Intelligent lighting is an excellent way to make any DJ set or musical performance look as good as it sounds.
If you’re a professional DJ who travels with his own light show, you might be best served by purchasing software that can run on your computer.
For anyone for whom the intelligent lighting will be stationary, a DMX controller is likely more suited to your needs. There’s a multitude of controllers available on the market offering a variety of features and coming in at a wide range of price points.
Before buying a controller, make sure it has enough ports and channels to handle all of your fixtures, and that your lights are compatible with DMX.
Here are what we consider the 5 best DMX controllers on the market:
Lixada 192 Channels DMX512 (Editor’s Choice)
LED Master 64 uses channel-assignment technology to make light-word of addressing, operating a programming all LED fixtures with upto 8 DMX channels. This groundbreaking channel assignment technology is a powerful feature that provides users with the freedom to customise the controller.
- 192 DMX channels.
- 12 scanners of 16 channels each.
- 23 banks of 8 programmable scenes.
- 6 programmable chases of 184 scenes.
- 19in standard length for cabinet installatio
ADJ DMX Operator
This controller is an incredible value, giving you 384 total channels (32 channels each on 12 different fixtures). This great DMX will fill the needs of most complex lighting operations. It also gives you four channel banks with eight individual faders that let you control the speed and fade time of each channel. If you like to plan out your light show ahead of time, you can also program up to 12 chases and 8 scenes. The assignable joystick is another nice feature not found on most controllers in this price range! Allowing you to fine-tune the positioning of mirrors, lighting fixtures, and other parts of your set-up with more precision.
- An affordable solution for controlling DMX products Control up to192 DMX channels
- 12 individual fixture channels – Control up to 12 separate intelligent lights with up to 16 DMX channels per fixture
- MIDI Controllable
- Blackout feature
Chauvet OBEY70 Universal DMX-512
The real party doesn’t start until the Chauvet DJ Obey 70 DMX Controller is plugged in. This controller bridges the gap between smaller controllers and those massive controllers out in DJ land. With 384 channels of DMX control and 30 banks of 8 scenes for a maximum of 240 scenes, this thing rocks the socks off of your audience.
You can control up to 12 lights with 32 channels each and enhance the show even more with 6 sets of chase effects and 14 reversible faders using the assignable joystick. Wow the crowd with fog, strobe, LED lights, MIDI, and other mind-blowing effects this controller flaunts. With more accessibility and programming ease, the Chauvet DJ Obey 70 will not only make your jaw drop, but the people at your party, wedding, or concert when this controller is in your hands.
- Controls Up To 12 Intelligent Lights Of Up To 32 Channels Each
- 30 Banks Of 8 Scenes – 240 Scenes Max
- 384 Dmx Channels Of Control
- 6 Sets Of Chases Containing 240 Scenes
- Program Fade & Speed Time Into Each Step
American DJ SDC12
This is a solid budget choice. This model is priced great and and gives you 12 channels, perfect for a smaller venue or a hobbyist. The controller itself is also smaller than the controllers above, at only two pounds and can be powered by a 9-volt battery.
The interface is simple, with seven faders (one master, six that are shared by two channels each) and can be utilized “out of the box.
- 12 DMX Channels Faders Master Dimmer Fader Portable Handheld
- Operates via 12VDC Power Supply (Included) Or 9VDC Battery (Not Included)
- DIP Switches To Set Starting DMX Channel 3pin & 5pin DMX Outputs On/Off Switch
Picking the Right Controller
Before buying a DMX controller, consider your particular lighting needs. The most expensive controller might not be the best one for you if you have a simpler lighting set-up. If you’re looking to use non-light fixtures (like a fog or smoke machine) make sure the controller is capable of doing so. Ultimately, you want to count the number of fixtures you have right now and do a realistic assessment of how many more you plan to add in the near future.
Setting Up Your New Controller
Before you can control fixtures with even the best DMX controllers, you need to hook them up correctly. DMX fixtures are serial or “daisy chain” connections—the out port of one fixture connects to the in port of the next. It doesn’t matter what order the fixtures are connected in, but if one link in the chain is broken, everything that follows in the sequence won’t work. Carefully setting up your fixtures and making sure all wires are connected will save you a world of headaches later on.
Once all your fixtures are connected, you’ll have to assign addresses so you can control them.
Multiple lights can share one DMX channel if you want them to move perfectly in synch, but only if those lights are of the same type and manufacturer. Even for an advanced user, programming sequences can be very tedious. Most controllers come pre-loaded with sequences for common lighting effects. Even if you don’t want to use these as-is, they can be a great starting point for more customized sequences to save you some time in the design. Good luck!
Considerations For Selecting The proper Controller
It is never as easy as the more costly the better. This’s particularly true with DMX controllers. You will have to balance the intricacy of the controller together with your needs.
If you’re using a little light setup there is not actually a need for an eight channel controller. You will be more effective or with a simpler 3 channel.
Additionally you have to determine whether you will be needing to manage the pan as well as pitch of every individual light. In that case, you want a controller with a stick or perhaps other control type.
Connecting Your Lights On your Controller You’ve 3 options with regards to light connections.
DMX cables Wireless DMX connections XLR cables DMX specific cables would be the most common method of linking your lights. They usually will be connected by what is called daisy-chaining. Essentially, you simply connect one light to another until you strike your controller.
There will also be ways to connect your lighting fixtures on your controller without using some cables whatsoever. It is known as wireless DMX and is starting to be increasingly common. This’s my recommendation in case you would love to go that route.
In the event that you are not into spending another hundred dolars on connection cables you are able to always use some emergency XLR cables. This’s usually the more affordable way to go but remember you might be sacrificing several transmission quality. Here is a total rundown on XLR wires if you are interested.
Tips On Programming Your Lights
Programming your lights are able to get pretty complex. Most live shows make use of a mix of pre programmed sequences with cue areas during the song.
Having your head around the basics are able to seem complex at first. When you wrap your top around the vocabulary elements will begin to make sense.
As a quick introduction – each fixture will have to be given an address. From their, it’s going to have to be given to a channel in which you are going to control the effect. If you would like multiple effects for one fixture you are going to need to designate that fixture to 2 different channels.
Assigning 2 different lights to just one channel is going to allow the lighting fixtures to’ sync’ up with one another as well as be managed in unison. The majority of the controllers will come pre loaded with a number of sequences you are able to use right from the package. It is significantly less complex as it sounds!
When you do not have some moving lights, make sure to take a look at a couple of my favorites here!
I am hoping this has helped! Until next time.