Apple may have started the conversation about the “post-PC” age. But part of what this means is that a “computer” doesn’t necessarily have to be something costing hundreds of dollars, in a conventional desktop or laptop form factor. It could look more like the Raspberry Pi, at US$25 and squeezed into a tin of mints.

Suddenly, all those years of music software development are liberated from the big, pricey boxes on which we’ve run them all these years.

The Raspberry Pi Synthesizer blog documents a project dedicated to this particular device, with a clever UI and yes, even polyphony. There’s a terrific phase distortion demo above.

Of course, you can add this to the many AVR-powered synths, which get component cost even lower. (We happen to know something about that.) The difference here is, software conventionally associated with desktops can run on the Pi. I’ve been watching experiments as people try running the free patching software Pure Data on these gadgets, among other tools; watch for a CDM hands-on once we get our shipping hardware. (Sadly, today we got notice that’s delayed again, but stay tuned.)

The Raspberry Pi is likely the tip of a very small, low-powered, inexpensive iceberg, but there’s a nice write-up of some of the hacks:
Music hacks, Raspberry Pi synthesiser []

And some Pd resources via our friend Ted Hayes:
Running Puredata on the Raspberry Pi
How to build Pd-extended on the Raspberry Pi

Are you hacking on the Raspberry? Let us know what you’re finding. I know some users still prefer devices like the pricier Beagleboard for their more versatile processor and ample I/O, so we should look at those options, as well, soon.

Thanks, Andrew Cordani!

  • Martin Herron

    I managed to get pD extended installed and running on my Pi, but the audio drivers don’t seem to be quite there yet. It’s impossible to get anything other than crackling distortion although the interface loads fine. I wiped my OS and I’m just using it as a media centre at the moment (and a very good one – AirPlay works for audio and video from my phone, Mac and iPad, for example), but this looks like the excuse I’ve been waiting for to get started with a fresh SD card or two and maybe even a second Pi. Exciting times ahead!

    • Peter Kirn

      You’ll see some commentary on the synth blog above about the audio issues.

      The audio seems non-ideal. But… so many of us have compact USB audio interfaces, and then you have things like the Behringer (surprisingly good, costs nearly nothing). Any class-compliant device will be plug and play under Linux.

    • Martin Herron

      Yeah, I’m hoping it gets sorted for pD as it’s the only thing I’ve tried which stutters so badly. There are very occasional drop-outs with AirPlay but all audio streaming and playback seems to be fine with everything else I’ve tried on the Pi. It must be the additional CPU overhead of running pD that’s causing the issues. I’ve tried ALSA and a couple of other audio drivers but had no joy, but then I’m not all that savvy with Linux or hacking drivers for stuff like this. This synth doesn’t seem to suffer from the same problems. I’ll be keeping a close eye on it. :-)

    • newmiracle

      I’ve got my Torq Conectiv working with the pi… sort of. I can play sound through the command line, but have yet to make it work at all with PD.

      Hoping for more audio-centric builds, guides, and how-tos for the pi. But it seems like there is plenty of interest, so it’s only a matter of time before these types of projects are more bulletproof.

  • Peter Swimm

    Im kinda boring I got one just to run it a as headless soundfont player:

  • Greg Lorincz

    So what’s the soft on the video? It’s definitely not Pure Data!

  • Darren Landrum

    I have two Raspberry Pi boards that just shipped and are on the way. I have applications in mind for both. The first is to see if I can finally fulfill my dream of a multi-SID-based polysynth. I was originally going to use an FPGA for this, but I get the feeling that the R-Pi will be easier, especially with the networking option.

    The second is a hardware sampler idea I’ve had for a while, which will be a much more sophisticated design and build. I don’t want to say too much about that yet until I flesh out some of the basics. (That’s code for “I need to make sure my hair-brained idea is even possible.”)