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Let there be light – for DJs, pedalboard fans, laptop jockeys, and band & orchestra

www.mightybright.com

 

by Craig Anderton

 

Sure, it’s great fun to review some hot new guitar, amp, synthesizer, software program, or other tantalizing piece of gear. But sometimes, it’s important to scope out the kind of modest accessories that are anything from surprisingly useful to gig-savers. At the recent Frankfurt Musikmesse, I stopped by the Mighty Bright booth to get the scoop on how they outmaneuvered some counterfeiters, but ended up checking out several of their new products. The proverbial light bulb went on over my head (which I suppose it pretty appropriate), and I thought “these would be cool to review for the next newsletter.” So here we are with the Stage Light, USB Light, and Orchestra Light.

 

COMMONALITIES

All the products being reviewed use bright LEDs whose life is rated at “up to” 100,000 hours. This translates to about 10 years of continuous use, or in other words, if you play a two-hour gig every day of your life and use the lights for the entire gig, you’ll be able to gig for 136 years. But, let’s assume “up to” is off by half the rated hours, or you do 4-hour DJ sets. You can still gig for 68 years straight, so I think you’re covered. I guess I’ll need to leave these to my heirs, unless I break them accidentally.

But, that might be somewhat difficult. The lights are made in China (ironic, given that the counterfeiters they busted in Frankfurt were also allegedly Chinese), but neither look nor feel cheap, and have some cool “extras” we’ll cover when describing each light. The models being reviewed here are black (except for the head of the USB light), so they pretty much blend in to a stage setup.

 

STAGE LIGHT

$34.99 MSRP, $24.99 street

 

561184.jpg

 

For DJs, this basically replaces the gooseneck light on older decks; the dual-head design has two LEDs per head. One head uses red LEDs, while the other uses white. For maximum illumination use the white; to avoid interfering with your night vision, use the red . . . or use both.

This isn’t really a new product; its genesis, the Duet 2 Music Light, is identical but has only white LEDs. This led (or maybe I should say, LED) to the Pedalboard Light, which is designed to illuminate a pedalboard or rack so you can make sure you’re hitting the right button at the right time. It’s actually identical to the Stage Light, but someone at Mighty Bright got the, uh, bright idea that the Pedalboard Light would be perfect for dual-deck DJ setups, so the company got another product without having to do any real effort other than marketing to a totally different channel (they should just bite the bullet, and call it the DJ Light). So you can consider this review as relevant to all three products.

Mounting options are a spring-loaded clamp (with rubber pads on the clamp contact points—definitely a thoughtful touch), or you can use a Velcro® strip along the bottom, which is handy with pedalboards that use this kind of “hook and loop” mounting. There’s also an optional-at-extra-cost ($4.99) cradle base with a magnet for mounting to metal, and allows using the Stage Light as a free-standing light.

Power comes from three AAA batteries (included), which are rated for about 20 hours under normal use. There’s also an AC adapter jack, and Mighty Bright sells an accessory AC adapter. It’s a switching type that accommodates 100-240V and 50/60Hz, so even though they sell three different adapters with different plugs for the US, UK, and European markets, you only need one and any adapters as needed. Of course you can also use rechargeable batteries if you don't want to be tied to the AC line and want to be more eco-friendly by not using disposable batteries, but they won't be recharged if they're inside the light and you hook up the AC adapter; you would need to recharge them with an external charger.

The heads mount to flexible goosenecks, which not only let you position them as desired, but can give them a cool “War of the Worlds” look. One of the things Mighty Bright does at trade show demos is to bang the heads against the nearest hard surface, and they haven’t broken any that I’ve seen. The clamp pivots on a metal, not plastic, shaft; the switches on the heads are recessed, so you can’t break them off. Overall, I don’t see any reason why these wouldn’t last a long time, as long as you make sure the batteries don’t leak, and you remove them if the lights aren’t going to be used for a while.

 

LED USB LIGHT

$10.99 MSRP

 

LED USB.jpg

When I first started using a laptop for DJ sets, backlit keyboards weren’t yet in vogue so I was delighted when I found a USB light at MacWorld. But it was heavy, used an incandescent bulb, had an on-off switch that was less than predictable, wasn’t all that flexible, and I was always concerned that it was stressing out the USB connector due to the weight. It was better than nothing, but the LED USB Light is better in all respects: Lighter, more flexible, LED-based, cuter, and with vastly superior light dispersion. It has an on-off slide switch on the top (I like the one on the Stage Light better, but I’ll cope).

Note that in addition to being useful with laptops, I found two other uses for the LED USB Light. It’s great to stick on the rear of your computer if it’s under a desk so you can see what’s going on with the rear-panel cables and connectors; and with more keyboards sporting USB ports, assuming the port is not in use the LED USB Light can help illuminate the front panel.

 

ORCHESTRA LIGHT

$74.99 MSRP, $69.90 street

 

OrchestraLight.jpg

 

This is a revamp of the original Orchestra Light, featuring several small improvements including an on-off switch that allows switching banks of Orchestra Lights on and off, and a more secure connection to the included AC adapter.

The Orchestra Light has nine white LEDs and runs off three AA batteries, or the AC adapter. The light is very uniform (Mighty Bright seems to have the lens diffusion thing down, with no shadowing or ghosting, and can illuminate two pages of sheet music with a consistent, soft glow that’s easy on the eyes. The switch allows for two different brightness positions. The dim mode provides about 24 hours of battery life under normal use, while full brightness does about 16 hours.

Regarding the packaging, it’s classy: The light comes in a small fabric zipper bag with internal straps to hold the light in place, and a pouch to hold the AC adapter. I’ve read reviews online commenting about the AC adapter jack not being a secure fit, but assuming the reviewers hadn’t gotten a counterfeit unit by mistake (they look really similar; the quality isn’t), that’s been addressed in the latest incarnation.

The original on-off switch (a push-on/push off type) has been replaced by a latching type. This means that multiple units could plug the AC adapters into a barrier strip, and turned on and off simultaneously (e.g., the string section could “go dark” if needed, then come back up all at once).

There’s not much more to say; the AC adapter is global if you add an adapter to provide the right kind of wall plug, and the clamp mount includes pads on the clamp contact points (you could also hold the base in place with Velcro®). The three AA batteries are also heavy enough that, assuming the gooseneck is set up for proper balance, the light can work as a free-standing light. It’s simple, it works, it’s effective, and the price is right, given what you receive in return.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Let there be light . . . these are truly handy little suckers. Mighty Bright makes a bunch of other lights as well, but these are particularly well-suited to everyday musical applications. They may not be some super-duper high-tech piece of gear, but they’re definitely way useful.

 

CraigGuitarVertical.jpgCraig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.

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