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The pinnacle of synthesizer interfaces - The NL3
Old 4 days ago
  #1
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kijix84's Avatar
 

The pinnacle of synthesizer interfaces - The NL3

I remember how excited I was when I first got my nord lead 3 over 10 years ago. The interface was like nothing else I had ever seen. Multiple layers that could be stacked In a very intuitive and easy to follow way. Encoders with LED's for basically every single parameter that would light up like a Christmas tree when you loaded up a patch. It was like a sound designer's dream.

The sound engine was never the greatest to me but the interface made up for it. It was just so easy and so fun to program. Want to know how a patch was made? The building blocks were literally right there in front of you on those beautiful red and green encoders.

The thing I can't understand is why this has not been replicated to this day. Even nord themselves have apparently ditched this one LED per parameter interface style on their nord lead 4 and nord lead a1.

I would personally love to have this on many of Dave Smith's instruments. I love the prophet rev 2 but that stupid 1" screen is a train wreck trying to program a gated sequence which is probably the most unique aspect of that synth.

What synth interfaces have you fallen in love with? Are there synthesizers whose sound captivated you but the interface just never connected to you and it ruined the experience?

Old 4 days ago
  #2
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you're right, this was awesome and frankly should have been copied by everyone for everything forever
Old 4 days ago
  #3
Lives for gear
Not too many boards have that feature of LED rings around knobs that reflect values as soon as you load up a new program. Oasys and BCR/BCF come to mind. It's really moot nowadays with all the software / hardware hybrid options and visual display of parameters. If you're fortunate enough to already own one of those boards, then you know the good times it can bring.

The Stage boards are a pretty good blend of Nord pianos, organs, sample libary, and NL synth derivatives. All those engines are available at once in a multi-timbral controller, doubled up on the Stages. The new Wave walks the fence with an old school market that might find it impressive, but really is behind the times with all the options available nowadays.

I've got a Nord Stage 2 HA76, and those *lit* encoders are indeed pretty handy (lit?) to see things at a glance. That sweet keybed playing the White Grand + Bosendorfer Upright, and the FM engine, are my main go-to's on that board. It's my piano daily driver. "Linus and Lucy" and "All of Me" are 2 of the most recent notches on my belt. I've almost got "We Are the Champions" memorized, but I'm struggling to get "Virtual Insanity" up to speed.

When I get frustrated, switching over to that Nord FM engine is instant gratification for noodling. Thick.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kijix84

Are there synthesizers whose sound captivated you but the interface just never connected to you and it ruined the experience?
I'm pretty adept at menu diving, but I was stymied by the EX5r for a good while. I loved its sound, but that tiny display with dozens of parameters per page, and their terminology I didn't understand at the time.... yeesh.

Then a big piece of plywood fell and side-swiped a display knob and rendered its controls kaput, although it still sounded fine via a MIDI controller. Loved the VL physical modeling brass, and the FDSP EPs.

It's still collecting dust, just waiting...
Old 4 days ago
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neonrider View Post
you're right, this was awesome and frankly should have been copied by everyone for everything forever
yes. this is what every modern UI should have. it's the only thing that makes sense if you want your controls to display what's in the patch.

but am i right in remembering there was a slight pause as you call up a new preset? (something like that)
Old 4 days ago
  #5
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Diametro's Avatar
 

Yes. But until the cost of including the feature is trivial, it will always essentially detract from the sound side if trying to reach a price point ... It's basically a luxury item as much as I'd love it to see it on any synth I owned.

An editor is a sort-of solution but not really elegant, efficient or streamlined ...

As it is, it's not that hard to twiddle the knob and "re-find" the setting ... but on some synths turning the knob even a teeny bit can change the mojo immensely ... You just have to have confidence that what you come up with will always be what you need. In the end it's the combination of the sounds and not just a single sound itself.
Old 4 days ago
  #6
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Serotoninja's Avatar
Lol, I even have an idea how the patch on your pictures sounds.
Old 4 days ago
  #7
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kijix84's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diametro View Post
Yes. But until the cost of including the feature is trivial, it will always essentially detract from the sound side if trying to reach a price point ... It's basically a luxury item as much as I'd love it to see it on any synth I owned.

An editor is a sort-of solution but not really elegant, efficient or streamlined ...

As it is, it's not that hard to twiddle the knob and "re-find" the setting ... but on some synths turning the knob even a teeny bit can change the mojo immensely ... You just have to have confidence that what you come up with will always be what you need. In the end it's the combination of the sounds and not just a single sound itself.
Well part of the reason for the thread was to see how many people besides me actually cared about things like this. I wonder if anyone actually knows how much this would add to the cost of a synth. On a poly, to me, it would be worth some price hike because of how many times I actually fiddle with those knobs and use the thing. You could also use it to easily replicate patches on other synths.
Old 4 days ago
  #8
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I really wish more synths did that and would gladly pay more for it. I want to see the lights!


"What synth interfaces have you fallen in love with?"

ReFace CS: it's WYSIWYG, thought you don't really need to look at it, it's tactile enough you can feel where you are, and the sliders are super fast. The way they quantize most things avoids the finickiness that can happen with smaller controls. There's no barrier between it and you.

(Unless you use presets/Soundmondo, but I never do)
Old 4 days ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kijix84 View Post
Well part of the reason for the thread was to see how many people besides me actually cared about things like this. I wonder if anyone actually knows how much this would add to the cost of a synth. On a poly, to me, it would be worth some price hike because of how many times I actually fiddle with those knobs and use the thing. You could also use it to easily replicate patches on other synths.
I read, in an interview with Hans Nordelius, that the encoders on the NL3 almost broke the company. Once they started to fail, and those old encoders did fail, Nord almost declared bankruptcy over the cost of repairing/replacing them. He swore they'd never use encoders again.

Which makes me sad. A Nord Lead A2 with encoders, aftertouch, and adsr envelopes would be perfect.
Old 4 days ago
  #10
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kijix84's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ljefe View Post
I read, in an interview with Hans Nordelius, that the encoders on the NL3 almost broke the company. Once they started to fail, and those old encoders did fail, Nord almost declared bankruptcy over the cost of repairing/replacing them. He swore they'd never use encoders again.

Which makes me sad. A Nord Lead A2 with encoders, aftertouch, and adsr envelopes would be perfect.
Really? Can you find the link? I've owned several over the years and never had any problems
Old 4 days ago
  #11
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If I was more of a tinkerer, I'd take apart my BCR and BCF and reconstruct them into a more universal MIDI controller.

Imagine a lit row of something like 8 x 2 encoders.

Nord also tried to address the issue with faders. But instead of motorized faders snapping to values when you call up a new patch, they used vertical LED segments, like on the Nord Stage 2.

So then a lit column of 8 (or 9) x LED faders.

Nord also made UI advances with their button scheme as well. Besides using a light to show on/off state, give a button 2 lights. Now you can see more states - off, 1, 2, and 3 (both lights on).

Or like in the FX section, a button with 3 lights as selectors for Organ / Piano / Synth.

Anyway, I'm getting carried away. Nord deserves credit for UI, for sure.

Maybe they should make a premium universal MIDI controller...
Old 4 days ago
  #12
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kwaping's Avatar
To the question of interfaces that I love, the Matrixbrute is one. You can actually learn how to use it just by calling up a preset and checking the mod matrix. There also a feature in the 2.0 firmware that will help you set all the physical controls to match the preset. Brilliant, and no computer required!
Old 4 days ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kijix84 View Post
Really? Can you find the link? I've owned several over the years and never had any problems
I don't have it bookmarked or anything. It could have been in an issue of Future Music.
Old 3 days ago
  #14
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rylos's Avatar
 

I certainly love touch controls that when you pull up a new patch preset, they're immediately set to the new values, giving me a seamless transition from preset to live.

The immunity to external electrical noise inherent in this design ensures fast response time (no perceptible lag, except what the instrument itself might have) and high reliability. No moving parts, nothing mechanical to wear out.

If I had the time & resources, I'd cram twice as many controls into the same space, with touch buttons, and display for parameter labels & such.
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Old 3 days ago
  #15
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Rezisehtnys's Avatar
I'll be the oddball and say I prefer this over individual knobs and sliders:
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Old 3 days ago
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rezisehtnys View Post
I'll be the oddball and say I prefer this over individual knobs and sliders:
That's interesting. You prefer the single data entry slider for all parameters, rather than a slider/knob/switch for each parameter?
Old 3 days ago
  #17
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Rezisehtnys's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrmadbrain View Post
That's interesting. You prefer the single data entry slider for all parameters, rather than a slider/knob/switch for each parameter?
It also has the number pad and jogwheel, which is what I use most of the time. I suppose it's from the JX-8P being the the first synth I actually programmed a lot from scratch, I had an Ion before it which I just didn't click with for whatever reason.

I suppose I like having controls centrally located, versus being spread out everywhere. That and not having to turn controls past a certain point to start changing them when making patches. I also learned through my brief time with the Neutron I really like having a digital readout on parameters, so then I can set them to precise values.
Old 3 days ago
  #18
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kpatz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rezisehtnys View Post
It also has the number pad and jogwheel, which is what I use most of the time. I suppose it's from the JX-8P being the the first synth I actually programmed a lot from scratch, I had an Ion before it which I just didn't click with for whatever reason.

I suppose I like having controls centrally located, versus being spread out everywhere. That and not having to turn controls past a certain point to start changing them when making patches. I also learned through my brief time with the Neutron I really like having a digital readout on parameters, so then I can set them to precise values.
One thing that is great about the Yamaha interface is they give you more than one way to access and set values. On my MODX I can use inc/dec buttons, the jog wheel, or tap it on the touch screen and a number pad pops up to enter a value directly. Montage is even better with more buttons, but I couldn't afford one of those.

Additionally there's cursor keys (handy for moving from parameter to parameter), and on some models buttons under the screen to jump to certain pages/parameters.

When I had a Motif XS I could plug a USB computer keyboard into it and navigate/enter values using that (made naming patches easier on that synth).

When I had a D-50 it was similar... the joystick was the primary data entry method, but there was also a number pad, inc/dec buttons, and other buttons for navigation. For an 80s synth interface it wasn't that bad. You could even enter patch names using the number pad (using a method similar to texting on a flip phone using the keypad). D-550 was a lot worse, as it only offered inc/dec buttons.

The worst kinds are the ones with tiny screens and only inc/dec buttons... JDXi I'm talking to you. They so easily could have repurposed the tempo knob as a data entry knob when in edit mode, or the 4 effects knobs for editing ADSR envelopes but this never happened. So it's poke the buttons to edit, or use a software editor.
Old 3 days ago
  #19
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namnibor's Avatar
Hydrasynth pretty much takes the best of interface and adds steroids to that, and presto, the most intuitive synth visual feedback.
I haven’t really yet dove deep into user manual because it’s really that awesome of an interface, NL3 escaped me but hydrasynth desktop captured me.
Old 3 days ago
  #20
Gear Addict
 

I had one of these and eventually sold it. Agree the interface is great. I believe the Moog Little Phatty copied the knob style and I remember one of the Moog people saying at the time that they are fans of Nord and Nord are fans of Moog.
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