NLC Bong0 Module - DIY Build

As our summer kicks off,  we take on a new build … the Nonlinear Circuits Bong0 Module.  We decided to take a break from the hole-through components and try out our soldering skills with SMD components. Surface Mount Devices or SMD are different from your basic hole-through builds in that the components are mounted as stated … on the surface of the PCB board.  The actual terminology for this is known as SMT or Surface Mount Technology.  

So what’s the big difference between hole-through vs surface mount components?  Usually the size of the component.  SMD components are small… some of them are VERY small. One’s choices in tool selection is also different as well.  You can use solder paste and hot air guns or you can use small gauge solder and your trusty iron if you choose to.  For the NLC Bong0, we chose small gauge solder and good ol iron sides. 

Ok … enough of the technical jargon, let’s get onto the NLC Bong0 and the build/review itself!

Bongo or Bong0?

The Nonlinear Circuits Bong0 Module is described as a Twin-T drum module with an LED acting as a nonlinear resistor.  This means that the module is able to be used for all sorts of things besides drums.  It can be patched to create complex bass lines, drones or even a crude VCO.  For this build, we highly recommend the use of a magnifying glass due to size of the 0805 SMD resistors/capacitors.  As you can see from our photos, the components are small and the use of some fine pointed tweezers is also a necessity during assembly. 

You will want to make sure to have an open and clean workspace too.  If a component goes flying across your bench because you picked it up the wrong way, your build might be slow going as you try to find something the size of an ant.  We fortunately found the few resistors that decided to fly across our workbench and were able to complete the build as required. (we accidentally grabbed the part with our tweezer by an edge – we got lucky!)

NLC Bong0 - Time Lapse

We started the assembly toying around with some solder paste and our hot air machine, but ultimately ended up soldering with our trusty ol iron.  Take your time with this one, as working with micro sized pieces can be very painstaking. 

NLC Bong0 - Gallery

NLC Bong0 - Build Notes and Patching

In the end, the build itself was pretty straight forward, but there are few resources out there to go by.  The BOM was online and we had to do an online image search to ensure that we mounted the diodes correctly due to the PCB printing of the diode layout not being very clear (the PCB is only 4HP and very tight in some areas). 

Once we completed the module, we populated it into our test case and fired it up, piping a sine wave into the module.  Instantly, we heard that beautiful clean bongo sound.  As with any module, factory sounds don’t cut it at fiN Studios.  We triggered the NLC Bong0 with our 4MS Atoner and patched the audio out of the Atoners oscillators into the Bong0… the thing went wild! Just like the description said, it functioned as a VCO and our droney bass lines were born.  If you want to hear what the Nonlinear Circuits (NLC) Bong0 Module sounds like during our test, check out the audio samples in the video below.

NLC Bong0 - Audio Samples

NLC Bong0 - The final verdict!

After the short time we’ve had the module, we can tell you that we intend to utilize the NLC Bong0 in more way than one in future segments and write-ups.  This little 4HP module from Nonlinear Circuits is a winner and tapping into its circuitry was so intriguing… it might just be time to order another! (dualing Bong0s anyone?…. LOL!)

If you have questions about the build process or suggestions/feedback about this post, feel free to contact us! 

Until the next build … 

~ f i N