A hypnotizing music visualizer inspired by those little bars in the top of iTunes. Fourteen Russian IN-13 Nixie bargraph tubes are used as the display.

The length that each nixie tube lights up represents the volume of a certain frequency in the music, 7 different bands for both the left and right channels.

I designed and built this over a month my junior year in high school. This instructable will go over my design process and the construction, hopefully aiding anyone who wants to build one of their own.

Step 1: Design Process

The goal is to make an interesting display that would show the volume levels of various frequency bands in an audio signal, as in many music players and on the front of some hi-fi audio equipment. There are three major points the project would focus on:

  • Minimizing cost: In the process of designing the visualizer, I found this simple VU meter with a nixie display utilizing an exotic IC to convert an audio signal into a volume level. While convenient, it's manufactured by a small company, and each piece would cost over $5 (for me, nearly $80 in those alone!) For simplicity and for my wallet, this only uses simple, cheap, and mass-produced parts. Also because of cost, I decided that 10K ohm resistors would be used for just about everything, so I could buy a few hundred for around $3.
  • Analog only: Using a digital signal processor was a possibility, but programming a DSP is fairly difficult, and the cost of DACs for the input and ADCs to drive the output began to raise the price too far. So only analog parts such as op-amps and comparators would be used.
  • Adjustability: After Nixie IN-13 tubes were chosen as the display, I realized that the only documentation was in Russian (or poorly translated English) and not very informative. Not knowing anything at all about how much it took to light it up any specific length (aside from less than 4 milliamps), everything about this design would be adjustable.

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