General Discussion of the Nord Stage (EX), Nord Stage 2 (EX), and Nord Stage 3 Synths, FAQ, Troubleshooting etc.

Re: NS3 Velocity and General Sound vs NS2

Postby aureliopenna » 14 Mar 2018, 15:17

Great! Tomorrow I can do this. If you don't mind will use the Bright Grand, because I already have it on booth keyboards.
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Re: NS3 Velocity and General Sound vs NS2


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Re: NS3 Velocity and General Sound vs NS2

Postby baekgaard » 14 Mar 2018, 15:40

aureliopenna wrote:Great! Tomorrow I can do this. If you don't mind will use the Bright Grand, because I already have it on booth keyboards.


Sure, no problem (I assume both are Lrg versions)!
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Re: NS3 Velocity and General Sound vs NS2

Postby analogika » 14 Mar 2018, 20:41

cgrafx wrote:Firmware updates are not incremental so there shouldn't be any issue loading 1.36.

I am however surprised that your new NS3C would have a version of the OS that is that old.

v1.04 (2017-07-22) is from July of Last year.
v1.12 (2017-09-20) is from August of last year and anything built and shipped after that date should have 1.12 or later on it.

If yours has 1.04 on it, than it has been sitting around somewhere for eight or nine months.


It turns out, the main board with the CPU and OS has been sitting around for some months.

See here, at 0:48 :
http://www.nordkeyboards.com/vef/load/d ... height=507

It turns out that they do apparently purchase several months' worth of boards and pre-load them with the software all at once, and then put them aside for later assembly.
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Re: NS3 Velocity and General Sound vs NS2

Postby aureliopenna » 15 Mar 2018, 07:16

baekgaard wrote:
aureliopenna wrote:Great! Tomorrow I can do this. If you don't mind will use the Bright Grand, because I already have it on booth keyboards.


Sure, no problem (I assume both are Lrg versions)!

Done! Uploading soon on Google Drive.
(Yes, sure! Lrg)
BTW I did two more version, another version short release MIDI files to give us a "staccato like" sound and the other with normal release which I change the note to a Low F with another piano, Queen Upright Lrg.
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Re: NS3 Velocity and General Sound vs NS2

Postby aureliopenna » 15 Mar 2018, 15:11

@baekgaard Sent to you in a PM.

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Re: NS3 Velocity and General Sound vs NS2

Postby cgrafx » 15 Mar 2018, 23:47

Just for reference, my NS3C arrived a short while ago and it came as I actually expected with v1.32 on it.

Keys are just a touch stiffer than my NE5, but I imagine that will lighting up a bit as it gets played. I'll update the firmware later tonight and then can do a side by side comparison with the B3 section on my NE5.
Current Gear: NS3C, NE5D 73, Alesis QS6.1, QS7.1 & QS8.2, Hammond B3 with Leslie 122, Yamaha CP70, Yamaha C3 6' Grand
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Re: NS3 Velocity and General Sound vs NS2

Postby baekgaard » 16 Mar 2018, 01:13

Thanks to @aureliopenna for sharing the recordings with me. I'm currently looking at them, and when I've been able to analyse it a bit more, I'll report back here.

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Re: NS3 Velocity and General Sound vs NS2

Postby anotherscott » 16 Mar 2018, 04:31

cgrafx wrote:Keys are just a touch stiffer than my NE5

I'd b curious to know whether you find either one (NE5 of NS3C) to be better than the other for piano playabilty/dynamics.
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Re: NS3 Velocity and General Sound vs NS2

Postby cgrafx » 16 Mar 2018, 07:38

anotherscott wrote:
cgrafx wrote:Keys are just a touch stiffer than my NE5

I'd b curious to know whether you find either one (NE5 of NS3C) to be better than the other for piano playabilty/dynamics.


I'm not sure yet. I just swapped the NS3C out for my NE5 (I don't have them both hooked up yet). I spent an hour os so walking through all of the presets and tinkering with some of the controls.

I distinctly remember thinking my NE5 was stiff to play when I first got it, and I actually ran downstairs to play on my Hammond to compare. I was a bit surprised that the feel of the key bed was actual very similar. I haven't played on my B3 for a long time as its under reconstruction. Clearly my memory of the feel of the B3 keys is in reality different than I remembered.

The NS3C is still just a little stiffer than the NE5, but I think it will wear in over time. I've had my NE5 since February 2017.

I also spent some time walking through all of the acoustic piano samples. They all sound muddy to me (dark or sort of muffled). It definitely got better with the string resonance "ON" and the tone set to "BRILL". For the record I don't like the piano samples in my NE5 either. Keep in mind I'm comparing this to my Alesis QS8.2 which sits right below my NE5 (NS3C). Its surprising to me just how well the Alesis has held up given the small sample size on the Alesis and that it was released in 2003 (15 years ago). I like the Alesis piano sound better than the Nord, but I like my Alesis better than most of the other current keyboards as well. It doesn't have nearly as nuanced or detailed a sample set to work with, it just really sounds present/clean and works extremely well in a rock/cover band setting.

Keep in mind I didn't purchase any of my Electo's for the piano sounds, it was purchased so I wouldn't have to haul my Hammond B3 around.

I started with an Electro 2, which in some ways is still my favorite. I upgraded to the NE3, and then to the NE5 to get the layers and samples.

Over the last year, I've been looking at adding a third tier to my setup because even though the Alesis has some really great synth patches and some decent horns, its still a weighted key bed and you can't play those types of parts on a fully weighted keyboard. The NE5 sort of fills in with the sample synth, but its not a real synth.

I purchased and played around with a Roland Integra for a short while, but realized I couldn't control it effectively with either the Nord or the Alesis. As a result I couldn't really access the Supernatural sounds because the alternate sound functions need to be interactively turned on/off or manipulated live, which neither the NE5 or the Alesis can do.

After evaluating a lot of options (Jupiter 50, Juno, etc) I came to the conclusion that the NS3C should work and would allow me to remain a two keyboard setup instead of adding a third tier. It may turn out that its still not exactly what I'm looking for (I'd still like to have a lighter synth key bed), but worst case I think I'd get a small 49 key midi controller with the right feel and just control the Stage from that.

The good stuff:
1. The B3 sounds fine to me, even straight out of the box. I didn't have a chance to do side-by-side comparisons or even to dig into the B3/Leslie settings, I just played what came up in the default programs.
2. The synth is going to be a lot of fun. Lots of really nice possibilities.
3. Seamless transitions. The BIG thing about seamless transitions is I didn't notice them. AS IN I didn't notice them. Was way way cool to change programs and not have the sound drop out.
4. Program control is better than the NE5. Still not a fully complete set of bank and program buttons but at least its bank up/down and direct access to five programs at a time. I will still end up controlling program changes from an external controller. I may continue using my iPad mini with TouchOSC, or I may try and integrate my patch changes into my other iPad running OnSong. It looks like there is a way for me to control when program changes occur independent of song changes, so I can page forward/back or to a random song selection while I'm still playing the current song without triggering program changes until I want them to change.

Thats as far as I got tonight. I'll try to do a more comprehensive comparison of the NE5 and NS3C over the next couple of days.
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Back to NS3 vs NS3 Velocity Scaling

Postby baekgaard » 17 Mar 2018, 01:12

Coming back again to velocity scaling...

Thanks to @aureliopenna, who recorded both his NS2 and the (latest, better working) NS3, I've now been able to compare the behaviour of the NS2 and the NS3. So with apologies for this long post:

Keyboard Velocity Scaling

For Nord (and many other) keyboards, there are several mechamisms involved in velocity scaling.

It starts with how the velocity of the individual keys is converted to a (MIDI) signal. This part is quite difficult to measure and compare, since it would require an ability to reproduce identical velocities and some way of measuring this. We can also expect that there are differences between the 3 keyboard versions (SW, HP and HA) and between generations (NS, NS2, NS3) or types (NS, NE, NP).

I have earlier done some simple tests that clarified that if the NS3 is set up to "hard" extern MIDI mode, then sending the same MIDI signal back to the keyboard seems to reproduce the exact same sound as it does internally. So we can maybe take the MIDI signal in "hard" mode as a representation of how the keyboard represents velocities internally.

Note that the KBD TOUCH setting does NOT impact the MIDI that is sent.

Also note that Nord calibrates the keys at the factory, and each keyboard has an individual adjustment curve for each key, in order to create a uniform response across the keyboard. If your keyboard is in error (unlikely though), this curve may be incorrect -- but I've heard of such an error.

Engine Velocity Scaling

Next, for the Piano section, there is the KBD TOUCH (0, 1, 2 or 3) setting, which determines how the sound engine responds to incoming MIDI (from the internal keyboard or an external keyboard).

There are two aspects of the sound that are impacted by the velocity: 1) Which sample is being played and 2) at what level. The KBD TOUCH parameter governs this mapping.

In the graph below, I have mapped out the relative peak amplitude at each MIDI level for the NS2 (red) and the NS3 (blue), in this case playing a middle F from the Bright Grand -- both at KBD TOUCH 0. The dots mark the transition from one sample-base to the next.

Image

As can be seen, the curves are somewhat different. In theory, since the mapping of actual key velocity to MIDI is unknown and can be different between instruments (as pr. above), the keyboards may not respond to key velocity in the manner shown here. What is shown is how they would react if you play them from the same controller, not necessarily how they respond to you playing them!

These curves not only change with KBD TOUCH, they also look quite differently for different samples (there can be more or less individual samples and the scaling can be very different from instrument to instrument) -- in particular, EP look very different from an acoustic. It appears as if Nord is taking great care in creating and adjusting these curves, tuning primarily (I think) for the optimal key-sound connection we all look for. There are also differences in the total dynamic level between samples, and there are generational differences. My old NE3 has a very different curve when playing the same sample, and it has a larger (maybe too large) dynamic range from pp to ff. My NS3HA, on the other hand, has the exact same curve as the one shown here from @aureliopennas NS3C.

Between the NS2 and NS3, my observations are as follows:

The NS2 plays with no amplitude scaling at MIDI levels 0 up to 21, and only starts to increase in amplitude hereafter. It plays the same sample up until MIDI level 56. The curve is somewhat linear from levels 21 up to around 75, but has a flat shoulder at higher velocities. It is also quite uneven at higher velocities (the loudest samples are not scaled as well as they should be and have errors around 4 dB), and can even drop a bit with increasing MIDI levels.

The NS3 starts to respond to velocity increases already from MIDI level 8 or so, and by the time the NS2 changes to its 2nd sample, the NS3 has gone smoothly through to its 4th sample. The curve continues to scale in a logarithmic way overall, and is more smooth than for the NS2. It appears that the NS3 better uses the MIDI range and offers a more smooth scaling than the NS2; the loudest samples are also better scaled with errors less than 1 dB.

If you are used to playing the NS2, the NS3 may take a little "getting used to" (if the key velocity to MIDI mapping is the same or if you maybe play the NS3 remotely from an NS2 with a similar translations as the "hard" setting); it will basically respond quicker to increased velocity.

However, the NS3 will go through the same levels and dynamic range, and as the sample transitions are spread out wider (from MIDI levels 31 to 116 on the NS3 instead of from 56 to 110) it has the potential to offer better granularity than the NS2: You should be able to master a more nuanced playing better on the NS3 as it responds nicely to a larger incoming velocity range.

Incidentally, note that the first 4 sample transition points appear at roughly the same output amplitude between the NS2 and NS3 here.

In any case, the NS3 is obviously showing clear signs of a more fine-tuned engine.

Sample Similarities

Next, let's look at the similarities between the samples played at each MIDI velocity. I'll spare you for the details (it involves a bit of statistical/signal processing math like cross correlation), but the graph below shows how similar a tone is to another if they were scaled to the same amplitude. Lighter values show identical tones, and darker shows larger differences. Click on the image to show the details better.

Image

The bottom graph shows how a tone from the NS3 relate to another tone at some other (or the same) velocity. It is easy to see how many samples are used and at what MIDI velocity it changes, and it is also easy to see that the larger the velocity difference, the more different (darker) the tones are, as expected. The NS3 shows clear signs of very well-controlled scaling; there are hardly any differences between different output levels of the same sample.

The top right graph shows the same relationship for the NS2. As can be seen, the transition between different samples happens in a much smaller MIDI range. It is also visible that the amplitude scaling is not as smooth; there are more (digital) artefacts.

Now, the most interesting graph is the one at the top left corner. It shows how similar the output is from the NS2 (on the Y axis) and the NS3 (on the X axis). Since the lightest areas are similarly light as in the two other graphs, the outputs from the NS2 and NS3 are very similar when they play the same sound. In fact, the difference between the NS2 and the NS3 playing the same sample is much smaller than the difference between either instrument playing two adjacent velocity samples!

There can still be subtle differences not visible here, though. And some may prefer a different velocity-to-sound response than what is offered by either instrument -- and as it depends on all factors mentioned above, it is difficult to say anything conclusively based on the factual measurements included here whether YOU like one better than the other.


But my overall conclusion is that the NS3 potentially offer better control of the pp to ff range (it responds better to a wider MIDI range -- which I think is consistent with what @analogika has reported), and it has a much better and more carefully tuned sound engine with fewer digital/scaling artefacts. But the NS2 and NS3 both play the same samples, and any difference between them (when playing the same sample) is smaller than differences between adjacent velocity or key samples.

Thanks for following this long (if you did) :-)

Comments and questions are of course welcome.
Last edited by baekgaard on 17 Mar 2018, 01:13, edited 1 time in total.

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