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simcole

What Controllers Do You Use? I Use Lor But Am I Using The Aol Of Controllers?

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So I've been using my 2 LOR controllers for the past 2 years, and I love them. They've been maintenance free, well made, and easy to use. The downside is that they're so damn expensive. I've noticed that most people have more than the 32 channels I have. I'm big into coreagraphed sequences than amount of channels, but I'd like to add more channels, at least 32 more. I'm not opposed to selling my LOR boxes but can I just add on channels and keep going?

What ar emy options? What will interface with my LOR? What's cheaper. I can solder but how much would that truly save me?

I am very able and computer handy, but am I just using the AOL of controllers? I mean they all get you to the same internet? How are people affording the 200+ channels? Are people really dropping that kind of $ on LOR boxes etc?

Those comparison pdf's are gone now..

Thanks

~Adam

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Adam - You can keep adding LOR controllers -as many as your software license allows. If you want some affordable options, buy the controllers during the spring or summer sales. If your not opposed to soldering, I believe the CTB16PC boxes are about $150 - $170. I get the soldered boards and just hook up the wires, and they are a bit cheaper also.

The reason I have chosen LOR is because of durability and customer support. I had a board problem recently and Dan from LOR sent me a new one no charge.

I have been expanding my show slowly - I now have 4 controllers but only ran 3 this year. I will likely buy another this year, and expand to 60 channels and still have a "back-up". I have found that I spend way more on extension cords than I do controllers, but I refuse to run my boxes out in the weather.

Brian

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Adam - You can keep adding LOR controllers -as many as your software license allows. If you want some affordable options, buy the controllers during the spring or summer sales. If your not opposed to soldering, I believe the CTB16PC boxes are about $150 - $170. I get the soldered boards and just hook up the wires, and they are a bit cheaper also.

The reason I have chosen LOR is because of durability and customer support. I had a board problem recently and Dan from LOR sent me a new one no charge.

I have been expanding my show slowly - I now have 4 controllers but only ran 3 this year. I will likely buy another this year, and expand to 60 channels and still have a "back-up". I have found that I spend way more on extension cords than I do controllers, but I refuse to run my boxes out in the weather.

Brian

Brian thanks for the reply. I also spend more on extension cords, but I just found out most people use "SPT2" cord with vampire plugs. I wish I had done that the first year and only bought extension cords for my big items. 1000' of spt2 cord is only $160. But do people really spend $200 a box for even the partially assembled ones? So for 144 channels they spend $1800+tax+shipping? I mean that's insane! I'm reading dmoores LED basics now too because I think I want to get into pixel based controllers next year. That will throw a whole new level of complexity I'm sure.

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Yes people really spend between $160 to $240 on controllers. But if you ask most of the people with 100+ channels they'll tell you, they didn't get there overnight. Most people started out with 16-32 channels and added a controller or two every year. I have talked to people that bought two, then the next year bought three more, then bought four the following year.

It's all based on what you can afford. The cheapest way is to buy the kits during the sale. But ask anyone on here and they'll tell you

"This is an expensive and addicting hobby."

P.S. Nice job on your sequencing.

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I've been doing LOR for six years now. I started with 32 channels, some C9s and a bunch of incandescent minis. I now have 160 channels available and over 20,000 mostly LED lights. I buy my controllers discounted at the spring or summer sales or from others selling them used. I buy my LED lights, cable and vampires from bulk off-season orders. I buy my incandescents ( or used to buy) from the 50% and 75% off sales after Christmas.

I spend more on golf every year than I spend on my Christmas display, way more.

You can keep your costs down if you do your research and plan a year ahead. If you wait until Thanksgiving to buy components, you're going to pay a heavy price.

Edited by Entropy

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Thanks guys. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't making uneducated decisions. I guess I'll be taking note of the off season sales. I really need to pay more attention to the group buys.

P.S. Thanks for the comment JHunt, I really do try to work hard on the sequencing.

Edited by simcole

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I had similar thoughts when I first got started. I started 4 years ago with 32 channels and 20,000 lights. I couldn't imagine having more than 64 channels at that time. I then made the mistake of watching Holdman’s display videos, and it was all over but they buying. The second year I jumped to 176 LOR channels and 80,000 lights. Last year I went to 240 LOR channels and 90,000 lights. This year I added RGB and am around 5,000 channels, but reduced my light count to roughly 65,000.

  1. My first year I used a LOT of SPT-2 wire. I bought 9000’ on spools from Skycraft Surplus. I actually used enough that for the cost of the wire, I could have purchased more controllers and spent less on SPT-2. I’d have had extra channels not had loooooooooooong runs of SPT-2.
  2. The LOR controllers work fine outside. Put your controllers where you need them – spend less on copper and more on controllers.
  3. Buy LOR controllers during the sales as others have mentioned. I bought all but my first 2 on sale.
  4. Buy SPT-2 at surplus stores. If I had it to do over again, I’d use mostly SPT-1. It’s rated for 7 amps, and most channels aren’t anywhere near that capacity.
  5. RGB adds cost and complexity. If the cost of controllers is daunting, then RGB won’t be friendlier. The node strands used by many here can be as high as $75 for 128 nodes. As much as I’d love to convert all my lights to RGB nodes, I can’t afford it.
  6. If you’re ok trading time and support for lower prices, you could look at some of the lynx products at diylightanimation.com. I only have experience with the smart string controllers and hubs, so I do NOT have personal experience with the lynx express / traditional AC dimmer boards they offer. I AM very happy with the SSCs and Hubs, and hence my recommendation to look over there. Just remember that with LOR products, you get support, stability, and time back. You’ll have to decide how much value each of these holds to you. Good, Cheap, Easy. Pick 2.

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I start out with 32 channels and now have 208 plus one controller as a spare.

I buy a little each year .... well ok this year I spent a lot for me.

Its not how many you have but how you make them blink!

My lights on my tree cost more than the controllers.

Buy during the sales look for used controllers.

Buy lights after Christmas.

Don't compare yourself with people on here because I doubt there is anyone in your area that has a display that is more awsome that your's!

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I started last year with 208 channels and went up to 320 this year.I buy them in the spring sale.No regrets...love every bit of this addiction.

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I had similar thoughts when I first got started. I started 4 years ago with 32 channels and 20,000 lights. I couldn't imagine having more than 64 channels at that time. I then made the mistake of watching Holdman’s display videos

lol, my story too sielbear. Only I went from 0 channels to 192 LOR in one year. Cost some big $$, but I like to think I helped myself out by using all incans bought at 75% off, a third of which I already had. Less than 10% of my budget was lights.

Like Brian said too, LOR is hard to beat in my opinion, even with their supply delays this year. 6 of my 12 controllers were card-only kits. Soldering them myself and making my own cords and enclosures really cut down on the cost.

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... but can I just add on channels and keep going? What are my options? What will interface with my LOR? What's cheaper. I can solder but how much would that truly save me? I am very able and computer handy, but am I just using the AOL of controllers? I mean they all get you to the same internet? How are people affording the 200+ channels? Are people really dropping that kind of $ on LOR boxes etc? Those comparison pdf's are gone now.. Thanks ~Adam

Follow me here, I was in your shoes when I started. I though how do they got to 300+ channels??? It costs so much. Most people can't drop that amount of money all at once on a hobby they run once per year. Here is what I did to expand channels and save money while doing it.

I started with 64 channels and ran that for 2 years. Jumped to 156, then this year up to 256. I still have 3 extra controllers. I purchase only the cards w/heat sinks and make custom boxes and hookups. During the spring sales, you can order the card+ heat sink soldered (ready to install into a box with NO wires) for around $110. I acquire the materials to make my custom boxes and build them through the year. This is a breakdown of what my additions cost me this year:

Four PC Controller cards + shipping = 470.00

64 extension cords (cut in 1/2 for the female ends) = 53.00

Four 15amp male 3-prong plug = 6.00

25' 14 gauge power wire = 9.00

1/4" spade connectors = 2.00

Two 17" craftsman tool boxes = 20.00

Two 2" Cable connectors (crimps the cords leaving the tool box) = 4.00

Four 3/4" Cable connectors (crimps the power cord + LAN cables) = 2.00

Spade drill bits to drill holes for the cable connectors = 10.00

Weather stripping (seal up the tool box so no leaks) = 2.00

TOTAL = under $578 for 4 controllers or under $145.00 per controller

If memory serves me correctly, a soldier kit and lor box w/wires ran for $159.00 during the sales. With shipping, that's $665 total retail. And you must soldier the cards.

I'm saving $14.00 AND not having to do the soldiering.

Then if you purchase the "some assembly required" kits at 185.00 on sale that's $770 total with shipping. So, by learning how to build these units yourself, you potentially could increase your channels economically and exponentially. The major draw back is the time it takes to gather the supplies, learn how to do the work (if you're not exposed to it previously), and the actual assembly time. Once my supplies are gathered and organized at my bench, it took about 1 1/2 hours to build The first two-card tool box controller. The second took about 1 hour. When I built my first LOR DIY kit, it took about 1 1/4 hours to build with out any previous knowledge. AND the cords were ready to plug into the boards.

Hear, though, I where I'll say if you don't have the time or desire to collect all the components needed, assemble the cards, or do any detailed electrical work, building the card yourself is NOT for you. But you say you are able to soldier so I'm going on a limb and thinking you might actually be interested in the DIY side of it.

Lastly, like others before me, I prefer LOR for their customer service. Great People!

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I had the same thought when Carson Williams video went viral back in 2003/2004. I was still in college with no job. so I said, "no way, too expensive for me". In 2009 I bought my first two controllers during the Spring and summer sales (I finally graduated and got a decent paying job to afford this hobby). I bought the DIY kits; and just bought several for the next two years. I finally went animated this year (2011) with 5 controllers and 1 being borrowed from a friend.

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Follow me here, I was in your shoes when I started. I though how do they got to 300+ channels??? It costs so much. Most people can't drop that amount of money all at once on a hobby they run once per year. Here is what I did to expand channels and save money while doing it.

I started with 64 channels and ran that for 2 years. Jumped to 156, then this year up to 256. I still have 3 extra controllers. I purchase only the cards w/heat sinks and make custom boxes and hookups. During the spring sales, you can order the card+ heat sink soldered (ready to install into a box with NO wires) for around $110. I acquire the materials to make my custom boxes and build them through the year. This is a breakdown of what my additions cost me this year:

Four PC Controller cards + shipping = 470.00

64 extension cords (cut in 1/2 for the female ends) = 53.00

Four 15amp male 3-prong plug = 6.00

25' 14 gauge power wire = 9.00

1/4" spade connectors = 2.00

Two 17" craftsman tool boxes = 20.00

Two 2" Cable connectors (crimps the cords leaving the tool box) = 4.00

Four 3/4" Cable connectors (crimps the power cord + LAN cables) = 2.00

Spade drill bits to drill holes for the cable connectors = 10.00

Weather stripping (seal up the tool box so no leaks) = 2.00

I am very handy and capable, and I've been known to go to the dump and fix plasma's and lcd's and resell them. Most times it's a simple board or IC that needs replacing. I have a decent hand at soldering. I guess I was always afraid of people stealing my LOR boxes so I spent the $ on cords. I think I'll seriously look into soldering my own kit in the spring. Thanks for the helpful responses!

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I am very handy and capable, and I've been known to go to the dump and fix plasma's and lcd's and resell them. Most times it's a simple board or IC that needs replacing. I have a decent hand at soldering. I guess I was always afraid of people stealing my LOR boxes so I spent the $ on cords. I think I'll seriously look into soldering my own kit in the spring. Thanks for the helpful responses!

Solder kits (cards only) cost around $89, $20 cheaper than the assembled cards. That will lower the cost as well. I just don't want to take the chance at my poor soldering skills.

This is why I love PC. So many people were willing to help me when I started out with nothing. When I wanted to go big I asked a thousand questions (go ahead and look um up lol :P ) Sometimes I asked twice. But now that I've gone out and done it, I've found ways that are more economical. It's good that you asked the question, this will definitely help other make better decisions for their situation.

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At the end of the day, there is very little price difference between D-Light and LOR unless you like to DIY and can effectively scrounge parts. Only reason I'm exclusively D-Light is they had more options I desired at the time - Wireless, Firefli, etc. Mixing brands is do-able, but a pain as you have to use two different config utilities. I'm lazy and just want one util to do it all. :P

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I started 2 yrs ago with a Gemmy Control box and put way more on it than it allowed 14,000 lights including my mega tree.

Last yr I opted to buy D-light Boards and go with Aurora when D-light had a sale(bought gold edition) then added cheap

$1.oo extension cords for my output wires had about $150 per box in them. This yr through the help of a friend that was

working his show with DIY boards I got 6 more boards for about $75 a piece with 2 more on the way this weekend so used

is always an option if you check out the classifieds.

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For me LOR is what I recommend for everyone to start. My first year I had 48 channels. The next year I doubled that. Then I found the Lynx controllers at a mini and found I could get twice the channels for half the money and add wireless for not much money also. I sold some of my LOR boxes, but I still use some since they will run DMX and all the Lynx boxes are DMX so they work together. This year I added RGB and have over 3000 channels, but since they run on DC and use power over ethernet I have a ton of extension cords in storage unused. Where I used to have 3 strings of lights per window plus 3 extension cords I now have one string of RGB lights and one cat5 cable. Much neater, but a bear to program. Remember this is a hobby and you do this for your own enjoyment. If you don't enjoy it the display will become a chore and then go away. Costs are relative. I have model railroad engines that cost $200 and some that cost $50. Some people play a lot of golf or travel the world or do other things. Everything is relative. Just start slow and build up over time.

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For me LOR is what I recommend for everyone to start. My first year I had 48 channels. The next year I doubled that. Then I found the Lynx controllers at a mini and found I could get twice the channels for half the money and add wireless for not much money also. I sold some of my LOR boxes, but I still use some since they will run DMX and all the Lynx boxes are DMX so they work together. This year I added RGB and have over 3000 channels, but since they run on DC and use power over ethernet I have a ton of extension cords in storage unused. Where I used to have 3 strings of lights per window plus 3 extension cords I now have one string of RGB lights and one cat5 cable. Much neater, but a bear to program. Remember this is a hobby and you do this for your own enjoyment. If you don't enjoy it the display will become a chore and then go away. Costs are relative. I have model railroad engines that cost $200 and some that cost $50. Some people play a lot of golf or travel the world or do other things. Everything is relative. Just start slow and build up over time.

I WILL be adding RGB soon.. esp if I can solder and wire up some of them to save costs. I'm just starting to read about them. I know nothing about DMX or Lynx controllers so I'll watch that video series

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Simcole:

If your planning to get into RGB then the cost of a few LOR boxes to run the non-RGB components will be largely immaterial. One factor not often mentioned when thinking about RGB is the sequencing and the sheer amount of time it takes to play around with thousands of channels.

This is my second year running over 7500 channels with the number of channels dedicated to non-RGB stuff dropping to around 200 odd this year. Next years plans show at least a doubling of the RGB channels pending money of course.

The only thing that scares me in that is being able to actually sequence anything meaningful :)

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I have 22 LOR boxes- most of the PC kits.

I also use DMX and I can tell you, the LOR boxes are cheap when you start spending on pixels/nodes. Taking the dmx/pixel controllers and nodes into account, you easily spend close to or over a dollar per node (read each light).

So the LOR controllers are a BARGAIN. And ROCK SOLID I might add. I've only had one go bad after 6 years in the south Mississippi weather. It was shorted out by a spider/ or spider web I believe.

RW

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I have 5 LOR pc controllers

2 Lynx Express

1 Rainbow Brain

Total 128Ch

Next year I am adding 3 Lynx Epress

3 Lynx MR16 (DC boards)

3 Easy DMX controllers ( 27 CH each from Ray Wu)

For a total of 177 more

The 3 MR16 & 3 Easy DMX will be for RGB flex strips.

That will give me a total of 305 Which is about all I can stand to program

Mike

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There is the option of buying used Lor controllers. Over the past few years displays have closed for various reasons & I seen Lor controllers for going around $135.00 but most are between $150.00 & $175.00.

When I buy controllers I buy according to my wallet. I refuse to go into debt. I wonder how many folks go into debt for this hobby? I try to buy PC controllers cards during the "spring reduction sale" at $114.95 & buy the wires and add them to my own enclosures....about $163.00 total. The money I save that way helps go towards shipping.

Another option is to go D.I.Y. controllers

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