Showtec XS-6 – The Best Lighting Effect of 2013?

The first time I spotted the XS-6 was in Frankfurt earlier this year at the annual MusikMesse show. Standing over two-foot tall and looking like something straight out of War of the Worlds, the XS6 dominated the huge Showtec stand. I couldn’t wait to check it out further see if this beast was to live up to its’, quite substantial, first impression.

Let’s get the basics out of the way first, XS6 features 6, individually controllable moving heads on a pan/tilt base. Each head has a narrow 4-degree beam angle for creating powerful beam effects and each offers 9 gobos, 7 colours, full dimming, shutter, strobe and manual focus. Obviously this is all very impressive but how does it translate into a lightshow?

If you’re as old as me (and you have my utmost sympathy if you are) then you may remember ‘helicopter’ effects from the 70’s and 80’s. These were effectively a number of coloured spot lights which were attached to rotating base. Depending on the size of the fixture, often, smaller groups of spots were on separate ‘arms’ that would be geared to rotate independently of the base. Anyway, the overall effect was coloured spots that would move all over the club in a seemingly random fashion creating a very dynamic effect. Well, nostalgia aside, my point is that the Showtec XS6 is effectively an updated version of this classic effect with but with a number of improvements that bring it directly into the 21st century.

Unlike the classic helicopter effects of the 70s and 80s, each spot on the XS-6 isn’t tied to just a single colour. In fact every head can be changed individually to one of 7 colours and 9 gobos. Each head can be electronically dimmed from 0-100%, strobed and manually focussed. Each head can be precisely controlled and positioned through DMX and the XS-6 introduced the Y-axis to the party giving a 3 dimensional effect to your lightshow.

Aside from the additional features, the use of LED technology brings further advantages above and beyond traditional effects. LEDs are far more efficient than traditional lamps meaning that more light can be generated using less power and generate far less residual heat. LEDs also have a significantly longer life meaning fewer awkward lamp-changes making them perfect for installation purposes.

So, technologically, the XS-6 is amazing, visually it’s very impressive but who’s it designed for? To be honest, this is the one question that’s been bugging me ever since I was blown away by the effect earlier this yet. The XS-6, despite its’ capabilities, is not a viable alternative to using half-a-dozen ‘normal’ moving heads. The versatility simply isn’t there and for lighting design and production it would be difficult to integrate into an existing show. It might be a touch on the pricey side for mobile DJ’s and although having an XS-6 either side of your rig would look incredible, at three-and-a-half grand it will be out of a lot of mobile entertainers budget.

However, where the Showtec XS-6 really comes into its’ own is as a standalone effect for bars and clubs. Singly as a centrepiece or linked in multiples in master/slave mode these fixtures can, with the help of a little smoke or haze, create an entire colourful and dynamic lightshow. The sheer size and presence of these effects add the wow factor and thanks to use of reliable technology, de

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