Picture of LED Color Organ Triple Deluxe
*** Checkout the New & Improved version of this project: Color Organ Triple Deluxe II ***

I love lights, and I love music… Naturally a color organ is something that I always wanted to make. However the circuits are often pretty complicated, using many op amps, etc. I'm sure that many people feel the same way.

Now the wait is over. If you are a bit familiar with electronics, you can build a 3 way color organ with only 29 components. I've streamlined the circuit to the absolute minimum, using easy to obtain, inexpensive parts. In fact, if you are electronic hobbyist, you probably have all the parts sitting around already!

In case you've never heard of a color organ, it's a device that emits different colors of light based on sound. LED Color Organ Triple Deluxe divides sound into three frequency bands, and emits red, green and blue lights accordingly.

Watch the video and you'll see what it does.

Step 1: Overview

Picture of Overview
The photo is showing the stereo version of Color Organ Triple Deluxe, which is simply the same circuit twice next to each other.

Three groups of LEDs each responds to high, mid, and low frequencies of sound.

In order to simplify the circuit, I design the Organ to connect to a headphone output of audio equipment. The power source can be a 9V battery, or a regulated AC adapter that outputs 9 V. (Most wall wort type adapters output much higher voltage than they are rated, therefore not suited.)

I'd like to thank Collin Cunningham of MAKE: Magazine for publishing his LED Color Organ. His version is a lot more sophisticated and complex (read: expensive), which led me to design a super simple version.

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sjez2 years ago
Hey quick question, could please explain me how the frequency filters work? I have been looking for the anwser for a while now, but I can't seem to find it.

ledartist (author)  sjez2 years ago
I'm not an expert on the subject, so I'd point to a good wiki;

From there, you will find many links to references.
mkfries2 years ago
Awesome, thanks. I'll let you know how it works out. I broke my wrist so I have to wear a cast on my arm for 6 weeks so I'm going to build this and attach it to my cast haha, I'll post pictures when it's done.
ledartist (author) 2 years ago
I'm working on the updated version of this circuit. Hopefully I will post a new instructable soon!
mkfries2 years ago
Hey quick question, could I use something like an Electret microphone instead of the direct line-in for the audio input? I want this to be atmospheric
ledartist (author)  mkfries2 years ago
Most (all?) microphones by themselves produce very small output, so you need to amplify before you can connect to a circuit like this one.
You can use small pre-amplified microphones like this one: http://adafruit.com/products/1063

or this one: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9964

i build circuit as it is as yours but please explain me that why are you add second capacitor in blue led.
there is only one capacitor in schematic.
and if necessary to add it then tell me the value of it so i can add also.
when i on the circuit blue led is very dim and when i play music through computer's headphone, led operated for few second then automatically dim.
give me solution for it.

Thank you.
ledartist (author)  ankitcpatel92 years ago
The value for the capacitor in question should be 0.047uF, but I used two 0.022uF connected in parallel as substitute. When you connect two capacitors in pararel, the total capacity is the sum of two.

Please note this circuit is analog, and each transistors have different characteristics. Therefor it's often necessary to adjust the values of the components.

i have completed circuit and it works nice.
but now problem is that how to control input of circuit (volume) because if i decrease the volume then i can't hear music but when i increase level of music then led react constantly on so give me the resistor value that i can put between circuit input and speaker output.
temporary i used pot(4.7K) to limit input but nothing happening
should i use more then or less then 10k resistor to limit input ?
ledartist (author)  ankitcpatel92 years ago
Using a pot would be the way to accomplish what you want. How are you connecting the pot?

See the attached image - "+input" would connect to your speaker, and ground connects to both the speaker negative and the Color Organ's ground. "+Output" connects to Color Organ's input. (Don't worry about the ground connecting the pot's case.)

propiracy2 years ago

In your improved color organ circuit video. There seems to me a capacitor on the battery line of the upper right of the breadbord. May i ask what that change is? Does it fix the red led not lighting up?
ledartist (author)  propiracy2 years ago
That is a tank capacitor. It stabilizes the supply voltage. I used 47uF or so.
This capacitor doesn't really affect the operation. If your red LED is not working, the problem is elsewhere.
propiracy2 years ago
Nice job ledartist! A little help if you don't mind. I'm trying to connect your device to another device. (link below)


I'm not an engineer but i need this to work badly if possible. Would it be possible to make a parallel tap from the positive side of the LED light on your circuit (right before the LED light itself) and attached it directly to the positive terminal of the solid state relay in the link above (where the positive speaker line should go), then attach the negative terminal of the solid state relay back to the negative side of the LED. My purpose is  to extend the function of your circuit to much much more lights without (not too much modification, hopefully) Eventually, i'll be tapping 2 more of the same device to the other 2 remaining frequencies. Then maybe make it more complicated by adding 3 more to the stereo version of your circuit.

Since i'm adding the AC (high voltage aspect) of electricity into the scenario, i'm pretty sure there are risks here. 

ledartist (author)  propiracy2 years ago
What you are describing might work, but I never used SSR before and don't know the driving voltage and current.
I think hacking a more sophisticated circuit like this one is much safer option.

will find out the voltage and current that passes through regular music headphones, if its not far off from the voltage passing through the LED on your circuit then it will work (cross fingers). Incase its not, hope the current and voltage on yours is higher so i can lower it before it hits the LED. Will let you know if it works. Sorry Collins circuit is beyond my build ability. Will try it with yours first. Thanks alot.
cool23872 years ago
This is awesome. A few questions though-

1. Could I possibly use MOSFETS instead of transistors? if so, what other changes should I make to ensure that they are biased correctly?

2. If I use yellow LEDs instead of blue, what resistor values would you recommend, or what should I change?

3. is there any way a CdS cell or 555 timer can be included in this circuit to increase complexity? I am trying to use a few other components, but am not sure how I can incorporate them to change it up a little. Please let me know what you think!

ledartist (author)  cool23872 years ago
Let me go over your questions:

1. To use MOSFET instead of the BJT would require some mod to the circuit. Can't tell you the specifics, and to be honest I don't think it's worth the effort. If you want to scale up color organ, go with something like this: http://blog.makezine.com/2010/10/18/circuit-skills-led-color-organ-spon/

2. Use 270 ohm for Yellow. Same as Red.

3. Like the question 1, my circuit here is a practice in simplicity and compromise. Not a good candidate for scaling up.

tineflores2 years ago
may i know what is the graph of frequency vs. capacitor of this project ?
ledartist (author)  tineflores2 years ago
Sorry, not sure what you are asking... Care to explain?

aphracer3 years ago
Instead of a headphone output could I use a stereo receiver output in parallel with speakers for the audio input of this circuit?
ledartist (author)  aphracer3 years ago
Output from a receiver (line out) should work. Speaker output can be used via appropriate resistors to attenuate the level.
siddhanth3 years ago
since you have combined the led driver circuit AND the filters, is it possible that to use high power leds (12v,1w~5w) ill have to swap the resistors/transistors of higher wattage?
ledartist (author)  siddhanth3 years ago
Not quite that simple... If you want to control high power LED (or other loads) connect larger transistors in place of the LEDs.
Connect NPN power transistor's base to Q2's collector via 150 ohm or so, the emitter to the ground, then the high power LEDs connect between +12V and the collector. Do the same with Q3 and Q4.
The main circuit should still be supplied 9V, not 12V, unless you adjust the biasing of transistors.

thedoger823 years ago
Hello... man this is GREAT... i was looking for this long ago... but as many others i have some problems with the circuit, when i connect the sound, blue leds dont work, green leds work only when i raise the volume to the max, red leds are always on as responding to the sound. Any advised i will be really appreciated. i have read all the posts above, and double check, triple check, idk what to do now. thanks for this circuit, i hope ill make it work!!!
I friend of mine just fixed my errors... its working perfectly!!!
To help others with the same issue please let us know what fixed your error. Thanks.
the error was me, i connected wrong something, my frined is ing of electronics so he fixed the position of the capacitor... meaning theres nothing wrong with the circuit
taylor23263 years ago

I've made it on protoboard, but only the blue ones are working :(
I check it several times, I don't know what's wrong.
I'm beginner in the electronics, could you help me?
ledartist (author)  taylor23263 years ago
Hard to know what's wrong - without more details. Check and double check the obvious, make sure that the transistors are good, etc.

WiredLegs3 years ago
Dude it was just awesome and colorful thx
thedoger823 years ago
ijust realized, the circuit holds up to 9 leds per side (stereo: L - R), how can i improve this? lets say how can i make it to hold 50 to 100 leds?

thanks a lot...

ps: i added this circuit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQB1VlLBgJE
wilson2083 years ago
Hi, i really like the project and would like to build one myself. Except i plan on using 12v dc from a car battery and signal from the head unit. what would i need to change to make this work? Many thanks, Wilson.
ledartist (author)  wilson2083 years ago
The circuit is quite voltage specific, so the supply has to be 9V. I suggest using a 9V voltage regulator such as 7809 to reduce 12V to 9V.

Firegasm3 years ago
Hi, have you done the 'improving' on the circuit you mentioned in the comments yet?
I built this today and am having the same issue mentioned before with the red LEDs just staying on. I built the circuit both ways, the way shown in the picture and the way shown in the schematic and both keep the red light on. I've switched out the resistors going to Q1 and D1 as suggested. I have it built for left and right channels (the circuit doubled as shown in your picture) the left side red light will turn off and start flashing to the music as it should when I get the Q1 & D1 resistors up to like 330k or 470k. The right side red lights stay on regardless, though if I put in 1meg resistors in place of that sides Q1 & D1 resistors then even though the red leds will be on without music, they will at least flash, though they seem very delayed. I just can't figure out how to keep those red LEDs off when there is no input. Also, with the lower resistors (i.e 10-22k) the red leds won't even flash, they just stay solid.

I don't know what else to try. This circuit looks awesome, I can already see the potential if I could just get it working properly. :(

Also, in reference to the picture being different from the schematics, the difference is in the schematic both leds are set in series then the resistor before ground. In the picture you have an led, resistor, second led then ground.
I have the issue that all of my LED's are just solid on and none are flashing. I have tried multiple different diodes and checked polarity of them. It might be a transistor but could anyone else suggest ideas?
ledartist (author)  tymarshall6243 years ago
Make sure that you are using PNP transistors for Q2 - Q4. The emitters connect to the positive power supply.
Also i might be thinking my resistor values are off because i am using red green and yellow led's so i might need to be altering them.
I had a problem like this, where the low band LEDs would light when ever power was applied. It turned out to be a bad diode (D1). Check and make sure it is propertly poled and/or replace it.
What was the program you used on it? Was it on a computer or Ipad?
ledartist (author)  youngdavid9333 years ago
It's an iPad app called Tone Generator Pro.
It's very handy, but the quality of the wave form is limited by the audio fidelity of iPad's hardware, which is not so good...

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