Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Review: Barge Heights LED Bar 252

Last summer I reviewed the Barge Heights LED 36 fixture, and was quite impressed by it. After I sent that one back (wishing I had more budget for new fixtures), I asked for an LED Bar 252 to play with. I was thinking of getting some LED fixtures for our student/community room to use as wall washers. It’s pretty bland in there right now, and I wanted something that could throw color on the back walls of the stage. 

Now, one of the first things you need to know about the LED Bar is that it sells for $215. That’s right, $215. It’s a one meter long bar with 252 RGB LEDs. Now, for $215, you wouldn’t expect it to have the output, CRI or power of say, a ChromaQ bar. And it doesn’t. But it’s $215; which is less than the sales tax on a one meter ChromaQ. So keep that in mind.

In my application, I have a wall height of about 10’. I set the LED bar on the floor, ran DMX to it and positioned it so the light raked up the wall (which in this case was covered by some burlap). Once I navigated the menus and got the settings correct, it worked like a charm. Almost. 

With the build in Edison plug, you can also daisy chain power. A nice touch.

My biggest beef with this fixture is not the light output or quality, it’s the controller chip. I talked to the guys at Barge Heights (who are super-nice guys, by the way) and they told me they are using a stock, off the shelf controller chip. This is good for keeping the cost down, but because it’s generic, it’s not exactly what they want. 

The bar can operate in auto mode, cycling through colors on its own, or you can preset it to one of 32 colors and it will just sit there. Most of us are going to want to run in DMX mode, and it will do that as well. You can also set them to Master and Slave mode, so if you want to wash a big area, you really only need to “control” one; the rest will follow. Or you could address them all the same.

In DMX mode, it’s 14 channels of operation. The bar is broken up into three segments, so you could have chases running on the fixture, or three separate colors. This could be kind of cool if you wanted to create multiple color streaks on your walls. 

The 14-channel mode is where I ran into some issues. Channel 1 is really a control channel. Various values will select strobing, chases, segment chases and, oddly, full red. Channel 2 is the intensity channel. Unfortunately 0-64 is 0-100% intensity, and at 65 various strobing modes start. On a computerized lighting console, you could (and I would suggest this) park channel 1 at 0 and channel 2 at 255 (or 100% depending on the values you’re working with). Then you would use channels 3-5 to control color and intensity for the whole bar or 6-14 to control the 3 segments. 

However, the lighting board in that room is an ETC SmartFade 24/48. I can’t park channels. I tried patching channel 2 to a “hidden” channel and leaving it up, but if someone moved the master down just a little, the bar started strobing. That was a bit of an issue. 

Clifton suggested assigning channel 2 to the Independent channel and making Ind 1 a simple On/Off control. That way the LED Bar would either be on or off. After doing this, it worked fine. I just labeled Ind. 1 “LEDs ON/OFF” and everything was peachy. 

The purple in the center is coming from the LED Bar.

The lesson from this is threefold: First, if you’re trying to hit a price point, you must make compromises. They said they want to get to the point where they are doing enough volume and they can afford to get custom programmed controllers. But until then, this is what we have. Second, there is more than one way to work around an issue, and third, if you can’t figure it out, talk to the manufacturer—they often have really good ideas. 

As far as light output and dimming quality go, the LED Bar is fine. I don’t think I would try to wash a 60’ high cyc with it, but for our 10’ wall, it has more than enough power. I tried it on our 24’ high side walls in the main room (which are a weird peach color), and it started to run out of steam about 3/4 up the wall. But again, they’re $215. For smaller rooms that need some color on the back wall, they work just fine. I didn’t test them with video, but I’m told flicker is not an issue.

When it comes to long-term durability, it’s hard to tell. However, when I fell off the stage last week and jacked up my back, I was carrying the LED Bar. It smacked the edge of the stage almost as hard as I did and it powered up and worked just fine. So it survives the fall test. 

The bottom line for me is this: I plan to buy a few more of them early next year to use as wall washers in our student room. For the price, they can’t be beat, and they will do what we need them to do. And again, I like the guys at Barge Heights, and I prefer doing business with people I like. They may not be the right fixture for every situation, but for short throw color wash, they are a good choice.  

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1 Comment

  1. rob

    Thanks for the review Mike. I am looking for something like this. Would it be possible for you to show off some other colors in some pictures? I am looking to replace some 150W incandescent floods with amber filters we use to warm up some 20' high dark woodwork behind our unused choir loft.

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