Nord Stage 3 – 88 Stage Piano Review
Just a cursory glance at the Nord Stage 3 will let you know that it is a serious player and if there are any lingering doubts about its capabilities then all you need to do is look at the price tag. This is a premium keyboard that promises to be the ultimate replacement for a piano and a host of other instruments. We have seen products that have made this claim in the past and while they had us excited for a minute, they turned out to be duds. In this review we put the Nord Stage 3 through the grinder to see if it truly deserves the moniker of being the ultimate keyboard on sale right now.
Right out of the box, this one looks like a serious instrument that is not fooling around. The red color makes it stand out from the plethora of keyboards out there and it isn’t too loud a color to appear ostentatious or distracting. It is classy in a slightly in-your-face manner. Another emotion that will immediately hit you is familiarity. This is one of the most commonly seen digital pianos in everything from late night talk shows to live band performances.
This is a nice stamp of approval of the fact that this is one of the most trusted musical keyboards out there. if you want to do some serious piano playing and music composition in a relatively compact form factor then this is perhaps as good as it gets. What is cooler is the presence of all the knobs and buttons that will give you a clue of its other capabilities as a true synth too.
Nord Stage 3 vs Nord Piano 3
There is a Nord Piano 3 too that retails at a similar price point but just by the looks, you can confirm that the Stage 3 has a lot more capabilities and is a lot more versatile.
Nord has a huge reputation for making some of the most realistic feeling and sounding digital pianos. We got a bit more hands on with the Stage 3 to figure out if it was a step forward or just a cosmetic change over the previous Nord pianos.
Does it feel like an actual piano?
We sampled the 88-key version which has a fully-weighted keybed and it left us astounded. It perfectly encapsulates everything that makes the acoustic piano such an enduring and important component of music for a long time.
The keybed has been meticulously designed to feel like the real deal. Everything from the notch feel to the varying resistance in the keys have been replicated wonderfully. The Nord Stage version of keyboards always felt great and this third iteration builds upon that legacy. Obviously, this is a very premium instrument and you wouldn’t expect anything less from it. The question though is that is it any better than cheaper offerings from the likes of Kawai, Yamaha, and Roland? The piano action is definitely better on this but not by a great degree. It is up to you to figure out if paying such a premium price is worth the tiny increase in key responsiveness and feel. For all practical purposes, most people won’t even feel much difference in this keyboard and other keyboards with fully weighted keys. You do get a lot of customizability but if the feel is your only criteria for looking at this keyboard then you save a lot of money by going for much cheaper options that are very close in keybed feel to this one.
What about the sound?
If the feel of the Nord Stage 3 is what attracts you, it is the sound that will reel you in. The grand piano sounds are some of the most expressive you could ever come across in a digital format. It has a bevy of other instrument samples and each one of them has been handpicked and recorded in the best manner to give you the most realistic sounding version of that instrument. There are 400 preset programs divided into 8 banks and you have a plethora of sound samples to play around. What is better is that these sounds can be edited to sound just the way you want it to.
Coming to the flip side of all this. While the sounds are really great, they do not offer that much increase in performance over keyboards that cost half of what this one costs. There is a very popular law in economics called the law of diminishing returns. It basically means that the more you invest in something beyond a certain point, the less of a return it offers. This is very true in case of the Nord Stage 3. It is only slightly better and that doesn’t really make it that great of an option over other keyboards in terms of all the extra sound you get. It also lacks on-board speakers which means that the quality of sound that you can get out of this will totally depend on the sound system you connect it to. You need audiophile levels of equipment to find any discernible difference in the sound quality of this keyboard over other cheaper options.
Can be a great synth too
One avenue that the Nord Stage 3 has nailed down is its sound processing capabilities. While many other keyboards in this range offer a similar level of customizability and versatility, Nord hasn’t given into the temptation of making everything menu-based. I can bet that there are scores of keyboardists out there with super-powerful keyboards without ever realizing the full potential of their keyboards. The Nord Stage 3 somewhat avoids that by going for an ‘everything on the surface’ philosophy. You can edit the characteristics of the sound to a very fine degree without having to hop from menu to menu. The dual screens make life a lot easy.
Everything does look complicated though. So is it too complicated? Again, this is a very subjective matter but one thing that we can say with absolute certainty is that this keyboard isn’t meant for the beginner or even the intermediate musicians out there. You have to have a very strong knowledge of how music and sound works and what the different parameters of audio signals do to the actual sound. Even applying the various effects and getting the right sound can be a very difficult proposition. This most definitely is the definition of an advanced keyboard and you need a certain level of skillset to operate it.
A plethora of additional features
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that a keyboard worth so much has a whole host of features that would take a long time to list out. The more important question here is whether these features are useful or not. The list of effects is quite exhaustive and you can combine up to two effects at the same time to create some astounding audio creations. The keyboard can also be split at three points allowing you to play three different instrument sounds at the same time. There are a lot of features that can be also be useful to be musicians but you really need the skill level to exploit them all.
Is the Nord Stage 3 worth it?
The Nord Stage 3 can be best described as a track-only race car of the keyboard world. Just like any normal driver cannot take full advantage of the capabilities of a race car and you need a specialist driver who has trained all his/her life to be a racing driver to be able to properly drive it, you need to be a very accomplished musician to take advantage of the Nord Stage 3. Now let us say that you are indeed such a keyboardist. The question now is whether you should invest in the Nord Stage 3. For that, you need to figure out exactly what you need from a keyboard. If all you need is a keyboard that has a great keybed, awesome sound quality and a decent level of customization then you could go for the cheaper options. If however, you need the cutting edge in live music production then you cannot go wrong with the Nord Stage 3.
The biggest problem we have with the Stage 3 is its long term viability. This is a costly instrument and as such is expected to last a long time. Do not get us wrong. It does not have any glaring issues with build-quality. The problem is that other manufacturers are nipping at its heels and it is only a matter of time before equally awesome keyboards are launched by other manufacturers at a cheaper price point. If and when that happens, you will be filled with an incredible sense of buyer’s remorse and that is the last thing you want to feel after spending nearly $5000.
– Very realistic keys
– Every imaginable sound effect
– High level of customizability
– No complicated menu navigations required
– Super high-quality sounds
– Very gig-friendly, only 12,4 kg (27,3 lbs)
– A little too feature-rich even for intermediate musicians
– Doesn’t justify the hefty price-tag considering the new offerings from competitors
- Rated 5 stars
- Nord Stage 3 - 88 Keys E-Piano
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