Building a Zynthian Box

IMPORTANT: The information in this post is outdated. Please, if you want a guide for mounting your Zynthian Box, this wiki tutorial is the best reference AFAIK 😉

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Now that Zynthian Box specification is, more or less, closed, i would like to share with you the Bill of Materials and some advice about bulding your own Zynthian Box. I would like that other people build his own Zynthian Box and help me with software development 😉


The list is composed of generic parts and specifically designed parts. All these specifically designed parts are called Zynthian Parts. You can build  these parts by yourself using the specifications, schemes and PCB designs, or you can contact me. I will try to make these parts available at a reasonable price._1020468_fixed

The Hardware

OK! Here is the Bill of Materials:

  • 1 x Raspberry Pi 2

  • 2 x Zynthian Controller Module
    From October 2016, zynthian kits use a new type of controller module, with a single rotary encoder each. Please, read this and this.

    The Zynthian User Interface is controlled by 2 controller modules. To build one controller module you need:

    • 1 x Zynthian Controller PCB (or prototype board + wire)
    • 2 x rotary encoder+switch (20/24 steps) => i’m using PEC11R-4215K-S0024
    • 2 x ceramic capacitor 100nF (C1, C2)
    • 1 x 6 pin male connector
    • 1 x 2 pin male connector (jumper)



You can download the circuit design, print and build the modules by yourself. The circuit is designed using the Fritzing Software. Also, you can build hand-made modules using prototype circuit board and some wire.

  • 1 x Zynthian 2in1 Module (MIDI-IN + GPIO-expander)
    This circuit is 2 in 1. First, it is a MIDI-IN interface that uses the RBPi UART (only RxD). Second, it expand the Raspberry GPIO, using the MCP23008 expansion chip. This CI is a I2C device that add 8 new GPIOs to RBPi. We need it because the standard RBPi  GPIOs are exhausted with so many devices that we have connected. To build one controller module you need:

    • 1 x Zynthian 2in1 PCB (or prototype board + wire)
    • 1 x opto-coupler 6N138
    • 1 x diodode 1N4148 (D1)
    • 1 x resistor 1K (R1)
    • 1 x resistor 10K (R2)
    • 1 x resistor 220 (R3)
    • 1 x MCP23008
    • 2 x ceramic capacitor 100nF (C1, C2)
    • 1 x 8 pin male connector
    • 1 x 6 pin male connector
    • 1 x 2 pin male connector (jumper)


Note: If you got your 2in1 PCBs before September 2016, you should fixup the PCB like showed in this photo:


You can download the circuit design from here.

  • 1 x Zynthian Main Bus Ribbon Cable
    This cable connects the 3 main parts in Zynthian (Raspberry Pi, HifiBerry Sound Card and PiTFT Screen) and also allows connection of “secundary parts” (controller modules, MIDI-IN, GPIO-expander, etc.).To build one you will need:

    • 40 pins ribbon cable (20 cm)
    • 1 x 40 pins ribbon female connector
    • 1 x 40 pins ribbon male connector
    • 1 x 26 pins female/male connector (*)
    • A vice, to fix the connectors to the ribbon cable (**)

(*) the original Adafruit PiTFT has 2 connectors, female and male, so you can choose. The clonic versions normally have only the female, so you will need a male connector. Any way, you can solder the ‘extra’ male connector on the clonic screens because they usually have the “holes”. Also, these clonic versions usually have the 4 switches soldered on the PCB surface. I’ve tried to request the screens without these switches, but with no luck, so i had to desolder the switches ;-(

(**) having broken a lot of connectors trying to build this cable, the only reliable way of doing it that i’ve found is using a vice/clamp.

  • 3 x mini-ribbon cable (dupont female to 6 female connectors)
    This cables are used to connect the zynthian modules (controllers and 2in1) to the main bus. Currently, i use multi-colored wire-connectors of 10 cm and 20 cm.

    IMPORTANT! The Zynthian in this photo uses a REVERSED wiring scheme. Please, don’t use it as a reference for mounting!
  • 1 x Zynthian Metal Box (Aluminium / Steel)
    The metal case is the “Crown Jewel”. My dear friend and great industrial designer Ramón Besora, from Besmon Designs, has designed and built those nice old-school rock-solid  cases. We have steel and aluminium versions. I really love them, and love Ramón by his designs! 😉
    If you are interested in getting one of this wonderful cases, contact with me.



If the metal cases is too expensive for you or you prefer a pure DIY-way, you can build your own box using wood, foam board, or a generic plastic case.


Also, you will find in the repository some STL files for printing a case with a 3D printer:


There are other less important parts:

  • 2 x Jack Mono Female Connectors (case mounting)
  • 1 x HB audio cable (HifiBerry => Jack connectors)
  • 1 x MIDI female connector (case mounting)
  • Screws & Spacers Set (needed to fix the parts into the box)

Connecting the parts

Here is the connection tables for the different modules. Wire numbers in connectors are assigned from left to right. Controller RBPi connectors are upside.

Controller 1:

RBPi Connector (Head-6):

wire # function GPIO RBPi pin #
1 Enc1-B 25 37
2 Enc1-A 27 36
3 Enc1-SW 23 33
4 Enc2-B 26 32
5 Enc2-A 21 29
6 GND GND 30

Switch2 Connector (Head-2):

wire # function GPIO-exp
2 Enc2-SW X07

Controller 2:

RBPi Connector (Head-6):

wire # function GPIO RBPi pin #
1 Enc1-B 04 16
2 Enc1-A 03 15
3 Enc1-SW 02 13
4 Enc2-B 00 11
5 Enc2-A 07 07
6 GND GND 14

Switch2 Connector (Head-2):

wire # function GPIO-exp
2 Enc2-SW X08

MIDI-IN + GPIO-expander

RBPi Connector (Head-6):

wire # function GPIO RBPi pin #
1 Vdc 3.3V 3.3V 1
2 RxD RxD 10
3 I2C SDA1 08 3
4 I2C SCL1 09 5
5 Vdc 5V 5V 2/4
6 GND GND 6/9

MIDI-IN Connector (Head-2):

wire # function MIDI-IN pin #
1 MIDI-IN-5 5 (MIDI connector: 2nd from left)
2 MIDI-IN-4 4 (MIDI connector: 2nd from right)

GPIO-exp Connector (Head-8):

wire # function MCP23008 pin #
1 GPIO-X01 10 (GP1)
2 GPIO-X02 11 (GP2)
3 GPIO-X03 12 (GP3)
4 GPIO-X04 13 (GP4)
5 GPIO-X05 14 (GP5)
6 GPIO-X06 15 (GP6)
7 GPIO-X07 16 (GP7)
8 GPIO-X08 17 (GP8)

The software

In the Zynthian Software Repository, there is a script to setup from scratch a Zynthian Box, starting from raw Raspbian Jessie. It can take some time because it will download and build a lot of software. If you prefer, you can download a SD card image, or you can ask me for a SD card ready to use.

Getting Zynthian Parts / Kits

Currently, earning money is not the primary goal of Zynthian Project, but i would love that people interested could build his own Zynthian Box. So, i’ve printed some extra PCBs and bought some extra components that i make available at a reasonable price. If you are interested, take a look here:

Zynthian Links

Providers Links

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