As anyone who has seen the Nord Stage 2 HA88 can attest, this is not a keyboard for the faint of heart or casual user. While the setup is at least mildly user friendly, it’s obviously an instrument intended for players who know a thing or two about digital pianos.
The HA88 is set in Clavia’s trademark blood red finish, and its button-heavy interface gives it that retro throwback feel to the early synthesizers of the 60s and 70s. While you might expect an instrument this complex to be heavy as a brick due to its numerous electronic features, you would be pleasantly surprised to discover that it actually only weighs a “dainty” forty pounds. Granted, forty pounds is an arm workout in and of itself, but, as can be seen with other models, the HA88 could weigh a lot more and do a lot less.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that this is a stage piano—this is not something you just buy to plunk around on at home. And in this review, we’ll get into the features of this piano, organ options, and even how it compares to the SV-1.
Our Piano Buying Guide
Below, please enjoy the interactive guide that was created to make your piano purchase as simple as possible. Compare the great Nord Stage 2 HA88 to other stage pianos in its class:
|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|
Features of the Nord Stage 2 HA88
Before getting into the nitty gritty of what the HA88 can do, let’s take a look at some of its more impressive features. Like I mentioned earlier, this piano is not for the casual user, and therefore its feature list is highly technical—if you find yourself unable to decipher what these mean, then chances are they’re not things that are important to your piano playing purposes.
Below, take a look at some of the best selling digital stage pianos online, and see how well you feel they stack up to the Nord Stage 2 HA88:
|1) Casio PX-560|
|2) Nord Piano 5|
|3) Roland RD-88|
|4) Korg D1|
|5) Roland RD-2000|
HA88 Piano Options
While you do have the option of replacing or adding sounds to your HA88’s library, I believe it’s worth checking out the presets before you go to all that trouble. Some of them are definitely worth keeping.
These preset piano sounds include Steinway grand pianos, a mixture of both electronic and acoustic Yamaha pianos (the acoustic C7 and M5J and the electronic CP80), the Wurlitzer, the Rhodes, and the Hohner Clavinet.
The acoustic piano samples are by default stereo samples; however, you have the option of switching them to mono as well, and they can play up to 40 note polyphony. All electric samples are in mono format and allow you to play up to 60 note polyphony. While 40 and 60 are below the more traditional 64 note polyphony you see with many digital keyboards, those are still typically more than enough for all but the most serious and layering-friendly musicians.
In my opinion, one of the biggest successes of the HA88’s piano samples is its long release technology. With earlier models and with models from other brands when you released a note or released the damper pedal the sound would end quite abruptly. However, thanks to the long release technology, the notes take some time to die away and sound more like they would on an authentic acoustic piano.
It’s also worth noting that the HA88 offers three harpsichord options for musicians still stuck in the Baroque era. However, their quality of sound is questionable at best—they’re probably not going to fool any die hard harpsichord fans.
Some of the key features of the HA88 are the following:
- Full 88 key system that’s hammer weighted like an acoustic—i.e. the harder you press keys, the louder the dynamic of the note being played
- Multiple sound options for piano, organ, and synthesizer
- USB and MIDI capabilities
- LED Drawbar display
- Works with Nord’s piano and sample libraries, so that you can import more sound options onto your instrument
- A comprehensive catalog of effects, which allows maximum customization of your sound
HA88 Organ Options
Like the piano sample options, the HA88’s organ preset organ options are also worth checking out before you make any additions or replacements. Nord gives you three physical model options for organ playing—the Vox Continental, the Hammond B3, and the Farfisa compact.
Instead of offering physical drawbars, the HA88 offers LED drawbars. On the one hand, I think that this LED option is great because it makes the drawbars harder to miss, which is perfect when some quick sound changes are necessary. However, they do take a little getting used to because they function differently depending on which organ sample you have selected.
For example, with the Vox and Hammond, pressing down will cause more LED lights to illuminate, and pressing up will do the opposite. When using the Farfisa, the LED lights function only as tabs, as with a real Farfisa organ.
Unfortunately, as other reviewers have pointed out, the HA88 doesn’t even offer one pipe organ option, and this is definitely a major downside for anyone looking for heavy and varied organ use of their instrument. However, the options you are given function relatively well and frequently sound very similar to their namesakes.
HA88 Synth Options
The synthesizer options for the HA88 combine a mixture of wavetables along with analog oscillators and FM operators. The instrument’s timbre knob is a great way to move through a number of sound groups, and its programs make it easy to store sounds within synth, pad, or bass categories.
Another great synth feature is the sampler, which allows you to play back pre-recorded sounds. While Clavia’s website offers a number of great samples, you also have the option of loading samples from other websites offering them.
You have the option, too, of creating and loading your own samples. Keep in mind that all of these options will require the installation of special software on your computer.
Clavia has truly created a beast with the Stage 2 HA88 series because there are not many digital pianos out there than can compare with the scope and precision of its options. However, if you’re looking for something similar, but perhaps not as difficult to wrangle, the Korg SV-1 Stage Vintage is a good option.
In comparison to the H8AA, this model is much more geared towards piano sampling. The SV-1 includes more of both acoustic and electric piano sounds, although cuts are made to other samples, so that the instrument only comes preset with a measly 36 sounds. However, if you know that you’re going to spend a lot of time doing straightforward piano work, this is a good model to keep in mind. Unfortunately, the SV-1 is a 76 key digital piano instead of an 88.
As far as organs go, the SV-1 falls far behind the sophistication of the HA88. While it offers six options for organ (all of which are relatively decent), there are no drawbars or tabs to make adjustments to your sound. So in reality, dealing with the organ presets is an all or nothing affair with the SV-1.
And if you’re wondering how the Nord Stage 2 HA88 stacks up against the Nord Stage 2 HA76, be sure to read our review to find out (linked below).
It always seems to be the case that the more complex the instrument, the more accessories you’ll need for it, and the HA88 is no exception to this rule. While there is almost an infinite amount of add-ons for this great instrument, your most pressing need is probably going to be a damper pedal.
However, considering its weight, it would also probably be a good idea to invest in a sturdy stand for the instrument as well, especially if you’ve been working with a lighter model in the past.
Purchasing a Nord Stage 2 HA88 digital piano is not something to take lightly. Granted, it is definitely one of the best 88 key digital pianos on the market, but at nearly $5000 dollars it’s also quite the investment.
However, you will be hard pressed to find an instrument that has the same versatility and wide range of customization options that the HA88 offers. This is definitely a piano meant for live, high-quality performances, but I would wager that it wouldn’t be out of place in a recording studio or anywhere else that requires a high level of professionalism.
Below, watch the great demo of the HA88 so you can see and hear this machine for yourself! And you can find more of our in-depth digital piano reviews on our homepage!
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