$399 ‘Pipes’ Offers The ‘Most Powerful Sampler Engine Ever’

Synesthesia has launched a Kickstarter project to fund production of Pipes – a new audio platform that they say “out-horsepowers a laptop, outperforms any sample player, and is built to get even better over time.”

Here’s what they have to say about it:

Imagine the audio quality of a high-end audio interface combined with the fastest and most powerful sampler engine ever created. That’s Pipes in a nutshell, but it’s only the beginning.

Based on groundbreaking core technology, Pipes is new category of machine for creating music and performing live. It has the convenience of a touchscreen tablet style interface, the flexibility of an open source software platform, and the durability for going onstage night after night. Best of all, it’s priced at half the cost of the latest smartphones and updates are free forever!

Features:

  • Choose between two versions with the exact same specs and functionality, the ONLY difference is the amount of onboard storage, either 32GB and 128GB.
  • Pipes comes pre-loaded with a large onboard library of pristine, original, high-quality instruments, loops, and sounds. Getting started is simple-plug in your USB MIDI or 5-pin MIDI device and start.
  • Pipes is created for musicians of any skill level or experience. Professional sound designers, bands, DJs and performers will love the power and flexibility of Pipes. At the same time, those just beginning their journey will enjoy how easy it is to get started simply by exploring all the onboard instruments.
  • Import, manipulate and play your own samples. Pipes supports ALL major formats including these: WAV, AIF, MDA, EXS, NKI, SFZ, GIG. Pipes is fully MPE compatible as well.
  • Pipes’ entire sound and instrument library loads at startup and can be triggered instantly, thanks to a patented audio engine powered by Parallel Access ZDL technology. Parallel Access means your entire library is always loaded and ready to play. Switch between huge multi-GB instruments or sample sets immediately or play them at the same time. ZDL stands for ‘zero discernible latency’ which means the time between triggering the sample and hearing it play back feels instantaneous without any lag or delay.
  • 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.
  • Pipes is pre-loaded with effects which can further manipulate your audio.
  • You can operate multiple internal pipelines (pipes) at once, each with their own sounds, instrument files, Tweakers and effects. You can split them or stack them to create rich, complex, original sounds, or use them separately, allowing multiple players to connect and trigger sounds and instruments at the same time.
  • Pipes is compact, portable, durable and designed to be on stage. Pipes is housed in a steel + aluminum case which means that it’s the right balance of durability for rugged conditions without being too heavy.
  • 100V – 240V external power supply for world-wide use. Backers will receive the correct plug adaptor for their territory based on where the unit is being shipped.
  • Backers get free updates for life which includes Pipes firmware, software and content.

Pricing and Availability

Production of the Pipes is being funded via a Kickstarter project, and it’s available to project backers starting at US $399. The project has already met its funding goal.

72 thoughts on “$399 ‘Pipes’ Offers The ‘Most Powerful Sampler Engine Ever’

    1. from above:
      You can operate multiple internal pipelines (pipes) at once, each with their own sounds, instrument files, Tweakers and effects. You can split them or stack them to create rich, complex, original sounds, or use them separately, allowing multiple players to connect and trigger sounds and instruments at the same time.

  1. great price!!just a few things i would love to see in the next version
    lower sample rates option , individual outputs!!, no touch screen or no screen at all , hdmi out,
    direct to external disk recording , real time line in fx

  2. 1. Some commented that it is no different/or worse compared to an iPad. I hope we could look at it for its worth. There are already plenty of sound “boxes” so it needs to find that value proposition.

    2. Are the specifications cast in stone, maybe have some stretch goals to include some buyer most-desired features?

    1. I’m not sure that the iPad has a low latency. And it also seems to be able to make more samples ready to be used, than any iPad would allow with its limited RAM (I don’t know how it is done here, more RAM; or som clever trick).

        1. What? Not even close. iOS latency is horrible. Try triggering samples on an iPad with a MIDI drum trigger. Also, try switching between huge sample libraries on an iPad (or even a laptop for that matter). iOS is for looking up recipes and checking the weather, not performing music.

  3. i would like to see how easy it is to load and manipulate samples. I have the octatrack and the digitakt and imo the digi is the easiest machine to sample something and to start playing around with it. This machine (from the video) looks like a EX24 (logics sampler) hardware version. I think this will be great if you’re a piano / keyboard player and you want a bunch of different sounds for when you got to different sessions and less at the knob tweaker who wants to get weird and crazy sounds out of a sampler.

    1. Yes, it is mostly a sample player.
      It has midi effects to process the midi data, and FX slots for the instruments.
      But it isn’t a sample manipulator, nor does it sample. I’m not sure how much sample manipulations it could be re-programmed to do, as the architecture is partly or fully open.

      The problem I see, is great sample libraries today are protected and baked in to protected sample formats, requiring the right host.
      So unless they provide high quality samples, it is unlikely to excite the Keyboard players.
      It is rather a player for those that makes their own samples. Or possibly some that have a lot of samples in any of the supported formats, from sample-libraries they purchased some years back.

      Could there be a market. Sure. But unless they provide a great sample collection, I don’t think it will be a product that a lot of retailers will be offering, if it survives kickstarter (not everyone interested will be willing to back a kickstarter, or even hear about it in time).

    2. I think it’s possible that the developer missed out on a huge opportunity with the sample based production community, if they would have made this a beat machine with extensive sample editing, sequencing, and fx a million people would have already pushed them far beyond their pledge goal….. I do realize that this is an open sourced marketed product, but the diy coding crowd is not the same as the sample everything up the wazoo and make beats out of anything crowd…. unless sample editing and sequencing is in place a huge slice of pie will be lost.

      1. NKI, yes, but that doesn’t mean it will run Kontakt sample-packs that are protected or scripted.
        So it isn’t a stand alone kontakt player.

    1. 64 voices may seem weak, but considering how large they say the samples can be, and how quickly it switches patch, it is more powerful than it sounds.
      But also, we aren’t back in the 90s where the polyphony was needed because the modules had to provide the sound for recordings, as computers couldn’t handle enough audio-tracks.

    2. 64 voices, a little weak? How many fingers do you have?

      I never understood the idea of putting many voices together at once [12 voices is fine for me], for me it’s like cooking food with too many spices. Keep it simple and enjoyable for the listener!

  4. “with a core team of designers, programmers and support staff. This is the same crew that brought you the Mandala Drum, the Eyris and the Dimension Beam (acquired by Roland and renamed the D-Beam”

    sold!

  5. From my own perspective, I would have rather seen a collaboration with UVI or NI, to make it a stand alone streamlined version of (Workstation-Falcon or Kontakt), with support for licenses to use purchased instruments/sample-libraries. (probably with a feature-set somewhere between the free an the full version of Workstation-Falcon and Kontakt)

    Such a product, I could have use for.
    And I think I’m not alone, in thinking that it would probably lead to me purchases of instruments for that platform, if I could have a hardware, that loaded the set I wan’t really quickly.
    So I think UVI/NI could have benefited from such a collaboration.
    Or they could have just purchased this company, and there would have been no kickstarter. (Although, I think there is at least one example of a kickstarter being cancelled because the company was bought/incubated).

    This product support a lot of sample formats, but few higher quality sample libraries today are done in any of those unprotected formats. So it seems more like a box for importing one’s own samples (or old catalogs).

    While this product is much more flexible than the Dexibell SX7 that supports soundfonts, it at least come with really good pianos, that partly uses physical modelling. And I think the piano sounds out of that is the really good thing about it, not that it support soundfonts.

    I would have also liked to see a super efficient sampler, for sampling synths (making mono sounds poly, or for stage use). Possibly with some AI/Machine Learning, so it could be used for parameter tweaks that sounds similar to the actual hardware.
    It shold be doing as much of the work as possible by its own, doing velocity, aftertouch, and parameter recording (via Midi and partly via CV).
    Such a product could be really useful to bring synth sounds on to the stage, without having to bring the synth along.
    But this doesn’t sample at all.

    In its current state, there is no on-board sample manipulation either, just midi effects and effects slots.
    So it can’t do the exciting things that could be done by importing samples in to for example the digitakt.
    Everything has to be prepared in the computer.

    I would not say there is no market for this product. But I doubt it will be a product that is seen at major retailers, unless they make some really high quality samples for it, to rival other sound modules, and workstation type keyboards.

    It can’t rival the iPad as a sampler, Synth, or DAW.
    But for sample playback, it seems much more efficient, with more samples quickly accessible.

    I would however really like to see another attempt of stand alone VST players. Now that VST is supported on Linux perhaps that will happen. But such a product should come with a few inputs, and more than just two outputs. So it can be effectsbox as well as software instruments box.
    (I do think though that NI could have a bit of a head-start for doing such a product, with the NKS mappings they could start building a usable interface for parameter control… Akai have started mapping VSTs with their VIP software, but the MPC Live/X hardware don’t run VSTs, so it doesn’t seem like they are in to that idea… Novation with their SL MkIII, have also started mapping VSTs).

    But there would still be use for one box that is sampled oriented, and one that is VST oriented, as the computing aspect of them would differ, and also the needed ins and outs. And to keep each aspect as streamlined as possible, two boxes would probably make more sense than a single.

  6. This video didn’t really sell it to me. You could buy a second hand Roland JV1080 packed with expansion cards for less than this, or a Korg Triton with sample import.

    1. If you don’t want to create new sounds or only want to trigger samples that aren’t your own…or only want to play instruments that fit into a tiny amount of RAM.

  7. I play linnstrument so I love that it’s MPE compatible, but without something like a mod matrix the MPE functionality would be lacking, as I wouldn’t be able to define certain articlulations to specific parameters. Any info on if there’s some kinda mod matrix thing at play? Is that what Tweakers are? I just wanna map my damn poly aftertouch to a filter….

  8. This sounds too good to be true.

    The device “out-horsepowers a laptop,” but sells for a fraction of the price of a laptop and the Kickstarter page doesn’t provide any information about the processor or DSP circuitry. There’s no information on the 7-inch display resolution.

    It has “64 voices,” but we have no overview of the synthesis architecture (the UI is “in process” and the Kickstarter screenshot simply shows an image of a welcome screen).

    The unit appears to be housed in a steel case, but apparently has wi-fi and bluetooth without an external antenna. Given that the funding target is only $100,000, how will the company handle the considerable cost of FCC Part 15 emissions testing for an intentional radiator? Will this device be certified to CE standards for the EU as well?

    1. judging by the cutouts for the USB in the back, this looks to be running a raspberry PI. If you’re going to sit here and tell me a raspberry PI “out-horsepowers a laptop” I got something for you.

      1. FAQ confirms it:

        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.

        1. That actually seems pretty reasonable. You can get fast MIDI i/o with a rudimentary microprocessor. And running a proprietary device for audio makes sense.

          The claim of “out-horsepowers a laptop” is probably meant to be interpreted as: it will perform this specific function more efficiently than a laptop which is more bogged down by other tasks.

          1. They seem to believe that their 4ms throughput latency beats the state of the art. However the designs I was doing in the 1990s had the unavoidable 1ms MIDI message input latency plus for the custom digital engine 2-6 samples of latency at 48kHz, which worst case was 1/8ms, plus some smaller amounts, but altogether always less than 2ms, which you can get with actual digital hardware. Doing stuff with a R-Pi or such which uses frames and buffers is always going to have considerably higher latency than real hardware. Their claims of industry smashing benchmarks I don’t place much credence in.

            1. Is the stuff you designed in the 90’s on the market right now? I’d love to try it, especially if it’s in a single box for $399 with no RAM limitations for sample playback and a bunch of other practical features. As far as what’s available right now I’ve tried the most expensive interfaces with the newest laptops and the results are that audio starts to crackle at about 5ms. Just hook one channel of a scope to a MIDI signal and the other to the audio jack on the interface and start testing. If you find something better and practical let me know. Anybody can try to put together a bunch of scientific equipment and beat any audio product specs in a lab somewhere, but try making a product out of it and taking it to market. I’m glad these guys are so into it. They’ve been contributing to music product technology for decades.

    2. All considered meeting FCC regulation compliance runs us around $20k per product. It’s really clear that most if not all crowdfunded products don’t meet or even attempt to meet these requirements. On the other hand if no one complains nothing is done. So those of you not complying with the law, try not to make enemies and keep a low profile is my advice.

  9. not much data…. looks cool but 2 rotary assignable knobs plus a main knob plus the touch screen would probably make this happen for me . Defo do another demo ….!!

  10. So, I noticed something. There is hardly a moment when you see an unobstructed shot of the User Interface. From what I can see, it looks pretty bad. Like it was designed for windows 95. Then it got me thinking, who directed this video and if it were intentional. I. mean, you really don’t get to see the device in action, the screens, layout, anything. And its really hard to find such a simple thing for a box with 1 knob. Most of the images are the Pipes logo.
    Just one close up?

  11. Even as a sampler junkie, the lack of technical data makes me wary. The buzzword soup and claims will keep me far away unfortunately.

    The “open source platform” only includes the GUI. Everything else is closed source which is kind of disappointing.

    “Out-horsepowers a laptop” but we won’t tell you the CPU (because the ARM processor is probably much slower than even a mid-range laptop).

    “The audio quality of a high-end audio interface” – what does this even mean? Once again, no technical data probably means a low-end audio chip (which are pretty good at DA these days). The low end chip would also explain the lack of audio in. The low end ones don’t do as well in the analog to digital conversion.

    “Parallel Access ZDL” (“zero discernible latency”) sounds like marketing at best. Any modern SSD will deliver those “ZDL” speeds and from the NAMM video that’s what it sounds like. Maybe a few SSDs in a software RAID to make it “parallel”. If it was really groundbreaking tech then it’d be patented and discussed, not hidden behind a “secret sauce” curtain.

    Sorry to sound nit-picky but “open” projects like these invite closer inspections. If they would have just called it a sound module instead of a sampler they would have avoided much of the critiques. But as soon as you call it a sampler you get lumped in with things like the Octatrack (even if your project is pretty much a sample player). Better be ready to deliver if you go there!

    1. Mentioned above is that it’s running a Raspberry PI for the GUI and something custom (?) for the audio engine (thanks James Merryman).

      I find that kind of interesting because they talk about how unreliable laptops can be. Architecturally this system seems much more complicated than a laptop (two separate computers in Pipes) and if it fails on you there’s no buying another one at the local shop for your next performance. They even make reference to someone knocking your laptop off during a show. With the exposed screen/knob and the back panel jacks not being mounted to the case, this would not fair well in a drop. There’s no case or cover so it’ll get dinged up or worse during transport.

      I’d also argue that laptops (and their OS’s) are pretty darn reliable today. Backups and restores have never been easier (something Pipes doesn’t cover at all).

  12. A low-latency large library sample player like this is perfect for live playing. It could be used to supplement another keyboard (like a synth or a ROMpler) that doesn’t allow you to load samples.

    I recently got a keyboard that doesn’t allow me to load samples, and I love the idea of “Piping” this in to fill in that gap.

    This unit needs to have VERY good samples, and I am really picky about that. Hopefully, they did a good job of making them playable samples!! (There’s an art & science to doing it right!). It also needs to allow me to make keymaps with both key-ranges and velocity-ranges. It also should allow me to set AMP, PITCH, and FILTER envelopes at the sample level, the keymap level, and the instrument level. A mod matrix would be awesome, ideal even.

    As I blurt out my wish list, it sounds like I just want it to do what my K2661 does. I suppose I do.

  13. Let’s not leave out the good: USB HOST support. Very good! That includes USB MIDI and USB doodads like keyboards and mice. Cool that you can use a USB QWERTY keyboard but since you can’t sample, what does one use it for?

    The lack of disclosure on the UI or any sort of details about how the synth part of this whole thing works is the main thing that makes me wary of clicking the fund button (in addition to normal KickStarter concerns). I mean, it’s super cool that you can swap between 2GB samples in an instant but I don’t have much of a need for that.

    Will it ship with the notion of a drum sampler? Meaning, a simple way to assign samples to specific keys and then adjust basic tonal parameters like ADSR per key? I’ve no idea.

    Can you save custom effect chains? I’ve no idea.

    Can you build and save custom patches or layers on the unit? I’ve no idea.

    I assume patches will have basic synthesis functionality like ADSR, LFOs and some sort of filtering but I din’t see anything about this.

    Can you automagically put together a multi-sampled patch based on file names (like “piano-c1#”)? What about spread out a folder of samples across a key range for drums? I’ve no idea.

    Pipes and Tweakers both sound cool but what are they like in practice? I’ve no idea.

    How do patches and banks work with regard to MIDI Program Changes? … no idea.

    How does external MIDI controller integration actually work? Is it built for a 1:1 mapping of all controls or does it work like older instruments (and hardware DAWs) where the UI automatically accommodates a fixed number of controls and those same controls work across UI screens? Both have their place but… no idea.

    USB Host support, WIFI, bluetooth, etc are there because it’s a computer (pi). Yay. What about other “computery” stuff like Ableton Link? Can one hook up a pi-compatible audio interface and get separate outs? Or maybe even inputs for PD?

    Judging by the amount they’ve made in pledges in a single day, plenty of people don’t care about this stuff. I wish them all the luck! For me, on Kickstarter, it’s just not enough information.

  14. While I can absolutely respect trying to hit a price point the lack of inputs seems a shame, long term Ignoring sampling entirely for a second, this is a computer with a mystically fast audio engine that’s running PD; no inputs means it can’t be used as an effects processor!

    Maybe USB audio input will be a possibility at some point? Maybe they’ll come out with a ‘pro’ version that includes audio inputs (and perhaps a few extra knobs/buttons)? I dunno.

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point they offer a software update so that you can plug in any USB audio interface for audio input.

      Similar to what they did with Tasty Chips GR-1

  15. yeah. it should have been a groovebox w/ onbooard sequencer at least. akai learned the lesson. their new standalone mpc´s are top notch workstations (minus keybed). way better than any aira toy combined. example: tr-8s still has no song mode. lmao.

  16. Before anyone claims that an iPad is preferable– let’s remember that until this year, there weren’t ANY sample players allowing user samples. Soundfont players suck because they lose a portion of the attack. And SampleTank doesn’t allow you to load samples. Yes, you can use a full-DAW like BeatMaker as a sampler, but that’s not a very efficient way to work, and it lacks features. You can use a few other apps as well, but they also lack some critical mapping features.

    VirSyn finally came to the table with AudioLayer which is a mixed bag. It has quite a few features that I wanted, but is pretty austere as far as features and the GUI. It does load user samples and EXS files. I’ve never clocked the latency with it. But I doubt it is as low as 4 ms. Also, I’ve found the iPad to be unreliably glitchy for audio I care about– that might be related to other factors.

    I’m hoping this product lives up to its hype, but I’m going to wait until there are MANY more details before I consider even the modest asking price.

      1. I was assuming we were talking about a sample player that allows you to map samples to a keyboard, a la Kontakt, K2-series, S1000, etc, etc.

        You are right though, there are lots of apps that let you mangle & slice samples, there’s only one that allows you to create keymaps with user samples, key/velocity ranges, etc. That’s AudioLayer.

  17. No idea. I only use it for making beats with my own environmental samples or for dorking around with their $2 libraries when i’m waiting in airports. It’s not as if typing on glass is conducive to expressitivity.

  18. Kickstarter might have been a great deal for the first 250 people. However I’m not spending $700 on a box I’ve never seen in person, no matter what the stretch goals might be.

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