Nov 12

INTRODUCING THE CLAVIA NORD ELECTRO 4 HP 73 NOTE KEYBOARD

 

Well here is a hot item, released in the UK on 28 September 2012 – The Clavia Nord Electro 4 HP 73 note velocity sensitive hammer action portable E-E keyboard. Another classy Nord product with a quality build but one that is extremely light, (weighing only 11 kg which is 24.25 lbs.) considering the fact it has expressive, full weighted keys.

On first look there doesn’t seem to be a great difference between the Electro 4 and the Electro 3 that I recently reviewed so I shall delve into its charms and see what is new.

GLOWING RED

It is always a treat unboxing a Nord keyboard. You are immediately hit by its clean, light-catching shiny ‘red’ wood ends and of course its overall distinctive red colour presenting you immediately with a hand-made product you know you would be proud to own.

I have just seen a recent short clip of the Nord Electro 4 being built in their Stockholm factory. It shows the stringent quality controls they put their keyboards through. Unfortunately that quality comes with a price so you may want to look at my comparison of the models and their specifications below if you feel that the Electro 4 HP is just a bit out of your price range.

The keyboard comes boxed with a User Manual, power cord and Nord Piano and Sample library DVDs.

WHAT’S NEW?

Let’s have a look at the different current Electro models and some of the main specifications and differences:-

Electro 3 (61/73 note) Velocity sensitive Semi Weighted Waterfall keyboard with 185 MB of the flash memory is allocated to the piano types and 68 MB of the flash memory is allocated to samples – 40-60 Voices polyphony. The 3 has 9 Digital LED drawbars on the organ section.

Electro 3 HP (73 note) Hammer Action Portable keyboard with 185 MB of the flash memory is allocated to the piano types and 68 MB of the flash memory is allocated to samples – 40-60 Voices polyphony. The 3 HP has 9 Digital LED drawbars on the organ section

Electro 4 D (61 note) Velocity sensitive Semi Weighted Waterfall keyboard with 185 MB of the flash memory is dedicated to the Nord Piano Library and 68 MB of the flash memory is dedicated to the Nord Sample Library – 40-60 Voices polyphony for Piano Library sounds and 15 Voices for Sample Library sounds. The 4D has 9 physical drawbars on the organ section

Electro 4 HP (73 note ) Velocity sensitive Hammer Action Portable keyboard with 380 MB of the flash memory is dedicated to the Nord Piano Library and 128 MB of the flash memory is dedicated to the Nord Sample Library – 40-60 Voices polyphony for Piano Library sounds and 15 Voices for Sample Library sounds. The 4 HP has 9 Digital LED drawbars on the organ section

Well as you can see the Electro 4 HP has just over twice the memory capacity to that of its predecessor. Personally, I think this is a very important consideration because Nord have such an extensive sound library that you want to load on board so much more. I am not sure how this increased memory equates to the number of additional patches you can load but presumably this depends on the size of the selected samples.

Nord have also seriously upgraded the Organ section to the latest Tone Wheel engine that you can find on their C2D dual manual organ. They have also included as a new addition the famous Leslie 122 rotary speaker simulation, and they have improved the key click by modelling each note’s click giving a truly authentic sound. I don’t understand why they have changed their minds and did not put the real drawbars on the Electro 4 HP as they did on the Electro 4 D because this is something that keyboard players have been asking Nord to do for some time now. Other changes are that you now have MIDI via USB capability and support for the latest version of the Nord Sound Manager software.

KEYBOARD ACTION, OPERATION AND PANEL LAYOUT

The keys themselves respond far better than I thought they would. I had this thought before I took the keyboard out of the box that they would be too lightweight due to the overall keyboard weight. This was not the case at all. Although the keys are not as heavy as the weight of real piano keys, what you have here is a very good compromise. The fact that you can adjust the ‘action’ means that you can have weighted keys that are also great for fast playing on the organ sounds and if you suddenly have to change to piano you have a much greater feel and response than what you could achieve with a semi-weighted keyboard. After a few days of use, my fingers really settled down to its feel and it became a really enjoyable playing experience.

The front panel is logically laid out and just has some small variations from its predecessor. Nord, some time ago decided that rather than have a large LCD, they would use a series of buttons and knobs to have all the necessary controls at your fingertips. There looks a lot to take in to begin with, but the layout is sensibly divided into four main areas – for Organ, Piano, Program and an Effects section.

NORD ELECTRO 4 ORGAN SECTION

I am not an organ player but I think it is a shame that the manual drawbars are not on this model as they are on the 4D. However, you do get used to the digital alternative which responds very quickly. From what I remember, I would say that the new B3 model has got a lot more oomph about it and is much more powerful. I also really like the new key click simulation. Again you cannot argue with the quality and realism Nord put in here.

To start off, you need to select ‘Organ’ in the Program section which is a simple choice between Organ and Piano. As you look at the Organ Section, the first button allows you to choose between three models – a Farfisa, Vox or the new B3 Organ model. Although it is not a sound I particularly love, I found the Farfisa model just as realistic as the new B3. It has a powerful and high sounding quality and with adjustments to the digital drawbars you can get a sound to cut right through a mix. Under this, are the Rotary Speed controls. Above the 18 digital LED controls that act as the organ sliders you have a Vibrato/Chorus section, Percussion controls and Preset/Split options. Nord state that the organ can be split, for a compact dual manual action and it is possible to assign the lower manual to a second MIDI keyboard – a very useful option for you to create your own custom C2D organ.

NORD ELECTRO 4 PIANO SECTION

The Piano section is the smallest of sections and whilst it did not cause me any issues, I found there was a lot in this section with a separate 2-character LCD, 16 LEDs and 5 buttons. The section starts with a multiple selection and is headed up as ‘Samp/Env Clav/EQ’. Here you can cycle through the four options for the sample’s attack and velocity settings and it also doubles up as the Clavinet EQ selector, when the Clavinet type is active. I think this section should be at the bottom so that the Piano type is your first choice; however Nord may well have decided to have it at the bottom of the section for quicker selection during live performance.

Under this is an Acoustics button with three LEDs for Long Release, String Resonance and Mono. Activating the Long Release feature will add a slightly longer release to an acoustic or electric piano. If you turn String Resonance on, you can include the pedal-down samples in an acoustic piano sound. These samples will then be used when you play and activate the sustain pedal, with a very rich sound. The Mono option simply allows you to play a stereo piano in mono.

Like the Organ section, you need to select ‘Piano, from the Program Section. The pianos in the Nord Electro 4HP are divided into six different types; Grand for acoustic and electric grand pianos, Upright Pianos, Electric Piano 1 with tines, Electric Piano 2 with reeds, Clavichords/Harpsichords and Samples from the sample library. Each of these types has instrument models and I must say that all sounded superb. You have a quality selection of acoustic and electromechani¬cal pianos, harpsichords and sampled instruments and Nord state that each piano instrument has been multi sampled in a vast amount of veloc¬ity levels. That’s one reason why they sound and feel so authentic and I agree with this. I love the Steinway Grand Lady D piano sound and if you need something a little brighter you can choose the excellent Yamaha Bright Grand. If this isn’t enough for you, the entire Nord Piano Library is included on DVDs and new additions can be downloaded free. They have even made the process for replacing the sounds very easy as all you have to do is just drag and drop the files in the Nord Sound Manager which is included for Macs and Windows. You can also load samples such as the Mellotron or Chamberlin sounds that have been licensed by Clavia.

Also in this section is a Dynamics button with three levels of different response curves to suit your playing style. I actually preferred the light action of level 3 and found it very fast.

NORD ELECTRO 4 PROGRAM SECTION

This section is mainly self-explanatory with necessary buttons like Shift, Store and Octave buttons as well as the main LCD. You can also access the System, MIDI, B3 and Rotary menus here. The 128 programs in the Electro 4HP are organized in 32 pages with 4 programs in each page.

NORD ELECTRO 4  EFFECTS SECTION

Effects are always part of the fun allowing you to shape your sound and Nord have it all at your fingertips for added dirt, grit, sparkle and atmosphere. I particularly like the Amp/Speaker simulation, which now features the same Vintage 122 Rotary Speaker simulations that you will find on their C2D. Also I have to say that the phaser sounded one of the best I have heard. It has an awesome smoothness about it.

The effects section starts off with three-band EQ, with sweepable mid. The frequency ranges can be boosted/attenuated with +/- 15 db. Effect 1 provides you with Pan, Tremolo, Auto-wah. Effect 2 adds in Phaser, Flanger and Chorus. The Speaker / Compression give you the amp simulations of Twin, JC, Small, Rotary as well as a Compressor. There is then a flexible Stereo Delay effect with Tap-Tempo and Ping-Pong mode and finally Reverb with options for Room, Stage Soft, Stage, Hall and Hall Soft.

Simple effects make such a difference here. Just adding chorus to an Electric Piano again demonstrates the quality here. For the Clavs you can easily produce the famous Stevie Wonder sounds as it appears that you could produce every type of Clav you have ever heard. If you are after that Jon Lord Organ sound, you can effortless achieve this with access to the Amp Simulations, Rotary settings and EQ. Beautiful String sounds are further enhanced with Reverb or subtle Delay.

OTHER SOUNDS, YOUR OWN SOUNDS AND THE NORD EDITOR

We haven’t mentioned the other sounds that you will find pre-loaded. These sounds are taken from Nord’s Library where there are over 1000 sounds available and growing. You have a selection of Strings, Brass, Trumpets, Flutes, Mellotrons, Marimbas, Harps and Choirs. These sounds are all very good but some are simply excellent. I love the strings; they are just so real that you forget it is keyboard you are playing. You can also make your own Key maps for you own sounds and samples. With use of the included Nord Editor you can map your .Wav files out across the keyboard save them on a USB stick to load in your Electro.

NORD ELECTRO 4 MAKING CONNECTIONS

The Electro 4 HP provides quarter inch stereo connectors for: – a pair of head-phones and main left and right outputs. There is also a Monitor Input to connect and monitor a signal from an mp3 or a CD player at the Nord Electro 4HP’s headphone output. This usefully allows you to rehearse with pre-recorded music. Next is the Midi In and Out connections but there is no Midi Thru. The USB connection allows you to update the Operating System or to add or replace any of the piano and/or samples. You can also transmit and receive MIDI data via the USB interface.

There are three pedal inputs; one for a sustain pedal, one for a pedal to control the rotor speed and one for a control pedal (an expression type pedal), which can be used to control various parameters such as a swell pedal for the organs, a volume pedal for the pianos or a controller for two of the effects – the P-wah and the ring modulator.

CONCLUSION

Nord’s attention to detail is outstanding and this instrument is a pleasure to play. This a professional keyboard for Piano and Organ with quality effects. If you are looking for a keyboard that is extremely portable, very playable with great piano and organ sounds and so much more, then your only decision maybe cost and the model to choose. Essentially, the Nord Electro 4 HP is the same instrument as the Electro 4D in terms of sound technology. The differences in the drawbars, keyboard action, memory and cost, is for you to decide on your priorities. I would suggest you try both models.

You shouldn’t forget the flexibility of Nord’s Piano Library online so that sounds can be swapped and added to via the free, downloadable service it offers so that you can tailor your Electro to your own requirements making this a very desirable keyboard for live playing.

So why not treat yourself and get one today at the best place around – just click this Orange Banner for a great price and great service:-

Absolute Music

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