AF’s Weblog

March 2, 2009

Test: Clavia Nord Wave Synthesis Review

Filed under: Synthesizers — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 10:09 am
Multifaceted Synthesis
Clavia Nord Wave: The Test

Integrating analog modeling, FM synthesis, digital waveforms, and sample reading, the Nord Wave positions itself as a versatile multi-synthesis specialist. Focusing on immediate programming as opposed to navigating through endless menu pages, does it have what it takes to stand out from the rest?

In 1995, Clavia introduced the Nord Lead, a small red bomb modeling polyphonic analog synths of yesteryear. The machine also came with a sound bank from the original Prophet-5. In the following 10 years, it gave birth to gifted offspring, exploring FM synthesis on the way, with the Nord Lead 3 and its fancy luminous interface. The Swedish manufacturer was quick to explore the world of virtual modular synths, with a family just as gifted that allowed it to model many signal processing tools. The only thing missing was sample reading, something which Clavia was soon to develop in order to generate some of the sounds of its keyboards destined for playing live. The Nord Wave therefore has profited form the know-how of the brand. Now at maturity, with a stable OS (1.08) and coming with an additional bank of 250 MB of Mellotron samples, a test was called for …

Getting Started

Clavia Nord Wave

True to Clavia tradition, the Nord Wave synth is both lightweight and solidly built. Weighing in at 6 kg on the scale in a red and black frame all in metal the machine was made for live gigs. Controls (33 knobs, 3 notched endless encoders, 33 buttons) are firmly attached to the front panel (they won’t be going anywhere!). As usual, they’re all grouped together on the left half of the machine. You either like it or you don’t. In any event, the controls are too crowded and too small for tired eyes and trembling hands. In addition, the screen is on the extreme left, which isn’t practical for reading. All parameters except for global/Midi settings are accessible directly from the front panel. Some buttons have an alternate function which is accessible by pressing “Shift”. The sections are pretty clear, with (from left to right): modulations (portamento, LFO, assignable envelope), 2 oscillators, a filter with its envelope, the volume with its envelope and its effects. Work flow and ease of use are strong points of this machine. The LCD screen (2 x 16 characters) completes the picture: in addition to the names of programs, the LCD screen shows the value of all parameters while editing, especially the names of multi-samples and digital waveforms. Note that the value of certain parameters is shown in its true unit of measurement: frequency in Hz, time in seconds, intervals in semitones … nice! A dedicated “Panic” button can cut all notes and is ideal for gigs. Some small shortcomings: there’s no “compare” button and rotary knobs only function in “jump” mode.

Connectique dépouillée

As for its keyboard action, the Nord Wave offers a lightweight 4-octave keyboard (49 keys) that’s sensitive to both velocity and pressure. Its feel and dynamic response are comfortable and responsive to nuances, however, the pressure control is very abrupt and not very expressive. It’s a shame that Clavia hasn’t switched to the standard 5 octaves, especially to play multi-samples. To overcome the lack of octaves, there are buttons that quickly transpose, plus or minus 2 octaves, near the cool pitch stick without a central position and the modulation wheel. On closer examination, the back panel proves to be a disappointment (picture on the left): one pair of audio outputs, a headphone jack, a duo Midi, 2 Pedal outputs, and a USB socket (see box on sample management). So goodbye multiple outputs, digital audio, MIDI Through … There’s only internal power to console us, which is surprising from a machine of this level and price.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

In the end, the Nord Wave is a concentration of synthesis types with excellent musicality. User friendly, robust, and lightweight, it’s made for live situations, like all Clavia products. Its range of sounds is surprising, with very different and perfectly complementary timbres within easy reach. If you add to that the intermodulation of oscillators, the excellent library of Mellotron samples, you should be satisfied… except, that for this level, some aspects just barely cut it, especially the keyboard, multi-timbrality, connections, computer dependence for sample management, and certain sections that aren’t sufficiently developed. In any event, for those who put sound quality at the top of their priority list, as well as the variety of sounds and ease of use, it’s hard to beat the Nord Wave at the moment.

Both solid and light, ideal for using live
Easy to use and quick results
Wide and excellent sound range
Beautiful 250 MB Mellotron bank
Quality effects, especially the chorus
Oscillator inter-modulation
Filters are varied and musical
Envelopes very responsive
Morphing between 2 sounds
A lot of FlashRam to load samples

Only bi-timbral
No Split or dynamic layers
Keyboard only 4 octaves
Aftertouch limited to vibrato and difficult to control
Knobs, dials, and buttons are small and crowded
Limited effects section
No Midi sync for the LFOs/delays
No arpeggiator
Not autonomous in the management of samples
No multi-layered samples
No audio input
No Midi Through

To read the full, detailed article see:  Clavia Nord Wave review

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