The Nord Electro 4 is probably the best performance keyboard I've ever owned (and I've owned a BUNCH)! Great sounds, real-time effects processing, easy patch saving, intuitive controls---and did I mention that it weighs just 16 pounds?
The Perfect Digital Compromise for an Analog Purist
I love real keys. I own several Hammonds, Rhodes pianos, acoustic pianos, etc. A couple years ago, I sold my 88-key hammer action keyboard full of cutting edge sampled piano sounds and my clonewheel because, the more I played the real things, the less adequate those pieces of equipment were. They became sources of frustration rather than inspiration — I was always tweaking settings buried deep in system menus trying to get the Leslie to break up in the right way or spin at the right speed, and on and on.
So I've been lugging a real Hammond console around for a while, which is a colossal pain. But it sounds GREAT. And for everything else, I've been using a controller and the software sampler on my computer. But in both of those cases, getting to a gig requires multiple items, lots of interconnects to remember, and planning. Oh, Lord, the planning involved to get a Hammond organ somewhere...
That MIDI controller just died. I had some extra funds available, and decided perhaps digital keyboards have improved a bit since I last bought one new in 1997. If the Electro lived up to its considerable hype, it'd be a replacement for anything and EVERYTHING I might bring to a gig or want to play for fun. So I took a leap of faith.
The electro is light and beautiful. Feels solid and exceptionally well made. Looks intimidating at first. A TON of buttons with lights and lots of labels. No drawbars anywhere. Oh God, what have I done?
Here's what Nord got right. They realized that the Electro couldn't EXACTLY emulate an organ, AND an electric piano, AND an acoustic piano, AND a clav, because those are all very different instruments, with different keyboards, different response curves, different ranges, and different controls. But the compromises they elected to make to squeeze all these instruments into one digital keyboard were GENIUS.
I was stressed at first about the lack of physical drawbars. I tweak 'em all the time as I play. Forget about it. The LEDs are so intuitive, and I can reach them (and the Leslie switch!) with my left hand without taking my fingers off the keys! Perfect. And the Hammond sound? Let me tell you something: this is, BY FAR, the best Hammond simulation I've heard anywhere. The keyclick, chorus/vibrato, leakage, all SPOT on. And the Leslie is SO real. Playing this thing live with a band, it just sounds like I've got a perfectly set up, perfectly mic'd Leslie somewhere that I don't have to worry about destroying by turning it up until it distorts. The Nord GROWLS just as it should.
Is it a perfect Hammond clone? No. The keys are too stiff. There's no ability to play pedals. There's no dedicated Leslie output. I can't adjust the chorus depth (it varied widely through the years). But these are all such mild complaints in light of how well they nailed the sound of a Hammond.
The Rhodes and Wurli samples are so fun to play. I instantly feel soulful and groovy. The built in effects allow wide variation of these sounds, with faithful emulations of speaker cabs to play them through, appropriate vibratos, choruses, phasers, etc. And the samples are spot on.
Are they perfect? No... The purist in me wants dedicated controls for each model being emulated; same EQ frequencies, digitally modeled preamp and tremolo circuitry for each, etc. But that's not realistic. The keyboard's action is a great compromise for electric piano playing.
The acoustic pianos are LEGIT. So realistic. SO well recorded and EQed. The keyboard action is, at first, most noticeably unrealistic when playing piano patches. But after a couple days, like anything else, you get used to it. And now, I'm playing these pianos with all the subtlety and soul the real thing could conjure up.
And then there's so much more. The other organs, the clav. All modeled with all their original controls and settings available somewhere on the control panel. The built in EQ is VERY useful and musical.
Now here's the thing: Nord not only managed to make 95% of what I'd LIKE to be able to tweak actually tweakable on the Electro, but most of it has dedicated knobs and buttons right on the front. Very little digging in menus on the Electro, and if you need to, they're all listed right next to the control panel. Within TWO DAYS, I had every feature and setting memorized, and I was flying around this thing like a seasoned pro, filtering pickups on a clav, changing the damper pedal time on a piano, putting a Wurli through a few effects and filters, ALL from the control panel. While the emulated instruments' controls are not reproduced exactly on this instrument, their FUNCTIONS are virtually ALL still available somewhere on the control panel.
Which means, after only a couple days of study and practice, I now know my way around this 20 lb. keyboard that replaces HUNDREDS of pounds worth of vintage keys alone. For the first time in my life, I am proud and confident walking into an organ gig WITHOUT an organ! Or a Rhodes gig.
If your ideal live key rig would be a Hammond, a Rhodes and a Piano, or something like that, just bring an Electro instead and save yourself the hassle. Nord nails these samples, and the learning curve to be just as comfortable on this digital clone as you might be on its analog counterparts is not very steep. I couldn't be happier or more impressed with this product.
This is one very red and very great keyboard!
The Nord Electro has always been the perfect instrument for vintage keyboard lovers, and the new Electro 4 is the best in the long line of Electro's. To start with there are a number of '60's and later Fender Rhodes electric pianos - beautifully sampled and a joy to play - and a Hohner Clavinet D6 and a great Wurlitzer electric piano. The Electro 4 has a new selection of velocity curves that make playing these vintage keyboards much more realistic. The you have the brand new organ models from the Nord C2D - an incredibly realistic Hammond B3 that can be as clean or dirty as you want - and a Farfisa Compact Duo and a Vox Super Continental - both with all the sounds of the originals! Then you have a huge selection of acoustic grand and upright pianos - the Electro 4 has expanded memory so you can fit one of Nord's spectacular extra-large pianos in. On top of all of that is room for more samples than I can count: Mellotrons, analog synthesizers, acoustic instruments, Hohner Pianets, RMI pianos, voices... And, OK you can play any of these through all kinds of effects and reverb and delays and modeled guitar amps and a new killer Leslie sim. And the whole thing weighs like next to nothing, and it still has those cool drawlights for controlling the organs, and it's RED!
I've owned this keyboard about a month. Traded an E3 so I could have more keys, memory, and C2 organs. I bought it for what is does best - organs, EP's, and acoustic piano ( in that order). I also love the fact that it weighs only 18 pounds. I mostly use with my SV-1 but when I need just one keyboard, I take the Nord. The keybed is great for both piano and organ. The B3 sounds are amazing and soar above the band when needed. The EP's are simply cool especially with the on-board effects and AP's are best with the XL files. The only drawback is the price, but I got a great deal here. I have purchased several items from Sweetwater and my awesome sales rep, Paul Bates. He is very knowledgeable and great to work with.