Is Pipes “the most powerful instrument/sampler/audio device ever made”?

In this software-centric age, the hardware sound module has taken something of a back seat, but Synthesthesia Corporation is looking to revive it for a new generation of producers with Pipes. This is a sample-based standalone but connected box that comes with a stock of sounds and loops built-in, and also enables you to load your own.

Coming from the brains behind the likes of the Mandala Drum, Eyris and D-Beam technology that you’ll find in many Roland products, this is described by Cosmo Jones, one of its creators, as “the most powerful instrument/sampler/audio device ever made”.

That’s a pretty big claim, and we’re also told that Pipes can “out-horsepower laptops, outperform samplers, and get better over time”.

Pipes comes with a touchscreen interface and is designed to be used in the studio and on stage. It can support 24-bit/48kHz audio and enables you to connect peripherals (a controller keyboard, for example) via USB or standard MIDI ports. WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity means that you can download updates, transfer files and make backups wirelessly, and you can also connect a keyboard and mouse.

It looks like you get stereo audio and S/PDIF outputs, though it appears that there’s no audio input for sampling directly. We’re assured that the sound library automatically loads at startup and can be triggered instantly with no discernible latency, and there are effects, too. The fact that you can create multiple ‘pipelines’ means that it’s possible to stack or split sounds, and it’s possible for multiple players to connect and trigger sounds at the same time.

There have been attempts to bridge the gap between computer-based and standalone sound makers before, but Pipes certainly seems to have struck a chord as it’s already sailed past its funding target on Kickstarter. A pledge of $399 will get you the 32GB version, while a 128GB version is also available starting at $499. Delivery is estimated at October 2019.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.