Picture of Analog VU meter and Clock (Arduino Powered)
This project brings back the old time Analog VU Meter, with the added functionality of a neat looking clock! When you turn off your music the meters automatically swing into to clock mode. Behind it all is the popular and easy to use Arduino.

This is my submission for the Make-to-Learn Youth Contest:

What did you make?
I made an old style analog VU meter and Clock using 2 analog panel meters, an Arduino, a real time clock, and other simple components. How it works: The unit plugs into a standard 3.5mm speaker jack. The Arduino reads the sound levels and converts it into electric pulses (PWM) to control the analog meters. When no sound is detected, the unit automatically changes to Clock mode and displays the time which is read from the real time clock circuit.

How did you make it?
I got the idea to make an analog VU meter from seeing them used in older audio receivers and amplifiers. I was always intrigued by the effect of a needle “dancing” to the beat of music. With my basic knowledge of electronics and the Arduino platform, I decided that I could make one myself. After searching around the internet to see if anyone had done anything similar, I found that many people create Clocks with analog panel meters. Well, why not include both functions?

Where did you make it?
I made this at home by myself. I like to listen to music a lot and I am always tinkering and playing with electronics. I thought that this would be a fun project to compliment my speaker system which I also built myself.

What did you learn?
I learned a lot from this project. The hardest thing to get right was the programming. I have never worked with analog panel meters before, so getting them to display time and sound accurately was challenging. For example: It was hard to get both meters to point exactly straight up at 6:30. I also learned that connecting the Arduino directly to an audio source can distort the audio. To fix this, I added some resistors and the distortion went away.


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Joohansson1 year ago
Awesome project! I wonder about the reason for your strange scale between 7 and 10 hours?

The reason is that, on a scale of 1-12, 6 is not in the middle. The gap between 6 and 7 should be at the centre. If you want to have 6 right at the centre, the scale should start at 0 (e.g. for midnight) and the code would need to be tweaked to handle the difference between midnight and noon. Otherwise, adjust the 'hours values' to get a truly linear scale with the 6-7 gap in the middle.

Nice project!

benellisor1 year ago

having a voltage problem on both the hour and minute meters.

voltage from arduino pro mini will not produce full scale 5vdc.

currently my full range voltage is 0-4vdc. i assume this is a code issue.

if anyone has an idea please let me know.

Zabala1 year ago

Hi, its great!! i have a analog pannels and you give me an idea. Thanks

So... where is the code and the draws for a pannel? do you have it?

Zabala Zabala1 year ago

ok i found it, thanks

sBlended made it!1 year ago

Hello! Great instructable!

One tip for the owners of arduino leonardo: The SDA and SCL ports have to be connected to digital 2 and 3 respectively.

More info here: http://arduino.cc/en/reference/wire

(yap, it took me kinda time to figure it out and I thought I had made a mistake :P)

tech-e (author)  sBlended1 year ago

Awesome job! That enclosure is sweet!

licas1 year ago
Congratulations for your idea.
It´s possible to change the project to make a 5.1 (6) vu meters?

Thanks, Luis
DillyDog2 years ago
Can you modify the code for seconds and am/pm. I've got a great design in my head but it needs 4 meters!
Hey I updated your sketch so the person only needs to enter the voltage of their meter and all the math is done automatically... I can send it to you if you want
jdmartin2 years ago
VERY nice, but does this clock need to be connected via the USB port all of the time, or just during initial setup?
tech-e (author)  jdmartin2 years ago
Thanks! The usb cable is only used for the 5v power. You can also use a 5v wall adapter or plug the usb connector into a usb wall charger.
kimips2 years ago
Can I make it without the rtc module (i don't need the time)?
tech-e (author)  kimips2 years ago
Yes, you can. If you only want the VU (sound meter) function, just delete all of the code below line 204 in the analogVU_Clock code. Just make sure you leave in the last curly bracket at the end or it will not work.
skavoovie2 years ago
Would you mind sharing what font you used for your customized panel meter face plates?
tech-e (author)  skavoovie2 years ago
The font is Commercial Script BT
jdhartman2 years ago
Everything seems to be working for me but the meters are running BACKWARDS! ???
Any thoughts? The serial monitor shows the time is incrementing and decrementing correctly when the appropriate up or down button is pressed. Also the
The meters go high, then low during the startup as they should.
tech-e (author)  jdhartman2 years ago
Check your polarity on the meters. Switch the wires around and give it a try. Also make sure the meters are hooked up to PWM pins on your Arduino. If that is not the problem, open up the Fade example sketch and see what your meters do (remember to change the pin).
Updating here in case someone else runs into this. Thanks for helping me troubleshoot this today. Kudos to the author- A young person that is going to be successful. The Ardunio Uno requires that a (-) negative value be used for the meter values.
analogWrite(leftMeter, -X) Where x is the chosen value for each instance

---also include negative as shown here----
if (minutes * -4.75 < 255){ // increase PWM value by 4.75 each minute
analogWrite(rightMeter, minutes * -4.75)

The value parameter used in analogWrite is an unsigned byte (0..255). I think there is something else going on in either your code or the connections. I've done a similar clock using the Uno with 4 VU meters (Hours, Minutes, Seconds & Moon Phase) using a GPS receiver for time sync. It did not need a negative value.

I want to give thanks to the author as well. He inspired me to do my own version. Thanks.
astroboy9072 years ago
What grade are you in? Im in 10th. Nice to see someone younger who does this kind of stuff. I actually have wanted to build one of these with the meter for a while
fredlb2 years ago
It's great ! I want to make the same !
stumitch2 years ago
Well done! esp that it is an entry in the youth contest. excellent!
kenyer2 years ago
cool that you made this. I have this idea in my idea-book for a long time now, but it is so cool to see that someone else had the same idea and really made it!
godfish2 years ago
This is great.

One thing that would be nice, If an estimate of cost on projects, I've been wanting to make one of these but the cost is what's stopping me.
tech-e (author)  godfish2 years ago
Based on the list the total project cost is around $47 without shipping. If you have some of these parts already it would cost less. You don't need to buy a new usb cable if you have an old one laying around.
That is seriously cool. I keep telling myself to start playing with Arduinos: this might just be the motivation I need.
AJMansfield2 years ago
You should add a third and fourth meter, one to track seconds, and one that ticks with the seconds like an old-fashioned metronome.
danbemp2 years ago
This is awesome!
nsilverman2 years ago
How do you program it? What program or device do you use? I am confused on this step. Please help.
lordzamiel2 years ago
You forgot the last sentence in step 5: "And looks awesome." Great job!
chabias2 years ago
twighahn2 years ago
agis682 years ago
its really nice.
wbrodyjr2 years ago
This is fantastic! Very creative. I'd be happy just to have it as a clock. The VU meter feature is just frosting on the cake.
onemoroni12 years ago
I love this, original thinking outside the box, modern and retro.
royboy2 years ago
I TOTALLY want one for my studio
wilsonpv2 years ago
Muito criativo,parabéns.
vicnur2 years ago
Do the meters adjust independently for LEFT and RIGHT audio? It does not appear as tho they do. That would be a cool addon
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