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Nord Lead
Clavia Nord Lead 2x.jpg

Nord Lead 2x
Manufacturer Clavia
Dates 1994 –
Technical specifications
Polyphony Nord Lead: 4 (12 expanded)
Nord Lead 2: 16
Nord Lead 2X: 20
Nord Lead 3: 24
Nord Lead 4: 20
Timbrality 4
Oscillator 2 per voice
LFO Triangle / Sawtooth / Square / Random / Sample and Hold
Synthesis type Virtual Analog Subtractive
Filter Digital multi-mode filter
Attenuator ADSR envelope generator
Aftertouch expression Nord Lead 3 only
Velocity expression Yes
Storage memory Nord Lead 1/2: 99 patches
Nord Lead 2X: 4×99 patches
Nord Lead 3: 1024 patches
Keyboard 49 keys
Left-hand control Pitch bendmod wheel
External control MIDI in/out

The NL is a series of virtual analog subtractive synthesizers, manufactured by Clavia.

Released in 1994, the original NL was the digital synthesizer that made the term virtual analog synthesis popular.[1] The now widely accepted term “virtual analog”, was first coined by Clavia with the release of the NL.[2] This synthesizer was distinctive for its red coloration, knob-laden surface, and unique pitch-stick and modulation wheel. After the Nord Lead, several updates followed suit; such as the Nord Lead 2, Nord Lead 3, and NL 2x.


Nord Rack (rack version of NL

Nord Lead[edit]

The first iteration of the synth was released in 1995 to positive reviews.[2] It was created with the help of Peter Jubel, who also co-founded Propellerhead Software.[3] Compared to synthesizers being constructed via analog components, the NL uses digital signal processors (DSPs) programmed to emulate both Subtractive and analog FM synthesis (cross-modulation) to reproduce the warmth and richness of a traditional analog sound. The NL was also unusual for its time in being “covered in knobs”,[2] which gave the player direct access to all sound parameters without having to walk through editing menus.

The NL featured four notes of polyphony. A later hardware upgrade increased the polyphony to twelve voices. The expansion also added PCMCIA card storage of patches and a drum map feature.[4]

Nord Lead 2[edit]

The Clavia NL 2 was launched two years after the production of the original NL. It updated the polyphony from four to 16 voices.[5] Also added were a ring modulator, OSC 1 sync-able with the white noise generator, Sine waveform added for OSC 1, increased LFO and arpeggiator waveforms and patterns, distortion and 4 individual outputs. Patch storage was also increased. A PCMCIA storage slot was also added.

Nord Lead 3[edit]

The NL 3 was a more advanced version introduced in 2001, with many new features like 4 operator FM Synthesis (Sinus Modulation),[6] and an arpeggiator. The most visible new feature was replacing all the control knobs with endless rotary knobs surrounded by a lighted indicating collar to show the current setting. The Nord Lead 3 was however much more expensive than the Nord Lead 2, so the Nord Lead 2 and later Nord Lead 2X was sold in parallel to this flagship product. The NL 3 was discontinued in 2007, leaving the Nord Lead 2X the only remaining product in the Nord Lead series.

Nord Lead 2X[edit]

In 2003 Clavia introduced the 2X, a refresh of the NL 2. It included increased polyphony (20 voice), high-resolution 24-bit 96 kHz DACs, and vastly expanded patch memory. The PCMCIA patch storage was removed.[7] The 2X retains the synthesis engine of its predecessor and consequently its sound characteristics.

Nord Lead 2X Anniversary Edition[edit]

In 2008, Clavia released a special limited edition of the Lead 2X with inverted key colors (black keys and white sharps/flats) and special logos to commemorate the 25-year history of the Clavia company.[8] Each unit (of only 300) came with an individually numbered certificate.

Nord Lead 4[edit]

In 2013 Clavia announced the NL 4 at the annual Musikmesse show in Germany.[9] The new variant boasts an updated sound engine, new filter sections and a “True Voice Unison” mode which can support up to 4 oscillators simultaneously. Furthermore, similar to the Nord Wave, the Lead 4 has a dedicated FX section featuring reverb, delay, crush and distortion.[10] The ability to quickly edit sounds whilst performing live is made possible as a result of the new “variation” controls in which the user can map up to 7 control parameters per program. Also similar to the Nord Wave, the Lead 4 supports MIDI I/O over USB 2.0.

Nord Lead A1[edit]

At NAMM 2014 Clavia announced the NL A1[11] The model attempts to make the  line accessible to a wider user base, with a new oscillator interface and numerous enhancements intended to facilitate quick and creative sound design.

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