No Hardware Build

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1 Building A Zynthian With Just A Raspberry Pi

This guide describes how to build a Zynthian with just a Raspberry Pi and no other hardware. This allows you to test Zynthian before purchasing a kit. It may also serve as a launchpad for your own custom build.

1.1 Requirements

  • Raspberry Pi 3 or 4 (4 recommended)
  • Good quality power supply for the Raspberry Pi (the official recommended Raspberry Pi PSU is recommended)
  • 8GB (or larger) MicroSD card
  • MicroSD card adapter, e.g. USB
  • Personal computer
  • HDMI monitor
  • Micro HDMI to standard HDMI cable
  • USB computer keyboard
  • USB computer mouse
  • Headphones or audio cable to connect to sound system with stereo 3.5mm plug

1.2 Get the firmware

Zynthian is based on a standard Debian OS with modifications to provide the rich set of functionality.

  • Download the latest stable Zynthian firmware image from to the personal computer
  • Install an image writing software, e.g. Raspberry Pi Imager
  • Insert the microSD card into the adaptor and plug the adaptor into the personal computer
  • Use the image writing software to write the image to the microSD card - note that Raspberry Pi Imager (and some other software) will use the downloaded zip so don't unzip it manually
  • Eject the microSD card

1.3 First Boot

The first boot of ZynthianOS takes some time. Consequent boots are faster.

  • Insert the microSD card into the Raspberry Pi
  • Connect the Raspberry Pi to the computer keyboard, mouse and HDMI monitor
  • Connnect the headphones or sound system to the Raspberry Pi 3.5mm audio output
  • Connect power to the Raspberry Pi
  • ZynthianOS starts and should display a message that it is performing some initialisation which will take many minutes - be patient and wait for this to complete
  • Zynthian reboots and displays the user interface on the HDMI monitor

1.4 Testing

You should now have a functional Zynthian. Zynthian is designed to be controlled with rotary encoders and switches. It also has a touchscreen interface from which all functionality is accessible. A pointer device such as a mouse may be used to drive the interface. A cursor should show on the screen indicating the pointer position.

Look at the Zynthian UI Users Guide on the wiki to learn how to use Zynthian. Join the community in the Discourse forum.

Welcome and happy Zynthing...