Nord Rack 3 - Best VA/FM Synth Module of All Time?

Anything about hardware musical instruments.
KVRist
391 posts since 5 Feb, 2012

Post Sun Nov 14, 2021 3:17 am

I purchased my Nord Rack 3 when it came out in 2001 without even hearing it. As the owner of a Nord Rack 1, I just expected the Nord Rack 3 to have a richer tone, more authentic sounding analog modeled filters (especially the resonance) and a display for naming patches and adjusting global parameters.

When I got my Nord Rack 3, I was majorly disappointed. The Nord 3 sounded super hi-fi with none of the analog distortion and saturation I was expecting. Moreover, it had a prominent 2 and 4 operator FM engine that I couldn't care less about at the time. I almost sent the Nord Rack 3 back to the store because it didn't meet any of my expectations.

But I'm so glad I kept my Nord Rack 3. It's probably my favorite synth after my MicroWave I. The Nord 3 has perhaps the best interface of any hardware synth of all time. The knob-per-function interface combined with the rotary encoders which show the position of every parameter is genius. Plus, the velocity, mod wheel, keyboard tracking, and aftertouch "morphing" is a brilliant way to make the synth incredibly expressive without resorting to a cumbersome and complicated mod matrix.

Yes, the number of mod destinations is limited for the LFOs and the mod envelope. But the selected destinations are well considered. Sometimes a synth with a more limited feature set is more musical.

Then there is the FM engine. The Nord 3 has arguably the easiest to use FM implementation of any synth yet one of the best sounding.

I'm just glad I have hung on to my Nord Rack 3 all these years. The prices for used Nord Rack 3s are astronomical these days.
Matrix-1000, MicroWave with Access programmer, MicroWave II, MKS-50 with MidiClub programmer, MKS-70, MKS-80 with Kiwi Patch Editor, Nord 2 Rack, Nord 3 Rack, Prophet REV2 module, Pulse 2, Shruthi, Virus TI

KVRist

Topic Starter

391 posts since 5 Feb, 2012

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:17 am

I can't believe there is no love for the Nord 3! It's without a doubt the best designed VA/FM synth of all time. Am I SO old that only someone of my "vintage" can appreciate it?
Matrix-1000, MicroWave with Access programmer, MicroWave II, MKS-50 with MidiClub programmer, MKS-70, MKS-80 with Kiwi Patch Editor, Nord 2 Rack, Nord 3 Rack, Prophet REV2 module, Pulse 2, Shruthi, Virus TI

KVRAF
2253 posts since 9 Mar, 2009 from Copenhagen, Denmark

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:41 am

Yeah, kinda funny nobody replied here. I don't have any Nord product but I sort of like those old desktop modules/racks. I own a rather ancient Virus A which I'm sure a lot of people would consider obsolute due to all the later models in the series. But I love it and it can get seriously funky!

I've always wondered whether a Nord Rack would by a good partner to the virus or even able to replace it. I never found out though since Nord Racks are pretty much never showing up 2nd hand over here.

KVRist

Topic Starter

391 posts since 5 Feb, 2012

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:57 am

K-Bee wrote:
Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:41 am
Yeah, kinda funny nobody replied here. I don't have any Nord product but I sort of like those old desktop modules/racks. I own a rather ancient Virus A which I'm sure a lot of people would consider obsolute due to all the later models in the series. But I love it and it can get seriously funky!

I've always wondered whether a Nord Rack would by a good partner to the virus or even able to replace it. I never found out though since Nord Racks are pretty much never showing up 2nd hand over here.
The price of Nord 2 racks has skyrocketed. I sold my Nord 1 rack for $600 and bought a Nord 2 Rack (in mint condition) for $500. I think Nord 2 Racks are now selling for close to $1,000!

I sold my Nord Rack 3 for $1,000 and recently paid $1,800 for another one which was not anywhere near the condition of my original Nord 3 Rack.

The Nords are classic VA machines. There is nothing that sounds like them. If you can pick up a Nord Rack 2 for $500 I would jump on it.
Matrix-1000, MicroWave with Access programmer, MicroWave II, MKS-50 with MidiClub programmer, MKS-70, MKS-80 with Kiwi Patch Editor, Nord 2 Rack, Nord 3 Rack, Prophet REV2 module, Pulse 2, Shruthi, Virus TI

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KVRAF
5489 posts since 17 Aug, 2004 from Berlin, Germany

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:18 am

I don't know the Nord Lead 3, but there are many who think the older Nords 1/2 sound better.
When Access released the Virus, the interest in the Nord Lead may have changed. In typical genres like Trance, hardly anyone uses the Nord anymore, but the Virus is still used there a lot. The best hardware VA is probably the Virus.
The Nord (2) sounds thin and rather "wiry/dirty" and that's exactly why I still use it. But the Nord doesn't really stand out in any area. But the ease of use and good workmanship are certainly a point why you still see it on stage more often today. My Nord Lead is about 17 years old and still works like the first day (and I even use it more often than my Virus :hihi:).

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KVRAF
7264 posts since 7 Sep, 2006 from Roseville, CA

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:29 am

I’ve owned all the Nord Leads since NL2X and, yeah, I have to agree that the NL3 was my fav of all of them. I’m not sure what caused me to sell that one, other than I was downsizing. I bought mine dirt cheap at a period when it was en vogue to hate the NL3, used it for a few years, sold it for about three times what I paid for it, and lived in regret ever since. I bought a NL4 sometime after that, which is also a fantastic synth IMO (my second fav Nord), but it’s quite a different synth than the NL3. I’m basically all analog for my hardware synths (aside from my Kurzweil PC3X), but the NL3 is a synth I’d add back to my collection if I found a good deal.

KVRAF
29978 posts since 11 Apr, 2010 from Germany

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:32 am

Stupid question: How do you Nord owning guys think Reason's Subtractor compares? I know, it's a different synth, and, not meant to mimic the Nord Lead in any way, but, it's obviously from the same guy who was responsible for the DSP in the Nord Lead 1. So, just assuming that it's the same as with other digital or soft synths, there might be some overlap in character.
Plugins and a DAW. On an operating system. Which runs on a computer.

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KVRAF
7264 posts since 7 Sep, 2006 from Roseville, CA

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:34 am

I don’t have Reason and have only used it a few times (my wife can attest to that :lol:), so I can’t say.

KVRAF
29978 posts since 11 Apr, 2010 from Germany

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:38 am

I still have a spare Reason Lite 11 license if you want it. ;)
Plugins and a DAW. On an operating system. Which runs on a computer.

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KVRer
17 posts since 21 Jun, 2013 from Germany

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:41 am

I'm also a big fan of the Nord Lead 3, which can do analog sounds, but it can also do those digital sounds that veer off somewhere towards the TX816 or a wavetable synth. I could never program modulations like sound morphing or key scaling so easily and quickly on other synthesizers. The interface and layer possibilities are just awesome! By the way, I also like the keyboard with aftertouch.

I hope someday there will be a Nord Lead 3x or something....

By the way: here are 128 free sounds for the NL3 - have fun with them!
https://www.kvraudio.com/product/128-fr ... ern-bojahr

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KVRAF
7264 posts since 7 Sep, 2006 from Roseville, CA

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:47 am

K-Bee wrote:
Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:41 am
I've always wondered whether a Nord Rack would by a good partner to the virus or even able to replace it.
Yes, they’re very good partners! I owned every model of the Virus and every Nord I’ve owned was always sitting next to a Virus. They’re pretty different synths, each with different character - particularly the TI series, which is almost trance workstation-like in some regards, whereas the Nords are all about poly VA goodness. :phones: I’ve never felt that one could replace the other in terms of sound nor workflow.
Last edited by cryophonik on Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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KVRAF
7264 posts since 7 Sep, 2006 from Roseville, CA

Post Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:50 am

chk071 wrote:
Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:38 am
I still have a spare Reason Lite 11 license if you want it. ;)
I think I have one around somewhere, too, but I already have more DAWs than I need and my workflow these days is far more about my hardware synths! Thanks though! :hug:

KVRist

Topic Starter

391 posts since 5 Feb, 2012

Post Fri Nov 26, 2021 4:38 pm

chk071 wrote:
Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:32 am
Stupid question: How do you Nord owning guys think Reason's Subtractor compares? I know, it's a different synth, and, not meant to mimic the Nord Lead in any way, but, it's obviously from the same guy who was responsible for the DSP in the Nord Lead 1. So, just assuming that it's the same as with other digital or soft synths, there might be some overlap in character.
Reason's Subtractor has a great interface and is a decent addition to the Reason synth line up and does sound somewhat Nord like. But because it was coded over 25 years ago, programmers had to be a lot more CPU conscious than today (e.g., where we now have u-he's CPU-eating, but great sounding synths). So Subtractor sounds kinda thin to my ears (and I thought this 25 years ago). You can try to beef up Subtractor with Reason's rack FX. But you're better off with some more modern plugins (or a Nord Rack 2!)

Oh, btw, some people swear by the DiscoDSP Discovery Pro as a Nord 2 replacement (on which it was modeled). But I have just never gotten on with Discovery. It just doesn't sound the same to me. So I'll stick with my hardware Nord 2, aliasing and all.
Matrix-1000, MicroWave with Access programmer, MicroWave II, MKS-50 with MidiClub programmer, MKS-70, MKS-80 with Kiwi Patch Editor, Nord 2 Rack, Nord 3 Rack, Prophet REV2 module, Pulse 2, Shruthi, Virus TI

KVRAF
2253 posts since 9 Mar, 2009 from Copenhagen, Denmark

Post Tue Nov 30, 2021 2:02 am

cryophonik wrote:
Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:47 am
K-Bee wrote:
Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:41 am
I've always wondered whether a Nord Rack would by a good partner to the virus or even able to replace it.
Yes, they’re very good partners! I owned every model of the Virus and every Nord I’ve owned was always sitting next to a Virus. They’re pretty different synths, each with different character - particularly the TI series, which is almost trance workstation-like in some regards, whereas the Nords are all about poly VA goodness. :phones: I’ve never felt that one could replace the other in terms of sound nor workflow.


Very nice to know, thanks :) I'm always on the market for used synth and couldn't care less of whether they're analog or not. I have a Rev2 and a Minilogue and use the Virus A way more than those. The Ti series may very well be Trance machines (a musical style I really hate :lol: ) but the old A's presets aren't really focused on that particular style. They really work as good foundation for one's own presets.
As for the Nord, I'll have a look locally. Some times they do show up 2nd hand, but yes, prices aren'twhat they used to be unfortunately.

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KVRAF
3260 posts since 28 Jan, 2011 from MEXICO

Post Tue Nov 30, 2021 1:22 pm

It is a nice synth, I had the keyboard for many years, but ultimately the filters sound very dated,
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