Circuit Skills LED Color Organ

Add synched visuals to your hi-fi experience.

By Collin Cunningham

Adapted from Aaron Cake's 3 Channel Spectrum Analyzer, Collin Cunningham designed an analog schematic for the LED Color Organ to enhance the aural experience. The circuit uses four operational amplifiers plus ultra-bright 5mm LEDs to respond visually for bass, mid, and treble frequencies.

Long before the dawn of digital music, folks employed the power of the electric color organ (aka "light organ") to add some synched visuals to their hi-fi experience. Schematics for building such a beast based on AC power and incandescent bulbs can be found fairly easy on the Web, but plans for comparable LED-based designs seem a bit harder to come by.

To build your own LED Color Organ, we have a couple of options for you.

Color Organ Kit

This Intermediate skill level kit contains a custom PCB, labeled with component locations for a quicker build. Assembly time is 3 to 4 hours.

The Customizable LED Color Organ Kit

This components bundle contains the parts you'll need, but allows you to design your PCB layout and customize the organ however you like. Assembly time is 3 to 4 hours.

Step 1: ICs U1, U2

Take note of the orientation of the ICs and IC sockets by looking at the notch and matching the notch of the IC to the notch of the PCB. See Figure 1.

IC Polarity
Figure 1: IC Polarity

Step 2: Diodes D1, D2, D3

The correct configuration of the diodes is shown in Figure 2. Pay attention to the stripe on one end of the diode indicating the cathode end.

Diode Polarity
Figure 2: Diode Polarity

Step 3: Transistors Q1, Q2, Q3

Polarities of the Bipolar Junction Transistors (BJTs) are extremely important. Here, we use the 2N3904, 3-pin package. Match the component to the symbol in Figure 3.

Correct BJT Pinout
Figure 3: Correct BJT Pinout

Step 4: Non-Polarized Resistor Color Code

R1, R2, R3, R16, R17: 1kΩ (Brown, Black, Red)
R4, R5, R6: 560k1kΩ (Green, Blue, Yellow)
R7, R8, R9: 6801kΩ (Blue, Gray, Brown)
R10, R11, R12:/ 39k1kΩ (Orange, White, Orange)
R13, R14, R15, R27, R28: 100k1kΩ (Brown, Black, Yellow)
R18, R19: 4701kΩ (Yellow, Violet, Brown)
R20, R21: 1601kΩ (Brown, Blue, Brown)
R22: 1M1kΩ (Brown, Black, Green)
R23: 47k1kΩ (Yellow, Violet, Orange)
R24, R25, R26: 20k1kΩ (Red, Black, Orange)

Step 5: Capacitors

C1 through C7, C15 non-polarized capacitors.
C1, C2 0.0022µF
C3, C4:0.01µF
C5, C6: 0.047µF
C7, C15: 0.1µF
C8 through C14: These electrolytic are polirazied with the negative side (shorter lead) indicated by a strip on one side, see Figure 5.
C8, C9, C10: 2.2µF
C11: 1.0µF
C12, C14: 4.7µF
C13: 22µF

Electrolytic Capacitor Polarity
Figure 4: Electrolytic Capacitor Polarity

Step 6: LEDs

D4, D5, D6, D7: Yellow (represents the Treble)
D8, D9, D10, D11: Red (represents the Mids)
D12, D13, D14, D15: Blue (represents the Bass)

Be sure to have the cathode end (shorter lead) facing the side with the flat edge. See Figure 5.

LED Polarity
Figure 5: LED Polarity

Step 7: Audio Jack and Power Jack U4, U5

There is only one way to insert each of these components into the board, so just be sure to apply enough solder to ensure a good connection with each tab.

Audio Jack pinout
Figure 6: Audio Jack Pinout

DC Power Jack Pinout
Figure 7: DC Power Jack Pinout

Keep in mind that this project makes a mono-channel LED light organ, which means if you plug in your headphones, music will only come out of one side. If you wish to make it a stereo light organ, you will have to duplicate this circuit for the second channel. As always, remember to take extra precaution when soldering! Most importantly, have fun!


Click here to enlarge

We would love to hear how your build turned out. Let us know at [email protected].

Other Circuit Skills DIY Videos by Collin:

Circuit Board Etching
Function Generator and Enclosures
Infrared Light Barrier
LED Matrix Kit
Perfboard Protyping
Power Supply
Pulse Width Modulation
Surface Mount Devices
Fiber Optics