In this document I will explain the basic operation of the NovaDrone.
This guide is intended to serve as a list of suggestions and inspiration. I encourage users to explore and find new ways to use the NovaDrone. I also encourage those interested in how the NovaDrone works to read through the NovaDrone theory page.
If you want to get right to it you can jump ahead to the illustrated tutorial section.
Table of contents
The NovaDrone requires a power adapter in order to operate.
A suitable power adapter is sold in the Casperelectronics store.
You are welcome to source your own power supply as long as it matches the parameters listed below:
12-24 Volts DC.
300mA (or more).
negative ring, positive tip.
The power input is diode protected so plugging in a supply of the wrong polarity will have no negative effect (it just won’t work). The power input is also regulated which means that any voltage between 10 and 30 volts DC will be regulated down to a smooth 9 volts.
The NovaDrone has two link ports, an input on the right and an output on the left. This allows multiple units to be plugged together. Linked units share power and a common audio bus. This means that all of the units operate on one power supply plugged into the left most power jack and all audio is bussed to the left most audio output jack.
The NovaDrone has three voices labeled RED, GREEN and BLUE. These voices combine to create a single audio output and light display.
Each voice has the following controls:
–LFO mode. Set the range of the LFO from very slow (once per 2-3 minutes) to very fast (30Hz).
–SYNC mode 1 and 2. Create harmonic links between oscillators.
–VOLUME. Control the audio amplitude and LED brightness.
–COARSE PITCH. Control the pitch of the audio oscillator.
–FINE PITCH. Make fine adjustments to the pitch.
–LFO RATE. Control the rate of the LFO which modulates the pulse width of the audio oscillator.
Each channel has two sync switches. These are used to harmonically link two voices together. This can be used to create dense harmonic drones and other strange and noisy effects.
Each switch has three settings. RED sync switch 1 (the left most switch) is labeled PWG/SQG/OFF. This means Pulse Width Green/ SQuare wave Green / off (no syncing).
SQUARE WAVE SYNC
Each voice has a few different outputs. You can read about these below in the inputs and outputs section. The SYNC feature uses two of the waveforms from each voice, the audio oscillator square wave and the PWM wave.
When Red Sync 1 is set to SQG (middle position) that means that the RED voice is synced to the GREEN audio oscillator square wave. Give it a try. Make sure all other SYNC switches are OFF first. Adjusting the pitch of the RED oscillator will result in harmonic jumps relative to the pitch of the GREEN voice.
You can set up interesting relationships between the voices by making SYNC loops. For instance SYNC the RED voice to SQG, the GREEN voice to SQB and the BLUE voice to SQR.
PULSE WIDTH SYNC:
The next setting on RED SYNC 1 is PWG. This setting is similar to the SQG setting but the pitch will modulate across a harmonic scale at a rate determined by the GREEN LFO.
Each voice has two switches. Therefore it is possible to sync to multiple oscillators. The effects of compound syncing is often discordant but interesting effects can be achieved, especially when combined with adventure board hacks and tweaks.
INPUT AND OUTPUTS
Each voice of the NovaDrone is made up of two triangle/square wave oscillators. What you hear when you turn up the volume of one voice is actually a third wave form created by combining the two oscillators. This is a PWM (pulse width modulation) wave form. The pitch of this wave is controlled by the audio oscillator, the pulse width is controlled by the LFO. The effect is an audio wave with a phaser/tremolo effect.
That makes 5 outputs per voice, 15 outputs total.
All of these wave forms are available at the Signal I/O Header at the bottom of the board.
These wave forms can be used as control voltages for other analog gear, can be sent to a mixer as discreet audio signals and can be used with the adventure board to generate strange cross mod effects. I often use them as utility oscillators when I am developing new circuits and need a stock oscillator to play with.
- MOD INPUTS
Each of the six oscillators has a mod input header. This header allows you to control the pitch of the oscillator by varying the resistance between the two points of each header. Light sensitive resistors (LDR) work especially well as a source of changing resistance. Simply plug an LDR into one of the mod headers and change the pitch by waving your hand over the sensor.
It is also possible to control the pitch by applying a voltage to the top point of each header. The modulation curve is non-linear and will give you some strange but effective results as you apply a varying voltage to the modulation point.
Each voice has a sync input jack available on the Signal I/O Header. These work like the sync switch and are especially useful for syncing across multiple NovaDrones. When an external oscillator is plugged into the RED sync input jack, the RED voice will sync to the external oscillator.
The Adventure Board is a bread board which is connected to the Signal I/O header. All of the output wave forms and 3 sync inputs are connected to the adventure board and are available for cross modulation and tweaking.
A bread board is a simple piece of hardware used for rapid circuit prototyping. In the image above you can see several columns of connection points. Each column is surrounded by a grey box. This indicates points which are connected together. Each point in each column is connected by a shared bus. The horizontal space across the middle of the board separates the top bunch of columns from the bottom.
NOW WHAT? The pink section (see the above drawing) is where all the outputs and sync inputs are available for patching. Try connecting electrical components like LEDs and capacitors between these points. We have found especially interesting effects by plugging a large polarized capacitor between the PWM output of one voice and the SQ1 of the same voice.
No harm will come to the NovaDrone by interconnecting points on your adventure board. Connecting external signals from other synths may lead to unexpected behavior and may damage something, but that’s half the fun. AND if something does break it will be one of the OP AMP chips which are cheap and easy to replace. SO rather than making a design which is closed off but likely to never break, I have opted for a design which invites hacking and is exceedingly easy to repair. Simply pop the questionable op amp out of the socket and put in a new one. Be adventurous! Try new stuff, connect other circuits and see what happens.
-Plug LOTS of LEDs between points in the pink zone (see above image) of the adventure board.
-Plug capacitors between points in the pink zone of the adventure board.
-Connect points from the pink zone to the MOD Input headers in the middle of the circuit board.
-Connect points from the pink zone to a potentiometer placed elsewhere on the board. Connect the output of the pot back into another point in the pink zone.
This section is under construction (as of February 24, 2013). I will soon post a series of illustrations which walk you through the process of generating drones and exploring the Adventure Board.