Zynthian at Maker Faire Berlin: 30.9.-2.10.2016


Here is a video (Jonas created this afternoon) with impressions from Maker Faire. Sorry for noisy sound - it was really loud - and our amp was to weak :frowning:

Regards, Holger


Whoaoooo! It’s a really nice video.
Jonas, you made a very good work!! It looks quite professional! :wink:

Seen the video i have realized what a pitty is not having been there! Next time i will be there for sure!!

Holger, Lars … listening the video sound, it seems that setBfree engine was the favourite of public/musicians. Can you confirm that?

Perhaps you could give some details about what people loved, what didn’t like, what was the more frequent questions, etc…

Thanks a lot for making Zynthian bigger! Really!


We made only some videos and all of them are showing musicians which play setBfree. Indeed - setBfree was the most played engine by musicians. But also ZynAddSubFX and Pianos (samples and MDA EPiano) where used often.

Here is a list of things which where asked very much or suggestions what we can make better:

  • setBfree should have MIDI controlled registers (This is not directly our problem… the LV2 plugin has no direct mechanism for register connectors). I will try to ask the maintainers or take a look at this (but after working on Dexed)
  • We don’t have a drum machine.
  • More and different realtime controllers for ZynAddSubFX.
  • Audio-Inputs (I have talked with Daniel an Anne from Hifiberry: The Zynthian community should say what kind of inputs are interesting (XLR/balanced, Line/unbalanced, integrated MIDI, …). We should make a kind of survey for that. Perhaps they will build a new audio card on users demand.
  • Most of the visitors won’t like to solder PCBs. Connecting things together is not a problem. Perhaps we could extend zyncoder for using MIDI controllers instead of the buildin encoders?
  • We were asked for kits and RTP-units (RTP=ready-to-play :wink:). I told them to look into the forum or asked by email.
  • Some wanted to know how much latency Zynthian has. We calculated the latency from jacks sample buffer of 256 at 44.1 kHz to 5.8ms plus some software overhead. Most of the visitors said that the latency is good - but perhaps I will try to measure it with my BitScope and the help of Lars the next weeks.
  • A professor for embedded systems from HS Deggendorf asked for using Zynthian for teaching (especially with my Disco-LED combination :wink:).
  • There was a web-programmer who asked us for making a web-interface for the engine. This maybe an option if we don’t have a chance to use MOD-UI or if we want to have an own Web-Plugin-stack for making presets.
  • Some asked if it will be possible to create sounds for ZynAddSubFX (or other engines) on the TFT. I think this is not really possible. This would work if the LV2 plugins would have LV2-parameter maps for their internal controllers (same problem as setBfree) and than via Web. I am currently trying to make this for Dexed. Perhaps this can also be done for other LV2-plugins…
  • We had some real good musicians at the booth: One of them (Bernahrd) currently plays setBfree live on his notebook and he will build a Zynthian to get rid of it. Felix from Make Magzin also played setBfree and he will try to build his own - perhaps with a self made audio card (he doesn’t like the sound of the Hifiberry). Another guy played SAGA songs on the MDA-EPiano and he was also very impressed of Zynthian.

Next MF in Berlin will be in June 2017. We currently think about registering. Here is our setup we used:

  • 2 MIDI keybaords (my Roland A-800 Pro is really nice for setBfree plaing :wink:)
  • 2 Zynthians (one small and the Disco-Zynthian)
  • 19" Racks with a 8 channel mixer and a 4 channel headphone amp
  • two old 3-way-boxes
  • a small car-hifi-amp (too small for making real noise :slight_smile:)

We connetced the Zynthians first to the headphone amps and then to the mixer, so every user had the chance to play alone on headphone. On Sunday we also used a cheap china-drum-trigger-pad connected to an Arduino-Uno with Fluxama-Synth-Shield for some drum in the background. This was also an ear-catcher - especially for the kids.

Altogether it was a really nice faire! Yes: three days (4h + 8h + 8h = 20h) we had talked and played nearly all the time! But everyone said that this project is very nice and we had really much fun. On MF Berlin there were 17.500 visitors! We have distributed about 250 notes.

I hope I wrote down everything important.

Regards, Holger


HI Holger!

Did you use setBfree with MOD all the time? MOD is really great, but some features of specific plugins are not supported as LV2. It will take a time and of course, we have to improve a lot the integration in the Zynthian GUI.
In the other side, the standalone setbfree engine has full integration, including drawbars, rotary, vibrato, percussion, overdrive, etc. as MIDI CC. Also support program change, for fast register/preset change.

Do you mean a “step sequencer for percussion sets”? No, we don’t, by now…
But we have a lot of percussions sets with LinuxSampler and some with Fluid too. In ZynAddSubFX there is only one.
Also we have some kind of step sequencer in MOD that can be programmed from the computer. OK. I know you know this :wink:

Yes! Of course! High priority! This is a RED task in my list.

We are working on this, but building and selling RTP units is not a joke. I prefer to proceed step by step …

I think the latency is about 10ms, but it must be measured. Of course, we can measure the electronic latency, from keypress to audio signal in output, but for the musician is very important the distance to the speaker. A distance of 1 meter introduces an extra latency of 3.3 ms.
Anyway, it would be really useful to have some real measurement of latency. If latency is under 10ms, Zynthian will be perceived as “professional-grade” stuff by many musicians :sunglasses:

Great! Good news. I have some proposal for making workshops with students. I would like to incentive this kind of uses. We will task about it :wink:

Nice! All help is welcome!! But i can’t see any reason for not using MOD-UI as it’s GPLed. If we need new features we should improve it better than starting from scratch :wink:

Of course it’s perfectly possible! In fact i did some tests in this area. ALL the paremeters of ZynAddSubFX are accesible using OSC, and the OSC tree is very well documented. The difficulty is creating a good User Experience with the Zynthian UI.

Great!!! It would be good for the project to have some nice videos with HQ audio where good musicians play Zynthian showing the different engines and plugins. I’m working for do it here, in Barcelona (we have some good musicians too ;-)). A kind of “Zynthian Sessions”. If you could get more videos in Germany, woaooo! " Zynthian Sessions Berlin". Perhaps for 2017 we could invite Herbie Hancock :sunglasses:

Woaooooo! Mr Holger, you made a quite good and detailed report. Congratulations by your work and effort :wink:

Best Regards!


Hello there,

this is Bernhard, one of the musicians in the video.

For me setbfree and zynaddsubfx are the most interesting engines - I already used them on stage running standalone on a notebook, but with Zynthian I exspect better usability, less latency and an overall more reliable solution. What I tested at Maker Faire Berlin looked very promising and fun to work with!

As I already told Holger in Berlin: I’d be able to contribute to the project in my way. I’m not a good programmer, but a musician. So for me it would be just great if Zynthian is becoming a stable, reliable, “professional grade” device that I really like to use in a live music environment.
So I will build a Zynthian myself as soon as possible and use it on a lot of jam sessions to get used to the possibilities and maybe limits. If it proves there somehow, the Zynthian will be part of my equipment for live and studio use.
This means, I will be able to provide you experiences how the Zynthian performs in serious stage use, as well as suggest things that you could add or improve from a musician’s view. - If you think that this would help for the project.

Currently I live near Darmstadt, Germany where I study Sound and Music Production. Actually the main reason for me to travel to Berlin Maker Faire was to have a shot at a Zynthian box. So thinking about the video series idea, I normally can’t take part in Berlin sessions in person, but I could contribute to the video series anyway if you like. High quality audio will be no problem for me, video will see. I know some film students, maybe I can get them involved :wink:

So long. I am really looking forward to have my own Zynthian to play with… Great work so far, big thanks!


PS. I wasn’t quite sure if this is better posted here or at the Introduce yourself thread. So mods, feel free to move it :slight_smile:


Hi Bernhard!

Nice to meet you!

I love to read your lines as we really need musicians in the crowd. Of course, ZynAddSubFX is amazing. This project exists because i wanted to see ZynAddSubFX in the stage :wink: And what to say of setBfree, it is sooo playable and funny and it sounds sooo cool :heart_eyes:

  • ZynAddSubFX is fully integrated, but, i know, you want (me too!!) more parameters for playing from the Zynthian UI. It’s difficult to “export to the Zynthian UI” more parameters because each preset is different. ZynAddSubFX has 3 Engines + FX chain inside, a quite complex monster with literally hundreds of parameters and important ones changes from one preset to another. But i have a plan … :wink:

  • setBfree is “more or less” fully integrated into Zynthian. You can adjust almost everything (drawbars, rotary, percussion, overdrive) from the UI, load presets, split keyboard, etc. Of course, there are many usability details to improve… One question: would you find useful an “external” controller for setBfree, with digital drawbars and all the functionality?

Also, i’m sure that you will find a lot of fun playing other engines currently integrated into Zynthian:

  • Dexed is a Yamaha DX7 emulator that really sounds like a DX7, and you can load sysex files from the original DX7. We have some problems with the integration, but i hope to improve the status very soon. Anyway, you can have some fun with it right now …

  • MDA JX10 is a Roland JX10 emulator. It sounds bright!! Sometimes agressive … i really like it! And you can play with all the parameters from the Zynthian UI. It’s “more or less” fully integrated. Funny!

  • MDA ePiano is an electric piano that sounds quite well. Waaarm rhodes sound …

  • etc.

I want to make Zynthian a truly reliable “proffesional grade” device. It’s my goal and the goal of this project. I know we have a long way, but it’s funny to walk, specially with good company, kind partners and cool music :grinning:

So, please, build your zynthian ASAP and give us real feedback of Zynthian on the stage. We need it …
And of course, if you need any help to build your Zynthian, don’t doubt to ask here …



Hi Bernhard,

nice to meet you in the forum! It was really funny at Maker Faire.

If you have problems to get some hardware (perhaps the MCP23008 is not available at Reichelt or Conrad) please let me know! I can buy some in Berlin (Segor Elektronik) and can send them - this is cheaper than direct ordering. Perhaps I have one or two in my lab. If you want to order parts (PCBs) from Fernando, let me know! I also need some material. Perhaps we can make o comined order and dispatch them in smaller parts in Germany :slight_smile:

Regards, Holger



glad that I can help you as a musician!

ZynAddSubFX UI: They are developing an overall new GUI upstream themselves to get all the parameters more clearly arranged and accessible. Of course I don’t know any technical internals, but maybe this somehow helps for a better Zynthian UI integration as well? http://zynaddsubfx.sourceforge.net/roadmap.html

External controller for setBfree: I always find it quite useful to have physical controllers when playing live. Afaik controlling the drawbars etc. with literally any controller is already possible via OSC. But for organ drawbars where presets also exist that overwrite parameters, I think controlling them is only really practical with motor faders. And personally I tend to do all the sound tuning before I play and don’t really change details while playing but use the presets I defined before. So for me it is enough in most cases to have a footswitch for Leslie and some expression pedal for the swell, and something to switch between presets.

I’m curious about the sound of the MDAs…
I also wonder if it would be possible to build something modular using Ingen, import it into MOD-UI as an LV2 and play it on the Zynthian.

And thanks a lot for all the help offers when it comes to building my own Zynthian, I will get back to it.



Hi Bernhard!

Yes. I follow quite closely the ZASFX development and i’m waiting for the new GUI. It will be a big advance for Zynthian too, but we already have all we need to do a better integration, as ZASFX implemented a full OSC tree in the 2.5 series. I’ve to code :wink:

Regarding the setBfree controller, i’m thinking of using rotary encoders + leds for the drawbars to avoid the need for expensive motor-faders. I would like to build a cheap-but-ergonomic controller for the setBfree.
Mainwhile, you can map almost everything to a generic controller, and use program change to load presets.
Anyway, I would like to speak with you about it. Perhaps you could help me to define the “optimal controller” :sunglasses:

There are “infinite” posibilities. Ingen, AMS, Csound, SuperCollider, PureData … i would like to see everything running into Zynthian. Step by step. I hope more people will help to integrate all this engines. I will try to create the a good framework to ease the task.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about it and i will build some “finished units”, specially thinking in musicians and beta testers that want to test Zynthian but don’t know or don’t want (or don’t have time!) to build it by himselfs. I haven’t calculated the final price yet, but it would be around 300€. Tell me if you are interested.



Hi Fernando,

I am excited about further Zynaddsubfx integration. Can’t wait to play around with it :slight_smile:

setBfree hardware controller: Of course using rotary encoders is an idea, but not sure if it is easier and perhaps more intuitive to control the drawbars on the touch screen in a similar way they appear in the LV2 gui. I mean, we have the touchscreen anyway, let’s have a try if this is a practical way to finally make use of it.
Having said that, of course let’s talk about controller designs for different certain use cases!

The modular stuff (Ingen etc) will be a nice playground once it runs on the Zynthian. Kind of dangerous for me because it makes me develop ideas for crazy use cases… :wink:

Thanks for the offered finished unit, but I would like to have the fun (and a bit of learning aspect) of building a unit myself, apart from that perhaps I will build a different case on my own.



Hi @freeKey!

Yes, i’ve thought of using the touchscreen for this, but i’m not very convinced of the ergonomy. Perhaps i should think more on this. In the other hand, i really would like to build a custom controller using arduino, etc. It’s a lot of fun :stuck_out_tongue:

I will study the integration off Ingen. It can be a really funny tool. I would enjoy your crazy ideas … :wink:

Great! I will be waiting to see your case!



Hi @freeKey, @jofemodo

What about using OSC as control protocol… if we have some software on the Zynthian which decodes the OSC and sends the changes of “whatever” external controller towards the app you can add any type of it. For Arduino there is a library which can send OSC via SLIP (https://github.com/sepal/Arduino-Serial-SLIP-OSC) so a communication via USB would be possible.

I don’t really understand why using ingen? MOD-UI seems to be the successor of ingen and MOD-UI is nearly ready for running.

Regards, Holger


Yes, i would like to use OSC for this. I’ve to study how to do it. Also, i think it’s possible to use MIDI as transport layer for OSC. ZASFX has a MIDI input named “OSC”. You can check it with qjackctl :wink:
Indeed, currently Zynthian is using OSC for interfacing some engines (ZASFX and Carla, to be more concrete)

I don’t have experience with Ingen, but yes, MOD-UI seems to be the successor of Ingen. Indeed it uses some parts of its source code. So, no need for integrating Ingen.

@freeKey, have you tried MOD-UI? :wink:



Hi guys,

sorry for being absent that long…

Shortly after writing last time I realised I had misunderstood a bit what exact use case Ingen is made for. So in the meantime I took some time to play around with both Ingen and Mod-UI. Afaiks Ingen offers more detailed parameter control routing options (or maybe I just didn’t find the equivalent features in mod-ui?), whereas Mod-UI is more comfortable overall.
Once my Zynthian is ready, I will use Mod-UI a lot more of course, so will see how long it takes till it exposes its limitations :wink:

Talking about that: Soon I will be able to finally build my own Zynthian. And about my enclosure, I am thinking about something from dark wood…

C0d3man will remember me in Berlin complaining about not having a proper keyboard for playing organ on my own. That has changed as well. Recently I got a cheap Roland D-10 which has a very nice waterfall keyboard - Win-Win!

So long.
Grooving Regards,


Hi Bernhard,

nice to see you back in the forum!

Hope you have some MIDI controllers for the upcoming version with drawbar controlling by MIDI-CC :wink:

What routing options do you mean? Can you tell me more exactly what is missing?

This would be very nice :slight_smile: Perhaps you can show us your Zynthian at next Maker-Faire in Berlin?

Regards, Holger


Hello guys,

after a much too long period of nothing I’m back and hope to be around here more often from now on :slight_smile:
Sorry for that - I had too many projects floating around at the same time in my last semesters and had to put lots on ice (and, well, didn’t say anything). Nevertheless I still have freaking interest in the Zynthian project and can’t wait to play with my own Zynthian box!
For some time I had neither time nor much money left, now I have quite a bit more of both I guess. So I hope I can finally build my own one soon (Yeah, I know I already said that in January…). And I hope for all the nice discussions, ideas and plans to just go on now. Wanna take part again :slight_smile:
My plan is still the same: I would like to build my Zynthian box myself I guess (for the fun and learning aspect) and build my own custom wooden case. And then play it a lot and feedback everything you want from a (quite ambitious, not to say professional) musician’s view.

  • @jofemodo Drawbar Controller Design Discussion: I’m still open for it! Especially because of your controller you built in May…
  • The MOD UI/Ingen Discussion. Guess I was just too fast with bumping into exciting ideas. I think back then I was looking for routing of single control parameter values (“This knob is dependent of this parameter from over there”), but I will retry, test and discuss about stuff like that when my own Zynthian is ready for use.
  • Unfortunately last Maker Faire in Berlin didn’t work for me as well, this took place right in the middle of my semester. Hopefully next time! However of course I would like to meet @jofemodo some day and when it is finished, I will show my wooden case.
  • In principle what I said about my own audio/video contribution seems still possible and a good idea for me, hope I have enough time when my Zynthian Box is ready. Well, it also really doesn’t lack in good musicians round my place that would enjoy doing things like that together.

Things I ask myself before building my Zynthian box:

  • I did a bit of calculating and it seems like the all-but-the-case-kit comes out to be cheaper than if I order a basic kit and then all the additional stuff by myself?
  • Similar thing… @C0d3man: When we met at Maker Faire, you said I should tell you when I start ordering and we might order some parts together. Does it fit for you somehow at the moment? - You probably also have experiences with ordering all those single parts inside/to Germany.
  • State of the Audioinjector. Is it already somehow serious (also considering the latency) or should I still better choose the Hifiberry? Audio input is very interesting for me (in fact I asked about it), but at first it is more important that the device is as stable as possible.
  • Resistive Touchscreen or capacitive? The PiTFT exists in both versions. Any experiences?

So long. Hope you still like to have me round here :wink:

Grooving Regards,

PS: Again, this is quite far away from the original topic. Actually I don’t want to hijack the thread with my personal stuff, so feel free to move it.


Hi Bernhard,

I have bought my last hardware a year ago. Currently I am testing a new approach for using encoders and I know that @jofemodo is working also on a new (and better) hardware revision. Perhaps you should wait a little bit and than build the newer one. If you can’t wait, I think the current hardware revision will be also supported in newer versions. The newer one has the advantage to have more free GPIOs so more kinds of sound cards can be used (e.g. PiSound).

I have forked setBfree (the fork is known as setBfreak) and mapped the drawbars and other stuff to LV2 parameters. In MOD-UI you can now advise MIDI controllers to the drawbars. But currently there is a simple “bug”, so playing and using the slider generates zip-noise. I have to fix this…

I have the resistive ones. But I heard that capacitives are better? Don’t know exactly…

As far as I know the AudioInjector is currently the card to use. Hifiberry may develop a new card, but I don’t know if this really is true or what the state of the development currently is. I think the problem is not only the card, but also the driver…

Another solution is the PiSound. But currently you get GPIO trouble with the current hardware layout.

Regards, Holger



PiSound’s specs indeed sound very promising. So maybe I wait until this is ready and stable (and hopefully playable). What is the state of this hardware revision?
For me really low latency is a must, so what do you think is the best hardware way to go at the moment? Also considering what helps you most for testing then.

I already read about setBfreak, sounds good so far as well!

Lots of Groove,