M8 Headless tracker

Hi all,
There is a nice little project based off the Dirtywave M8 tracker which allows you to run the firmware on a Teensy 4.1. This is an official headless version of the M8 provided by Dirtywave. There are various ways to access the UI of this from a host - one is M8C from laamaa’s github. This will run on a raspberry pi, and then the pi displays the tracker screen and the M8 Teensy will act as a usb audio source. I’ve got this running on a Pi 3.
So you can guess my question - any idea if this could be integrated into zynthian? it would (for the price of a teensy board) provide a fully functional tracker. Not sure if the Zynthian’s knobs/buttons could be repurposed to control the M8 or if an external controller would be needed.
I took a half hearted attempt to install the M8C software on my zynthian, and it installed but when i tried to get it to connect to the M8 Teensy it found the M8 device but gave an error ‘Inappropriate ioctrl for device’. At this point i gave up as i guess any messing around with the io libraries on the Zynthian pi would most likely screw everything up.
I’ll go back to running the M8 from another Pi for now.


I had the same idea as you and got stuck at the same place.
The only thing I can add is that on a normal raspberry os, I got the same error (Inappropriate ioctrl for device) on Buster (Debian 10) but not on Bullseye (Debian 11) and zynthian is running buster. So I’m count when zynthian gets bumped to v11 we can move forward with the idea.
I’m also pointing to kernel or base libs for the error.

What audio conf are you running on the normal pi? I have some drop outs and not using the M8c on the raspberry.


Aha, thanks that makes sense.
I have it running ok on a freshly installed raspbian image and following the basic instructions for installing M8C.
Audio wise I am using jack2 to route the M8 audio out of an old USB Behringer UCA202 interface i had lying around and some old usb midi interface (not properly tested external gear with it yet)
Using a generic usb gamepad as controller and an 8inch lcd as screen.
It’s generally ok, only occasionally glitches a bit.
Makes a neat little unit and a lot of fun with the internal synths plus a bunch of drum samples.

just got my teensy 4.1

whole lotta fun out of this tracker, i’d love to have it as a chain in zynthian. Would be quite amazing.

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A tracker sequencer in zynthian would be an absolute dream!!

Any thoughts about having a tracker within Zynthian?

By “Tracker” - do you mean the ability to trigger audio samples? Most features of a tracker are already there: notes, patterns, sequences, time signature and tempo. We have been thinking how best to add audio samples and I am erring towards using samplev1 which provides most of the required features. Better integration is required but I would like to try this.

Or do you mean a vertically laid out time grid with chains in columns?

I’m not sure what the proper definition of “tracker” is, but vertically laid out time grid (so time would go from top to bottom) and tracks as columns are definitely a hallmark of the tracker interface, and arguably the defining feature. Traditionally most trackers are heavily sample-based, but there’s plenty that also integrate their own built-in synth engines (the M8 being one) and/or allow external synths, including VSTs or other plugins.

We’ve already got a sequencer though.

Yeah, a tracker is a kind of sequencer too.

TCB Tracker FTW http://www.atarimania.com/st/screens/tcb_tracker_1_1_mph_2.png

If you really, really wanted to mash a tracker in then run sunvox through the web vnc. WarmPlace.ru. SunVox Modular Music Studio
But if your using a pc to access then why not run it all on the pc?

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I was looking at Sunvox before I found Zynthian. It is pretty cool.

A tracker is (in my view) just a different presentation of the sequencer. I think the Zynthian sequencer does what many trackers do. It may just be a case of learning a different interface. Let me know what you want to do that a tracker does but the Zynthian sequencer does not and I can look at how to resolve that

I would prefer to enhance the zynseq interface rather than have another sequencer or interface. Familiarity can breed complacency.


If I was looking for a tracker I would use this :-

It can output midi, so there is no reason why you can’t run it with zynthian.

Of course it is teensy based like some of the ideas above.


This is on my list of things to build - i’ve just made myself a norns shield (monome) from scratch, my first try at smd soldering.

Interesting to see the discussion - just to reiterate my original post -
I was interested to see if there was a way to host the M8 headless teensy 4.1 board on the zynthian,. Basically the tracker runs on the teensy but needs a host to display and provide controls - I have mine running on a pi4, and have updated it following the instructions on RowdyVoyeur’s github to use a specific pi OS designed for audio work Patchbox OS- from Blokas labs (who make the awesome midiboy - another fun kit project I completed a little while back). Anyway the point was the zynthian has suitable hardware controls and a screen that would make it an interesting standalone host. No intention to replicate or replace the zynthian sequencer. I can of course connnect my M8/Pi to my zynthian using midi.
As for a tracker running inside zynthian - that would also be an interesting project, they can certainly run on similar hardware, the monone norns also has couple of tracker scripts such as yggrdasil).
Yes a tracker is a sequencer, but trackers have a different paradigm to a piano roll or step based sequencer. Typically vertically scrolling but in my view the distinctive feature is each entry on a track has numerical/text values defining: the instrument (sound - this could be a sample, midi data or an internal synth in the case of M8) ), the note (pitch), and often also per step effect values (midi cc, sample playback, audio effects).
The fact that trackers still exist in software form and as hardware (the m8 itself and Polyend’s tracker for example) provides some testament to their continuing utility as a sequencing tool.
I have a Polyend tracker and my homemade M8 and I find their workflows to be really quick and intuitive to lay down tracks and ideas. I also often use the Polyend as the main core of my portable hardware set up.
So if anyone was to develop an interface in zynthian to enable a tracker to run, i’d certainly be happy to have it as a sequencing option

Okay, so a tracker really is just a different presentation of the sequencer. All of those attributes / parameters are controlled in the sequencer and could be presented and edited textually.

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So, you agree that to develop the tracker’s GUI on the Zynthian is not too hard task, right? That really will be awesome! Anybody to do that PLEASE?

An alternative tracker-like view for the Zynthian sequencer would be awesome. At the moment the tracker market seems to be growing. M8, Polyend Tracker and lots of well maintained software trackers like MilkyTracker (Releases · milkytracker/MilkyTracker · GitHub) for all platforms. I am very sure there is an feasible way to implement into Zynthian.

Maybe someone wants to start some brainstorming of ideas and sketch out some possible layouts. I would expect it to be pattern based. It could be a simple list of events in a pattern with the ability to add, remove and modify entries. This could possibly be easier to use in webconf but I imagine you guys want something in the Zynthian UI. Consider how such an interface would be driven from enoders only and touch only.