Display technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, thanks in no small part to the smartphone revolution. High-resolution LCD panels are dirt cheap and easy to interface with. There’s absolutely no logical reason to try and show images on a 32×32 array of RGB LEDs. But that didn’t stop [Felix Spöttel] from doing it anyway.
The project, which he calls thirtytwopixels, was designed to work in conjunction with MPD (Music Player Daemon) to show the album art for whatever is currently playing. The ultra-low resolution display added a certain element of abstractness to the artwork, which [Felix] said made it an interesting conversation starter. Guests would try and guess what the album art was depicting given the sparse rendition shown on the matrix.
[Felix] gives an excellent explanation of how to get the server and client-side software up and running should you want to recreate his setup, but his Python scripts also have a function where you can push an arbitrary image to the display if you don’t want to connect everything up to the MPD backend.
On the hardware side, thirtytwopixels uses the Raspberry Pi Zero W, a Adafruit RGB Matrix Bonnet, and a 32×32 LED matrix that uses the HUB75 interface. Even a relatively small LED matrix like this can get pretty thirsty, so [Felix] is using a 5 volt power supply that can deliver 4 amps to keep the electronics happy.
If you wanted to keep the low resolution aesthetic but make the display larger, we’ve seen WS2812B LED strips and 3D printed frames used to make a custom jumbo matrix which could surely be adapted for this concept.
[Raffael] had an old Broken Yamaha natural sound receiver lying around. Rather than throw it out, he built himself a slick web radio. He calls it RadioduinoWRT. [Raffael] started by removing all the internals – though he kept the front panel controls. He then added an Arduino Mega to handle the front panel controls, including a 16×2 character LCD module. The Arduino also takes commands via IR remote. An enc28j60 Ethernet module allows the Arduino to communicate with a the brains of the operation, a TL-WR703N mini router.
A micro USB hub expands the single USB port on the WR703, allowing both a USB sound card and a 4 gig USB stick to be mounted. We’d like to add that the TL-WR703 is a must in this application – the amazon link [Rafael] provides brings up the TL-WR702 as a top link. Only the TL-WR703 has a USB host connection.
The real magic is in [Raffael’s] software setup. The WR703 is running OpenWRT. He added modules for the USB sound card, as well as expanding the file system onto the USB stick. Once that was complete [Raffael] added Music Player Daemon (MPD) and MPC, a console app to drive MPD. Lighttpd, a light web server provides an interface for the Arduino as well as a web front end to the entire radio.All this allows [Raffael] to control his radio in several ways. He can log in via any web browser on his network. He can use the front panel controls. He can use an IR remote. Since he is running MPD, any client (there are literally hundreds out there) will also drive the radio.
While a low-end USB sound card in a home stereo application does make our inner audiophile cringe a bit, the quality does seem to be pretty good. [Rafael’s] design would make it simple to swap out a higher quality USB sound card if the need arises.
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