Introduction: Stereo Speakers With Synched LED Lighting

This is a step by step guide to building a pair of two-way stereo speakers, with LED's synched to the audio. The LED's can be shut off when music without lighting is desired. In these speakers, clear acrylic is used so the entire interior can be viewed (along with the LED's).

My intention is for this instructable to be more of an inspirational guide rather than a strict series of steps. Of course I'll give the basic steps that it took for me to build mine, but with projects like speakers, a lot of variation is possible. I want to give you as much freedom of creativity as possible.

This Instructable is to build ONE SPEAKER. For a pair, simply repeat the process. I would recommend reading through the entire instructable before starting. The instructable is going to be split into three main parts: The Enclosure, The Circuitry, and The Assembly.

Another awesome instructable for speaker building can be found here:

This is my first instructable, so any and all feedback would be extremely helpful and appreciated.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to message me and I'll do my best to help.

Step 1: What You'll Need

Here's what you'll need for ONE SPEAKER. Just double and repeat for the second.

Dremel and Bits
Power Drill and Bits
Ruler (T-square works)
Level (T-Square)
Scoring Pen (T-squares usually have one hidden inside)
Wood Glue
Drawing Compass
Soldering Iron & Solder

For the Enclosure (Note, sizes vary depending on what drivers you choose):
3/4"x3/4" Pine Beams
1/4" Oak Wood Boards
1/4" Acrylic sheets (I used Lexan�)
6 Angle Braces & wood screws
8 Bolts and Lock Nuts
6 Furniture Pads

For the Circuitry:
1 Woofer
1 Tweeter
16 LEDs (I used two groups of 8 LEDs each, but you can mix colors if you want!)
2 NPN Transistors (I used 2n4401)
1 Speaker terminal
Insulated wire, 3' per speaker should be fine, but it'll vary depending on how big your speakers are
Speaker wire (12 gauge should be fine)
*Various wire coils
*Various polypropylene capacitors
*Various low-inductance resistors

*These parts are for the Cross-Over (Which separates the high and low frequencies of the audio), the L-Pad (which adjusts the volume of each individual speaker), and the Series-Notch Filter (Which controls the peaks at the resonant frequency of the drivers). Alternatively, you can just buy a pre-made one (which as it turns out, is usually cheaper).

Step 2: Selecting Drivers

The first step of any project is planning. When it comes to building speakers, there are many factors to consider. Essentially, however, it all boils down to driver selection.

I bought my drivers and other parts from Parts-Express ( I highly recommend Parts-Express. The shipping is very fast, the prices are good, and you can get very good technical advice from them.

Wherever you buy your drivers from, per speaker you're going to need:
1 Woofer (low pitch driver)
1 Tweeter (high pitch driver)
1 Wire Terminal Plate
1 Crossover

When looking at drivers, you should consider the impedance (how much resistance the driver offers), the sound pressure level (SPL, how loud the driver is), and the frequency range.
Ideally, you want your woofer and tweeter to be of the same impedance, with similar SPL, and with overlapping frequency ranges. The crossover splits the input from the audio source into high and low frequencies for the individual drivers, but the split is gradual. With a larger overlap, its easier to find a crossover at a frequency that's in the middle of the low-end of the tweeter and the high-end of the woofer.

You should also consider getting an L-pad. L-pads vary the volume of each driver independently, so if you wanted more bass and less highs, then you could adjust your L-pad to do that for you.

All of these parts are available at partsexpress

Anyways, here's what I got:

$36.82 EA Goldwood GW-8PC-30-4 8" Heavy Duty Woofer 4 Ohm
$11.00 EA Goldwood GT-525 1" Soft Dome Tweeter 8 Ohm
$1.21 EA Square Speaker Terminal
$22.95 RL Speaker Wire 12 AWG Clear 50 ft.

Notice that the woofer has an impedance of 4 ohms while the tweeter has an impedance of 8 ohms. I was a bit careless when I ordered, so I had to correct for that in my crossover. I would recommend choosing tweeters and woofers with matching impedance.

Step 3: Planning the Enclosure

The enclosure of course holds everything together. The shape and the dimensions of the enclosure are also important and impact the sound of the speakers, however. Supposedly, cube's lead to the greatest loss in sound quality while sphere's provide the best sound. To keep things simple, I stuck with a rectangular prism (like most speakers are).

The size of the enclosure should vary with the size of the driver. This nice table, found from as well as the other speaker instructable I previously mentioned, gives approximate volumes for certain driver sizes.

Woofer Size --- Enclosure Volume
4" --------------- .25 - .39 cubic feet
6" --------------- .35 - .54 cubic feet
8" --------------- .54 - .96 cubic feet
10" --------------- .96 - 1.8 cubic feet
12" --------------- 1.8 - 3.5 cubic feet
15" --------------- 3.5 - 8 cubic feet

Alternatively, you could use a special calculator to help you determine the proper volume of the enclosure.

Designing the enclosure is pretty much an open process, and how you want it to look is all up to you. As long as you keep the total volume in mind, as well as the size of the front (make sure the drivers actually fit!), you should be fine.

I made mine 16"H x 10"W x 10"D = 0.926 cubic feet, which is on the larger end for an 8" driver. These are the exterior dimensions, however, so in actuality the volume is a bit smaller.

Step 4: Building the Enclosure

I found the easiest way to build an enclosure is by using 1" x 1" (or in this case, 3/4" x 3/4") beams for structure, 1/4" oak boards for panels, and wood glue to hold it all together.

Start by gluing down the beams onto a square so that it runs along the border, as shown in the 3rd picture.

Once those have dried, place a side panel flat and glue the bases onto both ends, as shown in the 4th picture. Don't forget to add the vertical support beams. As it dries, the sides may start to lean to one side or warp. To deal with this, I temporarily placed the opposite side panel on top (5th picture) and used the level on my t-square to make sure everything was level.

Next, you're going to need to cut out a hole on the back panel for the wire terminal plate. Mine required a circular hole, but not all terminal plates are the same. Of course, you should cut a hole that fits you're wire terminal plate. Do to lack of other tools, I used a dremel to cut out the hole. Pictures 6 through 14 document the process effectively.

When mounting the wire terminal plate, be sure to use metal screws (preferably with low resistance--mine measured to be about 2 ohms), and make sure they go all the way through and stick out on the other side of the board. We're going to use these as a convenient way to let electricity flow from the outside of the box to the inside. The LEDs are going to be hooked up to the exposed screws, and the power source in going to be hooked up outside. This way, its much easier to turn off the LEDs or to change the battery powering them.

Finally, once the wire terminal plate is mounted, glue the back panel onto the speaker and let the enclosure dry. You should now have a nice box with the front open and the wire terminal plate on the back.

Step 5: Cutting the Front

If you want you speaker to have a clear front, then follow this step using acrylic. If you want a normal speaker, then use wood. Either way, the process should be fairly similar.

When I bought my acrylic, was on a fairly tight budget and didn't fully understand the impact of gaps in speakers. I wanted to use Lexan because I knew it was extremely strong and durable (supposedly around 100 times more impact resistant than glass of similar thickness), but in order to get two 10" x 16" sheets, I had to buy one large, expensive sheet. To save money, I decided to buy two 10" x 8" sheets per speaker to form a 10" x 16" sheet. I would not recommend this, as it ended up causing more hassle than it was worth, and probably caused some loss in audio quality.

The process for cutting the holes for the drivers is very similar to cutting the hole for the wire terminal plate. Using a t-square, mark the centers of your circles. Keep in mind that the drivers need to be far enough away from the edges so that the acrylic doesn't crack and so that the drivers don't hit the wood frame (in my case, this means I needed at least a 1" border). After marking the centers, use a compass, set to the proper radius, to draw the circles.

You may notice that its hard to see the pencil lines, especially on the plastic cover over the acrylic. To make cutting easier, I used a scribing pen to trace the circles. This cut the protective plastic over the acrylic, allowing me to peel it off (picture 3).

Now that the circles are well-defined, use a dremel to cut out the circles (pictures 4-6).

Finally, place the drivers in the holes (or behind them, if they're mounted that way) and mark where screw holes should be. Again, use your ever helpful t-square to make sure everything is level. Once the holes are marked, carefully drill them out. Smooth everything down now and file down any rough/sharp edges.

Step 6: Building the LED Circuitry

To make the LEDs light up in sync with the speakers, we're going to use transistors. Transistors act as electrical gateways. When a small amount of current flows into the middle pin (the base), current is allowed to flow from one pin (the collector) to another (the emitter). We're going to use the current from the audio to open the gate, letting electricity to flow to the LED. Whenever a sound is produced, the LEDs will light up. Each driver will have an LED light unit attached to it, so the lighting for the bass and treble will be independent. In my speakers, I used blue LEDs for the bass and green LEDs for treble.

To build this, you will need LEDs, transistors, and wires. offers good LEDs at very reasonable prices.

To build an LED light unit, start by taking 8 LEDs and bending apart their leads (picture 2-4). Make note of which terminal of the LED is positive and which is negative, as it it more difficult to determine which lead is longer when they are not next to each other. In most LEDs, the smaller half in the actual LED is positve, while the larger part where the light is emitted from is negative.

Once all the LEDs are ready, gather them together into a bundle, making sure the leads are all pointing in the correct direction. Using electrical tape, tape together the leads. Repeat this process for the other 8 LEDs. Now you should have two bundles on LEDs.

Once your LED bundles are ready, take an NPN transistor and carefully bend the leads apart. The transistor in the picture is flat-side up. Using a soldering iron, solder the transistor, LED bundle, and wires together as shown in pictures 10-12 (if you need any tips on soldering, either message me or search for tips online). Afterward, use electrical tape to make sure all exposed metal is covered. Repeat the process for the second LED bundle.

Step 7: Adding the Crossover

A crossover is necessary to split an audio signal into two parts, a high and a low.

If you decided to build a crossover, then it needs to be tailored to fit into the overlap range of your tweeter and woofer. A very helpful tool can be found here:
By entering in the relevant information, this calculator will create a schematic for you and list all the necessary parts. If you do decide to build your own, I would recommend using a 3rd Order Butterworth.

When buying and building a crossover, it is important to remember that to add resistors and inductors, put them in series. To add capacitors, put them in parallel.

If you decided to buy a crossover, you need to make sure that its in the overlap range of the tweeter and woofer. Details for use of specific crossover units should be included when you purchase them.

Step 8: Assembling the Speakers

In order the mount the acrylic, I decided to use angle braces with furniture pads. As shown in pictures 2-4, place a piece of furniture padding onto one side of the angle brace and cut off the excess. Place the mounts where you want them to be on the enclosure (without the acrylic in between). Without compressing the padding, mark on the enclosure where the screw should go. Drill the pilot holes for the screws now.

Now carefully move the crossover into the enclosure. It's probably a good idea to secure the crossover so it doesn't shift around when the speaker is moved.

Now take your LED systems and hook up the wires as shown in picture 6. The signal wires should be in parallel with the drivers they correspond to. The two LED systems are powered from the same source, so take the power source positive wires and solder them to one of the bare screws of the wire terminal plate. Next, take the power source ground wires of the LEDs and solder them to another screw. Tape the screws with electrical tape for safety (picture 7). Now mount the LED bundles inside the enclosure however you like. To power the LEDs, apply a current across the screws (that have the wires on the other side) from the outside (picture 9).

Now the speakers are almost done! Simply use the bolts and lock nuts to mount the drivers onto the acrylic sheet, and then connect the drivers to the crossover.

All that's left now is to close the box. This might be a bit tricky, so its helpful to have someone help you here. Carefully lift the acrylic plate up and line it up to the rest of the enclosure. While someone holds it there, take the angle brace mounts you made and, using wood screws and the pilot holes that were previously made, secure them to the speaker. The furniture pads should be tight and compressed, and the acrylic sheet should be securely fastened between the mounts and the rest of the enclosure.

Congratulations! You're done!

Wait, no, not yet. Test your speakers one more time and make sure everything works. If not, unscrew the mounts and try to find what went wrong since the last time you tested the system. Once you have that cleared up, screw the mounts and the acrylic back on and test again. If everything works...

Congratulations! Now you're done!


Andrew1911 (author)2015-07-27

Awesome design. Im thinking of doing the same to my speakers but i dont know how to wire it correctly to the transistor if you can put a diagram of the circuitry or tell me where to find one that would be great and like jherg what was the power source

JherG (author)2015-07-12

what is the power source of the led???

JonathanR16 (author)2015-02-22

Hey Shingkai great instructable man! Really appreciate it! Was thinking about adding this to my car. I just need you to clear up some hindrances in the way. So let me try to draw a picture with words. Fuse box(in car) -> LED -> Resistor(optional) -> Transistor(C). Then hook up the + terminal of the speaker wire into the Base (what do I do with the -; connect it to ground?). Connect the rest to ground I'm guessing? Thank u for your time!

shingkai (author)JonathanR162015-02-22

If you're going to put it in a car, you may want to use a MOSFET instead of a transistor. They do very similar things (act as an electrical switch), but vary slightly in how they operate. There are probably many guides online about how to wire up a MOSFET. The general idea is the same though, you use the MOSFET as an electrical switch to turn on the LED whenever there are voltage spikes (which correspond to spikes in volume during the duration of a song, e.g. heavy bass beats).

JonathanR16 (author)shingkai2015-02-22

Thanks for replying Shingkai! What would you recommend to do? Plug the LED's directly to the speakers or go the MOSFET route? Thank you for shedding some light on this for me!

amelendez6 (author)2013-11-18

I know this is an old publishing but hopefully I can get an answer. I really like the speakers that come with my Sony stereo system, the way they sound and look, so I just want to add LED's to it. Obviously, I can't just wire the LED directly to the speaker because the source is to powerful and the LED's will blow out. So if I hook the LED to it's own small battery as a power source and use the transistor as explained above will I still risk blowing out the LED? How does the transistor work, do it separate the power source from the audio signal to prevent this kind of damage? The speaker in this project looks about as large as mine, and my system puts out about 120 W per channel. I don't know much more than that.

shingkai (author)amelendez62013-11-18

Hi, yea I wrote this a while back when I was in high school and didn't really know what I was doing (just enough to get it to work, but there are better ways of doing this).

Anyway, a transistor is essentially an electronic switch, but it is current based rather than voltage based like a MOSFET. For the most part, the two circuits will be separated, but there are subtleties.

I'm really busy with coursework right now, but if you send me a reminder message in maybe a week I'll try to get back to you and help you out =)

amelendez6 (author)shingkai2013-12-07

Hello again. So I gave this a go and it worked pretty great, until I put my speakers a little past half way, then the LED's appeared to catch fire and blew out again. I've read online that resistors can help prevent that but I honestly can not figure out what kind of resistors I need. I don't know what voltage my LED's are, I took them from a cheap dollar store toy, but my stereo system says 120 V in the back? I remember you said you there are better ways of doing this, can you help me out?

shingkai (author)amelendez62013-12-07

I'm not that surprised that the LED's blew (sorry about that! I feel partly responsible because the circuit here isn't that good).

What is happening here is that you have excess voltage in the LED circuit that is being converted to heat, causing the LEDs to eventually fry. What voltage is the power source you are using for the LEDs? (not the stereo voltage, the power source for the LEDs).

LEDs are rated for a certain voltage, typically between 2-3 volts. They drop the input voltage by that quantity, so the difference between voltage on the two pins of the LED will be that fixed amount between 2-3v. They also require a certain current to actually light up. When you have a power source with a voltage greater than that 2-3v, the excess voltage generates heat in the wire and LED and cause them to melt. This is why we add a resistor, it lets the waste voltage be safely dissipated as heat, but the ability to do this is determined by the voltage remaining and the operating current of the LED.

A quick google search led to this LED resistor calculator (below). They have some good recommended values at the top, so try that. Apparently they also give you some recommendations on the LED circuit layout to optimize and take advantage of your power source and number of LEDs.

0311 (author)2013-10-27

How about a wiring diagram?

iwanttoolearn (author)2013-08-25

help me i dont understand how to wire light to my music system. You can call me stupid but I was not understanding.

shingkai (author)iwanttoolearn2013-08-25

Hi! I'd be glad to help you learn haha, is there anything specifically that confuses you?

RoeyLeon (author)2013-01-30

Very Nice project!

bob.the.devil (author)2012-06-28

no video? :( thinking about doing something similar with a full plexiglass cabinet and mounting a ton of rgb leds under acoustic foam (sunk in to the plexi) then sanding the edges so it lights up like one of those fiber optic tree. any thoughts suggestions?

shingkai (author)bob.the.devil2012-06-28

hmm I thought i had a video... not sure what happened to it haha sorry

but that sounds awesome! last year i started to make a small pair of laser-cut acrylic speakers using 4" car woofers I had lying around. I had etched patterns into the faces (pretty much the same thing you're going for, correct?), but unfortunately I never got around to finishing them/installing LEDs.

I guess my only suggestion would be to see if you can get access to a laser cutter, (maybe look for makerspaces around you?). then you can get really creative and detailed with your etchings.

actually another thing just came to mind, I'm not sure how acrylic will sound to the discerning audiophile. or to the average person for that matter... it also might not make any difference at all (although my intuition tells me the sound won't be as "warm" perhaps). google it i guess!

anyway good luck, and i'd love to see what you come up with =)

bob.the.devil (author)shingkai2012-06-28

yeah that is what i am using the acoustic foam for the reverb would be awfull with straight up acrylic of plexi. but i have heard about good results when adding some form of damper (and using a ported design) as far as etching i really wasn't think of. i like simple bold things myself i was just thinking accent lighting ( ) i figure if the leds are sunk into the plexi they will light up the edges fairly well. you should restart your engraved project tho it does sound cool, just not my style.

govind s (author)2012-04-02

is it possible to connect leds to a pc speakers which has an output of 9V...?
if do i do it and how many leds can i use...? i would like to use lots...advice pls! and i dont know anything about tell me what to do..!

gregjd5000 (author)govind s2012-06-23

Resistors are for fools. And those who know Ohm's law. What I would do is find LEDs that can handle the RMS voltage of the speakers. If that is 9 volts, then 9 volt LEDs. But, if the input to the speakers is 9v DC as opposed to 9v AC, you only need LEDs that can handle (9 volts) / (√2) aka about 6.5 volts. That means you could either use LEDs that have a voltage input range that covers 6.5 volts or put multiple in series and add up the ranges to get a working range.

If anyone disagrees with my logic and thinks this would fail, it has worked for me many times and I am not one to argue with success. If you do have critiques though I will be glad to hear.

macwhiz (author)2012-02-23

Would this work with a 350 watt per channel speaker?

shingkai (author)macwhiz2012-02-29

It should, though you're going to need to find transistors that can handle whatever power you plan to throw at them

macwhiz (author)shingkai2012-03-01

Where would I find such transistors, and can you post a circuit diagram, including powersupply and everything?

kctess5 (author)2011-11-28

My god no pcb! hectic...

vil9j (author)2011-05-02

what type of leds did you use? 5mm 3mm 10mm?

shingkai (author)vil9j2011-05-02

These were 5mm, but you can use whatever you want really. Just make sure your power source accommodates for them properly (i.e. the right voltage, then make sure the right resistance is there so the right amount of power is going to the LEDs)

vil9j (author)shingkai2011-05-02

alrite thanxs so much and do you know which leds have a hire resistance?

shingkai (author)vil9j2011-05-02

Well the resistance in the LED itself doesn't matter as much as how much power it can handle. Generally speaking you're best off going with the largest LEDs you can find (assuming it's brightness you're after), although if you look at the spec sheets for the LEDs you're considering you can find the luminosity. Then you're going to want to find the continuous power that the LED can handle (which should also be on the spec sheet). Using the equation Power = voltage ^2 divded by resistance, you can figure out how much resistance you need to add based on your voltage source. I hope this makes sense -- what LEDs are you considering?

monsterman (author)2011-01-30

does this work with any npn transistor?

diabloboy (author)2011-01-04

you shouldve use like tin foil for the inside or something to bounce the light so it could be a bit brighter that would be cool just an opinion

koolcracker (author)2010-02-16

 I'm curious, the LEDs are hooked up to the same power supply as the speakers, correct? And it is fine to hook them up without a resistor?

shingkai (author)koolcracker2010-02-16

 Nope, I have an external power supply, in this case 9v batteries. I used the metal screws that hold the terminal plate on and conductors to get through the wood without any obvious wires protruding. And the resistance all depends on how many LEDs you use and what you use to power them.

koolcracker (author)shingkai2010-02-16

are you using a resistor with your set-up? With the LEDs arranged in parallel, they would each draw too much current with a 9v source would they not?

shingkai (author)koolcracker2010-02-17

 Yea, they're in parallel, but the screws had a few ohms of resistance so I figured it'd be fine. But depending on what LEDs/screws/power source you have, you might need to add resistors.

koolcracker (author)shingkai2010-02-18

 Thank you for the help sir.

shingkai (author)koolcracker2010-02-18

Glad I could help!

Millenium_Bt (author)2009-11-12

Do you know if this poject would work with 2N2222 Transistors?

shingkai (author)Millenium_Bt2009-11-12

I think that should work, the specs are pretty much the same as those of the 2n4401. 

Millenium_Bt (author)2009-11-11

If I use totally different drivers would the LED sync system and the transistors stay the same?

shingkai (author)Millenium_Bt2009-11-11

yea, that would stay the same 

Millenium_Bt (author)2009-11-08

If i buy a Crossover wich one should i take?

shingkai (author)Millenium_Bt2009-11-08

Well it really depends on the frequencies of your drivers. Any should work fine as long as the crossover frequency is within the overlap of your drivers.

If you tell me what drivers you're using, I could try recommending one for you. 

Millenium_Bt (author)shingkai2009-11-09

I'm using the same drivers you're using.

shingkai (author)Millenium_Bt2009-11-09

This should do nicely. Good luck! 

Millenium_Bt (author)2009-11-08

Do ihave to buy 10" x 16" sheets or something else?

shingkai (author)Millenium_Bt2009-11-08

Well it really depends on the size of your speakers. As long as its big enough, then it works. I got two sheets of 8 x 10 because i needed 10 x 16, and i figured that two pieces would work as well. But using two separate pieces adds to the difficulty of mounting, as well as detracts from the sound quality. If you need 10 x 16 and you can find 10 x 16 sheets, then go for it. But if you cant find that size, then just a sheet thats big enough.

Millenium_Bt (author)2009-11-08

Did you cut the wood or did you buy it?
And if you bought it where did you buy it?

Millenium_Bt (author)2009-11-08

Do you know if this poject would work with

2N2222 Transistors?

Millenium_Bt (author)2009-11-01

Where did you get the leds and the transistor from?

shingkai (author)Millenium_Bt2009-11-01

and my transistors, i just got from radioshack (painful, i know, but i needed them quick) 

Millenium_Bt (author)2009-10-30

Does the crossover system and the electrical system change if i take another woofer and another tweeter?

shingkai (author)Millenium_Bt2009-10-30

Do you mean a different model woofer and a different model tweeter?
The crossover would probably be a little different, but only slightly. You just need to make sure the split is about midway into the overlap of the frequencies of the woofer and the tweeter.