Gigging with Zynthian

Hi, it’s been a while since I posted here. Reason being that I simply enjoy my Zynthian and have no issues with it. :wink:

One thing I am curious about: Pianoteq is so incredibly good that I would like to use the Zynthian + Pianoteq for gigging. Well, once bookings start again… :wink: It will cover all my piano, Rhodes and Wurlitzer sounds.

How does the standard Zynthian compare to e.g. a Roland sound module w.r.t. sturdiness? Even though I had zero issues at home, “on the road” there will be less careful handling and more temperature/humidity differences when taking the Zynthian from home to car to stage. I am slightly worried about issues that a typical commercial MIDI sound module might not have. E.g., I assembled it myself, there’s a hole in the bottom, it uses a memory card to function which may not keep its place, etc. Are there any precautions I should take? Perhaps build a second Zythian with optimized design? Or is it just fine as it is?

Any experiences or recommendations?

I’ve used zynths at gigs and it’s certainly an environment that can be quite testing.
From the Audio perspective the machine is quiet. Certainly quieter than some sound modules I’ve tried, especially if they’ve got an old Bucket Brigade , doing the chorus but that’s not true of most modern sound modules. In sessence it’s a perfectly acceptable audio device on slave. A fully balanced cannon sockets might please those in pursuit of real ruggedness, but an awful lot of keyboard kit presents as TRS so it’s perfectly on a par there.

There are two further relted issues to consider and in these are related to power supply. It’s really about PSU connectors. The zynth simply uses the Pi’s connector so you are realistically dealing with a USB Type C provided on the Pi. And No on off switch. This can be an issue if the Power supply you use has dubious origins cos a zynthian can on occasion want about 3Amps amps and you really want to be sure the supply line doesn’t dip under such conditions.
The lack of a main on off switch in the low voltage side of the Type C adapter is something that some people resolve with a in line switch but once again a decent switch that is well up to the job of providing a relative high current is important.

In truth I’d say the Pi4 is a lot less contentious in this regard that the old Pi3’s used to be with their Type B connector. Sparks where not unknown if your only option to reset the Pi was to pluul out and re plug the Pi3 connector.
Type C Pi4 connectors behave in a much better fashion if this is to the last resort of reset.
The fact that I mention this scenario probably makes you a little uneasy. Please remember I run bleeding edge code on my machines and frankly I’ve had a pretty trouble free time with zynthians at pubs and weddings. The Engine itself is the greatest villian in resource or reliability issues and that’s something you will meet in rehearsal if it’s an issue.
The Zynth itself is as rugged and if I’ve had unresponsiveness it’s a result of doing something bleeding edge and I include reset switches on my zynth if I can to allow me to reboot the device, but frankly this has been very rare. If you are interested in the sort of preparation I suggest you take a look at a stage ruggedised pedal board project that has had a couple of outings on stage to get an idea of how much the stage environment for a zynthian has been considered.

All in all it’s the external stuff one tends to concentrate. The zynth just does its thing!

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Hi Martijn,

I am gigging pretty frequently with one of my Zynthians and all I can say is, you don’t have to worry at all as long as you keep a few easy minor things in mind.

  • For cpu-intensive patches like some in Pianoteq or OBXD, you probably already know what to have an eye on. If it proves safe during rehearsal, go ahead.
  • About careful handling: In my experience it’s not more critical than any other stage-purposed hardware would be, really. Especially if you have a metal case.
  • Rather have some decent packaging (gigbag, enclosure…) around for transportation. I personally tend to fear more about any kind of damage while transport or setting things up than while actually using it. The official suitcase from the shop does a pretty good job, just saying.
  • I never had any incident of an SD card falling out.
  • SD cards tend to be not the most reliable pieces of hardware, though (depending mainly on manufacturer afaik). If there is any damage, you do notice pretty immediately though, because it doesn’t boot up (afaik). So, if you want to be safe: Carry a second SD card with a backup (and in general, needless to say imo, do have backups of everything). But, to be realistic, I didn’t ever had an incident like this in nearly 2 years of pretty much everyday use.
  • Software reliability: Easy to my experience. On my current stage machine, I tend to update not that often for the sake of not changing a running system if not needed. If you do change things, test the things you need for a while. Again, if it works reliably in rehearsal, go for it. That being said, I never had any actual issues from stable branch updates.
  • Power: As wyleu says, since Pi4 it’s not that of a topic any more. The plug arrests reliably, so at least you don’t have to fear that it accidentally slips out like in micro USB days. (Of course, be sure to strain-relieve your cables as with any hardware if you do it properly). However, if you want a dedicated power plug, there is several options to achieve this documented somewhere on this forum. For my mighty older Zynthian, I powered the whole thing through some dedicated Hifiberry pins, not sure though if this is still possible with recent audio boards.

Bottomline: If there would be any issues, you will discover them pretty quickly in rehearsal. So if all is going well before going on stage, you are good to go.
Happy gigging! :raised_hands:


Thanks for the extended replies.

Yes, I should probably give it a go, since the Zynthian itself is super reliable. Never any glitches or unexpected behaviour. The idea of having a backup micro sd card is not bad. I tend to have backups on stage anyway in case things go wrong. Eg, I would never rely on a sound module with a midi-only keyboard, but would ensure that the keyboard is able to produce its own sounds as well.