LM3916 LED bargraph/ VU meter

Brief description:

This kit builds on a famous LM3916 VU bargraph driver chip from TI/National semiconductor. The chip is essentially a constant current 10 segment driver fed by an array of comparators. It also provides internal reference voltage to set the rail of the precision resistor network feeding the comparator reference inputs. A signal coming in then determines how many signals are lit. Depending on the mode selected, either bargraph or a single dot is displayed. This particular kit is using LM3916, optimized for audio meter applications but could also be used with LM3914 and LM3915 parts to get linear and log response respectively (mainly set by the individual resistance values of internal divider networks).

Design features and notes:

  • R6 is a placeholder should you require a voltage divider or a filter on the input
  • R3 is normally a jumper, but could be used to offset the trigger points up if needed (If building a battery monitor for example, where you need more attention in a narrow voltage range)
  • When using with audio input, set R2 to 0 ohms. That effectively moves voltage reference adjust pin  to ground, setting top comparator rail to 1.25V

LM3916 LED

  • R5 is only needed when connecting multiple units in a chain. Use P2 and P1 to get at the signals needed for that
  • Jumper P5 enables bargraph mode when installed.
  • The board will run happily at 5V or even lower.  If you change LED current setting and run from higher supply voltage, keep an eye on power dissipation in the driver. (See page 2 of the datasheet for further details)


The better way:

The most controlled and convenient test signal source is a good signal generator. I’ve been using a slope mode on my Rigold DG1022, with very slow (300-500mHz) frequency and and varying symmetry to obtain the effects in the test video


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