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ADJ Entour Ice
By Adam Hetherington.
Dry Ice (also known as ‘Low Fog’ or ‘Dancing on Clouds’) is an effect type that’s pretty well known and one that most people (including clients) see as ‘timeless’ and ‘classic’. A pure white fluffy blanket of fog that comes no higher than knee-height and replicates the appearance of clouds, is something a number of couples simply love for their wedding first dance, and its impact (both visually and financially) is certainly worthy of any DJ or event company’s interest. The ability to take a relatively inexpensive solid CO2, in pellet or block form, and transform it into a dense white gas is something that’s been around for years, so when a new dry ice machine hits the market, it really has to be impressive for me to raise my eyebrows.

In November 2018, ADJ announced the release of the new Entour Ice machine at the LDI trade show in America, and first stocks hit Europe at the very end of March ‘19. Now I’d been fortunate enough to ‘get my order in early’, which meant that the only two units to come into the UK from the very first batch landed direct to me! So how does it fair?

Well, upon unpacking from its cardboard box, you instantly notice one massive benefit of this unit over other dry ice machines out there – it comes completely flight-cased direct from the factory, and it’s all rather neatly compact! The entire unit is secured inside, so you literally take off the top of the case and you’re ready to go. The machine remains in the flight-case ‘tray’ during operation, which comes supplied on four lockable castors that make moving and positioning the unit extremely easy.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the dry ice effect is simply created by mixing solid CO2 with hot water. This causes the solid to rapidly ‘sublimate’ directly to gas form (without passing through a liquid phase), which creates thick clouds of vapor that are slightly heavier than air so remain close to the ground. Therefore essentially all a dry ice ‘machine’ does is provide a mechanism for heating water, a safe system for mixing the water with the solid CO2, and a way of directing the resultant ‘fog’ out in a single direction. What separates one machine from another is how quickly they can heat the water, how much CO2 they can store, and how they deal with the process of mixing the solid and liquid on cue.

The ADJ Entour Ice is a professional product that is designed to operate worldwide, so it features not one, but two heater blocks inside, that both individually pull up to 3000W depending on supply (1450W for US 120V supplies and 3000W at UK 230V). One of those heater blocks works comfortably off a UK local 13A source supply and that is enough to use the machine effectively. For this review, I’ve worked my feedback based on a single heater block being used, which will pull around 12A. Naturally, if you have access at a venue to a larger 32A single supply, or even 3-phase distribution, then you can power up the second auxiliary heater inside which will significantly reduce the heat-up time. There are separate Powercon input connections on the back for each heater and ADJ supply two Powercon leads in with the unit.

One of the things I love about this machine is that the designers have really thought about longevity and reliability. Like a kettle, you don’t want to be powering the heating elements up without any water inside the unit, so from initial power-up the electronics sense and monitor the water level inside. The LCD menu display on the rear flashes ‘Water Level Low’ when empty, and this safety feature cuts all power to the heating elements until you fill it up to a minimum level. The rear of the unit has a water level indicator, with one red marker line for minimum operating level and another for maximum. If the machine is either below the minimum level, or over the maximum, it will simply not pump, resulting in no possible damage or over-filling. Top marks on that one!

To fill the water tank to maximum capacity takes 32 litres, so access to a nearby water supply is important and some kind of large water container for transferring it to the machine will be required, unless you’re lucky enough to be able to use a hose. Afterwards, draining the machine is easy, you simply wheel it outside and open the water release valve at the bottom of the unit.

What really sets the Entour Ice apart from other dry ice machines on the market is the method used for mixing the water and CO2. Most units have a basket that you fill with solid CO2 that is then manually lowered into the hot water to generate the effect. However the Entour Ice features a powerful water pump that fills the CO2 chamber with water (from the bottom up) when the effect is triggered. The amount of water pumped into the chamber controls the speed of the sublimation process and therefore the volume of the machine’s output and the Entour Ice allows precise control over this on a percentage scale (10-100%) all controlled by electronic sensors. For even more control over the ice sublimation, the maximum water temperature can also be configured on the unit to either 65, 70, 75 or 80 degrees.

The machine has an epic array of control options too, from manual triggering, to a timer mode that allows the effect to be intermittently activated for maximum duration from a single tank of CO2, to full DMX control (with three fixture personalities – 1-, 2- and 6-channel), ADJ really has given you all the options you could ever want. There’s even both 3- and 5-pin DMX input and output connections for easy integration into any DMX setup and, if you need to cover very large dancefloors, you can use multiple machines in a Master/Slave linked setup.

The fact that this machine can be triggered remotely via DMX really helps it to stand out from the current market leaders which require you to manually lower the basket of CO2 into the water tank. It not only means that a DJ working alone can easily introduce a wedding first dance, play the track and trigger the low fog effect, but it also removes the risk of the machine operator making an unwanted appearance in those important first dance photos and videos!

Yet another unique feature to the ADJ Entour Ice is the totally removable dry ice basket. Not only can it hold up to 12kg of solid CO2, it can be completely removed out of the machine to assist in loading with the CO2 pellets or blocks. It sits centrally in the sublimation chamber, and position guides make it easy to drop into location when loaded. To finish preparing the machine ready for use, you simply close the lid (which features thick moisture seals) and lock it down with two quick-locking latches. There’s no denying it, all the previous health and safety issues, niggles or concerns over having very hot water and a -80 degree solid present at an event have all been taken care of with this! When the lid is shut, you, your staff, the guests and joe public are completely protected from the risk elements.

So the killer question: how does it fair output wise? Well, after waiting around 45-50 minutes for the water to reach its maximum 80-degree operating temperature, I filled the basket with solid 9mm pellets (managing to fit in around 11kg). I then set the machine at 100% and pressed the rear ‘Smoke On’ button, it illuminated blue, and I could instantly hear the low hum of the water pump as it sprang into action. After 2-3 seconds of the water being pumped in to the chamber, it hit the CO2 and the sublimation began to take place inside. Almost straight away the pressure of the reaction began to throw dense clouds of fog straight out the front of the machine, and between 3-6 seconds I noticed a forceful pressure build-up which dramatically increased the output. Within 10-15 seconds, the entire 40ft x 40ft room I was testing in was full of low dry ice fog sitting just below waist height. There’s no getting away from it, this machine absolutely smashes it on output and speed!

The full basket ran for around 4-5 minutes, with the output tailing off towards the end and the pressure level dropping as the sublimation finished inside the machine. With the fog still beautifully fixed to the floor, I opened the lid to find the entire CO2 basket contents gone and the temperature of the water sitting at about 48 degrees.

The machine also comes complete with a 2m grey ducting hose and a black plastic front deflector. The ducting can be used to position the machine out of sight (perhaps behind your booth) and then carry the effect to where it is needed (the dancefloor). The deflector, meanwhile, helps to shape the fog output. Not a lot of people would normally think to use one of these, but they’re superb for really holding dry ice fog to the floor, and so I wanted to test it out too. I fitted the ducting to the front and waited 10 minutes for the machine to reheat to around 60-degrees. As I wanted to create less of a ‘rocket launch’ effect, I also dropped the machine’s output down to 70%. Upon running another full basket of dry ice, the fog height drastically reduced to only around 30cm off the ground and yet pushed out the machine beautifully, creating a simply stunning fog that crawled across the entire floor of the venue!

So how do you close a review of the ADJ Entour Ice? Well, with a retail price of £1175 in the UK, it is more expensive than other dry ice machines out there already. However, in my opinion, it is worth every single penny. From its incredibly well thought about design, to the ways it has removed some of the ‘risks’, to its control flexibility and automated activation system, it’s quite clearly been designed by users of this effect. Put simply, it’s annoyingly good!

For ADJ to successfully enter the already dominated dry ice machine market for the first time is no mean feat. But to create something as good as this!?... I honestly think I have just reviewed the new industry standard dry ice machine for mobile DJs, events and production/hire companies!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 95, Pages 74-76.
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