Guitar Gear Review: Center Street Electronics Drone Station – We’re About to Get Hairy

If you were to ask any guitar player what their favorite fuzz box is, you’ll be greeted with a chorus of praise for some variant of a vintage pedal. People love these classic fuzz pedals for a good reason: they produce the sounds that shaped the face of rock music.

We all grew up listening to our parents’ records and found ourselves captivated by the grinding sounds of the guitars on our favorite tracks. It’s in our DNA, and as a result, you’ve probably tried just about every variation of fuzz on the market.  I know I have.

But what happens when you’ve tried all the classics and you still want something different, something new? Where can you turn when everybody and their brother is content to release “their take” on a circuit that you’ve bought three times over? I too faced this same dilemma when I stumbled upon something great: the Drone Station from Center Street Electronics.

The Drone Station really fell into my lap (a happy accident of sorts) when the order I had originally placed through CSE was miscommunicated. Upon opening the box, my expectations of a single knob fuzz were met with a sparkling box of destruction sporting a list of features that read like a fuzz lover’s wet dream: voltage starve, a tone control (which actually functions, unlike other fuzz pedals) and two independent and footswitchable gain stages with more fuzz on tap than a ZZ Top groupie. The Gods of fuzz had given me a gift, and I accepted with gratitude.

By now you’re probably thinking, “Gee, Devin… that sounds really great and all, but how does it sound?”

Well, I’m glad you asked. Grab your Flowbee, kids… we’re about to get hairy.

I figured I’d dive right into the heavy so I placed the pedal between my amp and an Ibanez artist with a Custom 8 bridge pickup and a Duncan ‘59 in the neck. I set the first gain stage to about 25% and the second at 50% to judge just how much a variation there was along their path of travel. With the first stage engaged I was greeted by a delightfully full-bodied crunch that gave my amp just the right amount of push. Chords sounded full and punchy while individual notes and licks had plenty of clarity to keep up in a band situation. Switching to the second setting brought on a healthy dose of singing sustain with just a bit of compression. This second setting has about the same level of gain that many of my other fuzz boxes have at maximum settings.

The next logical step was setting the first gain stage at 50% and the second at max to see what this puppy could really do. Again, the 50% mark was just about everything you want from a crunchy, vintage fuzz – but at max settings, something magical happened. The entire character of the pedal shifted into a diabolically modern fuzz of death. The lows were saggy, earthshaking and bold. The mids were thick and grinding with plenty of cut. The highs were crystalline without any harshness. From the minimal tone settings to the highest, every sound was usable and pleasant. Within moments, I was writing new and heavy riffs while losing myself in the groovy essence of the destructive molasses that was being forced through my cab with deafening authority. Riffage was bouncy and rich with harmonic character. Even when switching to the neck pickup, it never sounded flabby. Rather, it was simply rounded-out and sounded a little more smooth.

Being a fuzz pedal, I had no choice but to break out my trusty Telecaster to see how it reacted with a set of single coils. As you’d expect, all the wonderful tones of yesteryear were well within grasp. Not only was the fuzz still capable of total sonic armageddon, but the sounds of classic Rock N’ Roll were easily attainable and all the more satisfying when knowing what the true capabilities of the Drone Station were. Instead of being “crispy” (as I describe some fuzz boxes when the gain is dialed down), this pedal was actually crunchy and still had about 45% of the gain in reserve . It felt like the world was my oyster, and its gift was a fuzzy pearl of damnation.

The Drone station is based around a pair of hand-selected NOS PNP transistors. Unlike most PNP circuits, this pedal can be daisy chained without any adverse effects so it should compliment any board with exceptional cohesion. The Drone station is something different, new, and exciting. It has definitely rekindled my waning love affair with fuzz. If you’re considering making the purchase, do so. I highly recommend it for just about any application.

Center Street Electronics is a relatively new contender in the realm of pedals and they’re hitting well above their weight class. Not only have they just finished a custom StellarVerb for Greg Anderson of Sunn O))) and Goatsnake, but they frequently host giveaways on all of their social media accounts. Check them out today.