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Used Pulsar Lighting desks - what are they worth?


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I have recently got my sticky mitts on a pair of Pulsar lighting desks - a Masterpiece 48 and a Masterpiece 108. Both seem to be in good order.


There don't seem to be any other desks that, judging by previous posts, provoke such an emotional response among those who have attempted to use them! (or even succeeded!!)


So the question is, do I hang on to them and attempt to get through the learning curve, or do I put them on Ebay - and then what are they worth?


(I have downloaded the manual, but it's a bit of a dog's breakfast - not an encouraging start...)


Any comments appreciated!! (but not if you work for Pulsar please, unless you're going to rewrite the manual ;) !!!!)

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Hi John,


Firstly I must admit I've got 2 Masterpiece 108s and 1 48, but wouldn't say I'm a fan. In some ways they're great, but a complete dog in others. I've not had much experience on other desks to compare.


Values - the 108 should reach around £300 and the 48 £150 (assuming it's got DMX out rather than just PMX).


Manual - I tried to teach myself when I got the first one, but really wasn't too successful, so did the training in Cambridge which was very helpful. I did both the beginners and advanced, then repeated it the next year as I'd not used it that much in the mean time! I'd definitely recommend taking the training if you decide to keep either desk. I'm only just up the road from you so let me know if you'd like an unofficial crash course.




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I use a Masterpiece 108 at least 4 times a week!

Masterpieces from the look of them, look all cool with the touch sensitive buttons but they do need a good few rounds on them to know what your actually dealing with. As I'm always on one, I find the board so easy to use to when initially I found it complicated, but it's made boards like Fat Frogs confusing for me!

Let me break it down:



The MP 108 is a great board for live bands and club lighting (what I use it for). Top of the Pops used to use to Masterpieces back in the early 90's for all their shows.

The board can hold alot of information: chases and programmes can be brought up via the touch of a button and the board can let you have many chases going on at the one time. It has a fantastic chase generator, probably the best part of the board, where you can set pacific attributes up with pacific chase modes and mix them together (good for pans and tilts creating ballyhoos, random output effects, cosine, sine waves etc).

Programming scenes and chases is fairly simple once you have mastered the pacific steps to take. It's also good for busking a live show where you could have some chase movements ready and mix them with a gobo selction or colour selection just by turning the buttons on with the chases.

It recognises DMX addressing so there is no fixture library to resort to.



Becuase it's a fairly small board with no real display and hold alot of different information it can get very confusing especially with over riding things. You need to think of it as a board within another board within another board.

It's not particularly useful for theatre as it's a completely different ballgame. Both preset A and B are in the same set of faders, most of the time if you are using scenes or environments as submasters with manual crossfading, you need to tell which button is what preset and then use the preset faders to crossfade. That or using the top faders corrosponding to the button below it which in turn is using the same faders as if you were using for manual control.

Manual control is another nippy thing about the board as if you are over riding channels manually, that channel will not work if it's been programmed in a scene until it has been manually 'reset'.

Unlike say a Fat Frog where you can bring up the pan and tilt of a moving light and make it move by adding a shape and speed, you can't with the MP. You need to have the attributes for pan and tilt initially programmed into seperate scenes (eg s1.1 - pan 100%, s1.2 - tilt 100%) and then programme them into a chase button/s.

It's not exacty designed to be abused in places like nightlubs where drinks might get pored on it. It's happened many a time with me and all the buttons just interact with one another causing pandamoium.




After all this I can say that I know the board pretty well and personally like it (I'd like to say love but that's going a bit too far) but it's flawed me into thinking that other boards I use are alot more difficult becuase the structure of the information in the board is totally different.

It depends on what you're using them for as well. If you're going to be doing alot of theatre work and need to feel comfortable with outputs, manual situations, submasters etc then think about gettin another board.

If they work and you're using them for a nightclub (flawed design) or bands, then it's a great board for the amount of effects you can hold on them and just simply turn on at a push of a button.

But there is many a people who will say to stay clear of Masterpiece or 'disaster pieces' as I've heard just because of the vast amount of 'scratching your head' moments.


I think if you were to buy a new MP 108 today, you'd still be looking at about £1,200ish?? On ebay you'd find them between £200 and £600


Any other info or anything to ask just PM me your situation.



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Oh, and if you do intend to keep them check to see which version of the software you have, and if their not running the latest version UPGRADE! Because if you are doing band / disco work, the 'chase gererator' alone will save you loads of time (the upgrade is also free from pulsar, if you return the old EPROM). I also found the training course very useful, and the manual useless :)
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Thanks Mark, Jamie & Simon - I appreciate your views, and consequently will hang on to these desks for a while and devote some time to attempting to get to grips with them.

(BTW - I know the 108 has a Chase generator, does the 48 also have this feature ? (Sorry to ask but I haven't had time to hook it up yet!))



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Some points for enjoyable Masterpieceness....


Write out the program sheets as you program. Yes it's tedious, but will save you loads of grief in the long run.


Use the scene pages to group like for like attributes / fixtures.


I've been in loads of clubs where there have been no program record sheets and the desk has been layed out with stuff all over the place - nightmare!


Good housekeeping at all times.


The chase generator is fantastic. Saves loads of time and scene space. Understand (by experiment) how the chase types work with various attributes.


I always program a 'manual' control scene...a scene where you have quick and easy access to whatever attributes you think you might to want play with (over the top of something else). Such as shutters, colour and gobo for groups of fixtures; strobe rates - but all on one scene.


If you have a large number of Pans and Tilts, then group them together to save lots of 'output page select' pressing.

It sounds like an obvious thing to do - but so many programmers don't.


The key is to lay the desk out in a logical ordered fashion - but also In a way that suits exactly how you want to program. And you wont know that until you get your hands dirty and try some different ways of working.








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I totally agree with everything that Andy has said.


The chase generator is fantastic because you could programme many different moving sequences just through the use of 1 pan scene and 1 tilt scene. However just remember not to programme over these other wise every chase will be what has now been programmed for those scenes!


Couple of tips:


Like what Andy has said, have a layout of 'pallettes' for your movers by having say S1.1 - intensity, S1.2 - gobo wheel, S1.3 - color wheel etc or lay out all the fixtures sttribute features in one scene (eg S2.1 - all gobo 1, S2.2 - all gobo 2 etc)


Another thing that I do with the chase generator is using say a whole chase page like C1 and dividing it in half - so from C1.1 - C1.9 you have all pan types mirrored with all tilt types from C1.10 - C1.18 so you can mix and match different pans with different tilts.


When using say parcans with the chase generator you could have all your parcans in just one scene and still chase all the parcans by going through the chase types and this will then individually configure each channel in the scene like 'random 1' and 'cosine'.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm happy to report that, having now had a couple of weeks to play with the MP 108, I definitely think this is a great desk - took a while to get my head round the 'modular programming' concept, but it's a very powerful idea, particularly if you take the time to map out all the necessary DMX values as percentages for accurate input. (I used a spreadsheet!). That way, you can really cut down on the number of scenes you need e.g. 6 scenes can give you 10 solid colours and 10 splits at your fingertips, just by using 3 base value scenes plus 3 incremental value scenes.

Shame the desk doesn't display DMX values , that would be really handy. (If someone knows how to make it do this, please let me know!)


The PMX to DMX patching facility is pretty much essential, shame the 48 doesn't do this, it's a major limitation.


I also like the chase generator very much - what a space saver, and some wonderful effects.


So I'm going to keep the 108 but I'll probably put the 48 on ebay in a couple of weeks.


All I need now is a monitor interface...

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Going to keep this post short as I've posted about Masterpieces in the past, good desk if you can get your head round the completely (and I mean completely) different way of working to other desks, then they are more than usable. My biggest problem with them is that everything runs HTP, fine for a beginner but if you've ever worked with any other desk which which works with LTP parameters then it's a backwards learning curve. Even worse if your used to a tracking console!


I have to confess though that I haven't used one since the chase generator update was made.....I'd like to think that helps but I've no idea!


All it boils down to for me is if it's a choice between a Frog or a Pearl (or for that matter pretty much any other desk on the market) they would win hands down over a Masterpiece! But it's horse's for course's!

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All it boils down to for me is if it's a choice between a Frog or a Pearl (or for that matter pretty much any other desk on the market) they would win hands down over a Masterpiece! But it's horse's for course's!


Well, if someone out there would sell me a Mambo Frog for £250.... :(

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