Pi Zero for audio projects?
The Pi Zero is not just inexpensive, but also very small. It also consumes less energy than a Pi3 or Pi4. That seems to make it an ideal choice for DIY audio projects.
However, for most projects, we don’t recommend it. The reasons are the following:
While we already don’t like the Micro-HDMI connectors on the Pi 4, the Pi Zero comes with yet another unusual HDMI connector: Mini-HDMI. It is unlikely that you have
a Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable just laying around as there are very few devices that uses this type of connector.
Only one USB port
While there are 2 USB connectors on the board, one is already used to supply power and it can’t be used as a normal USB port. That leaves you with only one USB port. Connect a keyboard and you don’t have any chance to add a mouse or any other device.
No Ethernet connectivity
Many people might not use Ethernet in their setup. However, even if you don’t use it, it helps a lot with debugging. What do you do if the system doesn’t connect to your wireless network and you don’t have access to the console? With Ethernet you could just plug it in – most Ethernet networks provide an IP address via DHCP.
The biggest problem is the SOC. The CPU core is the same as in the original Raspberry Pi from 2013. It’s still a single core ARMv6 CPU. Compared to modern PI’s the performance is just terrible. While you might not need a lot of performance for some projects, even the boot time for a simple player will be longer than you are used with the Pi3 or 4. As all other Pi’s use at least an ARMv7 CPU you will also find software that won’t even run on it.
If you know exactly what you need and the Pi Zero works for your application – go for it. If you just want to have a smaller, cheaper system – think twice before going for the Pi Zero. It’s limitations just don’t make it a good choice for many modern distributions.
January 11, 2021