There are plenty of LED VU Meters out there and I'm very found of the ones like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lASJL47g-Bc. However, even though they look awesome, it does take up quite a bit of room. My idea is to control an 8 channel el wire display which will be positioned on a wall. This will be one module in a larger sound audio project for my room but I'll keep it separate.
The image on this slide shows the general concept: taking signal input from an auxiliary music cord and, based on it's volume, enable a series of EL Wire strands to illuminate. You will need the following:
Attoparsec 8 Ch EL Wire Interface
EL Wire Inverter (This could change, I'm having little luck finding the right one because the channels are in parallel and the EL power inverters usually go by the length of the wire used)
Code Composer Studio
IAR Embedded Workbench Kickstart
Soldering Iron/ Solder
Step 1: RESEARCH & DESIGN
First get to know EL wire and what it's all about. Here's some useful links
What's it made of
Some basic transistor theory (we will be using traics though, because we're switching an AC source)
Decide how you want the EL wire to react; ie just blinking, audio reactive, microphone reactive, full on or full off.. etc. And decide on your space for the project. EL wire is convenient this way because you only need one end connected to the power source and the end can go out in any direction. I designed my room at school google sketchup so I can visually see/ measure an area out for my project and get a feel for how the final product will look. Also, I've decided to use an MSP430 board because 1) it's only $4.30 and 2) my atmega chip died on my arduino. Once you've figured out what you want to do, order the dam parts already!
Step 2: BUILD ATTOPARSEC BOARD
This is pretty straight forward, the instructions for doing so are posted here. Careful not to accidentally bridge a connection between the triac pins, they have little clearance. Also, you'll notice in the pictures that I've left one of the pins bent, that's because if I cant find the right power inverter (or don't want to spend the money) I'll cut the global inv+ trace and wire the 8 separate inverters that mine came with on ebay. That will probably get really noisy but maybe I can alternate the inv- and inv+ connections on every other inverter and the high pitch noise from each of the 8 inverters will be 180 deg out of phase and give some sort of noise cancellation? Who knows, worth a try though.