Adding music to Nanoleaf’s Aurora lights is a dream come true
This is a great first step toward the future of smart lighting.
My biggest complaint about smart lighting is that it doesn't play nice with the other things in my life. I want the lights to dim and change colors to match what I see on the television, or flash along with my PS4 controller when something exciting happens in a game.
While we know there are a couple of companies eager to see this kind of integrations with its products, the folks at Nanoleaf have made good on a promise made when the Aurora lights launched. It's called the Nanoleaf Aurora Rhythm, and it should probably be included with every kit Nanoleaf sells.
Simple set up
The Nanoleaf Aurora lights have an unusual but surprisingly simple to set up. Each light panel has three connectors, one on each side of the triangle. You can connect these triangles to each other in whatever configuration you want, as long as one panel in the array is connected to the power supply. The brilliance of this set up all comes together with the app, which allows you to add panels without disconnecting anything. The app immediately recognizes a new panel, and changes its color to match the rest of the panels in the array.
This setup detail is important, because the Rhythm accessory attaches to the light panel in the same way each of the panels do. You can connect it to any open port in the Aurora array, and as soon as you do the app becomes aware of its existence and extends the Rhythm features to you for use.
As soon as you have a Rhythm attached, there are two ways you can activate it. The Nanoleaf app has a Rhythm tab you can tap on and set your light panel to audio mode instead of the pre-set color patterns. If you'd prefer to avoid opening the app to access the feature, you can press the single button in the center of the Rhythm module. As soon as you press the button, the triangle in the center of the module will light up and the audio mode will engage.
It doesn't get much simpler than this setup, and like the other parts of the Aurora setup this is modular enough that you can control the design of your space. There's not much you can do to make this easier, and Nanoleaf deserves a lot of credit for how well this works.
Listen to the light show
The Rhythm module is fairly simple. It's a microphone that connects directly to your lights, so everything it hears gets converted into light. Spoken word, music, sound effects from a game, everything the microphone can pick up is translated on the Aurora lights. It's sensitive enough that a song played from across the room on a phone can be fully converted into dancing lights, but the clear design here is for higher quality sound from big stereo speakers.
As the music enters the microphones on the Rhythm module, what you see is a visualization of the sound equalizer. Each color you choose takes up a section of the equalizer, which gives you a lot of control over what colors show up for different kinds of songs. For example, if you're playing a bass-heavy song and want the colors to align with the bass, you put those colors toward the end of the equalizer. There's a lot of flexibility, and building the different color patterns to set yourself up with a lot of different options.
If that sounds like a lot of work, don't worry there are some options. Nanoleaf has an online community where other users can share their creations. If you find a light combination that really works well with your favorite kind of songs, you can share that easily and anyone with the Nanoleaf app can download it. This is great, because the alternative is using the pre-loaded options Nanoleaf includes with the app. Like the default color pattern options for moving patterns, Nanoleaf focuses on showing off as many color options as possible. Great for demonstrations, not always great for listening to a lot of different kinds of music.
The Nanoleaf app gives you a lot of flexibility with what colors you can use to create your light show, but there's a ton of flexibility in the app for creating the exact kind of experience you want. My personal favorite is setting most of the equalizer to black so the lights only react during the highs and bass while I'm playing a game. It's a great way to add some immersion, and the way Nanoleaf sets this up makes it very easy to create these experiences.
A solid addition to any Nanoleaf kit
The Aurora lights blur the lines between arty and practical lighting in a way that makes adding interactive music make a lot of sense. These light arrays are designed to be something that stands out in a room, so adding interactivity makes a lot of sense. Seeing Nanoleaf plan to release pre-made Aurora kits with a Rhythm included makes a lot of sense, but if you already have an Aurora set up these accessory is only going to set you back $65. If you're eager to add some interactivity to your Aurora, you should absolutely pick one of these up.