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Introduction

 

I owned an original Nord Wave for a few years. It was a useful, straightforward, and compared to the Wave 2, relatively basic synthesizer. I say basic because it could play one or two patches at a time (via its Slots A and B). Each patch consisted of two oscillators, each of which could employ a variety of synthesis methods: virtual analog, FM, wavetable, and samples. My live gig rig had a pretty standard configuration for a span of about 15 years: a 'bottom keyboard' with weighted keys, a 'top keyboard' that had lots of knobs and covered the synthy parts, and a single-manual clonewheel organ in the middle. The Wave sat in the top space on the stand and could go from Minimoog-style leads and basses to Oberheim-esque brass to PPG-like burbling motion patches to straight-up disco strings for a cover band"s rendition of 'I Will Survive.'

 

NW2%20-%20Top.jpg

 

Now, I think the Wave 2 is going to be spending a lot of time in that top slot, as it essentially multiplies the capabilities of the Wave about fourfold. It begins with a design trend we"ve seen growing in recent years: Keyboards that are effectively always in multi-timbral mode and let you use as many or as few of those multi-timbral parts as a given performance calls for â the Yamaha Montage and MODX are the readiest examples of another brand that does this. Then, the Wave 2 makes just about everything fathoms deeper and more tweakable in terms of wave-shaping, modulation routings ⦠you name it.

 

Quick term note: A Program is the highest level of organization in the Wave 2, i.e. a set of up to four Layers and all associated parameter values.

 

The Wave 2 is four-way multi-timbral and refers to each part as a layer. Importantly, the user interface presents itself in such a way that you don"t feel like you"re in the 'Performance' or 'Combi' mode that"s familiar from synth workstations. Instead, it comes off as one big synth that has up to four personalities at once. The oscillator section of each layer can use one of four synthesis engines: virtual analog, FM, wavetable, or PCM samples. The samples that populate the synth"s factory presets are from the ever-growing online Nord Sample Library, and you can download other samples from there to mix and match as you see fit. Using the Nord Sample Editor 3 software (Mac, Windows, but no tablet or mobile versions), you can roll your own waveforms and blow them into the Wave 2 â 1GB of non-volatile sample memory is on hand. The Nord Sample editor will get its own post in this GearLab as it"s quite sophisticated, pretty much offering every editing function you need to create your own sample-based instruments.

 

Keyboard Action

 

Nord went and put waterfall keys on the Wave 2, and I like it! It senses velocity and aftertouch, and there"s a fair amount of springy feel as the keys hit the bottom of their travel. While I wouldn"t want this on a stage piano or even a proper clonewheel organ, it"s useful here as it really lets you 'play' the full range of the aftertouch where the sensors beneath so many synth-action keyboards seem to go from nothing to full blast too quickly in response to finger pressure.

 

I"d describe this action as lightly semi-weighted. The last two Nord keyboards I owned were the C1 dual-manual organ and before that an Electro 2. If memory serves, the Wave 2 seems quieter and has quicker key return than either of them.

 

Layers and Groups

 

Faders located in the center of the panel control the volume of each layer, and alternately its stereo pan position if you hold down the nearby Pan button. Do this, and the LED 'ladder' to the right of each fader displays the panning. Buttons beneath each fader select that layer for editing on the panel, or toggle it on and off. A flashing LED above each button indicates that a given layer has the panel"s focus.

 

There is a minor bit of button-fu to learn: In any sound program, one layer must always be active. Hitting the button for an active layer gives it the panel focus. Hitting the button for a non-active layer turns it on but deactivates all the others. To make multiple layers active at once, you press their buttons simultaneously. Not hard at all, but when I just dove into the Wave 2 without cracking the manual, I was initially scratching my head about why turning a layer on made all my others go away.

 

One of the coolest features here for live performance is Layer Groups. Press Shift and then a layer button, and you assign it to a group. This lets you knob-tweak multiple layers at the same time, for example, changing the envelope settings or sweeping the filter cutoff. It gets even better, because you can decide which sections of the panel affect the sound at the Group level versus which ones only affect the Layer whose green LED is flashing. The panel sections you can Group-ify or not, separately, are:

- Arpeggiator

- LFO

- Amp Envelope

- Filter Section and Filter Envelope

- Effects (i.e. multi-FX)

- EQ

- Delay

- Reverb

 

This very quickly proves to be incredibly useful, so much that I chose to include it in this introductory post even though it"s not one of the first things the user manual talks about. An obvious use case would be having a burbling arpeggio that keeps going when you let off the keys in the left-hand side of a split, and a synth lead in the right-hand. In fact, that"s exactly what preset B51 'Wild Hunt' does, and it"s such instant Tangerine Dream fare that you"ll think you"re making out with Rebecca De Mornay (or Tom Cruise if you prefer) on a real train. You simply hit Shift plus a section"s Group button to make that section affect the Group, and all joking aside, this is so much quicker than poking around in the average workstation"s layer parameters.

 

Speaking of layers, in the factory programs the modulation wheel is often tasked to change the relative levels of a program"s layers and to do other things (like modulate one or more oscillator"s waveshapes) at the same time. Of course, the wheel itself is Nord"s signature 'pumice rock' design (does anyone else think it feels like that?) and their wonderful wooden 'clothespin' pitch-bender is also present.

 

Keyboard Splits

 

The Nord Wave 2 can split the keyboard up to four ways and like other Nord Keyboards, offers eight fixed split points: F2, C3, F3, C4, F4, C5, F5, and C6. Initially it seems weird that you can"t select whatever split points you want, but the beauty of this approach is that each active split point is indicated by an LED just above the keyboard. Meaning, you have visual reference about where one sound ends and another begins. I can"t tell you how many times I"ve been playing, um, enthusiastically and overshot a split point, my imagined rock-god solo ending in anti-climactic clunkers. Honestly, the split points are in logical places, and should be more than enough for anything you"d want to do on a 61-note keyboard.

 

You can dive into a menu and customize zones around these split points, but you can do some quick organization right from the panel, which covers a lot of musical applications. Four zones means up to three split points active at once, of course, a Split Point button toggles these as active, and each split point behaves a little differently:

- Split Point 1: Layer A to its left; Layers B, C, D to its right.

- Split Point 2: Layers A, B to its left; Layers C, D to its right.

- Split Point 3: Layers A, B, C to its left; Layer D to its right.

Keep in mind that any one, two, or all of these can be active at the same time, and you realize how the Wave 2 handles multi-zone splits in which Layers partially overlap. Each of these can use any physical split point (out of the eight the note choices described above). It"s different, but once you get used to it, it"s pretty genius. The only thing to be aware of is that splitting the keyboard is between Layers within a sound Program â you can"t split between two Programs themselves.

 

Things get even more flexible thanks to the Split Width settings. Normally, the instrument sound changes abruptly when you cross a split point. The Wave 2 can also create a 'crossfade' across each active split point, either six or 12 chromatic notes wide to either side. The split point indicator LEDs above the keys change color to indicate the width: green for a normal split, amber for six notes, and red for 12 notes. The applications here range from wanting a gentle 'morph area' between say, the upper notes of an upright bass and lower notes of an electric piano; and a preset like B53 'Orchestral Layers,' which makes use of these crossfades to create a continuum between cellos, violas, violins, and flutes as you ascend the keyboard. I"m still pondering the possibilities here, but one immediately practical benefit is that you can play a chord that has notes on either side of a split point, and it will sound more like one instrument than two. In other words, this is a way in which the instrument can cater to your arrangement instead of you having to arrange around its limitations.

 

Polyphony

 

The Wave 2 boasts a maximum polyphony of 48 voices. As we all know, voices do not always equate to notes â a four-layer Program with a different synth engine in each layer might eat up more than four voices per note. That said, I haven"t yet played anything on the Wave 2 where I heard an audible polyphony ceiling or note-robbing.

 

First Impressions

 

Getting into subjective territory, the Nord Wave 2 sounds big, lush, and wide to my ears. Its sample-based sounds have this organic character I"ve appreciated in other Nord instruments. Its wavetable sounds pulse and swirl around the room. How about the virtual analog waves? Since the very first Nord Lead (which was used for many famous synth riffs recorded before it existed â that"s sort of an in-joke around here), Nord has had a reputation â fair or not â for its analog modeling sounding a bit more clean and, well, modeled, than some contenders that came after. Plenty of flavor was on hand, but it was the flavor of really nice extra virgin olive oil, not bacon grease.

 

Diving into the oscillator section and isolating a simple sawtooth wave, I can vouch that the Wave 2 indeed sounds greasier than any Nord synth I"ve ever played. And in its virtual analog form, it does a heck of a lot more than simple sawtooth waves, such as shapeable waves, 'multi' waves, and even 'super' variants consisting of stacks of detunable and phase-adjustable waveforms. Some of these sound pretty huge â but in the factory presets, often turn up in Programs that also have Layers providing a lot of shimmer and sparkle, and are then further marinated in effects. If your point of comparison is first-wave virtual analog synths like the Novation SuperNova, Roland JP-8000, or Nord Lead 1 and 2, there"s way more cholesterol content here. I do think it"s still possible and not unfair to hear these waveforms as somewhat on the clean side if you compare them to a vintage or current real analog synth â the Wave 2"s virtual analog persona may have Nord"s best fat content yet, but it"s not a shameless, overflowing bucket of lard like my Sequential Prophet REV2.

 

However, there"s a reason this section is called 'First Impressions.' As I dive further into tweaking the factory presets, programming my own, and sharing the results with you here, we"ll see how and if this perception changes. I welcome your questions as always, and especially your input if you have a Wave 2 or have spent some time demo"ing one.

 

Next

 

We"ll examine the oscillator section in detail. With four different modes, then categories within those modes, then waveform types within those categories, it"s a very deep well of sonic possibilities. If the well had intertwining stairways all the way down. Designed by M.C. Escher. I"ll also have a couple of videos for you in the coming few days (I"d like to have them already, but family pressures over Fourth of July weekend made it nigh impossible to close the door to my studio and have it remain closed) intro"ing the panel layout and playing through some of my favorite patches so far. I"ve got the thing plugged into the SSL SiX mixer I"m also reviewing and having an absolute blast. I look forward to sharing more of that with y"all ASAP.

1206.thumb.jpg.1db645a68a6ec45b7b1b069a47b5883c.jpg

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Nice job, Steve. Appreciated the run down feature for feature. Some great expressions and analogies! I totally get olive oil vs. grease! And you found polite and kind ways to express the few short comings.

 

The fact that they went with waterfall keys - at least a few KCers including myself wondered if it would also make a decent organ controller. But they omitted doing a high trigger point over midi - which would be a rarity, but well received!

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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I was really interested in this, but I"m doubting a bit because of the somewhat limited modulation options. Only 1 LFO with only 1 destination. At least on my A1 i van route the LFO to both the osc control and filter. It seems a step back.

 

I really like the idea of layering samples with synthesis, so maybe you can prove me wrong Stephen:)

Rudy

 

 

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I've received mine about two weeks ago and I'm seriously enjoying it. I'll echo Stephen's initial praises and add a couple of wishes.

 

The few things I'm missing that I really hope get into a future OS in my order of importance:

1) Sustain per layer option. I'm using the "hold" function for now, but we'll need sustain option per layer.

2) Adding pitch to the user programmable arp patterns.

3) High Trigger MIDI output option (per layer ideal?). For controlling a Nord Stage/Electro Organ or any other Organ sound source.

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The web site did not address this, but that 1 GB of memory seems a bit stingy, even with the company's very efficient library. Is it possible to load some of that onto a flash drive you can then reference as an added sound bank? If there's an option for that on the system setup page, it'd be a major addition. C'mon, modest line that states "EXT LIB".....

"Weaponized kindness" is my new
    ambient drone band name.
       ~ Rob Neschizza

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I was really interested in this, but I"m doubting a bit because of the somewhat limited modulation options. Only 1 LFO with only 1 destination. At least on my A1 i van route the LFO to both the osc control and filter. It seems a step back.

 

RudyS, I'll get deeper into this but on a quick check, the LFO has three destinations: oscillator pitch, the filter, and the oscillator control parameter. This last one is a knob in the oscillator section that controls different thing depending on the type of waveform selected. With a 'super saw' it increases the detuning of the stacked waveforms. With shape-able waves (which are themselves a waveform category), it tweaks the shape. Then, remember that you actually have not one LFO but four: one for each Layer, as each Layer in the Wave 2 is a completely independent synth voice. And so on.

 

I agree with you, though, that for the price, we perhaps could have two LFOs per Layer, with a handful more destinations selectable from the panel. I haven't yet discovered any deeper modulation routings that might be hiding in menus, but I'm pretty sure there aren't any because Nord synths in general tend to be not very menu-driven. They reserve their menus for utilitarian stuff like MIDI settings, overall system settings, etc. That can be a trade-off with synths that take a knob-per-function approach â you get roughly as many functions as you do knobs and buttons. Although (and I digress) the abortive Kurzweil VA-1 was a knob-driven synth that had one of the coolest modulation matrices I'd ever seen: You'd tap a button in this or that panel section to select a destination, then wiggle the knob of what you wanted for a source to modulate it.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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The web site did not address this, but that 1 GB of memory seems a bit stingy, even with the company's very efficient library. Is it possible to load some of that onto a flash drive you can then reference as an added sound bank? If there's an option for that on the system setup page, it'd be a major addition. C'mon, modest line that states "EXT LIB".....

 

Unfortunately, you can't do this. The Wave 2 does not have a USB-A port for a flash drive, just a USB-B port for connection to a computer. From there, you can load in stuff from the Nord Sample Library you've downloaded onto your computer, as well as your own sample-based sounds you've created in Nord Sample Editor 3.

 

The idea of streaming samples from an external memory widget through the sound engine in real time is an excellent one â a USB3 flash stick or any higher-grade SD card meant for video would certainly have the bandwidth and speed. As to whether 1GB of sample memory is stingy, engineers consider it decent for dedicated hardware, but I totally get most people's reaction of 'I can't even buy an SD card that small.' That said, you can do plenty with it, and the Wave 2 isn't exclusively a sample-based instrument. Samples are intended to be building blocks for synthesis, and work alongside other synthesis methods at the same time, FWIW.

 

By contrast, the Nord Grand (which I reviewed in Piano Buyer), has 2GB of memory just for the Piano section. (That uses the Nord Piano Library, which is different from the Sample Library and not available for the Wave 2.) Then there's some additional memory for the sample section that forms its second layer.

 

Not to get into a big pedantic TED talk, but as to things like memory amount, whether something has a touchscreen, number of LFOs or other features, it's natural for us to look at any instrument and wonder why they didn't add more of something. If only those knobs were endless. If only there were eight sliders instead of four. If only it had a bunch more memory. Because music gear is made within economies of scale that are tiny relative to, say, smartphones or DSLR cameras, adding more of anything ups the price more than it would in general consumer electronics. In fact, the rule of thumb for keyboard makers is that to make any profit on the product accounting for all the overhead from design to sending it to a retailer, the price needs to be around 4x to 5x the cost of the bill of materials. Developing a new hardware synth is a huge balancing act. Unless cost is no object, and then we get boutique objects of desire like the Knifonium or the Schmidt or the Synclavier back in the day.

 

Not trying to lecture or insult anyone's intelligence by pointing that out, of course. Your question just got me thinking about that, so I wanted to offer some insight as to why certain specs on synths seem slim compared to what we're used to from stuff found in Best Buy.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Comprehensive answer, Stephen! Yeah, I kind of knew most of that, but learned a couple of things as well. "Stingy" is almost a tongue-in-cheek term for me, simply because the instrument is so potent, its hard not to want to access more of the library onboard. That's not its main remit at all, so its unfair to call it a flaw. Clavia's main thrust is solid live performance 'boards and they earn their renown. I'd simply like to have more of that juice on tap, so I could make better use of all 4 layers for sequencing. Say I win the lottery and buy this one. I'll still need a Fantom or Kronos to sequence it in a manly fashion, right? :keys2:

"Weaponized kindness" is my new
    ambient drone band name.
       ~ Rob Neschizza

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Oscillator Section

 

On the original Nord Wave, there were two oscillators, each of which could be switched between a variety of synthesis methods. On the Wave 2, there"s a single oscillator section for each of the four Layers. At the highest level of organization is the selector button for oscillator type: virtual analog, wavetable, FM, or sample-playback. Don"t let that fool you into thinking that within a Layer, you can only get a thin single-oscillator sound. Even without stacking multiple Layers, the Wave 2 oscillator section has a number of tricks up its sleeve to produce thick, fat, complex sounds. I"ll describe those as they come up.

 

NW2-Panel-Oscillator.png

 

Right now, I"d like to talk about the next level in, which are waveform categories selected by the Category knob. Within a category, you then select an individual wave with the Waveform knob. (Everything has different roles in FM mode, which I"ll get to presently.) Then, the Osc Ctrl knob does different things depending on the kind of waveform selected. Note: Everything here is based on OS v 0.84 in the Wave 2; in a later post I"ll report on any changes that come from updating the instrument"s firmware.

 

VIRTUAL ANALOG CATEGORIES

 

  • Basic: Simple waveforms such as sine, saw, triangle, and pulse. The Osc Ctrl knob does nothing.
  • Shape: Also familiar waveforms, but the Osc Ctrl knob changes the waveshape. For example, at 0 a wave is identical to its basic counterpart. At 10, its phase is changed, or it morphs to double the number of cycles, or the width of a square wave changes. Since Osc Ctrl is a modulation destination, you"d do pulse-width modulation by choosing the square wave.
  • Shape Sine: These are all waveforms that begin as (more a less) a sine wave, then turn into pulse, saw, square, and even more complex harmonic structures as the Osc Ctrl knob is turned up.
  • Multi: This is one of those tricks I mentioned for getting a more-than-one-oscillator sound out of a single layer. Waveforms here include dual and triple sawtooth, with variants tuned in octaves and fifths. In all cases, the Osc Ctrl knob increases the detuning between the waves.
  • Super: Roland pioneered the 'supersaw' in virtual analog synths like the JP-8000, and it"s basically a stack of similar waveforms that can be detuned relative to each other for a monster sound. Again, the Osc Ctrl knob increases the detuning, and we get super takes on saw, square, organ, and 'bright' waves.
  • Sync: On the Wave 2, you don"t get a 'hard sync' sound by syncing one Layer to another. You simply dial up a sync waveform in this category, with the Osc Ctrl knob adjusting the perceived 'hardness' of the sync. For the uninitiated, sync is when the phase and basic pitch of one oscillator is locked to another, and one of its creative uses is to create a formant-like squawk made famous by The Cars.
  • Misc: White, pink, and red noise are all available as starting places for your 'Fly Like an Eagle' wind and surf effects, and there"s also a bell-like sound here (generated by amplitude modulation) that sounds like the product of a ring modulator.

 

WAVETABLE CATEGORIES

 

These are digital waveforms with complex harmonic spectra you can"t really create using the virtual analog waves. The Osc Ctrl knob plays no role here. It should be said right off the bat that this is not wavetable synthesis in the PPG or Wavestation sense because there"s no way to step through the waves within a category automatically and to tempo. This seems like it would be easy enough to do â just make the Waveform knob a modulation destination. So far, I haven"t figured out a way to make this happen. It is, however, wavetable synthesis in more of the Prophet-VS sense, since you can assign different wavetables to different Layers and then morph between these Layers with the modulation wheel, velocity, aftertouch, or a pedal. The actual categories are straightforward enough:

 


  • Bells/Tines: self-explanatory, and includes marimba and tubular bells.
  • Acoustic: Flutes, clarinets, and saxes.
  • Digital: 14 different sparkly, crystalline harmonic spectra.
  • Organ: 10 different tonwheel- and pipe-organ-like sounds.
  • Keys: Electric pianos and Clavinets.

 

SAMPLE CATEGORIES

 

Here reside the full-on multisamples from the Nord Sample Library. Nord has chosen some really good stuff to fill the 1GB of sample memory in the Wave 2. There"s too much to list every sampled wave, but the emphasis is on orchestral and acoustic instruments since we have the other synthesis modes to do our, y"know, synthy stuff.

 

In brief, the categories are Accordion/Harmonica, Bass (acoustic and electric), Brass Ensemble, Brass Solo, Choirs, Effects (that "80s Fairlight orchestra hit is here), Guitar/Plucked, Mellotron, Organ (mainly pipe and church), Percussion/Tuned (including mallets), Orchestral (full orchestra ensembles), Piano, Strings Ensemble, Strings Solo, Wind Ensemble, and Wind Solo. Whew!

 

It bears repeating that you can only load in samples from the Nord Sample Library, not the Nord Piano Library, even though the piano library uses, um, samples.

 

The Unison button, which thickens up the sound by simulating oscillator unison in virtual analog mode, has alternate functions in sample mode. By default, samples are loaded with an 'under the hood' filter profile that"s different from the panel filter settings â the idea being that it"s optimized for each instrument sound. Hitting the button can trigger a 'raw sample' function, which removes that invisible filter and lets you use the panel instead. Hitting it again triggers a playback mode where a bit of the initial attack phase of the sample is skipped, so that the sound cuts right in in gate-like fashion. You can engage raw samples and attack-skip at once, too.

 

Nord"s orchestral samples in particular â strings, brass, woodwinds â have a, well sampled quality. I"m not talking about the lo-fi, aliasing-plagued sound of the 8-bit years. What"s going on here is far higher-resolution than the pinnacle of what Fairlight or E-mu achieved in their heyday. There"s just a slight grit that reminds me a little of those classic samplers. It"s not bad and in some cases it"s very musical, manifesting as 'rosin' on the string sounds to my ears. But comparing to the orchestral banks in my Yamaha MODX (for it and the Montage, Yamaha conducted new sampling sessions with players from the Seattle Symphony), I have to say the Yamaha had more polish. This observation does not apply to the Nord Piano Library, used in the Grand, Stage, and Piano models but not the Wave 2; its best pianos and EPs are among the most stunning I"ve heard in hardware instruments.

 

FM CATEGORIES

 

Okay, the FM mode doesn"t really have categories. Here, the Category knob selects algorithms, or arrangements of operators. They range from two to four operators in terms of complexity. An operator is simply a tone generator, usually putting out a simple sine wave to start. While it"s beyond the scope of this GearLab to offer a complete explanation of Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis, the basic idea is this: Generate a sine wave. We"ll call the oscillator doing it the carrier. If you modulate the pitch of that oscillator with another (the modulator) operating at a low frequency (an LFO), you get familiar musical vibrato. If you bring the pitch of the modulator up into the audio range, you get all kinds of complex harmonics that you can"t achieve with the subtractive method of sticking filters after an analog waveform.

 

The Wave 2 has five algorithms in each of two subsets: Harmonic and Inharmonic. The upper right corner of the oscillator section"s OLED display â I love that it has its own display â shows a diagram of the selected algorithm. For the Harmonic ones, the Waveform knob controls a parameter called Partial. This expresses the modulator frequency as a multiple of the carrier frequency, from 0.5 to 24. Go Inharmonic, and the Waveform knob determines the carrier-modulator relationship in semitones, from -12 to +48. In both cases, the Osc Ctrl knob determines the modulation depth/intensity.

 

As the names imply, Harmonic algorithms tend to generate more traditionally musical spectra and are thus better for instrument emulations. Inharmonic ones are more suited for experimental timbres.

 

For my money, FM in the Wave 2 is a spice, not a main cooking ingredient. Very few of the factory patches make use of it solely, A54 'FM Digi Tines' being one and sounding predictably dated. The sound-sculpting options are sensible but limited â there really isn"t a DX7 worth of FM in here, much less a sophisticated modern implementation like the FM section of the Montage or Native Instruments FM8.

 

Still, though, experimenting here can unlock a lot of harmonic flavors you won"t so quickly coax out of any of the other synthesis modes, so it"s an absolutely worthwhile addition. Just as worthwhile is the effort in cooking up FM Layers to be part of Programs that employ the other synthesis modes.

 

Oscillator Modulation Envelope

 

Above the oscillator section"s display are the OSC MOD ENV controls. This partially makes up for the fact that the Wave 2 only has one LFO per layer as reader RudyS pointed out earlier in this thread. Here, you have a simple yet additional way to modulate the oscillator in each Layer. The destination can be the oscillator pitch or Osc Ctrl, which as we"ve seen does different things in different modes, so there"s some real flexibility here. The envelope is an attack-decay affair that can be switched to attack-release and made velocity-sensitive.

 

Tying velocity to something like waveshape or FM amount (via Osc Ctrl) can make for some very expressive sounds. I should mention that there"s more than one way to do this, but it"s nice to have something in the oscillator section dedicated to it, freeing up those other ways for yet more musical tasks. Which brings me to â¦

 

Morph Controls

 

nw2-program-angled.png

 

One of the most powerful features on the Wave 2 for live performance is Morphing. This refers to the fact that four different physical controllers â velocity, the mod wheel, a connected sweep pedal, or aftertouch â can each control multiple parameters at the same time. So, Morphs are 'macros' by another name.

 

The way you set them up is genius. Hold down the Morph button for the physical controller, then just wiggle the thing you want it to control. Rinse and repeat. You can double-click the button to latch it so you won"t have to keep your finger on it as you troll for destinations. Parameters can also be 'unlearned' all at once or one at a time.

 

Some settings cannot be Morph destinations (notably the oscillator Waveform knob â I want to do real wave-sequencing, dammit!) but a great many can. These include Layer volume and panning (the faders); glide; virtually all the amp envelope, filter, and filter envelope settings; LFO rate and amount; oscillator mod envelope settings; oscillator coarse (semitone) and fine pitch; the all-powerful Osc Ctrl knob; arpeggiator gate rate and range; and several pertinent settings for the onboard effects.

 

Best of all, Morphs are not global. They"re saved as part of a Program, so each can have an ideal setup for live performance control. Finally, a separate Impulse Morph button (the leftmost button on the instrument) lets you set up a separate macro wherein pressing it will change the linked settings all at once. You could also call this an 'alternate scene' for a given Program, and it can be used to dramatic effect.

 

Dedicated Vibrato

 

That there"s only a single LFO per Layer is further offset by the inclusion of a stand-alone vibrato button. Meaning, you don"t need to tie up that LFO to do plain old vibrato. A single button toggles between three amounts of delay before the vibrato kicks in (the first amount being none), or assigns it to the wheel or aftertouch. At first I thought there were no other controls, but its rate and depth can be set in the Sound menu on the main display. The manual says you can set the rate by pressing Shift then the Vibrato button, but this actually executes a MIDI panic. Unlike the arpeggiator and LFO, this vibrato does not appear to be able to sync to a master tempo source.

 

Next

 

In the next full post I"ll go through the filter, envelopes, LFO, and arpeggiator.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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As a new Nord Wave 2 owner (to add to a Nord Stage 3 Compact), I'm finding these overviews very helpful. I appreciate all of the detail and explanation. Thanks for taking the time to explain all of this. Thus far, what I'm enjoying most about the instrument is the versatility with manipulating and juxtaposing samples, and then adding some FM, analog, or wavetable for some additional heft and interest. I lack the experience and patience to focus on sophisticated sound design, so the Wave 2 (and all the Nords) are great for players like me who want to explore different combinations of, let's say, bells and plucks, or setting up subtle drones as background for the pianos on the Stage 3. I'm finding the presets don't take full advantage of the instrument, although some are spectacular, but rather they serve an instructional function, demonstrating what's possible and providing a template for exploration. As a 70 year old, non-professional, but experienced keyboardist and guitarist, the Nord Wave 2 is the perfect combination of immediate access, exploration, and great sound. What would be great (if you can get to it), is a discussion of how to use the arpeggiator to set up interesting and mutable rhythmic patterns, from guitar strums to beats. The "badlands" preset has a great guitar strum backdrop. I've replaced the Nord A1 (I only have time and mental capacity to use two synths at once), and will use the A1 as a portable standalone. One of the great features of the A1, especially for amateur hackers, and I miss it on the Wave 2, is the randomize and mutate function. It's a great learning tool. The Wave 2 has a much, much better keybed, and is an absolutely elegant instrument. Thanks again for this comprehensive overview.
Logic Pro 7, Live 6, Tassman, Reaktor, Nord Stage 88, Yamaha S90, Korg Karma, Planet Earth, MOTU 828mkII, Taylor 612c, Parker Fly Deluxe
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Hi mthomashow,

 

Glad my flailing around this synth is a help! I will certainly examine how to use the arpeggiator as you suggest. I agree with you about the presets â there is so much more the Wave 2 can do. That's been the case, though, with the factory presets on most synths over the years. Though they're usually programmed by very talented sound designers, the presets in most synths are traditionally intended, and put in an order, to impress in the music store. So if you go into a retailer and you're mashing middle C with your right index finger and the "program up" button with your left, the idea is to give a quick and compelling overview of every way the synth can sound.

 

Fortunately, you can reorganize sounds right from the Wave 2's main display. There's also a random access mode where the five buttons below the display serve as a keypad, allowing random access to Programs. For those who don't know, a Nord standard is that sounds are arranged in banks with Programs numbered 11-55. Only the integers 1 through 5 are used. So the next Program in a given bank after 15 is 21, then 31 follows 25, until you get to 55 when you go to the next bank up (e.g. from bank A to B).

 

Another Cool Morph Feature

 

When I was writing about Morphs in my last full post, I forgot to address the issues of polarity and scaling. For example, you might want the mod wheel to sweep the filter cutoff of one layer upwards from nine to three o'clock but also sweep another layer's filter downwards from, say, fully open to 12 o'clock. This is totally doable and involves no menu-diving, which is ironically why I didn't find it earlier. Before holding the Morph source button down, make sure your destination knob is in the start position of the sweep. Then, when you program the morph, simply turn it as far as you want to go. The Wave 2 will remember the direction and amount, so in other words polarity and scaling are taken care of in a WYSIWYG fashion. Very elegant.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Video: 20 Sound Examples, No Talking

 

Since I talk a lot (well, not as much as Bryce, but he's on this superhuman level) I figured we'd have a musical interlude before my upcoming dissertation on the filters, envelopes, LFO, and arpeggiator. I picked 20 of my favorite (so far) Programs and did a split-screen video so you could see what's going on in the main display and oscillator section display as I change programs, move the modulation wheel, etc. This is really just scratching the surface, but it gives some idea of the Wave 2's sonic flexibility. Enjoy, and I'll be atcha in the next couple of days with more audio examples and panel section demonstrations (probably with me talking, though).

 

[video:youtube]

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Since I talk a lot (well, not as much as Bryce, but he's on this superhuman level)

I don't know about superhuman, but I'm starting to become aware that I may tend to talk a bit here and there... :idea::idk::puff:

 

You're killing me, BTW - I didn't go into July wanting a Nord... :o:facepalm:

 

dB

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I just updated my forum name and started a new account as the old one is from about fifteen years ago. So Mitchell T is the same as Mthomashow. Anyway, thanks again for the great posts and I look forward to your comments and tips on using the arpeggiator. The missed opportunity with the presets does matter. For example, there are numerous presets with just one sample. It's easy enough to play that preset and then switch the sample. In effect, they just wind up being empty slots or bare bones for you to work from. What is helpful are the numerous examples of what you can do with the FM mode. There's a preset where the different partials and harmonics comprise a neat-sounding harpsichord, another where they become horns, another as tines. A few twists of the knobs takes you into very interesting territory. In the past (with the Nord Wave and the A1) Nord released many excellent designer sound banks. They are helpful because they show off the range of the instruments and serve as an opportunity for sound designers to show off their skills. I suppose eventually the Nord Wave 2 will have a similar preset library. The samples are, for the most part, magnificent, especially the strings, accordions, mellotrons, tuned percussion, and choirs. It's worthwhile to download the Chinese orchestra set, too. The guitars are much improved and you can coax some beautiful sounds from them. And as you demonstrate with the video, the pads and leads are rich and luscious. There is a purity and immediacy about the Nord Wave 2 that's very compelling.
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Filter Section

 

nw2-env2.png

 

This is a straightforward multi-mode subtractive filter with everything you"d expect and pretty much no surprises. For the price of the Wave 2, and given that it"s a digital instrument under the hood, I"m a little surprised Nord didn"t take the further step of making this a true state-variable filter. That"s one in which the mode itself â lowpass, highpass, etc. â can be continuously varied with a knob or as a modulation destination. Nope, it"s one mode at a time, though of course filters on different Layers can be in different modes within the same Program.

 

The filter modes are: 12dB- and 24dB-per-octave resonant lowpass, a 12dB lowpass-highpass hybrid in which the resonance knob controls the highpass frequency, bandpass, highpass, and last but not least, a special 'lowpass M' variant modeled on the 24dB ladder filter of the Minimoog.

 

One of the first things that came to mind is that the lowpass-highpass hybrid would be good for imitating Roland Jupiter-8 style sounds, as the Jupiter had a separate highpass filter in series after its lowpass. You can get close, but the Nord"s hybrid is non-resonant whereas on the Jupe you still would have had the resonance component of the lowpass filter.

 

So, just how does that Minimoog-inspired filter sound? The difference compared to the Wave 2"s 'regular' 24dB lowpass is pretty subtle. I tested it with a basic sawtooth wave on a single-layer, initialized Program with no effects, and as I played with varying resonance settings, envelope amounts, etc., I went back and forth between the two filter modes quite a few times to ascertain whether I was hearing a difference. I was, but it"s just a bit more low-end beef. Interestingly, the NW2 has three levels of 'Drive' or saturation on the filter, and the Minimoog mode makes even the highest setting less aggro. I would have expected the opposite, because a sonic signature of the Minimoog filter began as an error in its design that gain-staged the circuit too hot. Bottom line: It"s a snappy sounding filter you"ll find application for, but next to a re-issue Model D or Voyager, it"s not going to win any deepfake contests.

 

Taken on its own terms, the NW2 filter sounds seriously great, with some of the most ear-shearing, speaker-cone-excursing resonance I"ve heard on anything outside of a real analog synthesizer. With the resonance maxed, you can hear a little stair-stepping in the sidebands when you sweep the cutoff knob up and down. Looking at the main display â which always shows you the parameter you"re currently adjusting â seems to confirm that the Wave 2"s cutoff change is quantized in increments, albeit inconsistent ones from 4Hz to 10Hz. In actual use, you"re unlikely to hear this unless you"re performing a slow filter sweep in a solo"ed musical passage.

 

Rounding out the filter are three degrees of keyboard tracking (wherein higher notes have a progressively higher cutoff frequency in order to sound harmonically consistent across the range instead of duller as the base pitch rises), its own ADSR envelope with a shape-invert button, and a toggle that maps key velocity to cutoff frequency, i.e. play harder and the sound gets brighter. This is nicely high-res, letting you evoke musical harmonic changes with subtle velocity differences. It makes it really easy to nail affectations like the burbling synth intro to 'New World Man' by Rush or any 303-style, low-pH goodness you can dream of.

 

Amp Envelope

 

This is about as simple an ADSR affair as you can get. A button cycles between three levels of velocity sensitivity (or none). Again, I think on an advanced and flagship synth you might go for a six-stage envelope (with added delay and hold segments) or even user-programmable breakpoints for the serious sound designers. However, Nord as a company is about live performance, so I understand the trade-off of depth in favor of simplicity and immediacy.

 

There is one cool tweak here: the 'transient' mode of the attack knob. Hold shift and move the knob, and you get a variable transient spike at the beginning of the attack phase, in figurative terms a 'faster than zero' attack. This could be nothing other than a nod to the 'snappy envelopes' cited by Minimoog fans and, indeed, it adds that perfect pop to the beginning of the sound, heard from basses in "70s funk to Chick Corea leads on old Return To Forever albums. To my ears, this does a lot more to add a Minimoog-like character to sounds than the NW2"s Minimoog filter mode, but as that little girl in the popular internet meme says, why not have both?

 

For both the filter and amp envelopes, pressing the Monitor button below the main display then twiddling a knob will show a graphic of the envelope in the display.

 

LFO Section

 

As folks on this thread have pointed out, you get one LFO per Layer on the Wave 2, though it is supplemented by other modulation sources such as the stand-alone vibrato and oscillator modulation envelope. Again, keep in mind that on each Layer, the LFO can be doing different things.

 

Another limitation is that the LFO is monophonic, meaning that all notes played through it in a given Layer will be modulated on the same cycle â new notes don"t re-trigger their own period. Again, I don"t think this is much of a practical hindrance given the NW2"s orientation as a live-performance power polysynth.

 

Nord did include the more important feature: The ability of the LFO to sync to master clock, either internal or external. The internal master clock is shared with the arpeggiator, and a button just above the main display performs tap tempo entry for quick, freeform sync-up with your bandmates. As soon as the Wave 2 detects incoming MIDI clock (from a source such as a DAW or hardware drum machine), it automatically syncs its master clock to that.

 

When unsynced, the rate knob dials in rates from 0.03Hz to 523Hz, i.e. very slow to audio-range. In theory you could use the LFO for additional, basic FM. Synced to clock, the rate knob selects rhythmic subdivisions from 4/1 to 64th-notes, including triplet feels.

 

LFO waveforms comprise upwards and downwards saws, triangle, square, and sample-and-hold for that random 'the computer is thinking' effect. Destinations number just three: oscillator pitch, filter cutoff, and the Osc Ctrl parameter, which is the most versatile because it in turn can affect so many different aspects of the sound. (Read about that in the previous post about the oscillator section.) As with most other sections on the Wave 2 that we might call 'modifiers,' the LFO can be Grouped so that its knobs affect multiple layers at once.

 

Modulation Musings

 

You might say that while oscillator types and filter character is what makes a synth sound 'fat' or 'big,' modulation possibilities are what makes one sound interesting. It"s legit to ask whether the Wave 2 offers enough of them at its flagship price and positioning. True, there"s not what I"d call a deep modulation matrix on hand, but for gigging and composing, there really are all of the modulations you"d reach for most of the time.

 

First, let"s clarify the price in 'for the price.' MSRP (that price you see with the strikethrough line on retail sites, which nobody actually pays) is a lofty $3,999. A quick canvas of those retail sites, though, shows $2,699 as pretty standard, with some shops such as Kraft bundling in cable kits or soft cases for this much. Expensive? Perhaps, but pretty much in the middle of the bell curve for pro keyboards, and certainly not Moog One or Waldorf Quantum expensive.

 

Now, let"s go over the modulation and performance control the Wave 2 does offer. This includes:

  • Morphing multiple knob moves at once via wheel, pedal, velocity, or aftertouch.
  • Velocity control of amp envelope.
  • Velocity control of filter envelope, with inversion.
  • Separate modulation envelope for oscillator section.
  • Separate vibrato section.
  • Modulation of waveshapes, pulse-width, and other low-level sonic building blocks via the multi-faceted Osc Ctrl parameter.
  • The LFO.
  • Multiply all of the above 4x because there are four independent Layers.

 

Begins to look not so shabby, right? And we haven"t even gotten into what the audio-domain effects can do yet. (That"s coming.) I still think there"s room to make waveform selection a modulation source (so you could do actual wave-sequencing to tempo); likewise for the filter type so as to make it a state-variable filter.

 

For a live-performance synth, though, I"m inclined to remember something a trainer at my old gym once said: 'When people are taking a tour and considering joining, about 90 percent of them ask if we have a swimming pool. Among members both new and long-term, about 10 percent ever use the pool.' In terms of modulation, both the kind you have to move a control for and the kind that happens by itself, the Wave 2 does the bicep-building, ab-crunching essentials so well that what it doesn"t do is ⦠the pool.

 

To put it another way, where 1 is 'I"m happy to punch up a basic sawtooth patch and play 'DMSR" by Prince all day' and 10 is, uh, Richard Devine, I"d rate the Wave 2"s modulation routings at a solid 6, maybe 7.

 

Next

Arpeggiator, then Effects. Video Interludes as I get them done.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Steve,

 

People are wondering about how capable the NW2 is at a controller. The manual suggests you can send on different midi channels saved on a per program basis. Hopefully your review will include some real world testing of midi capabilities.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

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Adan I just wrote a big wrap-up of the Wave 2, which I was just about to post, so I'm glad to catch this. The short answer is yes, you can. In the MIDI menu, there's a page for Layer channels, and you can set each Layer to transmit on any channel (or turn it off). Everything Layers do is saved per Program, so yes, I could have different setups where the Layers simultaneously control external zones. Five-pin MIDI and USB work at the same time. Layers can transmit program change, bank LSB and MSB, and dump their CC values externally.

 

Unless I'm missing some things that are right in my face, though, I wouldn't reach for the Wave 2 as a primary master controller. There are some significant omissions for controller power users. Basically, anything you can make independent per internal Layer on the panel would translate to an external zone. Octave shift? Yes. Transpose by semitones? No â that's global. Wheel assignment? Yes. Split functions would track what you do on the Nord's own keyboard, and would be limited to the fixed split points I described earlier in the thread. So if you're controlling an external sound with, say, an 88-key range, it's going to feel like the split points are crowded into the middle. There's no quick way to customize external zones that I can find. Perhaps most oddly, I can't find a way to make the sustain pedal input (or the on-panel Hold button) affect Layers independently. Let alone channel aftertouch, though in some factory programs it can clearly be heard that AT is affecting one Layer but not another.

 

I've reached out to Nord about this. The good news is, this is all OS-updatable kind of stuff, at least so far as everything is in the MIDI domain. But the Wave 2 clearly expects you'll primarily be playing its own sounds from its own keyboard. I will do some testing in a DAW and MIDI monitor and show you what I come up with.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Arpeggiator/Gate

 

The arpeggiator on the Wave 2 starts off seeming old-school, but you discover it packs a lot of complexity. You can have a different arpeggiator pattern per layer, allowing you to build some interesting counterpoints. Or, you can use the Group function to arpeggiate multiple layers in the same way.

 

Four directions are up, down, up-and-down, and random. I"d like to see an 'as played' option here as well, such that the arpeggiator picks up on whatever order in which you strike the keys, but that"s absent. The arpeggiator can function in mono mode (playing one note at a time) or poly. In the later, chords are repeated or strummed, and increasing the range makes the arpeggiator sequence through different inversions of the held chord â neat!

 

Zig-zag introduces another variation. It skips the next note in any held chord, then goes back to that note, then skips, then goes back, and so on. Let"s say you play a Cmaj7add9. In the up direction, zig-zag would order the notes C, G, E, B, G, D to start off. If you modify the Random mode by adding zig-zag, I"m not prepared to quantify what happens, but her name is Rio and she dances on the sand.

 

On top of all this, rhythmic patterns can be introduced such that instead of 'straight' notes, the arpeggiator plays triplet feels, dotted eighths plus sixteenths, and a plethora of other things.

nw2-pattern-280x155.png

There are 28 preset patterns, and patterns are also user-editable. You access the pattern selector/editor by hitting shift and then the Program 5 button, which on most Wave 2 units should be subtitled 'Pattern.' Mine is early enough that it said 'Utility' on the panel instead, and in version 0.84 OS just revealed a Layer swap function. Updating to OS 1.10 put the Pattern stuff where the manual said it would be. You can also adjust the number of steps in a pattern up to 16, and odd lengths are supported for experimental tastes from Brubeck to Bruford.

 

Alternately, the arpeggiator can function as a gate for 'choppy' effects, with the range knob now determining the gate"s attack and release time, i.e. howchoppy it sounds. Combine this with the rhythmic patterns, and you can get close to things like the filtered synth-organ pulse that underlies Seal"s hit 'Crazy,' pseudo-sidechain EDM pumping, and more. At subtle settings, the gate sounds like a tremolo.

 

On balance I"d say the Wave 2 arpeggiator is more of a discovery tool than a composition tool. Meaning, if you"re looking for inspiration and experimentation, it"s wonderful. Perhaps keep a DAW running to record any pleasant surprises â and be ready to mash the Store button the instant you hit a sweet spot, because if you stray from what you created, chances are you won"t hit it again exactly. But if you already have something in your mind"s ear and are trying to achieve it, even within the arpeggiator"s limitations, the impreciseness of the range knob and the general operating vibe can make getting there a matter of trial and error. I found that process more straightforward on a vintage Roland Jupiter-8 and a new System-8. Your mileage may vary, of course.

 

Is there a latch function? Yes, but it"s not exclusive to the arpeggiator. It"s a button over by the pitch bender that acts as an always-on sustain pedal.

 

Like the LFO, the arpeggiator is tempo-syncable to master clock and runs the full gamut of rhythmic subdivisions including triplet feels. Again, the Wave 2 automatically detects incoming MIDI clock as well as supporting tap tempo. If you want to put the time into setting up a Program with different arpeggiator patterns for each of four layers, the results can evoke what would happen if Bach got assimilated by the Borg.

 

Audio Effects

 

nw2-effects-angled.png

 

This looks like fairly straightforward effects rack: Sections cover time-based multi-FX (chorus, auto-pan, etc.), EQ, tempo-syncable delay, and reverb. The most impressive thing is that where many performance synths would settle for dumping the entire stereo signal into a common effects chain, the Wave 2 is more workstation-y in that you can have independent effects settings per Layer â or, again, group Layers so they have common settings. On the Program B23: SynBrass Env, letting the first layer speak crisply while the second was awash in a hall reverb was both haunting and pleasant.

 

The biggest shortcoming here is that there"s no way to process external audio through the Wave 2"s effects. The synth includes a 1/8-inch stereo Monitor In, but it"s only for routing music from, say, a smartphone (for backing tracks or break music) through the Wave 2"s main outputs and headphone out.

 

That said, as I would expect from a Nord instrument, the quality of the effects is excellent overall. From left to right, here"s what the sections do.

 

MULTI-FX: This section is switchable between ring modulation, chorus, vibrato (separate from the dedicated synth vibrato function discussed earlier), ensemble, auto-pan, tremolo, and phaser â that last one is active when the ring mod and chorus lights are on simultaneously. There are rate and amount knobs, and the omnipresent Group button, and there you go. The phaser was particularly delicious on sawtooth pads to nail analog string machine sounds reminiscent of ARP, Eminent, and so on.

 

EQ: Here we have a nifty split personality. The EQ can function as a two-band tone control with fixed bass and treble shelf frequencies of 100Hz and 4kHz, respectively. Or, it can be a single-band parametric EQ, with the frequency sweepable between 200Hz and 5kHz. You"d think this would be an odd place to add a Drive knob, simulating tube-like soft clipping when turned up, but that didn"t deter Nord. Used judiciously, this can get you more 'analog warmth' but much past 12 o"clock, I thought it sounded too buzzy â something I"ve also found true of the overdrive on Nord"s clonewheel organs.

 

DELAY: This is a pretty comprehensive little tap delay, with sound and features I"d expect from a higher-end stompbox. You can set the time/tempo with a knob, a tap button, and/or sync it to master clock. (It should be noted this section is about repeat and echo effects, not about adding precise amounts of delay to a signal in milliseconds.) An 'analog character' mode causes the pitch of the wet signal to change if you move the tempo knob while playing.

 

There"s a lot of control over how the feedback, i.e. feeding the already-delayed signal back into the effect, behaves. In addition to the obvious amount knob, you can impose an extra chorus, vibrato, or ensemble effect onto the feedback signal. The ensemble is my favorite; it can make things sound really huge, really quickly. Then, a choice of lowpass, highpass, or bandpass filter processes the feedback more the longer the signal goes on. The highpass was the most dramatic to my ears, as it can really emphasize the sense of an echo receding into the distance, not to mention keep trippy Marco Benevento-style loop-upon-loop playing from building up too much low-frequency information and sounding muddy.

 

Last but not least, a ping-pong option alternates each tap between the stereo channels.

 

REVERB: Not a lot of surprises here. Big, lush sound. Stage, room, hall, soundbooth, and cathedral types, with bright and dark options for all. The noteworthy feature is a 'chorale' option that adds something akin to the delay"s ensemble effect to the reverberated signal. I found that at higher settings, this imparted a sense of reflections and movement happening in multiple places in a large space â as might happen in a stone church.

 

Miscellany

 

We"ve covered just about everything that matters at this point. A Live mode reserves five Program slots in which changes and panel tweaks are saved as you make them, with no need to press the Store button. Menu-driven settings are utilitarian, such as memory protect, what kind of switch and sustain pedal you"re using, and MIDI. A MIDI CC dump function will send all the CC values of a chosen layer externally, which is useful if you"ve hit upon panel settings you want to capture as 'home base' for a sound in the context of a DAW project.

 

Shift + Program 4 gets you to an Organize screen where you can move Programs around, but this is far easier to do in the Nord Sound Manager software.

 

A word on updating the OS. The Wave 2 lacks a USB-A port for a memory stick. It just has a USB-B port for connection to a computer, so you"ll need one to update the OS. The instruction manual does not describe the procedure; Nord seemingly assumes it"s self-explanatory. You download a disk image for the latest OS from their website, open it, and follow the instructions. With the Wave 2 powered on and connected, everything happens from the computer end, quite quickly I might add. Users of MacOS Catalina will have to contend with Apple"s nanny-state balking at opening the app, which involves more 'Yes I"m sure dammit' than before.

 

Conclusions

 

The Nord Wave 2 is a powerhouse of an instrument for live performance and sound design. I"d say its greatest appeal would be to players who need multiple sonic personalities â real strings alongside string machines, crystalline "80s textures alongside creamy analog leads and basses, and so on â in a package that presents itself as a synthesizer. 'Duh, Fortner, what else would it be?' To take one example, the Yamaha Montage and MODX provide just as much sonic diversity using only two synthesis methods: sample-based (Yamaha calls their flavor AWM2) and FM. In many instances, they sound just as convincingly analog on patches that are supposed to, and their acoustic and orchestral sounds are stellar. You can rely on them for your main piano and EP sounds, which I wouldn"t say about the Wave 2. Yet, with their touchscreens and left-of-screen fader banks, their vibe is decidedly workstation-y, as is their workflow for creating sounds. I"d say all the same things about the Korg Kronos, or my trusty Kurzweil Forte (minus the touchscreen). On the Wave 2, you play, tweak, dance between controlling different Layers, and hit Store when you hear something you really like. It"s a knob-twiddler"s paradise.

 

It"s not an analog purist"s darling like a Prophet-6 or OB-6, but it does virtual analog very well, and several other things those synths don"t do at all. So, if versatility is what you"re looking for and you have money for just one synth, it delivers more bang for the buck.

 

Omissions? For the price (even the current street price of $2,699), it should at least work as a simple USB audio interface for those who"d like to put it onstage alongside a laptop. Again, I"d like to see the ability to process external audio through the synth filters and effects. For what it"s worth, the unassuming little MODX6 does both of these things at literally half the price. Finally, as folks have pointed out in this thread, a deeper modulation matrix would be most welcome.

 

To rehash some upsides, the multiple synthesis engines, customizability thanks to the Nord Sample Library, and ability to roll your own multi-sampled sounds via the Nord Sample Manager software all make the Wave 2 a true do-it-all instrument cleverly disguised as a specialty synth.

 

I have a couple more videos brewing for you â cool tempo-synced demos of the arpeggiator and delay â not to mention delving into Adan"s question about MIDI controller capabilities. Other than that, I"d now like to wrap up the part of this GearLab where I do most of the talking. I monitor the forum for questions nearly every day, so please consider it open to input and I will be sure to respond.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Thanks again, Stephen, for this comprehensive review of the Nord Wave 2. I've learned alot from it and it has enhanced my enjoyment of the instrument. I'll add two additional features (you've discussed them already) but I find them invaluable. First, I'll emphasize the seamlessness of having four different layered samples and then using the morphing capability to switch between them. For example, I love exploring the relationship between bells, plucks, and choirs, or between guitars and cellos, or exclusively using tuned percussions. Add a wavetable or two, or some FM, or virtual analog, the effects, and you can get into some very interesting territory. Of course, as you suggest, you can do this sort of thing with the MODX6, or any of the major workstations, but it is so accessible and transparent with the Nord Wave 2. Second, from my perspective the keybed is outstanding, the most versatile Nord keybed I've used. The MODX6 keybed is astonishingly pedestrian. I don't wish to compare these synths. In my view as a 70 year old who remembers the excitement when my brother bought a reel-to-reel tape recorder in 1966, all of these synths are pretty incredible. I stick with Nord synths because I've become reasonably familiar with how to navigate them and they have a purity about the sound that I love. It is too bad that the USB doesn't provide an audio interface, but at least you can sync up a mobile device to add some beats.

 

As you contemplate some additional videos, I'll put my vote in for some tips on how to get the most out of syncing the arpeggiator with the delay effects and the Master Clock.

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MitchellT This is great feedback, and I agree with you about the MODX keyboard action. As well as the fact that the Wave 2 morphs between layers in a way the Montage/MODX does not. I just wanted to extend the invitation that if you have any cool ideas you'd like to share about, say, syncing the arpeggiator and delay via master clock, they'd be most welcome here. If you'd like to snap a quick phone video, that'd be even better. Our whole mission with this format is that however much experience any of us editors has doing reviews, someone always catches something valuable that we don't. I'll work on it as well, of course, but please feel free to PM me with any thoughts. Thanks again!

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Thanks Steve. This has been a great thread to read up on the NW2 along side watching whatever YT posts I can, but it has left me feeling I need to add my viewpoint. Which is, I must say opinionated and rather shouty! I guess I"m old and jaded..Lol

 

I"ve owned a couple of Nords and tried out serveral more over the last 10 years. I"ve become increasingly frustrated by their product design philosophy and the narrow minded limitations it imposes on their customers.

 

On the face of it Nord offers three things, simple hands-on interfaces, fast-food quality sounds and a nice colour. Their kit does what it says on the tin and 1000's of contented users can"t be wrong. Largely because just like in the days of Big Blue no one got fired for buying one.

 

But actually when you dig into Nord's products they"re much more about the emperor"s new clothes than they are about being great instruments.

 

Nord's 'we know best what you need' mantra is stolen straight from Apple and can be linked straight back to the Bauhaus school of design minimalism. Great if you want to march in step with the kool ones. A total straight jacket if you think for yourself.

 

Despite appearances, Nord is very conservative. They have their sights fixed firmly on a view of keyboard instruments developed before 1988. The Hammond, The Farfisa, The Rhodes, The Wurly, The DX7, The Fairlight, The Emulator, The Mellotron The Mini Moog The PPG etc. Ok so these are common tropes for most modern keyboards. But most modern keyboards try to integrate these into a view of progress. A typical example of Nord"s narrow mindedness is their approach to providing sound sample playback on their keyboards. Today most serious instruments (certainly those in the same price range!) that offer sample playback provide user editable velocity switched layers and release samples. Nord do not. Unless you accept the closed shop that is Nord"s piano sample section, you can only load single layer samples. Why? Why is this still the case after so many years? The Kronos has provided with its HD1 engine since 2011, Kurzweil has for donkeys years (yes VAST is a piece of history!) on its K series, PC3, Forte and now the PC4. Even my humble 2010 Roland Juno Di provides editable 4 layer velocity switched sample playback. Worse with Nord there is no way users can add their own or edit sample sets to the piano section of any Nord. It is a closed shop.. But of course they do provide 1000 of great pianos for 'free" LMAO.

 

The NW2 suffers hugely from this limitation, you cannot load any of Nords samples designed for the piano section library here, nor can you edit or create your own velocity switched multisamples. Ok so with its keybed the NW2 is not aimed at the piano market. So why do they include so many single layer piano and EP samples? The word kludge comes to mind.

 

I"ve played on a great many keyboards since the birth of midi and velocity sensing keybeds back in the early 80"s. Almost without exception they"ve all provided user adjustable velocity sensitivity. Nord for some reason don"t think the NW2 needs it!! Nor do they provide any for of aftertouch sensitivity adjustment. Come on it"s a Fatar keybed.. with Kurzweil we even persuaded their R&D to provide per note velocity calibration on the Forte, because the Fatar TP40L is a little uneven when it comes to velocity sensing. Do you think the NW2 keybed will be better? The NS2 HA88 wasn't my NE373 isn"t.

 

While we"re on the subject of velocity it is very apparent that in the world of synthesisers, velocity is very often treated as an afterthought. Yamaha with the CS80 and the DX7 changed all that, they gave people who cared about real-time performance the nirvana they"d always dreamt of. Sadly these lessons get forgotten and overlooked. Just look at the half-baked way Dave Smith added velocity control to the Prophet 6! Really! Well the NW2 is nearly as poor. How about an amount knob or menu item to control the depth of velocity impact on the filter envelope in each program/layer? Similarly Nord's slavish adoption of Moog"s off, third, two thirds, full switches for both DCA velocity and filter tracking has me howling.. Why? A knob isn't more expensive or more space consuming and it provides your exact choice of level. Yesterday wasn"t better.

 

I do at least like Nord's morph modulation system. But to me there's one glaring omission to the source list. It should include key tracking. Ok maybe this is a modulation effect that is too subtle for Nord's intended, but it goes without saying if you want to synthesise any real world string instrument the envelope characteristics for high notes are very much shorter than for low notes.. OK?

 

Nord describe the NW2 as having the potential of a wavetable synth. Hummm. So where's the ability to scan those tables in real-time? There isn"t one. The shape knob isn"t morphable for wavetables. Why?

 

Nor is it possible to use other wave forms in their implementation of linear FM. Today it's a given sinewaves are old hat for FM.. but I"m forgetting Nord's conservatism mantra!! So fm here is limited to twee DX7 clonks.

 

Finally, we"re all wowed by the potential of vowel sounds and twin pole filtering on the latest generations of synth tech. Where is this on the NW2? It has all the basic features needed (wave table synthesis, modelled - selectable filter types, even one dual filter!).. It's a major missed opportunity. Even the NS3 had vowel sounds. The very least the NW2 should include a twin bandpass filter model with adjustable cutoff, separation and resonance. Or is that too complex for Nord's market sector??

 

As you've probably gathered I"m very frustrated by the NW2. Because in part it"s very good and it sounds a step up from much of their previous efforts. But it is hobbled by Nord's petty shortsightedness. I know if I owned one it would drive me mad. Much like the Nord Stage 2 HA88 did all those years ago. Ok I still have an NE373, because its clonewheel is better on stage than my old M102/L122 and it's easy to carry! I like its Rick Wright Farfisa sounds and the odd 22 violins single layer sample.. Lol!

 

I guess for now I"ll eschew the instant gratification world of sample playback and either buy an ASM Hydra Synth or a Novation Summit.

RhodesStage73,Wurly,M102&L122,MiniMoog,Yam DX7,P250,Rolnd Juno60,Di,RD700SX-2000,Clavia N373,NS2ha88,CASIO PX5s,SL Sledge,Kurz Forte,Kawai MP7SE,Korg DSS1,Kronos2 61,Prophet2k,DSI P6,OBm M6r,Emu ESi4K
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Hector I'll join Dave in welcoming you to the forums. That someone of your obvious experience can share their perspective is what the MPN GearLab format was meant for, so thanks for joining us.

 

Very good points all around. I may not be quite as cynical about Nord as you are, but a friend of mine is, and likes to say "They've made a hell of a brand out of being red." I agree that they have limitations that seem driven not by necessity but by design choices, and there is an Apple-like philosophy about those choices: Give most of the people what they need to do most of what they want. That may be a pretty broad appeal, but if you want to get outside of it you run up against 'Why would you want to do that? You"re just the user!' A recent example (about Apple. not Nord) is that I"m a lifelong Apple user because for audio production and video editing, I find I spend much less time admin'ing. The "it just works' slogan has, for me, mostly just worked. However, I recently installed Apache on my iMac as I was taking an at-home PHP course during the worst of the lockdown. MacOS is downright diabolical about forbidding localhost access through a browser, which made it nigh impossible to see the results of my work. The workaround was to rewrite all the Apache config files to direct assets to Mac's default "Sites" folder, and learning to do this slowed my progress in learning the PHP I paid to learn.

 

Anyway, to take just one of your frustrations, yeah, samples.

Nord Piano Library = Velocity-switched multisamples but only from the factory; you can"t roll your own.

Nord Sample Library and Sample Editor = You can roll your own but they"re not multi-layered.

The NW2 can load stuff from the Sample Library but not the Piano Library, because of course you're supposed to buy a Nord Piano, Stage, or Grand for that.

 

I own a Nord Grand and I have to say it has breathtaking acoustic piano and EP sounds. Tons of character and I can get lost for hours just playing. It also has a wider range of velocity sensitivity adjustment, although IIRC something like a total of six or seven steps, nothing continuously variable or even 0-127.

 

Lack of key tracking as a mod source? Totally feel you on that one. That is not an exotic request.

 

I brought up the fact that you can't do wave-scanning or sequencing a la PPG (or Korg WaveStation) in this thread, in fact. "Wavetable" is used loosely by a lot of synth makers to mean a bank of single-cycle digital waveforms that have more complex harmonic profiles than is possible with analog subtractive synthesis. But if you can play just one of those waveforms (per layer) at a time, then what you have is not much more than a Korg DW-8000. Putting waves in a table means you can then step through the rows of the table in rhythmic fashion. The other option is to crossfade between waveforms, of course, which the Prophet-VS did with a vector joystick and the NW2 approximates using layer morphing. Stuff you already know, I'm sure, but yeah â the NW2 has a shape parameter that sets the digital "wavetable" form, and it has a master clock that can do rhythmic subdivisions in other areas such as the LFO and arpeggiator. If Nord can connect these two dots in a firmware update, they really should.

 

Curious, you said "we" in the context of Kurzweil. Did you work with or for them at one point? I know a bunch of the YCRDI alumni. One of my go-to boards is a Forte 7, in fact, and I still have a K2600 and K2000 in mothballs.

 

Again, welcome, and hope to be hearing more from you!

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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As a new NW2 owner I've been following this tread with great interest. It help me gain a better understanding of what the instrument can and can't do. I am unquestionably a member of the "broad appeal" crew. I have much less knowledge and experience with synths then most contributors and readers of this forum. However, I am a reasonably experienced musician. I spend more time with my acoustic piano and acoustic guitar then I do with my synths. But I do enjoy playing with synths, especially in the winter months. I've cycled through various synths along the way, including those embedded in Logic Pro and Ableton, and still mess with Omnisphere and Chromaphone from time to time. I know what I like and I know my limitations! Nords work for me because they are simple. I had a Korg Kronos for awhile and I did have fun with it. But ultimately I felt like the instrument was playing me, whereas with Nords I feel like I'm playing the instrument. I'm comfortable with how they are organized and I feel that I have a basic understanding of what I'm doing. All of the comments here about what the Nord can't do I'm sure are absolutely fair and for the advanced synth user they matter. Alot!

 

For the more casual user (me) the criticism of not being able to load the Nord Pianos is absolutely spot on. And if I didn't have a Stage 3 Compact I would never have bought the NW2. Even a casual user like me misses the vowel formants that are in the A1 and the Stage compact. Also, I would have loved seamless transitions between programs, although some of that can be mitigated by using the four layers well. So the criticism that Nord moves you into buying multiple instruments is exactly right, and that is similar to Apple for sure. The NW2 is unquestionably a luxury and somewhat repetitive of the Stage and the A1, although not so repetitive of the A1 that I'm ready to sell it.

 

However, as I've mentioned before on this forum, the feature that matters most to me is the ability to work with four layers. Yes, other synths do that. Yes, you can create four layers with the Stage, as long as two of them are pianos and/or organs. What I love about the NW2 is how easy it is for me to create unusual layers of samples, or to mix different guitars and/or bells and come up with some very cool hybrids. I've got one very basic patch that allows me to morph between two electric guitars, give it body with some FM, and then add a cello. That's how I use it. Basic for sure. But throw in some delays and arpeggiation and you can get suitably lost and inspired. Finally the NW2 really does sound great. The casual user can mess with sounds very easily.

 

Still, there are many missed opportunities with the NW2 as folks are pointing out. And it is something of a luxury synth for me as it forms a great pair with the Stage.

 

Thanks again to all the contributors to this discussion. As I follow this thread, reading about the strengths and limitations of the instrument, I gain a much better sense of the capabilities of the instrument, its limitations notwithstanding!

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Thanks for the warm welcome. This forum is clearly a positive environment. That"s nice in the context of so many that aren"t.

 

A couple of other NW2 issues I"ve noted but forgot to mention:

Steve you"ve already mentioned the lack of layer assign-ability with NW2"s hold pedal implementation it"s either all or none! This is definitely a weakness in Nord"s thinking since it"s obvious to me that one of the main applications of NW2"s multi-layer, multi timbrel architecture is to have stuff like rhythm and drum parts going on in some layers and more legato 'lead" parts in others. Clearly if you wanted to use a hold pedal on these to extend the range of expression to the more pianistic, you"d be stuffed, or at the very least need to figure otherwise unnecessary work-rounds to stop the other layers clagging up.

 

A further infuriating drop off in the NW2 design is it only has a single output pair. The Stage 2 & 3 both have auxillary outputs! But on the NW2 it isn"t even possible to assign layers specifically to either left or right output like you can on my old NE3. A product in this price range should automatically have two sets of outputs, especially if it"s mult-timbral. The Novation Summit has two, my Kronos has two, my Forte had two, even my RD2000 has two.. Bad Nord.

 

A typical application would be for clone wheel simulation. On my Forte for example, I never rated the KDFX rotary simulation it"s below average at best! (and double KDFX rotaries are just two lots of average! lol) whereas the actual KB3 sim is quite reasonable. So I bought a Neo Vent 2. This is a very capable L122 rotary sim (the best I could find and test!) and it includes a very nice valve overdrive. So on the Forte you can configure the KB3 (without KDFX rotary) to output to the left only of stereo output B (Real Hammond is mono OK!) - I used the right of output B for bass (I play pedals when forced! lol). The left output is fed into the Vent, the stereo output of the Vent was then fed to the Forte"s stereo audio input, thence mixed with the main output and sent to FOH via stereo output a. So perfect, a pretty good gigging clone wheel, with all the controls the Forte"s KB3 can provide in a compact and quick to setup package. And of course the Forte"s legendary midi controller facilities (inherited from the PC3 before) allowed me to link in my Studio Logic Sledge to provide a nice fast keybed for organ parts. That"s what I"d call capable thank you Kurzweil!

 

The NW2 cannot get close to this. Nord didn"t include a rotary effect on the NW2 (I guess because they want you to buy an additional Electro, Stage or C something!), there is only a single stereo output and its stereo input isn"t properly integrated into the main audio chain. So adding a Neo Vent would kill the NW2 multi-timbrality.

 

OK so why do Nord include so many organ samples and wave tables????

 

Clearly for a company that prides itself in supporting the gigging musician as number one USP, Nord do not see the NW2"s role as being the only board you"d need for a typical gig. Piano is crap and organ is great but only if you"re into pipe organs!⦠Like NEVER, never in over 40 years of live work have I gone 'Oh god I so need a pipe organ!' lol

 

The NW2 is basically an incorrigible kludge.

 

BTW Steve, I"ve never worked for Kurz, but I"ve been an active alpha and beta tester for Kurz on the Forte from pretty near the start (2015). Boy has the Forte grown since then. I think Kurzweil provide the best customer service and after market support I"ve ever experienced in this industry. Fran and the R&D guys have been brilliant. Oh! and of course, there"s the ever present, ever helpful Dave Weiser. Without him I would not have realised the importance of VAST"s Impact parameter.. No Really!!!

RhodesStage73,Wurly,M102&L122,MiniMoog,Yam DX7,P250,Rolnd Juno60,Di,RD700SX-2000,Clavia N373,NS2ha88,CASIO PX5s,SL Sledge,Kurz Forte,Kawai MP7SE,Korg DSS1,Kronos2 61,Prophet2k,DSI P6,OBm M6r,Emu ESi4K
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