Clavia Nord Lead 4
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Clavia Nord Lead 4

Nord Lead 4, Analog Modeling Synth from Clavia in the Nord Lead series.

klair31 10/09/2013

Clavia Nord Lead 4 : klair31's user review

« Fascinating synth »

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A synthesizer through and through. To get the features, visit Nord Keyboards' website. You'll also find an interesting comparison between this synth and the Nord Lead 2X:
http://www.nordkeyboards.com/main.asp?tm=Products&clpm=Nord_Lead_4

Polyphony?
20 voices, which might seem not enough in Performance mode according to some user comments. However, I never had any polyphony problem up to now.

UTILIZATION

Is it easy to make settings?
It can't be easier!! I could easily use the device from the 1st day without reading the product manual. I only had difficulties to understand the Mutator and Pattern functions (although the latter is self-explaining!) in the beginning. I took few minutes to check the manual and everything was OK!

All features are accessible from the front panel so the unit is easy to use. I also own a Nord Wave, thus learning how the Nord Lead 4 works was a breeze. Apropos let's speak about the Nord Wave + Nord Lead 4 combination: Both synths don't have the same philosophy and are very complementary. Are you looking for a synth providing all features required for live performance, variations included? The Nord Lead 4 is for you! On the other hand, I find the Nord Wave less funny but it also provides you with excellent sound quality.
The Nord Lead 4 includes 128 waveforms, which reminds the Nord Wave. Using one of them, I was able to reproduce the typical DX7 bell sound. By the way, there is also a FM mode that I didn't use a lot up to now (I already own two FM synths, the SY99 and DX7II).

Is the user's manual clear and comprehensive?
I checked the starting guide two or three times... It seems to be comprehensive.

Is it easy to edit sounds or effects?
Yes, no problem! As I already mentioned, you can access everything either directly or via Shift key. By chance I found out how to create a Performance by pushing two Part keys from the first use.
Effects are also fine but I regret that it is impossible to combine delay AND reverb :(


SOUNDS

Do the sound presets fit your music style?
Yes for sure, and they are excellent! Those days I'm playing a lot of "Italian disco" (I created performances in Moroder and Laser Dance style), indus and spatial tunes and I like the sounds.

Are they authentic?
I you're looking for authentic sound, forget it! This is a synthesizer, not a workstation including a ROM full-packed with piano, brass and strings presets... However, it is possible to get quite realistic flute, organ and violin sounds if you edit the available waveforms properly. But the result won't be 100% authentic because of the lack of natural feel like bow rubbing and string picking brought by physical modeling synthesis (check the Korg Z1, Yamaha VL1 or Triton + MOSS).

Are the effects effective and do they suit your application?
The provided effects are good but limited (see above). I like to create moving effects in real time with the Morphing wheel.
You also get Drive, Compressor, Talk (talkbox simulation), Crush (evocative of old video games on Atari!) and com filter (creates chorus-like effect).

Is the expressiveness good? (velocity and aftertouch sensitivity)?
The soft morphing (with the wheel) and hard morphing (Impulse Morph) are very interesting but the keyboard has no aftertouch... Generally I use it very few so I don't really miss this feature but it's a pity that the keyboard doesn't have it.
I use an expression pedal for soft morphing to keep my left hand free.
No problem with the velocity response.

Which sounds do you prefer / hate? ...
A difficult question since I like almost EVERYTHING in this synth! However, I don't really like the sharp sounds... and this also apply to the Nord Wave.
This being said, the sound range of the Nord Lead 4 is much wider than I originally thought! You get huge sound possibilities, from a fat bass line to a crystal-clear, icy sound over "aquatic" tones.


OVERALL OPINION

How long have you been using it?
For over three weeks. It's now the synth I mainly use with my pop/rock/electro band.

Which feature do you like the most / the least?
Pros:
- The high-quality SOUND I had the opportunity to try out different analog synths and I feel good with this Nord Lead.
- Of course the multiple Performance features! Split, morph, etc.
- Arpeggios and patterns that are very useful for my music style.
- Having the possibility to export/import sounds with the Nord Sound Manager is very convenient!
- Of course the overall design: If you're a sound synthesis newbie and want to create your own sound presets without hassle, the Nord Lead is famous for its fast and easy learning curve!
- The weight! A crucial feature when you're on tour. I've problems with my back, but carrying the Nord Lead 4 is as easy as carrying a snatchel :)

Cons:
- No vocoder. It's a pity that such a funny effect is not inculded. It would be great in Performance mode!
- Sometimes it's difficult to control the Impulse Morph while playing with the left hand. Doing the splits with fingers is required! It's only a matter of training :)
- Illuminated controls like on the Nord Lead 3 or Korg R3 would be welcome. Here the user interface is less self-explaining in edit mode... Illuminated controls would help to understand how the sound presets are build. But I mean I read somewhere that this technology is expensive...
- No aftertouch
- Sleepless nights spent playing with passion... But is this a real con? ;)

Did you try any of other models before buying this one?
I own many different synths (see my profile) but I had no light and comprehensive synth to make great performances. The only synth I had in this category is the R3 but it's limited.
Some years ago, I was already looking for this kind of synth and I decided to buy a Nord Lead 2X for its live performance features, and in spite of its limitations (no sync, no effects, etc.) and although I liked the Nord Wave sound more. The Nord Lead 4 doesn't have these limitations and is THE synth I've been waiting for for a long time. So I didn't hesitate and made me a nice gift with its slipcover included to the launch price.

How would you rate its value for money? Based on your experience, would you buy this product again? ...
This purchase is painful for the wallet (€1,800 with slipcover)... but it's worth the money!

And there is no doubt for me: Considering the features and quality of this synth, I would buy it again.