If you want an easy project to spice up your next party, chances are you already have parts on hand to throw together [Mikerbot's] quick and dirty VU-meter lights. The circuit he designed uses the audio input to trigger the base of a PNP transistor, toggling power through a string of LEDs. He’s using four lights for each of the stereo output signals, making them pulse with the music as seen in the video after the break. The circuit is built on a breadboard, and housed in a picture frame with a less-than-impressive diffuser (we think that’s always the hardest part… check out the Heavy Frost used in this project if you want something that works really well).
There are some VU meter chips out there that will really augment this concept. But one improvement might be to throw in an amplifier chip like the LM386 and a couple of potentiometers so that you can dial-in the sensitivity.