Nord Stage 3 Review 2021: Is This Famous Red Piano The Best For …
The Nord Stage 3 was a revamped version of the 2015 Stage 2 EX. Essentially, the goal for the Stage 2 EX was to combine the synth features of the Nord Lead A1 and the sound quality of the Nord C2D organ. However, while Stage 2 EX came out to be a pretty decent piano, it did not reach everyone’s expectations.
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For this reason, Clavia finally listened to its consumers and released the Nord Stage 3. Upon its release in 2017, it easily became one of the best stage pianos in the market. The electric keyboard is well-known for its unique finish. Clavia’s famous red piano has certainly caught the attention of many musicians all over the globe.
Aside from the shiny exterior, many still wonder what other features they will get from the Nord 3. This is understandable as it is not exactly the cheapest electric piano in the market.
With that being said, what are the features that make the Nord Stage 3 special? Are these features as flashy as its red finish and do they justify the price set for this electric piano?
In this Nord Stage 3 review, we’ll go through every feature the piano has and explore how these could be beneficial for you. If you are curious as to whether or not the red piano has anything else to offer aside from its striking appearance, get ready to be amazed.
As the aspect that made the Nord Stage 3 popular from the very first moment people laid their eyes on it, we will scrutinize everything about the Nord Stage’s design. This not only includes the color of the instrument but also the appearance of the control panel, the feel of the keys, and the ease of how one can operate them.
As with most of Nord’s instruments, the Nord Stage 3 has the same, well-known style. The red finish on smooth metal reflects the keyboard’s build quality. Many who have bought Nord instruments have always boasted of durability and one can only assume that the same sturdy build can be said for Stage 3.
Nord’s electric instruments are known to provide users with plenty of customization options and control. Hence, the front panel of the Nord Stage 3 is filled with buttons, knobs, and even a set of drawbars meant to provide users with optimum control.
If you are a beginner, it is incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed with the number of controls this keyboard has, so it might not be the best one to get if you want to focus on learning the basics. However, if you are a recording or gig musician with piano expertise, then this is perfect for you.
Despite the rather cluttered visuals of the keyboard upon first look, a closer inspection will make you realize that the buttons are grouped perfectly into neat sections. On top of this, most functions can be activated and deactivated with a press of a button or a turn of a knob. This makes it easy for anyone who likes to switch up the effects in the midst of a performance.
Additionally, the OLED screen on the console is perfect for anyone who likes to have a visual of the settings they have implemented.
1.2 Feel & Sensitivity
Everything on the Nord Stage 3 feels premium. The buttons and knobs have the perfect amount of resistance so the twists and turns of each give the user incredible accuracy when fiddling with the settings.
The keytops are made from simulated ebony and ivory so it has the same feel as a grand piano. This is also ideal for musicians who tend to have sweaty hands. The slightly rough texture of the keytops provides you with a non-slip surface that will let you play the keys more accurately.
The overall resistance of the keys is slightly lighter than a grand piano but this is to be expected for any electric keyboard, especially ones that are meant for gigs. Despite this, the resistance still feels extremely close to a grand piano. This is likely due to Nord Stage 3’s very own 2-sensor detection system and Virtual Hammer Action.
Although the 2-sensor detection system is not as grand as the Nord 4’s 4-sensor detection system, this is perfect for the Nord 3 as it enables a pleasant experience, even for those who use this piano as an organ or synth. While the Nord 4 certainly makes playing feel more realistic, having a heavier 4-sensor detection system will make it harder for synth and organ playing.
2. Sound Performance
The Nord Stage 3 has both form and function, so expect the sound quality to be above average. This section aims to shed light on the quality of the speakers and sound system of the instrument as well as the most notable pre-installed effects.
Similar to most professional electric pianos, the Nord Stage 3 does not come with built-in speakers. To hear the sounds the piano makes, you will have to either use headphones or connect it to an external amplifier or sound system.
While this means you are going to have to spend some extra cash to get a decent amplifier, if you are looking for amazing sound quality, this bodes well for you. With an external speaker, you have some say on how good the Nord Stage 3 will sound when amplified.
The Nord Stage 3’s control panel for effects is also located on the console. This makes it so much easier and quicker for pianists to manage their effects settings on the fly.
The Rotary Speaker Effect is necessary to create a perfect simulation of an organ. The Nord Stage 3 does not just come with a Rotary Speaker Effect, however, it also comes with a whole section for it. With the Rotary Section on the console, changing the acceleration parameters and the speed of the rotor and the horn can be done independently from each other.
Unfortunately, this specific effect cannot be adjusted between panels so you will be stuck with the same speed settings from panel A to B. Despite this, you can still link the Rotary Speaker speed to the Morph controls for more versatility and customization.
The Nord Stage has two effect sections. The Effects 1 section contains effects such as Auto-Panner, Ring Modulator, Wah-Wah, 2 variations of Auto-Wah, and Tremolo. These are made specifically for the piano sounds of the Nord Stage 3. These allow you to add a little bit more character to your playstyle.
The Effects 2 section, on the other hand, adds stereo effects to your playstyle. It houses effects such as 2 types of Choruses, 2 types of Phasers, Flangers, and Vibe.
Of course, no electric piano–workstation or not–is complete without Reverb Effects. For the Nord Stage 3, you get 6 different algorithms. You get 2 Stage Reverbs, 2 Hall Reverbs, and 2 Room Reverbs. While this is decent enough, I am personally a little disappointed about the fact that you can make very little customization for this section.
The Reverb Effects only come with a toggleable wet or dry option. Since the Nord Stage 3 is technically considered to be a workstation keyboard, having little customization options is a bit disappointing.
The Nord Stage 3 has a decent 120-note polyphony. This is good enough but there are cheaper electronic keyboards with more polyphony such as the Alesis Recital and the Casio PX-160. Still, while the polyphony on the Nord Stage 3 is nothing revolutionary, it is enough to play complex classical music without the notes cutting off. Combined with the sound quality and the number of effects on the Nord Stage 3, you have everything you need to make music.
One more thing that people search for when buying electric keyboards is the features. Professionals are especially interested in instruments that can go above and beyond what is considered common. This will allow them to truly express themselves in ways that will let their character shine.
For the Nord Stage 3, specifically, the goal was playability. It was meant to be manufactured with workstation keyboard functions and synth functions. Above all, it has all the amazing qualities of a simple, straightforward electric keyboard. For the production of Nord Stage 3, the idea is to give pianists everything they will need once they go on stage.
This section will go over all the unique features and functions of the Nord Stage 3. I will also be discussing noteworthy features that may catch the interest of any pianist looking for something a bit more unique.
As a workstation keyboard, the modes available on the Nord Stage 3 are a bit different than most electric keyboards. Instead of the Split, Duet, and Duo we are used to, we have Fast Mode and Song Mode instead.
Fast Mode is perfect for those who are more into creating pop or dance music. This is fairly simple and straightforward just like it has been in previous models.
On the other hand, Song Mode allows you to bring in other instruments to blend in with your playing. A plus on this one is the ability to synchronize this mode with the Master Clock Sync to ensure a seamless transition.
A few more things to note about the Nord Stage 3 are its Delay Section and Amp Sim and Equalizer Section. The Delay Section truly helps those who find themselves lost in tempo while playing.
Features such as the Master Clock Sync allows for the adjustment of your tempo with just a few taps. If you prefer a manual approach, you can do so as well. The Nord Stage 3 also provides an Analog Mode that functions almost like a filter. You can adjust its settings from High, Low, and Bandpass. On top of this, there are other settings that you can toggle to customize your music even further.
One thing I don’t like about this is the fact that these settings are only applicable to one panel. Still, they’re welcome improvements that were not present on previous models.
As for the Amp Sim and Equalizer Section, you can choose between three options. The options available are the Small Amp, JC, and Twin.
As a workstation keyboard, the Nord Stage offers a complete set of connectivity options.
It has four Line-Out jacks. The first and second usually functions as your main outputs while the third and fourth can be configured to connect to other sources.
A headphone Jack is also included right next to where the Line-Out jacks. I personally do not like that it is located at the back. I think placing it on the side would be a far greater design choice for accessibility.
The Nord Stage 3 has three Pedal Jacks for Organ Swell, Control Pedal, and Sustain Pedal. This way you can plug all three simultaneously for optimum control. Recently, a Program Up/Down Pedal Jack has been added. This allows you to navigate through your settings via the pedal.
A Monitor-In Jack is also installed where you can connect the Nord Stage 3 to your smartphone or music player. You can also use this as well as the USB Type B Port to connect to your laptop or PC to free up some recording space. This way, you can also use Nord’s Sound Manager and Sample Editor that is available for both Windows and OS X.
Nord’s Sound Manager is and has been one of the greatest aspects of the Nord Stage series. This software comes with every purchase of any of the keyboards in the Nord Stage series and is very useful especially for people who are interested in creating and recording music.
The Nord Sound Manager allows users to manage their programs, songs, presets, piano sounds, and samples digitally. Additionally, it allows you to back up your keyboard presets, and settings so if you need to restore previous settings you’ll always have a backup.
3.4 Advanced Split Functionality
One of the most unique features of the Nord Stage 3 is its ability to split sounds into 4 sections on your keyboard. It is also fairly easy to take note of the splitting point because it is indicated by green LEDs.
Unfortunately, there are limitations to the splitting which prevents you from setting just any key as the splitting point. As a response to this, Gradual Splits have been implemented to soften the splitting point and produce a near-seamless tone.
In fact, you can even customize the softness of the split. Nord Stage 3 gives you three options: Classic Abrupt, Small Gradual Split, and Large Gradual Split.
3.5 Synth Features
Anyone interested in synths would be happy to know that the Nord Stage 3 has served above and beyond expectations. It is practically the Nord Lead A1 integrated into the Nord Stage 3. The Nord Lead A1 (1) is easily one of the best synth keyboards in the market today. With a rich-sounding oscillator, a filter that helps produce crisp sounds, an amplifier that lets you modify the final output, combined with the onboard effects of the Nord Stage 3, you get yourself a solid setup.
Instead of the typical oscillators, the Nord Stage 3 provides you with more versatile, classic waveforms. On top of these, you can also use the huge number of samples pre-installed on this keyboard.
Recently, they have added S-waves, something that had been missing on the previous Nord Stage models. Additionally, you can also upload up to 480MB of your own custom samples, again, using the Nord Sample Manager that comes with the system.
The Synth section of the Nord Stage 3 has an impressive amount of samples (2) that you can use for backup and layers. There are currently 249 Samples preloaded on the Nord Stage 3 but you can easily remove, add, and make your own using Nord’s Sample Editor (3).
Currently, you can choose from 12 Oscillator Configurations and each oscillator has its own small modification panel giving you a bit more breathing space when it comes to configuration. It is important to note that this panel does not allow you to configure the oscillators completely, however, it is nice to have some form of control over them no matter how minute.
On top of the 120-note polyphony on the keyboard, the synth has an additional 34-voice polyphony which is more than enough for most purposes.
The filter of the synth section currently boasts a total of 6 types: 24db/oct Classic M filter, Clavia 24db/oct filter, Clavia 12db/oct filter, High-pass filter, Band-pass filter, and Parallel LP/HP filter. The first five of these filters have self-resonance which can be controlled with just a push of the resonance control.
As for the overdrive, 3 levels are currently available on the instrument. First, there is the Mod Envelope which, depending on your oscillator configuration can control specific parameters as well as the cut-off frequency of the filter. Second is the Amp Envelope which gives you control over the output levels and is velocity sensitive. Finally, you get the Unison Mode that allows you to add 1-3 more sounds in the mix for extra depth and character.
What I admire the most about the Nord Stage 3 is that it is built to be simple and straightforward. The simplified configurations even on the synth section allow beginners to experiment with music creation without scaring them away due to overcomplicated controls.
3.6 LFO Modulator and Arpeggiator
Another noteworthy thing to mention about the Nord Stage 3 is some of the unique controls that make playing with the configurations of this keyboard easier and more enjoyable.
The Arpeggiator allows you to browse through different configurations. It allows you to scroll up and down the different preset configurations of the Nord Stage 3 or even choose one at random. While arpeggiators are becoming common among electric keyboards, what I find unique with the Nord Stage 3 is the fact that you can link the arpeggiator to the master clock. This helps ensure that you never miss your tempo.
The same thing can be done with the LFO Modulator. However, if you prefer a more analog approach, you don’t need to connect it to the master clock. Some users feel as though a single LFO Modulator might not be enough. Currently, this setup only provides you with 5 waveforms. Despite this, you do get Sample and Hold which you’ll likely use a lot.
Lastly, there is also a Vibrato Control that you can link to other controls such as the mod wheel or aftertouch. If you are someone who likes delay effects in their music, then this will be useful for you.
The Nord Stage 3 has three different variations: the full 88-key keyboard, a smaller 76-key keyboard, called the Stage HP76, and a compact 73-key keyboard called the Stage 3 Compact. All of them have the same functions as the full keyboard except for the number of keys and size.
The accessories included in the Nord Stage 3’s package are decent. However, if you truly want to make the most of your Nord Stage experience, there are some aspects that you might want to change.
Included in the package is the Nord Piano Library where you can browse all the available piano effects for your Nord Stage keyboard. You will also get the Nord Sound Manager software which you will need to load these piano voices into your keyboard.
A pedal is included in the package. However, this is a single pedal that does not allow half-pedaling so you might want to replace it with a better one. To fully utilize all the features of your Nord keyboard, Nord’s 3-pedal unit is the best replacement for this.
The piano also comes with a region-specific adapter and a USB Cord so you can easily update your keyboard to the latest operating system. What is not included are a decent keyboard stand and a music stand.
The price of a piano is definitely a big deal. You would not want to spend thousands of dollars on something that can do the same thing as something that costs lower than $300.
Here, we will compare the Nord Stage 3 with several other pianos within its price range to see just how well it compares to others. With the basic features and price in full-view, is the Nord Stage 3 worth it? Let us find out.
Nord Stage 3 88-key
Korg Kronos 2 88-key
Roland RD-2000 88-key
Yamaha Montage 88-key
Korg Grandstage 88-key
As you can see, this is where the Nord Stage 3 gets beaten. Compared to other stage and workstation keyboards, the price is incredibly steep, sometimes even double the price of other keyboards with better features.
6. Existing Nord Stage 3 Reviews
6.1 Unbiased Text Reviews
6.2 Helpful Nord Stage 3 Video Reviews
The Nord Stage 3 deserves 4.8/5 stars.
While this keyboard is not ideal for beginners, it will suffice intermediate and advanced pianists. It has everything you will need and more. Even if you are someone who is only starting to learn their way around a synth or a workstation keyboard, the simplicity and straightforwardness of the Nord Stage 3’s controls will make navigation and learning that much easier for you.
The plethora of effects and the amount of customization options you can set is incredible, even in terms of most stage keyboards. The storage sample is huge and allows you to put your own high-quality samples on your keyboard. Also, the software that comes with your purchase helps you organize everything from settings to recordings.
Truly the only downside I see with the Nord Stage 3 that is worth mentioning here is the obscene price. Buying this keyboard is no joke at all. The huge price tag will deter a lot of buyers from purchasing the Nord Stage 3. This is especially true if you think about the fact that more and more keyboards are being developed similar to the Nord Stage 3 but at half the price.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, the Nord Stage 3 does not come with speakers. Like most stage keyboards, you will have to connect it to a pair of headphones, an amplifier, or a sound system to listen to your playing.
Yes, the Nord Stage 3 has a fully-weighted Hammer Action keybed.
No, the Nord Stage 3 does not have a sequencer. Despite the many functions of the Nord Stage 3, it is not a dedicated synth keyboard or workstation keyboard. The Nord Stage 3 is still marketed as a Stage Keyboard.