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New guy, first post, probably not a new question!


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Merry Christmas from Speedway, Indiana, home of the Indy 500! I'm looking to get started on this hobby and have a couple basic questions. I'm hoping for a couple simple answers so that I can make a decision if this is the expandable system for me.

1. If I get the 16channel starter kit, can I later use it for the LED ribbons, or will it only control old school lights?

2. Can I use my own music? I don't mind taking time to work thru the programming/sequencing....I've got a relatively high pain tolerance as long as the software is intuitive. I would prefer using my own songs.

3. Is the mini-director worth the upgrade on the starter kit?

4. I have a variety of music sources, amps, stereos, wireless speakers....what do you all like to use with starter kits?

I know that may be vague, just looking for some basic info from current users. Seems like a neat hobby, thanks again for looking and have a great holiday season!

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Hi and welcome aboard.

This is my first year as well and I am still getting my feet wet.


1) The 16 channel will work with old school lights only. You will need the CMB24D to do DUMB LED/RGB's.

2) Yes you can use your own music.

3) Not sure... I am using a PC to am AMP with external speakers for now.



I have 2 CMB24D's running and 1 CTB16PC running so far.

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#3, the Director is a great investment if you have no dedicated computer you can run the show on.   It is also a great investment if you have no way to get cat5 cables or speaker cables from the computer inside to the outside of your house, as then it can be in its own box, and if you get an FM Transmitter, and the box is large enough, it can hold the Director and the FM Transmitter, as the Director can be directly connected to transmitter inside the box.   It's how i did it for 3 years, now using a computer because you actually have more flexibility and options with using a computer over a Director.  BTW: You could also purchase 2 ELL's and use them to eliminate the cat5 cables from the show computer to the outside, but that's going to cost twice what a Director would.


It all hinges on what your needs are for running the show and how you have to run your cat5 cabling to controllers from a USB485 dongle inside the house/garage connected to the Show Computer, or directly from a Director unit that can be outside.


And if you don't want outside speakers, but still want walkers, bicyclists to be able to hear the music, a cheap radio found in most thrift stores for $5-$10 in a wooden box made to look like a gift or just covered in a large plastic trash bag works wonders, but you have to have an FM transmitter to make this work.


Also, don't buy the Whole House Transmitter, just about everyone here will tell you to go with something better than it.   I'll leave those recommendations for the transmitter up to other folks here.  The one I use isn't available any longer, otherwise I'd recommend the one I use currently that I've been using for 5 years now.

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Thanks all, I ordered the 16 channel starter set today. I know it's late but I already have my lights up so I'll add the controller and see what happens! Sound will take some doing, just wanting so get started so I can be well prepped for next year. No expectations :)

More questions presenting themselves.....I need to find a sticky of terms and definitions and places to shop! All I have ever done is basic lights, no tunes, no fades or anything. Mega tree? Singing tree? And most displays seem to have 6-12 small trees....definitely want to use those as I enjoy keyboards/piano segments that I see in your videos! Are those bought assembled or are you all building those?

Any info or guidance is appreciated, or pointers on where to look! Thanks again

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You build the mini trees, a tomato cage upside down works great. Just wrap the lights around the cage and connect with small tie wraps. I built my mini trees out of 1/2" square tubing I made a jig and welded them.  We have a wind problem in New Mexico, so heavier is better. Each tree has 300 LED mini lights (very bright!) 

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To start learning "how to" for displays, go to planetchristmas.com Join for free and then, from the homepage, click on "magazine" to learn all sorts of display tricks and help building displays. The magazine is on-line only, and you can read back issues.

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  • 2 weeks later...

To get my music to cars driving by on my street, I purchased the Whole House FM Transmitter 3.0.  The transmitter plugs into the speaker port of my laptop, using a 3.5 mm audio cable.  You broadcast music playing on your PC/laptop to an FM station you select on the transmitter.  This requires that you find an unused FM station in your area (www.radio-locator.com) The only issue for me was that the FM signal was not strong enough to reach the street from my home office that is in the back of my house.  When I put the FM Transmitter in a front window, the problem was solved.  However, I have to keep my laptop in my home office, so I purchased 150' of 3.5mm audio cable to run to the front room over doorways (50ft of 3.5mm Stereo Plug/Plug M/M Cable - Black, from www.monoprice.com, costs $2.33/50', so it cost me $6.99 total ) .


There is a means to increase the Whole House FM Transmitter 3.0's broadcast distance from its standard 150' to 600'.  To do this, hold down  the Cycle button while then simultaneously holding down on the Mute button.  A lightning bolt will appear in the transmitter's screen, indicating it will broadcast the signal 600'


I'd suggest doing getting and testing the transmitter as an early first step.  Your light show will not be what you want without people hearing your music.  Debug your method of broadcasting early, then you don't have to think about it until near Christmas.




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