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CHAUVET DJ Helicopter Q6
By Darren Clark.
I recently reviewed the Equinox Gyrocopter here in Pro Mobile and that brought back memories of the traditional ‘80s and ‘90s disco lighting effects that I used to use ‘back in the day’! So, when I saw the recent launch of CHAUVET DJ’s new Helicopter Q6, I was intrigued.

As soon as they came into UK stock, I felt that I had to secure at least one with a view to making it the centrepiece of my overhead rig. You may wonder why? Well, I started DJing back in the ‘80s and par-36-based effects were the thing of the day. So I’ve always had fond memories of those ‘high tech’ moving pinspot lighting effects, such as scanners and helicopters. Back then they featured heavily in many nightclub lighting rigs and mobile roadshows, mine included. So, in the days of DMX and LED technology, I was interested to see how a modern take on a traditional disco lighting effect would look and work.

I think we can all agree that effects with an eye-watering number of dots are in decline and that a move to narrow pencil-thin beam effects is underway. Therefore, not only is the Helicopter Q6 a throwback to the past, it is also – perhaps – a sign of things to come for the future!

When the unit arrived, I had it out the box in minutes. Its light weight and compact size surprised me, especially as it is more than just a 6-head helicopter. Old-school Par 36 helicopters were always a fair size and quite heavy beasts, with weighty transformers and chunky glass bulbs in them (they were also quite noisy in operation).

The base of this modern version is constructed from metal and features solid grab handles at each end. But its six heads – or pods as CHAUVET DJ refers to them – are all made from plastic. This brings the overall weight down to an incredibly manageable 4kg. The unit can sit on its feet on the floor or, by using the supplied hanging bracket, can be mounted onto a stand or overhead rig. It is also fitted with both input and output IEC connections to allow the power supply for multiple fixtures to be linked together.

Each pod contains a 6.9W RGBW LED and offers a 3-degree beam angle, which is narrower than a traditional Par 36. In smoke, these will provide a true narrow beam of light that looks very impressive. The four separate coloured LED elements inside the pods are mounted as a square broken into quarters. While the light from the individual LED elements appears to blend together mid-air to create one solid beam, the separate dots of coloured light can be seen when the beam hits nearby surfaces.

Not only are the pods plastic, so are the lenses. Unfortunately, one of the lenses on my unit had a small crack. This likely happened in the post. Luckily it does not affect the light’s performance and isn’t visually noticeable when it is in action.

There are two key differences between the Helicopter Q6 and a traditional Par 36 helicopter effect. Firstly, there is no need to use coloured gel, as LED colour mixing can be used to select any desired hue using DMX. Secondly, each head can be controlled independently, both for colour and brightness, where the original helicopter effects could only be switched either all on or all off.

Each of the heads can be independently angled, enabling them to be fanned out or used to create a tighter ‘tunnel’ effect. Just like a traditional helicopter, the whole head can rotate continuously. However, modern technology means that both the rotation speed and direction can be adjusted to achieve a variety of different effects that far surpass what could be achieved back in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

I have a couple of KAM Power Glides, which incorporate 10W LEDs, and the light output and beam widths were comparable with the Helicopter Q6. The lower wattage of the LEDs was not noticeable.

Offering plenty of versatility, through RGBW colour mixing and variable rotation speed, this 21st century helicopter is a great effect in its own right. But, as with many manufacturers at the moment, CHAUVET DJ has gone a step further by including other effects within the one compact unit.

An SMD LED strobe ring has been incorporated around the outside of the unit’s central hub. This utilises 24 x 1W white LEDs which have a strobe rate of between 1 and 20Hz. When all the LEDs are lit, the light output can be seen in a darkened room for about 15-20 feet. It’s not a particularly strong strobe, however it’s a nice addition, and adds to the overall visual effect.
Pro Mobile equipment reviews are sponsored by insure4music.

The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 85, Pages 66-68.
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£7.99 (INC P&P)