Apelabs Coin 2.0 Tour Pack
Some of you may know that outside of Pro Mobile and my event production business, I also own and run a veterinary supply company and attend several exhibitions across the UK, USA and Europe every year. Exhibitions are an interest area for any event company and for those of you who want to branch out from the DJing world, designing, installing and lighting exhibition stands is one way to earn additional income with the added bonus of not having to always work in very loud environments.
When I’ve needed to light up product displays at shows in the past, I’ve visited Avtar Thethy of LED Factory to pick up a case of Astera LightDrops (now replaced by the AX3 LightDrop). LED Factory are well known as a battery-based LED lighting consultant, installation and hire company and were one of the few options for hiring lighting of this type and standard (which otherwise was a big financial investment). Lighting has moved on leaps and bounds over the last few years. And one of the fastest growing companies in the field of architectural lighting is Ape Labs – a German-based company that launched in 2009 and provides lighting options with a three-year warranty and a motto of ‘keep it simple’.
Of course, as DJs we love easy-to-use but effective lighting options that enhance our shows and provide that desirable eye-candy look. Ape Labs now provides a range of products that meet those needs, including the ApeCoin, LightCan, ApeLight Mini and ApeLight Maxi, as well as offerings from its design range, including the Glow Tube 2.0, Stick 2.0 and Stick XL 2.0.
In this review, I’m looking at the ApeCoin V2 Tour Pack, which comprises a robust flight case (measuring 54 x 35 x 20cm) containing 10 small USB-powered ApeCoins, 10 magnet ball-head adaptors for easy placement, both 15° and 65° lenses, and a remote control. Ape Labs also provides USB extension leads and some power supply plugs (these plugs are currently two-pin European versions, but UK distributor LSA Projects is currently working out a UK option). A cut-out in the case allows you to store the optional Ape Labs Connect (sold separately) that gives you full DMX control – we’ll look at this in a moment. My final observation about the flight case is its simple-but-smart internal design, with a thin steel sheet fitted to the middle section that all the ApeCoins and adaptors stick to via their in-built magnets – you can tell Ape Labs really thought this through!
You immediately notice how well the product is made. It feels weighty and high quality, possibly something of the German element here (the slogan ‘vorsprung durch technik’ comes to mind!). Each aluminium ApeCoin weighs in at 249g (0.55lbs) and measures 5.08cm (2.0”) x 3.81cm (1.5”) x 6.1cm (2.4”). Inspecting each ApeCoin, you’ll find there is no screen and no buttons. Whilst it feels odd not to have to program each fixture, this is all managed using the remote or app.
Once you plug the unit into a USB plug or your own USB battery pack, the fixture comes to life and automatically assigns itself to channel 1 of the remote control. You then have control over the group, power, brightness, music mode, speed, programs, and what Ape Labs call ‘special functions’. The remote control is slim and transmits via 2.4Ghz so you don’t need to be next to each fixture, and with the built-in automatic signal repeater from lamp to lamp you can control an entire room from behind your desk.
The ApeCoins each feature a quad-colour RGBW (red, green, blue and white) 15W LED module (2700k-5500k) that’s suitable for various applications.
You can control the fixture within one of four groups via the remote control or smartphone app for Apple or Android, once you also purchase a Connect unit. There are multiple lenses available, but as standard the ApeCoin 2.0 comes with 15° and 65° lenses made from scratch-proof acrylic – they should last for years.
At a recent show where I needed to illuminate the products in a display box, I attracted the attention of delegates using the ApeCoins powered by a USB bank and set to a colour fade. From a DJ point of view, I set all 10 ApeCoins behind me – six with the 65° lens, which produces a wide colour fill and lovely halo-style ring at the edge,
and four units with the 10° lens, which gave me a very pointed line set to ‘music mode’ once the party got going. (Personally, I would be scared using them as uplighters around the room because they are so small; I could see them being picked up, trodden on or even nicked.)
Using the remote control, you can set static colours, change colour programs and program speeds, control dimming, and trigger music mode. The sound-to-light modes follow a pre-set scene within an automatic program, which results in sound activation until either the program is changed or the final scene loops back and starts over again. With these, you have a more controlled solution for a high-energy sound-active mode.
Activating the mode results in the dimming of the fixture to give a gentle glow, with each parameter still modifiable whilst in a static colour or program. When the built-in microphone detects music, the brightness of the fixture jumps up to maximum before slowly dimming down. This is the type of lighting control I like to see on a sound-active mode, as it combines the sophisticated look that comes with controlled lighting whilst delivering a high-energy look for your dancefloor.
An alternative to the remote control is the Connect DMX transceiver – and this includes 3-pin XLR sockets for DMX in and out for if you plan to use it with an external lighting console. The transceiver serves multiple purposes, including Bluetooth control, which unlocks additional functionality. On opening the app, you get a full colour palette, a function to save custom colour mixes for recall, four banks of group control, blackout,
and control over program speed and brightness. Ape Labs’ unique music mode can also be controlled from the app and has options which control how your lighting responds to music.
You can save custom programs using four individual cues with selectable colours and adjustable fade and hold times. If you need inspiration, you can also access programs published by other Ape Lights users via the 'browse community programs' option.
The next window in the app is called ‘Scenes’. Scenes can take static colours or programs and apply them to individual groups for triggering at the same time.
Every scene you make will give you the option to program all four groups of fixtures and you can even add your own programs. To set up DMX control with the Control transceiver, simply head into the ‘Devices’ tab, tap on the fixture you wish to control,
set the channel mode to either 4, 7 or 8, set the DMX address, and apply the settings. Then rinse and repeat for as many fixtures as you need – it’s that easy! It’s worth noting that the fixture operates in 8-bit control when set to the 4- or 7-channel modes, but in 8-channel mode you get the 16-bit control that makes colour fades and dimming much smoother (perfect for slow fades and enhanced colour mixing).
DMX control also relays to fixtures further afield with the built-in signal repeaters if the fixtures are already linked but out of range of the transceiver.
One of the coolest features of the app control is the ability to synchronise custom pre-sets to a cloud-based account (as long as you’re already signed in). This eliminates the need to reprogram or manually transfer show files and is an invaluable feature, especially for multi-op businesses.
When it comes to using the Connect control unit, it’s a significant step up from other similar lighting fixtures on the market. Control is seamless between fixtures using the app, with no lagging or dropping out. Ape Labs state a range of up to 1200m when used in 2.4Ghz mode in direct line of sight.
Ape Labs have astounded me with the flexibility of these fixtures: the process of setting them up and assigning their groups, learning the controls of the fixtures and where to look for functions both on the remote control and through the Ape Labs Connect app, and how easy it is to configure the system to operate over DMX. I genuinely can’t think of any way to streamline the process of lighting control any more than Ape Labs have already done. Lighting technology has come a long way over the past few decades and will continue to evolve and I can’t wait to see what Ape Labs have in store for 2024.
The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 123, Pages 78-81.