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Holiday DIY Tricks -Sound Responsive Lights

There are two materials everyone has handy during the next few weeks, christmas lights and lots of music. So why not make them work together in time? In this article we are going to show you a few ways to turn any string you have laying around into a sound responsive light show that stays in time with all of your holiday parties. Cant afford a custom dj light show in the club? This sub $30 hack will create the same results for next to nothing.

THE MATERIALS

The Materials

Although there are a variety of ways to approach this project, a simple speaker hack seems to be the easiest and most affordable method. The beauty is that many of the required materials are both easy to find and often already on hand for the tech-savvy DJ. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

1. Speaker: Don’t go taking apart your $700 sound system, any old speaker you have lying around will be perfectly fine here. A cheap set of computer speakers from the local goodwill will work perfectly.

2. Holiday Lights: You’ll be using one channel of lights in this setup. And remember, holiday lights tend to sell out really quickly during the season so try not to wait till the last minute to grab a set.

3. Electrical Tape & Solid Enclosure: Like most D.I.Y. projects, there is a bit of wiring involved so keeping safety as your top priority is incredibly important. These will be critical in damage control during those eggnog-induced accidents.

4. Soldering Iron & Wire Stripper: Very self-explanatory but also a necessity for sturdy and clean connections. If you don’t have an iron available, check out the end of this article for some ready to go kits that dont require any assembly.

5. Solid State Relay: A relay with a currency rating of at least 120 VAC is ideal. Solid states are preferable because they contain no moving parts, can better stand situations with heavy bass-induced vibrations and work quickly. Look for these online and make sure to call ahead to check on their availability before trekking to the hardware store.

6. Power Outlet Adapter: Virtually any adapter with at least two prongs will do although models with holes in the center of the prongs are nice for easy soldering.

7. Extra Power Cord

THE BREAKDOWN

The Breakdown

Step 1: Open up your speaker and carefully remove the two wires running into the amplifier with the soldering iron. Solder them to the relay as per the image.

Step 2: Solder a wire from the outlet adapter to the relay. Any connections you make to the adapter can be tied to the center holes on the prong for a sturdier fit.

Step 3: Carefully cut the female end on the power cord to expose the wires. Solder one of the connections from the power cord to the outlet adapter. Solder the remaining wire from the power cord to the remaining coil on the relay.

here is a detailed video explaining the process


 

WRAPPING IT UP

As we mentioned earlier, there are some excellent alternatives floating around for other inexpensive means to set-up sound responsive lights. If you’re not into programming or basic circuitry, pre-made kits can easily be found online for under $50 although most are limited to preselected tracks like Mr. Christmas, other hardware such as Light-O-Rama allow for more flexibility. For the latter option, there are pre-written guides on the setup process which can be found here. However, if you are willing to work a little bit with solid state relays, the Arduino Christmas Light Controller is definitely worth checking out. My personal favorite is a Microsoft .NET-based project which is largely software dependent and requires no soldering.

Ona final note, keep in mind that creativity will pay off in the end! There are a wide variety of other ways to approach this DIY project without cracking open a speaker – one of the ideas we’ve been throwing around the office is to replace the speaker with an auxiliary cable that is connected directly to your dj mixer. This would be the perfect mobile addition to your dj bag without taking up too much space. In the spirit of the holiday season, let us know if you have any of your own tips and tricks for cool lighting displays to share!

  • Coco Kootsillas

    Is it possible to use a USB cable instead to plug into a 300kmah battery pack? I need this piece to be portable and will be attaching it to a person. Any help would be amazing!

    I’d like to avoid going the Arduino breadboard route. And just need a straight forward speaker that will pick up heavy bass sounds at a show.

  • Alex

    Has anyone actually gotten this to work? I have had no success….

  • Sydnee

    I know I’m in way over my head here, but where/how do I attach the lights to this..?

  • Carl Stuart Murray

    oh man, more stuff like this. Lighting is such a massively huge part of DJ-ing I reckon, and more info on visual stuff would be awesome!

  • Anonymous

    Illuminates me in a good way. http://www.christmaslightdecorators.com

  • Daniel Taub

    Love it, but why not something more like http://www.crowdsupply.com/saikoled/myki-led-light

  • Rob Jackson

    Is the relay normally open or closed contacts and which set does speaker hook to?

  • Craigcyril66

    This is
    really awesome technique which is more cheap and potable. It is the
    combination of light with music. Sound responsive light equipments are
    produce both features one is light other is music and light is change
    according to the music. Thanks for sharing this post.  
     DJ equipment

  • scherer169

    HELP. How would i wire a stop light to music that would beat a different light to each of the red,green ,and yellow lights? all running of my home stereo system.

    • Joe Downey

      3 separate setups like this all wired to one wall outlet.

  • Sam

    Isted of soldering the Power Outlet Adapter on solder it to a power board and your done

  • Sam

    Can you add more points to put in lights?

  • Draft

    Has anyone had success building this? Gonna attempt to start building tomorrow!

  • This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. For a straight day I was looking for tutorials on how to do this and only really found product links to these really expensive controllers and really crap videos on modifying a ton of stuff.

    I’m going to see if I can put this together in my room, would be great just to have some ambient lighting and stuff going.

  • [quote comment=”25421″]Hey Kosta X, research DMX controllers they control lighting/fx via an interface similar to midi, and you can convert between DMX and midi with both soft and hardware converters.[/quote]

    thanks for pointing me in the right direction. i did a simple google search, and am having a hard time finding the info i’m looking for. Will software like Martin Light Jockey convert the midi signal to DMX without any other external hardware?

    i stumbled across a free iphone app that can remotely change the lighting… pretty neat.
    http://martin.com/product/product.asp?product=iphonemaxremote

    As I see with this article, djtechtools is starting to broaden the range of topics. Would be awesome to cover Midi to DMX as an article in the future.

  • Zac Kyoti

    MIDI to voltage converters are another cool thing for DIY projects. You can get motors involved for kinetic sculptures, lights, you name it.

  • midifidler

    Hey Kosta X, research DMX controllers they control lighting/fx via an interface similar to midi, and you can convert between DMX and midi with both soft and hardware converters.

  • Pretty cool article. The idea of controlling lights via midi popped in my head recently.. Anyone know if its possible?

  • ilya

    Scott,

    Thanks for the heads up! You are correct that I mislabeled the diagram “speaker” instead of “amplifier” as I had listed in the first step. I’ll try to update the image as soon as possible!

  • Anonymous

    Gotta have the SCROODGE’s around for the holidays too i suppose!

  • Scott

    Yeah, this article is confusing because the diagram and the video are two completely different ways of approaching this.

    For a diagram of what the guy did in the video – picture the above diagram, but instead of the yellow circle labeled “speaker”, it would say “amplifier” and have another power cord (the original one) going from it off to the left.
    It may help to imagine an “audio in” connection (the original one) on the amp as well.

    So you plug the old power cord into an outlet, plug in an audio signal just like you used to before the hack, switch it on, and now your audio signal gets amplified then goes to the Solid State Relay, who “listens” and decides how to regulate the power level coming in from the hacked power cord (plugged into another outlet) to the hacked outlet adapter (into which you plug your lights).

    In the actual diagram above, they’re using ambient room noise to move the speaker which sends a tiny signal to the SSR. And i’m not totally convinced that signal would be strong enough to modulate the SSR without any amplification.

    In either case you won’t be hearing anything out of the hacked speaker. Kiss it goodbye.

  • midifidler

    @This tutorial is for people…

    The microphone is not being used as a micro phone, the solution shown in the video is pretty much the same as running the aux out of the mixer, except it would need a 3.5 mm to RCA converter to plug directly in.

    Though if you did watch the video you should have seen that they connect a power socket to the top of the speaker enclosure and run an extra power cord in through a hole in the back.

    The solid state relay sits between the two and turns on when the audio signal is loud enough. By using a cheap computer speaker amplifier you get around having to build the drive circuitry from scratch.

  • DJTimmy

    Well although cool, potentially unsafe. sorry the electrician part of me wanting to make a comment… essentially this is a single channel color organ… Another route is a different DIY way using Vixen software and Renard boards but night not be ideal software for dj but if you want to sync your Christmas lights to music at your house then… Check out the forums at http://doityourselfchristmas.com im a member there as well…. requires some soldering skills but there are plenty of people to help including myself… my nickname there is wvengineer…

  • gtron

    that was really cool

  • Mixer Miyagi

    How exactly could you do this running the auxiliary cable from the mixer as mentioned at the end of the article…

  • this tutorial is for people who already know how to do this

    Where is the sound coming from? Why do DJTT’s instructions say the speaker is used to pick up sound when the speaker is not used in the video? Where do the lights get their power? If it’s from the power that the speaker is getting, why doesn’t either explanation mention that?

  • Vinicius Hoffmann [Brazil]

    I wish i had soldering skills to do it, can we still use the speaker to play the song?
    Can we do it with led lights?
    I’m dreaming with a moded speaker with lots of sound responsive led lights.
    awesome!

  • mpetersen3

    someone needs to hook up their vci with xmas lights to flash

  • Anonymous

    Doing this for sure!

  • Pieter

    wow, neat tutorial! I’m tryinging it out immediately! This would look so nice on the christmas tree
    Would it work to use a tulp music output that leads to the relay instead of the speaker?

  • n2hf1st

    haha that’s pretty awesome, although I doubt I’ll ever get around to doing it.