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.