The Pianocade, from portmanteau devices, is a piano synthesizer and midi controller made to look and function like an arcade control panel. It runs on an 4-bit processor that converts digital to analog to give it a nostalgic 80’s era video game sound.

It is incased in a white (egg shell) aluminum enclosure which looks absolutely beautiful. The blood red joystick complements the white powder coated aluminum. It’s very aesthetically pleasing.

The keys, in the form of arcade buttons, are arranged as traditional piano keys. They’re so fun to press. The Pianocade comes in two form factors: One octave and two octave. The joystick (left and right) shifts the Octaves up or down for a total of 10 octaves - a total of 128 notes. “Up” and “down” changes the pitch. There are 15 preinstalled sound banks that can be accessed by combinations of the 4 player buttons (I,II,III, and IIII). The coin buttons serve to hold any pressed keys in a continuous loop.

The Pianocade is a monophonic synthesizer. As the website states, “It cycles through the notes of the cords rapidly (arpegiation)”, instead of playing two or more notes at the same time. The Pianocade itself is also open source. This means that it is built to be hacked, modded, and reprogramed anyway the user would like.

Its I/O includes; (from the official website)

  • 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) “

I bought the Pianocaded because it combines two things I love: Video games and electronic music. This is the first synth that i’ve ever owned. One month of use, and I like it so far. With it, I hope to discover the limits of my own creative genius, musically ;) . The fact that this is the first open source chiptune synthesizer itself is an invitation for future tinkering.

For more info, check out pianocade.com .

  • • Powered by widely available USB or DC adapter.
  • • I’ve tested the Pianocade, and it works natively in GarageBand and Abelton.
  • • It’s internal low-power speaker makes it ideal for picking up and play.
  • • The volume knob is a little too “out there” but not too intrusive.
  • • I’d recommend it to those inclined to chiptune / 8bit and familiar with this instruments capabilities.