Finished Pieces

Drone Lab V2

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    Drone Lab builders Forum
    Housing info and artwork
    Board artwork
    Materials list
    Assembly instructions
    How to use your Drone Lab
    Mods and upgrades
    Sound and video samples

    Questions welcome at support[at]ghostwizard[dot]com


    What is the Drone Lab?

    The Drone Lab is a 4 voice analog drone synth, rhythm generator and FX processor. It is capable of generating rich, textured soundscapes, hypnotic drones and complex rhythmic sequences. It features a series of filter and distortions circuits as well as an audio input jack. This allows it to be used as an effects processor for external audio signals.

    Drone Add-Ons

    The Drone Lab was designed to invite modification and expansion. A series of add-on modules are in the works. Ideas and suggestions are welcome!

    Building a Drone Lab

    The Drone Lab is being sold as a kit as well as in finished form.
    Detailed build instructions will be posted here soon.
    You’re welcome to buy the PCB and parts from us or build it all from scratch.
    The Drone Lab plans are completely open source and available below. We encourage others to use and adapt the plans as they like.

    What is a DRONE?

    A drone is created by slightly de-tuning 2 oscillators. This creates a rhythmic phase canceling effect as the output waves line up and diverge. The density of the drone can be increased by adding more oscillators tuned by harmonic steps above or below the other oscillators.
    The Drone Lab is engineered to allow for the creation of dense, pulsing drones. A series of filters and a distortion circuit have been built in to add more depth and variation to the drone.

    TREMOLO (volume modulation):
    In order to create movement in the drone we developed a complex, interlinked tremolo system with independent controls for each of the four oscillators. Each oscillator has a tremolo on/off switch, an inversion switch and a pulse divider adjustment. Each of the four tremolos are controlled by one master clock. The divider adjustment creates sub divisions of that clock. The sub division output is then used as a volume control signal for the oscillator.

    In the drawing below you can see the master clock rate and how that rate has been divided. The length of the division is set using the “division” knob. The illustration also shows how the pulse can be inverted using the “invert” switch.


    TREMOLO CLOCK. The master clock is totally modular, meaning it can control the clocks in other Drone Labs or be controlled BY other Drone Labs. This means any number of Drone Labs can be linked together to make extremely complex rhythmic sequences.
    It can also be synced with other gear like modular synthesizers, drum triggers or old drum machines with a trigger output.

    AUDIO INPUT. Any audio signal can be added to a drone and run through the distortion and filters. The input goes through a preamp, so un-amplified signals like a guitar or microphone can be used.


    The Drone Lab V2 is based on the architecture of the V1 with a number of substantial improvements.

    -Interfacing added. Audio input jack and tremolo clock syncing
    -Fine tune pitch control added for each oscillator
    -Improved fuzz stage
    -Improved and expanded divider/tremolo feature

    Oscillator bank.
    De-tune and fade the volume of four oscillators to create rich drones.
    Audio input
    Add external signals into your drone or use the Lab’s filters and distortion as an FX processor.
    Low pass filter
    Modify the tone of the oscillator bank and input signal before it goes into the distortion.
    Adding distortion brings out the phasing rhythm between two or more tones.
    Band pass filters
    Two slightly resonant band pass filters can be adjusted to drastically alter the tonal character of your sound. Achieve wah-wah and phaser sounds as well as creating classic analog synth filter effects.
    Tremolo bank
    Add movement to drones and create interlinked pulses and complex sequences. Sync the master tremolo clock to a limitless number of other drone labs to create a rhythmically linked drone orchestra. Alternate clock sources may be used such as modular synth clocks, drum machines, piezo triggers and simple DIY clocks such as the 555 timer.
    Battery or wall power
    The Drone Lab draws very little power and will work for days straight on a single battery. In the event the you don’t have a battery it can also be powered using a standard 9 VDC wall wort power supply.
    Add your own circuits!
    It may be small, but a proto area has been added to the board to allow for simple circuit addition. We’ve got oodles of ideas that we’ll post as the project goes on. Hopefully others will contribute their ideas and designs as well.



    Here’s a sample of the Drone Lab doing it’s droney thing.


    0:00 fade in single tone.
    0:05 second tone added.
    0:11 light distortion added.
    0:14 Low pass filter turned up.
    0:19 Band pass filter turned up.
    0:27 Third tone added.
    1:05 Fourth tone added.

    Here’s a sample made using the tremolo feature.
    Tremolo drone

    Distorted drone
    I don’t usually post samples of my gear going through other effects, but I have to show off how great the Drone Lab sounds with distortion. This sample was made by sending the Lab through a distortion/feedback circuit I’m working on specially for future versions of the Drone Lab. It’s a little unruly for a lot of sounds but works wonders on steady drones.

    Here is a video of 3 of the first Drone Lab prototypes going at once. This video really shows how well they work together.



    To test our board design we burned our own two sided board. Totally crazy. Somehow it actually worked!
    It was an absurd amount of work and I hope to never have to do this again!


    87 Responses to “Drone Lab V2”

    • 1

      BANtastic said:
      April 22nd, 2011 at 7:19pm #

      hi caspar! i posted a question in december (no. 46) – it would be very important for me to get an answer before buying the drone-synth
      best regards… BANtastic

    • 2

      casper said:
      April 24th, 2011 at 12:32am #

      Hello. You will be able to sequencethe tremolo effect with any analog sequencer that produces a standard clock out. You will NOT be able to sequence the drone lab with a melody sequencer

    • 3

      glow worm said:
      June 25th, 2011 at 10:04am #

      I came, I saw, I ordered one.

      Cant wait =D

    • 4

      glow worm said:
      August 2nd, 2011 at 3:28am #

      The kit arrived in good time and was huge fun to build, with an excellent quality PCB.

      I made one mistake with the placing of the D8 cathode, which stopped the tremolo from functioning; but everything worked perfectly once I’d spotted the error. All in all, it took about ten hours to build and debug, including a few breaks for tea.

      I’m delighted with my Drone Lab V2 and amazed by the range of textures it can produce. Be warned that playing it can be a hypnotic experience, where hours pass like minutes.

      Buy one. Now.

    • 5

      Ben said:
      August 21st, 2011 at 11:46pm #

      I’ve really been enjoying my Drone Lab. I put a little review up if anyone is interested in checking it out.

    • 6

      casper said:
      September 2nd, 2011 at 5:21pm #

      great review. Thanks!

    • 7

      casper said:
      September 2nd, 2011 at 5:34pm #

      @glow worm.
      I’m glad you got it working! I got very little work done in my studio once I finished the prototype. Especially after I hooked it up to the oscilloscope. I could stare at that for hours! (and have)

    • 8

      steambc said:
      October 1st, 2011 at 12:13pm #

      Just ordered the circuit board and housing, and ordered the parts from Mouser and Digikey. Can’t wait to get going on the build!

      This is quite an impressive unit in terms of the shear richness of the sound. I’ll be incorporating it into my live shows.

    • 9

      Justin said:
      November 11th, 2011 at 10:45pm #

      Hi….just bought an assembled drone lab off ebay BUT i dont think the guy has put it together properly! volume is super low unless I use distortion and the BPF freq 1 & 2 dont work at all! I have zero soldering or electrical skills. Any ideas? Help!

    • 10

      Dave said:
      December 27th, 2011 at 6:25am #

      Have been pondering over buying a drone lab kit ever since the first prototype and have just got round to purchasing. Cannot wait to get this thing built.
      Keep up the good work casper

    • 11

      casper said:
      February 16th, 2012 at 9:02pm #

      contact me off list to discuss repair options if you havent gotten it working yet.

    • 12

      casper said:
      February 16th, 2012 at 9:04pm #

      @steambc & dave:
      good luck with your builds. Dont hesitate to contact me if you run into any problems! Better yet, post to the forum.

    • 13

      Daniel said:
      April 26th, 2012 at 10:53am #

      Hey how much longer will you guys be selling drone lab pcbs??

    • 14

      casper said:
      April 29th, 2012 at 12:06pm #

      We haven’t publicly announced this yet, but we are planning to discontinue the DroneLab in order to fully support several new kits. We currently have 50 PCBs remaining and do not plan to restock once they are sold out. We sell about 1 or 2 a week so there should be PCBs and parts kits available for several months.

    • 15

      Sean said:
      May 11th, 2012 at 6:55am #

      Hoping to order an assembled unit sometime this month 🙂

    • 16

      FS said:
      July 13th, 2012 at 2:19am #

      Hi, sorry if this is kind of off-topic -I was wondering what CAD you usually use for schematics and pcb design..

    • 17

      casper said:
      July 13th, 2012 at 7:39am #

      Hi frank. We used ExpressPCB for the drone lab schematic and PCB. This is a nice enough program for beginners but you can only get the boards you design fabricated through the (expensive) ExpressPCB service. I now use (and highly recommend) Eagle.

    • 18

      Frank said:
      September 10th, 2012 at 3:35am #

      Out of curiosity, when the last 50 are sold how many Drone Labs will there loose on planet earth? Haven’t built mine up yet but hoping to have it finished this week.
      Really excited to see what these new projects will be! How long will we have to wait for them?
      Thank you so much for this site and all the resources you’ve made available, you’re a great builder!

    • 19

      casper said:
      October 5th, 2012 at 7:31am #

      Hey frank. There are 500 drone labs out there…..lurking about.
      The novaDrone is my new project and it is on sale now!

    • 20

      sonar said:
      November 13th, 2012 at 1:32am #

      I’m trying to build a drone lab based on a earlier version, the drone lab single schematics 2. There are diodes on the schematic that don’t have vales marked on them like the ones used in the fuzz filter.Then the two going to center frequency 2. If you could let me know what kind they are that would be great! I’m trying to learn how to do this and this is an amazing instrument!Thank you for your time!

    • 21

      Ian Michael Ferguson said:
      December 25th, 2012 at 11:28pm #

      I’d suspect they are 1N914 diodes…as a best guess.
      That, or he didn’t specify on purpose.
      Generally for diodes on a distortion circuit they can be almost any small signal diodes. Germanium, Silicon, or even LEDs.

    • 22

      hipopla said:
      January 12th, 2013 at 1:43am #

      i finnish try building the drone lab ver.s but i found a few things that made me confused.
      1.for the distortion i dont get the fx… very low effect, than i check again the PCB no wrong … and i tried again but i stiil get the low distorstion..

      2. the 40106 overheat… it`s true..? i found many article, if we used 3- 4 gate osc the IC`s will overheat….

      thx.. for may bad bad english…

    • 23

      Arne Hauer said:
      January 13th, 2013 at 8:29am #

      Hi Casper,

      I was lucky enough to get a used drone lab V2 Ver 2.1.
      Unfortunately it does not have the housing. Do you by chance happen to have any 2.1 housings somewhere still in stock? If not, can you supply a file with all dimensions for the faceplate as I will try to manufacture a faceplate myself Thank you and keep up the good work.

    • 24

      casper said:
      January 13th, 2013 at 5:53pm #

      email and we’ll get you one.

    • 25

      casper said:
      January 13th, 2013 at 5:57pm #

      The 40106 should not be getting warm… and of course the distortion should be loud 🙂
      The distortion is on the top left corner of the board above the tremolo rate knob. First look closely for short circuits, then cold solder joints (this is where the solder is sitting on the component but hasn’t bonded). Check all the polarized components to make sure they’re in the right way (capacitors, transistors, diodes).

    • 26

      jono said:
      February 4th, 2013 at 5:28am #


      i have question about the tremolo (volume modulation).
      Is that error or no..? when i swith the invert switch on the position modulation input to 2n3906, the the volume output so weak, but when the inversion mod goes to 2n3904 the volume normally…. thank`s for the answer.. 🙂

    • 27

      casper said:
      February 23rd, 2013 at 3:48pm #

      @Jono. I’ve never heard of this problem. Meaning that its something on your end. Perhaps there’s a short in your wiring that only becomes active when you close the switch.

    • 28

      casiotone1331 said:
      July 5th, 2013 at 9:57pm #

      Hi Casper, I had originally decided to burn my own board, but after a few botched attempts (Ive never made a board this size before, let alone double sided…) I am left with a faceplate kit and no PCB. Are there any more kicking around these days? If not, is it possible you could send me a brd or pcb file so I can hit up a fab house for one? Thanks in advance, still loving my Nova Drone!

    • 29

      bart said:
      July 22nd, 2013 at 9:38am #

      Hello, any chance to get pcb layout in ExpressPCB format?

    • 30

      casper said:
      August 1st, 2013 at 1:48pm #

      @bart. I havent seen the ExpressPCB file for this for about 5 years. sorry 🙁

    • 31

      casper said:
      August 1st, 2013 at 1:55pm #

      @ casiotone1331. I will look for the gerber file…but Im not sure where it is 🙁

    • 32

      acidblue said:
      March 27th, 2014 at 12:24pm #

      Seems the DL forums are kinda down or something.
      Im getting weird character displays at the gostwizard site where the forums are hosted.

      Has the forums moved??

    • 33

      puzo said:
      June 30th, 2014 at 10:33am #

      i find EXACTLY what i need (eer well really really want) it creates the sound scapes i love and i’m too late. lets hope there is enough push back and it can be raised from the dead, the zombie drone. Cracking work, a credit to the community.

    • 34

      Thomas said:
      August 8th, 2014 at 12:53pm #

      I have a built Drone Lab v2 for sale or trade if anyone needs it! Email:

    • 35

      Thomas said:
      January 30th, 2015 at 12:07am #

      The Drone Lab v2 I mentioned in the previous comment last year has been sold. 🙂

    • 36

      Niall said:
      March 17th, 2015 at 8:00am #

      I’m looking for a fully assembled Drone Lab v2 (with plexiglass cover). Anywhere I can still find one? Or if anyone has one to sell get in touch with me:

      UK/EU preferred but elsewhere will be considered.

    • 37

      Paul said:
      October 18th, 2015 at 2:26am #

      hey casper did you ever find the gerber? i need a drone lab in my life

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