Picture of Color Organ Triple Deluxe II
Making Refinements to the Old Project

I put together the Color Organ Triple Deluxe over a year ago. It was a bare minimum version of color organ circuit using LEDs instead of incandescent lamps that traditional color organs use.

The circuit worked pretty well, considering the simplicity of the circuit. However I just kept feeling like this project deserves further refinements. So I went back to the drawing board (or breadboard) and took a hard look at the circuit...

The result? Please take a look at the video.

Step 1: The Problems & The Solutions

Picture of The Problems & The Solutions
The Problems

There were a few problems. The transistors in the circuit was biased in the way that it was supply voltage dependent, as well as device dependent - in other words, if the voltage was too high or too low, or the transistors had a bit of different characteristics, the circuit did not perform well.
The filter performance was also a bit poor - the separation between the frequency bands were not so great.

The Solutions

First, I changed the initial gain stage from single transistor design to two transistor design. It's a basic class-A common emitter amplifier followed by an emitter follower. They are direct coupled for optimum performance, as well as reduced part count (always important for me to design circuits with the least number of parts). Adding the emitter follower stage allowed the low output impedance needed for the filters to perform well. The biasing circuit was also revised to be less device and voltage dependent.

Second, the filters were refined to have better separations. Input and output impedance to the filters are better matched to achieve better efficiency as well.

Third, the LED driver circuits were given another transistor. Actually, in the original design, the output buffer and the LED driver was done by the same transistors. Now the filter outputs are buffered by emitter followers, then the filtered audio waves are rectified before going into the LED drivers.

Those changes made a huge difference. And I tweaked the component values obsessively to get the best performance. Sensitivity adjustment control is also added.

There are many additional parts compared to the earlier version, but the result is totally worth it. The LEDs now respond to music very, very nicely.

RajatH26 days ago

hi ,i am trying to construct the same but with 6 band system can u please explain me that calculation of resistor and capacitor value ..

dtengineering2 months ago

I've used both this and the original Color Organ Triple Deluxe with students. They work great... especially combined with the MonoBox amplifier on MAKE magazine's website. Thanks!

幻想自2 months ago

thanks, get it . I change a little places . lm386+ your ciruit. 9V. Very nice!

snoodenboggin2 months ago

I'm in the process of making this as a stereo set, but I want it to use the same power source. What rating would you recommend?

ebotardo3 months ago

hi, im currently doing your project. i changed the transistor to 4401 and a mono jack instead of stereo. my problem is most of the leds is turned on (reds and blues but dim) with no audio input and it does not respond to the audio

hbrook3 made it!4 months ago

I bought a board and made a few myself but I have been having the same issue with all of them. R20 (47ohm) always blows up! Any hints? I've been using 3904 NPN transistors instead of the 2222

color organ.jpg
vgregorio4 months ago
what is the effect on the LEDs if I turn the variable resistor?

Also, where would the "power" tab be soldered in the stereo jack? thanks :)

Fozzibehr5 months ago

Hi, this looks absolutley fantastic, but I was wondering if there was a way to increase the number of leds? I want to build different panels that would house each color. Thank You!

Nice! I've been looking for a project like this.

A few questions:

Does this have to run off of 12 volts? I was thinking of mounting one of these in a guitar. (like the old Rickenbacker lightshow guitars did)

Is the current draw too much for batteries? (I was thinking two 9-volts in series or a 15-volt laptop battery)

Would I be better off using Version 1 of the Color Organ Triple Deluxe for this purpose?

Can this circuit use super-bright LEDs?

Cheers, and thanks for sharing this!

ledartist (author)  patrick.taylor.3515 months ago

Yes the circuit is designed to use 12V DC, but does work (kind of) ok with 9V. However the 9V battery typically used for guitar box doesn't provide enough juice to run it for practical length of time. 15V laptop battery might be a good option though. Make sure that the actual voltage won't exceed around 16V.

And yes I used super bright LEDs.

nckeyman made it!5 months ago

This is what I ended up doing with 2 of these kits. I dedicated each on to one channel (left & Right), Then I used a single input jack and ran wired to each board from it.

I couldn't get my youtube link to load right and run the video so I hade to do it this way

nckeyman nckeyman5 months ago

Maybe this

mediasteve1 year ago

hello everyone, i could use a little advice. I would like to modify this design to be a single channel version. The obvious part i get by simply removing the sections for the mid and highs but in my limited beginner electronics knowledge I'm not sure what needs to be left in between R6 and Q3. It appears to me that R7, C3 and C4 are making up the crossover portion and by removing the will give me the full range audio. Is that correct? Thanks in advance if anyone who wants to put their two cents in.

if you want full range audio, your better off just using a transitor and led and a battery and just having and audio cable go to the transitor and ground. example http://www.instructables.com/id/Blinking-LEDs-to-Music/

cool austin made it!7 months ago

I used your color organ deluxe kit II from your website (p.s. that was quick shipping). added my own custom circuit and ended up with water speakers that go to the frequency of the music, the LED's still work too. VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8dNpjotlJk


i need help with the circuit schematic i don't understand the part about 12 v power to

nckeyman1 year ago

I wish you had a stereo kit. :/ So I just ordered two kits. To make each Kit a single channel (Left or Right) should I use (let's say) Audio 1 on one kit for left and not bother putting in R2 or should I instead hook up left output from my device to both Audio 1 and Audio 2? I am also intending on have the LEDs off the PCB and mounted differently. If I used a small gauge solid copper wire for a few inches, do you think the resistors (i.e. R11 & R11b etc.) will need to be reduced?

ledartist (author)  nckeyman1 year ago

I know stereo version would be cool, but I thought you can always use two. I use a splitter cable (found at Radioshack) to divide L/R channels. This cable has stereo jack on one end, and two mono plus on the other end. Mono plugs are connected L and R each. I can't find the model # though...

As for resistors for the LED, I don't think you need to change the value because even thin wires would only have an ohm or less of resistance at most (unless you run a very long distance, which I won't recommend because of inductance effect).


diabloboy1 year ago

is it possible to add more LED's rather than having just 18?

acep61 year ago

I tried this project on a breadboard and it works perfectly. Thanks for sharing this idea sir. :)

But I would like to change the output into a single color LED Strip (12V – 3A). What would I change or add into the circuit? Thanks.

baileygrib1 year ago
Hey there I just put this together and I cant manage to get a splitter AUX cable to work with anything to play the music while using the lights... I even tried to connect to a bluetooth speaker and use AUX at the same time and that didn't work... HELP!
Aremon1 year ago
Hello :)

May I have a question? What kind of transistors should I use to work it with, for example lamps/bigger leds (more powerfull)?
ledartist (author)  Aremon1 year ago
You can try experimenting with larger transistors such as TIP31, but you might have to modify the circuit somewhat. So it might not be that simple.

ezramadden1 year ago
Hi Ledartist
Thanks for posting your circuit. I have built this circuit, but the leds stay on with no audio input.
I have checked and rechecked my layout and all is as it should be. I have also cleaned the veroboard of flux.
I used KSP2222A transistors and added in a 4th channel, an additional midrange channel.
I used 4 Red leds on the low channel, 4 Green leds on the midrange 1 channel, 6 Blue leds on the midrange 2 channel, and 8 White leds on the high channel.
Also, I had no line level input, so I inserted a line level attenuator (a 10K and 1K voltage divider).
What can be the problem?
ledartist (author)  ezramadden1 year ago
Sorry, but it's impossible to tell what's wrong with your circuit.
I can be the circuit itself, error in assembly (most likely), or bad parts (like dead transistor).
I'd triple check the polarity of transistors, component values, and solder joints.
Providing schematics and photos of your board always helps.
Hi. I placed this kit on top of a MonoBox powered speaker as described in Make:Projects and am very pleased with the results. Please take a look at my short video.
Great Kit.
ledartist (author)  country_too1 year ago
Wow that looks nice!
Thanks for sharing!
ezramadden1 year ago
Hi Ledartist
This seems like brilliant design and it works well on the video.
I would like to have 2 midrange sections by having a "lower" midrange and an "upper" midrange.
Could you please tell me the values of R and C for these 2 sections?
Thank you
Well, through trial and error I figured it out. The 12v connections are labeled on the PCB, no problem. To connect the source, The signal is connected to both holes on the side of the jack drawing on the PCB, while the gnd is connected to the hole in the center of the drawing. This seems to be working fine.
ledartist (author)  country_too1 year ago
I think you got it right. Sorry I could not answer earlier.

Hello. I just finished this kit and it works perfectly. Great separation and brilliance. If I wanted to hard-wire the DC power and the signal source, which holes on the PCB would I use? I'm a good kit builder but I lack in electronic experience. I want to hard-wire this color organ to a mono powered speaker box I'm building for my grandson. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks again for this wonderful kit.
really nice
camyoyo1 year ago
Hi I've been wanting to buy this kit for a long time now and finally did and it got here yesterday so i soldered it all up making sure to test each led and check the resistors twice and finally after a hour it was done but when i plugged the 12v wall wart[after i made sure it was 12 volts] just the green leds were on and the blue were on but extremely dim. any help would be greatly appreciated and i hope we can get this thing working p.s. i love all of your work
ledartist (author)  camyoyo1 year ago
What happens when you connect audio source - Does it react to audio in any way?

If LEDs are not reacting, the problem could be so many things... I'd check soldering for bridges/shorts, and polarity of all transistors. 


it only changes the green leds very little not a extremely noticeable amount though and the transistors are facing the right way according to the board and there are no solder joints connected thank you though
chuco612 years ago
Im working on an art project to create a wearable visor with an LED array lighting to the sound of music.

I have purchased this kit to control the LED's
http://www.makershed.com/Color_Organ_Tr ... /mkla3.htm

What i want to do is ad more LED's to each channel. At least 15 per column. Im new to resistors and LED wiring and need help figuring out if i need a resistor for each LED (im thinking no) or one large resistor to support the 15 LED's.

Will I need to change anything else in this kit to support what i want to do?

Thanks! :D
nicknawa2 years ago
Hey so im building this circuit and i have the first part working well i believe, but i seem to be unable to get the audio signals through the first resistors of any of the actual filters. also the blue LEDs light up as soon as i hook it up to the 12V power supply and dont seem to be dependent on the circuit at all. ive tripple checked all the connections and positions of the actual parts, it just seems like the first resistors (R7,R12,R17) are just keeping anything from passing through them. i did substitute the transistors for 2N3904's. Any ideas on why this would be happening? or how i could possibly amplify the signal before this point?
blite2 years ago
I want to add some more super bright leds like (led strips), what is the right way to do so ?
IgnoreZ2 years ago
Almost done) What voltage LEDs are?
Ploopy IgnoreZ2 years ago
3 volts
The kit on your website comes with the PCB correct? I dont know how to read schematics and if it comes with it, building this would be a lot easier.
ledartist (author)  youtheotube22 years ago
Yes it does. The kit contains all parts in the picture below.
imeegan2 years ago
Hi, I built this project and it works great with a line-level input, super simple and easy, well designed. I added this microphone breakout board
and it works, but the sensitivity isn't great - high channel only works when the mic is very close to a speaker, or the volume very loud.

Is there a modification I can make to this circuit that will increase the signal gain to the filters, such that all three channels might respond at practical sound intensities? Thanks for any suggestions
hey man! sup!? i want to do the same thing that you are on, but i have a question, from scratch, did you have to make a preamp circuit for the electret mic or what? I'm doing this for my final project, but i'm more familiarized with mics than with the jack audio connector. any help? thanks anyway
The electret mic in the link I posted has a preamp circuit on the board, so I didn't need to make one myself. All i did was build the circuit from this instructable, added a voltage regulator to get the right voltage for the mic board, and substituted the audio aux input for the electret mic input.

I think R1 and R2 are then unnecessary because I only have the one channel of audio. Hope it works out, but like I said, you need quite a strong source for the mic using the setup I've used, which can be impractical, but does work nicely.
sr. darcia2 years ago
hey man! sup!? i want to do the same thing that you are on, but i have a question, from scratch, did you have to make a preamp circuit for the electret mic or what? I'm doing this for my final project, but i'm more familiarized with mics than with the jack audio connector. any help? thanks anyway
Ploopy2 years ago
Cool project
siddhanth2 years ago
Hi Mate,

I plan to use this circuit for driving 1w Leds. what is the best approach? swap the output transistors to a higher current ones? or take the outputs and make them switch a transistor which has this as base reference, +LED voltage @ collector and led connected @ emitter?

I have one more doubt.. can i connect a microphone @ the place of input 1 and 2? is the gain enough to make the circuit work( filter the frequency and switch the transistors?)

Sorry for my bad english i'm not a native english speaker!
ledartist (author)  siddhanth2 years ago

1W LED @ 350mA current might not be too difficult to drive. The current is within the limit of MPS2222A, but the heat dissipation would be too much. Therefore you do need to use physically larger transistor capable of dissipating maybe 3W or so.
I'd use 2 or 3 LED in serial for each band, and insert current limiting resistor to get 350mA at 12V.
As for microphone - you do need a preamp to get the signal to "line level". A simple one transistor circuit will do. Such as this one: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/8872
InstTrash2 years ago
Excellent work!
One question, if I want to feed the 3 bands output to an Arduino so that it control the leds, can I remove Q4, Q6 and Q8 and connect those pins directly to Arduino? Or do I need those transistors anyway?
ledartist (author)  InstTrash2 years ago
You can take the voltages from Q3, 5, and 7 emitters. Remove R10, 15, and 20, Q4, 6, 8. Then connect a resistor (maybe 1k to 10k ohm) in pararel with C5, 8, and 10.
You will have to adjust the values of C5, 8, 10 as well.
Finally, the voltage range you will get is most likely somewhere between 0 - 3V, I think.
Let me know how it goes.
argohunt172 years ago
Thats a really nice project you have here.
I am atempting to make one of my own using youre schematic but have run into a little problem.First I made the project on a breadboard and it worked but then when ei made it into a pcb i have made a mistake an i cant figure out what it is. The led burn all the time i have added a picture of the schematic i made in eagle.maybe somebody smarter can point out my mistake.
Thanks in advance.
color organ.jpg
ledartist (author)  argohunt172 years ago
Besides R5 being wrong value, I can't see any errors.
Is it possible that the problem is in the PCB routing?


argohunt17, would you share that eagle schematic?
zkyx072 years ago
i'm confused w/ the wiring of stereo jack.. please tell me where to connect specifically pins 1,2, and 3 :)
ledartist (author)  zkyx072 years ago
1 -> GND
2, 3 -> AUDIO 1, 2 (doesn't matter which one is which).
zkyx072 years ago
are C5, C8, and C10 1uF ??
ledartist (author)  zkyx072 years ago
Sorry, my mistake - they should be 4.7uF. 1uF would work ok, but the LEDs will light more strobe like.
zkyx072 years ago
thank you so muchhh :) i'm workin on it now :)
zkyx072 years ago
hi, thanks for this project! I'm gonna do this in my class.. anyways, are these leds just the simple 5mm leds? can i use superbright leds here?
ledartist (author)  zkyx072 years ago
Those LEDs are indeed "super bright" type. Just about all LEDs with water clear lens seem to be super bright type.

lhazwani2 years ago
Hi. can i know which software and what version do you construct the PCB circuit and the schematic diagram? it seems my ISIS does not have the virtual ground.

Thank you. :)
ledartist (author)  lhazwani2 years ago
I use Osmond (on Mac OS X) to design PCBs, but this software doesn't have schematic capture. I draw my schematics using Adobe Illustrator. So it's like drawing manually.
There's no virtual ground in this color organ circuit though.

Tomdf2 years ago
I've wanted to build one of these for years, ever since I got one of those Velleman single channel kits. In a way I'm almost disappointing, I won't bother to figure it out myself now that I have your instructions.

I also just wanted to say that your kits, videos and documentation are absolutely top-notch, and the fact that you share your work openly is the epitome of class. Thank you, I mean it sincerely!
ledartist (author)  Tomdf2 years ago

Yeah this was one of those projects that I wanted to tackle for years as well. I just wanted to make it simpler than the typical modern implementation using OP-amps. So I gave myself a chalenge to design one without an OP-amp.

JVC-Force2 years ago
Cool, it is not surface mount! The three band separation is very impressive. Color organ + LEDs = future retro!
ledartist (author)  JVC-Force2 years ago
Those little transistors can do a lot. Analog circuit rocks!