Zlob Modular Diode Chaos - DIY Build
Tailgating off the Triple Chaos, we decided to pick up the Zlob Modular Diode Chaos due to the uniqueness of this module. The Diode Chaos is a 3HP analog low frequency voltage generator that is packed full of chaos. The module is based on a circuit from a paper called “A Simple Chaotic Circuit With Light Emitting Diode” written by Volos, Wang, Jafari and Kapitanik.
What makes this module really unique is its “Trig Out”. The trigger is not a standard “trigger out” in that it has an exponential rise and fall to its peak. This means that it cannot trigger every module out there because some modules are looking for a perfectly squared off edge in their rise.
An example of this is if you pair the Diode Chaos with Maths. Maths cannot handle the trigger coming into the Trig In, but it can accept the signal into its Gate In. Unusual? Yeah, we thought so too. It was time to get on with the build!
About the kit ...
Zlob Modular provides some really great documentation via their website which is always a plus when taking on a new build. The components were also individually labeled which shows how much time the company puts into their product. This also made it easy to sort things out when cracking the kit open.
Once the kit was sorted, we fired up the ZLOB website and headed on over to the build guide. Each step is meticulously documented which made for a very quick build. Novice builders might struggle with this module, whereas intermediate or expert builders will have little to no trouble completing the kit.
We mainly used top down soldering for the build thanks to the ample room between the components. We wouldn’t recommend this for novice builders as its much easier to maneuver your iron on the bottom side of the PCB.
Diode Chaos - Time Lapse Build
The Logic Board ...
Diving into the Diode Chaos kit, the first thing one will notice is the multiple boards. There is one logic board, one control board and of course the panel. Aesthetically speaking, Zlob’s modules look great. The PCBs are a mustard yellow and they love solder (which is nice!). The panel is a black with white silk screen that pairs well along side its Triple Chaos kin. The kit is labeled very well and its easy to follow along with the BOM or the visual assembly guide that is provided on their website.
Viva la resistance.. and capacitors!
The resistors are first up and they are quick and easy to populate thanks to the aforementioned labeling. You can always test the resistors if you are unsure, but this wasn’t the case with our build. Place the resistors through the top of the PCB and tack them down with either top down soldering or flip the board to use bottom side soldering.
Capacitors are next and these can be a little trickier. The kit contains 3 non-polar caps (yellow and tall), that will be tacked down at an angle to allow the control board and panel to be placed correctly. These electrolytic caps are different than the ones one usually deals with. Since they are non/bi polar caps, there is not a positive or negative orientation when you install them. The two other 10 uF electrolytic caps are polarized and directional. Make sure you populate them accordingly.
Headers and IC Sockets...
The right angle headers are next up on the list. It is very important that you install these on a flat surface and on the logic board first. The long pins will be facing out and the angled part of the header will mount against the control board. Make sure these are flush against the PCB so that when you mount the control board, it lines up as it should. We suggest placing the headers and then flushing everything up first.
Once the headers are in place on the Diode Chaos, tack down one of the pins on each header to hold things in place. Zlob has some very good photos on how to do this on their build guide linked below.
After you complete the headers, it is time to give your attention to the IC sockets. The direction of the socket is very important. Pay special attention to the notch on the socket and the silkscreen on the PCB. It is imperative that the two match when putting them into place.
Diodes and completing the control board…
The Diode Chaos is build upon what? Diodes of course! In this part of the build you will be mounting the diodes that came with the kit. Make sure these are facing the correct direction or you will have a dead module. The stripe on the diode should match that of the layout on the PCB.
Just remember, “line goes with line and you will be fine”… Lastly, prior to finishing the control board, mount one of the red LEDs and call the board done.
Zlob Modular Diode Chaos - Build Gallery
The Control Board...
Heading over to the control board the first thing you will mount are the resistors, only this time they will be standing resistors due to the layout of the boards when joined. There are a total of around 18 resistors to mount to the control board so take your time when placing these. Using a top down method of soldering gave us an advantage when flipping the board over. Tack down one of the legs on the top (the one going away from the resistor) so that it stays in place and then flip the board over to finish the resistors off.
Transistors and LEDs
The transistors and LEDs are next on the Diode Chaos. This is one step away from completing the board assembly. Take your time with the transistors and know that they are sensitive to electrostatic discharge (also do not overheat them). After the 4 transistors are placed, the LEDs are next. This is what brings the Diode Chaos to life. Reds are placed on the right and blues placed on the left…. but do NOT solder these yet… we will get to that later.
Jacks and the single pot...
Jacks and the one potentiometer are next up, but the same goes with them… place them but do not solder yet. You will want to set the panel on top of the jacks and pot prior to tacking things down to ensure that everything is lined up correctly. Once everything is in place, hand tighten the nuts (use the washer on the pot) on the pot and the jacks. Flip the board over and make sure that the LEDs fall down to touch the panel. Once all the LEDs are the same height on both sides, bend one of the legs to keep them in place. Solder all of the leads and trim them up accordingly.
Next, it is time to mate the logic board with the newly completed panel/control board. Remember those 90 degree angled headers? Both the control board and logic board need to be symmetrical and flush before soldering them together. Note that the header on the bottom of the logic board is where you will be attaching your power cable, so don’t solder anything to it.
Finally, tighten all of the nuts on the jacks, turn the pot full counter clockwise and install the knob with a firm press. Install the ICs (make sure the orientation is correct) and consider your build complete. It’s time to install the module and get to patching.
Our Final Thoughts . . .
The Zlob Modular Diode Chaos is a much welcomed module to our rack. Its small footprint and unique ability to literally cause chaos to a signal is uncanny. Paired with the Triple Cap Chaos, these two are siblings with a purpose.
While we have had the module installed for about a week or week and a half, we are finding all sorts of use for it. What is interesting about the module is to see how other modules “react” to its chaos. Some can utilize the output as triggers and some can utilize the output as gates giving your patch a whole other set up.
For the overall price of either the kit, panel/pcb or even the fully assembled module, there is no reason one shouldn’t have one if not multiple Diode Chaos modules in their rack. In the end, Zlob Modular has done it again with this little 3HP chaotic beast, and we need another ASAP!
Comments or Suggestions?
If you have questions about the build process or suggestions/feedback about this article, feel free to let us know by contacting us We look forward to hearing from you!
Until the next build …