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What’s Happening with Consoles??

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For the first time in a long time, the whole world seems to be split on the topic of lighting consoles. Not just a split down the middle, but more like “Splinters” I think. Not long ago, the Hog II dominated to an extent that they held likely 75% or more of the console market. Since then, the Hog III has somewhat sputtered along, gaining as many enemies as friends. Sure, High End has had other successful “mini” versions such as the iPC and now Road Hog, but nothing has taken them back to the dominant pole position they once held.Current competitors to the Hog Family include current leader, MA Lighting with their Grand MA, MA Lite, and assorted variations of smaller consoles, software, etc. The Grand MA is probably most significant at the moment. I’ve heard rumors they’re selling 20 or more consoles in the USA alone each month. That’s a considerable number for a $30,000 console. I happen to really like Bob Gordon at ACT Lighting, and find his success to be well deserved. Bob was (arguably) responsible for the Hog II after all, and when he lost distribution of the hog consoles, he did what all good business people do. He rebounded, including a nice little dose of tongue wagging, and name calling. Now, Bob holds a very solid market share of the top end consoles. Most of the largest tours are now going out with Grand MA consoles, as are the top television productions, broadway shows, sporting mega events, etc. Enjoy your ride Bob – we all know how this industry works. I’ve personally been on top of the moving light world 3 times now – only to watch each of those companies implode and give up market share to stronger, newer competition. I will never forget the Coemar example. We released the CF7, won awards, sold them like there was no tomorrow – then came the MAC2000… our sales went from 200 / 300 units per month to 12, 16… It was tough. Not to mention the people wanting to return lights – nothing wrong with them – just no longer the brand du jour.A distant smattering of console manufacturers find themselves looking up at MA Lighting. These would include Martin, Compulite, ZERO 88, Jands, and of course, Flying Pig with the Hog 3.Speaking of Martin, this is likely the biggest disappointment. Who would have ever thought that martin would go after the console biz in such a big way, and wouldn’t walk away with a hands down victory!? I remember the first demo i got of the in the Martin showroom here in Florida. At the time, it was Eric and Troels walking through it’s paces with me (well, since neither of them knew what it did – I guess it was someone else – but they watched!). To me, the console LOOKED like a winner. I am no expert on lighting console technology by any stretch – so don’t get me wrong… I am talking just the “Look”. It really reminded me of the old Icon console from LSD. Everyone I knew LOVED that console, and often used Icons only so they’d get the console as well! With all the blue LED’s you could ever want, a CD player and speakers, and more – this thing was built to make Lighting Guys feel as important as front of house sound guys for sure. No more “You gonna run lights on that little thing” here. The problem (as I’m told) was never concerning the hardware design, but the windows operating systems. Again, I don’t want to get into this because I don’t know what I’m talking about. The just never seems to have lived up to MY expectations. I couldn’t tell you what Martin expected – but myself, I expected sheer dominance and haven’t seen that. Who knows what the future will bring for the Maxxyz, but presently – i’d say they’re not the “big deal” on the console market. I would never count out a behemoth the size of Martin though. If they “want” the console biz, they may very well end up on top.Compulite? I really can’t comment. I know they do well in other parts of the world. They’ve got a distributor here in the US now, and I guess the consoles look pretty good. It’s one of those things though. Unless you’re really willing to do what Bob Gordon did – and step up in a BIG way, spending a great deal of money along the way – you may never really crack the market. I can’t honestly tell you I know a lot of people flocking to buy them now though.A New player on the console market comes from Europe. ChamSys have developed a range of lighting consoles similar in many ways to the Hog II, but with several advancements. I’ve been hearing of all sorts of large players supporting this console. In fact, a little bird told me that PRG have made a pretty major commitment to the product. That should get them into the mainstream quickly! Watch for ChamSys to make some major moves in the next year.Who else is there? The Virtuoso console is still wildly popular. In fact, we get more money for them on the used market than what they sold for brand new! There’s definitely still a massive following for this console. I have heard that PRG continue developing the Virtuoso software as well – so that’s good. Don’t expect the Virtuoso to die any time soon. I guess we’ve also got the Jands Vista – probably once voted most likely to take over the world, but for some reason, it just never grew wings. I guess it’s sort of like the Apple Newton. It was cool, but writing on that screen just wasn’t as fun as it seemed it might be.I plan to start writing more gear based blogs – and including a lot of “market info” whenever i can. This will include things like average used sell prices, average days to sell, etc. Watch for it!Marcel

Author: Marcel Fairbairn

Our expert sales team, collectively, have over 50 years experience in the sound, lighting, production and music industry.

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