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Robust Smoke Machines


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Hey all, 

I've been having a nightmare with our atmospherics hire stock and could use some advice. We do a lot of outdoors events so our smoke machines don't get very well looked after. Up until now my strategy has been to buy relatively cheap units (mostly Chauvet Hurricane) and treat them as semi-disposable but I'm starting to realise it's a false economy. The last batch had a 50% failure rate after doing maybe two events, and after having spend a considerable time repairing/cleaning them I've just prepped a job only to find a number of dead ones again! 

Does anyone have a recommendation for a smoke machine that will survive being outside in a dry box in all weather for several weeks at a time? Ideally one with multiple control options (timer/remote). I'm currently looking between the Antari IP rated ones and the Look Solutions units. 

Thanks, 

MixingWizard

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The only real “robust” machines are the old jem designs, now rebranded as Martin. I’ve seen those units dropping with water and dropped of the back of a lorry still working. Any of the modern drop ship brands (antari, chervut, etc) are designed to hit a price point not actual long term stability. 

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26 minutes ago, ImagineerTom said:

The only real “robust” machines are the old jem designs, now rebranded as Martin. I’ve seen those units dropping with water and dropped of the back of a lorry still working. Any of the modern drop ship brands (antari, chervut, etc) are designed to hit a price point not actual long term stability. 

Hmm, maybe used ZR45s are the way to go. I assumed Antari were fairly high end judging by the price point, but it's not a brand I'm familiar with. As far as I can tell they're the only people offering an IP rated one, but who knows under what condition they actually test that. 

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9 hours ago, ImagineerTom said:

The only real “robust” machines are the old jem designs, now rebranded as Martin. I’ve seen those units dropping with water and dropped of the back of a lorry still working. Any of the modern drop ship brands (antari, chervut, etc) are designed to hit a price point not actual long term stability. 

You say that, but my stock of Antari F7's are approaching 12 years old and they are all still going strong with regular outdoor festival work. Being self flight cased certainly helps, but I would consider that as being extremely robust! Sure, they build some tat, but they also build some really good kit.

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Jem/Martin machines are fine while they continue to work. Trying to get spare parts for them when they stop doing so, though, is a process which will make you want to punch through walls. LeMaitre, on the other hand - phone them up, tell them what machine you have and what's wrong with it, and get a part in the post a couple of days later (well, it certainly used to be like that - haven't been anywhere near the innards of a smoke machine for a good few years now, so can't speak for the current situation!).

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Posted (edited)

The Pea Soup machines are well built with good spares availability. They might feel a bit cottage industry compared to the gloss of a larger company, but I've had good experiences with them.

The Look Solutions machines are reliable and repairable, though not in a position now where I have to repair them, so can't comment on availability.

The old Jem/Martin machines are good, fairly simple, and work well until they don't, when they're usually repairable at a component level - if you can get the bits as Gareth highlights.

[Edit to add vaguely humorous anecdote]

In a previous job, some years ago, I contacted Le Maitre to ask what I could do about a whining hazer fan. Their response was "sometimes, a smart whack on the motor spindle with a hammer fixes it". To be fair, it did fix it for a month or two.

Edited by J Pearce
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Mid 90's I used to work for a small sound and light club install company near Martin when in Kent and one of our uses was refurbishing their old junk kit to be sold as B stock. IIRC the smoke machines were basically a PCB, pump and heater and entirely discrete components. I wasn't expected to fault find to PCB component level but retained the boards.

I used to swap parts around and make about 40% of them sellable as B stock, the biggest issues being the heater would block and the fluid used to destroy the powder or paint finish.

I'd repair the boards and we'd sell about another 25% as second hand which the mobile disco clan would snap up.

 

It wasn't that long ago I used the last of my spares I used to carry for site visits. I think I may have some stepper motors for the moving lights.

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Posted (edited)

I supplied a Le Maitre G300 to a long standing client a few years ago and it's still working fine, it gets abused as it's part of a travelling show and is used outdoors alot by very non technical people. It has a seriously impressive output. When I rang Le Maitre to ask if they were a current item (I ordered it from a distributor in the end) they offered to get the rep to call in with one to demo it when he was next passing, though i didnt take them up on it. 

It came in for repair after a couple of years after it fell out of the back of a Landrover Discovery and stopped working. The mains transformer had leapt out of the pcb and was a simple repair to solder back in.

Before the Le Maitre the client bought disposable disco machines from the local DJ shop which only worked for a single season.

Edited by KevinE
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Long time Jem / Martin fan, however there is a flaw with the pipework on the zr45, a company I freelance for probably stock over a hundred units yet have had to replace copper on pretty much all of them. Smoke factory / look solutions smokers have been solid and are my recommendation, the captain D / viper 2,6 / enterprise TC4 or spock is where I would put my money. I’ve mentioned the spaceball 2 before, amazing output for its size, for a 650w unit it’s got a cracking output, and will do continuous smoke below 50% output. 

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We had the zr44 and sold a bunch to a company doing smoke testing, they had a guy servicing them all the time, units running hours a pumping hours, usually not so much of an issue. 

The ZR45 poor guy lost his mind cause its cob controller not a component based one "old school get spare parts off cpc/rs etc"  and they were hacking them to a wireless controller etc etc. 

I have found JEM to be good for service, a few old hands there know the units in and out. The issue seems that you have to go the "right" way. Finding a number from an old email was frowned upon.

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  • 1 month later...

I've used a couple Antari Z1200 II's for over 12 years now and just today tested each one and they're still fully functional. Their M series are also very durable, really heavy housing and can take some weather. The older Hurricane 1300 series from Chauvet really do take some abuse also but the newer models like the 1600's and upwards have too many sensors in my opinion and are prone to shut down for silly little issues. Just my opinion.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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