Why pi-Stomp? (and other FAQ's)

When it comes to amp modeling and effect processing, we’re in a golden age for guitarists. The choices for gear are almost endless. Why do we need another?

Well, almost all of the available solutions are based on proprietary platforms. pi Stomp is open source software running on hardware that You built.

Being a more open and general purpose platform, you can hack or extend it by:

  • Importing additional effect or synth plugins
  • Coding your own plugins. Create that Tremo-Transmogrifier-Drive'u'luxe you’ve dreamt of!
  • Adding additional audio software. If it runs on linux, it’ll likely run on pi Stomp and you could mix in the audio via the onboard alsa mixer.
  • Modifying the Pi-Stomp software. It’s all on github. So clone it, fork it, and do what you will to make it work for you. Add/change what’s displayed on the LCD, have the footswitches send IOT or DMX512 message packets via USB or WiFi to control your stage lighting.
  • Moding, extending or upgrading the hardware. pi-Stomp Core is meant to modded! The 8 channel ADC can accept nearly any analog signal. The audio card, LCD and ADC all use standard protocols (SPI and I2C). MIDI (USB or 5-pin DIN) can be used for most any control you can imagine.

It certainly is more hackable and upgrade-able! Performance wise, it's very close in many regards, and even has some unique features. But in general, if you're not the DIY type, or if you want a pro quality product, please buy one those. Each was designed by a large team, in a well funded company, and assembled in a production factory.

pi Stomp is a hobbyist project For hobbyists. If you’ve always wanted to build your own multi-effects unit, here’s your chance. I put my blood sweat and tears into it, so you can have the same enjoyment I have when I plug in and make awesome sounds thru something that I built. If you’ve ever built your own effect or amp, you know what I mean. Now imagine an entire do-anything pedalboard that conforms to your crazy musical ideas!

The flip-side is that you will need to invest some time and effort. Although the wiring is similar or even simpler than many stomp boxes, the circuit board assembly is rather advanced. Please see Building pi Stomp before purchasing parts.

pi-Stomp Core (with newest 64-bit OS) MOD Dwarf Nux MG-30 HX Stomp Headrush Gigaboard
Audio 24-bit 48kHz or 96kHz 24-bit 48kHz or 96kHz ? 24-bit 96kHz 24-bit 96kHz
Number of Plugins (FX, Models, etc.) 358+ (user upgrade-able) 143+ (user upgrade-able) 77 + IR's (not upgradable) 200 (not upgrade-able) 107 (not upgrade-able)
Simultaneous Plugins Typ 12+ (depends on CPU demand) Typ 12+ (depends on CPU demand) 11 6 12?
Plugin Routing Completely flexible Completely flexible Serial + some parallel options Serial or two parallel Serial or two parallel
Plugin types Effects, Models, IR loaders, Generators, Loopers Effects, Models, IR loaders, Generators, Loopers Effects, Models, IR's Effects, Models, Looper Effects, Models, Looper
Synth/Drum Generator Plugins 60, additional can be installed 13, additional can be installed No No No
Profiling (AI / Machine learned) Yes! Can be installed No No No
Traditional MIDI In & Out via extension kit ($14) In & Out No In & Out/Thru In & Out/Thru
USB MIDI In & Out In & Out No None None
Expression Pedal Input Optional (up to 8 Analog controls) No Yes Yes Yes
Footswitches Optional (up to 13) 3 (user assignable) 3 (user assignable) 3 (multiple modes) 4 (multiple modes)
True Bypass Yes for Channel 1, Chan 2 always on No. Software (codec) bypass only No Yes (mechanical relays) Apparently Not
Audio Ins/Outs 2 in / 2 out (independent or stereo) 2 in / 2 out (independent or stereo) 1 in / 2 out 2 in / 2 out (stereo) 1 in / 2 out (stereo)
LCD 2.2“ Color! 2.9” Monochromatic 3.5“ Color 2.4” Color Color / Touch
Can use as a USB audio interface Not currently (OTG required) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wireless Connectivity WiFi & Bluetooth Bluetooth (PB config only via USB) None None None
Software/Firmware Open Source/Hackable/Upgrade-able Open Source/Hackable/Upgrade-able Fixed Proprietary Proprietary/Upgrade-able Proprietary/Upgrade-able
Hardware Very Hackable/Upgrade-able Extendable via proprietary interface Proprietary/Upgradable Fixed Proprietary Fixed Proprietary
Dimensions (in) 4 x 2.7 x 1.75 (w/o enclosure), 4.7 x 3.7 x 2.0 (smallest enclosure) 8 x 4.1 x 2.2 12.3 x 6.4 x 2.2 7.0 x 5.0 x 2.6 13.0 x 8.9 x 2.6
Cost $165 ($215 w/ enclosure) $500 $299 $650 $599

Another product by the great folks at blokas.io named “pisound” (https://blokas.io/pisound/) is similar in core functionality to pi Stomp and MOD Duo. It's not listed in the table above because it lacks features which are generally desired for a stomp box form factor. Pisound has only one footswitch, no bypass, no tweak/expression controls, no LCD, and I/O jacks with rather low input impedance (100k ohm, quality guitar effects usually shoot for 10x that: 1Mohm). But, for a table based mutlti-effect unit, or if keyboards are more your game, it's worth checking out.

  • Who is the intended audience? It's not intended for non-DIY types. It's an advanced project not intended for those new to soldering. It will take time and patience to build, to install the software and maybe even do some troubleshooting (hardware or software). Until it has been built and used by many, and the bugs are worked out, the chances of hitting a one are more likely than with a commercial device. So… It is intended for those who understand all that, and still say, “Heck, yeah, I wanna build one!” If you're a guitarist or bassist who enjoys programming/hacking, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy all the possibilities pi Stomp provides.
  • What all is required to build/use pi Stomp? To build it, you'll need all the parts, a soldering iron with fine tip, solder, wire stripper, needle-nose pliers, diagonal cutter, tape, and small phillips/flat-head screwdrivers. “Helping Hands” or a vice will facilitate assembly. To download, install and use the software, you'll need a computer with wifi and a SD card slot (or USB SD card dongle), and a wifi router connected to the internet which supports 2.4GHz. You might need to install a free application to discover the pi Stomp IP address, and on Windows, you'll need a free SSH client (like PuTTY).
  • What is the difference between original pi-Stomp v1.x and pi-Stomp Core v2.x? The circuitry and software are nearly identical. Both use the same code base. pi-Stomp Core was created because some who built pi-Stomp (or were curious to) desired their own customizations: A different number of footswtiches, tweak knobs, or expression pedals; a different, pi, sound card or LCD; a smaller or larger form factor, etc. pi-Stomp Core includes all the core functionality of v1.x, on a board about 1/3 the size, then offers headers for the expandable or optional parts (switch ins, analog ins, DIN MIDI, GPIO's, LCD, etc.). Support for a COLOR LCD has also been added! Navigation was changed from 2 encoders on v1.x to a single encoder for v2.x. v1.x had a true bypass relay for each channel. 2.x just has a relay on in1/out1 to reduce cost and size and also because it's mainly just guitarists/bassists that will want to bypass the pedal, will likely drive it with a mono input and maybe use channel2 for always on effects or delay/reverb tails. You can still use software bypass on in2/out2.
  • Can I buy pi Stomp as a finished product? No. That would entail many logistical issues that Tree Fall Sound is not willing to assume. Also, it's not the mission of this project. If you want a finished product, buy a Mod Dwarf. It's also awesome.
  • How long does it take for pi-Stomp to boot? It depends on the number of pedalboards you have. Mine with over a dozen pedalboards, takes less than 30 seconds to boot and start passing audio. Audio is passed even without power if the pedal is by bypassed. Boot time can be reduced somewhat by disabling certain services like wifi, midi, etc. Switching pedalboards takes about 1 second. Switching presets within the same pedalboard is near instantaneous, so great for switching between parts of a song.
  • How many effects/plugins can a pedalboard include? There's no hard-coded limit. The limitation is the total amount of processing required by the set of plugins. Some plugins (eg. simulators, pitch shifters, etc.) perform rather complex or numerous computations demanding more CPU than others. The MOD Web UI shows the real-time CPU demand and the number of buffer overruns. You can use these tools to assure that your constructed pedalboards won't likely exceed the available CPU resources. In practice, we've created pedalboards with over a dozen effects without issue. Some more demanding chains might need to be limited to a pedalboard with 6 or so plugins.
  • Will the circuit board schematic and layout be made Open Source? Maybe eventually. We have no problem sharing parts of the schematic if you need it. The layout being public would likely result in many non-functional bricks of e-waste. About a dozen prototypes were created before we “got it right”. To retain high quality and low waste of pi-Stomp builds, Treefallsound will keep the designs as closed source for now. For anyone thinking Treefallsound is just being greedy, our compensation for running the store, has thus far has worked out to about $5/hr. So, No. The only reason we have a store and sell kits is to provide you an easy way to obtain all the parts and to leverage some economy of scale. Without the TFS store (or Tindie), you'd need to source from 8+ vendors and incur shipping, and maybe tax with each. So yeah… believe it or not, you're getting quite a deal on the kit.
  • …But I have a great project idea and don't want your full kit, can you help? Yes, we have helped many pi-Stomp variants get off the ground by leveraging what we've done. Check out the forum. Feel free to ask for design tips, how we did XYZ, etc. Just don't ask for the full schematic, because if you know enough to build a decent board, you know enough to not need the schematic. Most everything in the circuit is textbook audio electronics. You have the parts list. You have the pi pinout. That should be enough.
  • Can I purchase just the circuit board? No. See previous two answers. We provide full support for everything we design and sell. If you choose to use different parts, we can't waste our time helping you when it doesn't work. There's not much on the board itself that could be customized, so this question makes us think that you're just being cheap.
  • Why is the kit cost on tindie.com different than on treefallsound.com? tindie.com charges us an additional fee. It's well more than the difference, but we appreciate the extra exposure they provide the project.
  • Can I build my own hardware instead of using the pi-Stomp board? Sure. The pi-Stomp software was created to be flexible about which hardware is connected. With a few minor tweaks, you should be able to use a different pi, LCD, soundcard, interfaces, etc. Check out what others have done in the forum
  • I have plenty of power supplies, why do pi-Stomp kits include yet another? Indeed, it does pain me, from an ecological point of view, to ship a supply with every kit. But the consequences of not including a supply are many. The supplies most people have on-hand will likely:
    • be noisy
    • provide the wrong voltage or be badly regulated 5v
    • have a common connector (eg. 2.1mm center negative), which opens opportunity for wrong polarity or wrong voltage if pi-Stomp switched to be compatible with that connector. pi-Stomp uses a less common 2.5mm center positive to avoid frying things by accidentally connecting the wrong voltage or polarity.
    • not provide enough current (RPi's need 2Amp) leading to flakey performance and hard to diagnose support calls
  • Can I use software other than Modep/MOD on pi-Stomp? Yes! As long as it runs on a generic linux OS and can be compiled for the Raspberry pi architecture (armv71). You could even replace the patchbox OS completely, and replace it with another pi compatible OS. More on that here: Other Software running on pi-Stomp hardware
  • How can I get involved in development of pi Stomp? First, build one. If you dig it, and want to make the software better (or worse), that's awesome. The next step would be to clone the software repository at: github If you would like to discuss details, please email: support@treefallsound.com
  • Can you add feature XYZ? Maybe. Or maybe you can, see previous question. For now, please log software problems in github: Issues or feature requests in the pi-stomp forum

With 24-bit 96kHz I/O and a quad core 1.4 GHz processor, pi Stomp certainly has the processing power to rival the some of the best units. A vast number of current commercial recordings have been produced within computer systems with less power than pi Stomp. And remember, rendered CD quality is 16-bit 44.1kHz.

Where commercial multi-effects are likely to excel, is in the quality of the individual effect software models. Each included effect has a whole team of sound professionals committed to creating near perfect models of popular classic and novel amplifiers, cabinets and effects. The current pi Stomp software uses the LV2 open standard for coding of plugin effect models. There are over 400 available LV2 plugins out there. However, like with any community developed open software, the quality can range from awesome to unusable.

To get a sense of what LV2 plugins are capable of, check out the example pedalboards with sound samples on the Listen page.

The LV2 standard is relatively new and the audience is smaller than the similar Windows/MacOS based audio plugin formats (VST, AU, AAX, etc.). Some of those plugins may be able to be ported to LV2. But there are also some companies/organizations/individuals creating some awesome native LV2 plugins, like guitarix and CALF. As the community grows, so will the quality. You can even be part of that! Create your own plugin (Build & deploy a LV2 plugin ), add it to your pi Stomp, share it with the world!

Although pi Stomp! can replace a full pedalboard, it can also be used quite well with your other pedals chained before, after or within the fx-loop. So your personal tone can still leverage the pedals that you love and then use pi Stomp to add effects that you don't otherwise own, wish to consolidate or automate with presets, etc. One usecase, is to use it as a simple stomp box instead of a full pedalboard, providing less used effects (eg. pitch shifter, envelope follower, rotary speaker, etc.) as an alternative to cluttering your physical pedalboard with each of those.

To my knowledge, there are only three makers of HiDef Raspberry Pi audio cards that include inputs (ADC). All 3 (AudioInjector, IQAudio Codec Zero, HiFiBerry DAC+ADC) work with pi-Stomp with just a simple software change. Those, and most DACs in fact, run on 3.3volt supplies allowing a maximum headroom of about 3 volts. That still exceeds 0dBu Pro ref level (2.19v) and 0dBV consumer ref level (2.828v) but is significantly lower than 9v. If you demand the headroom offered by a 9v or even 18v analog pedals, you might not like pi-Stomp. It may feel compressed or lacking in dynamics. Just keep in mind, your favorite commercial multi-FX unit (unless it's a Fractal with 11v max) also likely uses a 3.3v ADC. Even Kemper and NeuralDSP don't specify their max input level. I wish I could afford one to determine for myself.

Now we get into some geekier details. Most commercial multi-effects units are DSP based. Their processing is purpose-built to process audio in a real-time operating system (RTOS). pi Stomp! being based around Raspberry Pi and Linux, a general-purpose operating system (GPOS), is at somewhat of a disadvantage because the CPU can be busy processing tasks that a DSP doesn't have to worry itself about. The Raspbian based OS used in pi Stomp! has been optimized to eliminate or reduce many of the potential distractions that might be encountered if the Raspberry Pi was being used as a “desktop” computer, but still, buffer overruns (aka Xrun's) can be encountered when the CPU is overwhelmed and that can result in audible anomalies (eg. glitches, pops, etc.) Given the power of the Raspberry Pi 3's quad cores, Xruns are typically infrequent unless you're running a pedalboard with many plugins, greater than 8 or 10 maybe, or if quite a few of the plugins are “simulators”. The bottom line is that there's more potential for audible glitches with a GPOS based processor. A glitch here and there is usually tolerable by most recreational musicians. If you're of the more professional variety, a commercial unit might suit you better.

Digital noise is also more likely in a GPOS based system because the CPU is constantly processing requests for its many services, passing data over its various interfaces (GPIO, Wifi, etc) and radio frequency noise is just rather prevalent on development boards like Raspberry Pi. The route of digital noise into the audio path is usually via inductive coupling. Shielding and physical distance are the typical solutions applied to reduce that coupling. Experiments with shielding were done but didn't seem to reduce coupled noise by any measurable amount. Instead, I chose to keep the audio portions of the system physically sequestered to one side of the board, away from the LCD backlight and Pi as much as possible. There will be some high frequency noise noticeable when the output is sent to an amp running at high volumes. In my opinion, it's not as annoying as the noise from many gain pedals or the common 60Hz hum, but it is there and something to consider if the highest of Fi is your grail.

Actual lab test results of pi-Stomp can be found here

  • pi-stomp-core-faq.txt
  • Last modified: 2024/01/26 05:45
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