Zynthian 5 is a standalone, open-source music-making device that contains 50 synth engines and 100s of effects

Zynthian 5
(Image credit: Zynthian)

First seen back in 2016, Zynthian is a different kind of standalone music-making device in that it’s completely open-source. Built around a Raspberry Pi and Open Hardware, it’s upgradable, adaptable and repairable, and has now been updated to version 5.

The new version of Zynthian has a redesigned physical enclosure that contains a 5-inch multitouch display, a bank of buttons and four controller knobs. It contains a wealth of instrument and effect engines, all based on free Linux plugins.

The engines include emulations of essential instruments and synths (piano, Rhodes, Wurly, Minimoog, DX7, Oberheim OB-X, etc) and there’s also SoundFont support. In fact, a 4GB collection of SoundFonts comes pre-installed.

If you want to make music directly on the device, you can do so via the step sequencer. There’s also a live looping sampler and audio/MIDI recorder/player, plus support for multitrack audio recording.

Zynthian 5 enables you to create up to 16 chains and has a built-in mixer. Connectivity options include audio, MIDI, USB and Ethernet, so you could easily use it as a keyboard expander for live work, a standalone effects processor or a synth that you can incorporate into your existing DAW-based setup.

Its DIY nature means that Zynthian 5 won’t be for everyone, but that, we suspect, is part of its charm. It’s supplied in kit form, so you’ll have to build it yourself (it doesn’t look too difficult) and costs €490 plus VAT without a Raspberry Pi and €570 plus VAT with one (version 4, 4GB).

Find out more on the Zynthian website.

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. 

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