Plasma Speaker DIY





Introduction: Plasma Speaker DIY

This instructable will show you how to build a 555 timer driven plasma speaker that can play music from any device with a headphone jack. It will go through the materials, circuit diagram, and how to make it. The music is quiet, but clear and high quality sounding.

Below is a video that will demonstrate this working as well as help understand the instructions that are given on this instructable:

Step 1: Obtain Your Materials

All the materials for this can be obtained from an old television/ computer monitor and radioshack.


  1. Flyback Transformer(Found in an old CRT)
  2. 555 Timer chip (Found on ebay or radioshack)
  3. Fast diode(Found in an old TV)
  4. Audio cable(Found in a pair of headphones)
  5. 3 1nf capacitors
  6. 110nf capacitor
  7. 1 100nf capacitor
  8. 1 220uf capacitor
  9. 2 47ohm resistors
  10. 2 50Kohm potentiometers
  11. IRF540 Mosfet(Found in an old TV, almost any mosfet will do)
  12. Wire
  13. Popsicle sticks(For frame)
  14. Computer fan
  15. 9 volt battery clip(For the fan)
  16. Car battery/ dc power supply


  1. Soldering iron
  2. Wire strippers
  3. Voltmeter

Step 2: Wiring

This plasma speaker is easily wired. You can solder it onto a perfboard, hook it to a breadboard, or just messily solder all the components together. I would suggest not doing it the way I did as it was harder and not as neat. I didn't have a perfboard. After all the parts are soldered together, you can test your plasma speaker.

Step 3: Fan

The plasma speaker mosfet needs to be constantly cooled to avoid overheating. The fan cools the large heatsink and is powered by a separate 9 volt battery

Step 4: Primary Coil Winding

The primary coil has to be wound on the ferrite core of the flyback transformer. It is best to use 5 turns of some small gauge magnet wire. I used 5 turns of 24 gauge enamel coated copper magnet wire. You could experiment with different amounts of turns to get different output voltages and amperage's.

Step 5: The Frame

I built a frame that would hold all my messy electronics together, have a place for a fan, have a handle, and isolate the output flyback wires. There is a picture of my new frame and a picture of all my electronics spread out on a shoe-box. The frame also makes it portable

Step 6: Testing

To test this, hook it up to a music player, and turn it up to full volume. Turn on the fan next. Hook up the negative and positive leads to whatever power supply you are using. I have mine hooked up to a variable voltage DC power supply. When running at 13 volts, this draws 1.8-2 amps.

The flyback makes some vary large arcs even without music. When it plays music, the music is very quiet, but is extremely high quality sounding. The arc can be adjusted by the potentiometers. To get a louder music, hook the speaker up to an amplifier. The arc that is best for music is when the 2 output leads are about a centimeter apart and the arc is smooth. Have fun!

*This is dangerous!!! High voltage can seriously hurt people and kill some with pacemakers. Build this only if you have a good understanding of electronics and respect electronics. i am not liable for any harm you have caused yourself and others.



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    21 Discussions

    How does plasma differ from an arc of high voltage?

    Hello Sir, I have made the plasma speakers but the arc is extremly noisy and only very faint sound can be heard from it. What should i do ?

    This looks great, I am just worried about safety. I think it would need alot of work to make it safe.

    1 reply

    I probably should have used a solderable breadboard to make it safer and a plexiglass covering to insulate it, but I didn't have any plexiglass and I had just used my last breadboard. Thanks for the advise!

    Hey man! M a beginner in this & I need some seriously help.....
    1.can u tell me how to hook up the capacitors? to install the potentiometers?

    2 replies

    Ok, you should probably use a breadboard or a solder-able breadboard because they are easier to use. When attaching the capacitors, the electrolytic capacitors(The tall cylinders) need to be attached in a certain way. They are polarized, which means one side is positive and one is negative. The positive side has no label while the negative side is white with black lines. In my circuit diagram, the positive side is labeled. There is only one electrolytic capacitor. The other ones are ceramic capacitors, these are not polarized and can be inserted any way.

    To install the potentiometers, you need to solder 2 of the 3 leads together. For the potentiometers you have, you need to solder the leads that are far apart together, the leads that are close together need to be separated. In my circuit diagram, the leads that are close together are the two points on the end of the resistor symbol. The other pin is the arrow.

    To hook up the mosfet, first of all you do not need an irf540, that was just what I had laying around. You can use almost any N channel mosfet. To hook it up, you need to look up the pinout for the mosfet you are using. Look on google images and it should be self explanatory.

    I hope that this is helpful. Sorry for not replying earlier. to hook the irf540 mosfet?

    Tere are my potentiometers....

    Tere are my potentiometers....


    Perhaps you should test the RFI/EMI it generates ;)

    Back in time, I used a similar circuit to drive a car ignition transformer (yes a transformer - made for high performance ignition), when I experimented with a digital/optical ignition system for my V8 (way before the auto manufacturers came out with similar coil-per-cylinder ignition systems). With a 1" gap of fat yellow sparks, it pierced a 3mm sheet of acrylic, so although the HT coils in CRT TVs are nowhere near that power, I'd caution brave souls to be extremely careful around such circuits and please do use a fool proof way of cutting power and make it hard to turn on, for any curious soul getting near it.

    With a permanent setup, use a Faraday cage net (the smaller the holes the better) to avoid knocking out radio and TV in your surrounding area.

    2 replies

    Cool! I think I will test that with an ignition coil. Could I test the RFI/EMI with an oscilloscope? Thanks for the advice!

    An ignition coil won't be as powerful as an ignition transformer, as the coil, or rather the core, is open ended, loosing a lot of magnetic field. If you must use a coil, a so-called sports coil is best, as it have a higher winding ratio, but whatever you do, be really really careful!

    Unfortunately you can't just use a 'scope, at least only as an indicator, without a front end (a single wire coil, say 2..8 inches will probably give a rough indication, but the bandwidth of the 'scope has to be up for it).

    The easiest way, although not giving exact measures, is a cheap multiband radio, which will quickly tell you, at which bands you have emission. Just sweep over the bands with the radio at say an arms length from the spark gap.

    I recently put up a LED strip light in the kitchen and a small FM radio we use there, now needs to be extremely spot on tuned, to reject an overwhelming noise from the LED strips switch mode supply, at a distance of a little over half a meter between supply and radio antenna.

    When you find some noise, you can move the radio further away, to get an idea of what you're dealing with - a silent spot in between stations will be the most revealing.

    this is awesome. I will definitely try it.

    1 reply

    Cool, good luck! Comment any questions you have with building it.

    I'm confused how to hook up the transformer. What do I connect it to?

    1 reply

    To hook up the transformer, you should wind 5-10 turns of wire around the core, you hook up these two ends to the circuit. You really only use 1 pin on the Flyback, the ground pin. After the circuit is running, move the red high voltage wire around the pins, and the ground pin is the one that the high voltage pin arcs the strongest too. I hope this helps. Good luck on your plasma speaker!