Life-Size Vu Meter Gets the Party Started

There’s nothing better than making a giant version of one of your hacks. That is, other than making it giant and interactive. That’s just what [Est] has done with his interactive VU meter that lights up the party.

The giant VU meter boasts a series of IR detectors that change the colors and modes of the meter based on where the user places their hands. The sensors measure how much light is reflected back to them, which essentially function as a cheap range finder. The normal operation of the meter and the new interactivity is controlled by a PIC16F883 and all of the parts were built using a home-made CNC router. There are two addressable RGB LEDs for each level and in the base there are four 3 W RGB LEDS. At 25 levels, this is an impressive amount of light.

[Est]’s smaller version of the VU meter has been featured here before, if you’re looking to enhance your music-listening or party-going experiences with something a little less intimidating. We’ve also seen VU meters built directly into the speakers and also into prom dresses.

This VU Meter is Built Into the Speaker

Depending on the music you’re listening to, watching a VU meter bounce to the music is always a good time. So why not integrate the VU meter right into the audio source? That’s what [Matikas] did, and it’s pretty fantastic.

He started with a pair of speakers he had and picked up some NeoPixel LED strips. Carefully wrapping the LED strips around the inside circumference of each speaker, the LEDs fit behind the speaker grills, giving it a cool effect when they’re on.

To control the LEDs, he’s using an Arduino Uno (Atmega328p) which measures the audio level in order to modulate the LED output. A bit of software later (shared on GitHub if you’re interested!) and the VU meters were ready for action — check it out!

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Visual rain sensor — so you never have to look outside

Now you can find out how hard it is raining outside without leaving the confines of your mancave/womancave. Pictured above is the sensor portion of what [Frapedia] calls his visual rain sensor.

Most rain gauges just use a graduated cylinder to capture water as it falls from the sky. That will give you a reasonably accurate measure of how much it rained, but it tells you nothing about how hard it rained. The measurement made here is based on sound. The harder it rains, the lounder the sound will be from water hitting an up-turned metal bowl. The unit above turns the system on when water bridges the traces, then a microphone is used to monitor the sound from the bowl. This is visualized by a VU-meter chip on a column of LEDs mounted inside the house.

After the break you can see the project box that houses the status display. We say it’s too small an needs to be replaced with a much larger LED meter.

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Giant bulb VU meter


The latest Inventgeek project is a 12 outlet control box. They decided to demo it using a giant bulb based VU meter. The control box has 12 individual outlets hooked up to two layers of six solid state relays. [Jared] notes that SSRs can be very expensive, but he purchased his on eBay for ~$10 each. Wiring and installation on this project is incredibly clean and they plan on using the control box for future how-tos. The simple audio circuit used for the VU is based on the LM3915. You’ll find full plans on the site or you can watch the overview video embedded below.

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VU Meter made with an LM3915

So here’s the situation: you have an audio device, maybe a boombox, perhaps one you built yourself, but it has no VU meter. No problem; building a VU meter is easy with these instructions from [Joe].

You’ll need either an LM3915 or LM3916 chip, a couple of bread boards, two audio jacks, ten LEDs, and a few other components. Wire them all together per the schematic, then plug an audio source into the input jack. You can plug your speakers or output device into the output jack, and you’re done. Keep in mind that LM3916s switch negative, so positive to positive wiring from LEDs to the bread board will be necessary. The wiring on [Joe]’s version is a bit convoluted, but it can be cleaned up on yours if you take the time. Video embedded below.

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Multiband Nixie VU meter

This VU meter project by [Daniel Naito] is a great piece of Russian electrocouture. It’s made up of 14 Nixie tubes that display seven frequency bands for the two audio channels. He found this similar project, but wanted to keep the cost low by avoiding such exotic ICs. First, the two input channels are amplified and then split using seven bandpass filters covering 60, 150, 400, 1000, 2500, 6000, and 15000Hz. Then, the AC audio is converted to DC. The final stage converts the logarithmic scale to a linear output. Besides the semirare Nixie tubes, the majority of the parts are just cheap opamps and comparators. The post is an excellent read and you can see it in action in the video below.

UPDATE: Yep, it’s a repost. I’m awesome like that. The True RMS Plasma Vu-meter seems to be new to us though.

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