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First pro console choice

Joined
Nov 10, 2019
Location
Finland
Hi all,

I've been learning on a Lightshark, and while it was fun, I've been hitting its limits and feel like it's time to upgrade to a "real" console, in particular as we're finally getting a pile of moving heads at our venue.

I was looking at picking up a Ma dot2 XLF until the availability announcement recently, and I'm a little gun shy about getting a used console if spares aren't available. As it took them by surprise, I'm guessing we're a ways out from seeing a dot3 on the market. I'm looking at a Roadhog 4, the new Chamsys MQ70, or an Avolites Quartz. I'll probably look into used for anything but the Chamsys.

Primary use will be at a venue with a 16 or so movers and maybe 40 static lights, but we run a lot of different kinds of gigs, so stuff gets shifted around pretty frequently, and we'll also use it for ad hoc events elsewhere. Everything runs over artnet right now, and I also use the stand-alone web interface on the lightshark pretty frequently so I'm not stuck behind the desk all the time — having something I can run from a tablet when I need to would be great. We're also probably going to start playing with midi timecode/showcontrol for automation, and having the flexibility there for temporary installation stuff would be great too. Recommendations between the above? Is there something else I should consider?
 

JohnD

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Surprising news about the dot2, here is the MA Lighting page:
https://www.malighting.com/dot2/
A few questions, who will be using this console just a few people or will there be many LD's using it? What are the most used consoles in your area?
Do you have a local dealer who can get you demos of the various consoles?
Some consoles require extra gear for midi and timecode.
Is the primary use busking live concerts? Have you considered Obsidian/Onyx from Elation (formerly Martin Lighting's M-series)? They have a lot of new things going on.
 
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DavidJones

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Touring
What sort of events/shows do you do at this venue? Do you have outside LD who will use the console? Do you have "non-lighting" people who will have to run the console?

I am first and foremost an MA2 User. As for the Dot2, I really liked it for some applications. It is probably the most user-friendly desk on the market for people who are new to lighting. That being said, you could hit the limits of the dot2 easily, especially if you have experience on more full-featured desks. While MA may not be able to get some parts, they could just redesign around newer hardware, however, I don't believe the console sold well enough to justify doing that, and I doubt we will ever see a dot3. They were aiming at the ETC ION market, Schools, community theatres, churches, but were priced about 40% higher. The dot2 is also the most feature limited of the consoles you listed. It was "dumbed down" for a market without dedicated lighting people, volunteers, teachers, etc..

I don't know what the trends are in Finland, but I can comment on the US/Canada for reference.

-Avo has a nice UI, it lost almost all of its US market share to MA over the last decade, but it's still a nice desk, and flexible, If you want a compact desk, it will do the trick. I have not used AVO in a while so I cannot give much opinion, but its priced a little higher than its competition.
-Hog, like AVO, has lost a lot of its market share in touring, but is still pretty standard in corporate markets, also and I don't know that it has made any groundbreaking advances in the last 2 versions, it has a nicer UI, but it's pretty familiar to hog II/III. The Roadhog 4 Does have a nice large touch screen, double the size of the other 2 consoles. I learned on Hog, but have not used them for years.
-Chamsys Is starting to gain market share in the US(almost non-existent until Chauvet bought them). The UI feels a little older(Like HOG II old), but it's actually a really easy desk to use, once you learn where to change all of the AWFUL default settings to something more useful. There are a lot of things It does different than MA, but I don't hate it. The MQ70 is the newest console so that is good for being future-proof. That said, this is in the
Compact line, and physically is similar to the Avo Quartz.

Really, all of those consoles will do a good job. It comes down to preference, and if you have to share, what other people are used to using. With the AVO and the Chamsys, you might consider adding an external touch screen, especially if your rig grows, or you rent in additional fixtures. All of these offer a PC based software that you can download and try for free. Chamsys MagicQ actually lets you output 64 universes for FREE with the software alone via Artnet/sACN. Try them out and watch some Youtube tutorials. Then find a local dealer and see if you can get an in-person demo.
 

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If you do get a Chamsys/Avo make sure you know it backwards and forwards if you have guest LD's and have a good punt page. Get whatever fits your budget and what you want though unless filling riders is a constant occurance. I see a lot of Chamsys desk's come through that are personal consoles. Their bang for their buck is pretty great.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2019
Location
Finland
Thanks for all the advice! Likely I'll be the one using it 90% of the time, and when it's not, it's going to be very much "push this button when the lights need to go off" kind of setups. When it's on the road, it's likely to be in immersive art installation type things, so a lot less predictable than typical gigs, but generally more like theater than a music gig, and pretty forgiving — although these are also sometimes going to be the kind of thing that has a ton of automation going on under the covers. And yeah, an additional touch screen is definitely in consideration. Great point on the software — will give that a try. Is the Infinity Chimp 300g2 worth adding to the comparison?
 

Michael K

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San Jose, CA
To add to David's post:

-Avo makes nice hardware, and the quarts is a very nice compact desk, which can be a huge plus if you're doing a lot of quick turnaround events and such, but can also be a hindered due to the more limited control space. The Avo Titan software is very much an acquired taste, and aimed more at the live event/concert and busking space. I've had trouble getting in touch with support (being half-way across the globe), and their documentation is on the thin side, but the former shouldn't be much of a problem since you're in Europe.

-Hog is now under the ETC umbrella, and everyone knows that ETC stands by their products with top-notch support. The extremely large touch screen is very nice, with plenty of space to see programming, playbacks, and such, but this does make the console more bulky. The software is similarly aimed more towards live events/concerts, and in many ways thinks like the Avo desks, but isn't too hard pressed to run more traditionally cued shows. (I've spent much less time in front of the Road hog, but found it much more understandable/less frustrating then the Avo. Hog is also Linux based, which is generally a good plus for reliability.)

Do reach out to some local vendors for a demo, that is really the only way to know for sure if a console will fill your needs. Please keep the questions coming, there are many highly knowledgeable folks around here, and we all appreciate when new posters who stick around. Welcome to ControlBooth :)
 

RonHebbard

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Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
To add to David's post:

-Avo makes nice hardware, and the quarts is a very nice compact desk, which can be a huge plus if you're doing a lot of quick turnaround events and such, but can also be a hindered due to the more limited control space. The Avo Titan software is very much an acquired taste, and aimed more at the live event/concert and busking space. I've had trouble getting in touch with support (being half-way across the globe), and their documentation is on the thin side, but the former shouldn't be much of a problem since you're in Europe.

-Hog is now under the ETC umbrella, and everyone knows that ETC stands by their products with top-notch support. The extremely large touch screen is very nice, with plenty of space to see programming, playbacks, and such, but this does make the console more bulky. The software is similarly aimed more towards live events/concerts, and in many ways thinks like the Avo desks, but isn't too hard pressed to run more traditionally cued shows. (I've spent much less time in front of the Road hog, but found it much more understandable/less frustrating then the Avo. Hog is also Linux based, which is generally a good plus for reliability.)

Do reach out to some local vendors for a demo, that is really the only way to know for sure if a console will fill your needs. C
@Eleanor Saitta and @Michael K Please keep the questions coming, and we all appreciate when new posters who stick around.
Welcome to ControlBooth :)
Especially new posters who post in complete and cohesive sentences; know where the Shift key is AND use it.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

DavidJones

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Jun 7, 2017
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Touring
If you do get a Chamsys/Avo make sure you know it backwards and forwards if you have guest LD's and have a good punt page. Get whatever fits your budget and what you want though unless filling riders is a constant occurance. I see a lot of Chamsys desk's come through that are personal consoles. Their bang for their buck is pretty great.
This was EXACTLY Chamsys' marketing platform, at least for a while. A desk affordable enough that each LD could buy their own and tour/fly with it. Personally, living in North America, I think they misread the market(or they knew where they stood, and went for a different market). We have busses, trucks, crews, and budgets; tours ask for what they want, and for the most part, get it, yes an LD is going to cut back fixtures and accept Elation Protrons I stead of JDC-1's, but they are gonna get an MA, whether its on their truck or not. A different console for a big tour is a non-starter. This type of tour is not the market Chamsys is in, but getting in on the middle/ lower-end market is not a bad thing for Chamsys, necessarily, It could get a lot of users to bring up their product as they move up in their careers. There has been a lot of influx of Chamsys since Chauvet bought them.

I'm not trying to denigrate Chamsys in any way; I've bought and sold to people many consoles from the QuickQ to the MQ500, and use them often personally. In a smaller tour, it makes sense to have an affordable desk rather than being at the mercy of what the local venue offers. I think Chamsys is becoming more of a household name, and hopefully more common in the US. Competition is good for innovation and pricing, it's a good gamble that a Chamsys MQ70 will be a nice house desk for a while to come.
 

DavidJones

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Joined
Jun 7, 2017
Location
Touring
Is the Infinity Chimp 300g2 worth adding to the comparison?
Never hear of them. So basically no, don't consider it. I did see they are based in the Netherlands, so its probably not some garbage China ripoff, but even if they are legit, their specs are unjustifiably limited from a modern viewpoint. I still think although most people won't reach it, ETC's 10,000 cue limit and Chamsys' 5,000 limits, keep them from being serious contenders in some markets. Infinity Chimps 300 fixture limit is simply laughable unless it's like $1000 MSRP and you never plan to grow. 4 universes is the baseline of Modern lighting products, and for this company, it's the MAX. But even still IF what they are offering is well supported, there is no reason to go with some random company over one that has better features and better support, even if it costs more.
 

Judge

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Somerset, UK
ETC's 10,000 cue limit and Chamsys' 5,000 limits keep them from being serious contenders.
Really? Have you ever come up against that? Nobody would really unless they are running a massive show for someone like Beyonce where there could be a few thousand cues running to timecode, In which case they will be using a GMA2 anyway. And this is of no relevance to the OP.
Anyway, forget the Dot2 as it was gimped and expensive to start with and is now discontinued.
The ChamSys MQ70 looks very nice. I have not seen one yet but used the MQ80 which is a bit larger. MagicQ is excellent software but could do with a design refresh.
If you have a 70 then I'd say you would also need an extra screen.
Avolites Quartz - also the screen is just too small, but its a great little desk. How about Tiger Touch II. Bit larger with better screen and extra playbacks.
Hog - I think that both Avolites and ChamSys are better consoles - at this time.
I do reckon though that now ETC own them we will see some interesting developments within a year or so.
 
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Yeah, the 300 fixture limit threw me a bit too — it feels so random. In practice, unlikely to be a problem any time soon, as the only things that I'm going to be driving in those kind of numbers right now are going to be artnet software composites that I can slice any which way, but still worth avoiding. I'm not broke here but I'm not price-insensitive, and space is sometimes at a premium, so I think on the Avo side, I'd go with the Quartz plus a mobile wing and an external monitor over the Tiger and the Tiger wing; the same for the Hog and the MQ70. So far, it feels like the MQ is winning, but I need to read the manual and play with the soft install properly, and then get my hands on it a bit.
 
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A related question, as I'm digging through options and features — how much do y'all end up using command lines? I've been a software developer for many, many years, and I could see this being a nice powertool to have in some contexts, but it's not clear how many of these systems actually have meaningful command environments, and how much they're an afterthought/gimmick.
 

JohnD

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Warning! Somewhat of a topic swerve.
I am sort of interested in what is missing.
No ETC, is it because it is considered more a theatre console than a concert console?
STRAND, No Neo or even the ML500.
How about Zero88 and the FLX.
Once again I'll mention Elation/Obsidian and probably NX2, which seems to be the updated version of the Martin M2GO.
 
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The NX2 looks interesting, and if they'd built a wing for it, I'd be considering it more strongly, but that big multi-strip touchpad isn't something I'd want to work with (I've used that style of control in a music context, and they're awful), and I'm kind of buying on the basis of what's at least announced now. The Strand Neo isn't really on my radar because finding out basic stuff like "how much does it cost to add a DMX universe" doesn't seem very easy, and the whole "you don't have to license channels for Phillips fixtures" weirds me out a bit. The ETC Eon Xe 20 is a pretty reasonable fit — I think I'd been assuming that Hog was going to be the direction of their development going forward for concert-style stuff. Zero88 seems to have pretty dated hardware (even than the Hog, which feels long in the tooth in this list), and I'm not sure I'd want to be buying the top-end of a manufacturer. Part of it is down to what I've seen in the wild, though — Ma, Avo, and Chamsys at least I see on a regular basis, and I've at least seen Hogs; the rest, not so much.

I'd love to get a better feel for how the Eon would stack up against the rest for busking concerts (which is to say, for improvisational live work, which is going to be a good chunk of what this does).
 

MNicolai

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Re: Hog long in the tooth --

In terms of console development, the big consoles from the higher-volume manufacturers tend to get longer development cycles. One, because it takes a lot of time to develop those feature bases, and two because the customer bases expect those console to be relevant long enough they can at least make at least 3-4x their investment back. ETC's EOS software dates back to 2006 but because of the constant development cycle it's stayed relevant, and I think many people who buy an Eos-series console today still expect to get another 10 years out of it. Seeing as they just released the Hog 4-18 with a new software update, I think you can expect ETC/HES will be maintaining that lineup for at least a few more years.

So long as the hardware remains supported and the software is being kept fresh, I wouldn't discount a console lineup just on the basis of feeling like it's been around the block. Maturity of development doesn't have to be a bad thing.

If you're on Facebook, join the ETC, Hog, Chamsys, etc. users groups. You'll get a good sense what people are using the consoles for just by scrolling down the pages and reading the comments. You'll even find a growing insurgency of people running Nomad on touchscreens and X-Keys as their primary personal rigs. Affordable, scalable, portable, and a Nomad dongle running EOS will now also run Hog 4 PC without any extra expense.
 

JohnD

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I think that Elation will have Obsidian NX at LDI later this month. Perhaps @rsmentele can confirm that, and perhaps advise on what is shipping now, or how long before it starts shipping.
 
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rsmentele

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Yes, NX2 and NX4 is available and will be showing at LDI. One really cool thing is that you can download a fully functional version of the Onyx software for FREE and it allows 4 universes of output.... Did I mention it's FREE?!

A new media/pixel control add on was just beta released today as well, Dylos. Super easy to use too.

Whatever way you think you might go, download the software and try it out for yourself to make sure it flows with your programming style.

And PM me if you would like to get a demo of an Obsidian console. I can get you in touch with the local distributor in Finland.
 

soundlight

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For live venue busking, I'd seriously recommend the Obsidian NX4. 44 physical playbacks, with the 10 main faders being motorized, nice touchscreen, and above all - fantastic operating system. I've been a proponent of it since using the original M1 around 8 years ago.
 

JohnD

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Hrm. So, there are both some interesting and concerning things in there, but I think the real evaluation is going to wait until I can read the manuals and play with them for real. Hardware-wise, I think the XE 20 is looking like a pretty solid contender right now. Do we have any hints about what the 3.0 firmware will bring other than the new 3D visualizer jazz? Not seeing much on the forums. I'm guessing maybe the announcement will come at LDI?