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

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

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 LeadEdit

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 2Edit

The Clavia Nord Lead 2 was launched 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 3Edit

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 2XEdit

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 EditionEdit

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 4Edit

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 A1Edit

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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sound to sense, sense to sound: a state of the art in sound and music computing. Logos Verlag Berlin GmbH. "[...]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 (May 1995). Archived from the original on 6 June 2015.
  3. ^ Debbie Poyser and Derek Johnson (2003). "Man Of Reason". Sound On Sound (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. ^
  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 readingEdit