Introduction: Music LED Light Box

Picture of Music LED Light Box

My original LED light cube got allot of reactions. Some of them where about making the LED's react to music. This did sound very interesting and I found some instructables on here.
Unfortunately I found it very hard to understand those instructables. In my opinion they weren't explained well enough and even some circuits weren't correct.

That's why I though I build one and make an instructable of it. I tried to make this instructable so easy, that everyone with or without any experience can make one!

If you make one, don't forget to share your end result photos and movies with us.

Below you'll see the end result of my Music LED Light Box.

The movie is shot with my Canon Digital Camera, in the dark. My camera can't handle the fast switching between light and dark very well. In reality the effect is even nicer then on the video.

Before people go asking who's music or what songs these are in this video, these beats are made by my brother. :)
You can visit his website or YouTube channel for more information and songs.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Picture of Materials & Tools

To make this Music LED Light Box you can use many different things and build it different ways.
In this instructable I'll explain how I made it, a very simple way.

- 12v Adapter (a battery can be used as well)
- 3.5 jack headphone cable.
- tip31 transistor (this is the key to the whole project) - $0.50
- 5mm LED's (the color or amount is totally up to you, 1 LED per 3v. I used 12v, so 4 LEDs) - $0.28
- A4 acrylic sheet - 3mm thick (also known as 'plexiglass') - $2.00
- Fine sandpaper (I used 400) - $1.00
- Electrical Wire

If you see a price above, that means I bought it. The rest I just ripped of some old junk. The 12v Adapter was from an old wireless headphone and the 3.5 jack plug is from another old headphone.

- Jigsaw (also a Jeweler Saw can be used. But that's really hard to get straight lines)
- Glue Gun (hot glue, other glue to glue acrylic is possible)
- Drilling tool
- Solder tool (optional)
- Pen

Ones you've got this stuff you're ready to begin!

Step 2: Preparing the Box

Picture of Preparing the Box

From the acrylic sheet we're going to build the box.

1. Draw out the plates for the box on the acrylic sheet (photo 1). My longer plates are 15cm x 5cm. And the squares are 5cm x 5cm. Of course you can use any size for a box you want.

2. Use the jig saw to cut the plates from the acrylic sheet. Be sure to do this as perfect as you can. Because all plates need to line up nice with each other (photo 2).
If the plates don't turn out to be equal, you can sand the sides till they all fit nice.

3. Get the drilling tool and use a drill bit that is the same size as the thickness of the headphones cord (photo 3). Then drill another hole for the adapter to go though.
When you're drilling, do this very carefully! You don't want to hurry, else you might put too much pressure on it and break the plate.

Step 3: Frosting and Diffusing

Picture of Frosting and Diffusing

To get the nice 'glowing' effect with the LED box, we need to have a 'frosted' look on the box and need LED's that are diffused.

I only could get my hands on water clear acrylic sheets and water clear LED's. For all those who have the same, continue with this step.

If you already have frosted acrylic (opal acrylic) and diffused LED's, then you can continue with step 4.

1. Get the fine sandpaper (400) and place it on a table, with the sanding side up. Get a plate and rub it over the sandpaper in a circular motion. If one side is frosted enough, turn the plate over and do the same with that side.
Now you'll have a nice frosted looking effect we need (photo 1 and 2 to see the difference).

2. Do the same with the LED's. Sand the LED's until they get the nice diffused look (Photo 3,4 and 5).

Photo 5 shows you 1 diffused and 1 water clear LED hooked on a 3v button cell.

Step 4: Building the Box

Picture of Building the Box

Now we've got the plates for the box, we need to put them together.

Before you go and glue parts together, make sure first they fit nicely onto each other. We need all parts to fit nicely.

1. After fitting the plates get the glue gun and glue the first 3 plates together. If you have some trouble holding the plates together before gluing, you can use some tape to hold them together. This way you can put the glue on more relaxed.

After gluing the 3 plates you should have something like photo 2

2. After the glue is dried, it's time to glue in the side plates. First place them and see if they fit nicely.
If not sand the sides a bit so everything fits nice together. Then glue them on their place.

The last (bottom) plate will not be attached yet. We need to put the whole circuit on the bottom plate later and then put it in place.

At this moment you should have something like photo 3 and 4.

Step 5: Preparing the Circuit

Picture of Preparing the Circuit

Since I have no experience in electronics whatsoever, this was the toughest part for me to find out.
Other instructables had no good explaining on this subject.

So for everyone who's new to this electronics stuff and have no idea what they're doing, here is some explaining for the circuit.

1. How many LED's to use?
The average LED needs 3v to work.If you are going to put the LED's in series (like I did) you need to calculate how many LED's you can use with your adapter. The formula you can use is adapter output voltage / LED voltage = Total LED's

So if you use a 12v adapter with the 3v LED's its: 12 / 3 = 4 LED's

You can also put LED's parallel in the circuit. But I'm not getting into this, just so that this instructable stays simple and easy to understand for everyone. Let's just focus now on the LED's in series.
If you want to experience with more LED's, you can always calculate your LED's and resistors here.

2. The real voltage on a adapter.
Before I went building this circuit, I thought it would be useful to measure the real voltage on the adapter. The sticker on the adapter (photo 1) says the output 12v. But once I hooked it up on my multimeter, it shows that the actual output is around the 18v (photo 2).

So that means I can calculate the LED's again: 18 / 3 = 6 LED's.

Since I'm going to make the LED's in series I can use 6 LED's in my circuit.

3. The 3.5 audio jack plug
Which wire is what? That's what I was asking and trying to find out.
As you can see on photo 3, the plug itself has 3 metal parts, and 3 wires in the black protective layer.
On the photo I explained which wire is what.

Now with this information you can go to the next step, building the circuit.

Step 6: Building the Circuit

Picture of Building the Circuit

Many people get scared when they see all those weird circuits with those symbols on it. Having no clue what they mean.
That's why I made a instructable friendly circuit image :) See photo 1.

1. Make sure you have all the materials to make the circuit. And enough electrical wires to connect all the components.

2. Before we build the circuit, we first need to put the audio cable through the whole in the back.

3. Build your circuit, and test it out. The best way to test it is through your audio output from your computer. Make sure the audio on your computer is set to 100% and then test it.

Circuit: The positive pole from the adapter goes to the positive leg of the first LED. Next the other 5 LED's follow. Hook the negative leg from the first LED to the positive leg of the second LED. Hook the negative leg from the second LED to the positive leg of the third LED, and so on. The negative LED from the last LED goes to the center pin of the TIP31.
Then hook the right pin of the TIP31 to the negative pole of the adapter.
All there's left now is to hook up the audio cable. Hook the red or the white wire from the audio cable on the left pin of the TIP31. And connect the ground wire from the audio cable to the right pin of the TIP31.

For better details please see photo 1, the circuit.

4. If your circuit works, solder all components together so the circuit stays together nice and strong and wont fall apart.

When done with these steps it's time to finish up!

If you have trouble getting the circuit to work, you can try to set it up first on a circuit board.
Carlosserious was so kind to make a how-to video on making the circuit, click here for the video.

Step 7: Finishing Up

Picture of Finishing Up

We've now got all the parts we need. All we need to do now is put the bottom part into the cube to make it a whole cube.

1. Use the glue gun again to put the connector for the adapter right behind the hole. Tip: Plug the cable in before gluing. This way the connector will always be on the right spot.

2. Sand the sides of the bottom plate so it fits snugly into the bottom. You just want the bottom plate slightly bigger then the hole it fits in. This way, once you put it in there, it will get stuck and won't let go while moving the cube. We won't glue the bottom, in case we need to open it for some reason. So make sure the bottom fits in tight.

That's it!!
Now plug everything in and put your music on max and enjoy!

You can change this project as much as you like. Use any LED's you want, create the box that fits the best on your desk, etc. You can also build the cube from my previous instructable.

I used photoshop to show you how different colors would look like (photo 7).

I tried to make this instructable the way so everyone can understand it. I'll try to answer them all. If you want to make one and get stuck, we'll try to get through it together.
If you have any questions please don't be shy and let me know.


MHesse2017 (author)2017-10-07

I don't know if this has been addressed yet but you can wire the LEDs in parallel and expand the number of LEDs well beyond the real voltage you reference.

Shihab68 (author)2017-07-28

can i connect different colored boxes together?if so how can that be possible?

46fast (author)2017-02-13

will the LED's light up one by one as the volume/pitch of the music increases? or will the LED's only turn on and off on each beat?

if you could please help at all it would be muchly appreciated

DiyWaterDog (author)2017-02-08

Will a mosfet work in place of the tip31?

69pulamica69 (author)2017-01-18

helo frien wat is a librarie

KövérÁ (author)2016-12-16

I made this Led Light box..but i noticed that my 5.1 sound quality was bad when i connected the neon tube to the 3,5mm jack distributor...

Some changes:
-12V neon tube
-power supply 12v 200mA

What could be the problem?

ElectricGeckos (author)2016-12-15

So I made this Music LED Light Box, but with some changes. Unfortunately it does not work for me yet.

I have used a TIP112 instead of a TIP31.

Three LEDs, with a nine-volt battery.

Could someone tell me why this does not work right? I thought I could change the 31 to an 112 because I had one laying around.

I have also use a 3.5mm Audio jack spliter.

Okay I resoder some of the wires and it work! You can use a TIP112 Transistor!

kate_delaney made it! (author)2016-09-27

Thanks for the instructable - I made it with 10 LEDs in parallel. Couldn't get it working with a phone though, not enough power I presume - any advice to adapt for phone use would be appreciated.

I also got the "speaker" version working with the LM386 (following the circuit diagram and using .5W, 8Ohm speaker and trying out different resistor values) but it would only pick up loud sounds spoken directly into the speaker - again, any advice to improve sensitivity would be appreciated.


MitchW1 (author)2015-10-13

anybody have any idea on how i can integrate speakers into the box?

AdarshG8 (author)MitchW12016-08-07

Dude. A simpler way is to connect the leda positive to the speaker's positive and the negative to the negative or just earth it( ground) and it will react to the base..and for the speaker integration..attach a speaker inside the box. And then use a 3.5 1male to 2female splitter . insert the speaker and led jacks in the splitter and glue it inside the box. And let the male end come out that hole.. Now u can plug it into ur ipod or whatever and u get both music and lights.. Make sure u make room for the power input to power up ur speaker.. Probably a usb powered speaker will do best..

koutsoukos (author)2016-07-31

Could you use an lm358 instead of an lm386?

romwhite (author)2016-07-22

Something doesn't quite add up here. I'm using the NTE196 transistor, that brand's equivalent to the TIP31. The problem is that not one device I have puts out the requisite voltage through the headphone jack. It works fine if I manually apply a battery across the base and emitter but a headphone jack doesn't put that much out even with volume cranked all the way up. What are you plugging this into?

AnikB (author)2015-12-05

Hello there,
Its an awesome project. But i would like to add something to the circuit if you guys dont mind. :)
The thing is for this circuit you have to give an input to it via 3.5mm jack.
But using my mod you can use this circuit to make a portable beat sensing light box. Place it on a table when music is being played and the box will response to beats on its own without connecting any cables.

Hope it helps.

Regards :)

Archit B (author)AnikB2016-06-28

Hey thats a really nice idea can u explain more about lm386 like its prigram and how to program it

Daniel.4 (author)AnikB2016-05-21

Could you use an lm358 instead of an lm386. the 358 seems to also work with sound but i dont want to blow that opamp

Loki_The_Conqueror (author)AnikB2016-05-15

Hi, just wondering what orientation the LM386 LowAudioAmp and TIP31c Transistor are in? Thanks.

Hank7 (author)AnikB2016-04-12

Hi AnikB, what is the 10 mu F item, is it a 10 ohm resistor because I can see someone has referenced a 120 ohm resistor. What do I need please?

ragnotis (author)AnikB2016-03-01

Hi AnikB, interesting adding. Do you think it could work using a piezo element, say a piezo disc, instead of the speaker?

AnikB (author)ragnotis2016-03-02

A piezo would work definitely. But to my thinking , it would pick up more of the treble of the song rather than the bass pump you would be looking for.

I think , If you attach the piezo with a both side tape on a wooden frame , it would work better :)

ragnotis (author)AnikB2016-03-02

Thank you AnikB.

flyingpuppy (author)AnikB2016-03-01

Thanks for the original instructable, and thanks AnikB for this adaptation. Exactly what I was looking for.

TerryL19 (author)AnikB2016-01-27

What kind of capacitor should I use? can you take a photo of your circuit for me please :D thankss

OkeileoO (author)AnikB2016-01-04

sir......what u suggested was exactly what i was looking for......can i have some assistance from you?

AnikB (author)OkeileoO2016-01-04

Yes , ofcourse :) always happy to help in circuits :)

OkeileoO (author)AnikB2016-01-04

awesome :) is there a easier way i can communicate with u? btw i want to use Parallax Sound Impact Sensor as the sound ssensor...can that be used?

AnikB (author)OkeileoO2016-01-05

the thing is , if you use the sound impact sensor , it will obviously work better in detecting the sound. but the output of that module is either 0 or 5volts. But think for the case if there is a continuous signal of sound. then the module will activate for the 1st time when it excites.

it can be used for the strobe effects. connect the signal output of the module to one side of the transistor. and it should work :)

and one more thing.
the module is a bit costly in india its about 500 rs
but lm386 costs 10 rs :P so in cost effective way, i would suggest the 386 ... :)

OkeileoO (author)AnikB2016-01-05

i got the lm3866 :) so let me get this straight...what is the speaker for....doesnt the lm386 pick up sounds or no? :/

AnikB (author)OkeileoO2016-01-05

any speaker can act as a microphone.
the circuit which i have given for lm386 is a very basic circuit for making it amplify a received signal.
here the speaker is acting as an input mic which will pickup the audio which will then be amplified by 386 and then sent to the transistor to act as a activator. i hope it helps :)

OkeileoO (author)AnikB2016-01-05

ahhhhh i understand i see i see....let me show a list of all the things i have


-4 multicolour led lights


-some 120 ohm resistors...

what else do i need to have everything i need....just a small speaker now?

OkeileoO (author)OkeileoO2016-01-05

i also have a 9v battery and its connector and the sand paper and a casing to put it in

AnikB (author)OkeileoO2016-01-05

i guess then you are totally ready to begin the project :)

The small speaker can be gathered from broken head phones if you are worried about it :)

Happy building :)

jeffronva (author)2016-06-07

can you use the speaker wire after the amp for the input signal?

JariO2 (author)2016-06-01

Nice tutorial :) But I must say... This MUSIC!!! Awesome. I had to follow your bro on SoundCloud immediately. A talented producer. Love it

RiteshYadav (author)2016-05-27

Can i use it for android phones to plug it in mobile and let it beat

Poxrox (author)2016-04-28

I got the lights on but they wont blink when I plug in my ipod. What did I do wrong?

SohamB7 (author)2016-04-24

how to increase led brightness at low volumes

SohamB7 (author)2016-04-24

i made it
but how to increase led brightness at low volumes
i need help!

vbhatia3 (author)2016-04-19

i made it leds do blink but brightness is very low ??

AlbinL (author)2016-03-24

Can you make this mechanism but with this light insted?

dstarikova (author)2016-03-18

or add a Mic too

dstarikova (author)2016-03-18

you've lost your left audio feed. splice your power rebuild second set of Leds. remember your audio has varying voltage. your color changing Leds change color under different voltage. maybe alternate them. hell you could have fun. add 1 white led that shines outside the enclosure to a small powered speaker with a photovoltaic cell. wireless speaker and light fun lol

par64guy (author)2016-03-06

Very cool and simple! However, I would recommend the use of some protection on the audio input. Leaving it unlimited could lead to damage to your sound source as the transistor can be thought of as being made up of two diodes. One diode is between the base and emitter pins and has an on voltage of 1.8V according to the datasheet. If the input voltage exceeds 1.8V, then the current could rise rapidly, leading to damage to the audio output of your device. The base current required to turn on the LEDs increases proportionally as LED brightness increases. Not knowing the output capacity of the audio device adds some risk as well. I also recommend a limiting resistor for the LEDs. Ideally, a preamp circuit would provide both protection and limiting properties.

TylerV11 (author)2016-03-02

Do you need the ground to the tip 31c for it to work right.

daler240d (author)TylerV112016-03-03

TylerV11, if you look on step six, you will see that the 3rd pin is grounded. The "body" (or heat sink part with the big hole) does not need to be grounded.

ΠηνελόπηΓ (author)2016-03-02

Really interesting i am going to make it but i was wondering if there is a way to filter frequencies i have searched that a lot and everything i found needed arduino. So if anyone knows a different way please respond (also include a circuit if possible)

JamesL11 (author)2016-03-02

It will be preferable to put a resistor in series with the led string to limit it`s current.(LED`s current grew exponentially to any overvoltage). also it might be helpful to put a resistor at the base of the transistor for the same reason(preventing overload of audio input caused by higher voltages on BE junction diode of the transistor).

DanDav1956 (author)2016-03-01

Did anyone notice there are NO current limiting resistors in the base of transistor or for the leds?

A good way to shorten the life of both...

DanielB329 (author)DanDav19562016-03-01

You're absolutely right, missing current limiting resistor for the leds and missing base resistor for the transistor isn't a recommended practice.

I understand that the creator of this project wanted to make it as simple as possible, thus keeping the parts count to a very minimal value, but the suggested approach demonstrates a lack of concern for the parts specifications.

BTW, when reading 18V with your DMM, you have to keep in mind that this is a "mo load" value. The voltage will decrease as the load will increase, to a point where you will get a reading of 12V when there will be sufficient load. So for your calculations, do not take for granted that you have 18V available for your circuit. Just for the sake of it, try to feed your circuit with a constant signal and measure your current and voltage. You'll see a substantial difference.

Mark 42 (author)2016-03-01

We used to make color organs (45 years ago - my first build was about 40 yrs ago).
There were 3 colors. Each color responded to the signal strength within a certain frequency band.

My friend's older brother hooked up the lights on their Christmas tree to a microphone so that the colored lights responded when you talk to the tree.

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