Music visualization - state of the art, best apps, and limitations

I just bought a LIFX+ light bulb, and the light strip, with the goal of using them for simple music visualization. Not looking for something too complicated - even just flashing or pulsing the light a single color when a certain volume threshold is exceed (I’ll link to a video below) would do - like this good old-school “Sound activated 15 Color LED Light Bulb” from Eagle Light, which is equipped with its own microphone and DSP chip, and which worked great in 2011 when I bought it (sorry I haven’t linked to that bulb - I’m a “new user” and limited to 2 links like an ordinary spammer :-/).

However, I haven’t found any decent real-time music visualization option. On Android, the LIFX app’s Music Visualizer pulses the light completely at random and not in sync with the music, and the LIFX team seems to be aware of this. The iPhone app is better (no random flashing) but not really in sync.

Here’s a video I recorded with what I mean by “in sync” - it’s me manually matching the simple beat of Queen - We Will Rock You:

Is automatic music visualization like this possible to achieve with the LIFX and it’s just a problem of finding or writing a good app?

Or are there still limitations in the bulb LAN protocol that prevent real-time viz, as this post from @LightDJPro suggests?

But keep in mind that the bulb command rate limits still apply. Also the responsiveness of the lights will be better if there are more bulbs that can share the workload. A “spike” on the Visualizer involves 2 commands (turn light on over duration X, turn light off over duration Y), so if you only have 1 Hue bulb for example, the app has to wait until both those commands to finish before it can control the bulb again (which could be as long as 1 second).


In that post I believe he’s talking about Hue bulbs at that point. The recommended command rate limit for LIFX is 20 per second, but I’ve actually found that slowing down transitions can make things look better. Also, you wouldn’t power off and on for this sort of effect, just set brightness to zero and full again.

I don’t think the problem is with the protocol, but I don’t know of any decent music viz apps - I guess it’s just that no one has written one (that I’m aware of). I’ve been meaning to try and find the time to write a Kodi plugin, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.

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Light dj on iOS is pretty good. I’ve been looking for an app for Windows for atleast 3 months now. The lifx app is useless. Their development team have been working on a “fix” for an audio driver detection error for over 3 months. It’s like they have one guy back there doing all the work.

The best one I have come across is Music Visualizer for LIFX, I highly recommend it!

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You should leave a review for it then… it only has 3 reviews, and two of them are 1-star. Also, no updates since July 2015.

The Australian App Store only shows one review of 5 stars. That review was written by me:

This app uses the mic on your iOS device to listen for bass drops and pulsates to sounds in the room. I have tried several different apps that are meant to work with music, but they really don’t compare to my experience with this app.

Note: I have not tested it with light strips, I only have the original LIFX bulbs.

I bought the app and tested it against Queen - We Will Rock You (no connection to the music really) and a 60 BPM metronome track (it misses every 5th beat). At higher BPM, the sync gets worse. There are no customization options, and the last update was in July 2015.

I found Light DJ to be a lot better in sync with We Will Rock You, esp. if you have 2+ bulbs. I couldn’t figure out yet how to stop alternating the colors though, and just have Light DJ pulse/flash/dim one color. Ping @LightDJPro .

Setting all colors to the same and turning off auto-change colors is the only way to guarantee the same color, otherwise it’s a random pick from the selections.

So I bought a Philips Hue kit and found Huegasm. That app is amazing.

To quote some reviews of the extension (yes, it’s an Android app, website at and Chrome extension that can visualize the audio stream of the currently playing tab):

There’s zero lag between music and the lights, no idea how you’ve achieved that, I would pay for this!


Only app that promises lights synced to music that actually feels in sync, very good work!

Also, it’s free. But I’d be happy to pay for it if it worked with the LIFX. Now I have to switch to Hue, even though it’s nowhere near as bright, and the bridge concept is redundant.

Anyway, Huegasm is so far the state of the art that I’ve found for syncing smart bulbs to music.

Pumped up kicks looks amazing. And I can visualize this from this very tab.

Still, it chokes at the 90bpm metronome, which I guess might be a Hue limitation.


I’ve just discovered the (very badly) named iLightShow for Philips Hue on the App Store, but the latest versions work perfectly with my LIFX bulbs, even discovering my LIFX Mini bulbs, which no other app has done so far.

Based off the review, I paid the $8 to unlock all the features and I’m glad I did.

I’ve got it playing to an Apple TV 4 and it seems fairly beat accurate to me, but it does download track and audio analysis and it allows for adding/removing delay, so I’d be interested to know what someone with more experience thinks.

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I think for this kind of application, neither Philips Hue nor LIFX is ready for it.
Music visualization syncing with music beats is just a dream for now:

  1. For most of Philips Hue bulbs and LED strips, it’s brightness changes from brightest to darkest is too little, the main reason maybe is Philips Hue fears to put its customers into dark…
    LIFX is better than Philips Hue, as LIFX don’t fears to put their customers to dark… they think people is smart enough to deal with dark…
  2. Both Philips hue and LIFX can not response to light change command immediately…
    at the first glance, I think LIFX has the capability to do better than Philips Hue, because it’s based on WIFI, but actually it’s not, as every thing is based on broadcast, the broadcast has an interval, and the bulbs can’t response at the same time, the response interval make it can not afford syncing with music…
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I just found out about Huegasm and I’m kinda mad that LiFX don’t think music synchronization is a useful enough feature to have implemented in the correct way.
The Android LIFX app has no music recognition, the Windows app is a MVP but not customizable.

Meanwhile Huegasm is a 1+ year old project and it still works flawlessly as I see from the videos online.
After 2 years with LiFX, I still haven’t find a way to fluently have the bulb display a basic rhythm without going off tempo.

As soon as the first hardware problem arise, I’m pretty sure I’ll switch to Hue… seems worth the price with all the apps available.

A post was split to a new topic: Music visualization on Tiles with Volux