Are you a DJ or traveling entertainer who’s looking for a way to improve your future performances? Nothing sets the mood of a live performance better than stage lighting. As a matter of fact, a couple of LEDs can completely transform an ordinary setting.
Of course, there’s no easy way to manage multiple fixtures, at least not without the help of an external controller. That’s where DMX controllers come into play.
Many entertainers use DMX (Digital Multiplex) controllers to control stage lights, fog machines, and strobe effects. These simple interfaces are softened referred to as the brains of stage lighting. But what sets one DMX controller apart from the next? In this guide, we break down the basics of DMX controllers while highlighting five of our favorite DJ light consoles.
Are you in a rush? Preview our selections in the table review.
Our Top DJ Lights Controllers
Best for Beginners
Chauvet DJ LED Lighting (Obey 3)
CHAUVET DJ Fog Machine (The Cumulus)
CO-Z 192 DMX 512 Stage DJ Light Controller
Best Budget Pick
ADJ Products Stage Lighting Controller
Best Miniature DMX Controller
Universal DMX-512 MINI 192
Chauvet DJ LED Lighting (Obey 3) – Best for Beginners
Starting off our list of the best DJ light controllers is the Chauvet DJ’s Obey 3. The Obey 3 is a compact DMX controller for three-channel (red, yellow, and blue) LED lights. The controller’s compact size and clearly labeled controls make it an excellent choice for first-timers and mobile entertainers.
While easy to operate, the controller has plenty of playback versatility.
In fact, it boasts three modes, including automated, sound-activated, and manual RGB color mixing. Users can also choose between variable fade times or apply strobe effects on the fly. There’s also a master dimmer and an adjustable blackout feature.
The interface has nine preset color settings. When you’re in preset mode, you can use the middle slider (fade) to control the speed of the strober. In macro mode, you can use all three sliders to create custom-mixed light colors. You can access the unit’s fade effects with the help of the onboard blackout button.
The Obey 3 is powered by a 12-volt converter. The cord can be removed for easier storage and transportation. You can easily interlock multiple intelligent lights before connecting a final DMX cord to the three-prong input on the back of the Obey. Check out this to see just how easy it is to get this LED light controller up and running.
What You Get
The unit weighs 2 pounds and measures 5.5-by-8.3-by-2.1 inches. It comes with an external power cord, a quick reference guide, and a warranty card. Customers have given the Chauvet DMX rave reviews. However, some have complained that the user manual lacked detail and clear instructions. Fortunately, plenty of lighting experts have flooded the internet videos on how to use this novel DMX controller.
- Adjustable audio sensitivity
- Fader for master dimmer and adjustable blackout setting
- Variable fade times for all playback modes
- Variable strobing on the fly
- Compact 512-channel DMX controller with three channel modes
- Playback options include automated, sound-activated, and manual RGB color mixing
- Excellent customer service
- Suitable for novice or beginner DJs only (limited playback modes)
- Extremely limited instructions (refer to YouTube videos for better direction)
Marygel-192 512-Channel DMX Controller – Best Overall
Next up, we have the 192-channel Marygel DMX Controller. This 19-by-5.27-inch console has loads of potential. In fact, it can be paired with stage lights, DJ lights, par lights, moving headlights, and more. The console can power up to 12 separate intelligent lights at the same time. Reversible sliders make it possible for the Marygel to create up to 16 DMX channels for each individual fixture.
A built-in microphone sets the stage for sound-activated lighting.
The console allows users to program, playback, and manipulate light colors both before and during performances. The controller is covered by a 30-day return policy and a 1-year warranty. The controller’s versatility and reliability make it an excellent choice for DJs and other mobile entertainers.
The Marygel controller’s compact, rectangular design makes it easy to navigate. The buttons and faders are clearly labeled. The LED indicator lights make it easier for entertainers to make adjustments in low-light conditions. The console is simple enough that we would recommend it to beginners.
Whether you’re hosting a wedding, concert, or family party, we strongly recommend the Marygel as a solution to all your lighting consolidation needs. While Marygel is certainly a lesser-known name than Chauvet, it has still managed to garner a sort of cult following. As such, you will find plenty of online reviews and tutorials on YouTube.
- 512-channel DMX controller
- Control up to 12 different intelligent ligts with up to 16 DMX channels per fixture
- Create as many as 240 scenes
- Built-in microphone and sound activation
- Program, playback, and live manipulation
- Suitable for amateur and professional gigs
- Cannot manually fade between scenes
- Pricey for beginners
CO-Z 192 DMX 512 Stage DJ Light Controller – Fun Creating
The DMX-192 is yet another compact and affordable DMX console that’s guaranteed to boost the energy and aesthetics of all your future musical performances. The unit is capable of controlling as many as 12 intelligent light fixtures. It is capable of assigning 16 channels to each fixture.
The controller is broken down into seven easy-to-navigate sections. There are twelve lighted “scanner” buttons, eight lighted scene buttons, eight double-sided faders, an LED display monitor, six chase buttons, a blackout toggle, and much more.
The clearly marked and mostly lit controls make this board a great choice for beginners.
The console is capable of storing up to 40 preprogrammed scenes with up to 25.5 seconds between each sequence. The controller comes with an instructional booklet. However, even the manufacturer points out that YouTube videos (like this one) are better teaching tools.
If this is your first-time daisy-chaining staging lights, you should find this entry-level controller easy to worth with. The onboard LED screen makes it easy for you to move through modes and channels.
What Customers Are Saying
The CO-Z comes with an extra-long (6-foot) cable. It has an incredibly user-friendly interface. Moreover, it is capable of orchestrating dynamic, professional-grade lighting effects.
Customers say the product comes as advertised. The manufacturer is easy to contact and incredibly personable. If you experience any issues with this product, you can expect them to be resolved in a prompt and professional manner. Most would agree that their purchase translated to money well-spent.
- 512-channel DMX controller
- 192 groups of channels for up to 12 intelligent lights
- 16 channels for each light fixture
- Easily switch between different effects and scenes with the press of a button
- LED display lets you know your current lighting setup
- Seven designated areas for easier real-time console navigation
- Upgraded buttons and fluid control sticks for smoother, more reliable performances
- Low-quality instructions
ADJ Products Stage Lighting Controller – Best Budget Pick
ADJ Products’ three-channel DMX console makes all sorts of live light displays possible. It enables users to program up to eight fixtures or lighting groups. It boasts manual faders, built-in chase patterns, and manual RBG intensity controls. There are also buttons for manual, sound-activated, and blackout modes. Not to mention, there are a total of nine static color presets and a built-in strobe fader.
Users can utilize the unit’s 10 built-in chase patterns or create on-the-fly adaptations.
Speed and fade controls set the stage for endless possibilities. The unit uses 3.6 watts of power per second. It measures 8.7-by-5.5-by-2.5 inches and weighs approximately 1.8 pounds. Settings can be locked in so that users can reap the benefits of continuous hands-free operation. Users can purchase the ADJ LED RC2 Remote to gain full remote control of the device. It’s an affordable and well-rounded unit that’s perfect for basic RGB lighting control.
What Customers Are Saying
Customers seem generally pleased with the ADJ controller. People use it for everything from home entertainment to paid gigs. Users say they’re able to utilize built-in chase patterns with ease and precision. For the most part, ADJ customers seem to be new to the DMX scene. Still, they seem to feel that this little light controller poses little to no learning curve.
- Basic, inexpensive three-channel controller
- Program up to eight fixtures or lighting groups
- Manual faders, built-in chase patterns, and manual RBG intensity control
- Offers on-the-fly adaptability
- A 12-volt power adapter is included
- Lightweight (1.8 pounds)
- Measures just 11.42 x 6.3 x 0.98 inches
- No fade setting
Universal DMX-512 MINI 192 – Best Miniature DMX Controller
Next up, we have one of our favorite mini DMX controllers. This tiny unit has 192 groups of channels. It’s capable of controlling as many as 12 intelligent lights with up to 16 channels for each light. It also boasts a total of 23 eight-bank scenes for a total of 240 scenes. Users can easily use the DMX to create simultaneous chases with ease.
The DMX Mini’s mic, beat-activation, and tap sync playback modes make it a DJ favorite.
While the console is compact and easy to navigate, it produces unmistakably professional results.
An Impressive Design
We’re big fans of this mini DMX’s interface. It has a traditional black plastic exterior, white labels, white slider knobs, red LED indicators, a few blue keys, and a small display screen. The input and outputs are located on the front of the console. There’s even a fixed handle on one side of the console. The DC power cord is removable. It is located on the opposition side.
A Few Minor Issues
No product is 100% perfect. With that said, the DMX’s power cord is incredibly short. Moreover, it does not come with an instructional booklet. If you’re new to stage lighting, we recommend that you check YouTube for beginner instructional videos. Unfortunately, this particular model does not have any preset buttons. If you’re new to stage lighting, you might find manual chase sequencing to be a challenging requirement.
With all that said, this product offers excellent value for such a low price. You can easily change the color and intensity of your lights to better suit your musical choices.
- 512 channels (or universes)
- Can control up to 12 intelligent lights on up to 16 different channels
- Six chases with 240 scenes, enabling you to simultaneously execute multiple chases
- Built-in mic
- Beat activation. tap sync, and autorun settings make it ideal for any amateur DJ or video producer
- Does not come with an instructional booklet
- Not brand name
How to Choose the Best DJ Light Controller
DMX (Digital Multiplex) consoles are the standard operating systems for stage lights and effects.
These simple hardware-based consoles are what most DJs and stage performers use to manage a collection of fixtures. Standard DMX controllers look a lot like MIDI controllers.
Most DMX consoles boast a collection of sliders, buttons, and LED indicators. While DMX consoles are designed to control entire universes of stage lights, they only boast one three-pin DMX cable input. Only the first lighting fixture in a sequence is hooked up to the DMX. All the other fixtures are linked together to create a system bus. Information is bused from the DMX each fixture within the subsequent cable chain.
DMX controllers make it possible for DJs and stage managers to control multiple intelligent LED lights. Each light is referred to as a fixture. Most small-scale DMX controllers can only control five to 12 individual fixtures at any given time.
Most DMX controllers have 512 channels or DMX addresses. Each of these channels has a value that ranges from zero to 255. Each channel controls a different lighting parameter. Most consoles allow you to control a set number of lighting parameters or a set number of fixtures.
Scenes, Chases, and Banks
Scenes are the settings for each individual light fixture. A chase is a sequence of scenes that can be played in order to create a certain effect. Look for a light controller that enables you to create multiple scenes and chases.
Most consoles allow you to save a set number of scenes within each chase.
Some DMX consoles have scene banks. These are buttons that serve to recall saved scenes. Bank buttons enable you to play out scenes on the fly rather than within a preset chase.
Some hardware-based consoles do not permit users to fade between preset scenes and chases. This makes it difficult for DJs to put on fluid performances. The ADJ DMX controller is one of the few entry-level consoles that allows you to manually fade between scenes.
Syncing Your Lights to Music
Some DMX controllers give you the ability to sync your lights to live music. Others have built-in mics that enable users to control their lights with their voices. Both of these features are popular with audiophiles and DJs.
If you’re new to stage lighting, be sure to check out Sweetwater’s InSync’s Stage Lighting 101 to learn all about the different types of stage lighting fixtures. Be sure to choose a console that’s compatible with the fixtures you’ll be using.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a console’s design. Consoles may have a mix of buttons, sliders, lighted indicators, and LCD screens.
Clearly labeled and strategically placed controls will make it much easier for you to make real-time changes.
You’re also going to want to consider the size and weight of your chosen console. Ideally, the unit will be compact enough that it won’t infringe upon your audio equipment.
How Do you Wire a DMX Controller?
DMX controllers are connected to a daisy chain of lighting fixtures. As such, there should only be one DMX cable running into the actual console. Most DMX consoles can only be used to control 512 channels. Most small or entry-level consoles can only control the parameters of 12 or fewer individual light fixtures. If you’re settings a lighting universe with more than 512 channels, you may need two or more DMX consoles.
We hope you enjoyed our rundown of the top DMX controllers for DJs. It wasn’t an easy choice, but if we had to select just one winner it would have to be the Chauvet DJ LED Lighting (Obey 3). This tiny light controller makes it possible for you to control an entire universe of intelligent lights. If you’re new to stage lighting, you’ll find this compact and precise console easy to navigate. It offers all the elements of a professional light controller within a compact and portable interface.
We hope this guide made it easier for you to understand DMX systems. These lighting management systems are indispensable to most people in the entertainment business. These inexpensive devices are game-changers for musical artists, DJs, and stage performers. We hope our guide made it easier for you to find one that fits your particular performance needs!