Can LIFX Bulbs Sync With Music and TV?

One of the nice features of smart bulbs is that not only can then change color (and be dimmed), but since they’re a digital product, they can be programmed to do other interesting things such as ‘dance’ along with music or change color to reflect a movie on TV. Philips Hue have great support for this, but what about LIFX bulbs?

LIFX bulbs can easily be synced to music using a wide choice of smartphone apps, although syncing LIFX to your TV has very limited support right now.

What are LIFX bulbs?

A LIFX BR30 light installed in the ceiling, showing a pink color light.
A LIFX BR30 light showing pink color light.

LIFX are a higher-end range of smart bulbs, with a similar quality and price-point as Philips Hue bulbs. LIFX bulbs – like other smart bulbs – can be:

  • Turned on and off smartly – via a smartphone app, your voice, timers or as part of automated routines.
  • Dimmed down to 1% brightness – effectively acting as a night light – and then back up to 100% brightness, and everything brightness in between. This means that smart bulbs can be used for a range of purposes – as mood lighting, for concentration, for relaxing and more.
  • Set to 16 million different colors – from bright orange to deep purple! This is also great for mood lighting and chilling out, as you can set the color to match the scene… or your mood!

LIFX bulbs have a WiFi chip inside them which mean that they run within your home network. You can then control them via the LIFX app (or your voice via a smart speaker), even when the internet is down.

Because your LIFX bulbs can be controlled from the LIFX app on your smartphone (which is also running on your home network), you can do various fun things with smart bulbs around the home…

How smart bulbs can generally sync with music and TV

Smart bulbs are quite versatile and can be used for a number of fun uses around the home due to the fact that they are digital and can be programmed as required. I remember when I first setup my Philips Hue system and the light bulbs started updating in the app. Software updates for light bulbs?!

But the very fact that they’re digital and contain software means that they can be used to ‘dance’ along to music, or (in some cases) sync color to whatever’s showing on the TV.

Syncing with music either tends to use the smartphone’s microphone to listen to what music is playing (and sync the bulbs from this), or they see what song is playing on the smartphone’s Spotify or iTunes app (for example) and syncs the bulbs that way.

Either way, it creates a pretty awesome effect:

A similar technology has been employed to link televisions to smart bulbs by Philips Hue, using a Hue sync box that rapidly scans the changing images on the TV, works out the primary color and then sets the nearby Hue bulbs and light strips to this color. This can also create some amazing ambient lighting effects:

You may have noticed that both of the videos above are for Philips Hue. Hence the big question is: can LIFX bulbs sync with music and/or TV? I answer these questions in the following two sections.

Can LIFX bulbs sync with music yet?

Thankfully, the answer is yes. LIFX bulbs can indeed sync with music so that they ‘dance’ to playing music. You can do this in the official LIFX app, or use any number of third party, LIFX compatible music apps.

You can trigger this in the official app by launching it and going to the ‘effects’ page, and then click ‘Music Visualizer’:

Phone screenshot showing the LIFX app effects page, containing the Music Visualizer feature.
The LIFX app effects page contains the Music Visualizer feature.

This is a pretty fun feature and it uses your smartphone’s microphone to listen to music in the room (or playing from your phone):

The way our music visualizer works is via the microphone on your phone. This is why there is some lag at the moment, but we could look at doing this a different way in the future. We also suggest checking out http://thundr.io a third-party app 🙂

LIFX account, Twitter, 5:55 PM – 8 Sep 2019

One downside of this approach is that there’s a small amount of lag between the LIFX app hearing the music, and it changing the LIFX bulb’s color and brightness.

The LIFX app’s settings page then allows you to tweak how the music visualization feature works, with the following settings:

  • Variation: “Determines how much the music affects the color of the light”. This is a sliding scale from 0 to 100%, and values closer to 0% mean that the color changes less based on the music, whereas values closer to 100% mean that the LIFX bulb’s color hue is entirely driven by the tone of the music.
  • Beat detection: when turned on (which is the default), the bulb’s brightness is determined by the beat within the music. When turned off, the brightness is based on the loudness of the music instead.
  • Multi-zone: this allows multiple lights (across controllable zones – basically groups of lights) to display different colors as required. When turned off, this setting treats multi-zone bulbs as a single light and gives them all the same color and brightness setting.
  • Use music for color: when enabled, the color of the bulb will be driven entirely by the music’s tone. When disabled, a certain level of randomness is introduced to give the bulb’s lighting effects a bit more variety.

In short, the app actually has quite a few different customizations for syncing with music and it makes the process a lot easier than Philips Hue which just redirects you to third party apps.

But having said that, some people do prefer syncing their LIFX bulbs to music with third party apps, since some of them scan the music that’s playing via the phone (on Spotify or iTunes, for example), giving less lag with the bulb effects.

Equally some of the third party apps have more features than the built-in music visualization feature. For example, I just launched the Play Store and searched for “lifx music”, and many of the following apps work with LIFX bulbs to allow music syncing:

Phone screenshot showing various LIFX music apps.
Phone screenshot showing various LIFX music apps.

Many of these are free downloads but contain paid upgrades, with Light DJ being a very pricey example of this: the paid-for version is $80! But overall any of the following apps should work well with your LIFX bulbs:

It’s worth downloading some and playing around with their free versions, especially before paying $80 for the full Light DJ version!

Whether you use the native app or a third party app, there’s no reason why you can’t turn your house into the following with LIFX bulbs:

Enjoy!

Can LIFX smart bulbs sync with TV?

Unfortunately it’s not really possible to have your LIFX bulbs sync with what’s on your TV right now. It’s not supported in the official app, and no major third party app offers this either.

The only option I’ve ever come across is called KinoLight for iOS/Mac. The demo video does look good:

However right now it’s limited to the Mac App Store and it only works with the LIFX Z lightstrip.

Part of the reason that LIFX doesn’t officially support TV syncing is that a general purpose solution tends to require physical hardware to be hooked up to the TV, such as Philips Hue’s Sync box. Such a box can then sync up with smart lights. Producing such a device is time consuming and expensive, and usually reserved for the big players – such as Philips, who also produce loads of other electronics including TVs!

Unless LIFX expand out to sync boxes in the future (or KinoLight support more systems), you’re probably limited to third party solutions such as purchasing a Philips Amblight TV or buying an kit such as the AmbiVision PRO kit in the UK.

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