Photography by Jay Shuster

Chiptunes synthesizer and MIDI controller

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.

The Pianocade is SOLD OUT. There are currently no plans for a second production run. If you'd be interested in as second run, please take a few minutes to fill out this brief survey.You can also follow @Pianocade on Twitter to be notified of any Pianocade news.

Synthesizer

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!

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MIDI

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.

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Customizable

Program the the sounds, customize the controls, decorate the case, hack the electronics. Make your Pianocade your Pianocade!

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Open source

All of the Pianocade hardware, firmware, and software is open source and designed for easy hackability. If you're really ambitious, build your own!

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Community

Share your settings, sound patches, hacks, and music with a community of Pianocaders

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News

Read all the latest Pianocade news and updates

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Specifications

Technical information and dimensions

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F.A.Q.

Answers to frequently asked questions

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Contact

Questions? Comments? Press inquiries? Follow @Pianocade on Twitter or email us at info@pianocade.com

News

Pianocade preorder status

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!

Pianocade launch party

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.

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Synthesizer

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.

  • 128-note range — over 10 octaves!
  • Can mimic most sounds of the NES, Game Boy, and early arcade games
  • 15 sound banks, user-programmable over USB or MIDI
  • Chords are auto-arpeggiated, with per-sound programmable speed and order
  • Five arpeggiation orders: Asccending, descending, ping-pong, order played, and random
  • Transpose the keyboard to play in any key
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MIDI

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.

  • MIDI In, Out, and Through, plus experimental USB MIDI in and out
  • Integrate MIDI velocity and aftertouch into sound banks for amazing effects
  • Synchronize the arpeggiator to external MIDI clock signals, with adjustable tempo
  • Add "extra" controls via pitch and CC messages
  • Reprogram the MIDI message sent by each control
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Customization

Program

The Pianocade's synthesizer is incredibly flexible. It's easy to create awesome sounds and to share them online. All of the button and joystick settings can also be changed to create your dream MIDI controller.

Hack

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!

Decorate

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!

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Open Source

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.

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Community

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:

  • User forums to share tips, tricks, mods, and hacks
  • Sound library to share custom sounds
  • Art library for custom inserts and other case mods
  • Regular contests and challenges for the community (with prizes!)

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):

Made in Canada

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.

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Technical specifications

Electronics

  • Powered by an Atmel AT90USB646
  • Monophonic square-wave synth with 4 bit digital-to-analogue converter
  • All microcontroller pins broken out on PCB

Inputs and outputs

  • MIDI In, Out, and Through
  • USB MIDI (experimental)
  • 5 watt internal speaker
  • 1/4" Amplified headphone out
  • 1/4" Line out
  • Power via DC adapter or USB (automatically selected)

Enclosure

  • Authentic arcade buttons and joystick
  • Beautiful custom enclosure in powder-coated aluminum, designed by Andrew Kilpatrick
  • By popular demand: strap mounts, so you can use it as a keytar!
  • Dimensions
    • One octave: 15.3" x 6.3" x 3.6" (38.8cm x 16cm x 9.1cm)
    • Two octave: 24.9" x 6.3" x 3.6" (63.2cm x 16cm x 9.1cm)
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Frequently asked questions

Don't see your question? Contact us at info@pianocade.com!

Will there be more Pianocades available at some point?

Probably not. Manufacturing the Pianocade was a learning experience (and if you'd like more information about that, please read this blog post), but I'm not sure that I could make it economically feasible to do again. There would need to be significant changes to the entire process, and I don't know if there's sufficient demand to make it worth the effort. If you'd like to convince me that the demand exists, please feel free to fill out this survey.

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Pianocade is a trademark of Portmanteau Devices, Incorporated. All content copyright 2012.