Picture of Musically Animated Gift Box

Click here if you want to jump to the demonstration page where you can see other videos.

Most EL wire displays are static (and boring) because they use constant-on inverters. Of course, there are inverters that can flash the EL wire on and off at a fixed rate, but that's not very exciting. Another option is to use a sound activated inverter, but most of these are single channel, so they turn the wires (no matter how many colors you have) all on or all off. If you really want to make your EL projects lively you have to use an inverter with multiple output channels, but many of these cost $80 and up! Luckily, I've found that you can use an inverter taken from a "graphic equalizer" T-shirt (aka T-qualizer) to create an inexpensive five channel, sound activated EL wire display.

I've used this idea to create a musically animated gift box from EL wire, a T-qualizer inverter, portable speakers, and an MP3 player. I call this gift box an ELF box which is short for ElectroLuminescent Fun box. The ELF box is a very cool way to give someone an electronic device that plays music; just substitute it in place of the mp3 player and have the gift animate its own gift box! Of course, if you don't want to make a gift box, this instructable works equally well for making a musically driven display. Finally, an optional step gives instructions on how to modify the inverter so that it responds to an audio signal instead of sound, which will enable you to precisely control the animation with a custom audio file and make speakers unnecessary.

Materials and Tools
gift box or other suitable substrate
portable speakers
MP3 player
5 strands of EL wire (I used 20 ft for an 8x11 in box. metric: ~6.1 m for a box approx. sized 21x28 cm)
T-qualizer inverter (not exactly the same as the one I have, but similar)
7x1 ribbon cable (around 6 in or 15 cm)
7x1 crimp terminal housing
7 female crimp terminals
electrical tape
crimper or pliers with knurled jaws
medium phillips screwdriver (for poking holes)
soldering iron
knife (for removing phosphor)

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AmitabhS6 months ago

Very ingenious.. Can you let me know in Step 1 how have you connected the positive, ground and the 5 EL wires to the ribbon cable? Basically i would like to know all the 7 pins on the ribbon cable correspond to which cable. My understanding is as below -

1. First Pin - Red Cable - Positive

2. Second Pin - Green Cable - EL Wire

3. Third Pin - Blue Cable - EL Wire

4. Fourth Pin - Yellow Cable - El Wire

5. Fifth Pin - Pink Cable - El Wire

6. Sixth Pin - Red Cable - El Wire

7. Seventh Pin - Cable - Ground

Let me know if my understanding is correct.



jbennett381 year ago

I am wanting to start a project very similar to this, only on a larger scale. I want to have enough EL wire to light up a bicycle. Does anyone know how much this inverter would be able to drive? Is there a stronger option out there?

AgeT2 years ago
Hy there
Would it be possible to place solder a cable to the ribbon cable which then leads to the el wire ? So I can make the common share like you did and then run each cable to its destinated EL wire ?
falconmac2 years ago
Hi, could you tell us where you order your bulk EL wire from? I am trying to build costumes for a group of boys, and your instructions are a great idea. I have the T-EQ modules, I just need the EL wire.
Any info will be appreciated.
yardleydobon (author)  falconmac2 years ago
I don't recall why I chose them. I think their prices are alright. The wires came prestripped but not terminated (not a big deal).
madaman132 years ago
I have to say that this is an awesome idea. I have 10 of the t shirt drivers laying around and am trying to incorporate this idea into a halloween costume. I am experienced soldering EL wire but have some questions on the driver unit. It looks like the two outer cables (of the 7) are the grounds? Could I potentially connect 5 ez connect connectors to the flat cable with one end soldered to the power, and ALL the 2nd wires soldered to one ground? I would like the option of adding wire later as I don't have my costume designed yet.

I'm sorry if you covered this in the guide but I didn't see it!
Where should I get the crimp terminals and the terminal housing? Would the local Radioshack have them? I can't seem to find them on their site.
yardleydobon (author)  MattCMultimedia3 years ago
Radio Shack doesn't have them. Most electronics suppliers will. I bought mine from electronix express.
terminals, part number 2404FCP,
housing, part number 240307,
teaco3 years ago
how many different outputs come from the EQ shirt inverter you used.
yardleydobon (author)  teaco3 years ago

Even though the EQ shirt's EL panel only uses four colors, it has five levels. The ribbon cable has seven wires. Five outputs and two grounds.
mikeasaurus3 years ago
Looking good!
yardleydobon (author)  mikeasaurus3 years ago
Thanks! What great luck that this weeks challenge is Box!