Standuino π [pi] synced with frauAngelico + microGranny from standuino on Vimeo.

Once the stuff of noise art oddity — isolated electronic experiments staying mostly on the test table — the DIY instrument is starting to find friends and form ensembles. And so it is that Czech instrument design mad scientists Standuino have assembled a clever little suite of open boards, happily chirping and glitching and droning together in musical harmony.

So, before we start delving into the esoteric number theory of the new “π” drone synth, behold as their three creations play together in the video at top. There’s even sync. And a groove. An exceptionally odd groove, but a groove nonetheless. This is what KORG’s Volcas are like in a really strange alternate universe. (In that universe, KORG doesn’t worry about exposing raw circuit boards on the outside of the case. And maybe everyone wears their underwear on the outside of their pants, like superheroes.)


Back to π, though. It has a manifesto worthy of the illuminati. And it makes sounds that resemble someone on the hidden Rebel base tuning in their radar. Or maybe of a rave with the Borg. (Yes, I’m mixing Trek and Wars. Blame J.J. Abrams and Barack Obama.)

Here’s what it sounds like:

I especially love the handmade carry case. This is something that is missing in a lot of commercial products.

Now, who’d like a nice slice of pi?

π is infinite transcendental number. It represents circle – the symbol of unity, universe and spirit. The limited edition of this very special instrument is mysterious as π itself. It gives you infinite ground to explore. You can`t get total control of it. You rather have a partner that can find your needs. There are 3 different randomizers to get deep into its sound possibilities and patchable clock sequencer. It is field for exploration in the mathematical world of sounds … and circles.

Lost? Okay, they also share these stats:

several oscillators, wavetables and synthesis types
settings accessed by randomizers
4 presets
patchable clock sequencer
internal clock or MIDI clock divider
MIDI input
UV leds
numbered limited edition

As I understand it, there’s lots of Arduino magic powering all the variants of their boards. And then they start mixing and matching clever and weird interface conventions to make instruments that are unpredictable, unstable state machines that tread a line between tuning in sounds and creating musical surprise. But the results are clever. More on the experiments with my own soon.




  • oliver

    Quote from their fraAngelico description:

    “fraAngelico 8-bit PWM digital synth is also unique by the means of its sound generation. It does not use any D/A convertor but the sound is generated by just one digital output pin using Pulse With Modulation which means that by fast changing of different lenghts of pulses we can make different output voltages. Resolution of this technique to achieve different voltage levels is 8-bit but in the true essence the output form the synth is just 1-bit because the output pin does jus 1 or 0 which makes distinctive digital character to its sound.”

    How poetic.

    There is nothing unique about using PWM for audio, it’s very common because it’s the simplest form of D/A conversion. PWM has no “distinctive digital character” – unless you lower the PWM frequency to the audible range, which is not the case here. Then you’d get a specific artifact in form of a super annoying constant hiss.
    PWM plus a filter (be it a simple resistor/capacitor, the inertia of the speaker or just the limitations of human hearing) *is* a D/A converter. Only because of the low resolution of 8-bit you get aliasing distortion. This distortion is not specific to PWM, you get it on a “real” 8-bit DAC, too, while PWM can produce very clean 16-bit sound as well.

    At least it’s not “revolutionary”. But still way too fancy.

    • Adam

      I really like the sound of these devices. A technically incorrect description doesn’t make me buy or not buy this product…

    • oliver

      I like the sound, too. I’d just like the whole thing even more if they wouldn’t try to be special so hard. Like, if the description said “we use this cheap form of D/A conversion because the software only has crunchy 8-bit resolution anyway and it saves a € in production costs”.

    • Peter Kirn

      Yeah, I just read it as “distinctive” in that it’s a lo-fi crunchy digital sound. I guess it’s how you read it – distinctive compared to what. 😉

      Anyway, to me this is in character with what this is. (I hadn’t really read that section, but … it still doesn’t bother me.)

      Hey, they’re independent designers trying to write ad copy … but I’d say their sins here aren’t as bad as some of the major manufacturers. Cough. I’ll try to keep it accurate with MeeBlip.

  • zincsulfate

    , the inertia of the speaker or just the limitations of human hearing) *is* a D/A converter. Only because of the low resolution of 8-bit you get aliasing distortion.

  • Lee Chaos

    I’m afraid I have to issue a warning about this company – I placed an order on 23rd May, received an apologetic email on the 31st May saying

    “There was a mistake in automated e-mail which said different delivery rate than was information on the website. Regretably we cannot make it in 3-5 days, but we are hopefully shipping all the orders after two weeks. Unfortunatelly we have delay of delivery of some parts caused by really slow functioning of Czech customs office. So there might be few more days delay.”

    I asked for an update on the order last week and so far have received no reply… Anyone else placed an order and experiencing similar frustrations or disappointing customer service?

    • Peter Kirn

      This is unfortunately just the reality of being a boutique synth maker. I’ve talked to other people placing orders with delays. It sounds like it will get to you. I don’t want to speak for them, but I hope your patience will be rewarded.

    • Lee Chaos

      Thanks for the info (I’ll call off the attack-dogs…) – to be honest it’s not the delays that are the problem so much as the lack of communication…