REVIEWED: CHAUVET DJ Freedom Stick X4
‘Lightsabers’, ‘crazy LED glowsticks’ and even ‘21st century starched rope light pieces’ are a few ways that internet users have described the plucky CHAUVET DJ Freedom Stick over the years. And now there’s a new version – the X4 – to get excited about! So, what’s different? Are they better? Do you need to upgrade? Let’s find out…
Alongside CHAUVET DJ’s GigBARs, Freedom Sticks have possibly been the next biggest cause of confrontation between DJs on social media. Actually, no, maybe scrims… but anyway, the new Freedom Stick X4, like its predecessor, is definitely a marmite product.
When it came to the original Freedom Sticks, I was never a big fan of the fact you could see the LEDs and all the electronics inside. For other DJs, they were concerned about how ‘grabbable’ the lights were. Without being cruel or disrespectful, I can’t think of anything worse than putting these out knowing that that some snotty-nosed, feral spawn of Satan could grab them and start swinging them around thinking they’re Luke Skywalker. I’ve read the horror stories online about DJs who’ve watched a full-on Jedi war escalate in front of them on the dance floor!
Whilst it’s hard for me to look past some of these negative comments online – possibly because I don’t own any Freedom Sticks and I’d only ever used them once before – I was still excited to find out more about the new Freedom Stick X4. CHAUVET DJ have decided they can make the original Freedom Stick better, and at first glance, they’ve done well.
The biggest and by far the most welcome change is the addition of a frosted diffuser tube. Gone is the need for a scrim sock, tights, or some other home-made accessory; it just slips over the stick and screws in at the top. It’s simple yet incredibly effective, can be left on in transit, and the difference it makes to the output is astounding. You don’t get the harshness anymore. Instead, the light actually looks pretty cool and much softer on the eye – although unfortunately it does make it look even more like a lightsaber!
Another welcome change is the ability to turn half the stick ‘off’ making the effect just point forwards in 180-degree mode. This effectively should double your battery life, right? In a world where the utility companies are making obscene profits, you can now get two or three gigs for the price of one! CHAUVET DJ rate the battery life at five hours in conventional 360-degree mode or 10 hours in 180-degree mode (at ‘full-on’). However, if you use them on a single colour then you could get a staggering 20 hours of life before you needed to recharge!
Charging is a piece of cake and is now done through USB-C instead of an AC power supply. This is a very welcome upgrade and charging takes around four hours.
The pack I got came with a USB-C multi-charger and four short leads, meaning you can charge them all from a single plug. And yes, for even more battery life you can attach USB battery power packs.
If you already own the original Freedom Sticks, then you’ll be glad to know you don’t need to trade them in or sell them. The old and new versions are cross compatible, so you can link them all together and they’ll work just fine.
In terms of connectivity, the Freedom Stick X4 retains D-Fi from the old version. D-Fi is CHAUVET DJ’s proprietary wireless DMX control system, which makes it easy to connect the X4 with other D-Fi compatible kit as part of your rig. You now get the addition of 3-pin DMX in and out, so you can hardwire them, or plug in another type of wireless receiver to make them truly compatible with whatever kit you own.
One of the big selling points of the Freedom Stick is full pixel-mapping control. Every LED is controllable through DMX – all 50 channels of it, so if you want fine, granular control to create impressive effects, then you can.
If DMX is not your thing, then you can also use the supplied RFC handheld controller, which is like the IRC 6 (except it works with RF signals rather than infrared).The RFC is a much better device and you can use it from anywhere in the room – no longer do you need to point the controller at the Stick to get it to do your bidding! For unprecedented handheld control, you could try the new RFC-XL, which has even more features (ask your local CHAUVET DJ dealer for more information). You can also use FlareCON. It is worth noting, however, that if you’re investing in CHAUVET DJ’s new ILS ecosystem, then unfortunately the new Freedom Stick X4s are not ILS compatible.
The new Freedom Stick X4 shares the same removable heavy-duty base as its predecessor. And whilst this does the job, I much prefer the tripod you get on the Chauvet Professional WELL STX 180, its more expensive IP-rated bigger brother. I like the way you can just close the tripod and put them in the case without having to unscrew anything.
If you’re thinking about how you might use the new Freedom Stick, or this is the first time you’ve ever seen one, I can offer a few examples.
I’ve seen them used in many ways,
perhaps the most popular option being stood either side of the DJ booth. They can also act as truss warmers or you can mount them horizontally using the M10 mount. In the past, I’ve used them to backlight my inflatable wall for the photo booth and also placed them in the corners of my inflatable photo booth cube – they worked exceptionally well in both cases. Unfortunately, you can’t really use them as a replacement for uplights because, beyond the height of the stick, there’s no vertical effect whatsoever.
At £750.00 per pack, the Freedom Stick X4s are a little bit more expensive than the original Freedom Sticks, but then you’re getting a better product, with more features and better battery life. Included in the box, you also get the carry bag, the USB-C multi-charger and four short cables, four diffuser tubes, the bases, and the RFC handheld controller.
So, big question: would I want to own a set? Yes, probably, but mainly for use in the photo booth. I still think there’s too much of an opportunity there for wannabe Jedi-warriors. But then, once upon a time, I also thought that all my battery mood lights would get nicked, and that never happened…
The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 121, Pages 84-85.