We love analog. But for all the talk about analog synths, there are some advantages to modeling analog sounds in digital – like getting a handmade hardware synth that still has 24-voice polyphony.
So, the Nord Lead A1 is an analog-modeling synth, not an analog synth. It builds on the Swedish firm’s knowledge of analog modeling, reproducing the sounds of analog synthesizers, but by doing the work in digital form, still delivers up to four parts and 24 voices, for more thickly-layered sounds.
New in this Nord Lead: quicker access to a bunch of parameters as consolidated on one knob (Pitch, Detune, Shape, Sync, FM, AM, Dual Osc, Noise), plus two new filter models, plus two new effects (Chorus and Ensemble).
The selling point Clavia is pushing on the Nord Lead A1 is speed. And this is a Nord, so that means not only working in the studio, but manipulating sounds onstage. If you’re already a fan of Nord, of course, well – more of that. But the Oscillator section now includes configuration shortcuts – basically, macro controls on a knob that allow for speedier sound tweaking. (See the pic below for a closer look.) Here’s how it works: first, you select your waveform, then use the shortcut knob to choose what you want to control – Pitch, Detune, Shape, Sync, FM, AM, Dual Osc or Noise. Then, the red-backed OSC CTRL knob lets you tweak that particular parameter.
Beyond that, you get a fully-loaded synth keyboard with all the extras, and Clavia’s latest analog models. Specs:
- 8 oscillator configurations
- Pitch, Detune, Shape, Sync, AM, Noise, Dual OSC, FM controls
- Full modulation section: 5-waveform LFO, mod envelope, or use the LFO as a modulation envelope
- Multiple filter models: Low pass (12- and 24-dB), high pass and band pass, plus new modeled Ladder M and Ladder TB filters (think Mini, TB-303).
- Effects: Phaser, Flanger, Ring Modulator, Drive, plus two new effects: Ensemble, Chorus. Each in one of four independent slots.
- Master Clock Sync of Arpeggiator, LFO and Delay
- Morph with velocity or mod wheel
- USB MIDI
- Four independent arpeggiator slots
- Four independent outputs
- Master Clock sync to LFO, delay, arp
Here’s what it sounds like:
Filters have a huge impact on the sound and character of a synth, so the filter choices here are especially relevant. And when Clavia says “four-part multi-timbral,” they really mean four independent parts – you get separate slots for independent effects, independent arpeggiators, and even independent outputs. That may be overkill for some, but it means parallel options for sound creation. Combine that with the new Oscillator section and existing Morph controls for quick sound design, and this is a rather nice piece of hardware.
US$1799 estimated price, available in April 2014, “handmade in Sweden.”