I would like to build a circuit that detects high volume (through a microphone or something) and when it does, it would disconnect another circuit from its power source.

I don't know exactly how high the volume threshold should be yet.

It's a small project I'm working on and I don't have much experience using electronics.

How might I go about doing this?

EDIT: I want the sound that my circuit to detect an instantaneously high volume of a song that is emitted from a stereo. The circuit it shuts down is an electrical device that uses 220 volts, it will be connected to its power cord.

  • \$\begingroup\$ how much power does this other circuit need? \$\endgroup\$ – Funkyguy Aug 11 '14 at 21:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ When the loud sound disappears, does the circuit get reconnected or is there some form of manual reset mechanism? \$\endgroup\$ – Andy aka Aug 11 '14 at 21:27

Volume, or in this case, audio amplitude or sound pressure, is a dynamic/variable thing. In other words, it will vary based on location and position of microphone, frequency and duration of the source audio, etc.

A little something to think about: When you watch a documentary video with a narrator and background music, there is often an audio effect called ducking going on. The narrator speaks, and the amplitude of the music goes down. When the narrator stops, the music becomes gradually louder again. In the small quiet gaps between words, however, the music doesn't become loud, so how does it know when the narrator is done?

When you apply a ducking effect, you set a few parameters to avoid having the background music try to be loud during every possible quiet gap. One of these is a delay: "Wait 1500 ms after detecting x amplitude to return to normal music volume."

When you think about having a circuit detect sound pressure, you have to ask whether you are interested in an average or an instantaneous measurement. A sound pressure meter, like this one you can get from Radio Shack, has both of these modes. You might want to experiment to see what you need for your application. If you use an instantaneous measurement, or a max threshold, you might set off your detection circuit by clapping your hands, when in fact you'd prefer it only be triggered by more continuous loud noise.

Your circuit would need to take multiple readings from the microphone input (analog to digital conversion (ADC)) and determine whether they constitute a trigger event or not. For example, you might read the value ten times per second, and average them. You might take readings for a few seconds instead; it depends on how long you require the sound pressure to be present to trigger the circuit.

Once you have that part worked out, you can incorporate a transistor and/or relay to switch on/off something else. A common, simple circuit is the "clap switch" of which there is an example at Circuiteasy.com.

Once you've switched the relay on or off, you then might need to reverse it, so you'd need to continue monitoring the input from the microphone. Remember the ducking example earlier, and be mindful of a delay. Otherwise, you might wind up turning on/off the secondary circuit much faster than you intended.

It all depends on what audio source you are trying to measure, what device you are switching on/off, and other details you omitted from your question. But hopefully this helps get you on the right track.


Per your edit, you will definitely want to use a relay to control a mains voltage device. However, if this is your first circuit, I strongly advise against that as a first project.

The first step will be to construct your sound detection circuit. You can probably find a schematic online for something that turns on LEDs (VU meter, for example) or look for sound-activated switch circuit (such as this example). They typically use a small electret microphone. Build your circuit on a breadboard and experiment with position of the microphone in relation to the sound. That may give you an idea of how sensitive it is (or not) and help get you started.

A microcontroller-based circuit will give you more flexibility, such as doing as I described above, taking multiple samples and evaluating them. If you're just starting with electronics, I don't recommend a microcontroller-based project as your first one. (But the Arduino platform is a great starting point for doing so.)

The circuit example I linked in the previous paragraph will be more basic, turning on the relay for a short time period set by C2.


For now, I would just use the relay to operate some other battery-powered device, so you can figure out how it works. When satisfied, check with someone more experienced to help you select and configure a relay to operate a mains-powered device or appliance.

See Also:

Here are some related questions on this site that you may find helpful:

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Ducking is also known as side-chaining in music creation - one source of sound (a channel) turns down (or in some way) alters the effects or volume on another channel. \$\endgroup\$ – Andy aka Aug 11 '14 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much, you did give me a clearer direction. I added the information that you said is needed to answer my question \$\endgroup\$ – Someonation Aug 11 '14 at 22:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much. I will look for someone more experienced person when i'll start working with appliances. One question though, what does RE1 means is the schema? And near the ground (the circle inside the circle, that the ground right?), theres a black rectangle, what is that? \$\endgroup\$ – Someonation Aug 12 '14 at 5:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ RE1 is the relay coil. The black rectangle at bottom is ground, while the circle appears to be a connection terminal -- basically, where the negative terminal on the battery connects. (It's not the best schematic I've ever seen.) \$\endgroup\$ – JYelton Aug 12 '14 at 6:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Should I get a specific relay coil? And some of the resistors has a digit after the unit. for example "5k6" or "3m3".what does it mean? \$\endgroup\$ – Someonation Aug 12 '14 at 17:36

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