Warning: ‘Pianocade’ Arcade-Synth May Cause Involuntary Nerdgasm

Think of the wildest, weirdest safe-for-work thing you've seen all year, and I promise it's not as crazy-cool as this: an arcade control-stick with over a dozen push buttons that's also a retro MIDI controller.

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Portmanteau Devices

Think of the wildest, weirdest safe-for-work thing you’ve seen all year, and I promise it’s not as crazy-cool as this: an arcade control-stick with over a dozen push buttons that’s also a retro MIDI controller!

This thing is just winning in so many ways. For starters, the Pianocade is a bona fide synth and MIDI controller. That’s right, you just tap the push buttons and presto, the dulcet sounds of square-wave synth tones.

Lest you think it’s just a gimmick, check this out: It’ll do “arpeggio hold” (press buttons in sequence to set up an arpeggio pattern), let you modulate arp speed (just rock the joystick, or tap the multiplayer buttons to invert the note sequence), allows instant octave shifting (wiggle the joystick), offers 15 user-programmable sound banks, comes with both USB and standard 5-pin MIDI in/out for plugging into something like a laptop, and, per the show-off video below, you can slap a strap this thing on and sling it like a keytar! (“Cointar”? “Cadetar”?)

Under the hood, it’s packing an Atmel AT90USB646, which Pianocade’s designer, Portmanteau Devices, says is based on the sound hardware used in the original Nintendo Entertainment System (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).”

What else? It’s both hackable (fully open-source) and decor-friendly (the company says it’ll ship with “awesome logo stickers”).

The Pianocade isn’t available yet — the ETA’s late January 2013 — and the company’s already sold out of pre-orders, so if you want one, you might want to hop on the company’s mailing list. Looks like it’ll run $250 for the one-octave version or $325 for two.

In any event, you know how you’ve always wanted to jam Mega Man‘s tunes on a fighter-stick? Because of course it can do that…