Hands-On Review: The Luxli Taiko Is the Big Drum in the Orchestra Series of Lights

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The Luxli Taiko is a 2 x 1 RGBAW LED soft light, ideal for use on location, in the studio, or mounted in a grid. This well-made fixture is suitable as a key light for documentary interviews in almost any exterior or interior location, and, with its color control and effects modes, it can easily be your go-to special-effects light, whether you are an indie or big-budget filmmaker. The 2 x 1′ form factor provides for a wider, brighter light source, with more coverage than the popular 1 x 1′ size. Also, using a single 2 x 1 light tends to be more efficient than using two 1 x 1 units next to each other, and it eliminates the dead spot needed to accommodate mounting hardware. If you need more light and want a streamlined solution, going with the Luxli Taiko 2 x 1 is a solid approach.

The Taiko is part of the Luxli Orchestra series, which includes the Viola2, Cello, and Timpani. The Taiko is well built, and lessons learned from the introduction of the Timpani have been applied to the Taiko, so it is more user-friendly right out of the box. These improvements include a locking lever and a channel for adjusting the height of the yoke on the light. The Taiko also uses RGBAW LEDs, while the Timpani uses RGBW LEDs, and the Taiko has more than twice the output of a single Timpani. The Taiko can be powered from AC power as well as from V-mount batteries. Please note that although the Taiko is named after a Japanese drum, it, like the other lights in the Orchestra series, is designed and manufactured in Norway and not made in China.

LED soft lights abound, and they have come a long way since the early days when they were little more than an array of LED emitters in a punched metal Chassis, and you essentially had to make a choice between brightness and color reproduction. But time marches on, and LEDs have undergone a stunning amount of development. There was a time where having a bi-color light (variable between tungsten and daylight) meant that the fixture had half tungsten and half daylight-balanced LEDs and, to get the brightest light, you would have to shoot at about 4300K. Improvements in LED technology have come a long way to creating a better light source, with richer color reproduction, more adjustability, and color-matching capability.

The Taiko

This fixture is solidly built and comes with a medium diffusion panel (D90), yoke, and power supply. I reviewed the Taiko Complete Kit, which comes in a padded case that holds the fixture with yoke attached, the power supply, and three diffusion panels (one comes installed).

Heavy-duty case
Heavy-duty case
Nestled in packing material
Nestled in packing material
The fixture and included items
The fixture and included items

It is powered by a 4-pin XLR connector that accepts between 24 and 36 VDC, or by the two integrated V-mount battery brackets on the back of the unit. When powering with V-mount batteries, you need two batteries to operate the Taiko. Five-pin male and female XLR connectors accommodate DMX in and out, and the fixture has Bluetooth built in. As mentioned above, the Taiko is well built, and no one will give you a funny look for bringing it onto any set. It does have some heft, as you might expect, but what really matters is the quality of the light it outputs, the features it has, and its ease of use.

Unit back
Unit back
Locking handle and height-adjustment channel
Locking handle and height-adjustment channel
The fixture mounted on a stand
The fixture mounted on a stand

As far as output goes, I was more than satisfied with the output, and I took some stills and video, so you could judge for yourself. For the stills, I selected tungsten white balance and shot on a GH5 at 1600 ISO at 1/60 of a second. One Taiko light was used for the key on camera right, with a second Taiko providing the backlight on camera left. Please note that these units were very much dimmed down in brightness.

7% brightness, D00 light diffusion
12% brightness, D90 medium diffusion
12% brightness, D75 heavy diffusion

RGBAW and what it Means to You

The Taiko is RGBAW, as is the Luxli Viola2, which in this case stands for RGB Tungsten White and Daylight White, providing an extremely full spectrum when in Color Temperature mode from 2800 to 10000K. How is this different than regular bi-color fixtures that vary from tungsten to daylight? Essentially, each LED emitter is made up of five different sub-diodes, tungsten, daylight, red, green, and blue. This allows you not only to have each diode output tungsten or daylight balance at full brightness, but to also add in red, green, and blue as needed, creating an output that has nearly a complete spectrum as daylight and provides for excellent color rendition of skin tones, as well as the clothing and other items in frame. In CCT mode you can add in + or – green to match ambient light sources such as fluorescent lights.

You can also choose to use the Taiko in RGB mode, or as referred to by the Taiko—the HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) mode. This provides extremely precise control over color reproduction. You can dial-in any color on the RGB scale from 0 to 360°, as well as controlling the saturation of the output and the brightness. It is worth noting that in RGB mode, the maximum brightness is lower than that of the CCT (tungsten/daylight) mode, because the brightness limit is that of the blue emitter. While this does limit the RGB output, it is only about half as bright as the CCT mode, which is still pretty good and, in RGB mode, the fixture can match any color temperature between 3000 and 10000K more accurately than in CCT mode. This is useful because in HSL (RGB) mode you can set the white point (or color temperature) of the output to anywhere between 3000 to 10000K and then add any saturation and color you wish to the output to match any light source or gel combination.

Effects and Modes

The Taiko has a variety of built-in effects that are available when you set the light to effects mode. These include CCT Chase, Color Chase, Explosion, Fire, Fireworks, Lightning, Paparazzi, Pulse, Sirens (blue, red, or amber) SAE, and Strobe. Each effect has multiple parameters that you can control, such as length of flash, number per second, intensity, and speed, to name a few. Sirens allows you to toggle the panel itself, so half the panel can be one color, while the other half is a different color.

The built-in gel mode has 150 presets that match the transmission specs of Lee filters which, in effect, means that the light has digital filters built in. When selecting the Gel mode, the light operates in CCT (tungsten/daylight) mode, allowing you to apply the digital color filter to any color temperature setting from 2800 to 10000K.

Effects display screen
Effects display screen
Blue screen gel
Blue screen gel

The Composer App

One of the handy features of the Taiko is the free downloadable Luxli Composer app, which has a short learning curve and pleasing interface. If you want to practice with the app before you have a Luxli light fixture, you can add a demo light to work with the options, and a colored strip on the top of the screen will approximate the result of the effect. Once you are working with a physical light, it is easy to start—just tap “Look for Lights” at the bottom left and the app will connect to them for you. You can name individual lights and control up to 11 lights as individuals or in groups. The app allows you to access all the built-in apps and functions on the fixture (except for the White point setting in HSL mode), as well as a few others that have been added to the app and aren’t on the light. This includes Television Flicker, Bad Fluorescent, and Cloud Panning. The app also allows provides additional modes that are not available on the fixture, one that lets you control the red, green, and blue LEDs individually with slider brightness sliders for each color, and another that lets you take a picture on your mobile device and select any color in that photo for the Taiko to match.

A quick look at the light’s capabilities

Photometrics

Please note that, as with all the light fixtures in the Orchestra lineup, each fixture is individually tested, and calibrated. A photometric spec sheet specific to each Taiko unit is generated at the factory and included with the light fixture.

Improvements

I am very impressed with the Taiko, but I do have a couple of issues with it, specifically, about the power supply. It provides 36 volts, which has its advantages in terms of lowering the amperage the light draws, but this makes the power supply big, clunky, and awkward, especially because there is no way to mount or hang the power supply easily on a stand, and the built-in XLR power cable is too short.

Conclusion

Other than my issues with the power supply, I very much enjoyed working with the fixture because it provides a powerful and controllable output. Plus, with the Bluetooth capabilities, I can tweak and tune multiple fixtures without having to leave the camera to make the changes, which is a great time saver, especially when the fixture is mounted in a grid or placed somewhere hard to reach. The built-in effects modes provide an elegant solution to those occasional special-effects lighting needs, making the Taiko even more valuable in the field and worth keeping in your kit.

4 Comments

Hi Ian, thanks for the comment. I would prefer that it had a mounting plate of some kind, or even a strap you could hang from a Maffer or other clamp. And at least a couple more feet on the XLR cable would be good.  Lots of ways around the problem, and the light is really a nice fixture. Thanks for sharing. 

Worth noting that the power supply can be easily clamped to the stand with a cardellini type clamp if you have one. I own the Timpani and that's what I typically do. Fantastic output & color rendition, when I need a 2x1 I'll definitely consider purchasing the Taiko.

Hello Ian,

Thanks for the input.  Gladly appreciated!

-Cheers

Hi Ian, thanks for the comment. I would prefer that it had a mounting plate of some kind, or even a strap you could hang from a Maffer or other clamp. And at least a couple more feet on the XLR cable would be good.  Lots of ways around the problem, and the light is really a nice fixture. Thanks for sharing. 

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