Options for connecting to a laptop

So, to give a bit of background, I am decently well versed in Linux, but not so much in audio, synths, etc., particularly on the hardware end, so please bear with my clear noobishness.

I have a DIY Zynthian, functionally consisting of a RPi, and a HifiBerry DAC+ ADC Pro, which works flawlessly with my Akai MKII Mini.

With that said, I am looking for what sorts of connections I can make to my laptop, on which I use LMMS, but nothing I try seems to work. In specific, I am wondering if I can run midi over USB, synchronizing the clocks, running the beat and baseline editor from LMMS into the Zynthian, or if need be, the other way around?

I am also wondering if I can at all output the audio from the Zynthian to my laptop.

In either case, I know I will likely need jack, which is preferable for latency. I am ok with this, I just have no clue where to start, or what options are even available.

Thanks in advance for any help, and again, sorry for being so noobish.

It’s easiest to think of Zynthian as a hardware synth device, and you connect to it the same way. I find it’s best used as a sound source for live tweaking and playing, and recording its output as audio for further editing in a DAW.

Send it midi and it will do things. You could stick a class compliant USB midi adaptor into it and send it midi from a midi port on the audio interface on your PC. You don’t really need to synch midi clocks if you are using it as a sound source, just send it midi notes to play synths or drums, then record it on through your audio interface in LMMS.

You can run TouchOSC on Linux, and send it midi over the network using the TouchOSC to midi Bridge installed on the Zynthian image by default. Look at my recent TouchOSC template post for clues. There’s a Linux desktop client, but I’ve never tried using it.

I don’t think the Zynthian internal sequencer can slave to external midi yet, but I think it’s a planned feature.

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The workflow I am envisioning, is to use the beat/baseline editor on LMMS on my laptop(I am still getting used to the sequencer on Zynthian,) possibly sharing the midi clock so they can synchronize and be used interchangeably, while playing my MKII on the Zynthian, which is being recorded(on either device.)
I am more than open to any modifications to this workflow that make sense given for my setup, but roughly speaking, this is what I am looking for.

Hi @Diogenes08

There are a variety of possible methods of integrating Zynthian into a desktop DAW workflow.

By design, Zynthian is a MIDI driven device, responding to MIDI note on/off and continuous controller data sent to its physical MIDI ports and any USB connected MIDI inputs. (It supports class-compliant USB MIDI interfaces as well as the midisport 2x2.) Connecting a MIDI interface to your PC and connecting that to the MIDI input of the Zynthian will allow you to use Zynthian as a MIDI musical instrument. (Actually, it acts like many instruments, depending upon the quantity and type of layers added.) Ensure Zynthain is in multi-timbral mode to access multiple instruments simultaneously. This workflow allows you to drive the Zynthian live from your sequencer but does not utilise the Zynthian’s sequencer or recorder features.

Zynthian does not currently lock to incoming clock signals. (It is on the feature request list.) This means that its sequencer and MIDI player run at Zynthian’s internal clock rate / tempo. So you cannot program a sequence within Zynthian and play it locked to an external clock source like the DAW. Similarly you cannot play or record MIDI files within Zynthian locked to the DAW. You may be able to do the opposite, i.e. use Zynthian as your clock source and lock the DAW to Zynthian’s MIDI clock. Currently this requires adding the MIDI Clock LV2 plugin to Zynthian to derive a MIDI clock from its internal clock. (There is a feature request to remove this requirement and provide MIDI clock output directly.) To do this you need to connect Zynthian MIDI output to the PC MIDI input. There is scope for howl-round (feedback) of MIDI signals so care must be taken to avoid this but without setting up such a rig I can’t advise the exact settings that may be required - try it and see!

Zynthian does have the ability to act as a USB MIDI device recognised by the PC. This is achieved by connecting the Zynthian’s power input (micro USB) to the computer’s USB port but it is unlikely the PC will supply sufficient power over USB for the Zynthian to run reliably. (Symptoms include low power indication, xruns, intermittent rebooting.) You can get USB Y-leads that allow injection of power which may allow such a configuration. This would allow MIDI interconnection between PC and Zynthian without the need for a MIDI interface on the PC. This has been discussed in the forum - have a look around.

Audio connection will have to be via analogue interconnects. The Zynthian has stereo (or dual mono) input and output that may be connected to the audio sources and destinations that are appropriate for your rig. In theory it would be possible to make an audio connection over USB using the same mechanism described above, i.e. connecting Zynthian to the PC USB port but this has not been implemented (yet) due to incompatibilities with Windows PCs (amongst other issues).

Zynthian supports a range of network based interconnects for both audio and MIDI. As @feedbackl00p mentions there is TouchOSC integration but also RTP-MIDI and QmidiNet. If you look around the forum you may find details of configuring jack to pass audio over network which can work quite well between machines on the same physical LAN (not WiFi). I have played with that but not had reason to implement and use it in anger.

So there are options, maybe not perfect for your workflow and some a bit rough around the edges. It would be good if you tried some of these out and reported back so that we can improve DAW integration. I feel we have implemented many integrations but not necessarily concentrated on making any of them first-class-citizens. It would be good to have a robust integration that we use as our default.