Norns vs Pisound?

I built a pisound last year and use it all the time. The patchbox os is super easy to setup. I mainly use it for MODEP, which is an emulation of MOD effects. So I can configure virtual pedal boards of almost any size. It’s easy and sounds great. PiSound also supports PD, ORAC and Supercolider. But I haven’t done much with them other than confirm they work because modep alone is just so useful.

But the patches being made for Norns seem of a different nature than what most of the PiSound usrs are doing. Norns seems more about instruments as opposed to effects. Esp with respect to external controllers like fighter twisters.

How does Norns compare with PiSound (or organelle)? Are Norns patches compatible with PiSound or should I build a Shield or Fates?


You’ll have to elaborate a bit…what are you comparing specifically? sonic characteristics? experience as a user?

I’m not familiar with PiSound but organelle has more buttons than norns and so apps tend to take advantage of those default controls available. Norns seems to have been built to allow any user to adapt the core elements of an app to fit their setup (pairing external synths or controllers together with the device).

That distinction is evident in the way norns code is written. Most of the weird & cool things happening on norns are made possible by lua programming.

Build norns diy…you might want to search the forum to confirm but i highly doubt norns apps would be compatible with PiSound.

Also, hard to describe but the means for recording/looping audio (tape & softcut) are part of the workflow experience that would be tough to replicate outside the norns system.


Hey there! This takes me back – PiSound/MODEP got me into Norns (first Fates, then Shield, and on it goes…) by way of ORAC :slight_smile: I see @glia has replied (and @mzero is replying as I type), and they’ll have a better answer than I will in general.

In terms of cross-compatibility (no, not really) and user interface (in any configuration) – they are substantially different despite both being Pi-based linux boxes with attached audio I/O boards (gross oversimplification of course).

Very happy to have both in the toolbox.


Feel free to chime in cause my knowledge of PiSound is so limited

I’m familiar with organelle and yet still it is interesting that despite the external differences you can run organelle apps via ORAC and Norns mom. I wonder: is something similar possible with PiSound configured to play norns scripts?


pisound + patchbox os is a well tuned system for turning a raspberry pi into a general purpose music computer. norns is a much neater implementation of a music computer IMO. OLED screen + maiden + apps ecosystem being the real draw of norns.



Beyond the obvious differences in knobs, buttons, and displays - the three systems are basically in the same ballpark. For the most part, the memory size and processing speed, audio I/O, and MIDI I/O are close enough that you can achieve same range of musical aims with any of them.

They are all running Linux, they all use standard Linux facilities for accessing audio and MIDI. They can all run the same music software: SuperCollider, Pd, MODEP, Tidal, Orac, Orca, etc…

So, which?

The significant differences are really in what has already been set up and configured. You see people doing different things with these devices, because the pre-packaged environment is aimed in somewhat different directions.

There is great value in not getting side tracked in the tool building itself - so if you want to get on with something you see that norns does… a norns shield or fates board swapped out for your Pisound (or just get another Rpi) is going to be the easiest and quickest way to do those things.

You can get the whole norns software stack running on your Pisound box - and get it to use the Pisound hardware for audio and MIDI… But you’ll also need to attache buttons, encoders, and the display… It is a large configuration effort. Remember that norns is not just the hardware, it is a configured Linux image ready to go.

On the other hand, if you’re interesting in building SuperCollider or Pd instruments then you can definitely do that on your Pisound based system. Personally, I run my SuperCollider on my Pisound, as well as C++ based MIDI processing software I wrote.


Back in 2018ish IIRC thetechnobear had posted videos and instructions on getting Norns ‘working’ on PiSound, and they also had a Push2 as controller / screen. That’s what started me down the Norns path proper… I recall I got it partially working, just enough that I knew I wanted a fuller experience. No regrets.

So yes, it was technically possible to get some of Norns working on PiSound, but you can also “technically” strap guitar strings and a pickup to just about anything too.


If we’re singing praises for the norns ecosystem, let’s not forget the reverb, compression and digital tape recorder that are always available.

Norns has become my go to box for most 2 track recording. It’s right there, easy to set up, and usually already on when I’m making music. No need to drag the laptop and interface over when I’m just jamming, and now the feild recorder lives in my daily bag ready to go record sound outside like I intended. As a result, I record more frequently, both inside and outside the house.


Thx - great answers all! I’d imagine SQ is equivalent between the platforms. So it was really oriented around the experience, which you’ve said comes down to the UI and controls. Probably makes sense to build one.

My main interests and what I’m not doing w the pisound is a more interactive looper, granular synth tools, and weird sequency stuff.

my experience: I started with thetechnobear’s environment on PiSound to understand the Norn’s capabilities, then moved to Fates/Shield.
The main limit of the first choice is the oled, you have to use Push2 because PiSound has not enough pins to connect an oled.
Organelle’s patches need of adjustments to run on Norns…
I think that to really take advantage of a device we have to use it for what it is made.

1 Like

I don’t know if that is entirely accurate. Maybe I am missing something specific here but it is possible to connect an OLED via i2c on the PiSound.

1 Like

It would be cool to tweak a pisound box for use with Norns ecosystem. You could use maiden or ssh to launch apps, but you’d have to edit psets for midi control by hand I guess. And not all apps would be suitable for running headless.

1 Like

Hi, sorry for the delay, I referred to this post in Norns on Raspberry Pi.