What is the Difference Between Basic, Intermediate and Professional Lighting Consoles?

What is the Difference Between Basic, Intermediate and Professional Lighting Consoles?

On Learn Stage Lighting I often have the usual consoles that I like to refer to and work with. However, there are different types of consoles that each bring their own benefits to the table.

In this video, I discuss the difference between the basic, intermediate, and professional lighting consoles. I also review how each category can come into play when creating your own lighting show:

The biggest frustrations I’ve seen inside of Learn Stage Lighting Labs, as well as the lighting community in general, is that often a console is purchased but doesn’t exactly meet the needs of the person that is working with it. Either the console is too basic or it’s too advanced for the person.

When it comes to lighting consoles there are generally three buckets that I will classify a lighting console as basic, intermediate, and professional.

Basic Lighting Consoles

The basic lighting console is exactly as it sounds. This could be a Chauvet Obey 40, ADJ Scene Setter, or even a standard fader lighting console. There’s also the software, ENTTEC’s DMXIS that falls into this category.

Normally, I consider the above consoles to be in the basic category and there’s also the consoles that only have a few channels as well as some basic control over lighting.

What will qualify as a basic console are consoles that are very easy to learn (good for entry-level), controls a few lights, and has a low amount of channels to work with.

Who It’s For

Basic consoles are good for those are new to lighting. These types of consoles are also good for ones that aren’t needing to control a large number of lights or even wanting to do anything super fancy with their lighting.

The amount of lights you can control really depends and varies what type of lights you are wanting to control. You can have control of 100 standard LED lights and the console will handle it just fine. Or if you try to manage 6 moving lights you may notice the console struggling. It’s important to be aware of the channels you have available to work with as well as how many channels a light requires.

Lastly, the basic console is great when wanting to multiple colors as well as some basic lighting design.

Intermediate Lighting Consoles

The next step above basic lighting consoles is your intermediate consoles. These consoles are great when you need more than a basic console but not quite ready for a professional-grade console.

The intermediate consoles I normally recommend are Lightkey and WorkPro Lightshark. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Besides the number of lights you are able to control, what helps sets intermediate consoles apart is the ease of having control over the faders. You don’t have to record every scene on the stage meaning you can go to a scene and not have to be concerned with it altering your entire show.

Another benefit to intermediate consoles is the control and abilities you have over the effects and parameters of the lights.

Who’s It For

As I mentioned earlier the intermediate consoles are great for those who are wanting more than a basic console but don’t need a professional console to work with. The intermediate group doesn’t always move up to a professional console, and that is perfectly fine!

There is a learning curve to working with intermediate consoles especially if you started with a basic console. But most likely you’ll have more universes to work with (or the opportunity to add more universes), more functionality with effects and parameters.

Professional Lighting Consoles

Lastly, we have the professional-grade consoles which are great for those that are looking for even more control over their lights. Some don’t ever reach this point and there’s nothing wrong with this at all.

This could mean you’re looking for more fine control over what the effects are doing, or you are getting overwhelmed with the number of lights you are controlling, or it could be looking for more control over fade times with the parameters on the lights.

One of the professional-grade consoles I recommend is ONYX, which I really do enjoy working with. There are of course other professional consoles that I’ve worked with such as GrandMA, Hog, etc.

Something to keep in mind about professional consoles is that there is a steeper learning curve because of what they can do. But this also means there can be more mistakes made when programming your lights.

Who’s It For

There’s a lot of benefits that come with getting a professional console but with that, there is a steep learning curve. These types of consoles are great for those that want more control over their lights and abilities. But as I can’t stress enough there is so much to a professional console than the basic or intermediate levels.


The lighting console you decide to go with is going to be the heart of your operation. So it’s important to understand what you need and the capabilities you are looking for when choosing a lighting console.

While it may be tempting to want to choose the top-notch lighting console, be sure to know what your needs are, being able to handle learning curves, how many and what types of lights are you wanting to control.

This is very important and not a step you want to overlook when deciding if you need a basic, intermediate, or professional lighting console.

Want to dive into more? Check out my full article “How to Choose Your First Lighting Console, by clicking here!

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