A Wearable Sound-to-light Display, Without a Microprocessor - the Musicator Junior.




Smaller than the 9-volt battery that powers it, the Musicator Jr. displays the sound it 'hears' (through the Electret Microphone) as fluctuating light bars.

Small enough to fit in your shirt pocket, it can also be placed on a flat surface to monitor the sound levels around it.

An alkaline battery will easily power it 20 or more hours.

Step 1: The Parts Needed

The 'brains' of this project is a LM358 general-purpose op-amp which costs under 30-cents. The first half of the circuit is an amplifier which boosts the 500-micro-volts from an electret mic to about 1-volt. This level is generally called 'Line-level' and can be used to drive our LEDs, an audio amp, or even the input pins of an Arduino processor.

The second half of the op-amp is used as a voltage-to-current converter, which limits the brightness of the LEDs to 10mA or less.

The complete list of parts is below:

LEDs. Any combination can be used, as long as their total forward voltages is less then 8. For example, you can have up to 4 amber LEDs with 1.8v Vf.

Electret microphone - I got mine on eBay for under 25-cent
LM358 - Op-amp (8-pin DIP). Also available on eBay.
2N4401 - NPN general transistor (other audio NPN-types will probably work as well)
10k resistor x 5
2.2k resistor x 1
470k resistor x 1 (Can also be 330k as labeled in the circuit)
100-ohm resistor x 1
1uF capacitor
0.1uF capacitor
9-volt battery and connector
Perf-board and mounting parts.

Total cost: $3 or less.

Step 2: The Schematic

Thanks to echoskope for this schematic!

You can download a larger copy of the circuit here.

You can download a copy in pdf format here.

Step 3: Assembly

Construction is very straightforward -the only caution is the electret mic is polarized - the side which is connected to the outer casing is Ground (or Negative). See the last image for the pin-out of the one I used - note the connections to the shell from the - pin.

The first image is the completed board from both sides, followed by an 'X-Ray' image from the solder side.

Step 4: Fire It Up!

Once it's tested and working, you'll find that it's a real conversation piece at your next party or dance.

You can slip it inside a shirt pocket with the perfboard on the outside. The mic will pick up the sound from around you and the LEDs will 'perform' to it.

A final touch - cut short pieces of a clear or translucent drinking straw to fit over the tops of the LEDs. This will spread the light to give you the 'bar of light' effect.

The last image is my test rig for this project.

A video of the Junior Musicator in action here.

Step 5: Adding More Lights (and the Maths)

To allow the output transistor to handle more LEDs, start by making sure you have maximum LEDs on each 'string' (ones in series): If your supply is V, then substract 2 and multiply by 0.9 Then, for each White, Blue, Pink or Violet LED, subtract 3; for others (Red, Yellow, Orange, Green) subtract 2, until you get as close to 0 as you can. This is the combination that gives you the most LED for the lowest power wastage.

Each 2N4401 (or BC337) can handle up to 8 'strings' - but you will have to make sure each string is composed of identical LEDs as the first string - then adjust R-bright to 100/n, where n is the number of strings, connected in parallel. The value of R should be 100 * R-bright.

  If you have a 9v system, then Start with (V-2)*0.9 = 6.3; Which means we can have 2 Whites OR 3 Reds, And if we have 4 strings of this, then R-bright would be 100/4, or 25-ohms. You can use 22-ohms here, and R should be 22*100, or 2.2k. NOTE: You can have up to 8 string ONLY with the 2 transistors specified. While high-powered devices like the TIP-series will work, they may not have the gain to drive the LEDs fully. If you want to use 2N2222, 2N3906 or similar audio transistors, limit the strings to 4 or less.

 One final expansion is to duplicate the entire stage, starting with R, R-bright and the driver Transistor along with the SAME LED arrangement. Connect like the previous Stage, EXCEPT, do not connect R-bright to the input of the op-amp. It is still required but only to make the load identical to the first stage. This way, you can have up to 5 stages in total.

And, if you haven't yet, check out the Next generation of the Musicator! Please vote if you want to see more of the same.

Finalist in the
Art of Sound Contest

Finalist in the
Pocket-Sized Contest



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    263 Discussions


    Question 6 months ago

    is there a way to invert the voltage to the led's so they dim instead of brighten when sound is detected.


    3 years ago

    Can i use any other microphone, like a very good one so the device registers sounds from far away (5m) ?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Unless you are thinking of directional mikes (parabolic etc.) Whatever sound closest to the mike will drown out anything further away.

    What are you planning to use this for?


    3 years ago

    How can u test whether a mic is working or not


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I'm thinking about using an LED strip for this. Can I use more than 3 LEDs on this circuit?

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Introduction

    How can I modify this design so that instead of the output going to the LED's, the output goes into an inverter for EL wire?
    Would I just need to take out the LED's and replace them with the anode and cathode of the 9V driver?

    Also, in an unrelated note, why are there only two LEDs in the schematic?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    The circuit is current-driven, so it'll probably not suit the inverter that well. However, if you know (or measure) the minimum (dark) and maximum (bright) current requirements of your specific EL driver, you can find some work-arounds to possibly make it work.

    The circuit can only drive 2 white or blue LEDs, but can do 3 red or orange ones.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Has anyone done this on a breadboard? If so, is there maybe a reference photo anyone could share? Thank you!


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    You can use any combination of different LEDs by using the calculations in Step 5, however ...

    If you mean powering the R, G and B LEDs separately, based perhaps on frequency, then see my response to umfan10, a bit further down ...

    BUT, if you mean using LEDs that have all the RGB elements built in, then it's not a good idea - their close proximity gives a muddy-green effect. Not pretty at all.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    The mic cannot be more than 2-inches away from the rest of the circuit without using a shielded cable. It is much better to wire the LEDs off the board and keep the mic and op-amp as close together as possible.


    Reply 6 years ago on Step 4

    EL wire requires over 100-volts to work, so this circuit cannot work with it without major changes.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    In a word, No.

    The NTE part is a single op-amp designed for dual supplies and requires frequency compensation. The LM358 is effectively TWO simplified NTE975's all within the same package.

    A quick search through eBay will list you a number of suppliers for the LM358 at a fraction the cost of what RS wants for the NTE.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    just a random question if something was at 5.26 V and i needed it to drop down to 3.4V how would i do that i know you throw on some resistors on there but they dont seem to do anything