Zynthian v4.1 Kit - First Impressions
I'm fairly new to Zynthian, having played with a custom build (3B+ with a $10 soundcard) before deciding to dive in and buy the official V4.1 kit.
The Zynthian team were amazing, responding to my pesky emails, and going above and beyond to make sure that my kit arrived in one piece. (Where I live, even with couriers, it's a miracle when any parcel arrives when or as expected, if it arrives at all!)
The kit came together easily, with the instructions on the wiki being clear and easy to follow. I tripped myself up by inadvertently using a nightly build on first boot and ran into some issues, but the stable from September 2020 fixed most issues as soon as I'd realised my error.
I've already had a bit of a play, and using the official Zynthian kit is an absolute joy compared to the caseless, hacked together, touch-screen only version I was using previously. The official unit is nice and solid when fully assembled, and the rotary controllers quickly became second nature, with lots of convenient shortcuts to help move around the system.
If I had one niggle, it would just be my preference for hard MPC style clicky buttons for S1-4 over the gel buttons in the kit, but having these buttons at all is a huge improvement over what I've seen of previous generations, and my guess is that hard buttons would either add significantly to the cost, or the delicacy of the LCD screen prevents this style of button. This is a preference anyway, and is at most a minor detail.
While I'm at it, here's a couple of tips for beginners like myself:
- I found it really useful to print the manual. I know I might have saved some trees by using a phone or a tablet, but I found myself referring to it to double check build instructions, and continue to refer to the user manual as I get to know the Zynthian. And anyway, I printed two to a page, and purchased this little box to spend less time on a 'computer' - I don't want to get distracted by messages and notifications.
- It says in the UI Users Guide wiki that a long press on the back button will PANIC! All Notes Off. This is no longer the case, with the recommendation being to map this function to S1-4. If you haven't built your own Zynthian kit, or mapped a controller, the PANIC function is available in the layers page.
There's so much to love about Zynthian! Not only is it an amazing piece of gear, but the Zynthian team are friendly, helpful, and responsive. No regrets on splashing out, even tho it was for me quite a lot a money.
I hope to use this blog to document my journey, as I was surprised by the lack of Zynthian related material whilst I was researching before buying.
This is a ridiculously flexible and capable machine, and it's already making me rethink my workflows. I'm once again enjoying something that had become fairly tedious and unproductive.
The software itself is freely available, and easy to install and use on any recent Raspberry Pi. If you're into music and have one lying around I highly recommend spending an afternoon playing around.
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