Nord Electro 6 Review: Overview
Nord Electro 6
(out of 5)
- Fantastic build quality
- Has many of the great features of the Flagship Nord Stage 3 and 4 with a much lower price tag
- Great keys on all 3 models
- The ability to layer the three sound engines in subtle degrees
- Intuitive, easy-to-use controls that get your creative juices flowing
- Professional quality samples for piano, organ, and synth
- Lifetime access to the Nord Sound Library and Nord Piano Library
- The B3 organ samples!!
- Effects can only be used on one sound engine at a time
- The keys are little noisy on the HP
- OLED screen could be bigger
An excellent stage piano with intuitive workstation/synthesizer capabilities. With an expressive keybed, first-rate sampling, and overall ease-of-use, this machine is difficult not to like.
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Introducing the Nord Electro 6
Clavia Digital Instruments (also known as Clavia Nord, or Nord) entered the scene in the 1980s making the first drum pad using sampled sounds. They rolled out their first synthesizer in 1995 and have since created some of the most sought-after stage pianos out there.
Clavia Nord’s goal has been to make immensely playable instruments and you could say they have succeeded in doing so. The Electro 3 became their most successful product in 2008 with its exclusively licensed samples from vintage Mellotron and Chamberlin synths.
Since then, Nord has taken over the high-end stage piano market by making intuitive, immensely playable instruments and continuing to push the envelope on what is possible with digital keyboard samples.
The Nord Electro 6 is a culmination of many of the advancements Nord has made to stage pianos in the past three decades. While it is not as pricey as the Nord Stage 4, the Electro 6 is still a considerable investment.
Is it worth it? To answer that question, we got our hands on a Nord Electro 6 and thoroughly tested it out.
*This review is based on our tests of the Nord Electro 6HP model.
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Alternatives to the Nord Electro 6
Before we dive into the review of the Nord Electro 6, I’d like to give you an idea the Electro 6’s competition.
The Nord Electro 6 is a stage piano with intuitive workstation/synthesizer capabilities. Few of the competitive models in the same price range match this description. (The closest being the Roland FA-08 and the Roland RD-2000) For example, the Yamaha CP and YC series are are exclusively stage pianos/organs. The Korg PA series are exclusively synth workstations.
Overall Design and Controls
The design of the controls of the Nord Electro 6 is very well thought out. What at first looks like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, soon becomes easy to navigate thanks to its well-organized layout.
The Nord Electro 6 has three main sound engines (Piano, Organ, and Sample Synth) and effects that can be applied to all sounds. The sounds from each engine can then be layered on top of each other to create new sounds and maximum control over those sounds and their blend.
Check out some of the sounds below:
All the dials and buttons give you maximum control over the sound. But don’t let the look scare you. Once you understand that you’re just dealing with three sound engines and an effects panel, navigating the dash is a breeze.
The knobs, dials, buttons, and sliders are all solid build and nice to the touch with the exception of the buttons for the organ on the Nord Electro 6 HP. They don’t feel as nice. I would definitely prefer the drawbars of the 6D. (See the 3 different models below)
The Nord Electro 6, like its other Nord cousins, is of course red. Lovely wood sides and durable plastic make up the shell.
Being a stage piano, the Nord Electro 6 needs to be plugged into some kind of external amplification to be heard.
The weight varies between the models with the Electro 6 HP being considerably heavier than the 6D models, as you can see below:
Nord Electro 6D 61
61-note semi-weighted waterfall keybed, 8.1 kg (17.85 lbs)
Made for organ players, this model and the 6D 73 have physical drawbars for the organ stops. The keys on the ‘waterfall keybed’ of the Electro 6D 61 have rounded edges without the usual lip found on standard piano keys. ( See image below)
These keys are designed to move, making palm slides a breeze.
Nord Electro 6D 73
73-note semi-weighted waterfall keybed, 9.2 kg (20.28 lbs)
The 73 variant of the 6D with the same keys and drawbars as the 6D 61.
Nord Electro 6 HP (73)
73-note Hammer Action Portable keybed, 11.4 kg (25.13 lbs)
Hammer Action Portable keys are a lighter more portable version of the fully-weighted keys you’ll find on the Nord Piano or the Stage 3 and Stage 4. The organ section has buttons and LED indicators instead of the physical drawbars.
The keys on the Nord Electro 6HP (the model we tested) took some getting used to. Built for those who need would like a portable keyboard that plays like a fully weighted, the keys are HP “hammer action portable”.
They are gradually lighter in weight from bottom to top like an acoustic piano. They are accurate in terms of velocity and expression. In the end, the HP keys were a joy to play after I got used to them.
The keys don’t feel exactly like an acoustic piano – a little heavy on the action and a bit noisy – bit with an adjustment to the “KBD touch” button, you can find something that matches your playing style. The degrees are very subtle. Set to the lightest setting, I was happy.
I asked around to players who have or have played the Nord Electro 6 what they thought of the action. The response was similar from all – after playing a bit, they came to enjoy the feel.
Organists I asked, loved the playability of the 6D models with the waterfall keybed.
I will begin with an overview of the Program Section because it involves all of the following sections of the Nord Electro 6 that we will discuss.
The program section with its OLED display is located in the Center of the dash. You’ve got a seemingly endless list (400 presets in 16 banks) of preset mixed sounds using all three engines to browse through using the ‘List/Value’ knob.
If at any point you discover that you would prefer to use just one engine, for example, only organ, simply select the ‘Zone Select’ button at the top of the section and deselect the undesired sections.
In the program section, you can dive deep into creating your own sounds and save them as new preset sounds with the ‘Store as…’ button.
The program section also gives you a useful Live Mode control which simplifies your list of sounds to a select few. There are four program buttons for quick swapping during performances.
This is also the area where you can organize all your sounds into folders and control the keyboard’s split points.
Now, I would like to discuss the rest of the sections as they appear left to right, beginning with the Piano Section.
On the very left-hand side of Electro 6, you’ll find the Piano Section. Here you can play with the constantly growing catalog of Nord piano sounds. All of the digital piano sounds on the Electro 6 are sample-based.
With Nord Sound Manager and a USB connection, you can add more piano sounds or swap out the sounds you don’t like.
Technically, the samples on the Electro 6 have increased polyphony (120 voices) and 4 separate dynamic curves.
With your Electro 6, you have lifetime access to the Nord Piano Library. The piano samples include the following:
- White Grand (largest XL sound available in Nord Piano Library)
- Bösendorfer Grand Imperial XL
- Royal Grand 3D
Check out the White Grand below:
These piano libraries will take up a lot of memory because they are so thoroughly sampled. You have a total of 1 GB of memory dedicated to the piano section.
Each of the piano libraries comes in XL, L, M, and S sizes, which is convenient if you’d like a little wiggle room for other sounds. The XL versions have a fully mapped keyboard, string resonances, and velocity transitions.
Last but not least, the Piano Section comes with piano filter settings (soft, mid, and bright). Essentially a dedicated piano EQ, this is a welcome tool giving you full control of your stage mix without the need to yell across a theater.
As extensive as the piano section is in its sample library, perhaps the most attention on the Nord Electro 6 has gone into the Organ Section.
The organ models on the Electro 6 are Farfisa, Vox Continental, B3 Tonewheel, and B3 Bass, and two pipe organs.
Nord’s version of the B3 is famous, and I absolutely loved the samples. It just nails the details: percussive keys, clicks, and vibrato. Personally, I couldn’t get enough of this setting and found the other sounds less exciting.
Pipe 1, the first of the two pipe organs on offer, is a little ‘synth-ey’ whereas pipe 2 sounds like a real church organ with metal pipes.
You’ve got loads of control in the organ section. As stated earlier the 6D models include the physical drawbars, while the HP has LED indicators and buttons.
To be fair, the buttons on the HP were totally functional, it’s just that the drawbars felt so much nicer.
You’ve got dedicated vibrato and chorus controls and three options in the Percussion controls. You can adjust percussive volume here as well as decay and upper third harmonics.
Finally, you’ve got a kick-ass Rotary section with models and a 122 vintage rotary speaker. This allows you to add bite and a bit of tube-like distortion as you wish.
Sample Synth Section
The sample synth section allows you to choose and control Nord’s extensive library of synth samples. The allotted memory has been increased from previous incarnations of the Electro. The Electro 6 has 512 MB dedicated to the Sample Synth sounds.
Although you cannot create sounds from scratch like an analog synth, the ability to layer this section with the piano, organ, and effect engines gives you a lot of creative possibilities.
The highlights of the Sample Synth library are the great samples from vintage Mellotron and Chamberlin synths. Technically, Nord has extended the polyphony of the Electro 6 synth engine to 30 voices.
To get an idea of the layering possibilities with the other engines, I recommend browsing the presets and making adjustments to the preset sounds. For example, the sound ‘Lord’ has an outstanding mix of organ harmonics with an in-your-face synth lead.
The controls in the synth section are pretty straightforward. You’ve got an attack, decay/release, an octave button, and a dynamics button which offers three settings on the filter and velocity of the sample.
And like the other sections, you can use Nord Keyboard Manager to create your own samples off-site and upload them.
Again, despite the scary-looking millions of buttons and knobs, this thing is easy to navigate. Nord saves you the trouble of deep diving into the menus on an LED screen (like many other keyboards) by placing the effects right out in front of you on the dash.
Like the other sections, the effects are high quality with wonderfully subtle degrees of control available.
The effects can be applied to any one of the engines on the Electro 6. For example, this means you cannot add a separate delay to your piano sound and organ sound at the same time.
Other than that limitation, the world is your oyster!
The available effects include tremolo, different wah-wahs, phase, choruses, flanger, speaker simulations, delay, reverb, EQ, and compressor.
New Features: Nord Electro 6
Usually, if you switch your sound on a keyboard, the sound you are playing cuts out awkwardly. On the Electro 6, if you are holding a chord it will continue to hold that sound while the next keys you press will be the new sound.
This is an elegant, welcome new feature.
6 Keyboard Split Points and Width Function
The keyboard can be split into two halves at 6 different points, each marked by a green LED.
The new width function allows you to blend the two sounds of the split gradually toward the split point. For example if you had strings in the bass and piano at the top, the keys immediately to the left and right of the LED light become a gentle blend of strings and piano.
The Nord Electro 6 offers the following inputs and outputs:
- 2 Audio outputs L & R – 1/4”, unbalanced
- 1 Monitor input – 1/8″ stereo jack
- 1 Headphone output – 1/4“ stereo jack
- 1 Control pedal input – 1/4“ TRS stereo jack,
- 1 Sustain pedal input – ¼” jack.
- 1 Rotary Speaker speed switch pedal input – ¼” jack
- MIDI In, MIDI Out
- USB – type B connector
- IEC C14 power connector
There are loads of accessories for the Nord Electro 6, but I will limit my discussion here to these three essentials.
The Nord Electro 6 needs to be plugged into some kind of external amplification to be heard. I would recommend a keyboard-specific amp.
The Behringer K450FX is a great budget amp for small gigs and home practice.
For a quality, lightweight, compact speaker, I can highly recommend the Electro-voice ZLX 15BT
The Nord Sustain Pedal unfortunately does not come standard with the Electro 6. The keyboard does support 3rd party expression and control pedals including the Yamaha FC7, Roland EV-7, Korg EXP2 and Korg XVP20.
The Control Pedal and/or Sustain Pedal can be assigned independently for each section.
Half Moon Switch
An essential for organ lovers, the Nord Half Moon Switch controls the speed of the built-in rotating speaker simulation as well as an external rotary speaker connected via the 11-pin Leslie connection. The switch offers 3 speed settings (slow – stop – fast).
Nord Electro 6
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It is obvious why Nord Keyboards are held in such high regard among keyboard players. They offer top-quality samples, playability, ease of use, and subtle controls.
The Electro 6, offers many of the features of the flagship Nord Stage 3 and Stage 4 with a more affordable price tag. It gives you excellent, playable keys for pianists and organists alike; intuitive, creative controls; and high-quality layerable samples from three sound engines.
Although there are other workstations and keyboards that offer bang for the buck in terms of features and power, none of them offer this mix of quality keybed hardware and creative controls built for stage performance.
After our tests, we can highly recommend this keyboard.
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