Ideas for possible development of new features, in Zynthian/ZynthianOS

Hi Zynthianers and ZynthianLabs :slight_smile:

I am opening this thread to speculate about possible future developments of the ZynthianOS and Zynthian device.

I must premise that I lack the coding and electronic engineering knowledge, to fully appreciate the actual feasibility of the features that I advance here. Therefore, these are just personal suggestions, and I leave their evaluation to the competent people of the Zynthian development staff.

1: VST plugins integration.

I read around that it might require the Wine and WineAsio software containers, whose computational overhead and possible stability issues should arguably be taken into account.
It is perfectly possible that the expected new iteration of the Rbpi (5) will deliver such a substantial increase in CPU power that this hybrid architecture becomes sustainable, in terms of system resources. Furthermore, I ignore any potential licencing issues, arising with Microsoft APIs included in a package and required for a VST code to work: this is beyond my technical understanding.
I am not advocating the idea of a straight VST open door, but rather envisaging a gradual inclusion, of a limited number of well-written and carefully tested synthesisers and effects in the freeware domain, drawing from the pool of the most reliable coders.

2: Parallel screen projection on an external HDMI monitor.

This would allow for simultaneous viewing of the VNC plugins GUIs - in the short term - and later for a prospective re-design of the Zynthian interface, taking advantage of a double-display layout to implement a set of symbols and graphic rules, in order to come up with plugin-specific GUIs in Zynthian style (this could be partly contributed by the community, with simple standard procedures provided by the Labs).

3: A lean scoring editor based on the piano roll page, with fixed horizontal spacing related to the snap resolution.

It would easily allocate 15 channels/staves on an external monitor (see point 2) in portrait orientation, leaving the Zynthian screen, encoders and LED keyboard for the convenient control of symbols, functions and options.

Without all the engraving constraints and complex collision rules of a full notation app, it would be essentially a much leaner version of the 1990 Cubase score editor, with just fixed spacing (horizontal and vertical), tied notes, audio feedback, playback of dynamic marks (either velocity or CC1) and automatic scroll.

(I have some ideas about how to manage polyphonic staves, like keyboards/organ/guitar, in a simple and restricted way, but don’t want to clutter this post uselessly: should someone ever want to embark in this coding task, I’d be happy to offer advice).

Thanks for reading, I am curious about any possible opinion/reaction from the ZynthianLabs and the programming Zynthianers.


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I’d like to chime in. Agree with the above, but from what I know, VST integration would require companies like EastWest, Kontakt and other VST developers to compile their code for the Arm. This is not on the Zynthian side.

Now, about the things that I am missing is a simple onboard real time linear midi sequencer, even with minimum features.

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Hi! Thanks for sharing your ideas :slightly_smiling_face:

As a matter of fact, I might be missing the crucial CPU code compatibility part, of any possible VST integration path into Zynthian! Perhaps, if and when the ARM computing platform will be more widely adopted, even for intensive/pro tasks, that will be the right time (I every now and then see emerge attempts at ARM-based laptops).

Did you have a look at the Zynthian sequencing tool (Zynseq)? It is quite deep and already well developed, unless you were mentioning something completely different.


What I meant by real time, linear MIDI sequencer, is something like Logic, cubase/cubasis, Ableton Live, but really cut down version to perhaps 16 tracks, solo mute rec per channel and may be quantize. The sequencer that would allow real time recording from midi keyboard. For people operating with scenes, loops patterns the sequencer you’ve mentioned is enough. If you want real time midi input, in a linear track, well, it is either currently impossible or I simply can’t find a way to do it.

Cubasis runs on Android, so in theory something alike can be created/ported and adopted in Zynthian. I might be wrong.

You can do MIDI recording but this creates a single .mid file with all the MIDI played from external controllers. This can subsequently be replayed as a whole using the MIDI player or imported as patterns into the step sequencer. The latter will lay out the patterns in a linear track in arranger.

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Thank you for the answer. Yes, I am familiar with onboad midi recorder. It works much better now, compared to the version from a year and a half ago. I used to have a big delay after hitting record. Now that delay is gone. So this is great!
But the use case with recording a midi and importing it is a bit of a complicated workflow.
Are there any plans to integrate/implement something like Reaper? It runs on ARM. It is free.

Zynthian has everything. It is stable. Has a good variety of synths and other features.
The only thing in my opinion that is missing, is a full fledged linear real time midi sequencer, to be truly all in one solution.

2nd screen support would be great. For the lv2 plugins and possibly to run Reaper sequencer.
I understand that development is ran/pushed by the demand. And I understand that my personal preferences/needs might not represent the majority of users.
Overall I have to say that I am very grateful to the developers! Zynthian is a great system!


I now understand more precisely what you mean by real-time Midi recording a-la-Cubase, which is and has been for long (actually decades!) my sequencer program of choice.

You may want to have a look at sub-paragraphs 8 and 24.2 of the Pattern editor chapter, in the new Zynseq tutorial of the wiki, but I surmise that you already know this part of the documentation.

As far as my knowledge of the Zynthian sequencer and the current ZynthianOS state of the art goes, you can alternatively fill a pattern with notes in step recording - in the Zynseq PATTERN page and with a very effective use of the keyboard and damper pedal of a Midi controller - or transfer any Midi file of your liking to a pattern via the Webconf repositories (Captures), where you will have previously uploaded the same Midi file from your external computer.

Am I stating this procedures correctly @riban?

I agree that having one day the Pattern editor of the Zynseq expanded into a stripped yet classic 16-track Midi recorder (with click, snap and quantisation) would be great, and would make the Zynthian a true fully stand-alone music creation device. :slightly_smiling_face:

We continue to state that Zynthian is not a DAW. We add features that provide done DAW-like behaviour but resist the temptation to implement a full blown DAW. This has been discuss often.

Reaper is not free! There are free DAWs but again, we are not tempted to add these did to the support overhead and complex integration. Hackers can install a DAW and use it via VCN or by enabling a HDMI output but that is completely up to the hacker to research and implement.

I agree that MIDI recorder is a suboptimal workflow for what you described but it is a way… I am glad to hear the SMF support we added has proven beneficial over the previous methods of MIDI record and playback. I would like to add linear tracks to zynseq so that you don’t have to use pattern based sequencing entirely but that is very close to a DAW (see earlier comment) and will be challenging to implement but it can go on the list of desirable features.

VST is challenging and may be more limited than preferred, i.e. many plugins may not be available. There has been some work on VST integration but it hasn’t proved particularly advantageous.

I would love to enable HDMI output. There are several challenges for this but it can go on the list.

Multitrack MIDI is already implemented in Arranger.

These comments are to inform you of current implementation and design decisions/ plans. Please keep the ideas flowing. This is all good stuff.


Thanks @riban :+1:

All neatly explained :slight_smile:.

Good to know that some speculations on prospective new features weren’t completely far-out. I appreciate why you have to remind users - every now and then - that Zynthian, as a Linux-based music IT project, is not natively a DAW.

Best wishes!

Regarding the use of a second display connected to the HDMI output, i suspect it will consume more CPU than the VNC viewer, specially if it’s a high resolution one. Of course, it must be tested and measured how CPU hungry it is, etc.

Anyway, IMHO zynthian goal is not to replace desktop computers in the studio, nor to replace DAWs in production. Zynthian goal is more to replace laptops in stage/rehearsal and replace DAWs in live performance.

Regarding “external displays”, from my POV, it’s more appealing the possibility of using zynthian hardware for generating real time visuals, synced with sound & MIDI, etc. Having a compact, all-in-one device for visuals could be very interesting in lot of scenarios.

All the best!


I am certainly more backward technologically, but I think the beauty of Zynthian is that it is a box with many beautiful sounds inside that I used a couple of times with a master keyboard with musician friends… it would be nice (but I don’t want to upload work the good @riban) have an OS that eliminates everything that is not pure sound, for those who, like me, prefer a drummer and a bass player rather than a sequencer… less space for so many things = more space for sounds . But this is my opinion.

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"I would like to add linear tracks to zynseq so that you don’t have to use pattern based sequencing entirely but that is very close to a DAW ".

Adding linear tracks to zynseq would make me very happy! This would give an all in one solution for capturing ideas.

To give you some context: I use Zynthian, a powerbank and a small Arturia keyboard, that draws power via usb cable connected to Zynthian, and sends midi over the same usb cable. So there’s just 3 elements in this setup. Very portable, can be taken anywhere. I was also thinking to place some lythium batteries+charge controller inside Zynthian enclosure. That would make it into a 2 element setup. Carrying around a full fledged external hardware sequencer in addition to my setup feels like an overkill just to capture some ideas on the go in a linear midi recording mode.

There’s a workaround for my use case: to add an iPad/iPhone with a Cubasis/Garage Band or similar software onboard to my setup. But that would add 2 extra elements to my setup: iPad and a bluetooth midi dongle. In this case the whole setup becomes less portable. + carrying around chargers for each additional element of the setup.

Hi @jofemodo :slight_smile:

I had sensed indeed that Zynthian, in its defining design philosophy, was aimed at either being:

a live performance device with several synthesisers on board,

a stand-alone groove/pattern sequencer station,

or a multichannel Midi receiver, for data flows sent by lightweight portable computers.

I believe that there could be space, in the future, for implementing some linear Midi recording capability eventually, but clearly the Zynthian is already a more than well equipped system already.

And, speaking of including code for generative real-time visuals, that would be hugely welcome.
I have been working with my own music in this context for some time now, even with recent stuff produced on the Zynthian. Maybe I will show something on this forum.

Take care! :slight_smile:

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I think that underestimates the potential of zynthian in its current state by far! Perhaps you started with this goal 10 years ago but in the meantime there are so many features implemented that zynthians capabilites even surpass very popular devices like the ones build by electron or synthstrom audio (okay maybe the sampler thingie is missing - I remember a thread where better integration of samplv1 was discussed…)

That said what the zynthian lacks imho is user experience and ease of workflow. Some of the new features like e.g. the superlooper (which is an incredible powerful tool btw) feel more like glued on than really integrated and its use is still undocumented - with the effect that nobody uses it. That’s a shame.
I know coming up with a pleasurable user experience and a smooth workflow is incredible hard and a lot of software suffers from neglecting it and replacing it with feature overkill (I quit my Photoshop subscription years ago) but you should not underestimate its value. It doesn’t come by chance that people are raving about the “electron workflow” and are happy to pay the price tag that comes with it.

All in all it is more of a mindset in software development than a feature-set and it includes so much more than only code.


Here Here! or is that supposed to be Hear Hear! And it takes a lot to make @jofemodo underestimate the potential of Zynthian. IMHO that’s even more true if it is running on a RISC-V platform. More details to emerge later - I’m going swimming.


Maybe!!! :face_with_monocle: :face_with_monocle: :face_with_monocle:

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Hi @tunagenes , @Lanfranco, @jofemodo, @Zynthianers,

These are two works, from my slowly populated YouTube channel, that feature a visual screenplay with audio-based procedural visuals.

One of the two, whose music you probably already know (Zynthian mention in the ending titles), also embeds graphics generated with AI support.

Enjoy :slight_smile:


A very nice feature would be adding a midi looper to the audio looper. So that midi track recorded in real time from a midi keyboard can be looped. And edited later in a piano roll. If that is proves to be challenging to implement, than just adding midi looper with real time midi recording from a midi keyboard without an option to edit midi in piano roll, but with option to erase/ re record that midi track.

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