Pioneer DJ RB-DMX1
Lighting has always been an important part of any mobile disco but, let’s be honest, programming it can be a chore at times. What if a small metal box existed that promised to deliver amazing light shows without any kind of user intervention? Well that is exactly what the good folks at Pioneer DJ are now offering, let’s find out if the new RB-DMX1 interface really is the holy grail for DJ lighting control…
If, like me, you love having the latest fantastic lighting fixtures for your mobile setup, but hate the thought of having to spend ages coming up with creative programmes for them, then the new RB-DMX1 interface promises to release you from that mundane task. Together with the new Lighting mode included with the latest version of rekordbox dj (5.2), the RB-DMX1 automatically generates a lightshow that is synchronised with the music you play. Now, obviously, you do need to be tied into Pioneer DJ’s eco system, so that means you need to be a rekordbox dj user. If you’re not, then don’t worry, Pioneer DJ very kindly give you a full licence in the box with the RB-DMX1.
From a physical point of view, it’s a neat little package, roughly 3” square and an inch deep. At one end you’ve got a USB-B socket for connecting to your laptop and on the opposite side a Neutrik 3-pin female DMX socket for hooking up your lighting. On the top there’s a little blue LED to show you that the thing is alive, and that’s about it! As with any product like this, the physical exterior is there only to hide the magic within, so that’s where we go to next.
There are two ways you can use the lighting interface. You can either trust rekordbox dj to come up with the lighting commands and automatically generate a lightshow as you mix together the music or you can delve a little deeper and come up with your own amazing, customised lighting sequences for specific tracks that play consistently whenever you drop them into a DJ set.
Either way, the starting point is a complex audio ‘phrasing’ analysis of your music library that was introduced with rekordbox v5.1. This allows the rekordbox dj lighting system to understand how each song is ‘built’. It’s clever enough to know the differences between intros, verses, choruses and so on. Each song we play is different and the system is even clever enough to know that a ballad requires a less intense lighting show than say a house track, for example. And it can do all of this without you having to lift a finger, which I think is pretty cool!
Of course, for it to work properly, the analysis needs to be accurate and, unfortunately, I didn’t find it to be as accurate as I would’ve liked. However, it is certainly not a million miles away, which is still pretty cool for a first version. The good news is that you can edit the phrasing analysis on a per-track basis so that you can be sure that it’s 100% right for the songs you play most regularly.
Setting the system up to get you started is super-simple, all you have to do is go into the Lighting mode and tell it what lighting you have. It comes pre-loaded with a library of over 13,000 popular fixtures, so finding yours shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you do find one that doesn’t exist then you can easily request for a fixture file to be made for you. Unfortunately, the current version doesn’t allow you to build your own.
Adding your lighting is as simple as dragging and dropping onto a DMX channel grid. This will then tell you what channel you need to assign to each fixture. You also need to let rekordbox know what type of fixture it is, for example: moving head, par can, strobe, mirrorball spot, LED batten and so on.
rekordbox Lighting comes with a load of pre-made lighting sequences that will work with your lighting system once you’ve set it up. You can either let rekordbox use them automatically, for a true hands-off experience, or you can easily assign them to any part of the song you’re playing to match the atmosphere of the party at that time. You can even go deeper and fine-tune the patterns and colour changes for individual tracks in the Macro Editor. So, for example, you can have the lighting build up and then go off just before the drop before going mental again. This exact sequence – synched to the track – will then be automatically triggered every time you play the same song again in the future.
The system is also flexible in that if you feel that the generated lighting show doesn’t particularly match the mood of the music you’re playing then you can also easily change it on the fly, which is an incredibly useful feature to have. The different settings basically adjust the speed of the scenes and how they transition between each other. If you have an additional controller – such as the DDJ-XP1, for example – you can use its Performance Pads to control the many different moods and colours, as well as effects such as strobing. It is also possible to map other MIDI controllers, such as the Novation Launchpad, for use in this way.
So far, so good. However, there are some limitations, mainly with moving heads. For example, you can’t access the GOBO wheel, prism or in fact any feature other than X/Y movement, colour and dimmer, but I’m sure that this will come in time.
At the moment it’s very clear that rekordbox Lighting is still in its infancy, but I’m sure that future updates will address a lot of its current shortcomings. What is very clear, however, is that it has the ability to take the headache out of programming. Anything that allows me to do that, and concentrate on the music, is a very welcome addition to my collection of useful DJ tools!
Pro Mobile equipment reviews are sponsored by insure4music, insure your gear today and save 10% off your quote - from just £22.50 a year.
The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 89, Pages 62-63.