DMX is the standard protocol for multiplexed digital stage lighting control these days. Not just stage lighting, a DMX controller can also be used to control any intelligent DMX compatible light, fog generator, etc.
Previously, DMX controllers used to be very expensive and were exclusively used by professionals or specialist organizations that were hired just to manage and coordinate the light effects in a show. But nowadays, with the decreasing cost of DMX controllers, and the advancements in technology, you can get a personal DMX controller for your own show or house party and even learn to operate it within a few hours.
Now we suggest you take a look at our list of top controllers on the market right now. Each one of these packs a lot of features and connectivity with respect to price, and all of them cater to the needs of casuals as well as hobbyists.
Table of Contents
DMX Lighting Controller We Recommend
|DMX Lighting Controllers
$204.99 at Amazon
-Controls 24 intelligent lights of up to 16 channels
-30 Banks of 8 Programmable Scenes
-384 DMX Channels of Control
-6 Programmable Chases of 240 Scenes
-Record Up to 6 Chases With Fade Time and Speeds
-16 Sliders for Direct Control of Channels
|$189.99 at Amazon
|-30 Banks of 8 scenes—240 scenes max
-Controls up to 12 intelligent lights of up to 32 channels Each
-Program Fade & speed time into each step
-6 sets of chases containing 240 scenes
-384 DMX channels of control
|$449.99 at Amazon
|-512 DMX channels & unlimited number of fixtures
-3 and 5 pin DMX outputs (compatible with any DMX-512 light fixture)
-1/4″ Footswitch input* for easy scene switching
-Standalone app on Windows or Mac
|$159.99 at Amazon
|-192 DMX channels
-6 chase pattern sequences
-6 programmable chases with fade times and different speeds
Our Pick: Rockville Rockforce 384
What’s good: Control 24 lights with up to 16 channels per light, LED display and built in microphone, 6 Programmable Chases of 240 Scenes
Not so good: Chases do not store speed, No cross fading between scenes
The Rockforce 384 is a DMX controller that is designed for touring musicians or as a permanent fixture in a club or theater. With an impressive 384 DMX channels, Rockforce produced this controller as a heavy-duty feature. These are the types of controllers that you regularly see on tour, it comes with the functions that you would expect for programming complex live DJ lighting and shows and up to 240 programmable scenes over six chases.
The manufacturer also includes a free LED gooseneck lamp to ensure that the sliders and buttons can be easily read in a variety of lighting conditions. Unlike some other controllers that have illuminated LED screens and other features for ease of reading, this is a much more classic look that has complex features and user-friendly controls that you would expect from the board.
Even someone with very little experience programming lighting can hop on this device and get started with a few of these simple features. The built-in microphone for music mode control can speed up programming with voice controls and the automatic mode which is controlled by fade time and speed can produce some impressive results as well.
Manual override options allow for the addition of new fixtures and control devices, giving this board extreme versatility for your live shows. Even with its heavy-duty construction, this device is impressively portable at just over 5 pounds.
CHAUVET DJ Obey 70
What’s good: 30 Banks of 8 scenes – 240 scenes max, Fade & speed time into each step, 384 DMX channels of control
Not so good: Customer service, Better for making scenes than controlling lights
This is a step up from the ultra-compact and super simple DMX lighting controllers since it offers the option to sequentially link and store chases.
The number of channels is higher too, at 384. This controller can handle up to 12 intelligent lights, or 32 triple channel RGB lights. You can link up to 6 consecutive chase sequences containing 240 scenes.
Despite its increased functionality, the unit is not too big or heavy and can be carried around to house parties or DJ nights quite easily.
ADJ Products DJ Controller, Multicolor (DMX-OPERATOR)
What’s good: 192 DMX channels, 6 programmable chases with fade times and different speeds
Not so good: Cannot play multiple chases at the same time
The best playback and programming: If you are seeking a DMX lighting controller that’s perfect for its ease of control, this is a no-nonsense programmable DMX board that can operate up to 12 fixtures of time. With easy to record pattern sequences on six channels and programmable channels on 16 different DMX feeds, you can complete basic lighting operations or have intelligent integrations for your shows.
Professional level capabilities are available in this MIDI controllable board. The operator can quickly program, playback and even perform live manipulation. The chases and scenes on this device are easy to get started with and this is a tried and tested touring machine.
The added benefit of using the ADJ is that it’s extremely light for travel. With just 5 pounds of weight in the whole board setup, you can make sure that it’s easy to transport to any gig. The reasonable 192 DMX channels give plenty of room for customization as well.
Enttec DMX USB DMXIS 70570 OS Mac / PC lighting controller
What’s good: 512 DMX channels & unlimited number of fixtures, Easy setup, Pre-program your entire light show in advance
Not so good: Slow customer support
Getting access to reliable digital tools can help to save you space on your setup and throughout the process of touring. Enttec DMX USB controllers are a PC lighting controller interface that integrates with software to give you access to a staggering amount of DMX channels. Where a typical board would limit your abilities, this controller gives you access to 512 DMX channels with 72 digital faders.
With the right computer set up, this digital hardware converter will allow you to control lighting and devices across an entire concert hall, theatre or experience. Individuals using these types of controllers can produce complex laser shows, integrate their lighting visuals with VST plug-ins and more.
If you regularly use 3-D simulators to control lighting options, this is a hardware device that you can use to turn the simulations into real-life concert experiences. Programming the scenes can take some expertise, but if you are interested in having the ultimate in flexibility and dynamic tools for a live experience, this is definitely the best way to go.
The effects and the scale of options available with this device can be scaled back. The basic setup for digital tools can also be very beginner-friendly. With a few online tutorials, you could be up and running with basic lighting set up and start creating some of the basic movements and patterns that you might need for a set.
It may take some time before you can quickly copy and paste specific programming to duplicate some of your more complex results. Although the custom programming can take some time, these digital tools are reliable and they are one of the best ways that you can unleash your creativity with a DMX controller.
CO-Z 192 DMX 512 Stage DJ Light Controller
What’s good: 12 intelligent lights of up to 16 channels each, Control up to 12 fixtures and up to 240 scenes, Voice control
Not so good: Chase scenes, Cheaply made
The best entry-level board: As a highly affordable entry-level option, this 192 DMX channel controller is perfect for controlling any three-pin socket device at any venue. Enjoy setting up a variety of lighting scenes, controlling fog and more. The easy operation of this device makes it a favorite amongst many new operators. The selection stick, speed and time features and LED display, making it easier to read this device in many lighting conditions.
The layout of this board is the real star and COZ insured that operation is divided into seven different sections. The lighting area, scenes which are, channel selection stick, LED display, page selection button, speed and time selection stick and the function selection area are all divided off into sections making this a board that is well-designed and easy to operate.
COZ also upgraded the buttons and the control stick to ensure better operation. The product includes an impressive one-year warranty for exchange or return should there be a problem with the device as well. With the option to control a wide range of lighting effects and precision controls for getting started, this device is capable of creating up to 240 unique scenes for a show, giving you the option to execute complex experiences.
This is a versatile board that could work for any DJ, club or for touring musicians as well.
CHAUVET DJ Obey 3
What’s good: Adjustable audio sensitivity
Not so good: Only works with 3-channel lights
The Obey 3 is a pretty basic and extremely inexpensive controller that you can use for learning the art of DMX programming or for basic mobile DJ work.
It only works with 3-channel lights so if you have something like a 4-channel RGBW light or a 5-channel cyan and white RGB, you might wish to look somewhere else. This DMX comes with 9 predefined colors, as well as manual chase and RGB features.
There is also a really cool strobe function built that can help you get everyone grooving on a dance floor, or your very own house party.
ADJ Products 12-channel (SDC12)
What’s good: Extremely portable
Not so good: Only good for basic light setups
Just like the CHAUVET OBEY-3, the SDC12 is a very basic and easy to use DMX light controller that can easily be operated by almost anybody no matter how experienced he/she is with DJing or DMX programming.
There are 12 channels in this little beauty and it has 7 sliders. The last slider acts as a master fader/dimmer control. It operates via a 12-volt DC supply or a 9V DC battery.
The output jacks include 3-pin as well as 5-pin XLR, unlike the OBEY-3 which only gave you the option of using 3-channel output.
EMB Professional EBDMX2 DMX Light Effects
What’s good: 192 channels, six chase banks
Not so good: Not for church and bass heavy environment, Plastic 1/4 jack’s
The EMB Professional EBDMX2 controller strikes a perfect balance between functionality and affordability while also managing to maintain a pretty good build quality.
It is actually one of the few sub-$100 controllers that can actually be used by bands, DJs, and bar entertainers with equal ease. You can control up to twelve 16-channel lights with this, thanks to the total 192 channels.
There are also 30 programmable banks that let you store up to 8 scenes in each bank, and 6 chases with 240 scenes each. You get a MIDI bank control so you can easily mix and control lighting effects through your PC, and there is even a built-in microphone for music mode.
ADJ Products DMX Operator-384 DMX Controller
What’s good: 30 memory banks with 8 programmable scenes per bank, 32 channels per fixture
Not so good: No software – only buttons
An impressive 384-channel control capacity, coupled with 8 independent channel faders makes this one of the most incredible MDX controllers for this price range.
The 8 channel faders include 4 channel banks and each one is designed with unique time and speed fading options so you can precisely control transitions between scenes. Also, the amount of storage that you get on this controller is insane- there are 30 memory banks and you can store 8 programmable scenes per bank.
Chases are much easier to design, since there are 12 of them (programmable of course), and you can store up to 240 steps per chase.
Blizzard Lighting SnoKontrol DMX Controller
What’s good: 30 banks of 8 programmable scenes, Easy to operate
Not so good: Cannot manually fade from one scene to the other
Although the SnoKontrol’s deck may look extremely complex and intimidating to a newbie, the truth is that once you begin programming your sequences on it, the whole process seems extremely simple.
But that is only because Blizzard made this controller so easy to use and have provided a huge number of pre-programmed sequences and colors for you to choose from. If you want to create your own colors, chase sequences, and scenes, then there is plenty of room for that too.
A total of 30 memory banks, each holding up to 8 scenes makes sure that you never run of space while programming the scene lights for your next concert or house party. You can control up to 24 different 16-channel lights, and this controller is totally compatible with computer software packages such as Freestyler.
How do you choose a good DMX lighting controller?
These affordable controllers are also great for controlling LED strips in places of worship like churches, or even the Halloween lights on your house. Or you could use them for controlling and managing the stage lights and RGB LED’s that your band owns.
However, the first big hurdle that you must overcome before you can start your stage lighting adventures, is buying the DMX lighting controller itself. With so many options and brands out there, it may often become quite confusing. And, if you end up with the wrong controller for the wrong job, your stage performance might come to an embarrassing halt.
However, the first big hurdle that you must overcome before you can start your stage lighting adventures, is buying the DMX lighting controller itself. With so many options and brands out there, it may often become quite confusing. And, if you end up with the wrong controller for the wrong job, your stage performance might come to an embarrassing halt. Which is why we made a list of all the major things you need to check in a controller before you buy it:
You need to make sure that your new DMX controller can handle all your fixtures before you buy it. Take into consideration how many lights you will be running in the show, the total number of fog machines, valves, servos, etc. Each function uses up one channel, and there are 512 channels in a single DMX universe.
Talking of channels, consider the type of fixtures you will be using. Do you have basic LED lights with just one color, or programmable RGB LED’s? Multi-channel fixtures require more than 1 channel to operate and each function must be assigned a unique address.
A single 512 channel universe can handle 170 RGB lights. Some controllers are capable of handling multiple universes, in which case they will have several OUT ports (each one holds 512 channels). Take into account the number of OUT ports a DMX controller has before you buy it.
A number of programmable scenes, shows, or chases
This is extremely important since you will mostly be pre-programming your chase sequences and scenes if you are a DJ, or if you’re running a small band. A costly or professional controller will allow you to customize and program multiple scenes for each group of fixtures, or even a single fixture.
You may save these scenes and chase sequences into the onboard memory of the controller itself, or to a remote location such as a laptop hard drive.
It is important that your DMX controller provides sufficient wattage for the whole line of fixtures since signal strength does fall off as the daisy chain gets longer and more lights or dimmer controls are added. If the required wattage exceeds the supply, then your decoder will go into overdrive.
To avoid this from happening you may either use an amplifier along with the daisy chain link or get a DMX controller with higher wattage.
Your DMX lighting controller is good enough for now, but will it be able to handle the lighting for your shows 2 or 3 years into the future? Think of this before buying a controller unless you plan on reinvesting in a controller every year. As time passes by, the number of lights, servos, strips, and dimmers will increase.
You may even need to add in a few fog machines or other special effects as you go along. Make sure your controller has sufficient channels to handle all of that.
This includes USB/MIDI connectivity, wireless signal transmission, LCD displays, etc. When you are faced with the tough choice of choosing between two controllers with exactly the same number of channels, controls, scene presets, etc., always go for the controller with superior connectivity and LCD display.
It should be able to seamlessly link up with your multimedia PC and needs to be able to communicate with your fixtures wirelessly if you own any wirelessly operated lights. Also, many DMX controllers come with their own proprietary management software so take a look at how they function, and whether or not these included software packages are bug-free.