"Pipes" kickstarter, standalone sound computer / sampler thing

I think the primary use case they are going for is fast/cheap access to sound libraries for keyboard players. Fast because they say you can switch without load times, cheap relative only to either a laptop or ipad (ignoring that these are multi-use devices) or some kind of big workstation keyboard, and cheap enough to not worry about it breaking in unruly venues. It gives the impression of being something more than just a sound bank device (with at least some user flexibility in mind, which is nice), but I don’t see it. Its longevity will depend on the quality of the libraries, but I wonder how likely big library producers are to take interest in it?

It’s definitely not for me, but then I don’t play keys in a bar or church or for a TV show, so I doubt they had me in mind when pitching it.


True, true, you and @glia are both right, this is actually a sampler in a box. so all in all, it IS an MPE supportive plugin in a box, which offers some benefits of a big config computer, by sacrifying most of the other features, and… well hopefully the benefits will outweight what’s lost in the deal ? I can see why you’d like a reliable sampler away from the computer in live situation to switch quickly between sound banks though but… yeah, if it’s just for that it actually feels a bit pricey for what it offers all things considered.

I’m not even bitching here or anything, I was geniunely surprised and confused by the device.

A sampler that can’t record samples does seem very strange to me. Especially since that strongly implies you are using a PC to load in samples. But they advertise this as giving you freedom from a PC…


I would be careful in calling this an embedded sound computer or comparing it to the likes of Norns/Organelle/Axoloti/Bela.

It’s frustrating that you really have to read between the lines to figure out what anything even does - the Kickstarter copy is curiously opaque on actual details - but it sounds like the “tweakers” - PureData patches - are only capable of manipulating MIDI triggering of samples, not the audio of the samples. I’m getting this from two pieces of information:

Is Pipes hardware proprietary or open source?
Both! There are 2 computers in Pipes. The audio engine is a proprietary device which is a closed system. The computer that powers the interface, handles MIDI input, and supports customization is a Raspberry Pi running Linux.

Sounds like the audio engine, and by extension the way samples are synthesized and processed, is off-limits. The way MIDI data is handled for triggering those samples, however, is able to be customized with PD patches.

Pipes comes pre-loaded with custom Tweakers which allow you to manipulate audio before it triggers. Advanced users can build their own custom Tweakers using the open source Pure Data visual programming language.

Further reinforced above - PD patches allow you to manipulate audio before it triggers, which is pretty unclear but seems to be an intended distinction from modifying/manipulating the audio signal path. No DSP or synthesis stuff here. No effects/processing stuff either, as far as I can tell.

I wouldn’t recommend buying this expecting it to be a PureData-based universe of possibility. As others said - it’s a compact sample player to take to gigs without worrying about your laptop breaking. I’m not sure who in this forum happens to be in the market for that, but there you go.


Are the outs on Norns not dc coupled? They looked to be relatively visualizable when plugged into my oscilloscope, but I have not tried to use for any sort of cv purpose yet.

I saw & heard the prototype at NAMM. See my capsule review on this very forum, here: Winter NAMM 2018 - Anaheim CA

Clearly from the KS video, it is still built with PurrData runing both the UI and the MIDI side. When I talked with the creator at NAMM, they were open to people having access to the PurrData side, but not the DSP guts. There is no mention of this on the KS page now, however.

Current Norns release supports OSC for any parameter. I’m using a touch screen by composing custom TouchOSC controls on a $40 Kindle Fire tablet.


I’ve got to say that the UI on this thing looks absolutely horrendous. I’ve seen some bad interface design in max/pd, but… I hope they get someone to get a proper UI on that thing before it goes to market.

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To be honest, I kinda dug the retro 90s graphics, from what I saw in the vid. not what I expected to see.

This reminds me of, like, E-Mu ROMplers or something like that, except not rack-mounted, and with a 21st century spin.

I’m not kicking the retro vibes! but – looking one way and the how the interface functions are really different things. From what I could see (and granted it’s extremely limited & presumably this is a prototype UI) it just looked very rough to actually use.

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For reference: That is exactly what the UI looked like back in Jan. Given that it is built in Pd… I wouldn’t expect it to change much.

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yeah, looks like pipes if focused on sample playback, rather than generic sound computer - which is cool if that’s what your after.
alternatives/options are good , and seems to have plenty of backers interested in it, so they are doing something that quite a few want.

Bela Salt is great, Ive ported orac (my modular pd patch thing) to it, and added OSC control to it - so it can be controlled via my iphone/ipad running lemur :slight_smile:
unfortunately, Salt was a limited run (30?) and they have not said they are going to build any more, so don’t think you’ll find one.

but I think Bela would do what your after, if your willing to roll up your sleeves :slight_smile:
it has lots of digital io (for buttons/leds) 8 analog in and out, audio in/out - no midi din, but can act as both usb midi device and host.

has a nice web interface () to program via can be programmed in C/C++, pd, supercollider , csound, or you could easily interface to other programming environments.
) similar to norns approach really.

you could add a small screen via spi, if your main interest is patch feedback. (seeing values, selecting samples etc) - alternatively, you could do as I did with Salt, and use OSC/Lemur, I quite like this ‘BYOS’ (bring your own screen) concept.

the forum (bela.io) is great for helping users achieve what they want, the guys at bela are really helpful, and extremely knowledgeable.

but its definitely not a ‘packaged’ solution…

I guess packaged, its norns/organelle or something like that, and do both cv and midi via usb.

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So, back in the day I bought a Mandala, created by the same folks who are working on Pipes. It was a fantastic drum pad with 8 zones and a very simple external drum brain. 3 Dials and an LCD. Perfect for live performance and reducing options to the bare minimum (just like a norns).

A little while later they moved the drum brain to a usb/computer-based Max interface that you had to run from your computer. It was terrible. Crashed a lot, latency was poor, and honestly, it was time-consuming to organize what you wanted to do.

The Mandala went nowhere really. There is no community around it (I sometimes feel like I’m one of the only people who still uses the damn thing). Its a decent midi controller, the pad feels a little cheap compared to some of the Roland products, but otherwise that’s all its good far. And yeah, it works with my norns.

Pipes looks a lot like the concepts of that Max-based drum brain have just found their home in a new box. Maybe some of the worst parts have been corrected, but I didn’t like it when it was running on my laptop, I’m not sure I’m going to like it any better running standalone.

I’d wait to see how this plays out. Most of the synesthesia products don’t seem to last long in the wild.

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I remember the Mandala drum. There was a lot of hype around it at one point because it was used (and partly designed?) by the drummer from Tool, Danny Carey. I always thought about getting one, but could never really justify it.

unfortunately, Salt was a limited run (30?) and they have not said they are going to build any more, so don’t think you’ll find one.

Oh! Well. Never mind that then D:

but I think Bela would do what your after, if your willing to roll up your sleeves :slight_smile:

So it’s not necessarily a matter of “willing”, it’s just there’s a certain skill set I don’t have and I’m trying to be realistic :slight_smile: If I need to do a lot of hardware things (like “oh, just hook in a resistor here”) those things probably will not get done. (On the other hand I’m willing to write a virtually unlimited amount of software…)

So like— I’m still not sure how setting up a Bela works. You have to buy the Beaglebone separately and the Bela clips on top? Are all the ins/outs just breadboard wires stuck in the grill up top? How is a Beaglebone powered? Can the entire thing clip into a breadboard? As far as “packaged” goes the main thing that concerns me is the Salt or the Norns are in nice stable cases whereas if I build something out of a bunch of wires and expert board it’s a little tricky to transport. With the Stemtera I’ve been using I have to either take it apart and reassemble it every time I move it, or risk it getting damaged (I’d be pretty concerned about this with the bela). I guess I could see if I can get access to a 3d printer to make a nice little case for my bela setup?? but, that’s again a skill set I don’t have. I guess these are questions the bela.io forum people could help me with, so I should probably go ask them!

I would be curious how @TheTechnobear and @lazzarello plug your screen phones/tablets into the Norns/Salt— just USB? That works fine? That’s really interesting.

sorry, “willing” was probably the wrong word :slight_smile:
as you say, requires a few skills, time, and also motivation
(e.g. you might just prefer to be doing other things, if this is not something you particularly enjoy!)

bela.io sell a kit with beaglebone black + bela (and cables)

yes you can use patchwires to connect I/O, but what I do for more stable/permanent projects, is solder a header to a small pcb, then takes wires from there to whatever components are needed e.g. cv jacks.

powering - 5v dc, usb , or thru gpio

yes, bela.io forum can answer your questions :slight_smile:

bela/ salt , so I use OSC for comms, this is run over wifi, eithernet (bela), or usb.
works well for me…

that said in a ‘performance’ environment, I think id want wires of some sort (wifi can be problematic), so that’s where the beaglebones ethernet/usb networking could be very useful.

(*) beaglebones can act as usb class devices, as well as hosts :slight_smile:


Norns can act as a Wifi hotspot. The tablet connects to that network and Norns + TouchOSC have some kind of discovery mode that “just works”.

When I see things like this I’m happy to see someone going for it with something they feel passionately about but I also ask myself, could I do that with a used iPad mini and any number of apps out there… and which would be a better user experience


Yes indeed. I must say, I’ve been using an iPad mini for live performance, generally as a little mixer with effects with outboard gear for sound generation.

One day during a sound check my iPad went off and presented me with the welcome screen you get when you switch the iPad on for the first time. I had to get an internet connection to go through the setup and had to do it three time before it actually worked. My iPad gave itself a full factory reset minutes before my performance.

There is something to be said for stable and reliable environments even if it has limitations.

If I were relying on sample playback for live performances I would actually consider a device like this instead of a computer or iPad.

Looks like a great idea!