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Nord Stage 3 review

Nord keyboards are instantly recognizable with their bright red casing. The Nord Stage 3 is the flagship model, and in this review, I’m finding out just how good it is.

About the author

I’m a producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience in the music industry. As a professional pianist, I’ve played and tested everything from a Bösendorfer Imperial concert grand piano to budget-friendly beginner keyboards.

Nord Stage 3 keyboard piano review
Image: Nord
  • 88 weighted keys
  • aftertouch
  • 120 piano and 46 synth voices
  • 400 presets
  • 1/8″ input, 1/4″ outputs
  • OLED displays

Final verdict on the Nord Stage 3 4.8

The Nord Stage 3 is the only choice for thousands of professional musicians, so there must be something to it. It’s a keyboard piano that does everything exceptionally well. I think a couple of keyboards do some things better, but there’s no denying that the Nord Stage 3 is a monster package. The only real downside is the hefty price.

What I like

  • Class-leading sound quality.
  • Modular layout/design.
  • Dedicated effects per sound engine.
  • Improved keyboard feel.
  • Excellent build quality.
  • Expansive sound bank.

What I don’t like

  • It’s very expensive.
Buy Nord Stage 3 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Note: Newer model

The new Nord Stage is already here! And it’s even more powerful now! Read the full Nord Stage 4 review to find out more.

Sound quality 4.9

The main reason that so many professional musicians rely on the Nord Stage 3 is that the sound quality is so high. There are around 400 preset voices between three individual sound engines, Piano, Synth, and Organ.

The piano sounds are impeccable and can be heard on lots of hit records. It’s not just the grand pianos, the electric pianos are outstanding, and there are some awesome uprights with lots of character.

The synths come from the Nord Lead A1 engine, so it goes without saying, they are very, very good. Nord’s C2D organ engine delivers authentic emulations of various Hammond models, the Vox Continental, and Farfisa organs. It also has nine digital drawbars for adjustments on the fly.

The remarkable thing about this keyboard piano is that each sound engine is as impressive as the next. Obviously, players will favor the sounds that they use most. But, in terms of authenticity and quality, they are all even, and that’s rare.

Max polyphony is 120 notes for pianos and 34 notes for synths.

Keyboard feel 4.5

If I had any persistent issue with Nord keyboards over the years, it was with the keyboard feel. The Stage 3 has fully-weighted hammer-action keys with aftertouch. I still feel that keyboards like the Roland RD-2000 and Yamaha’s CP88 do it better when it comes to a realistic piano feel.

However, since the previous Nord Stage model, the feel has improved, particularly with the different levels of touch sensitivity. Now, the difference in weight when moving between the various sound engines is fantastic.

It’s also worth saying much of this will come down to personal preference. The Nord doesn’t lack expression or articulation, I just prefer others.

Features 4.9

Nord keyboards are typically packed with performance-based features, and the Stage 3 is no exception.

Two OLED displays

There are two OLED displays that go a long way towards making navigation easier. The displays are relatively small but do the job well. One OLED display is for the main program section, and the other is for the synth section.

2 GB memory

The Nord Stage 3 also comes with 2 GB of user memory, along with a huge number of onboard sounds. You can fill the memory with sounds from the Nord Piano Library. Nord’s Piano Library is a treasure trove of keyboard instruments, including electric grand pianos, clavinets, and harpsichords.

Seamless transitions

Most top-tier keyboard pianos now have some version of the Seamless Transitions feature. This feature is a performer’s dream, and you’ll wonder how you survived without it previously. It lets you transition from one sound to another without interruption.

For example, if you use the sustain pedal to hold a piano chord, then switch to a synth, the piano chord will continue to ring out until you release the pedal (or keys).

If anyone has done a lot of gigs with a single keyboard, you’ll know what it’s like fumbling around to change the sound for a chorus. No more!

Song mode

Song mode is a feature that helps you prepare for your next gig. The Set List function allows you to save sounds and settings for instant recall on stage. Basically, you can prepare your entire set before you get on stage, saving yourself some stress.

Two independent instrument slots

As well as three unique sound engines, there are also two independent instrument slots. These slots mean that you can utilize two pianos, organs, synths, and effects simultaneously.

MIDI sound module integration

Most high-end keyboards have pretty extensive connectivity, making it easy to integrate with external gear. Not all of them integrate in a way that makes it feel like a single instrument rather than an attachment. Some can even seem a bit clumsy, which ruins your workflow.

The Nord Stage 3 is one of the ones that do it best, making external MIDI sound modules seem like part of the keyboard. The RD-2000 might be the only one that does it better at the moment.

Built-in effects

One of the most overlooked aspects of the Nord stage 3 is the world-class built-in effects. From basic reverbs and compression to chorus, flanger, ring mod, wah, and more. There are some awesome speaker simulations, too, which add another layer to the organ sounds.

In use 4.9

At first sight, the top panel of the Nord Stage 3 might look a bit chaotic. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The Stage 3 has a modular layout, so everything is easy to find in its dedicated section. Most of the important parameters/settings have a physical control, too. So, getting around the Stage 3 is far quicker and easier than you might expect.

On stage, there are only a couple of keyboards that can rival the Nord Stage 3. It’s tailor-made for performers, and the sound is incredible.

It’s just as effective in the studio, too. If you are someone who records/produces a lot of music, you’ll find every sound you need on the Stage 3. On the rare occasions that you can’t, it integrates perfectly with your DAW and external gear anyway.

Build quality 4.9

Nord manufactures some of the best-looking keyboards on the market. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking they are more concerned with style than strength, but you’d be wrong.

The Nord Stage 3 has a robust metal chassis with wooden side panels. To put it simply, a Nord Stage 3 will last longer than your band.

Connectivity 4.8

There are inputs and outputs aplenty. Starting with MIDI, you have in/out and USB via a single USB type B port. There are five 1/4″ pedal inputs, with sustain, control, organ swell, rotor pedal, and program change. Finally, there are four 1/4″ audio outputs and a 1/8″ monitor input.

Compared to other stage pianos

Here are a few keyboard pianos that I think can give the Nord Stage 3 some stiff competition.

Nord Stage 3 vs Roland RD-2000

In my opinion, the RD-2000 is the best and most flexible keyboard piano available at the moment.

Read the full Roland RD-2000 review

Nord Stage 3 vs Nord Piano 5

The Nord Piano 5 offers a cheaper alternative if you want to stick with Nord. The Stage 3 is a better all-rounder if you have the budget.

Read the full Nord Piano 5 review

Nord Stage 3 vs Yamaha CP88

I rated the CP88 higher than the Stage 3, despite the fact that the Nord does considerably more. I just feel the CP88 shines in specific areas, and the price makes it more attractive.

Read the full Yamaha CP88 review

Who is the Nord Stage 3 best suited for?

The Nord Stage 3 suits professional musicians. For everyone else, it’s just a tad too expensive.

Buy Nord Stage 3 at: SweetwaterAmazon