Pi4 as a gift, Need suggestions

Hey guys, Im new here and quite intrigued by this project. As I dont own any hardware synthesizer currently, It seems I am having difficulty making a decision. I want to pretty much buy the components I need, minus the Case, and the Pi. also, I ask, looking the the screen in the shop, it says it has a on board controller… does that mean you connect the pots and knobs to that part?

I guess what im asking is, If I want to use my Pi4, and want some additional knobs buttons etc in addition to the 4 that seem standard, where should I go, and what should I do?

I am ok at soldering, I think, since I did 2 playstation mod chips back in 2000, and havnt used a soldering iron since. And though Im not good at electronic engineering, I can follow directions well. I do have basic woodworking skills which i would use to make a case.

From what I read I guess the pi4 isnt really tested and true, but Id like to use it.

also is it easy to implement changes in the gui if Id like to use a larger touch screen? in addition to the knobs

I can’t say exactly what kit you would need, but I am using the Pi4 and it is working well for me. It’s almost good enough to use in a Live gig at this point.

I have the 7" Pi Foundation display with touchscreen working in my DIY setup. The GUI was just a little to odd for me to use it “touch only” and I ended up building my own encoder board. I am very happy with my build, but there are plenty of days I wish I just went in and got an official V3 complete kit.

thanks for the reply! so can you point me towards an encoder board? or walkthru? is that the mcp23017 board?

so what makes you wish you had the official v3 kit? what part of your build is janky?

really love the look! it looks slick. do you have some buttons near the top that arent connected? ever think of putting a few more knobs and pots on there?

It would have been significantly quicker, and cheaper to have bought the kit. If your goal is to use this to play music a kit is the way to go. My method has become an endless project. Granted, I have something super custom and also have some really cool features I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise but it’s been death by a thousand $10 items from Amazon…

The far left button on the top is tied to the “Pi Reset” so that if I power down through software, I can push this button and restart the unit without having to cycle mains power. The LED is mapped to SD activity so I can see when the Zynth is crunching on stuff. The 4 buttons to the right are not currently connected, I was going to use them for “Extras” but now that we have USB Keyboard support I’ll probably get numberpad and use that somewhere near my USB MIDI keys.

My build is a Frankenstein of pin headers and jumper wires soldered all over the place. Long term this won’t hold up. I’m now trying my hand at real PCB design with the goal of having a proto built in China. Another 3 months and I’m sure I’ll be done :wink:

The ui is managable using touch screen only. You can plug a mouse and keyboard in if you don’t have a touchscreen. More important than knobs and even a screen is a DAC. Get a DAC, first, any DAC, the cheapest naffest DAC for a rasp pi on wish.com will be lightyears ahead in performance of the internal DAC.


A decent DAC is certainly a requirement for a production / performance device but the recent changes to RPi firmware and its inclusion in Zynthain mean that you can now use the RPi built-in sound with fairly low latency and sufficient audio quality that may be acceptable for preview / test purposes. It is possible to build a Zynthian with no external components using built-in audio, HDMI and mouse or keyboard. This allows evaluation of the Zynthian software before embarking on the fun journey of building the hardware.

The overwhelmingly frequent issue is with power supply. Ensure you have a good quality PSU that is capable of supplying at least 2A and high quality (thick) USB power cable.

Re-iterate the remarks about the audio device. I’ve not tried the on-board output but USB devices are pretty stable, and seem viable upto a point, but a ‘proper’ audio card is what will allow you to take yourself seriously!!! Of course you can record the zynth using the onboard Audio (& MIDI) recorder. It’s not real time but if you want a best quality rendition of a performance that may have been a bit grubby using onboard sound, then you can do that!

Working without a display, is perfectly possible (altho you have to connect an hdmi monitor to start a Pi3… Iv’e believe this isn’t a problem on Pi4). and realvnc (you need to install it on the Pi) to a tablet makes a surprisingly impressive interface with Read Only VNC and a mouse plugged into the zynth and wifi works very nicely.
I use a mouse a lot with zynth’s and here wireless mouse are the way to go you can actually work them against the outside your leg while standing up . Not very dignified but it might save you from ‘GUI is the only way to fix it’ dilemma. ( I can get to pretty much everything using a mouse but scrolling can be interesting on lists that exceed the window) , but keep the mouse charged!

If you are running without encoders or a mouse then a usb footswitch is a very nice way of providing a MIDI panic, which is just a little more elegant then yanking out the audio cables or worse still the power lead. Remember MIDI panic is the fault of MIDI not the zynth!

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