Review: Clavia Nord Drum 2 and Nord Pad

Clavia is back in the percussion-controllergame with a vengeance: Not only is theNord Drum 2 (ND2) a significant upgradeof an outstanding table-top drum module, iteasily integrates with the Nord Pad, a newlightweight and portable pad controller(available separately).
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The dynamic duo of electronic percussion

The Nord Drum 2 is a portable, 6-voice drum synth with a flexible, easy-to-program interface. Conveniently, it connects to the Nord Pad controller with a single CAT5 cable. Clavia is back in the percussion-controller game with a vengeance: Not only is the Nord Drum 2 (ND2) a significant upgrade of an outstanding table-top drum module, it easily integrates with the Nord Pad, a new lightweight and portable pad controller (available separately).

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The ND2 is a powerful 6-voice synthesizer that is slightly larger than a paperback book but easy to program, thanks to a clever integration of buttons, modifier keys, and data wheel. Each voice, controlled by a separate pad or trigger input, can use one of three types of synthesis—subtractive, FM (6 algorithms available), or resonant models (harmonic, tuned percussion, drum head, and cymbal-like algorithms).

Percussion-related parameters include control over Click (initial attack transient), Punch (attack characteristics such as pitching the first cycle of the waveform up or down), velocity-controlled pitch bend, and Mute groups for silencing other channels. The Spectra parameter adjusts upper harmonic content or controls modulation amount, while the Clap parameter adds a reverb tail in higher settings. Scale presets (chromatic, pentatonic, hexatonic, and hang) are available, as are distortion and echo effects.

The ND2 stores eight banks of 50 programs; four of the banks have factory kits ranging from realistic acoustic-drum timbres to electronic kits and sound effects. The sound quality is excellent overall. You can edit and replace any of these presets or save your own in the four user banks. Clavia offers the free Nord Drum 2 Manager (Mac/Win) for transferring sound banks to and from your computer over MIDI. There is no librarian app—it’s that simple to edit, even on-the-fly!

The rear panel has two unbalanced 1/4" outputs, MIDI I/O, a headphone jack, and six 1/4" trigger inputs. A CAT 5 (RJ45) port connects the ND2 to the Nord Pad. The module and the pad include mounting clamps that can be attached to traditional drum hardware; a CAT 5 cable is included with the Nord Pad.

If you use the CAT 5 cable, only external-trigger input 1 can be used (typically assigned to a kick-drum pad). Parameters for adjusting trigger type, sensitivity, and threshold allow you to use a variety of third-party controllers with the ND2. It was also fun to trigger the six channels using my Eurorack modular system.

The Nord Pad is roughly the size of an iPad, with six 3.75"x 3.75" rubberized sections that respond well to sticks and hands. You can edit the response to suit your playing style, and Trigger presets are available to get you started. There are no rims around the pads, so you can trigger two pads simultaneously by hitting across them with the flat part of a stick or hand. Most importantly, I had no false-triggering issues with the controller.

Another control option is Nord Beat 2, a free step-sequencer app for the iPad. You will need a MIDI interface that supports USB from the iPad and the DIN connectors on the ND2. For me, the biggest drawback of the ND2 is the lack of a USB port, which would simplify the connections needed to use the iPad app and sound-bank manager.

Nonetheless, the Nord Drum 2 sounds great, and it’s simple to use and easy to schlepp. If sequencing realistic drum parts is your intent, add the pad. Together, they create the most portable electronic-drum modeling system available that provides uncompromising sound quality.

Gino Robair is Electronic Musician’s technical editor.


STRENGTHS Intuitive interface. 6 discrete trigger inputs. Small and lightweight.

LIMITATIONS No USB. No power switch. Stepping can be heard when a sound is sustained and you lower the output control.

Nord Drum 2 $699
Nord Drum Pad $499