Nord Lead

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Nord Lead
Clavia Nord Lead 2x.jpg
Nord Lead 2X
Dates1994 –
Technical specifications
PolyphonyNord Lead: 4 (12 expanded)
Nord Lead 2: 16
Nord Lead 2X: 20
Nord Lead 3: 24
Nord Lead 4: 20
Oscillator2 per voice
LFOTriangle / Sawtooth / Square / Random / Sample and Hold
Synthesis typeVirtual Analog Subtractive
Filter1 Digital multi-mode filter
AttenuatorADSR envelope generator
Aftertouch expressionNord Lead 3 only
Velocity expressionYes
Storage memoryNord Lead 1/2: 99 patches
Nord Lead 2X: 4x99 patches
Nord Lead 3: 1024 patches
Keyboard49 keys
Left-hand controlPitch bend, mod wheel
External controlMIDI in/out

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

Released in 1994, the original Nord Lead 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 Nord Lead.[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 Nord Lead 2X.


Nord Rack (rack version of Nord Lead)

Nord Lead[edit]

The first Nord Lead 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 Nord Lead uses digital signal processors (DSPs) programmed to emulate both Subtractive and analogue FM synthesis (cross-modulation) to reproduce the warmth and richness of a traditional analog sound. The Nord Lead was also unusual for its time in being "covered in knobs",[2] which gave the player a direct access to all sound parameters without having to walk through editing menus.

The Nord Lead 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

Nord Lead 2[edit]

The Clavia Nord Lead 2 was launched in 1997, two years after the production of the original Nord Lead. 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]

Nord Lead 3

The Nord Lead 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 Nord Lead 3 was discontinued in 2007, leaving the Nord Lead 2X the only remaining product in the Nord Lead series.

Nord Lead 2X[edit]

Nord Lead 2X

In 2003 Clavia introduced the 2X, a refresh of the Nord Lead 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]

Nord Lead 4

In 2013 Clavia announced the Nord Lead 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]

Nord Lead A1

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sound to sense, sense to sound: a state of the art in sound and music computing. Logos Verlag Berlin GmbH. 2008. ISBN 9783832516000. "[...]virtual analog synthesis. This term became popular when the Nord Lead 1 synthesizer was introduced in to the market"
  2. ^ a b c Gordon Reid (1995). "Clavia Nord". Sound On Sound. No. May 1995. Archived from the original on 6 June 2015.
  3. ^ Debbie Poyser and Derek Johnson (2003). "Man Of Reason". Sound On Sound. No. January 2003.
  4. ^ "Nord Lead/Rack". Clavia. Retrieved 2012-03-18.
  5. ^ "Clavia Nord Lead 2". Sound On Sound. September 1997. Archived from the original on 6 June 2015.
  6. ^ "Clavia Nord Lead 3". Vintage Synth Explorer.
  7. ^ "Nord Lead 2X". Clavia DMI.
  8. ^ " - Comprehensive resource for music production and DJ equipment". Archived from the original on 2008-03-15.
  9. ^ "Nord Lead 4 at Musikmesse 2013". Future Publishing Ltd.
  10. ^ "Nord Lead 4 Product Description". Clavia.
  11. ^ "Nord Lead A1 at NAMM 2014". MusicTech.

Further reading[edit]