Zynthian: Open Synth Platform (Zynthian Bundle All V3 Kit)



Introduction: Zynthian: Open Synth Platform (Zynthian Bundle All V3 Kit)

Zynthian is a synthesis, equipped with multiple engines, filters and effects. Completely configurable and upgradeable.

An Open Platform for Sound Synthesis. Based on Raspberry Pi and Linux, its hardware specification is public and software is Open Source. It is fully hackable!

DIY (Do It Yourself!). A community-focused project where you can choose between build everything from scratch or use one of the kits that we offer, adapted to the different skill levels.

You can use it for live performing, studio production or as a tool for experimental sound exploration.


This tutorial is based on Zynthian Bundle All v3 kit, that can be find in Zynthian Shop.

Other KITs are also available and you can build them from scratch if you prefer. Take a look into Success Cases.

Step 1: Bill of Materials

  • Zynthian Basic Kit v3 (4 x controller v3 + zynaptic circuit + ribbon bus cable)
  • ZynScreen v1.4 (3.5" touch-display + controller driver)
  • Raspberry Pi 3
  • HifiBerry DAC+ADC souncard
  • Case kit v3, including nuts, bolts and connectors
  • Power adapter for Raspberry Pi (5.1v 2.4A with microUSB connector)
  • 16GB SD Card (a good one, please!)

Step 2: Secure the Jack Connectors

Insert every connector from the inner-side of the case and the ring washers and nuts from the outer-side. The ring-washers will avoid damaging the case surface when you tighten the nuts. A wrench or pair of pliers can be useful for tightening the nuts.

Step 3: Secure the MIDI Connectors

Just insert every connector with the JST-wire from the outer-side of the case and the nut from the inner-side. A wrench or pair of pliers can be useful for tightening the nuts.

Step 4: Mount the MIDI Activity LEDS

Insert the 3 LEDS in the case holes, leaving the short lead at left. Don't push the LED's head! Instead push the black plastic holder around the LED. Sometimes is hard to push ...

When it's done, you have to plug the LED wires into the 2 spare "DUPONT" connectors from the MIDI harness (green & yellow wires). Polarity is important, so don't cross the wires:

  • JST Green wire (1) => LED's Anode (LED's long lead)
  • JST Yellow wire (2) => LED's Cathode (LED's short lead)

As the LED's leads are too long, you would like to cut them a little bit (7-8 mm is a good length), but remember where the "short" lead is located!!

Step 5: Assemble the Main Computing Block

The main computing block is composed by the RBPi and the HifiBerry soundcard, and should be assembled using the set of separator & bolts.

For easier assembling, you should follow the next steps:

  1. Fix the 2x4 separators to the RBPi. The bigger one must be on top and the smaller one on bottom.
  2. Insert the Hifiberry soundcard in the RBPi.
  3. Screwdrive the 4 bolts on top of the HifiBerry.

Step 6: Secure the Main Computing Block

After assembling the main computing block, you should secure it to the case. Use 4 black M2.5 bolts (see photo above).

Step 7: Secure the Zynaptik Module

Secure the Zynaptik module to the case using 4 x separators and 8 x M2.5 bolts. I recommend to start fixing the separators to the case.

As you can see, the zynaptik circuit has some extra circuitry that is not soldered on it by default. Don't worry about it because it's not needed at all for building a fully functional standard Zynthian Box.

Step 8: Secure the Display

For fixing the display to the case cover, you have to use the set show above.

It's composed of 4 bolts, 4 nuts and 4 nylon separators. Before fixing the screen, don't forget to remove the protective plastic sheet.

Step 9: Secure the Controllers

Plug a wire on every controller.

Fix the 4 controller modules to the case cover using the 4 bolts and washers attached to every rotary encoder.

Insert the knobs

You should insert the knobs into the encoders before closing the case. This will avoid forcing the encoders too much as otherwise, you could break them. Follow these simple steps and you wouldn't have any problem:

  • moisten with water or saliva the encoder stem and the knob hole
  • press the encoder PCB with the finger from the rear side while pushing the knob from the front side until is completely inserted

Stick the rubber feet

Step 10: ​Connect the Main Ribbon Bus Cable

Connect the Main Ribbon Bus cable to the RBPi's 40-pin header and also to the Zynaptik module. The red wire is pin 1, so if you are looking at the case from the front side, it should be at right.

Note: The Zynthian Kit 3 is designed to use JST connectors that can't be plugged reversed, so connecting everything is really straight-forward.

Step 11: Connect Controllers on the ZynScreen

Connect the 4 controller cables to the 4 controller connectors on the ZynScreen (CTRL1, CTRL2, CTRL3, CTRL4)

Step 12: Connect MIDI

Connect the 3 cables from the MIDI connectors to the MIDI-IN, MIDI-OUT and MIDI-THRU connectors on the Zynaptik module.

Step 13: ​Connect the Audio Output Jack Connectors

Connect the audio output jack connectors to the audio-output header on the Hifiberry soundcard:

  • The black wire on the "R" pin, white on the "L" one and red on "GND" (middle).

Step 14: ​Connect the Balanced Audio Input Jack Connector

Connect the balanced audio input jack connector to the audio-input header on the Hifiberry soundcard:

  • The black wire should be connected to pin 3, red wire to pin 2 and white wire to pin 1. Looking at the first photo, numbering is left to right.

Step 15: Connect the Display

And finally, connect the ribbon's 26-pin connector to the display's connector. Put attention to the orientation. The red wire should be the pin 1 that as marked in the display's PCB surface.

Step 16: Double-check Part's Assembling and Wiring

It's easy to make a mistake while assembling the parts or connecting the wires. Some errors can be dangerous for the electronic components (short-circuits, some specific bad-wiring combinations) so it's better to be sure that everything is correctly assembled and connected.

Put special attention to ribbon bus connection and verify that red wire is on pin 1 for every connector. Also put attention to audio jack connectors and check that they are correctly connected to the Hifiberry soundcard.

Step 17: First Boot

When you are sure that everything is in its place, it's time to boot the machine, so:

  1. Insert the SD-card with the zynthian image ready to run. If you don't have one yet, read this. You can insert the SD-card through the "window" on the bottom-side of the case. Also, if the case is still open, you can do it from the top.
  2. Plug the mini-usb power connector. A good 5V micro-usb charger is recommended (> 2 Amp).

These are the stages that you should see while booting:

  1. After 5-10 seconds, it will show the Zynthian splash screen
  2. After 3-4 seconds, it will go black
  3. If you are using a fresh zynthian image and it's the first boot, the stages 1 and 2 will be repeated
  4. After 5-10 seconds, the zynthian UI will be shown

If you get the Zynthian UI, congratulations!!! You are really close to get it!!

If you don't get an error screen or a blank screen, bad luck! Probably you made some mistake during the mounting process. You have to locate and solve the problem(s).

If you are using the Aruk RC-3 SD image (you should!), you will note that the controllers are not working at all. This SD image is pre-configured for working with the kit v2, so you need to configure the software for working with the kit v3. The simplest way of doing it is using the webconf tool:

  • Connect your zynthian to your local network using an ethernet cable (RJ-45).
  • From your web browser, access the zynthian's webconf tool by typing "zynthian.local" in the address bar. If this doesn't work for you, you should try with the IP. You can get the IP of your zynthian by navigating to the Admin Menu and clicking "Network Info". You should do that by using the "touch" interface: Click the top bar with a stick (or your nail, if it's not too wide) until you are in the Admin Menu. Once you are there, go down and click "Network Info".
  • Type the password (raspberry) for login into the webconf tool.
  • Once you are logged in, you have to access Hardware->Kit and select "Kit V3".
  • Save the changes and reboot your Zynthian.

Step 18: Testing Your Zynthian Box

Step 19: Close the Case

Once everything is in its place and you have tested that it works, it's time to close the case ...

Take your time to see how to bend and drive the cables to get a good fitting when closing the case. The ribbon bus cable is pre-bended for easing this process.

Finally, screw-drive the 8 sheet-threader bolts for securing the case, 4 each side.

Step 20: References

You will find all the building steps in wiki.zynthian.org.

Step 21:

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