Ever since the introduction of the first electronic pianos, manufacturers of the instrument have had a common goal: give the player an affordable, portable grand piano. This has been no easy feat, but new digital pianos are released every year that closer approach that goal.
Consolidating a massive, half-ton, mechanically-acoustic instrument into a device that you can keep with you in an oversized briefcase and transport easily between gigs is a daunting task, not to mention replicating true sound and feel.
Nord has been at the forefront of innovation in the art of producing digital pianos for some time, and their release of the Nord Piano 3 helps reassert them as a high-quality brand. In terms of overall quality—the sound, the feel, the portability, the editing abilities—Nord might have released the best digital piano on the market with the Nord Piano 3.
To better illustrate this point, please use the interactive table below to directly compare the Nord Piano 4 (the successor to the Nord Piano 3) to some of the top digital pianos on the market today.
|Roland RD-88||PHA-4 Standard action, ZEN-Core sound engine|
|Nord Stage 3||OLED Display|
|Casio PX5S||Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action II Keyboard|
|Nord Piano 5||Polyphony: 120 Notes (piano section), 46 Notes (sample synth section)|
|Yamaha YC88||128 Notes (AWM2/Organ), 128 Notes (FM)|
Phaser, Flanger, Chorus, Vibe, Pan, Tremolo and more
|Casio PX-560||5.3” Color Display|
The Nord Piano 3 follows in Nord’s traditional, bright-red keyboards. The decision to go all red with their keyboards might have seemed like a poor decision starting out, as black keyboards were the industry norm, and going for a bright color may be distracting and turn many people off.
However, as Nord has established themselves time and time again as a company that builds high-quality pianos, the bright red color has come to be associated with quality and piano realism. The bright red color is unique to Nord, so when you see a keyboardist on TV, jamming on their cherry instrument, you immediately know that it’s a Nord instrument.
Below, please take a brief moment to view some of the best-selling digital stage pianos currently online, and then see how well they stack up to the Nord Piano 3.
|1) Casio PX-560|
|2) Nord Piano 5|
|3) Roland RD-88|
|4) Korg D1|
|5) Roland RD-2000|
A Matter of Taste…and Quality
Although the decision to make Nord digital pianos bright red has been a brilliant marketing decision, the consumer may not be too keen on it. It can be distracting to see a bright red keyboard on stage, and as a player, it may be difficult to shake the idea that, on stage, you’re a billboard advertising Nord keyboards to the world, because everybody knows what brand you’re playing thanks to the bright aesthetic.
What it really comes down to is, do you like the color? What I can say is that, regardless of your taste, the coloring of the keyboard is high-quality and does not fade or chip easily.
The Nord Piano 3 is a slick, clean keyboard with a visually comfortable front panel. Modern keyboards often fall into the trap of providing players with a daunting amount of knobs, buttons, sliders, and controls on the front, and this can often discourage players who simply want a portable keyboard that sounds like a piano.
While options are good, they can often clutter up the front panel of a stage keyboard (if you want tons of editing possibilities and synth capabilities, I suggest looking into the Nord Lead series). The Nord Piano 3 boasts an appropriately busy editing panel on the front—it offers options for editing, but it isn’t too busy that it distracts from the keyboard’s main selling point—the piano sounds and piano feel.
Solid and Realistic
The moment you take the Nord Piano 3 out of the box, you will realize that it is a heavy instrument. It’s not too heavy that it detracts from its gigging potential—instead, you will recognize that it is a sturdy instrument with a solid build, and this is a good thing.
I’m usually more wary of keyboards that are surprisingly light—high quality, portable keyboards should still have some weight to them. The Nord Piano 3 is an instrument that was designed with the touring musician in mind. It is durable and robust, and I don’t suspect it will ever pose any problems on the road (assuming you’re not dropping it down the stairs at every venue).
One of the best selling points of the Nord Piano 3 is its keybed. Few digital pianos can achieve the realistic feel of piano keys like the Nord Piano 3 does. Nord has improved the feel from their Piano 2, and the grand weighted action of the keys mimics the response of a grand piano. Surprisingly, the keyboard doesn’t utilize the internal, mechanical hammers that many digital pianos use now.
Instead, it’s the Nord Virtual Hammer Action Technology that gives the keyboard such a fantastic feel. A triple sensor keybed allows for depth and nuance to your playing, offering smooth repetitions and transitions between notes. This is possible because, thanks to the sensors, any key can be triggered again and again without lifting the key to its resting spot every time. This allows for percussive pianissimo playing, a nuanced style that is rarely achieved on a digital piano.
If you’ve ever played a Nord keyboard, you will be familiar with the feel of the knobs and buttons on the front panel, as their design has gone unchanged from previous Nord models. Nord keeps this design because it works—sturdy, comfortable knobs and responsive buttons that click when toggled allow for seamless, precise editing.
Everything about this keyboard feels high-quality, and fortunately, the sound of the keyboard is able to match the quality of the feel.
Nord Quality Sound
The piano section engine of the keyboard separates instruments into six categories:
- Grand Pianos
- Upright Pianos
- Electric Pianos
The meat of this keyboard resides in the piano sounds. They sound big and full, and the range of color that can be achieved through different playing styles is delightful. These piano sounds really let your individual style come through, which is wonderful and impressive. This, of course, is further accentuated by the nuanced keybed response that allows for realistic technical maneuvers and dynamic variance.
Listening to someone play this keyboard through the right speakers is like sitting in a concert hall listening to a real piano. It’s not the exact same, but it is one of the best keyboards I’ve heard. Another bonus is that you can go online and download different piano sounds from the Nord website if you want.
Reverberation can be adjusted to your desired level to achieve the right setting for the sound, too. It’s up to you if you want to be playing in a concert hall, a small studio, or anything in between. You are allowed to adjust the wetness and dryness of your reverb effects as you play. There are several other effects that you can edit with any of your sounds—panning, tremolo, delay, wah, etc., and these further allow you to construct the sound you want very easily.
After experimenting with the variety of quality piano sounds, it can be easy to forget that the Nord Piano 3 also offers brass, strings, and synth options. While none of these are as impressive as the piano sounds, I have no real complaints about any of them (except the brass doesn’t sound realistic, but no keyboard offers realistic brass sounds).
I found the strings to be the most impressive out of all the non-piano sounds, and with the ability to edit attack, sustain, and release, you can build the strings that you find to be most appropriate for your song. You can build romantic, legato string sections or fast-moving, staccato sections, and having that ability is great.
One feature of the keyboard that I found to be a bit disappointing is the restrings set on the split keyboard. You can only split the keyboard on an F or C, not any other pitches. However, one of the best features of the split keyboard is that a green light will be toggled on above the pitch where the keyboard splits. So if you’re on stage with poor lighting, you can still see exactly where the keyboard splits without straining your eyes.
The Nord Piano 3 is really an impressive instrument, and one of the best digital pianos on the market. It is a high-quality instrument that is robust, offers big, dynamic piano sounds, and is designed with a delightfully realistic keybed that feels natural. I recommend this keyboard to anybody—it’s not too complicated for the layperson, but it still offers great depth and realism for the experts and piano snobs.
Perhaps the most contentious aspect of the keyboard is its steep price point. At $3,000, it can be difficult to justify such a purchase if you’re not serious about playing piano. It’s for this reason that I would suggest beginners to seek out a more affordable option—that way, if you don’t stick with it, you’re not out $3,000 dollars.
However, if you’re a beginner and the price is not a deterrent, I absolute recommend the keyboard, for it offers a great feel and wonderfully realistic sound that you will appreciate, even if you’re not a piano expert.
I believe the primary market for the Nord Piano 3 is the performing musician who travels often to play. The sturdiness and durability of the keyboard is simply the bright red cherry on top of a keyboard that offers realistic piano sounds and an authentic touch.
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