REVIEWED: CHAUVET DJ D-Fi XLR Pack
For most, DMX is still a dark art. Every day on social media I see folk struggling to understand the basics of how it all works, so when you throw in the prospect of controlling all your disco lights wirelessly, with no cables, it’s enough to tip people over the edge. Or is it?
Before we start, for the benefit of our younger readers, let’s have a short history lesson. WiFi was invented as long ago as 1997. Back then it was fairly crude, was very hit and miss, and even if you could afford the technology most people stuck with wires.
By the mid 2000s WiFi was becoming much more commonplace, not only in business environments but also in the home, and the technology was starting to embed itself. Reliability was still an issue, especially for those living in older homes with proper brick walls. But today, WiFi is literally everywhere. It’s fast, it’s reliable and we now depend on it. Just mention to any teenager that there’s no WiFi - you’ll need to be prepared for serious tantrums.
Due to Wi-Fi's reliability, it’s now being used to help create 'the internet of things'. Almost anything you buy these days can be connected - fridges, TV’s, even cars - so it was only a matter of time before other industries started to leverage WiFi's power to connect their products quickly and easily. Anything that needs a wire to communicate with something else can easily be modified to talk wirelessly, and reasonably cheaply too, especially at component level.
So, let me introduce the D-Fi XLR Pack from lighting supremos CHAUVET DJ. It’s provides a snazzy way to convert your existing lighting fixtures so that you control them wirelessly over DMX. And the best bit? No soldering iron required.
Inside the nice glossy box, you’ll find a multi-charge unit with spaces for up to eight D-Fi receivers (or seven receivers and one transmitter). The standard pack comes with one transmitter and three receivers, and I have an issue with this in that most DJ’s use their lighting fixtures in pairs. So, one of the first things you’ll want to do is buy another receiver (luckily you can buy them in single units).
Power to the charge unit comes from a DC power supply that plugs into one end alongside some additional USB-A charging ports. I really wasn’t sure what these USB-A ports were for at first, but it turns out that you can use them to power additional D-Fi XLR units through the small micro-USB port. The cables needed aren’t included, but you can get them easily and cheaply from Amazon, and this will allow you to charge up to 10 devices (or nine and your phone).
Starting with the transmitter, it’s an all-black unit in a plastic case with a metal XLR connector. At just over 3.5” long, it’s a lot shorter than other wireless DMX units I’ve seen before. They feature lithium-ion batteries with a maximum run time of 10 hours (after a four-hour charge time.) Another major feature is that none of the buttons are recessed into the case, which means you can press them easily without the need to carry a small box of paperclips around with you.
It’s really easy to set up too. There’s a simple on-off switch, a menu button so you can select from any of the 16 channels, a micro-USB port, and a number of LEDs that show power, signal and the 'channel key' which is a series of four LEDs that show you which channel the transmitter is transmitting on.
On the bottom you’ll find the charging terminals which, when slotted into the multi-charger, allow the units to charge up. Again, this is another huge advantage over other units, which generally need their own individual DC units. The receivers are a little shorter. Like the transmitter, they also come in black, with metal connectors, and have the same buttons, LEDs, micro-USB port and charging terminals on the bottom.
Setting up the system is as easy as pie. Charge all the units up, set them on the same channel and plug them into your lighting fixtures - it really is that simple. It just works, with no headache. You don’t need a DMX controller either. For example, if you have four moving heads or four par cans, all the same brand, you can set them up in a master/slave mode. Plug the transmitter into the master and the receivers into the three slaves, and they will work just fine.
There’s not really much more to write, to be honest. It really doesn’t get any simpler than this, although one of the biggest questions will be compatibility: will the Chauvet DJ D-Fi XLR pack work with other, non-Chauvet DJ wireless DMX kit? The short answer here is no, it won’t. Although the D-Fi XLR operates on the same 2.4ghz wireless frequency like some other brands, the two systems are not compatible. This kit will only work with other D-Fi enabled fixtures, such as Chauvet DJ’s Freedom Sticks and Freedom Pars. So, if you have a load of cheap, battery-powered LED mood lighting with wireless DMX that you’ve sourced from China, then I’m sorry.
It’s not all bad news, because this doesn’t mean you can’t use other lighting brands. Any lighting product will work as long as it has a 3-pin DMX socket. For example, you could use an ADJ MyDMX box and plug the D-Fi XLR transmitter into that, with the receivers into your other fixtures. You can also use it with Lightrider or Soundswitch. The only thing you can’t do is mix and match the wireless dongles.
If this will be your first venture into wireless DMX, then the Chauvet DJ D-Fi XLR Pack is a great option to get you started. The dongles are well built and easy to set up, and you can add more receivers further down the line. The manual quotes a 50m operating distance, and I was able to walk a good 40-50m up the road with an ADJ battery par can without issue. So, it should be fine for most venues.
The biggest benefit of this system over other cheaper options is the multi-charger unit, which is way better than using all the spare plug sockets in your house and annoying the rest of your family!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 106, Pages 84-85.