Anyone interested in live music is likely to have seen that classically red digital piano rocking out on one stage or another. In iconic bright red, the Nord Stage 2 Digital Piano is surely a looker, but its utility goes far beyond stage mystique. Endlessly re-programmable, the Nord Stage 2 can suit a wide variety of roles in modern music, which largely contributes to its ubiquity.
Modern music is defined by its bending of definitions, its blurring of boundaries, and mixing of genres. A single band may need the imperious blasting of church organs, the fairytale tinkling of the harpsichord, the rattling jauntiness of a marimba, or the otherworldly warbling of an electronic synthesizer all on a single album (sometimes on a single song!). The internet has linked vast distances of musical tastes, and modern music reflects this in its eccentricity. The reason the Nord Stage 2 is so well seen, is its ability to adapt itself to such a wide array of musical niches.
Perhaps you are one such keyboardist looking for your own infinitely attunable music-making-machine and want to know more. Perhaps you just saw the Nord Stage 2 on a titular stage and were too intrigued to let it go without a google. In either case, we hope that this article will provide you with the necessary background, technical specifications, and market data, to understand where the Nord Stage 2 relates to its competitors.
This article will provide just such a background and purchasing guide for the Nord Stage 2, exploring what makes the piano special vis-a-vis other options on the market. If you’ve got your eyes on emulating your favorite band, there are very good odds that the Nord Stage 2 lies ahead of you.
What Is Nord Stage 2 Digital Piano?
The Nord Stage 2 is the flagship of the Nord line of instruments. Representing a new revision of the successful Nord Stage 1, Nord Stage 2 utilizes the latest technology to create an array of music thanks to its three categories of sound-generation. Though it looks like a keyboard at first glance, the Nord Stage 2 combines a piano module with an organ module and a synthesizer module.
Don’t let the options intimidate you. The interface that links these three modules is intuitive and highly user-friendly. In fact, the amount of control that this setup gives the musician is nearly obsessive. Very few instruments sound as good as the Nord Stage 2, and even fewer have the range of timbres that a single instrument can provide.
Beginners may be intimidated by the options that the professional will find essential, but the layout is such that even the most novice keyboardists will find themselves able to produce lovely music, even if they don’t fully understand every knob or blinking light.
In terms of dimensions, the Nord Stage 2 measures 44 x 5 x 13.6 inches. Overall, the Nord Stage 2 weighs in at about twenty-eight pounds. This weight is not inconsiderable, but actually on the light side when we consider that the Nord can essentially fill the role of three or four instruments.
As we’ve mentioned, the Nord Stage 2 is really a trinity of three sections united by a suite of global features. Those three are the piano, organ, and synthesizer sections, which bear examination one by one.
The Piano Section provides innovative recordings of acoustic pianos as well as advanced settings for vintage electric piano and string resonance sounds. The keys are weighted and hammer-actioned, meaning they strike like real piano keys, avoiding that “phoney” feeling that many electronic pianos carry with them. Dynamic pedal noise can be controlled through an optional Nord Triple Pedal attachment. And as a bonus, the whole piano section is compatible with the complete Nord Piano Library.
The Synth Section allows the musician to perform Classic analog, FM and Wavetable synthesis as well as straightforward sample playback. An arpeggiator will enable you to turn simple chord presses into dynamic flurries of a song (many Beatles’ tunes are based on arpeggiated chords). That the section provides a master clock allows it to be the heartbeat of more elaborate modular synth type setups. Similarly to the piano section, the Synth Section is compatible with the Nord Sample Library.
The Organ Section is praised for its faithful recreations of classic Vox and Farfisa organs. It uses B3 tonewheel organ modeling and provides an advanced rotary speaker model that can be placed in slow, fast and stop modes. Plus, LED bar graphs and draw buttons give the musician an easy overview of active drawbar settings.
Regarding global features, the Nord Stage 2 comes equipped with single-function control knobs allowing for instant legibility of current settings, a comprehensive effects section, an expanded Live Mode with 5 locations, and an external section allowing the Nord Stage 2 to function as a master keyboard.
The Nord Stage 2 comes in three models with differing prices, but the model we are focused on is the Nord Stage 2 EX HP76 76-Key Hammer Action Keybed. The Nord Stage 2 EX can be purchased on Amazon for around four thousand dollars. Not a drop in the bucket, but also nowhere near as expensive as buying individual items of the Nord’s functionality one by one.
How It Compares
We picked a few similar products available on the market to see how they compare.
Nord Stage 2 Digital Piano
Eease of Use
We found the Stage 2 surprisingly easy to configure, given its professional focus and a mind-boggling number of options. For how complex the instrument can be, the layout and clever design choices make the experience feel intuitive and smooth.
Sound & Connectivity
The Nord Stage 2 knows few limits in creating a smorgasbord of sound. That, and it can instantly connect with computers running a Mac OS, and serve as the central clock to a modular synth setup.
No other digital piano looks as good. The classic red is a badge of pride for Nord Stage 2 users. The hefty construction screams quality and longevity, which will be essential for your next world tour.
It is fitting we compare the Nord Stage 2 to the Casio PX-560, as this Casio is about the only other digital keyboard that can deserve to call itself a contender for king of the stage. Appropriately blue to compare to the famously red Nord, this keyboard does represent the Pepsi to Nord’s Coke, the Sonic to Nord’s Mario.
Costing only about a fourth of what the Nord Stage 2 costs, the Casio provides a reliable alternative to the Nord without breaking one’s pocketbook. Despite not being able to boast every feature that the Nord does, we were impressed with the Casio’s 88-note scaled hammer action and the ebony and ivory texture that the keys possess. The Casio looks great and feels great to play. Its lightweight design makes it perfect for transport and getting on to and off of the stage.
Eease of Use
The generous connections and lightweight construction make the Casio among the easiest digital pianos to set up. The color-coded middle control panel couldn’t be easier to use.
Sound & Connectivity
Compared to the older (but well loved) PX-5S, the PX-560 provides new tones, rhythms that can be programmed by the user, built-in speakers, and a control panel using an easy-to-use 5.3" Color Touch Interface. The range of sound falls short of the Nord Stage 2 but is still wide enough for a vast range of purposes.
While the lightweight design may be nice for getting in and out of a gig, it also leaves a lot to be desired. The Casio does not give the user the impression it will stick around the way that the heavy-duty Nord Stage 2 does.
With just a touch of a button, the Roland RD-300NX goes from a silent piece of furniture to a compact digital grand piano or synth. Among the best options for press and play functionality, the Roland RD-300NX is a solid mid-price-range option.
The RD-300NX uses the proprietary SuperNATURAL Piano sound engine to create a pleasing range of natural and electronic sounds. The display screen is easy to read, and inviting, urging us to hit that one-touch button and get to tinkling those keys. (Which are coated with a convincing ivory feel.)
Eease of Use
Few digital pianos will make it easier on the user to get started with a single touch. Even the options of classical and electronic can be switched between on the fly, creating great opportunities for musicians of exercise control of tone over their audience.
Sound & Connectivity
We found the SuperNATURAL engine to work as advertised, creating a range of sounds that both sounded unique (for digital pianos) and familiar (as they pleasingly mimic acoustic pianos).
Aesthetically, the black finish is a nice deviation from the colorful red and blue models of digital piano reviewed here. However, as a whole, the quality of design never really screams “quality.” The RD-300NX is not the looker that the Nord Stage 2 is.
Yamaha! What a trusted name in tech and it only now makes our list. The Yamaha P-255 is nevertheless a great option when it comes to digital pianos currently on the market. The P-255 is an 88-key contemporary digital stage piano. It uses Yamaha’s Pure CF Sampling CFIIIS Sounds to generate its notes. Plus it utilizes graded hammer action for registering its key presses.
Eease of Use
It may lack many of the options that other items on this list provide, but that barebones quality also makes it among the easiest of these digital pianos to use.
Sound & Connectivity
We weren’t as impressed by the Yamaha’s quality of sound as compared to the other options on this list. The sounds are far from unlistenable, but they do fall short when compared to other digital piano models.
The design quality matches what you pay for it. It is undoubtedly no Nord in terms of heavy-weight design.
In conclusion, if you’re seeking to look great on stage, you cannot beat the bright red of the Nord Stage 2. Fortunately, this digital piano also offers a degree of on-stage control and such a wide array of sonic options that no other digital piano comes close.
The Nord can run you about four time as much as the next cheapest competitor, however. Whether this expense is worth it will ultimately depend on the particular consumer.
However, it should be held as high endorsement how many bands switch to the Nord Stage 2 once they have the money to do so.