Nord Micro Modular

Nord Micro Modular Dublin Ireland. Clavia Nord Modular.

How I got it

The final stages of my Clavia Nord Micro Modular procurement started in London during the last days of 2002. I was visiting Turnkey on the Charring Cross Road to see what pretty delights stood shining in their racks (and to gaze again at the big old modulars downstairs). One of the first new products that really caught my eye was the diminutive and nicely styled Korg MicroKORG. I saw the display model on its shelf, saw some boxed on the floor, but didn't get a chance to play one. Two days later I popped back during my final pre-flight London visits and secured a few minutes to try it out. The synth section seemed nice, and the vocoder reminded me of what fun vocoders actually are. I left the store kind of wanting one, but not really wanting to pay over 600 Euro for the pleasure.

Once back in Dublin the researching began. The immediate revelation was that the MicroKORG was just a slightly cut down MS2000R, which was now available in rack form at about 650 Euro. Goodbye MicroKORG. Other vocoding competitors included the Clavia Nord Micro Modular (con: I thought would be a bit clean. pro: a modular), and the MAM VF11 (con: just a pure analog vocoder. pro: just a pure analog vocoder I knew to be fairly nice). The Nord was 600 Euro new, the MAM only about 350 Euro new.

I then decided to try out the MS2000 again. MusicMaker was given a visit, and I quickly came to the conclusion that the MS2000R's synth section was just another weak sounding Virtual Analog synth. I don't mean to be bitchy, but if I want retro I'll use the Minimoog, Micromoog, CS-5 or Juno. If I want Virtual Analog I've got my excellent AN1X, which has more polyphony and can already imitate a lot of my analogs very skilfully. So I didn't need a vocoder with a dodgy VA stuck to the side. Goodbye Korg.

On the other hand, I was now reckoning that a second-hand Micro Modular would only set me back about 350 Euro. I had wanted a Micro Modular about eight months before when had been doing an amazing deal on them. Sadly the deal was now over, and I had been too broke to buy one at the time. But this meant that I'd already downloaded the editor and most of the demo sounds. Although the demo sounds didn't drive me wild, the editor options (ie, the modules and interface) exceeded all my current desires for a modular system (as hardware modulars of this size cost a personally impossible amount of money).

The plan became simple - get the Micro Modular, and if the vocoder didn't impress me enough just get a MAM VF11 as well. This would bring the total price up to what I should have paid for a Korg, but leaving me with an excellent virtual modular system and a pure analog vocoder. Ebay became the hunting ground (Micro Modulars in Ireland = rare) and I succeeded in winning the first available auction by a tiny 3 Euro margin.

Anyway. Everything you read up to this point was written before the Micro Modular actually arrived. It's here now, and so I must try and describe it in some tangible manner.

In terms of basic sound the moogs still rule top notch. They've got a greater depth and quality when it comes to oscillators and filters. They're snappier and just more "analog". No real surprise here, I guess I just have to mention it for the record.

But the Micro Modular wasn't designed to play "you're so great" to a bunch of overpriced thirty year olds, and the guys at Clavia would be quite upset to read such a limiting comparison. In terms of being an individual instrument, the Micro Modular is simply mind-blowing. Words are hard to find that describe the fantastic feeling of pulling down a module at will and patching it across to another one. The sounds it creates are completely unique, and whack all over any basic synthesizer in terms of complexity and user satisfaction. Yes – this is a modular, and I can think of no flip side to having one of these. It completely sates my modular appetite, as having an analog modular would just leave me feeling limited in terms of module selection, numbers of said modules, and the amount of money I had left in the world. I can save patches, it NEVER crashes, and the polyphony is fine for me at a single voice with heavy patch loading (where was I going to get a modular with greater polyphony than one). And I can plug it out from the computer and play it - because it's a real synthesizer. Of course, I’m not really playing it unless it’s plugged into the computer and happily patching itself into oblivion and back.

So if you like to program and mess around with sound you need one of these. To be honest, it’s worth it for the vocoder alone, it’s worth it for the synth section alone, it’s worth it for being a modular, it’s worth it for treating external signals, It’s worth it for its pure red dinkiness.

Goodbye Micro Modular

I just don't care anymore...


Advanced Programming Techniques for Modular Synthesizers (this is hardcore)
Code404: the nord-modular forum
The official clavia nord modular page
The official clavia nord modular links page

Still not convinced?? Read the reviews at
micro modular & regular modular


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