- by Craig Rutherford
in Road Tests
Martin Professional has a very long history in the entertainment lighting and effects industry, starting way back in 1978 when founder Peter Johansen created a smoke machine from a coffee maker. Since then, the company has conceptualized and brought to market a huge number of effects, including the wildly popular Atomic 3000 DMX strobe, which has for many years dominated the market for strobe effects in concerts, special installations and live events. With the evolution of the market away from arc-based sources and toward LED, however, the creative minds at Martin decided it was time for a significant update to their flagship strobe.
The Atomic 3000 LED follows the same basic form as its predecessor, with a roughly rectangular shape and slightly more volume to accommodate the LED electronics and cooling. The face of the fixture is the familiar curved reflector, updated to an orange-peel texture to help diffuse the LED sources used in the new Aura effect. In place of the 3000-watt Xenon flash tube sit 234 white Cree XPL LEDs rated for a total power of 740 watts. These are arranged in a line reminiscent of the traditional flash tube and they sit under an acrylic lens that resembles a long, clear cylinder that is cut width-wise down the middle. This lens acts as a beam spreader, and it is entirely responsible for the beam angle of the strobe; the large reflector on the face acts only to reflect the Aura LEDs.
It’s slightly misleading to compare the beam angles of the two Atomic fixtures, as their reflectors work in very different ways, with the original Atomics’ smooth curved reflector capturing much of the light that emanated from the rear half of the Xenon flash tube and directing it forwards. Here, the long semicircular lens that covers the primary LEDs reduces the bare die beam angle down to around 135º, which should accommodate most, if not all, users at any reasonable throw distance.
Of course, the most important number the end user is likely to consider (other than price) is the output, and the Atomic 3000 LED certainly performs. I measured a raw output of 3,300 lux at five meters. This is the typical brightness you will get from flashes, and most of the ensuing thermal drop happens over the course of approximately 20 seconds at full brightness, down to about 2,000 lux. I do not expect that thermal drop will be an issue in the intended usage of this product. To put these numbers into more practical terms, this fixture at least meets — or perhaps surpasses — the output of the original Atomic with a fresh lamp. The output is, in my opinion, quite respectable — particularly for an LED fixture replacing a bare arc lamp fixture. It is, simply put, painfully bright. The dimming had some noticeable stepping in the low end, but this is primarily an effects light, and I do not expect this to be objectionable in the context of the light’s intended usage.
Martin has also incorporated the Aura feature from some of their other products. As mentioned previously, the large reflector in the fixture does not interact with the primary white LEDs at all; its purpose is to reflect the Aura RGB LEDs, which line both the top and bottom edges of the fixture. The orange-peel texture of the reflector helps to catch and diffuse the light, causing the entire face of the fixture to glow when the Aura effect is active.
As implied in the name, this is primarily a strobe light. It performs this function well, with constant rate strobes from 0.2Hz to 16.6Hz, which matches the speeds of the older Atomic. Additionally, there are three modes in the light, including three and four-channel modes that also directly correspond to those modes in the original. This allows the user to substitute the LED version as a direct one-for-one replacement in a rig or programming that already has original Atomics specified. Included are the exact effects from the original, including ramps, random flashes, lighting and spikes. There’s also a mode that emulates the extremely fast “flicker” effect that the Xenon arc lamp had, which can be turned on or off via DMX.
The true power of the fixture is unlocked in the higher channel modes, as this allows full access to the Aura effect and its library of pre-programmed macros. Individual LEDs in the Aura are not addressable; instead, the user will need to use the built-in macros to get dynamic effects. The manual contains an index of available effects that the user can apply. Some of these use the colors that the user has selected, and others override the currently selected colors. Two other channels control the speed and offset of the effects, and by fanning (or aligning) the offset channel across multiple fixtures, you can achieve a variety of interesting visuals. There is a good selection of effects here — color chases, chases across the fixture, strobes and other macros. Martin has also included a mode called “House light mode,” accessible via the effects channel, which overrides the automatic blackout that normally happens with a DMX loss and allows the light to remain on to act as a work or house light. This mode lets an LD turn off their desk and start packing up while keeping some light on stage, which is a nice touch.
Another welcome feature is the built-in support for Atomic Colors scrollers. On each unit is a 4-pin connector for an Atomic Colors unit, which provides power and data pass through. This eliminates the need to use external PSUs and miles of 4-pin cable for a large rig of scrollers; the power and data are right there. When using scrollers, there is an optional (but recommended) “gel saver mode” in the menu system, which reduces the output slightly to help prevent gel burn-through if strobing for long durations.
The menu system is a standard monochrome display with three buttons on the back for addressing and setting modes. Martin has provided a DMX signal monitor accessible via the menu system on the rear of the fixture, allowing the user to view the DMX refresh rate, packet quality, start codes and the raw DMX values. This is an unusual but interesting feature, one that I haven’t seen on any other light that I’ve reviewed. The user can also turn off the DMX interpolation and “smoothing” that the fixture normally performs, which can be especially useful when using it in a video or pixel-mapped array.
The fixture weighs in at 17.2lbs (7.8kg) and power is via a Neutrik PowerCON True1 input, with 5-pin DMX in and throughs. Fan speed, by default, is thermostatically controlled, but the user can override this through the menu system. Note that the fixture will throttle its output to keep itself within thermal limits while maintaining the selected fan speed should the user choose these options. Like the Quantum range, firmware updates can be accomplished via a built-in USB outlet — no more hunting around for a loading device.
The Martin Atomic 3000 LED follows the legacy left by its predecessor and is a solid offering in the busy LED strobe market. Not just another block of pixels, it strives to fill a unique niche within the plethora of LED strobes and its brightness and feature set contribute to a solid offering from Martin Professional.
At a Glance
Similar, Yet Radically Different
The Atomic 3000 LED is a blend of a traditional strobe and LED technology. Capitalizing on the original Atomic 3000 - this version features identical functionality and behavior. It also includes a reflective aura effect.
Atomic 3000 LED Strobe
PROS: Extraordinarily bright, scroller power built in. Aura effect on reflector
- Classic Reflector Look
- Same Letterbox Shape/Industrial Design
- Aura Backlight (RGB) into Reflector
- Dimmable House-Light Function (at reduced brightness/power consumption)
- LED and Xenon mode available (via menu and DMX control channel)
- Ability to Use of Original Atomic Color Scroller (made easy w/ internal power and data supply)
- 4-Button Menu and LCD Display
- User-Friendly Rigging/Bracket Solution
- 4 Channel DMX Mode (as w/ Atomic 3000, for easy replacement)
- 14 Channel Extended DMX mode (w/ Aura control and internal FX macros)
- RDM Compatible USB Port (for software updates)
- Size (LxWxH): 9.7” x 16.8” x 9.5”
- Weight: 17.2 lbs.
- MSRP: $3,390
- Manufacturer: Martin Professional/Harman
More Info: www.martin.com