Audio-Controlled Christmas Light Flasher With Individually Controlled Stereo Channels

Picture of Audio-Controlled Christmas Light Flasher With Individually Controlled Stereo Channels
In this Instructable, I will show you how to control things powered by 110V AC with an audio signal. This project was inspired by a similar one done by Alan Parekh on a different site, originally created by rybitski at http://hackedgadgets.com/2006/11/29/audio-controlled-christmas-lights/, but I have made some revisions (not all on purpose) and the instructions here will be much more inclusive.

Please be careful. Unplug first when working on anything electrical. 110V AC can kill you!

Step 1: Acquire parts

Picture of Acquire parts
In my design, I decided to retain stereo capability. In order to do this, I had to double the required parts. Here is a list of parts required:

--Pair of amplified computer speakers. A medium-to-large case would make things easier. Also, a standard, integrated power cord (non-wall-wart transformer) can free up a lot of space inside. I used a used set of Gateway Edison 2.0 speakers I bought from a used computer store for $5.
--An outlet, which I bought at a local hardware store for $0.59. You can decide if a cover is required for your application.
--2 Rectifiers. I bought mine from RadioShack. I decided to buy the 4A, 400V-capable units, to be on the safe side. They cost about $2.50/apiece.
--2 Solid State Relays. I followed Alan Parekh's example and used 2 Crydom D2W203F relays. I bought these from Mouser for $8.80/apiece. These are by no means the only units that can be used, but they work great.
--2 Potentiometers, to match the original that will be replaced. Mine was a 10k. These cost me $3/apiece at RadioShack.
--2 knobs to fit on the potentiometers. These cost me $3/pair at RadioShack.
--If your speakers have a wall-wart transformer, you will need a power cord to get the 110V AC inside the speaker cases. You can buy these from RadioShack, hardware stores, or simply cut one off of an old appliance you are no longer using. Again, please use caution and unplug anything before working on it.

Tools Required:
-Soldering Iron
-Wire Strippers
-Electrical Tape
-Small-gauge wire (I used 22ga stranded)
-AC-rated wire (or just cut a bit off your power cord, like I did)
-Some others may be required. I also used scissors, a cordless drill, side- and end-cutting pliers.
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The Saints5 months ago
Does anyone know where I can find a relay switch that could just be laying around just about any home
The Saints5 months ago
Does anyone know where I can find a relay switch that could be laying around just about any home
I like the design, I'm trying to figure out a way to do the same type of thing but also split frequencies to different bits of light-strings.

Such that the low end and treble send electricity to different channels. But alas, I cannot remember the EE from 20 years ago well enough to recreate the system I had in college.

I was thinking a low pass and a high pass filter added in before the rectifiers. (This would of course mean doubling everything down the line (4 rectifiers, 4 relays, 2 double outlets)

Any ideas on parts (or advice that I'm way off base)? I don't want to burn my house down or electrocute myself.
bocaj8126 years ago
I Dont Know If You Have Seen Ap Digital Lights Instructable For The Laser Light Show, But I Am Making Something Similar But Using An Arduino. I've Been Searchign On THe Web For Wuite Soome Time On A Way To Convert Low Frequency Sounds Into Low Voltage Eletrical Pulses To Feed Into The Arduino. I Saw this Instructable And Wandered If Anyone New If I Could Use This Basic Principle But Feed The Mono Channel Through A Low Pass Filter And Connect It TO The Rectifier Then To The Relay With A 5 Volt Connection Out Of The Relay To The Arduino. And Do I Have To Include The Speaker Amp Or Can I just Feed Audio Directly To The Rectifier?
Boy it is amazing how hard it is to read a sentence where every word begins with a capital letter!
josheee125 years ago
A quick question. I hate soldering. Would it be possible to use a CCFL sound module, and take the output (PWM) and smooth with a cap, and put the relay at that point?
rybitski5 years ago
I enjoy your modifications to my original project I just have one correction. Although my how-to was reposted on Hacked-gadgets.com I am the creator. http://hackedgadgets.com/2006/11/29/audio-controlled-christmas-lights/ I can see where you may have been confused: "Written by: Alan Parekh..." Please double check and you will find that he is linking back to my old site. Thank you.
Ram15004x45 years ago
Great instructable. I just have one question.

Do you know how many watts each outlet can handle?
Can you connect a multiple outlet strip to each channel to connect more lights?
Yes, you could as long as they (the lights) don't use to much power.
What is the Output Amps and Voltage on Each of your Channels? Please check your inbox, ive sent you a PM.
mooch916 years ago
I'm confused what is a relay? I'm making one but I stuck on step one still can you help me please
A relay is basically a switch, it turns either on or off depending if you but electricty in it or not- I simplified it right there and believe me it is really simple, I struggled to understand what it is and now I understand it and love it! heres a link to help you http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/tutorial_info.php?tutorials_id=119
MustangChris429 (author)  mooch916 years ago
A relay uses low-current DC voltage to operate a magnetic coil. That coil opens or closes a switch on a high(er)-current circuit. This is handy for controlling high-output devices with low voltages such as an audio signal or a computer output. Wikipedia explains it pretty well.
Would a SCR actually work better? They are the same thing as a relay just not mechanical. You use a battery for sample to trigger it, and that opens a gate for the source power...I know the switching speed is WAY faster than a relay, but I don't know if thats a concept in this project...
MustangChris429 (author)  Killa-X6 years ago
It may be good, I don't know much about it. I do know that what I used here was a solid-state relay, which does without the physical coil I do believe. I have no idea how they work, but I know they're different.
flash13226 years ago
that room looks exactly as the room on the hallmark commercial
MustangChris429 (author)  flash13226 years ago
Haha, that was my dorm room :)
the one in commercial
MustangChris429 (author)  flash13226 years ago
No, this video. I haven't seen the commercial
puffyfluff6 years ago
This is awesome! I'll make one in the next few days.
firehazrd6 years ago
great idea! I'm always looking for "cool flashy light thingie" ideas! can't wait to build one.
sdallesasse7 years ago
So, if you wanted to control lights using for instance a 5.1 surround receiver, you could set up 3 duplex recepticals (1/2 for each speaker / signal) in a similar maner to the one that you have here.
YES u cut back light your speakers and tv with LEDS! great idea
Coffee bean6 years ago
will adding more of these relays and rectifier allow for more channels
nevermind took a second look at it
icalbert1016 years ago
Ok I'm in the middle of this build and I ran into a problem. I decided to use a 2.1 system mostly because i had an extra one. now the sub will put out enough juice for the relay used in this build BUT the satellites only put out around a volt. and for the life of me i can't find a relay that will work. i ordered two from mouser thinking i had it but didn't read the fine print or something and they are the size of a lady bug( i think they'll fry) any help?
my dad saw Trans Siberian Orchestra on saturday.
qwertyboy7 years ago
hey! i have this song! Trans-Siberian Orchestra rocks!. cool instructable
Jakeg qwertyboy7 years ago
i went to see them live it was so awesomely cool
qwertyboy Jakeg7 years ago
i've seen them live too!
benthekahn7 years ago
I had the exact same Idea but you beat me to it!
muzac7 years ago
I'm still getting the hang of the electronic stuff, but you happened to have some kind of mixer with different equalizer settings set to different output channels, AND you made multiple Light Flashers, I would think you could pretty much direct different sounds (or instruments) in recordings to different light strands. Elaborate, sure, but a thought for a major project to awe the neighbors!
omnibot7 years ago
Very cool and inventive use of a computer-speaker, those things tend to lay around. I'm a bit criticall about the soldering on the transformer, every book I've ever read told me not to solder highvoltage AC, apparantly there's danger if you get a bouble of cleaner (don't know the english word, the brown stuff in solder that cleans the contacts) wich could explode or otherwise cause the soldered connection to fail.
MustangChris429 (author)  omnibot7 years ago
I believe you're referring to rosin, and I've never heard of that, but I'm not an electrician. I'll keep that in mind and let everyone know if I ever experience any trouble.
sandpaper first, if you put on too much rosin u can wipe if off gently with a cloth and it usually leaves enough on there to still work. if you are using a rosincore solder then u might not even need it use a lot of solder and you should be ok -getto style
Megatronic7 years ago
Hi, Frequent reader of Instructables . I have some suggestion that proven work and safe to use instead of bulky transformer and relays that overheat when you are not around and causes fire, use a single triac 110/220 VAC the gate is connected to a resistor for current limit and connect your output device with signal diode IN4148 to gate of your triac .
alleyezonme7 years ago
I actually tried this and it worked!!! The only problem I had was fitting the whole thing together. I made a small modification to this... I made this with outdoor parts and epoxy for the parts that were not outdoor. it looked so cool when you watched it...
MustangChris429 (author)  alleyezonme7 years ago
Awesome! Glad to see I inspired someone else to try it out!
Nirjuana7 years ago
Very nice idea, but I'm not so sure about the relays, they usually have limited switching time and this can burn out them quite fast since they usually have lifespan measured in switch-times, but I'm not sure because I don't know so much about solid-states. Wizards in the winter and Christmas lights :P
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