How to Sync Your Christmas Lights to Music

Impress the neighbors with your holiday display

What to Know

  • Mac/PC: In the Hue Sync app, pick an entertainment area and go to Music > choose palette and intensity > Start Light Sync and start music.
  • Android/iOS: In Hue, go to Sync > link your Spotify account > choose the Entertainment Area > Open Spotify App and play music.
  • Alternatively, use a controller and light sequencer.

In this article, you'll learn how to sync music to your computer using the Hue Sync app, along with how to link Philips Hue lights to Spotify.

Sync Christmas Lights to Music With Philips Smart Bulbs

Before you begin playing music, you'll need to set up an Entertainment area via the Philips Hue app.

a robust Christmas light display on homes in neighborhood
 Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Set Up an Entertainment Area

An Entertainment area tells the Hue Bridge how many lights you have and where they are. The hardware will also pull this information to sync your holiday lights. To set up an Entertainment area, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the Philips Hue Bridge is connected, and the main power is turned on to each bulb.

  2. In the Philips Hue app on your phone, select Settings.

  3. Tap Entertainment areas

  4. In the upper-right corner, tap the plus (+) sign

    Settings, Entertainment Areas, and the New button in the Philips Hue app
  5. Choose Listening to music.

  6. Create a name for your new entertainment area, and then select Done.

  7. Select the room (or rooms) you want to include in the entertainment area.

    To only use certain lights in the room you select, tap the down arrow next to a room's name and tap the ones you want to include. By default, the app will include every compatible light in a room. Only color-capable Hue lights will appear.

    Creating a new entertainment area in the Hue app
  8. Select Next to continue.

  9. Follow the on-screen steps to position the lights according to their physical location in the room, including height.

  10. Choose Done to finish creating the entertainment area.

    Setting up and completing an entertainment area in the Hue app

Sync Philips Hue Lights With Music From Your Computer

Once you've set up the entertainment area, switch to the Hue Sync app for Mac or Windows to get the lights moving.

You can also use the Hue Sync app for iOS and Android, but you'll need to buy a separate Hue Sync Box.

  1. In the Hue Sync app, follow the on-screen instructions to sync with your bridge (if necessary), and then select the Entertainment area you set up.

    The Philips Hue Sync app
  2. Tap Music.

  3. Choose the intensity of your light show; this setting controls how rapidly the lights change with the beat. The High default setting is good enough for most uses.

  4. Select a color palette, either from the presets or by creating your own.

  5. Tap Start light sync.

    If this is your first time setting up the app, you'll need to grant it access to your microphone. To do so, open System Preferences, and then go to Security & Privacy > Microphone and select the checkbox for Hue Sync.

    Settings in the Philips Hue Sync app on a Mac
  6. Open your music program of choice and play a song. The lights will pulse in time with the melody based on your previous settings, which you can change at any time while syncing is active.

    The Hue Christmas for iOS or Hue Christmas for Android app works as a sound and light effects board that syncs with your Hue smart lighting.

  7. Select Stop light sync (which replaces Start light sync) to return your bulbs to normal operation.

Sync Philips Hue Lights with Spotify

An easier way to sync up your lights with music is available if you have a Philips Hue bridge and a Spotify account.

  1. In the Hue app, select the Sync tab.

  2. Tap Get Started.

  3. Choose Spotify account.

    Sync options in the Philips Hue app
  4. Select Next.

  5. Review the privacy notice and choose Next to continue.

  6. Over the next couple of screens, log in to your Hue account.

    The first steps of linking Philips Hue and Spotify in the Hue app
  7. Enter your Spotify credentials or provide authorization in the app.

  8. Choose Next on the "Success!" screen to finish.

    Authorizing Spotify to work with the Philips Hue app
  9. Select your Entertainment area.

  10. If you use a voice assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, you'll have some other options. Otherwise, choose Not right now.

  11. Tap Open Spotify app to select a song or playlist.

    Final setup to link the Spotify and Philips Hue apps
  12. Once you've started music, return to the Hue app. Select the sync icon to activate your lights.

    If you don't go there automatically, select the Sync tab to access Spotify settings.

  13. Just like in the Sync app, you can adjust the intensity, color, and brightness while the sync is active.

  14. Tap Sync again to stop the light show but keep the music playing.

    Light sync controls for Philips Hue in the Spotify app

Sync Lights to Music With a Christmas Light Controller

A Christmas light controller will let you build elaborate, flashy displays, but it can be expensive or complicated, depending on your budget and technical know-how. A fully assembled light controller is the easiest to set up and the most costly option. A controller kit is less expensive but requires minor electrical work. A DIY controller is the least expensive option, but it leaves the assembly and set up in your hands. The step-by-step instructions for each controller and software will vary.

Light Controller Software Options

You can also take a software route if you either don't own smart lighting or use a combination of standard and smart options. Here are some popular Christmas light controller software options:

  • Light-O-Rama's controller software includes dozens of options for songs and pre-built sequences. Setting your lights to pulse with the music is as simple as selecting a few options on your computer screen, but these options aren't cheap. 
  • Vixen is the lighting software for the do-it-yourself decorator. While the cost is negligible, you'll need to set up the entire show on your own, including the timing sequences and song choices. Vixen lays the foundation for you to work, but it doesn't hold your hand in the process.
  • xLights is a free light sequencer. If you're trying to save as much money as possible, this is the way to go. The software has an active forum community where you can ask questions and numerous video tutorials to help overcome roadblocks along the way. 

"Smart Christmas lights" are available from outlets such as Home Depot, but the lights are on relatively short strands and are expensive. Investing in a Christmas light controller and using traditional strands of lights may be more cost-effective.

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