In this review, I’m looking at the latest stage piano from Nord, the Nord Stage 4. I’m focusing on the 88-key version, but it’s also available in two smaller 73-key models.
The Nord Stage, in all its forms, has long been one of the most popular choices for professional musicians. I’ll break down what the Nord Stage 4 has to offer to find out if it lives up to its illustrious predecessors.
About the author
- 88 or 73 weighted keys
- 120 piano and 46 synth voices
- 512 presets
- 1/4″ outputs, 1/8″ input, MIDI I/O
- OLED displays
Final verdict on the Nord Stage 4
I’m not the biggest Nord fan in the world, and much of that stems from the price, which I think is a little relatively absurd. However, if I didn’t know the price, I’d be focusing on the fact it’s an amazing stage piano for professional musicians. And it’s better than the Stage 3, so I have to give Nord credit for not quitting while ahead and continuing to innovate.
What I like
- Amazing sound quality.
- Robust build quality.
- Enhanced sample memory.
- Per layer effects.
- Physical drawbars.
- Upgraded workflow.
- World-class effects.
What I don’t like
- Very expensive.
- Waterfall keys feel cheap (Compact model only).
Nord Stage pianos have always sounded fantastic, so I’d expect nothing less from the latest model.
The Nord Stage 4 has a broader selection of instruments, so you have more sounds to choose from than ever before. The sound of the Nord Stage 4 is still rooted in the three-engine format, Organ, Piano, and Synth, but there are multiple upgrades across the board.
Starting with the organs, which were already fantastic, there’s a new B3 bass mode and Model 122 Vintage Rotary Speaker modeling with various mic positions. The already amazing B3 and Farfisa organ sounds are now even more authentic, and if you play gospel, jazz, or rock, you won’t find much better.
Similarly, Nord piano sounds are always amongst the best around, and they still are, but this is where I disagree with some Nord purists. I think the grand pianos, uprights, and felt pianos all sound amazing. However, I think they should absolutely blow the competition away, considering the price, and they don’t do that.
The synth sounds come from the Wave 2 Synth Engine, and they sound incredible. It’s virtual analog and FM synthesis at its best. The architecture of the synth section has changed slightly since the Stage 3, and some default patches might sound slightly different because some filter, detune, and EQ settings are now different. The lead and polysynth sounds, in particular, are beautiful.
120-note max polyphony (46 for synth).
There are three versions of the Nord Stage 4:
- Nord Stage 4 88 – 88 triple-sensor graded hammer-action keys.
- Nord Stage 4 73 – 73 triple-sensor graded hammer-action keys.
- Nord Stage 4 Compact – 73 keys, triple-sensor waterfall keyboard.
I’ve never thought that Nord’s hammer-action keys were as responsive and nice to play as some offerings from Roland, Yamaha, and Kawai, but I’m probably in the minority with that opinion.
If I put that to one side and focus just on the Nord, they are, even in my opinion, very good, not too light, and make you feel like you have to work for it.
I’m far more comfortable in saying that I don’t like the new waterfall keyboard. After trying it, I left with the impression that you’d get used to it, and it would be OK, but something about it felt cheap, and at this price, it really shouldn’t.
Anyone considering a Nord Stage 4 should make your decision easier by answering one simple question, will you play piano sounds or synths and organs most?
If it’s piano sounds, you’ll need the weighted keys, but if it’s synths and organs, even though I don’t like the waterfall keyboard, go for the Compact because it’s significantly cheaper.
For those of you looking for the most authentic weight and feel available in a stage piano, be sure to check out this updated selection.
Nod keyboards all look very similar, and at a glance, it can be difficult to see what’s new, but the Nord Stage 4 comes with a few nifty features.
New panel design
In many ways, the top panel looks the same as before, with the three sound engines laid out independently. But one of the biggest differences is that each engine now offers complete control over each layer, which opens up a world of potential.
Previously, the organ and piano engines offered two layers (A/B), and the synth engine offered three (A/B/C). You now have a button per layer, per engine, to switch quickly between layers and make hands-on adjustments with the physical controls.
You’ll never want to go back once you get used to a keyboard with aftertouch, especially on organs (when you can use it for swells) and synths.
Nord Stage keyboards always have some great built-in effects, but this time around, thanks to the new architecture, you add effects per layer.
Previous models only allowed you to add a blanket effect per engine, but now that you can add effects per layer, it takes the sound design capabilities to a new level.
So, not a new feature as such, but it’s worth mentioning that you can now search presets per engine, which makes finding the right sound quicker and easier. There are 512 programs across eight banks.
Dual OLED displays
The Nord Stage 4 retains the two OLED displays present on previous models. One for the main program section and another dedicated to the synth section. They make for a much smoother workflow.
As a Vox Continental re-issue user, I’ve no problem with virtual drawbars, but I have to admit, nothing beats the real thing, and these are a perfect addition to the Nord Stage 4.
Expanded sample memory
The 2 GB sample memory from the Nord Stage 3 has been doubled, so you can add more sounds from external sources with greater fidelity.
This feature is not exclusive to the Nord Stage, but it’s a must-have for anyone who changes sounds during a performance. It lets you switch to a new sound without abruptly cutting off the first sound.
Advanced arpeggiator features
The arpeggiator has been updated with new gate, polyphonic, and pattern modes. Polyphonic mode is a game-changer for anyone who likes to build tracks with an arpeggiator.
I have to say the same as I always say about Nord keyboards: to a newbie, they might look a little intimidating, but they are actually very easy to navigate with a little practice.
The Nord Stage 4 takes what the previous model had and makes it even easier to use. The newly updated panel with selectable layers and physical drawbars is a joy to use on stage or in the studio.
Starting with the audio ins/outs, you’ve got a single 1/8-inch audio input and two 1/4-inch audio outputs. In addition, it provides MIDI in/out via 5-pin MIDI and USB.
Regarding expression, you are more than good to go with five pedal inputs, including sustain, foot switch, control, organ swell, and a 6-pin triple pedal input.
If there’s one thing that never changes about Nord products, it’s the build quality, well, that and the color.
The familiar metal chassis and real wood side panels are back and going nowhere. It’s as robust as it gets.
Compared to other keyboard pianos
The Nord Stage 4 is undoubtedly one of the best keyboards in its class. But here are a few popular alternatives to this red beast.
Nord Stage 4 vs Nord Stage 3
I added the Nord Stage 3 for anyone considering an upgrade. I think the Nord Stage 4 is better, but I wouldn’t upgrade unless you can recoup a reasonable price for your old model.
Nord Stage 4 vs Nord Piano 5
If you want a Nord but can’t stretch to the Stage 4, the Nord Piano 5 is a solid option with fewer features.
Nord Stage 4 vs Yamaha CK88
The CK88 is significantly cheaper, and it offers an entirely hands-on workflow and awesome sounds in a lightweight package, making it an ideal performer’s keyboard.
Who is the Nord Stage 4 best suited for?
The Nord Stage 4 is for professionals who can make it worth the investment.Buy Nord Stage 4 at: Sweetwater