 factory preset programs can all be replaced and over-written. You can and should backup your sounds regularly on a PC or MAC using the included Nord Sound Manager application. For help on other functions Nord have printed Sound and MIDI parameters on the keyboard itself, I am not that this is a great idea but I wasn’t really bothered either way.

The Organ section is a big part of the Electro 3 allowing you to authentically recreate classic organ sounds of the past and everything in-between. My starting point was in the Program area where I could make an initial choice between Organ and Piano. As I selected Organ, the Organ section lit and activated ready for my use. I could then press the Organ model button to cycle through the three classic organ models; the B3, the Vox Continental and the Farfisa. For each of the Organ Models (the B3, the Vox Continental and the Farfisa) you get 17 presets. What I did next was to select the Preset / Split button. This gave me a second preset which allowed me to keep two dif¬ferent settings for an organ sound available from the panel at any time. You can also split the keyboard by pressing the Shift and the Preset / Split button which defaults to a splitting point at C4. Another great feature that Clavia have designed in the Electro 3 is that it will support an extra MIDI keyboard when the Organ Split mode is activated. This would allow you to use the Nord Electro 3 like a classic dual manual organ. You could also have different drawbar settings for both keyboards – great stuff.

Clavia have based their Electro Organ on their own famous C1 Combo Organ. I really like the updated key click giving a lovely percussive sound and feel to it. For the John Lord’s in you, you will find enough Purple, gritty, Rotary Hammond sounds to keep you playing “Child in Time” to the early hours of the morning. To my ears that is a really great Hammond replica, not quite a Leslie Speaker in there but pretty close. My favourite organ sound seems to be patch 32b which is called Mercy Vox. It has some awesome effects and phases in and out allowing you to play fast notes that smooth into each other to great effect.

To play an organ and recreate sounds authentically you need Drawbars. Clavia provide nine digitally controlled drawbars which are represented by up and down buttons and LED bar graphs – very clever. This is so easy to use Live and the LEDs instantly show you what is happening even in poor lighted areas. The Farfisa organ model uses the drawbar controls as toggle switches just like the rocker switches on the original Farfisa. I always like the percussive sounds on organs, perhaps it just the drummer in me. The Electro does an awesome job here and provides you (amongst other user-adjustable parameters) percussive levels, decays and keylicks.

Ok let us move onto the Piano section which is divided into six types – Electric Pianos, Uprights, Grands, Wurlitzers, Clavs / Harpsichords and those from the Sample Library. The Electro 3 has 256MB of RAM, which is eight times as much as the original Electro giving you a bit more room to load some of your favourite piano samples. 185 MB of the flash memory is allocated to the piano types. Personally I found the Nord’s acoustic pianos a refreshing change from the Roland and Korg pianos that I am very familiar with. Every manufacturer seems to have its own slant on the sound it creates. Every time I play for example a Roland Piano, it is as if I know what to expect before I have heard it. With the Nord, I can’t put my finger on it (no pun intended) but the sound is for some reason different. There are a couple of Yamaha and Steinway grand pianos but if these are not quite to your taste, you could replace them free of charge with a bigger velocity-layered Steinway D from the sample library.

My favourites are the electric pianos with four different tine electric pianos and a reed electric piano. This works well if you add a touch of phaser to it to give you that classic Steely Dan sound. Also, try adding tremolo and you will time-travel back to the seventies. Some of the electric pianos are much brighter and give you that nice gritty bite as you dig into the keys and I love the Wurlitzers, they just feel and sound so right and you can still tweak them, add effects and make them your own. The Clavs are based on the famous Clavinet D6 and with the right effects and EQ will make you sound like Stevie Wonder and you should try these with flanger and auto-wah – great funky sound. The delicate harpsichord sound is very accurate.

There are also some Boutique sounds on-board, some that came from the vintage tape player the Melatron for you to sound like the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields – perfect recreation. Also the Melatron bright aggressive string sound will really cut through anything.

Moving on to the program section, you can select, manage and store programs, access the System, MIDI and sound parameters. There is also a handy extra – the live buffer which is really like a program memory button whereby all changes to the panel set¬tings you make are constantly saved. If you switch the power off, or accidently select another program, the settings are still stored in the memory, so when you power up next time (or return to the Live memory) all set¬tings will be exactly as they were when you left them.


On your PC or MAC you can install the Nord Sound Manager. With this you can do tasks such as download or upload pianos, samples or programs to and from the Nord Electro 3. It can also function to backup and restore the entire Nord Electro 3 memory.

There is also a Sample Editor where you can load your own samples into the Electro 3. You will find full instructions on the included DVD.


I like the layout of the effects section with its quick access to turn effects on or off. If you Press and hold the Shift button and then press the Effect selector you can cycle through the effects. The Effects Section is divided into six and at the top is the EQ section providing you with a 3-band EQ with treble, bass and a sweepable midrange. These frequency ranges can be boosted with the separate gain control +/- 15 dB. To the right of the EQ section is an overall Gain knob with selections from 1 to 10.

The next four sections control the main effects and all have individual On and Off buttons, selector buttons and a suitable control knob. Effect 1 section gives you a choice of Auto-Panning and Tremelo and both of these have three selectable depths. There are also two types of Wah-Wah and a Ring Modulator. You can do some strange things with the Ring Modulator as it certainly brings a bit of fun to the table against the serious nature of the Electro 3. Effect 2 section adds three types of modulation effects: Phaser, Flanger and Chorus with three selectable depths and a Rate knob to control the rate of the effect. The next Section – Speaker and Compression, provides Speaker and Amplifier emulations, the rotary speaker emulation and a compressor. I like the Rotary emulation but the other controls allow you to get some dirt, grit and aggression into the sounds. Finally the Reverb Section (which was not on previous versions of the Electro) gives you a Dry to Wet control and selections for Hall, Stage or Room and all sound very natural. I found that adding a touch of Hall Soft really added warmth to the sounds. Interestingly Clavia added a delay effect to the Electro 3HP, with tap tempo and ping-pong mode, which sounds very analogue-like.


Around the back from left to right, you have three standard jack pedal inputs; a Control Pedal to control various param¬eters such as a Swell for the Organs or control effects like the P-Wah; a Rotor Pedal to control the Rotor Speed and a Sustain pedal. You then have MIDI In and Out but no Thru. A USB connector to connect with your PC or Mac for O/S updates, Backups and use of the Sound Manager or Sample Editor software. Next is the addition of a 3.5mm input for external sound sources like a CD or mp3 player, routed directly to the headphone output. Finally there are the left and Right Main Outputs and a Stereo Headphone Output.


There is no doubt in my mind that if you are a Vintage keyboard player who loves electromechanical and real sounding instruments then this is the keyboard for you and if you want weighted keys then go for the Electro 3HP which is still incredibly lightweight at only 11 kg (24.25 lbs) and does also have a couple of useful extras on top. With the Organ you have some truly great simulations authentically taking you from the heavy rock sound of the Hammond to the thin transistorized sounds of the Farfisa and Vox organs. The Electric Pianos are stunning and I certainly enjoyed playing them the most. The Electro 3 has the looks of a fast red sports car; it replaces the need to carry heavy vintage keyboards about and gives you a reliable authentic-sounding keyboard in a very portable and quality package. But don’t forget the extensive sound library to make this instrument what you want it to be. You just can’t help but love Nord keyboards.

Here is a very talented guy known as the JazzDoctor (JD73), who really knows how to play and shows the true potential of Clavia’s Nord Electro 3. Watch this it makes you want to go out and buy one.

There is only one place to buy this beautiful red beast and that is by clicking this Orange Banner:-

Absolute Music

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