A quick look at the iLightz

I haven’t been looking forward to writing this review. The iLightz is a very strange machine.

iLightz-Box-LR

Let’s get the ball rolling with some good things. The impressive packaging will be a great hit with retailers – excellent shelf presence. If you have an iPod, then the iLightz really makes your life easy. It provides a dock with recharging capability, and allows control of iPod volume from the console.

 iLightz-LR

The design of the unit is probably its most distinctive feature. If you like the ice-blue look, then you’ll love it. Unlike any other machine I’ve used, it is designed to sit nicely on a flat surface, with nice grippy little feet. Unfortunately mine doesn’t quite sit flat and wobbles when using the controls.

The control layout is good, however the hard plastic buttons rattle around and getting a good, positive press isn’t so easy. The central select button often catches when holding the up/down buttons and jumps you back one menu level (a real pain when scrolling through the session list). The select button is also the power on/off, and you only have to look at it sideways to turn the unit on – very touchy and a good way of finding yourself with flat batteries.

The iLightz comes with an AC adapter – kudos for supplying the right pin configuration for NZ. There’s no printed manual (downloadable PDF only) and obviously they expect that you’ll be using your iPod earphones, as none are supplied.

The omission of a printed manual is a grave matter, as the user interface is bizarre beyond belief. I’m not even going to try to elaborate on its features, as I’m not at all sure I have managed to fathom some of its intricacies.

There’s a spectacular selection of sessions, 50 with the Standard and 25 more with the Pro, written by Christopher Oliver and Michael Landgraf. As near as I can tell, the sessions are well designed, and as far as the iLightz can render them, effective. There’s also a user mode and an “autopilot” mode that creates a unique random session within your choice of delta, theta, alpha, beta or gamma. The inclusion of gamma sessions is a bonus, and the Mood Brightener/Seasonal Affective Disorder session rocks!

The audio is uninspiring. I have to assume that they expect the main audio to come from the iPod, with the iLights just contributing a simple beat.

iLightz-Glasses-Back-LRiLightz-Glasses-Front-LR

The Pro version comes with RGB Color Matrix TM glasses. On paper these seem like a very good thing. In practice, they need work. Of all the glasses I’ve used, these are the flimsiest and most uncomfortable – one has to wonder when a pair of spare arms is included. The glasses use a single RGB LED module with a clear concave lens for each frame. The result is effectively a point source, and unless your interocular distance is just right, you’ll have difficulty getting even illumination of both eyes – I have to perch the glasses a little way down my nose and slightly cocked left. Once suitably placed, the effect is quite pleasing. Sadly, the color control is a little behind the state of the art. You can pick any single colour from the RGB gamut, or you can select one of the color matrix modes, where the colour changes according to the frequency band of the session segment. It is by no means a true full-color device.

A nice feature, given that the Color Matrix glasses use a proprietary plug and socket, is the inclusion of a standard 3.5mm socket that works fine with any common power (CP) glasses. I almost invariably use a pair of MindPlace red/green or red/blue glasses when using the iLightz – much brighter and more even. [Update: The preset sessions are excellent when viewed with single color glasses, such as those that come with the standard iLightz, or the MindPlace Amber glasses I’ve been using – the left/right mapping of the two channels leads to some striking effects.]

Instead of Audiostrobe, the iLightz uses Turbosonix. I should have ordered some Turbosonix CDs when I purchased the iLightz, but I was under the impression that my Audiostrobe CDs would work just fine. As it turns out, some are okay and others are not. Using Neuroprogrammer or Mind Workstation, the AS levels have to be set very high to get pleasing results.

The iLightz is user programmable via the console – no PC editor required or available. Slow, painful, and very messy if you get a step wrong. A programming worksheet is included in the manual, and using it (or a spreadsheet equivalent) is a must. One nice little programming feature is the phase control, represented as a four quadrant block, whereby you can set the left/right/sound/light phase for some interesting effects. Apparently sessions can be downloaded via the USB port, but I have not tried this myself.

I’ve spoken before about how some products reflect the mindset of the designer, and I’m sure the iLightz seems to be a great idea to its designer, but for some reason or other, I just can’t get my head around it. This machine will do the job just fine – a beat and a strobe is all that’s required. If you’re an iPod aficionado, then there’s an obvious incentive to go with the iLightz, but failing that, I’m not quite sure why you’d choose it over other similarly priced machines.

Cheers,
Craig

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