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Nicolaudie STICK 2 and Pharos TPC

Issue 64 Dec / Jan 2011/2

David Morgan looks at two of the latest touch panel control systems developed with LED lighting in mind: Nicolaudie’s STICK 2 and Pharos’ TPC.

As the use of colour changing LED lighting becomes more widely used across the spectrum of lighting schemes, from simple residential to complex architectural projects, the need has grown for a greater variety of lighting control systems and control panels.

While the early lighting control systems were large and hidden away in a cupboard with the control panel having little in built intelligence, advances in technology now mean that some panels have enough computing power to control small to medium size projects on their own.

The new generation of panels can communicate directly with the DMX enabled luminaires without any hidden boxes in between.

Two new panels which work in this way were recently launched at different ends of the market; the STICK 2 from the French company, Nicolaudie, which is targeted mainly at the residential and small architectural market, and the TPC from Pharos which is designed for integration in large complex projects but can also be used on smaller stand alone projects.

Nicolaudie STICK 2
Nicolaudie has pioneered developments at the lower end of the DMX controller and software market. The STICK 2 is a new addition to the Nicolaudie DMX panel range and follows the success of the STICK 1 which I reviewed a few years ago.

The appearance of the STICK 2 is a welcome improvement on the STICK 1. Instead of the rather functional plastic touch panel with 15 buttons used on the STICK 1 a simple square glass touch panel, available in black or white, with only three buttons is used on the STICK 2. 
It is designed to fit a standard wall box - the plate is 83mm x 83mm and only 10mm thick with an accessible mini USB data port on the lower edge. The three buttons are used to navigate between the 24 pre set scenes or fades, to change dimming levels and to control colour settings.

The software used to set up scenes is the entry level simple system called ESA – Easy Stand Alone - which has fewer features than the more complex Nicolaudie systems ESA Pro and Sunlite Suite 2 Software which run on the STICK 1. Only one scene can run at a time with the ESA software. The number of DMX channels is limited to 128 but this should be sufficient for most residential projects and many restaurant or bar projects as well.

Mechanically, the design seems easy to install with six different screw fixing positions for a variety of wall mounting boxes. A 5-way plug and socket connector makes wiring simple. The power supply is a small separate unit and the data sheet suggests that this can be fitted in a standard wall box which could cause some problems depending on the depth of the box.

It is understood that the design of the STICK was undertaken in house at the Nicolaudie R&D centre in Montpellier office in France over an eight month period although the research period was much longer prior to detail design and development.

The STICK 2 is a very cost effective and attractive, simple DMX controller and seems likely to be widely used on smaller projects.

Pharos TPC
Pharos is an independent UK based company and is part of the Carallon group, a product design company specialising in control systems for the entertainment industry with a range of sophisticated systems for use in major architectural and entertainment projects. The top of the range LPC X controller can run up to 200 DMX universes.  The largest number of DMX universes that Pharos systems have controlled to date is 650.

The TPC (Touch Panel Controller) has been introduced at the lower end of the Pharos range and it can be used as a stand alone single DMX universe controller or as part of a larger networked lighting control system.  Although it may be entry level, the TPC has so many bells and whistles that it is hard to mention them all in this short review. 
Prior to the introduction of the TPC Pharos used either their own push button control panels or graphic panels from other manufacturers. Having their own panel will clearly open up a wide variety of opportunities.

The full colour screen of the TPC has capacitive controls and the layout and appearance of the controls and displays can all be modified and customised using the Pharos Interface Editor software. The panel has a rectangular configuration which fits a standard UK double socket outlet box and can be mounted vertically or horizontally since the graphics are all changeable in software.

The TPC has a very solid build quality and the quality of engineering seems very high.  A thick chrome plated bezel encloses a laminated plastic overlay panel which is held magnetically to the unit giving a very clean appearance. The use of a plastic panel seems to me a slightly weak design detail and the frameless glass panel on the much cheaper Nicolaudie product actually gives a more premium appearance and feel.
With a full 512 DMX channels it provides a wide variety of various open and proprietary protocols transporting DMX over Ethernet such as ArtNet, sACN, KiNet, Pathport, etc.

The TPC uses Cat 5 Ethernet cable for both power and data which makes connection very easy. A web server is incorporated so that the panel can be remotely programmed and updated. An SD memory card is used to store the scenes, shows and the user interface configurations. The card can be easily removed from its housing via a slot in the lower edge of the bezel.

A few of the other onboard features include an internal real time clock which can be used to calculate sunrise and sunset times based on longitude and latitude information, and use these as triggers for events.

A variety of sensors including proximity, IR, temperature and light levels are also incorporated. As with the Nicolaudie panel all the programming of scenes and fades is undertaken on a PC and these are downloaded via the SD card or over the network.

All Pharos design, development and production is undertaken in the UK and it is understood that this development took around two years from concept to production.

The Pharos TPC is a highly engineered and well designed product at a good price point and like the Nicolaudie STICK 2, I anticipate that it will be very successful.


Pharos TPC

Nicolaudie STICK 2
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