Supported plug & play MIDI controllers

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Zynthian can be connected to almost any existing MIDI device and you can use the MIDI learning mechanism, as described in the UI user's guide, to assign parameters to faders and knobs in your MIDI controller, for instance. You could also assign pad trigger to notes, etc. But MIDI learning process takes time, it's limiting and you can't get feedback easily. Sometimes it's a lot better to plug a well-known (supported) MIDI controller and get everything mapped automatically. For having this, zynthian implements a controller driver API that allows developers to create specific drivers for specific devices.

This section contain documentation for some of this controller drivers.


This documentation is valid for the "chain_manager" development branch. It's only partially valid for the current testing branch so you could find some differences.

1 Akai APC Key25 MK2

This device supports two operation modes (and a third is in progress):

  • The "MixPad" mode (default), which controls the Zynthian's Mixer and ZynPad.
  • The "Device" mode, which handles the Zynthian UI.
  • The "Sequencer" mode, which handles the Zynthian Step Sequencer.

1.1 The Mixpad mode

Akai apc key25 mk2.png

This is the default mode, selected automatically on start. You can also change to it pressing SHIFT + VOLUME or SHIFT + PAN. In this mode you can perform the following actions:

  • Change controller's bank. There are two banks (1 and 2), which are used to handle up to 16 chains (with the eight track buttons/knobs). Bank 1 is for chains 1 to 8 and bank 2 manage chains 9 to 16. To show current selected bank, press and hold SHIFT. One of the track buttons LEFT arrow or RIGHT arrow will light up in red, LEFT arrow is bank 1 and RIGHT arrow is bank 2. You can press one of these buttons while holding SHIFT to change the bank.
  • Use track buttons to perform a function on chains. The function is chosen by pressing SHIFT + one of SELECT, MUTE or SOLO soft key buttons. Press and hold SHIFT to see current selected function on soft key buttons (in green). Functions are:
    • SELECT, used to change the selected chain. The key bed (black and white keys) will play on that chain.
    • MUTE, used to mute the corresponding chain.
    • SOLO, used to enable solo in the corresponding chain.
  • Change current scene using the track buttons. You need first to select that function by pressing SHIFT + REC ARM button. This function is affected by bank selection, so you can change up to 16 scenes. When selecting a new scene, the ZynPad will be shown.
  • Start/stop sequences of a row, pressing the corresponding SOFT KEY (without modifiers). If there are any sequence playing, they will stop. If there are no sequences playing, it will start those not empty. The action to be run is shown by the LED status (lit will stop, off will start).
  • Use knobs to modify chains' volume or balance. The value modified is given by current KNOB CTRL selected: VOLUME or PAN (for balance). To change the function, press SHIFT + VOLUME or SHIFT + PAN. The knobs are also affected by current controller's bank.
  • Use SHIFT + KNOB k1 to change volume or balance for main chain (what changes is selected by the current KNOB CTRL function).
  • Press SHIFT + STOP ALL CLIPS to perform the selected track's function (MUTE or SOLO) on main chain.
  • Toggle audio playback with PLAY/PAUSE button. If Zynthian's ALT mode is active, it will toggle MIDI playback.
  • Toggle audio record with SHIFT + RECORD button. If Zynthian's ALT mode is active, it will toggle MIDI recording.
  • Tap a pad to start/stop a sequence. The pad LED will show its status as follows (pad color will always match the sequence color):
    • Dim solid: Stopped sequence without content (no notes in patterns).
    • Bright solid: Stopped sequence with content.
    • Blinking slow: Playing sequence.
    • Blinking fast: Recording sequence.
    • Pulsing: Syncing to play/stop.
  • Stop all sequences of current scene (but not audio/midi playback or recording), doing a short press on STOP ALL CLIPS button; bold press to stop all sequences on all scenes. If you want a 'panic' stop (which stops all sequences and also audio and midi playback), perform a long press.
  • Open the StepSeq mode for a given sequence, pressing SHIFT + a pad button.
  • Clear a sequence, pressing current track button + the sequence pad.
  • Start recording a pattern. For this, press RECORD + a pad button, which will 1) select the chain associated with the group of the sequence, 2) open the pattern editor for that sequence, 3) start playing the sequence and 4) start recording that sequence. If you press the pad again (without holding any other button), the recording will stop. Press again to stop playback too. You can also control the playback/recording with PLAY/PAUSE and SHIFT + RECORD buttons.
  • If the pattern editor is open, press SHIFT + UP arrow to go back to ZynPad. Press it again to go to mixer screen.
  • Open the ZynPad pressing SHIFT + DOWN arrow.
  • Open the pattern manager (also known as the Pattman sub-mode), pressing SHIFT + CLIP STOP. If this mode is active, the LED of the CLIP STOP button will blink in green, and one of VOLUME, PAN or SEND buttons will also be solid in red, each one related to a specific function:
    • VOLUME: this is COPY mode. Press the pad of a non-empty sequence to mark it as source (it will blink fast). Press another pad to copy the selected source to it. Press the selected source pad to clear selection.
    • PAN: this is MOVE mode. It works like COPY mode, but also removes the source sequence.
    • SEND: this is CLEAR mode. It will remove the pattern of sequence when it pad is pressed.
    • Use LEFT and RIGHT arrows to move from one scene to another. You can also copy/move patterns between scenes.

1.2 The Device mode


This mode allows you to control the Zynthian UI. You can enable it by pressing SHIFT + DEVICE. If this mode is active, the button DEVICE will blink in red.

As you can see in the image, this mode mimics the Zynthian V5 hardware interface. The upper four buttons are OPT/ADMIN, MIX/LEVEL, CTRL/PRESET and ZS3/SHOT. Next row is ALT, METRONOME and PAD/STEP. The four buttons at the right side (in white) are F1 to F4. In this mode, transport is handled by PLAY/PAUSE and RECORD buttons, and the transport pads are only to show playback/recording status. Navigation buttons are UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, (in yellow) BACK/NO (in red) and SEL/YES (in green). For the directional keys, you can also use the track keys labelled as such.

The behaviour and status are similar of those in the hardware interface: there is support for short, bold and long press; screen access buttons are blue when no function is selected, green on it's primary and orange on its secondary function; ALT key changes to violet when active (and F1-F4 also change).

The nearest four knobs has the functions of Knob#1 to Knob#4. They can be used to control volume of selected/main chain, move vertically/horizontally in pattern editor or Zynpad, move selected item in menus, etc. Press SHIFT with a knob for a coarse (faster) adjustment. The knob press is activated using the first four soft keys to the left (in green), and also has short/bold press support. The mapping is: Knob#1 = (K1, CLIP STOP); Knob#2 = (K5, SOLO); Knob#3 = (K2, MUTE); Knob#1 = (K6, REC ARM). This scheme is very comfortable in the V4 four-corners layout.

1.3 The Step Sequencer mode

To write ...


2.1 ZynMixer driver


This Akai MIDIMix driver maps the basic mixer's functionality. Chains are numbered from left to right as shown in the zynmixer screen. Note that these numbers are not MIDI channels!

  • Bank Left: Strips assigned to chains 1-8
  • Bank Right: Strips assigned to chains 9-16
  • Master Fader: Main volume
  • Strip 1-8: Chain's mixer control, depending of bank selection
    • Upper Knobs: The 2 upper knobs are available for MIDI learning.
    • Lower Knob: Chain's balance
    • Mute: Chain's solo switch
    • Solo: Push SOLO to see solo status. Push SOLO + MUTE for toggling solo.
    • Rec Arm: Red light indicates active chain. Push to set active chain.
    • Fader: Chain's volume


3.1 ZynPad driver

Novation launchpad mini mk1 zynpad.png


4.1 ZynPad driver

Novation launchpad mini mk3 zynpad.png


5.1 ZynPad driver


6.1 ZynPad driver

7 Novation LAUNCHPAD X

7.1 ZynPad driver


8.1 ZynPad driver

9 Behringer MOTÖR 61 / 49

9.1 ZynPad driver

Behringer motor.jpg

9.2 ZynMixer driver

10 Korg NanoKONTROL

10.1 ZynMixer driver


11 Korg NanoKONTROL 2

11.1 ZynMixer driver


12 Mackie Control

Mackie control.jpg