Dazzling LED ESP8266

Itead LED controller

So… the other day, a parcel turned up for me – some samples from Itead. One of the boxes contained 4 strips of LEDS and a controller. The strips are maybe 20mm wide aluminium with staggered SMT LEDs on them – first a warm LED, then a COLD LED then.. etc.  Each strip is 500mm long and very thin.

The controller takes in 120-240v and gives out – wait for it…96-140v.

Itead LED controlller

I must’ve stared at them for 20 minutes wondering why an EARTH anyone would want to have a set of lights working at such high DC voltages (I still remember as a VERY small child having one of the first battery power valve radios which had a pair of 90v batteries. I also remember being stretched out on the floor in front of the fire, having a great time playing with this new toy until I stuck my fingers across the battery connector, putting 180v DC straight across my chest – not nice).

Itead LED controller

Then there was the fact that the wires to the mains needed to be soldered to the board rather than screw fittings – and I put the thing to one side until one of our readers wrote in to say that he had figured out that the ESP8266-based controller had one LED on GPIO12 and the other on GPIO14. Well, I really could not be bothered to figure out how the default software on this WIFI-controlled lighting controller works) – so I made a change to my house control ESP software to allow GPIO14 to be an output (it’s on the source code and the OTA update elsewhere in the blog). I could do PWM but that is for another day, for now I simply added on-off control – and when testing I realised there’s a green indicator light in the unit which operates like a SONOFF – ie +v is OFF – my “sonoff:1” command makes that flash the right way.

Itead LED controllerSo all well and good but I was still wondering what is wrong with ordinary LED STRIP. As this is serial you need a terminating connection at the far end taking the two ends from the lights to ground. I just used a blob of solder as somehow mine was missing out of the pack.

Over on the right you see the little stand-up processor board with the reset button and 4 way programming connector (3v3, serial and ground) – don’t try this at home with the mains plugged in!!

Itead LED controllerIt was not until I turned the unit on complete with LED strips that I realised the point of the high voltage! BOY is that bright – and in the example you see above, only the COLD lights are on as I screwed up somewhere and the WARM lights are not on  – I’ll fix that in daylight tomorrow. With both on, you could perform surgery there is so much light.  In short – if you need overall lighting for a shed or small office – this absolutely does the job. They have screw holes all along the strip length – but I simply stuck double sided adhesive on the 4 lengths of strip and they’re holding onto the ceiling along with the controller, just fine.

If I could just convince Itead to use 32Mb (4MB) FLASH parts on all their products…


31 thoughts on “Dazzling LED ESP8266

  1. Hey Peter, can’t you convince your friends at Itead to produce a SONOFF-like LED controller like that cheap Chinese one but – well – better?!

    Seems like a logical move for them to me. Now they have some credibility with the tinkerers round the world, a nicely made but still low-cost LED controller with colour and white based on a 12E base should sell really well if they keep their trademark ability to tinker.

    1. The mere fact that this question is published – I should imagine by now they’ve read it 🙂 Good idea.

    2. ITEAD did not produce these LED derivers, they just make those small LED control modules which basic on ESP8266, and put them on the finished LED driver (these driver is 2.4G remote control before) to upgrade them to wifi control.

      I don’t think that ITEAD have the ability to design and manufacture LED driver.

      1. Well I doubt that is matters whether they can design a driver module since I’m sure there are plenty of existing ones. Indeed, I doubt they designed their own mains relay, why would they? Nor did they design the ESP8266. But they seem to know how to put stuff together in a way that makes sense to people who want to buy it.

        My suggestion is that makers like us already have some trust in Itead in that they seem to know how to pretty much hit the sweet-spot in terms of design/cost/reliability/hackability.

        So rather than having the SONOFF with a mains relay, they need one with an LED driver capable of driving colour LED strings.

        I’d buy a couple certainly.

        1. Well of course -there’s a point here – you COULD put my software into the SONOFF and drive up to (arbitrarily) 300 serial LEDs – only problem being – the power supply – those things run best on 5v and they use LOTS of current.

          1. True, but you would need a separate channel to manage the colour.

            But an ESP8266 can easily drive an LED pixel string – I know, there is a Wemos D1 Mini sitting in front of me with 2 sensors (light, temperature, humidity) and an 8 LED pixel that rotates randomly through a very nice and relaxing set of mixed hues. I’m only using 3 GPIO pins to drive all of that, one for each sensor and one for the LED’s.

            Imagine a SONOFF type device that will take a colour LED reel directly plugged in. Internally it would indeed need a power supply to give sufficient current to the LEDs but that isn’t a difficult problem since you can get the remote controlled ones (that come with a small controller, 433MHz I guess) really cheaply. All the parts are pretty standard to achieve all this, the SONOFF packaging is about the right size and already deals with the mains power. Itead would doubtless want an Android control app though they may well be able to borrow some existing one.

            Sounds like a pretty small amount of R&D and production tooling to add a decent additional module to their set.

            1. Hi, I just got my LED stripes and driver.
              Printed in the driver case there is also an RGB sign. So an easy guess is that what you requiere it’s on it’s way.
              I got all connectors correct , so I didn’t have to solder anything.

              I also screws with magnets so you can attach the LED stripe to any metallic surface.

              On the bad side
              I also noticed some flickering.
              Had some problems with the wifi pairing.
              And also some of the strips don’t work.
              I sent them a ticket and I’m waiting to see if they fix it.

              Thanks your review.

              1. I’m sure they’ll sort any problems. As a follow-up mine are powering my office and are used every day without any issue now.

    1. No idea – and every time a manufacturer states the life of LEDs they go straight off the LED spec headline figure – and it is usually RUBBISH. I can only tell you that:

      1. Heat matters – hot LEDS last a LOT less than cold LEDs. These are running cool.
      2. Voltage matters – spikes kill LEDS – hence the atrocious failure rate of Chinese “corn LEDS” – where they are all in series straight off a rectifier off the mains. I suspect this supply will be better controlled but have not yet tested that.

    1. I looked at Ebay and briefly saw the price of £2.97 and thought – at last a British supplier with a decent price – then I realised there was a dropdown – and the Wemos
      is £10 – I don’t think that is particularly good.

      From China at £4.59 that isn’t bad…


      But for me – unless you need the 16meg (I can’t really see past 4MB personally – 1 meg for each of 2 OTA segments and a couple of Meg for data storage) – the little D1 based on ESP12 is as good as anything.


        1. Yes, BUT you have the choice of connector suitable for your purpose. Surely better than having to unsolder an unwanted connector type!

        1. An excellent little design but for one thing – the 1MB FLASH. WHY do people do this considering there is little difference in cost between the 1MB part and larger parts. I nearly bought some until I saw the FLASH size.

            1. I didn’t say 1mb – I said 1MB ie 8mb 🙂 Erm, if you look at the advert – look at the FLASH chip – look it up – it is the 8mb part ie 1MB

                1. I meant to say I want them to use 4MB parts… ie 32Mb. that is – the first two megs for the program twice (for OTA) and then 2 meg spare for logs etc outside of the program space.

                2. i know the math, the problem was with the naming and translation of that board… there’s only adviced as 8M on the title, like Peter correctly pointed, the chip is just 1MB, the only good thing is that’s easy accessible to desolder and solder an other chip, as Peter did on many of his esp-01 modules…

                    1. This should work
                      switch(“Look at details on packaging”) {
                      case “It says 8M”:
                      Serial.println(F(“Check for more better info”));
                      case “It says 8MB”:
                      Serial.println(F(“Have a beer”));
                      case “It says 8Mb”:
                      Serial.println(F(“Don’t believe it – buy it anyway 😉 “));

  2. The memory chip is on the stand up PCB, so if your careful you could change it out.

    As the PCB is only held on by about 8 solder joints you could unsolder the board and then replace the chip and re-solder it back on the main PCB.

    the main point with this unit is there are no instructions as to the correct way to connect the LED strips. With mine the strips have to be connected with the arrows on the PCB pointing to the shorting link. So they point away from the controller. getting it wrong will kill the LEDs by reverse biasing them.

    1. Actually I got it wrong and didn’t damage them – but your advice is probably sound. Yes, power into the arrows that are moving AWAY from the edge of the board – then through, connection outward facing arrows to inward facing on the next board etc and at the very end – a shorting link to take the two + connectors to the central ground – so you end up with the whole lot as two serial strips.

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