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.
If you are an aspiring DJ, or a part of an entertainment group such as a band, then you will probably have thought about jazzing up your on-stage show with some cool light effects. Not only do light effects entertain the audience, but they also create a unique and hyped up atmosphere for you and your group to perform in. Previously,
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 that you know everything there is to know about buying a DMX lighting controller, we suggest you take a look at the most amazing 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.
CHAUVET OBEY 3Pro: Adjustable audio sensitivity
Con: 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 SDC12 12-Channel Basic DMX
Pro: Extremely portable
Con: 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.
CHAUVET OBEY10 Universal DMX ControllerPro: Six sets of chase, 999 steps each
Con: No tap-tempo sync function
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 96. This controller can handle up to 8 12-channel intelligent lights, or 32 triple channel RGB lights. You can link up to 6 consecutive chase sequences, each with a maximum of 999 steps. 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. It weighs just 4.3 lbs, and is 22.3″ x 5.9″ x 4.8″ in length, width, and height respectively.
EMB Professional EBDMX2 DMX Light Effects
Pro: 192 channels, six chase banks
Con: Hard to find
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 the few sub-$150 controllers that can actually be used by bands, DJ’s, 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 ControllerPro: 30 memory banks with 8 programmable
scenes per bank
Con: Limited display
An impressive 384-channel control capacity, coupled with 8 independent channel faders make 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 ControllerPro: Lots of programmable sequences, easy to operate
Con: 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.
Elation MIDIcon Lighting MIDI ControllerPro: Extremely reliable and easy to operate
Con: Highly software dependent
The MIDIcon lighting controller from Elation is just what you need to give your audience at the next concert or local show, an exquisite and professional-looking lighting experience. It can seamlessly connect with your PC or Macbook thanks to the USB/MIDI interface. This flexibility, coupled with the proprietary light effects control software that is provided alongside the device, lets you create millions of unique scenes, chases, and color combinations that cannot be designed with hardware alone. The Elation Emulation software allows you to create, emulate, and test lighting sequences at home before you proceed to implement the same on stage. This machine is targeted towards hobbyists, as well as regular performers who wish to get professional results for a low and affordable price.
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:
1. Fixtures: 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.
2. Channels: 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.
3. 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.
4. Wattage: 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 the daisy chain link, or get a DMX controller with higher wattage.
5. Scalability: 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.
6. Features: 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.