A manufacturer of synths and electronic music devices, founded by John Simonton. According to PAiA's Web page, the company began in 1959 but it did not offer its first commercial product (a burglar alarm) until 1967. The name derives from the name of a town in Hawaii, even though the company is based in Oklahoma.
PAiA is notable among synth manufacturers in that it generally only offers its products in kit form. The company has consistently focused on providing the musician who is cash-strapped but handy with a soldering iron with a way to get into electronic music at a very low cost. PAiA's designs are noted for their clever and sometimes devious ways of reducing costs, which at times results in a product that does not perform as well as competitors, but customers accept that as the tradeoff for a much lower cost product.
Modular synthesizers have been a consistent focus of the company's product line. In the 1970s and '80s, the company offered the basic 2720 and more advanced 4700 lines, and more recently, the 9700 series has been the bread and butter modular product. Many other sometimes quirky products have been offered over time, such as the Gnome, a one-VCO battery-powered synth whose method of playing involved a small slide bar that slid along a foil strip, with a span of about an octave. A notable excursion (and a market failure) was the Proteus 1 (no relation to the later E-mu series), a circa-1980 attempt to make a complete, monophonic synth with patch memory available at a low cost. It was a high-quality design using a variety of Curtis Electromusic integrated circuits. However, less than 100 were sold, and of the ones that were, most were never completed by the purchasers, making a working Proteus 1 a very rare find today.
The company somewhat fell on hard times in the late '80s, but rebounded in 1992 with the Fatman, a two-VCO, monophonic rackmount kit which became highly sought after for bass and lead sounds; it is still available as of May 2014. This was followed by the introduction of the 9700 modular series, in the standard Frac format, and with the popularity of the theremin increasing, the company revived its Theramax design from the 1970s. They also offer a vocoder and a series of effects devices, and as always, all products are available in kit form only. John Simonton died in 2005 and the company is now owned by family members.
The magazine Electronic Musician originally began as a newsletter published by the PAiA user's group.