I try to keep abreast of all the new and forthcoming equipment releases in the mobile DJ world, so it is very rarely that I come across a product at a trade show or industry meet-up that I didn’t already know about. However, while walking around The DJ Show at Newbury Racecourse recently, something caught my eye that was completely new to me. The BLADE-116 from Monacor’s Leuchtkraft brand is a distinctive LED lighting effect that really is completely different to anything else currently on the market.
A visual ‘eye candy’ fixture, the BLADE-116 is a square metal box that contains a motorised fan surrounded on all four sides by LED-lit opaque plastic panels. Each of the four panels is divided into two independently-controlled sections, allowing for colour chase patterns around the edge of the unit. The blades of the fan are then also made from opaque plastic and are illuminated internally by an additional independent LED source. This means that each of the eight plastic segments around the edge of the unit as well as the fan itself can all be set to different colours.
The unit measures 400mm x 400mm x 110mm, which means that it is a significant size but still very much a portable effect. It features 116 x SMD 5050 RGB LEDs, which offer full red/green/blue colour mixing as well as 0-100% digital dimming and variable speed strobing. Overall the fixture outputs a decent amount of light, not quite enough to be considered a wash fixture, but more than enough to be vibrantly visible in daylight and really ‘pop’ in a dark environment.
A metal grille on the front protects the rotating fan blades from curious fingers and anything else that could do them damage. The design of the blades themselves also means that they really pick up the internal LED illumination well, standing out boldly against the matt black of the fixture’s casing. Variable speed rotation of the fan means that a variety of effects can be created from slow spinning, where each blade is clearly visible, to fast spinning where all six blades blur into one flickering light source.
It’s worth noting that the fan takes a few seconds to get up to speed and then the same to slow back down, so quick programmed patterns that switch between fast and slow movement wouldn’t be very effective. I also think it’s worth mentioning that the fan has been designed for aesthetic purposes only, so doesn’t actually move much air, even set to its top speed. This means that if you were thinking this could double up as a lighting effect and a way to keep the temperature down while you’re working, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed!
The BLADE-116 has a tough metal construction. This means that it weighs a little bit more than I was expecting, but is likely to be able to withstand the knocks and bumps that are a given for all equipment used by mobile DJs. Despite this robust build quality, its overall weight of 9.5kg is still easily manageable for carrying and rigging. However, I wouldn’t recommend flight-casing two or more without including wheels, as that would make for a pretty heavy lift.
The usual variety of operating modes we’ve come to expect from modern mobile DJ lighting fixtures are all present and correct: standalone, sound active, master/slave and DMX control. In DMX mode there are two channel options – 13 or 32 – and both allow independent control of the eight LED segments as well as the fan illumination and rotation. The 13-channel version offers seven colour macros for each LED section, while the 32-channel option offers full RGB colour mixing. In addition, the more expansive channel option also allows remote activation of colour chase macros.
With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of £269, the BLADE-116 can hardly be considered a cheap product, but I think that its build quality and versatility do mean that it represents good value. Its programming flexibility means that it can be used to create a variety of different looks that will complement other traditional types of mobile lighting effects such as moving heads, moonflowers and washes. It has great creative potential, especially if you specialise in school proms and other largescale events for big groups of younger guests.
It is supplied with a hanging bracket that secures to the unit using a pair of quarter-turn fasteners, which can then be bolted to a clamp or directly to a T-bar or overhead bar. The hanging bracket can be attached either to the top of the unit, allowing it to hang vertically, or to the back panel, allowing it be supported from behind. Six mounting points mean that the hanging bracket can be attached either at the top, middle or bottom of the back panel, further adding to the rigging flexibility of the fixture. This means that the unit can be incorporated into a mobile DJ setup in a variety of different ways, including hanging from an overhead goalpost or T-bar, and mounted to the side of a truss plinth.
In addition to the main hanging bracket, four smaller clamps are also supplied with each fixture for linking multiple units together. These work by bridging between the rear fixing points on neighbouring fixtures and are also easily attached using quarter-turn fasteners. They can be used to link two or more panels in either a vertical or horizontal row, or to create a matrix of the panels using any desired height and width of panels.
The flexibility of rigging offered by the BLADE-116 means that it could be integrated into a mobile DJ setup in a wide variety of different ways. For example, you could use one unit as the centrepiece for a goalpost rig, or you could spread out two or more across a truss to add ‘eye candy’ between other fixtures such as moving heads and pars.
Alternatively, you could stack multiple units on top of each other (supported from behind) either in two columns at either side of your setup or to create a DJ booth frontage. To do this you’d realistically need a minimum of nine, but ideally twelve of the units, which would be pretty costly. However I think the resulting effect – with a bit of creative DMX programming – could be pretty epic!
Mains power input is provided via a locking Neutrik PowerCon socket located on the back panel, while a PowerCon output socket is also provided for daisy-chaining the supply for multiple units. Connection for DMX control or Master/Slave operation is via standard 3-pin XLR input and output sockets while the back panel is also home to a power rocker switch as well as a 16-character backlit LCD display. This, together with four navigation push buttons, allows easy and intuitive mode selection and DMX addressing.
If there’s ever been a lighting fixture that I think will divide opinion between DJs, this is most definitely it. I can imagine that some readers will absolutely hate it, while others will already be making plans for adding two or more into their rigs. If you fall in to the former category, I don’t think there will be anything I can write here to change your mind. However, if you fall in to the latter group, I can assure you that the implementation of this unique concept has been executed by Leuchkraft / Monacor flawlessly. This is a robustly manufactured and well-designed fixture that offers a great combination of flexibility and brightness.
The concept is undoubtedly like Marmite, you’ll love it or hate it. But if you love the idea, you won’t be disappointed with the build quality or usability of the Leuchkraft BLADE-116.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 97, Pages 68-70.