The Pianocade is a synthesizer designed to sound, look, and feel like vintage arcade games. It's easy for people who want to dive right in, powerful and feature-rich for people who want to tinker, and fun to play for everyone.
With synthesis hardware based off of classic gaming systems and a 128-note range, the Pianocade lets you perform the retro sounds you want, live!learn more
With traditional 5-pin MIDI and USB MIDI, you can use the Pianocade to control other instruments, or use external sequencers and controllers to play the Pianocade.learn more
Program the the sounds, customize the controls, decorate the case, hack the electronics. Make your Pianocade your Pianocade!learn more
All of the Pianocade hardware, firmware, and software is open source and designed for easy hackability. If you're really ambitious, build your own!learn more
Share your settings, sound patches, hacks, and music with a community of Pianocaderslearn more
Read all the latest Pianocade news and updatesread more
Technical information and dimensionsread more
Answers to frequently asked questionsread more
All pre-orders have been shipped! For the story behind the first production run, check out this blog post. There's no information yet on if or when there will be a second production run, but there are some extra units from the first run that will be put up for sale eventually. Follow @Pianocade on Twitter or sign up for the mailing list to find out when that happens!
The Pianocade launch party was held at Bento Miso on August 15th. The place was packed, and the crowd got to learn about how the Pianocade works, hear it performed by Megashaun, and, of course, play it themselves! For those of you who couldn't make it, here's a taste of the performance.
The Pianocade's built-in synthesizer is based on the sound hardware of the Nintendo NES and Game Boy (specifically, one of the square wave channels: it's a monophonic square-wave synthesis engine with a 4-bit digital-to-analogue converter). Because it's monophonic, it does what many early games did in lieu of chords: it cycles through the notes of the chord rapidly (arpeggiation).
Using a simple programming language users can customize the Pianocade's 15 sound banks over USB or MIDI. As the sound plays users can modify the sound's volume, pitch, and duty cycle, plus add on-release effects and modify parameters based on MIDI input (such as note velocity or aftertouch). Arpeggio order and speed can also be set individually for each sound.
The Pianocade has traditional 5-pin MIDI ports (in, out, and through) as well as USB MIDI. Use the Pianocade to control any device with MIDI in (realistic instrument patches sound great with the arpeggiated chords!), or control the Pianocade via an external controller or sequencer. The Piancade's arpeggiator automatically syncs with incoming MIDI clock signals too! Reprogram the MIDI messages of the joystick, coin buttons, and player buttons for a totally custom MIDI controller.
Because the Pianocade is completely open source. Want to modify the circuit board? Create custom firmware? Have at it! We've tried to make it easy by breaking out all of the microcontroller pins on the PCB. If that sort of thing interests you, then you can buy the electronics on their own, without the case or buttons. Share your mods with other Pianocade owners too!
The Pianocade case is a blank canvas waiting for your personal touch. We start you off with some awesome logo stickers, but feel free to go wild. Want to design your own button overlays or side art? We'll give you the templates. In the future we hope to offer some awesome "artist edition" inserts you can use too!
At Portmanteau Devices we believe strongly in the open source movement. As a result, all of our hardware, firmware, and software is completely open source. The most recent versions can be found on the Pianocade GitHub page. Anyone is free to hack a Pianocade or build one from scratch (although we've tried to price it so that it makes more sense to buy directly from us).
The circuit board is designed to facilitate hacking: all of the pins of the PCB are broken out and labelled for easy access. An electronics-only option is also available for people who are more interested in tinkering than in a ready-to-play product.
The Pianocade exists thanks to Toronto's amazing communities: hackerspaces like Site 3, community groups like The Hand Eye Society, and interdisciplinary initiatives like TIFF Nexus. It was directly inspired by the chiptunes night at the 2011 Nuit Blanche.
In short, we believe in community, and we hope to form a great one around the Pianocade! The Pianocade is designed to be highly customizable, and we hope that Pianocade users will share their creations with each other. When the Pianocade ships there will be:
The Pianocade beta testers couldn't wait to start creating content! Check out the button overlay created by Shaun Hatton (click to enlarge, and look for the musical Easter Egg):
We make our best effort to give back to the community by using local suppliers whenever possible. To that end, the Pianocade enclosure manufacturing, circuit board assembly, final assembly, and testing are all done in the Toronto area. In this way we can be sure that working conditions are good, wages are fair, and shipments of parts around the world are reduced.
Preorders allow us to manufacture a production run without having to worry about maintaining inventory or having unsold stock. This in turn means cost savings for you, the consumer. It also allows us to gauge demand for future production runs: if interest is low, this might be the only chance to get a Pianocade, so order now!
Kickstarter is a great way for emerging startups to, essentially, take preorders. Unfortunately, they only allow projects that are based in the United States, so we're not eligible to participate.
On the bright side, this means that Kickstarter and Amazon don't take a cut of the profits, so the price is lower for consumers; it also means that the production level can be better controlled, so people who preorder can expect to get their product sooner.
We aim to ship preorders within 8-12 weeks of the preorder period ending. If we haven't shipped by 12 weeks, refunds will be given on request. The preorder period will end on September 14th, 2012, or when preorders sell out, whichever comes first. So, tell your friends to order one too, and everyone will get theirs sooner!
There's no theoretical reason it can't, but this is a feature that just hasn't been a priority. Hopefully it can be added before shipping time, otherwise it will have to wait for a firmware update (or a user hack).
For those who aren't familiar with the custom controller market, Sanwa arcade parts are prized amongst people who are serious about their buttons. These buttons aren't used in the Pianocade for two main reasons: one, I prefer the look and feel of the North-American-style arcade buttons of my youth to the Japanese style; two, Sanwa buttons cost about five times as much, so a Sanwa Pianocade would be much more expensive. If you really want Sanwa buttons, I recommend getting the electronics-only kit and rolling your own!
Pianocade is a trademark of Portmanteau Devices, Incorporated. All content copyright 2012.