The good news: there’s a new Nord, it looks nice enough, and it’s likely to make Clavia fans very happy.

The bad news: some of us will have to go on dreaming of a follow-up to the innovative Nord Modular. Instead of that, this is a Nord Lead 4.

Despite sharing a name with previous Nords, Clavia says this is an all-new synth. The focus appears to be “performance features” – making layering and sync easier – and focusing on providing more choices in effects and filters.

First, the specs:

  • 4-part multi-timbral – not so interesting in itself, but there are four independent outputs here.
  • 2-oscillator virtual analog synth, including FM, hard/soft synth, “true voice” unison. (I hate fake voice unison. Okay, yes, there are some tricks some synths use there.)
  • Performance controls: “Morph,” “Variation.”
  • Sync: master and external MIDI clock will sync LFO, arpeggiator, and delay.
  • Wavetable synthesis with “Formant Wavetables.
  • Various filter choices: 12/24 dB Low-pass, High-pass, Band-pass filters, transistor and diode ladder filter simulations.
  • LFO/Arpeggiators – two of them – plus a Mod Env section for modulation.
  • Crush, Talk and Distortion, Reverb, Delay effects
  • 2x-oversampled sound engine.

And you get USB MIDI and 49 velocity-sensitive keys.


The real advantage of going digital here is being able to do more of this sort of layering and easy sync, and while some folks prefer the analog keyboards, having wavetable synthesis does open up more timbral options. (That’s why it was a selling point in the first place.)

Also nice: these sonic variations, which can make use of all the new effects and timbral options, are assignable, so unlike too many “live-friendly” synths these days, this is not an “idiot knob” that just manipulates a preset. It really does appear to be something you can set up for custom sound design for live performance.

There’s also a tabletop/rack version, something too many synth builders ignore these days.

Just expect the “handmade Swedish” quality to cost you: suggested street is € 1649 for the rack, € 1849 for the full keyboard.

That said, it’s already looking like the Lead 4 will be the leading high-end keyboard synth later this week at Musikmesse.

And here’s what it sounds like:



  • Cooptrol

    I guess R&D costs are way too high today to produce a new modular. And the “real” modular industry is now an implacable competitor. But they could at least make some upgrades to the G1 and G2 software.

    • James Husted

      I think the time is perfect for a new Nord Modular or even a re-issue of the G2 with a editor update. Looks like it will never happen though. It is not like it is a ton of R&D either. The last Nord Modular was apparently made from the development platform they made to make the Lead series. I think that Clavia is deeply in the “once burned, twice shy” mode now. They could make their G2 Demo software into a fully functioning VSTi and charge for it and make money but they don’t. They promo’d this new lead with the tag line about “remembering their synth roots”. The lead line seems like the only true synth they make anymore. I guess there is more money in organs and pianos and samplers and they have to keep in business. I think they are missing out on the new modular wave though. I had a G2 and a G1 and they both were ahead of their time but their time is now…

    • Lloyd Barrett

      Here here – i’m currently getting deep into MicroModular land – wish I’d heard of them earlier.

    • Taylor Holliday

      Hey James, my app, Audulus, was influenced by the Nord G2 editor (similar modules, but different visual style and layout). You might find it to be a good alternative :-).
      – Taylor

    • papertiger

      Taylor — are you planning on implementing any sequencing modules? That was my favorite part of the g2, and really the part i miss the most…

    • Taylor Holliday

      Hey papertiger, yes, absolutely :-) Audulus currently has a 16-step sequencer module, but it’s pretty basic (although one cool thing you can do with it is modulate the steps). Nevertheless, people have been getting good mileage out of it (

      I’ve got some plans for some pretty cool (and quite general) sequencing modules, so keep an eye out :-)

      – Taylor

    • papertiger

      Thanks, Taylor. You might want to put something about that module on your website, because I couldn’t find a reference to it. I’ll definitely be getting Audulus…once my ipad 1 gives up the ghost… =

      *end comment thread hijack* (sorry, Peter)


    • Taylor Holliday

      M, good point! I updated the Audulus website :-)

      – Taylor

  • Ri

    That Demo sounds beautiful.

  • Obscure Robot

    This will be popular with Japanese death metal bands.

  • Modern3

    Well their marketing rubbish was that they have not forgotten their synthesizer past…..apparently they remember all too well their retro designs. I simply do not understand Clavia. At some point you have to evolve! The Nord 3 was at least a nominal attempt. At this price point, I find this actually insulting.

  • T

    Why omit an alphanumeric display for preset names? If Clavia were concerned about the time it takes to name presets, just default the preset name to a number (so you can name it later).

  • Brian

    Sigh, clavia need to realise when they are onto a good thing…the modulars and the 3 were fucking amazing for different reasons…yet neither of what made those synths great have even made its way into this one. Its stupid