Looking for the best DMX controller?Programming your light fixtures with automated modes is easy, but that doesn’t always give you the control you need. For custom shows with professional results, you need a DMX controller . DMX is the industry standard when it comes to light programming and control, so it works with almost any brand or fixture.
You can make the most of your equipment’s DMX functions with a DMX controller. With a DMX control board, you can access all the different properties of your light fixtures from one place, giving you ultimate customization, creativity, and organization.
While DMX is one of the best tools for DJs, it can also be confusing when you first start learning it. Luckily, DMX controllers range in complexity. To help you find the best DMX controller for your skill level, we’ve compiled the best products on the market–from heavy duty stage lighting controllers to simple 3-switch handhelds. The right DMX controller will expand your capabilities, giving you elevated performance and professionalism.
Check out our list of the best DMX controllers below! Also, if you’re looking for DJ lights to go with your controller, see our reviews of the best DJ lights.
|American DJ Scene Setter-48||Best Overall|
|Chauvet Obey 70||Simplest Design|
|Enttec DMXIS 70570||Best Professional Grade|
|Behringer Eurolight LC2412||Sleekest Design|
|Rockville Rockforce 384||Best With Built-In Light|
|Chauvet Obey 3||Best For Beginners|
|ADJ 12-Channel||Best Intermediate|
|ADJ DJ Controller||Best For Mobile Dj|
|ADJ DMX Operator-384||Most User-Friendly|
|CO-Z 192 DMX 512||Best Budget|
We’ve ranked the American DJ Scene Setter-48 the best overall lighting board because it’s a highly advanced and versatile DMX controller. With this lighting board, it’s easy to synchronize your lights, sound, and fog machines because it has 4,200 programmable scenes and 48 programmable chases. By setting a scene, you can save and recall a program you’ve done before. Then, by combining scenes together, you can create a chase.
You can set and navigate your programs easily with the LED display. The memory capacity of the American DJ Scene Setter-48 makes it the best DMX controller for moving heads, beams, lasers, fog machines, and so much more. This controller was made for crafting complex shows.
The Chauvet Obey 70 offers professional control in a simple, lightweight, affordable design. This Chauvet DMX controller can store 240 scenes and 6 sets of chases, which is a great value when you compare other prices. In addition to personalized programs, you can always control an individual fixture on the fly or explore the built-in automated programs. Chauvet makes all this easy with an intuitive, user-friendly design.
The Enttec DMXIS 70570 is unique because it transforms your computer into a light control board. This Enttec DMX controller is compatible with a Mac OS or Windows computer, and it works by converting USB output into DMX signals. Once you download the DMX program on your laptop or computer, you can connect the Enttec DMXIS 70570 through the USB port. Then, you run a cable from the Enttec controller to your light fixture. With this simple design, you will quickly become familiar with the setup and functions of your DJ lighting controller. If you work and travel with your laptop already, this could be the best DMX controller for you.
The Behringer Eurolight LC2412 combines the visual appeal with a variety of stunning programs. This DXM controller comes with clearly-labelled, magenta controls, so they’re easy to see in dark venues. You can store 120 scenes in the Behringer Eurolight DMX controller and get creative with a multitude of professional effects.
The Chauvet Obey 3 is the best DMX controller for beginners in DMX and lighting design. It works specifically with 3-channel lights, and the three sliders on the DMX controller allow you to custom mix red, green, and blue light. You can also opt for any of the preset colors or adjust your lights with master dimmer and blackout controls. This DMX controller is great for experimenting with basic color design and visual aesthetics.
Another great beginner to intermediate DMX controller is the American DJ 12-channel controller. It’s a simple design with 6 sliders and 12 DMX channels. Unlike the controller above, this DJ lighting controller can handle fixtures with a few more DMX channels, so you can learn to control more complex lights.
The ADJ DJ controller offers all the programming opportunities and versatility you need in a DMX controller, but in a lightweight, travel-friendly design that’s perfect for gig life. This DMX controller offers 192 channels with 6 customizable chases, so you can create a range of simple to complex light shows. This ADJ controller is adaptable to different events: you can create simple, subtle light shows or wow a crowd with live manipulation.
The ADJ DMX Operator-384 is the best DMX controller if you’re looking for something that’s clearly organized and labelled, making it easy to navigate up to 240 scenes and 12 chases. With this console, you get a lot of scenes for this price point, plus ADJ intentionally designed this DMX controller to be intuitive and accessible. This DMX controller delivers professional lighting with little effort.
If you’re on a tight budget, the CO-Z 192 could be the best DMX controller for you. At the most affordable price so far, you get 192 channels, 240 scenes, and voice control. Instead of navigating switches and sliders, the CO-Z 192 DMX controller saves you time with voice control so you can quickly access your light programs. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this lightweight and affordable, but highly intelligent light.
What Is DMX?
DMX stands for “digital multiplex,” and it functions as a communication system between you and your equipment. Most brands produce DMX compatible equipment, so it’s important to understand DMX because it’s the industry standard when it comes to lighting and stage equipment.
Most light fixtures contain their own built-in DMX system, so once you choose a program (e.g. sound-active), they can function on their own. Or, you can opt for a DMX controller, which allows you to organize and synchronize each fixture from one master control board. Learning to work through DMX can be overwhelming at first, but with time, research, and experience, you’ll appreciate how it simplifies and organizes your light design.
What Is a DMX Controller?
Most light fixtures include a built-in DMX system so it can function alone or sync with other fixtures, but a DMX controller is a large panel that allows you to manage all of your fixtures from one place. A DMX controller gives your more freedom to customize your show in an accessible and organized way.
Benefits of DMX
Without DMX, you would have to walk around a venue and individually program fixtures, or you could use several remotes. DMX is amazing because it provides a single, standard control system through which you can access individual programs in each light fixture. Further, you can let the programs run themselves or take control at any moment. DMX multiplies your lighting possibilities so you can craft stunning professional shows.
With extra customization and control, you can adjust the complexity of a performance. DMX will make your life easy at churches and weddings because you typically only need to control color and simple movements. On the other end of the spectrum, DMX allows you to layer and combine effects to create high energy performances for clubs or concerts.
DMX allows you to communicate with your fixtures and it allows your fixtures to communicate with each other, which creates a clean and cohesive show. In addition, because it’s the industry standard, a single communication network in one DJ lighting board will keep your control system organized.
Key DMX Terms
A channel controls one aspect of a fixture. For example, channel 1 might control color, channel 2 might control pan, channel 3 might control tilt, and so on. Different fixtures require a different amount of channels.
A universe is 512 channels of output. One universe can function through one cable, but beyond 512 channels, you’ll have to set up a second cable and start a second universe. It’s best to avoid maxing out your universe so you have a strong signal to all your fixtures.
Each fixture has a location–or address–in your DMX universe. The address of a fixture is the channel on which that fixture starts. For example, the address of your first fixture will be channel 1, and if the first fixture uses 3 channels, the address of the second fixture will be channel 4.
Scene & Chase
A scene is a preset program that you create and save on your DMX controller. After setting each individual channel in a scene, you can save it and recall it anytime. A chase, then, is many scenes put together, moving through them in a sequential order. Imagine: if a scene is a picture, a chase is like putting many pictures together to create a moving animation.
How Many DMX Channels Do I Need?
Ultimately, the amount of channels you need depends on how many fixtures you use. Each fixture requires a certain amount of channels (e.g. you’ll see in a product description that a light has 3 DMX channels), each channel controls some aspect of the light fixture (e.g. color, pan, tilt), and 512 channels completes a “universe.” You can’t exceed 512 channels, but if you need more, you can start a second universe.
Also, it’s important to remember that many DJs recommend that you don’t use all 512 channels (or 32 fixtures) because then your DMX signal may become too weak. In this case, you may want to split your lights strategically between universes if you are running a large show. However many fixtures you’re using, aim to keep your DMX usage simple and organized.
With expensive and heavy equipment, it’s important to place your fixtures strategically so they don’t become a hazard. Not only do you want to protect your equipment, but you think of your client’s safety as well.
The most important thing to remember when setting up your equipment is to ensure it’s secure and away from traffic. Mount lights with the appropriate clamps and brackets so they don’t fall. If you’re wondering what bracket you should buy, most lights include bracket recommendations in the product description for both trussing and wall mounts. Or, if you pole mount your fixtures, put them in a place where clients won’t bump them.
Also consider your audience when choosing your lighting. Strobing and bright flashes can be harmful to certain people, so use intense effects sparingly.
Troubleshooting Common DMX Problems
Check modes and addresses
Always double check your work. Many problems can be fixed by eliminating human error, which includes checking that all your fixtures are correctly programmed and addressed.
If you’ve double checked all the modes and addresses of your fixtures, then it’s time to test your equipment until you find the source of your problem. To test your light fixtures and cables, try running a simple chase so you can see which portion of your daisy-chain is off.
Remove the problem source
Once you identify the problem fixture or problem area, remove the lights and cables and see if that eliminates the problem. Then, plug your problem equipment directly into your DMX controller one by one for testing. Hopefully, this will reveal the source of your problem.
Check your DMX controller
If you identify a problem area but the issue continues once you remove the fixtures and cables, the problem might lie in your DMX controller. Check all your modes and addresses again, and if everything seems to be in order, try moving your universe to a different output in your console. Or, use a different DMX controller to test your lights.
How Much To Spend on a DMX Controller
Ultimately, this depends on what you need, and you usually get what you pay for. You can find quality equipment with less controls for low prices, which is convenient for small shows or simple lights.
On the other hand, if you’re familiar with DMX and you need a controller for larger gigs, it’s best to invest in professional equipment that’s versatile and durable. You can never go wrong so long as you invest in quality equipment that matches your needs and experience level.
Once you become familiar with DMX, it can become a lifesaver. DMX makes clean and smooth synchronizations simple, especially since it’s a universal tool across brands.
Plus, with a DMX controller, you get ultimate control and organization for professional quality light shows. They simplify complex systems so you can access any fixture in a show with a few buttons.
You can find DMX controllers for people of any skill level, so the best DMX controller will be the one that fits your skills and needs. Each console we’ve recommended will deliver the basics and more, so you can narrow your options and find a console with the best programs and features for you.