What Lighting Console Should I Buy?

Martin M2GO Lighting Controller

This is a question that we get asked quite often and it’s something that we often look into and research as well. The industry moves pretty quick and it can be hard to keep track of the available hardware for controlling lights at events.

The biggest lighting console companies are listed below as well as their flagship line. Many of these companies have other lines of products as well, but we’ve chosen to only list their flagship lines for the purposes of this article.

All commentary is our opinion only and although we’ve done our best to provide accurate information, please confirm the specs of each piece of equipment with the manufacturer yourself before making a decision.

Pricing is based off of the best information that we could find. We don’t necessarily have a relationship with every distributor, but we’ve done our best to provide the most accurate information. Please email blog@kettnercreative.com if the information below is inaccurate so we can correct it.

MA Lighting (GrandMA3)

GrandMA Consoles are the industry standard for large scale productions, tours, theatre, etc. Basically, if you’re in an arena or club that has a lot of touring acts – the lighting is probably run by a GrandMA lighting console of some type.

While these consoles can truly do anything you need them to do, their biggest limitation is the required budget to either purchase or rent one for your production.

  • MA3 Full Size – $75,000+ – The grandMA3 full-size console is the flagship of the range. It offers the ultimate MA lighting control hardware and is designed for professionals that appreciate the hands-on flexibility that a no-compromise solution can offer.
  • MA3 Light – $50,000+ – The grandMA3 light console is the work-horse of the range. It provides the perfect combination of power and physical size. The grandMA3 light console is suitable for all but the most demanding productions, making it probably the most versatile lighting console available.
  • MA3 CompactXT – $25,000+ The grandMA3 compact XT console is the larger of the two compact models, offering the full system benefits of the grandMA3 system, housed in a compact and lightweight format. Easy to transport, the compact models are ideal for owner/operators and also the console of choice for tech-desk duties.
  • MA3 onPC Command Wing – $7,000+ – PC Wing

Chamsys MagicQ

Chamsys have been quickly taking over a lot of markets and generating a large base of users due to their price point and size. When they were purchased by Chauvet in 2017, they began developing even faster and further expanded their distribution and dealer network.

They borrow a lot from other consoles – Hog, Avolites, and MA. This is a great line for LDs looking to carry their own desk and for small spaces looking for full-sized control. Their flagship MQ500 is mostly going to be for people who prefer/learned Chamsys on a smaller model and have transitioned to doing larger events.

These seem to be the default console for dealers/companies who have a lot of Chauvet lighting since they can work with the same distributor for everything.

  • MQ500 Stadium – $20,000 – The MagicQ MQ500 Stadium is designed to operate at the highest level of show control, supporting up to 200 universes direct from the console without the need for external processing. MagicQ MQ500 Stadium is designed for high performance and complex shows. Its features allow shows to be designed from concept to reality, including lighting, media, and LEDs. 
  • MQ80 – $8,500 – The MagicQ MQ80 is an extremely powerful console in a small size, supporting 48 universes direct from the console and 4 DMX ports supporting RDM, but still fits with in checked luggage restrictions.
  • MQ70 – $8,000 – MagicQ MQ70 is the latest offering in the Compact Console range of small and lightweight consoles that you can fly with. The MagicQ MQ70 fits within hand luggage carry on restrictions of all the major budget airlines including, Southwest, Easyjet and Ryanair. The console features a 10.1” Multi touch display, with illuminated encoder and fader tracks. 
  • MQ50 – $7,000 – MagicQ MQ50 is part of the new generation of compact consoles, ideal for small to medium sized venues. The MQ50 features a 10.1” Multi touch display and ten full Cue Stack playbacks in a compact format.
  • PC Wing Compact – $2,500 – PC Wing
  • MagicQ Two Universe DMX – $750 – 2 Universe Dongle
  • MagicDMX – $100 – Single Universe Dongle

Elation Obsidan / Onyx

Originally developed by Martin, then purchased by Elation in 2018, the Elation Obsidan software & Onyx hardware are fairly common in corporate ballrooms, music events, houses of worship, and schools.

  • M6 – $17,000 – The M6 is a state-of-the-art lighting console that functions as a highly advanced visual control surface. Designed to control everything from conventional and moving lights to the most advanced media server, the M6 has been designed for today’s demanding multimedia shows and tomorrow’s challenges. 
  • NX4 – $12,000 – The NX4 is a comprehensive feature packed control surface. With a well-arranged combination of motorized and manual faders as well as an array of playback button the NX4 offers 44 total playbacks in a compact yet extremely powerful package. As a member of the innovative ONYX platform from Obsidian Control Systems the NX4 is feature rich and never restricted in its capabilities. NX4 includes a high-brightness full HD multi-touch screen; 8 assignable parameter encoders; dedicated Intensity encoder; an assistive mini touch-screen; full keypad and command section and a dedicated grand master.
  • NX2 – $8,500 – The NX2 is the ultimate compact yet powerful fully integrated lighting controller. As a member of the innovative ONYX platform from Obsidian Control Systems the NX2 is feature rich and never restricted inits capabilities. NX2 includes a high-brightness full HD multi-touch screen; 8 assignable parameter encoders;an assistive mini touch-screen; full keypad and command section; a dedicated grandmaster and 10 full playbacks with four freely assignable buttons. 
  • NXWing – $2,600 – NX WING is the complementary USB control surface to Obsidian Control Systems ONYX platform. Based on the NX 2 console the NX Wing utilizes the same rugged design and components with an identical footprint and layout. Through its USB connection the NX WING provides a responsive, professional hardware surface to operate ONYX on any PC system without compromises. Any user of ONYX will feel instantly familiar with the NX Wing and no setup or additional installation is required. Simply plug it into a user-provided PC with ONYX and get started instantly.
  • NX-Touch – $550

High End (Hog)

High End Systems’ Hog consoles pioneered the world of large scale automated lighting control. They have enduring loyalty from programmers worldwide. 

  • Hog 4-18 – $44,000 – The flagship console of the Hog family, Hog 4-18 is designed for the largest stadium shows, theme park installations and concert tours. Hog 4-18 shines in any environment requiring a multi console setup and networking.
  • Full Boar 4 – $28,500 – Versatile enough to handle everything from a corporate show to a full stadium gig. The Full Boar 4 offers all the power of the flagship Hog 4, but in a more compact and affordable package, with sleek lines, raked screens, and that familiar layout.
  • Road Hog 4 – $10,500 – The most cost-effective Hog ever, Road Hog 4 strikes the perfect balance between performance and economy. The programming interface remains familiar, and the ergonomics of Road Hog’s compact chassis are unparalleled, while the shared HOG software environment lets the user transition across the whole range without sacrificing work flow.
  • RackHog 4 – Rack Hog 4 has all the power of a Hog 4 console in a 3U 19-inch rack mount unit. Designed for those applications where permanent hardware interfaces are not necessary, the Rack Hog 4 is well-suited for fixed-installation applications such as cruise ships, theme parks, and architectural lighting features. Rack Hog 4 can also act as a backup to any Hog 4 family console.

Avolites

Avolites built their reputation with being optimized for live music busking. They are still very popular touring consoles and are very popular with everything related to live music.

  • Sapphire Touch – $30,000 – The performance space you need to manage lighting, video and on-the-night changes 
  • Arena – $18,000 – Combines Titan’s visual interface with a large control surface
  • Tiger Touch II – $8,000 – Now boasting a 100% brighter screen, increased processing power, and faster graphics engine, the Tiger Touch II is the most specified Titan console.
  • Quartz – $10,000 – The Quartz is their smallest all-in-one lighting console, with high quality hardware and an ultra bright touchscreen in a compact size that’s perfect for life on the road.
  • Titan Mobile – $5,000 – Laptop Wing
  • Titan One Dongle  – $250 – DMX Dongle

ETC EOS

Industry standard for theatre production. The control software of the Eos family has garnered top reviews from esteemed professional lighting designers worldwide. This software is easy to learn and extremely powerful, a great combination for theatre designers, programmers and operators.

  • Eos TI ~ $35,000+ – Eos Titanium (or Eos Ti®) is ETC’s flagship lighting control console, with powerful hardware, easy-to-navigate software, and the right tools to realize art within the tight timetable of professional productions. Ti speaks the language of light, with no complicated command syntax to get in the way of your design.
  • Gio ~ $15,000 – Need an energetic desk for a large touring show with a complex rig? Looking for a board that saves space in control rooms without scrimping on power?
  • Gio @5 – Gio @5™ brings the high-end control of the larger Eos® family consoles to venues with tighter spaces – or tighter budgets.
  • Ion XE~ $6,500 – The Ion® Xe is the compact workhorse of the  Eos® family. Featuring the same backlit keyboard layout and full-feature software as its bigger siblings, this little desk brings professional programming power to any venue.
  • Element 2 ~ $4,000 Affordable and easy to use, Element 2 brings the fundamentals of lighting control to the forefront while allowing access to a wealth of advanced control features below the surface.
  • Nomad $450-$2,000 – ETCnomad plugs into your computer and opens up the power of Eos, Cobalt, and High End Systems’ Hog 4 PC software, so you can program and run shows anywhere.


Kettner Creative is a full service audio visual (A/V) company located in Vancouver, BC. We rent AudioVideoLightingDrape and LED Furniture for events. If you’re interested in our services for an upcoming event – Please contact us!