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Lighting is a sometimes ignored but nevertheless important part of many types of events and performances.
Small bars, pubs, clubs and coffeehouses may have limited lighting or no lighting at all.
But if you want to enhance your performances and get your audience up and dancing, you should have quality lighting effects at your disposal.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s for a club, church, theater or even independent DJs – great lighting can take any performance over the top.
In this guide, we’ll look at eight of the best DMX stage light controllers.
MADRIX Nebula Advance SPI Decoder LED Pixel Tape Controller For Digital LEDs
MADRIX offers professional quality lighting controller products.
The MADRIX Nebula will connect directly to your LED pixels via two four-pin screw terminals.
It features a signal frequency of up to 24 MHz, supply power over USB or 5V to 24V over a two-pin screw terminal and Art-Net is converted to SPI without the need for another interface.
The 35 mm top-hat rails make mounting quick and easy and two extra brackets are provided for optional wall mounting.
The six indicators show device status (these can be turned off if necessary).
This is a robust machine offering great effects, but its cost is a tad on the high side.
As well, MADRIX software is not included, so you would need to purchase that separately for operation.
For bigger, more complex shows, however, this interface could prove useful.
DragonX DMX 512 Metallic Housing Controller
The DragonX DMX 512 controls 12 intelligent lights of up to 16 channels (a total of 192 groups of channels) and 30 banks of eight scenes (240 scenes total).
With this unit, you can execute multiple chases simultaneously.
It also features re-assignable channels, wheel assignable pan/tilt and 16-bit control, built-in microphone for music-triggering, beat-activation, tap sync and auto run.
The DMX 512 is compatible with sound activated lights, moving heads and fog machines.
The manufacturer says this piece of kit is ideal for DJ lights, parties, pubs, night clubs and disco lighting.
Overall, the DragonX is easy to use and durable.
Some less enthusiastic customers, however, have commented on the lackluster instructions and buggy functions.
Enttec DMX USB DMXIS 70570 MAC/PC OS Lighting Controller Interface & Software
The Enttec DMX USB DMXIS 70570 lighting controller is a plug-in DM-512 lighting controller with a USB-DMX hardware converter.
Many people love this unit because of the included software (which is free), ease of use and functionality.
Some people, however, didn’t like the software or the interface.
The Enttec could be a worthwhile solution depending on what you like and what works for you.
ADJ Products DJ Controller, Multicolor (DMX-OPERATOR)
The ADJ Products DMX-OPERATOR allows you to operate conventional and moving lights across 192 channels.
With this unit, you can easily control programming, playback and live manipulation of Scenes and Chases.
It gives you the ability to record up to six chase pattern sequences, which can all be individually adjusted during playback using the fade and step speed operations.
Fixtures with less than 16 DMX channels can be combined to one channel fader.
The DMX-OPERATOR is MIDI controllable DMX-512 unit with a three-pin XLR signal.
Users love this board because it does everything, they need it to do.
Some have had issues with durability as well as mic/tap sync, which might make the ADJ Products console less attractive to DJs.
ADJ Products SDC12 12 Channel Basic DMX Controller
The affordable ADJ Products SDC12 is a basic DMX controller with 12 easy to manipulate channel faders and one master fader.
Lightweight, portable, and easy to set up, this console is perfect for regular gigging.
This CE approved product features a 12v DC power supply, wall mounting products, and the ability to connect to all your lighting devices with standard three-pin and five-pin DMX outputs (you can daisy-chain several fixtures together to control the whole system from the SDC12).
As you can likely tell from its appearance, it doesn’t get much easier than this, which is something many users loved about it.
Some buyers even found it quite versatile.
There are some minor grievances connected to the ADJ Products console but they are few and far between.
Rockville ROCKFORCE 384 Channel Light/Fog DMX Lighting Controller + MIDI Control
The Rockville ROCKFORCE controls 24 intelligent lights of up to 16 channels.
It has 30 banks of eight programmable scenes, 384 DMX channels, six programmable chases of 240 scenes, the ability to record up to six chases with fade time and speeds and 16 sliders for direct control of channels.
You also get MIDI control over banks, chases and blackout, built-in microphone for music mode, automatic, mode program controlled by speed and fade time sliders, blackout master button, reversible DM channels and manual override.
For beginners, the Rockville should be satisfactory.
It features solid construction and an informative and valuable instruction manual.
More critical users said it’s about middle of the road in terms of quality and some struggled with use.
CO-Z 192 DMX 512 Stage DJ Light Controller
The CO-Z 192 DMX 512 controller comes with 192 groups of channels with the ability to control up to 12 intelligent lights (16 channels each), 12 fixtures and up to 240 scenes.
It can connect to your favorite oscillating beam lights, fog machines, front lights, par lights, strobe fixtures, ceiling beam ground row, source four and more using the three-pin sockets.
The easy to use design features a light selection area, scene switcher, channel selections stick, LED display, page selection button, speed/time selection stick and function selection area.
The lighting effects can be controlled with your voice for use at night clubs, family get togethers, weddings, church gatherings, DJ gigs and more.
Users have commented that this is a solid and reliable unit.
Some seemed to have an issue with quality control though.
CHAUVET DJ Obey 3 Universal Controller | LED Light Controllers
The compact CHAUVET Obey 3 DJ LED lighting controller is designed for use with three channels (RGB).
Playback options include automated, sound activated or manual RGB mixing.
The console features adjustable audio sensitivity, fader for master dimmer, adjustable blackout, variable fade times for all playback modes and variable strobing on the fly (2Hz – 33Hz).
Many customers love the simplicity and functionality of the CHAUVET, though some say it would be better with more options.
What Should I Look For In A DMX Stage Light Controller?
DMX light controller are handy devices that allow you to create great lighting effects.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this guide, great lighting effects can make a performance far more exciting for the audience.
It can even turn a good performance into a great one.
Most lighting controllers aren’t overly complex and don’t take a lot of time to learn.
If you have previous experience with lighting, you should be able to figure out your new gear without too much trouble.
Some controllers either come with, or are meant to be used with, software, and these can be more complex and sophisticated.
If you’re using a DMX stage light controller for the first time, then be sure to spend plenty of time practicing with it.
You don’t want to arrive at your first gig not knowing how to use it.
So, how do we know which controller is right for you?
Here are some important factors worth considering:
The first question you need to ask yourself, of course, is “how and where am I going to be using the controller?”
Your needs will vary depending on the venue and event type.
We find that most churches, parties, weddings, colleges and so forth have relatively simple needs.
You likely will not require a pricier, more sophisticated board to perform the basic functions you require.
Of course, this could be a different story altogether for larger scale concerts, commercial events, megachurches and so on.
If this is what you’re planning for, it would be ideal to invest in a DMX controller that comes with – or is meant to be used with – computer software.
The main advantage software offers is the ability to automatically change the colors of PAR lights.
So, complex setups can benefit from the use of pricier, high-quality gear.
Compatibility & Capacity
Does your DMX controller work with the gear you already have?
If you don’t have any other lighting kit yet, then this shouldn’t matter.
But if you’re looking for a DMX controller specifically, you’re probably looking to use it alongside other gear – lights, consoles and so on.
Oftentimes, this is simply a matter of having the right inputs and outputs, but there can be more to it than that, such as the controller’s overall capacity for lights.
So, before purchasing a controller, check to ensure it will work with your lighting kit and you won’t have any regrets.
Feature Set/The Functions You Need
PC-operated lighting controllers tend to come with all the functions you could possibly handle and more.
Meanwhile, hardware-based DMX controllers come with a mix of the following functions:
- Voice activation.
- Color changing speed.
- Master slave mode.
- And more.
The point is – make sure you’re buying kit that comes with everything you need.
Your needs may be simple.
They may be more complex.
We can’t tell you one way or the other, and you know better than anyone else.
So, seek out a board that gives you what you need.
Ease Of Use
If you’re a complete beginner, then ease of use will be your top priority.
If you have prior experience with lighting, then this may not be as important of a consideration to you, though it could still be of some importance.
The key thing is to look for a board that does what you need it to do.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else has found useful or easy, because every piece of software and hardware has a learning curve.
It’s a matter of finding a controller with the right workflow for you.
Examining product specs and looking at the pictures can be helpful when deciding.
This is a relatively small matter (pun intended), but not one that should be overlooked.
If you’re planning to keep your console tucked away in a corner at your venue, then size may not be a significant factor.
Meanwhile, if you’re going to be out and about gigging a lot and bringing your own gear with you wherever you go, then it might be an important consideration.
For instance, as a DJ you may have purchased a table or two for your gear to sit on.
If your tables are already full, or if you don’t have much room, then you can see where there could be a bit of a problem.
You know what you need better than anyone else, so if in doubt, examine the other points raised here and find your ideal console.
Some consoles, for better or for worse, aren’t as quiet as they could be.
The buttons, switches or faders may produce audible and unwanted clicking and other noises.
This is clearly not a big deal at loud events – rock concerts, DJ appearances at nightclubs, corporate parties and so on.
But it could present a bit of a problem at churches or even smaller theaters.
So, depending on the application you’re shopping for, this is a factor to be mindful of.
DMX controllers generally aren’t expensive, though there is a big range (Anywhere from $50 to $650 and up).
This, as I’ve already pointed out, is because different controllers are intended for different uses.
You probably don’t need to spend more on functions and features you won’t use.
But if you know that you’re going to be running lights for bigger events, then it’s worth spending the extra money.
If you’re a DJ, likely you will need something that’s simple to use and can run on near autopilot.
If you’re buying for a venue or you’re a professional A/V tech, we assume you’ve got a bit of a budget to work with.
Nevertheless, we encourage you to spend responsibly and not go overbudget.
Top DMX Stage Light Control Software & Hardware; Final Thoughts
Match up the console to the venue and type of event you’ll be putting on and you should be good to go!
The DMX stage light consoles mentioned in this guide should accommodate a wide variety of applications.