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Best timing lights 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated March 1, 2023
Hi there, my name is Arnold Simmons and the first thing I would like to say is thanks for stopping by my website. After spending over 47 hours comparing at least 17 timing lights, I am recommending the best timing lights of 2018
In this article, I will be categorizing the items according to their functions and most typical features. Like most products, some outdo others, so use my top three list below to get started on your search for the best timing lights of 2018.
Best timing lights of 2018
I am going to specify each good-to-buy feature as much as possible for your references. There is a wide range of products available on the market today, and below I have reviewed 3 of the very best options. I have taken the initiative to educate you on the top three best timing lights that you can buy this year. Customers need to be careful on how they spend their money on these products.
Test Results and Ratings
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№1 – Ampper RGB LED Rock Lights with Bluetooth Control
Why did this timing lights win the first place?
I really enjoy the design. It is compact, comfortable and reliable. And it looks amazing! I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch! The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack. I also liked the delivery service that was fast and quick to react. It was delivered on the third day.
№2 – INNOVA 3551 Inductive Timing Light
Why did this timing lights come in second place?
I really liked it. It is amazing in every aspect. It did even exceed my expectations for a bit, considering the affordable price. I recommend you to consider buying this model, it definitely worth its money. The design quality is top notch and the color is nice. The material is pretty strong and easy to wash if needed.
№3 – Tooluxe 20724L Xenon Automotive Inductive Timing Light | Foreign and Domestic Engines
Why did this timing lights take third place?
A very convenient model. It is affordable and made of high-quality materials. It is inconvenient to use due to the size. I am going to get something different next time. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new. It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment.
timing lights Buyer’s Guide
Best of all, the TP-Link bulbs don’t require any sort of smart hub to function, so there’s no need to buy a starter kit or pay extra for a hub – once you buy a bulb, that’s it, making these an especially good choice for anyone who only wants one or two smart lights, and not a whole house worth.
All of the bulbs other than the cheapest LB100 model also come with energy monitoring, so you can see how much energy you’ve used and plan your usage accordingly.
Connectivity is reliable, with only one brief network drop in our testing time, and our biggest complaint is that at just 800 lumens these aren’t the brightest bulbs around – but they should be enough to suit most uses.
Lightwave is a smart lighting solution that’s a bit different to the others in this round-up, since it requires you to replace your light switches rather than the light bulbs themselves. It is ideal for homes with multiple spotlights that would otherwise be incredibly expensive to individually replace, and also means that when one bulb blows you can just buy a regular replacement.
To set up Lightwave you need to purchase the £89.9Web Link hub, which manages your various Lightwave kit, and you can then add on as many or as few Lightwave devices as you like. Each light switch costs from around £3(see the full range at Maplin, but shop around for best prices).
The Web Link will also manage other smart home devices from the company – you can set up devices that control your hot water and individual room heating, motion detection, and the opening and closing of blinds or curtains. You can also install smart switches on your plug sockets that allow you to turn on and off power when required.
Lightwave has a companion app through which you can turn on and off the switches from your phone or tablet, and through which you can set up schedules or timers that are ideal if you are going on holiday.
Hive Active Light
The Hive Active Light Colour changing bulb is an easy and smart way to introduce lighting into your smart home environment.
The coloured bulb is arguably more of a gimmick and something you might not use day to day, but the Cool to Warm White bulb is easy to recommend, as being able to change the colour temperature of the light is a very handy feature.
You create ‘rules’ for the lamps to work and these can be for them to turn on and off at sunset and sunrise, or at times you choose. They can be individually named and controlled, and you can even set a dimming period so the lamp fades in to your set brightness over a few minutes (or even up to 30 minutes). You can also define a sleep period, so the bulb will turn off after a set time, just like a TV or radio.
The INNOVA Digital Timing Light is a top-of-the-line timing light for the selective do-it-yourselfer. The split-screen digital LCD readout displays tachometer and advance functions simultaneously (Digital Tach: 24to RPM / Digital Advance: degrees).
Shared components of the Volkswagen-Porsche SUV would include the bodyshell, ventilation systems and body control modules, but engines, suspension tuning, styling and interior fit and finish would be developed by brand-specific product teams.
When Volkswagen took Touareg assembly to Eastern Europe for cost effectiveness, Porsche opened its chequebook, constructing an all-new manufacturing and development facility in Leipzig, to convince buyers that this was indeed a worthy addition to the Porsche model line up. The Porsche Cayenne would be built only in Germany.
Heated memory seats, electric swing-away steering column and the multifunction steering wheel are good options: steering wheel light switch is cool. Despite the PCM’s telephone pad, Bluetooth and iPod integration is not standard: aftermarket options offer both, along with postcode navigation. Many PCM units have now been replaced. Bose hi-fi is not super essential.
The standard sunroof is small and drains can leak into the cabin, causing electrical damage to components in the thickly insulated floor. The panoramic sunroof is a nice option but adds quite a bit of weight and complexity. Only non-sunroof is risk free, but see “what to watch” on washer pipes.
Developed specifically for the Porsche Cayenne and built in Zuffenhausen, the now superseded all-Porsche Vengine is compact – less than 600mm long – and powerful, with a mega-flat torque curve offering 420 Nm all the way from 2,200 rpm to 5,500 rpm.
A three-pump oil system is designed to work on inclines of 100 percent. Sit the car on the tailgate and the engine will keep running: try that in your Range Rover. The closed-deck engine block features additional cast iron bottom-end bearing seats developed for the 928, which also make the engine smoother and quieter.
Both manual and automatic transmissions are available. While the manual may seem attractive to enjoy the V8, the third pedal crowds the footwell, clutch action is heavy and the shift is laboured. Clutch replacement is pricey and manual transmission saves little overall weight.
The Porsche Cayenne’s Aisin Warner automatic gearbox (above) is also found on the Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7, but Porsche’s Tiptronic system brings it fully to life. With manual gearshift available from the shift lever or steering wheel buttons, Tiptronic is the perfect transmission for a VCayenne.
Drivetrain is where Cayenne sits apart from the crowd. Unlike its 50/50-split competitors, two-thirds of engine power goes to the rear axle: a positive contribution to overall feel. Switch off the nannying PSM for harder revs and maximum smiles per mile.
Suspension & Brakes
First-gen Cayenne comes with a choice of steel springs or air suspension. Air suspension gives a comfortable ride, and variable ride heights to help high speed or off-road use, but the coil-sprung option is less complicated and comfortable enough when twinned with 18” wheels. I find most people cannot tell the difference between air and steel suspension on sensible wheels and tyres. Cayennes running big wheels with low profile tyres have a harsher ride, not to mention bigger tyre bills.
Air suspension comes with multiple warning lights and air cars need to be put into service mode before jacking up, or the system could keep pressurising the affected corner to the point that the airbag explodes. Pressure relief under the bonnet needs doing quickly. The air compressor in the boot makes it harder to squeeze an LPG tank in: steel sprung cars may be better suited to LPG conversion.
Why you should trust me
I’ve reviewed consumer electronics for more than 1years and have held top editorial positions at magazines including Electronic House, E-Gear, Dealerscope, and others. I’ve also reviewed products for Sound & Vision, Big Picture Big Sound, and Consumer Digest. I’ve been an invited speaker at both the CEDIA and CES expos on the subject of smart home systems. In addition to turning my house into a laboratory for DIY home automation products, I’m also a certified Controlprogrammer.
Who should get this
Smart light bulbs are the easiest way to upgrade your home or apartment lighting to wireless control. Smart bulbs can reduce your energy consumption, especially if you’re just getting around to replacing incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs with the significantly more energy-efficient LED bulbs. An LED bulb can last more than 1years under normal usage. If you’re smart about using the smart bulb’s scheduling and remote-operation features, you can save money by not using them when no one is in the room. However, smart bulbs cost more up front—sometimes a lot more—than non-smart LED bulbs, so the cost savings over time may be more symbolic than actual.
The main reason to try smart bulbs is that they’re fun. It’s okay to admit there’s a little thrill in tapping your smartphone to turn off a light across the room or across the house. Maybe that thrill decreases over time, but it’s still there. Getting up to physically hit a light switch—that’s never fun (unless you’re stopping at the fridge along the way to grab a beer). And smart bulbs do add convenience to your life. It’s easy to shut off downstairs lights when you’re upstairs tucked in bed. If you hear a bump in the night, you can turn on multiple lights at once. Want to turn down the lights for watching TV in the evening? All smart bulbs are easily dimmable from their apps. Most apps allow for scheduling, so you can have groups of lights turn on and off based on your daily activities or to simulate occupation when you’re away from home.
Smart bulbs that change colors are even more fun. Like a softer, warmer light to ease your way into morning? A color-adjustable or tunable white bulb can do that. Want to set a relaxing mood for music after dinner? Turn the lights blue, or green, or whatever palette you like. Set in strategic locations, color-adjusting smart bulbs can be an integral part of your home decor, rather than just something to chase the shadows away.
Many smart bulbs, including our top picks, can be integrated with a variety of other smart-home products, including smart-home hubs, switches, cameras, and thermostats, making a light bulb an easy way to start your smart-home system.
If you already have a couple of smart bulbs or a smart-home system installed, however, you may be stuck with a specific brand or technology. Some bulb brands can be mixed and matched in a system, others can’t; we explain that further below.
The Hue does everything its competitors do, but a wider product and app ecosystem allows for more flexibility and creativity than any other smart bulb.
Since Philips introduced the original A1color-changing bulb in 2012, the company has added several more products to the family, including battery-powered lights, strip lights, light globes, wireless remotes, motion sensors, and plain-white-light smart bulbs. The recent addition of HomeKit compatibility makes Hue lights work with additional products and allows Siri voice control over the lights. This requires the Hue gateway, which comes in the current starter kit.
Setting up Hue lights requires a few simple steps, much like any other smart-home device. The gateway connects to your home router or network switch via a wired Ethernet port. This connects the system to your network and allows you to control the lights with a smartphone or tablet connected wirelessly to the same network. The gateway connects to the Hue bulbs themselves over a Zigbee wireless mesh network. A mesh network has the ability to repeat signals through all the connected nodes (in this case, the Hue lights are the nodes), which cuts down on errors and improves reliability. The gateway unit is small enough that you can easily tuck it out of sight.
Who else likes our pick
An inexpensive bulb that’s good for people who want an easily controllable light, not a whole smart home.
GE discontinued its previous Link line of bulbs, which connected using Zigbee, in favor of the new C family. C-Life bulbs connect via Bluetooth, making them easy to connect and control from your smartphone, tablet, or computer, but which also means you can’t control them when you’re away from home or—given Bluetooth’s limited range—even if you’re on a separate floor of the home.
The C-Life bulb is usually sold in a bundle with C-Sleep, a tunable white bulb that you can adjust from a harsh white to warmer tones. The app also allows the tone to automatically track with the time of day, supposedly creating the optimal light for the conditions. Of course, because it doesn’t include a light sensor or any connection to weather information, C-Sleep can’t actually know what the ambient lighting conditions are. Still, it’s an inexpensive tunable white bulb and works well at what it does. Like the C-Life, it also communicated via Bluetooth.
Sylvania Lightify bulbs (which used to be called Osram Lightify) work on a Zigbee network, and as such need a Zigbee hub, either the small wall-plug unit often sold bundled with a bulb or a smart-home hub like SmartThings or Wink. The Lightify RGB color-adjustable bulb is about the same price as the Hue, but it’s shaped more like a traditional incandescent bulb. I measured 500 lux from the top and 250 at the sides, which makes it slightly brighter than the Hue, but the difference is only really noticeable when in a white mode. The colors are not as rich as those of the Hue or LIFX bulbs, but red looks red enough, and green looks green enough to satisfy most people.
The Lightify tunable white bulb measured a little brighter at its peak settings, giving us 600 lux from the top and 320 from the sides.
When setting up your Lightify bulbs, you first need to set up the gateway (unless you’re using another brand’s hub). It didn’t initially want to connect to my network, until I resorted to calling technical support and was walked through a few additional steps that did the trick (turn iPhone to airplane mode, then turn Wi-Fi back on, which disables Apple’s Wi-Fi Assist). Weird, but it worked.
The Lightify app is graphically dull and not as intuitive as the Hue or LIFX apps, but if you’re connecting the bulb to the SmartThings or Wink hub you’ll use that app instead and won’t have to mess with the Lightify one. For a while Lightify bulbs could also be paired with the Hue gateway, but firmware updates seem to have made that more difficult, so it’s no longer a dependable option (feel free to try it, but cross your fingers).
Like Hue and LIFX, Lightify bulbs work with Alexa when connected to an Alexa-compatible hub like SmartThings and Wink, but they won’t work with Alexa independently, and don’t work with Google Home or Apple HomeKit. The lights do work with Nest, so you can create scenes that synchronize with Nest’s Home and Away modes. Those may be factors to consider if your plan is to add a variety of smart-home gadgets to your abode.
Like Hue, these bulbs are part of a family of Lightify products, which also include outdoor string lights and strip lights for indoor use (which we plan to test soon) as well as a wireless remote similar to the one Hue offers. Lightify isn’t a bad way to go if your plans go beyond standard A1bulbs, but the company doesn’t currently integrate with as many other platforms.
The Cree Connected and LinearLinc bulbs.
LinearLinc Bulbz (also sold under the GoControl brand) is a Z-Wave bulb for Z-Wave–based smart-home systems. It works well with both the Wink and SmartThings hubs (and presumably with other Z-Wave smart-home hubs). Putting out 520 lux from the top and 360 from the side, it’s brighter than many of the bulbs we tested, but also more expensive—twice the price of the Cree or GE bulbs. Unlike those bulbs, the LinearLincs responded almost immediately to app commands. If keeping your smart-home devices within a Z-Wave ecosystem is important to you, these bulbs will light the way.
What to look forward to
Monoprice announced two new smart bulbs during the 201CES trade show. One uses a Z-Wave connection, the other uses Wi-Fi. Both are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Sylvania’s Smart+ A1Full Color bulbs, the company’s first line of smart light bulbs, are supposedly the first to allow owners to control them directly via Siri and Apple’s Home app. The Bluetooth-enabled bulbs are expected to ship in September. Once they are available, we’ll see how they stack up to our current picks.
Koogeek has a new smart light bulb, the HomeKit-enabled Wi-Fi Smart LED Light Bulb, which we will test as soon as we can. Koogeek’s bulb has a built-in wireless radio, which means you don’t have to buy a separate wireless hub to control your lights via smartphone.
TP-Link’s LB230 smart bulbs are designed to change color and connect to Wi-Fi without a separate hub, and can be controlled remotely through an app. TP-Link says it offers a two-year warranty and lifetime technical support. We’ll test these out as soon as we can and update this guide with our thoughts.
IKEA’s Trådfri smart LED bulbs are now compatible with Apple’s HomeKit (IKEA’s dimmers and other smart-lighting devices are still not compatible, however). According to The Verge, IKEA has also promised Google Home compatibility sometime in the future, but just when that might happen is unclear. They’re certainly cheaper than our current pick and runner-up, but we’ll wait to update this guide until we get a chance to test how they perform with the HomeKit.
You can already find several smart bulbs that include non-lighting features such as music or video cameras. Although we’re not huge fans of those, we expect to see more, and if there’s interest, we’ll check them out. Overall, the biggest trend we expect and hope for is declining prices. Though smart LED bulbs may last you 1to 20 years, they’re still expensive. As they grow in popularity, they’ll inevitably become cheaper, and more people will get to enjoy their benefits.
Cateye Volt 800 and Rapid Kinetic X2
One of the oldest names in bike lights, Cateye knows how to deliver and the Volt 800 and Rapid Kinetic Xlive up to the reputation.
For the Volt front light, five settings (three constant plus ‘hyper’ and flashing) give you from two hours of burn up to eight hours, or 80 on flashing.
As the name suggests, the Kinetic Xmonitors movement and switches from flashing to constant as you stop, with three modes and a 50-lumen total output.
Cateye’s mounts are certainly tried and tested and work well despite diminutive construction.
With a low-battery indicator built into the switch, there is plenty to like, although changing the light setting while riding in winter could prove a little awkward as the switch is slightly recessed.
Moon Meteor Storm and Shield-X
As you’d rightly expect at the very top end of our budget, these Moon units are loaded to the hilt with light-giving features.
Dual Cree XM-LLEDs provide plenty of brightness, with an output of 1300 lumens and a run time of a good three hours. There’s also a 10-second 1700-lumen burst option if you know a tight spot is coming up.
Meanwhile, the Moon Shield-X rear light offers up to 80 lumens for 80 minutes and up to 40 hours on 15-lumen flashing mode – there is also a further hour available in a ‘get you home’ mode – all thanks to a central CREE and 20 miniature COB LEDs.
Both units offer several mounting options which look as though they’ll cover just about any fitting. Which is handy.
Blackburn Central 700 and Central 50
Pumping out 700 lumens, this version of the Central is currently Blackburn’s most powerful front unit, making it an obvious pair to the Central 50, the brand’s brightest rear.
Three main settings provide 700, 400 and 200 lumens respectively, with a minimum run time of 1.15hrs and max of 16hrs on Pulse; with three, five or seven hours on the rear.
A broad footprint and 4mm rubber strap, complete with secondary hook, gives a secure fitment but lacks a quick release to aid removal for charging. The power/selector button is flush, making adjustments in winter gloves awkward.
At 50 lumens, the rear is bright enough that having it angled down is probably a sensible option but there isn’t an option to change either.
Light & Motion Urban 800 and Viz 180 Micro
Urban 800 offers four modes, including ‘pulse’, with the most powerful 800-lumens setting giving a run time of 1.5hrs, while the constant 175-lumen setting promises six hours.
The Viz 180 rear has a less regular set of outputs, with 2lumens in either a solid light (four hours), or pulsed (six hours).
It also has a 13-lumen setting for up to 1hours, and there’s a particularly neat feature in the Paceline amber setting for riding with others you don’t wish to dazzle.
At the rear, the rubber strap combines with a clip to hang it off a bag plus a hinged plate for your seatpost.
Up front, it’s a less conventional arrangement with a locating tab and swivel which means you can adjust the centering of the beam – but it does also mean it can be knocked off-centre easily.
Lezyne Power Drive 1250 XXL and Strip Drive Pro
On numbers alone, the Lezyne pairing are smashing it. As you’ll guess from the name, the front has up to 1250 lumens via three LEDs and the rear up to 100 from five.
With six modes, run times range from just under two hours at maximum power up to 3hours for the pulsed 150 Lumen setting.
If that wasn’t enough, the Strip Drive rear light offers nine modes and importantly returns to the last used when restarted.
Also of interest is that Lezyne states you can use a 2A fast-charge point to reduce the complete refill to five hours. Both are quite sizeable units so use hearty straps which are easy to get on, but hard to knock off.
Transmission choices are a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The latter had a driver selection for 1st and 2nd gears and an overdrive, useful for those using the towing (up to 2.tonnes) or carrying capacity the L200 offers.
All are four-wheel drive, Mitsubishi very proud of its Super Select 4WD system, which allows the driver to select on the move up to 62mph. It features M-ASTC (Mitsubishi Active Stability and Traction Control) which brakes individual wheels and apportions torque to others to help maintain control.
Charges slowly; 30 minutes gives you around 10%
The Nokia comes with a non-removable 3,000mAh battery which can see out a day on a single charge with general usage, but don’t expect anything more than that.
Considering this handset is larger than the Nokia it’s a shame that a bigger battery hasn’t been squeezed in, as you’ll find yourself running out of juice before the day is over if you spend a couple of hours streaming music and playing games.
From taking the phone off charge at 7am, and spending around 90 minutes streaming Spotify while also playing games for roughly 40 minutes of that time, the Nokia generally dropped about 20% of its life by 9am.
We put the Nokia through our standard battery test, which involves playing a 90-minute Full HD video, with screen brightness on full and accounts syncing over Wi-Fi in the background, and it lost 22% of its battery life. That’s not a bad result, putting it on a par with the Moto G5, but it’s not as good as the Moto GPlus, which lost just 12%.
Fast charging would soften the blow of the uninspiring battery life, but the Nokia doesn’t offer that through its micro USB port. On the contrary, charging is incredibly slow, and you’re looking at up to six hours to fully charge if you plug in below 10%.
In general we found the Nokia took around 30 minutes to restore 10% of battery when left on standby, with three hours of charge timing getting you to 60%. These charging speeds can be increased by switching the handset off, but then you lose all connectivity.
This means that if you use the phone more frequently you’ll need to plan a charge an hour or so before you leave the office to ensure you can last until bedtime.
Regarding the last question, if you’ll be handling your own lighting during performances, features such as remote control, foot pedal control, and programmability will be important considerations.
LED vs. Conventional Lighting Fixtures
Inexpensive LED fixtures typically have smaller, low-power LEDs while larger, high-end fixtures are equipped with one-watt or three-watt diodes for much more impact. Smaller LEDs are often designated by their sizes—typically 5mm or 10mm. A 10mm diode is proportionately much brighter than a 5MM LED.
Strobe and Laser Effects
Strobe effects use a pulsing white light beam to create a visual stuttering effect similar to viewing old-time films. They’re very popular in dance clubs and are available with both traditional filament bulbs as well as LEDs in a range of power levels to match various venues. You can choose from standalone models or DMX-controlled strobes that can be programmed with custom patterns. Sound-activated models can create a particularly exciting ambience on the dancefloor. Note that many LED PAR cans and effects lighting fixtures include strobing functions that may be adequate for your needs.
Laser effects produce very intense single-color beams and often include built-in display programs as well as sound-activated functions using a built-in mic. Motorized units allow scanning and burst effects, and the inclusion of gobos can create patterned laser beams. More advanced laser effect fixtures can produce 3-D effects and detailed backdrops, skyscapes, and much more. Lasers are especially effective when used in conjunction with fog machines.
Black Lights and UV Lights
These fixtures are a simple, low-cost way to add a special ambience to performance spaces and other venues. They enhance the appearance of white and fluorescent colors in darkened spaces creating a ghostly glow. Black lights are available in standard fluorescent tube and incandescent bulb formats that use standard lighting fixtures as well as newly developed LED fixtures.
PAR Can Lighting Fixtures
These lights are a staple of stage and live-sound lighting. These basic fixtures have a metal housing, mounting bracket, reflector, and socket that can accept a variety of different lamp types. They’re often used in large numbers to illuminate certain performers or stage areas and are usually mounted on overhead trusses. They do not offer a true hard-edge beam; the width of the beam is determined by the shape and positioning of the PAR can’s reflector.
PAR cans come in a wide range of sizes and are identified by their diameters in eighths of an inch. A PAR64, for example, has an 8″ diameter (because 6eighths of an inch equals 8″). Most include a holder allowing colored gels to be mounted in front of the lens.
Note that PAR3lamps are sometimes designated as simply SP (Spot) or FL (Flood).
The power requirements of PAR cans with incandescent lamps can add up fast. Those for smaller stages are typically in the 75-150 watt range. PAR3cans typically run between 50-150 watts. PAR46s usually have 200-watt lamps, PAR56s usually range from 300-500 watts, and PAR 64s range from 500-1000 watts. This is where the LED technology really shines (pun intended). They not only use a fraction of the power required by incandescent fixtures, but also reduce the number of fixtures needed in order to create a wide range of color options.
A common lighting setup for bands involves the use of a pair of light trees on either side of the stage, each holding enough PAR3cans with spot lamps and amber or light pink gels to light each frontline band member. Drummers are usually lit from the back and sides. Mounting the light trees to the tops of your main speakers is a space-saving strategy.
PAR cans and other lighting fixtures that have a double-yoke support system are something to look for if you want maximum placement flexibility. Double yokes allow mounting the fixture from a truss or placing it on a floor, speaker, or stage without a separate mount.
Today, many PAR fixtures are equipped with LEDs instead of traditional incandescent bulbs, giving them multi-color and color-mixing options. As noted above, PAR cans with LEDs generate much less heat, require far less power, and don’t require the use of dimmer packs.
The Thinpar6from Venue uses 100 bright LEDS to generate intense static or pulsing colors plus sound-activated and automated programs with master/slave or DMX-controlled operation.
Dimmer and Switch Packs
PAR cans with incandescent lamps require dimmer packs to control them. They operate in the same way household dimmer switches function, allowing you to set the relative brightness of connected lights. Most small bands and DJs use satellite dimmer packs with several channels that are typically mounted to the T-Bar or truss holding the PAR cans. The cans are plugged into the dimmer and they’re connected to a DMX controller. Dimmer packs are available with various numbers of channels, and some include built-in programs or chases.
Some units offer both dimmer and switch capabilities. Switches only provide on/off functions, and should be be used on LED and non-DMX effects fixtures to avoid shortening their life.
Lighting and Effects Packages
On the Musician’s Friend website you’ll find affordable lighting and effects packages that range from economical multi-PAR can packs to full systems that include a complete set of stage lighting and effects fixtures plus a controller, stands, and cables—everything needed to light your show. Aside from the savings these packs offer, you can be sure each fixture is compatible and designed to maximize the overall visual impact of your performance.
Non-DMX lighting fixtures have their own on-board controllers. Many such fixtures are designed to react to sound picked up through an internal microphone. Sound-activated fixtures usually include settings allowing the unit to create effects when insufficient or no sound is present.
Selectable, built-in programs allow you to automate non-DMX fixture operation—an advantage for bands and DJs who handle their own lighting. Fixtures in this category with incandescent lamps are often manufactured to operate for a specified period of time before they must be turned off, which may make it necessary to use multiple fixtures to create a continuous show. Look for the duty-cycle specification to determine if a specific model makes sense for your needs. This is another advantage of LED fixtures—they have no duty-cycle limitations. Examples of common non-DMX lighting include beam effects, flower effects, and gobo projectors.
DMX Lighting Fixtures
Also called intelligent lighting, these fixtures can be controlled via DMX-51controllers or interfaces. A DMX controller allows you to program stage lighting and effects remotely, ideal when you want complete control of the look and timing of lighting effects. DMX fixtures offer more control attributes or “traits” than non-DMX fixtures.
DMX-51is the communication/cabling protocol that most entertainment lights and controllers use to communicate with each other. DMX acts like a post office. For control, you assign an address between and 51However, unlike your house, which only has one address, your fixture needs a number assigned to each of its channels. A 6-channel DMX fixture uses addresses, or channels on a controller. Each channel on the fixture handles a specific control attribute such as pan, tilt, color, etc.
Controllers run the gamut from simple non-DMX switchboxes and relay packs that allow you to power multiple lighting and sound channels to highly sophisticated DMX units that provide control over every aspect of multiple lighting systems composed of hundreds of DMX-compatible fixtures. Some simpler controllers have a dedicated purpose such as controlling specific effects such as strobes or fog machines. Some controller models allow foot control—a great feature for solo acts and small bands who control their lights in realtime during performance.
The basics of DMX controller operation are generally quite simple. Each slider on the controller corresponds to a channel on the fixture being controlled. DMX fixtures have specific values that correspond to their various control settings such as color, gobo, pan, tilt, strobe speed, etc. By moving a slider on the controller to a specific value, the fixture follows suit. The various control values of each button or slider used to create an overall effect can be saved into a “scene”, which triggers the specific action or state you set. The scene is then saved into a memory bank. Numerous scenes can be combined into an entire program, which, for example, can be synchronized with cues for a show. This is called a “chase.” Chases can be adjusted via a myriad of input functions, depending on the controller being used. Examples of control triggers include MIDI and clock/calendar events.
Software-Based DMX Control
As with software-based audio recording and performance functions, there is a revolution in progress involving a shift in lighting control from hardware-based controllers to PC software and mobile device apps. That said, also as with audio functions, there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
Dedicated hardware lighting controllers with physical sliders, buttons, switches, and legible displays offer intuitive and tactile control and workflow without delving deeply into menus and mastering steep software learning curves. On the other hand, software-based lighting control offers enormous control potential with nearly unlimited creativity in designing elaborate lighting programs. Software may also be more affordable route.
The compact Chauvet Xpress 51Controller and USB Interface works with Windows or Mac computers and gives you powerful software-based control over an unlimited number of shows.
Many hardware lighting controllers come bundled with their own proprietary software and/or are compatible with other lighting software. Deciding which approach to lighting is right for your needs comes down to the complexity of your lighting and your willingness to master sophisticated lighting programming.
The Elation Show Designer 2CF DMX Controller offers 102channels of controls and has a huge fixture library for simplified effects programming.
DMX Controller Features and Specs
Number of channels: Much like calculating the connections needed on an audio mixer, count the number of devices and each device’s number of channels in coming up with an adequate channel count. You’ll of course want to allow some additional capacity for future needs too.
Number of channels per fixture: Some fixtures have many control attributes or parameters. If you plan to include such fixtures in your lighting system, a controller that can handle up to 3channels per fixture will make sense. However, if your system will be largely comprised of simpler effect fixtures and PAR cans, a smaller, DJ-type controller is likely to be adequate.
Number of programmable scenes: As noted above, a scene is a set of control values or slider positions that can be saved for instant recall. Some controllers allow scenes to be saved on external memory devices while software-compatible controllers offer scene storage and editing on external computers or tablets.
Number of programmable shows: A complete sequence of chases and other settings that comprise a complete performance that can be saved and recalled.
Number of universes: Each DMX network is called a “universe” and has up to 51channels. Smaller controllers usually have a single OUT connector allowing control of a single universe. More complex lighting systems may be composed of several networks or universes thus requiring multiple controllers, or a single controller with multiple OUT connectors.
Fixture libraries: These collections of fixture profiles streamline the process of setting attributes and functions.
Tap/sync: This function allows the operator to sync lighting effects with the music by tapping in the tempo.
Joystick/trackball controls: These make tilt/pan and other positional functions easier to control.
Keyboard input: Allows connection of a computer keyboard for faster programming and naming of scenes, chases, and shows.
MIDI I/O and control: Allows control of the lighting system with a MIDI-enabled pedalboard, keyboard or other controller—a valuable feature for performers and DJs who control their lights in realtime. MIDI in and out connectors also facilitate programming on external computers and other MIDI-compatible devices.
USB Connectivity/Software-based DMX control: A USB connector plus MIDI implementation opens up a world of control possibilities using PC software and/or mobile apps to program and control your lighting.
Wireless operation: Some DMX controllers are compatible with wireless adapters so as to deal with situation where very long cable runs would otherwise be needed. Such systems have a wireless transmitter at the controller and receivers located near lighting fixtures. These systems convert DMX control messages to radio frequencies at the transmitter then convert the signal back to DMX signals at the receivers which are connected to the fixtures.
Each fixture produces output at a specific beam angle, which denotes the width of beam being produced. Assuming that you have two fixtures with the same wattage lamps, the fixture with the smaller beam angle will appear brighter. This is because the same amount of light is being focused into a smaller area. In addition, because a smaller beam angle creates a more focused and intense projection, the light can be placed further from the subject being illuminated. The larger (wider) the beam angle of a fixture, the larger the area that can be covered by the unit.
Fixtures should also be placed in proximity to the subject based on output. Lights that have a lower output need to be placed closer to the subject than a high-output fixture in order to be perceived as having the same brightness.
Having a combination of wash and spot fixtures illuminating an area will greatly enhance the look of any show. By using contrasting colors, the spots will pop out more, appearing brighter within the wash effect than if used alone.
Assigning Effects and Programming Shows
The key to good lighting design is to mix and match fixtures and tones to create a desired mood and effect. When programming, use color schemes that complement or contrast with one another, depending on the mood you want. Using a wash to create an ambient light in a color that will complement your spot, or effect, will make it appear brighter and richer. Clean, crisp complementary colors, along with fluid movement and symmetry produce an air of professionalism. Contrasting colors add high energy and drama to a venue. The best way to increase your design skills is by visiting different venues and shows to see what other designers have done. Note the elements that struck you as the best, and attempt to emulate and improve on them.
Connecting a Controller to Lighting Fixtures
A DMX signal begins at the controller and follows the path of the cable to the first fixture and then to each fixture in line down the cable run. The following diagram shows the proper method and order for connecting multiple fixtures to a single controller. The DMX line pictured here runs from the controller to the “DMX In” connection on the first fixture. From the “DMX Out” connection of the first fixture, a cord is connected to the “DMX In” connection of the next fixture in the line, and so on until all units have a cable connected to the “DMX In” connection. The last fixture in the line should have a DMX terminator installed to maintain the quality of the DMX signal.
When setting up your lighting, you need hardware that will safely and securely position and hold your fixtures where you need them. Raising your lighting fixtures increases their coverage and keeps them safe from accidental contact and damage caused by vibrations. Musician’s Friend offers a broad selection of clamps, mounting brackets, and safety cables to accomplish this.
If you perform in a variety of venues, it’s likely you’ll run into challenges in setting up your lights. Having an assortment of lighting stands can help make setup simpler. Basic T-bar stands with tripod bases make a good all-around lighting support. A pair of such stands with an integrated truss affords more positioning options, support, and stability. Read specs carefully to make sure that the light stand or truss system you choose is rated for the weight of your fixtures.
The fixtures you select will determine the cables required to connect your system. In general, you will need one power cord per fixture, along with the appropriate extension cords (if needed). In addition, if you are connecting your fixtures via DMX cable, you will need one DMX cable per fixture. DMX cables use XLR connectors and come in 3- and 5-pin varieties. Check the user’s manual of your fixtures and controller to determine which type will be needed for your application. It’s a good practice to have extra cables on hand to deal with failures and venues requiring longer cable runs. That goes for extension cords, switchboxes, and AC power strips too.
Attribute » a controllable parameter on a fixture such as gobo selection, color, tilt, pan, etc.
Beam angle » The width of a beam of light, often designated by the number of degrees; the greater the number the wider the beam. Sometimes designated with qualitative terms such as narrow, medium, and wide.
Chase » A sequence of lighting effects or on and off sequences. A simple example is the apparent movement of theatre marquee lights along a string, caused by the rapid sequential illumination of each fixture.
CMY » System of light color mixing using Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. This system entails the use of colored gels or filters to create a wide palette of colors. Also see RGB.
Color temperature » A measurement of how relatively blue (“cold”) or amber (“warm”) a given light is.
Color wheel » A circular metal disc containing colored glass filters and is motorized to rotate in front of a light source.
DMX51» The protocol used to control lighting systems and individual DMX-compatible effects.
Fixture » In lighting systems, any lamp or lighting effect is considered a fixture.
Focus » A qualitative statement of how relatively hard or soft a gobo’s projected image is. The hardness of a projected image is largely a function of the distance that the beam is projected; the greater the distance, the softer the image. Focus may also refer to the X/Y position of a moving light in relation to the performance space or stage.
Gel » Also called a color gel or color filter, it’s a transparent colored polyester or polycarbonate sheet used in stage lighting in front of a light beam to alter its color.
Gobo » A usually spherical glass or metal template containing patterns that are projected by light sources mounted behind or within the gobo.
Gobo wheel » A disc within a moving light fixture that has several gobos placed around its perimeter. A motor steps through each gobo pattern in sequence, or fixtures may be programmable to select custom sequences.
Joystick » A device that allows control of a moving light’s pan and tilt functions. See trackball.
Kelvin » The measurement of a lamp’s color temperature. Incandescent lamps typically range between 600-3200 Kelvin. Arc and discharge lamps range 6000 and 9000 Kelvin. The sun has a temperature of 577See color temperature.
Moving head fixture » A lighting fixture in which the entire optical system, including gobo wheels, lamps, prisms, etc. move with the emitted beam(s).
Moving mirror fixture » Often called scanners, these lighting fixtures employ a mirror to animate and project beams of light. They typically offer faster movement than moving head fixtures.
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