Sonic LAB: Nord Drum - Virtual Analog Drums

US Four channel drum brain with analog sounds      23/04/12
    MP4 11:1 mins    

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Nord Drum
It is perhaps a little known fact that Clavia have been making electronic drum products since 1983. Their DDRUM range was one of the first systems after Simmons and used big red drum bugs attached to acoustic drums to trigger sounds that beefed up the kit. Since then the system has evolved into the usual padas and brain system that we have come to expect from electronic kits. The new NORD Drum uses that legacy knowledge and brings us a 4-Channel virtual analog electronic drum brain - with the emphasis on analog.

The unit is pretty small, with an external power supply and  - hooray! An included traps mounting spigot - so many times this has to be ordered as an extra.

4 analog pad inputs - single zone compatible with Roland, Yamaha and many others
MIDI I/O - you can play via MIDI and also output MIDI from Pad trigger inputs
1x mono audio output - yes only mono
12v 250mA power (supplied)

Setting up is a breeze, you can tweak the pad sensitivity, threshold, dynamic curve and type for each pad to suit your style and pad type. You can also easily change the MIDI note each sound responds to via the learn function - these settings are all global, so will be set for each of the 99 patches. It’s also worth mentioning that the when a pad is struck, the corresponding MIDI note and velocity is output from MIDI out - making it a useful trigger to MIDI unit.

To edit, simply select the channel, then hit the parameter and you want to tweak, and dial it in with the single parameter knob. Bearing in mind that this is a classic parameter matrix setup, its actually quite quick to navigate and edit.

Each of the four sounds is made up of up to three elements:

Noise component has a 20 step colour parameter, 7 different filter types, sweep time which affects filter cutoff and decay/gate for adjusting the envelope time and type.

Tone section gives you 17 waves, with 3 (a) analog waves, 9 (b) drum type waves - sort of like double headed drums and 5 c  percussive waves. These can be tuned and have a  Bend Range/ Time pitch envelope,  filter with envelope (Sweep) with a Punch setting to add a “short velocity controlled attack portion”

Click  gives you a sharp transient at the beginning of the sound - although by using the decay  setting this can be lengthened to add more clap type front end.

These are all then mixed in the mixer section. While editing is it possible to enter a solo edit mode which gives you only the selected sound element.
Its a wide ranging synthesis section, and capable of some monstrously large kick and toms sounds, including quite authentic toms and drums, as well as more electronic, white noise based hits. I do feel that it was missing one or two classic waves, Linn type snare, 909 kick and snare, plus a bit more extreme clap sounds like Simmons Clap Trap would have made me happy.

Whilst editing is a pretty easy experience, there’s also a neat copy/paste function for grabbing a  specific sound and pasting it into the selected channel of another patch and storing it in one of the 99 memory locations. There is no patch chaining or fancy linking features.

One thing I would have liked to have seen is a HiHat mode for linking two pads, where the note priority cut of the sound of another - to allow for use with an open/closed hit hat setup - alternatively, perhaps the ability to send parameter data to a voice via MIDI - eg: decay time. Sadly the Nord Drum does not allow for any parameter control via MIDI or trigger input at all - it only responds to MIDI note and velocity and program change. This may be something that can be updated via an OS update  I guess.

The main limitation though is the fact that we only have mono audio output, considering the huge potential for low end in the unit, to be able to EQ the kick  or send a snare or clap to reverb would greatly enhance its usability - when I spoke to Clavia about this at NAMM, it was really down to cost, but is is a shame that we couldn't have had stereo out as a minimum.

Bottom Line
The Nord Drum is certainly a usable little unit, with the range of sounds on board even with the limited number of Tone waves, it will find a home in many a drummers arsenal as a way to enhance an acoustic setup or perhaps as a drum aspect to an electronic music setup. Its a shame that it was not possible to extend the wave palette more and give it a stereo output.

The Nord Drum is available now £369 $499 - Full recommended price. You will find it cheaper on the street.


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