FAQ

How many LEDs can the ViVi Music LED Controller control?

ViVi can control 300 LEDs addresses per output, for 900 total. BUT this is not the total number of LEDs it is possible to control. The data signal from each of the three outputs can be split to multiple strips, creating multiple strips that show the same thing; This can be done with passive splits or signal repeaters to allow for thousands of LEDs, still with only 900 unique data points.

So ViVi can control thousands of LEDs, BUT it cannot directly power thousands of LEDs. ViVi can provide power for approximately 600 LEDs, this can vary up or down based on the settings used (more details are further down in the FAQ). So ViVi’s data signal can be used to control thousands of LEDs (only requires connecting DATA and GND), but beyond 600 you may need to install additional power distribution.

What length of LEDs?

There are many factors that affect this. Using the same LEDs we include in our 4-Strip Kit, the maximum continuous strip length is 10m (32.8 feet). This is for WS2812B, 5V, 30 LED/m strips. An easy way to double this, for example to run LEDs around a ceiling perimeter, is to use a splitter (also included in our 4-Strip Kit), which would allow starting two 10m (32.8 feet) strips at a single point and running in opposite directions, for total continuous coverage of 20m (65.6 feet). This is using only one of ViVi’s three LED outputs, so triple this length is possible; AND even more length than 20m (65.6 feet) is possible from a single output, so hundreds of feet are possible with the correct set up!

Maximum length of LEDs depends on the density of the LED strips and installation configuration of the strips (primarily data routing). The most important limit to keep in mind when designed a large LED installation with ViVi is the number of LED addresses, maximum of 300 per output. Using 30 LED/m strips that would be 10 meters (32.8 feet). Using one passive splitter to send the same data to two strips doubles the length potential of a single output, but that’s only one small possible way to expand. You could use 4 passive splitters, or use a powered signal repeater with 8 outputs (now you can have 8 times the length!). You could use multiple signal repeaters and have 100 times the length!

NOTE: Digital signal repeaters for LEDs like the WS2812B (digital) are different from the old style RGB (analog) repeaters/boosters. The old RGB LEDs light up the entire strip the same color and brightness, so the boosters would attach to the end of any strip, connect a new power supply, and then continue sending the same signal to the next strip which was only a single color. Signal repeaters that work with WS2812B LEDs mirror a signal for a strip rather than continue it, so they cannot be connected to the end of a strip, the must be connected before the data reaches a strip and that data can then be sent to multiple strips.

But wait, there’s more! Maybe you don’t want to repeat a bunch of 10m (32.8 foot) sections. Then, with careful wiring, you could use LEDs such as 12V WS2811 30 LED/m strips, these address LEDs in groups of three, so the maximum total continuous animation strip length is now a 30m (98.4 feet)! ViVi is only 5V tolerant, 12V power will damage the controller, but 12V digital strips still use a 5V data signal. So ViVi’s data signal can be used by connecting only DATA and GND to 12V strips and connecting a separate 12V power supply directly to the strips; do not connect any red wire from ViVi to a 12V strip or any wiring that may contain 12V. Digital LEDs are also available as string lights, in both 5V and 12V, with more space between each LED compared to strips, so using string lights is another way to cover a longer distance without repeating data.

So ViVi has the potential to control thousands of feet of LED strips, but all those LEDs need Power. ViVi cannot power thousands of feet of LED strips. ViVi can power approximately 600 LEDs, so 20m (65.6 feet) total using the standard WS2812B LEDs. Luckily powering digital LEDs is even easier than powering analog LEDs, a power supply can be connected directly to the +5V and GND circuits of an LED strip (most should have two extra wires on each end for this exact purpose). No amplifier, repeater, or other device is needed to connect power to digital LEDs, you can connect power at the end of every strip, in the middle, or anywhere with no additional devices, only wire is needed. On the old analog LED strips an amplifier was needed at any point power was connected because the voltage on the R, G, and B circuits is what was used to control the color of the strip. On digital strips the voltage is constant on the positive voltage circuit; The digital signal communicates to a small chip inside each LED and each LED internally adjusts the voltage to each of it’s diodes to create the correct color, this is isolated inside each LED, so the whole strip can use a constant voltage making adding power much easier.

How much Power can ViVi provide?

NOTE: ViVi only works with 5V and will be damaged if 12V is attached.

ViVi can pass-through a maximum of 5 amps of continuous current. If this is exceeded a protective circuit shuts down the controller and any lit LEDs will turn red and the animation will freeze. To reset, unplug the power and wait 1 minute, then plug back in. If the LEDs turn red and freeze again quickly, remove some LED strips before restoring power. Follow the guidelines below for creating a setup that does not exceed the power limits. Adjusting brightness is the best way to limit power.

LED POWER GUIDELINES (amps per 100 LEDs at 5V):

  • 1A per 100 LEDs – Music reactive animations, 100% brightness
  • 2A per 100 LEDs – Constant on, all LEDs, assorted colors, 100% brightness
  • 3A per 100 LEDs – Constant on, all LEDs, white, 100% brightness

Power consumption drops in relation to brightness, power consumption decreases faster than brightness, so, for example, LEDs set to 70% brightness will use 60% of the power compared to LEDs at 100% brightness.

Why don’t these numbers match the datasheet for WS2812B?

The datasheet current rating (60mA per LED) is based on setting the LED to white and full brightness with a perfect 5V power supply directly to one LED. In actual use a stable 5.0 volts is not present at each LED, power is connected to the end of a strip and the voltage drops as is travels down the strip, so most LEDs have a lower voltage powering them and it’s not possible for them to achieve the maximum current consumption. Additionally, the ViVi controller reduces the white color brightness to bring it closer to the brightness of other colors, so even with 5.0 volts at each LED it would not draw the maximum current for white (other colors allow full use of the LEDs capabilities).

What is Voltage Drop? Can I fix it?

Voltage Drop is the term used to describe how voltage decreases when it travels along a wire. This is not unique to LED strips, it happens with any wire, but there are many factors that affect how quickly the voltage drops and 5V LED strips are a case where it can drop a lot.

The visible effects of voltage drop on LED strips are a color shift towards red and a decrease in brightness. The color shifts towards red because each RGB LED (the little white squares on the strip) is actually comprised of 3 light emitting diodes (LEDs), a green, red, and blue. The red diode can operate at the lowest voltage, the blue diode requires the highest voltage to operate, so as the voltage drops the blue diode and green diode reduce their light output much more than the red diode. For example, if the voltage has dropped significantly an LED that was supposed to output a color mix of 20% red and 80% blue may now actually be creating a color mix of 60% red and 40% blue, and the overall brightness would be lower.

To correct voltage drop there are a few options:

  • Reduce Brightness: Adjust the affected outputs brightness to a lower level. This decreases the current flowing on the LED strip and reduces voltage drop. In our testing WS2812B strips appear equally bright from about 80% to 100% brightness setting, but at 100% there is more voltage drop, so unless a specific situation requires it all outputs should be set no higher than 80%; In our use we typically run strips at 50% or less, especially if they are directly visible.
  • Power Distribution: This is different from simply adding more power, the power needs to be distributed. Attaching power from an additional power supply at a new point on an LED strip, or from the existing power supply using a cable directly from the supply output to a new location on the LED strip, will increase the voltage at the new connection point and the nearby LEDs. Digital LED strips typically have extra wires on each end for power, this makes it easier to add power to both ends and limit the effects of voltage drop.

How long can the cable between ViVi and the LED strip be? Splitting one signal to multiple strips?

Testing for a single cable from a ViVi output to an LED strip showed a maximum length of 75 feet for WS2812B strips, 85 feet for WS2811 string lights, and at 65 feet the signal was still strong enough to be passively split to 4 strips. This testing was done with standard 20 AWG stranded wire and the cables provided both data and power (used the 2 meter extension cables including with ViVi). Further testing with twisted pair or other wiring could yield further distances. This means your LED controller can be 75 feet away from the start of an LED strip with no booster needed in between, using standard wiring!

Passive Split max distance examples:

  • LED OUTPUT -> 65 foot cable -> 4-WAY SPLIT -> Four 2 foot cables to the inputs of four LED strips. Note: Making the cable length after the split longer will result in data errors; this example is pushing the limit for maximum single cable length followed by a split, if the single cable (65 feet) was shorter then the cables after the split could be longer.
  • LED OUTPUT -> 1 foot cable -> 2-WAY SPLIT -> Two 26 foot cables to the inputs of two LED strips. Note: Making the cable length before the split longer will result in data errors; this example is pushing the limit for maximum cable length after a split, if the cables after the split are shorter then the cable before the split can be longer.

Passive splits require symmetrical wiring to work. This means the cable lengths after a split (from the split point to the LED input) need to all be the same. If the lengths are different then the data signal arrives at different times at each LED strip, which causes feedback and noise on the data line which can cause one or all LED strips to read the data incorrectly and not display correctly. This only applies to passive splits of the same data signal, coming from a single LED output; Each of ViV’s 3 LED outputs are isolated from each other, so the cable length from each output port can be different.

Symmetrical Example Diagram

There are powered splitters (signal repeaters) such as the SP901E which take in the data signal and boost it, and send it out on isolated outputs. The maximum cable length between ViVi and a signal repeater are the same as for LED strips. The max cable lengths from a signal repeater to LED strips can vary by model, but it will likely be 50% to 75% of the max lengths ViVi provides. One big benefit of a signal repeater is the isolated outputs, the cable length from each output can be different and no data errors will occur.

Are the LED strips directional?

Yes, data flow is one way on the strips. You must connect data at the correct end of the strip or data will not reach any of the LEDs. Direction of data flow is indicated by arrows on the strip. Power is not directional, power can be connected anywhere on the strip.

LED Density: 5 Volt, 300 vs 150 LED reels (60 LED/m vs 30 LED/m)

300 is not necessarily better, it all depends on how big of a setup you’re building and what your goal is.

ViVi can control a max of 300 LED addresses per output for animations. So if you want more than 5 meters of continuous strip you would need to use a splitter instead of connecting strips end-to-end when you have a 300 LED strip.

ViVi can directly power 600 LEDs at 100% brightness running animations, at 50% brightness you can do about 1200; you can always connect extra power directly to the LED strips if more power is needed.

There is also voltage drop to consider, as power travels down an LED strip and passes lit LEDs the voltage will decrease and the furthest LEDs begin to get dimmer and the color shifts to red (the red diode operates at the lowest voltage). At 150 LEDs it is barely noticeable, at 300 it’s very noticeable, but you can turn down the brightness to help keep the strip more even. Attaching extra power further down the strip corrects voltage drop.

Another consideration is the perceived linear animation speed. Because the LEDs are twice as close together, for 60 vs 30 LED/m, whenever a lit LED moves one position it only covers half the distance, so linear animations will appear to move at half the speed.

Does ViVi work with 12V LEDs?

Short answer, No. ViVi is only 5V compatible and will be damaged by 12V. The most common 12V LEDs are non-addressable RGB LEDs, ViVi only works with digitally addressable LED’s, and currently only those using the WS2811 protocol (WS2811, WS2812B).

There are 12V versions of compatible LED’s and the data signal is still 5V, so ViVi can control them, but they cannot be plugged straight in. The connector wires needs to be modified to ensure no 12V power feeds back to ViVi and the LEDs and ViVi must be powered separately with the correct voltage.

WS2813 LEDs

Using WS2813 LEDs requires modifying the connector/wiring because they come with 4-pin JST and our adapter goes to 3-pin JST (the connector on WS2811 and WS2812B LED strips). The input of the WS2813 strip needs to be wired to have ViVi’s one data line get sent to both data input pins.

The WS2813 only needs one data signal, the second circuit is a duplicate used for skipping a dead LED. The WS2813 will work with just one data input connected, but to make it so it can skip the very first LED, if it fails, is why you should wire the data output from the controller so it attaches to both the data inputs on the LED strip.

LED Strip Dimensions

WS2811, WS2812B, and WS2813 LED strips have the following dimensions.

With silcone sleeve: 12mm wide x 4mm tall

Bare: 10mm wide x 2mm tall

Length is up to you, the strips can be cut between each LED to the desired length. Other

How to mount the LEDs (in silicone sleeve)?

This is the only thing we know of that will stick to the silicone sleeve, more silicone, https://smile.amazon.com/00688-All-Purpose-Adhesive-Silicone-2-8-Ounce/dp/B000KE4PBQ/ Once dry it is flexible and can be cut and peeled off of surfaces, including the silicone sleeves of the LEDs, so it can be undone if needed.

There are brackets made specifically for holding LED strips and other lights, like Christmas lights, which can work as well. Essentially you need to mechanically hold the sleeve in place, rather than trying to stick something to it, unless you use the silicone adhesive above. For temporary setups we use a variety of methods, tape strips over the sleeve adhered on both sides creating a “tape bracket”, zip ties, or twist ties.

If you don’t need the LEDs to be waterproof you can remove them from the silicone tube and then use any tape to attach the bare LED strip. You can also purchase compatible LEDs not in a silicone sleeve.

How Accurate is ViVi?

ViVi is designed to create an enjoyable light show, not an analytical view of audio data. Think of it as 50% data analysis and 50% artistic interpretation. ViVi’s decision to trigger an action from a sound is complicated, so it may trigger action for a specific sound once and then not the next time the same sound plays. For the main beat of a song it is very close to 100% accurate in all scenarios; For other sounds it varies based on the music genre, instrument, audio quality, animation choice, and other factors.

The lights update instantly as the music plays with no perceivable delay between hearing a sound and the lights reacting.

Future Updates, Firmware, App

We have made updates to the app and are working towards having the app update the controller firmware so we can make more improvements such as new animations, custom animation rotation lists, custom color lists, and other general improvements. Once firmware updating through the app is fully functional we plan to release an update every few months to slowly add the many features we have planned. In addition to normal improvements we have plans for other features such as DMX and MIDI control, physical controls ranging from buttons to accelerometers, and adapters for the LED outputs to enable controlling non-addressable LEDs.

ViVi has Bluetooth, but not WiFi. It currently doesn’t have integration with any smart home devices/protocols, we will be working on connecting the Bluetooth to an existing third-party bridge, and possibly making a WiFi adapter to support more systems. We put hardware for additional features in all ViVi controllers, but the firmware for all those features is not complete yet, once we can send firmware updates we will be able to unlock more features. This means all ViVi’s from the earliest crowdfunding orders will be able to get all the latest features, and we hope to avoid any hardware revisions for a long time.

In the future we will provide documentation for the Bluetooth communication protocol used by ViVi which will allow users to create their own apps or other control solutions. We will also add a hardwired control protocol for the development port via a firmware update and share that documentation. ViVi can also output a 5V PWM signal (not yet enabled) on the LED outputs, we will share documentation on that once it is enabled.

We have a group of beta testers for testing app updates before they are released. If you would like to be a beta tester contact us at support@visualvibes.io to be added to the list.

What are the EQ Frequency Ranges?

These are the approximate frequencies covered by each range. ViVi gives priority to certain frequencies within the ranges and sounds with a primary frequency outside of one range may still have overlapping sound that can affect other ranges:

  • Bass: 20 Hz – 150 Hz
  • Mids: 80 Hz – 900 Hz
  • Treble: 1,000 Hz – 15,000 Hz

Sounds and music are complex combinations of frequencies so a bass hit could be accompanied by frequencies well into the treble range even if it’s not obvious when listening. A single note played on a musical instrument will often cover 2 ranges, sometimes all 3, so a single sound can trigger animations on multiple outputs. If there are prominent sounds in each range they will tend to remain separately triggered, but if sounds in one range are less active then that output is more likely to trigger from an overlapping sound that is more prominent in a different range.

The frequency ranges are currently fixed and non-adjustable with one LED output per range, LED 1 reacts to Bass, LED 2 reacts to Mids, LED 3 reacts to Treble. In future firmware updates we plan to enable changing which frequency range is on each output, including the ability to have multiple outputs reacting to the same range.

If you are trying for a click track type of use then we estimate the frequencies to best keep from overlapping would be 30Hz for bass, 400Hz for mids, and 6kHz for treble, but ViVi was not designed for this type of use.

Is there a real person controlling the show?

We did NOT use an XS4200 Shrink Ray to miniaturize a lighting engineer, provide a 100 year food pellet, and trap them inside a ViVi controller to make awesome lightshows. We did however spend 7 years fine tuning our algorithm before releasing the ViVi Music LED Controller and we continuously work on improving it.

Does the ViVi Music LED Controller have a Warranty?

Yes, the controller has a 1 year warranty against manufacturing defects. There is no warranty on the LED strips, accessory cables, or power supply, but if they are defective upon receipt and you notify us within 30 days, we will replace them. If you damage your controller (not a manufacturing defect) at any time we may be able to repair it and will charge a reasonable fee based on what is damaged. If your controller stops working after more than one year, or five or ten, you can contact us and we may still fix it for free; We plan to extend the warranty over time, but we need to balance the potential financial liability with what our company can survive so that if a widespread issue ever does arise we can repair or replace controllers at a pace that doesn’t put us out of business.