4 Cue Firing System

Published May 27th, 2011. Filed in: Reviews & Product Tests

When the Bright Spark firing system first arrived on the market many years ago UKFR readers noted the potential for units using the consumer style clip on igniters, but wished the systems were a little more robust and – with no disrespect to the Bright Spark unit – a little more professional. The Launch Kontrol unit which followed was a vast improvement and it allowed additional base stations to be fired independently from one remote.

But the really exciting evolution in consumer firing systems seems to be happening right now. It is the separation of the igniters, specially designed to clip on to the fuse on your fireworks, from the firing system itself. This is opening the door for what I would describe as “hybrid” firing systems: A professional style firing system but with the easy to use, safe, clip on igniters. Unlike the Bright Spark and Launch Kontrol systems which use proprietary igniters based on a ribbon cable and plug, these newer systems use the standard terminals seen on professional systems and igniters which are available individually and are system independent.

The 4 cue remote firing system from Wireless Fireworks – retailing at £37.49 with batteries (£34.99 without) – is the first such unit to arrive at UKFR so I headed down to the bottom of the garden to test it out.

 

The 4 cue system

This is a wireless system so the kit comprises of a base station which your igniters are connected to and a separate remote control.

Wireless Firing System

The 4 cue wireless firing system and remote control

You will note from the image above that the terminals are standard slot in ones, so there is no reliance now on specially made ribbon cables or igniters. In fact the retailer advises this unit will fire not just the consumer clip-on igniters but also their special igniters for quick match and standard igniters (which are used professionally) too.

This system itself is very simple to use. There is a power switch on the base unit and another on the side of the remote.

 

The consumer igniters

With this unit being aimed at consumers I’ll focus solely on the consumer igniters supplied with it. These are essentially plastic crocodile clips on the end of a wire and you attach them to the external green safety fuse on your fireworks. Importantly, no fuse cutting or modification is required and this, for me, is essential with systems aimed at the general public who might have no previous experience with fireworks or fusing.

The other end of the igniter slots into the terminals on the base unit as shown below:

Remote Firing System

Connecting the igniters is easy. 1 & 2: Remove the pre-cut insulation from the end. 3 & 4: Insert into the terminals.

Various lengths of igniter are available ranging from 1m to 5m. However since these can be extended yourself using extra wire and connectors (both available from Wireless Fireworks) the sky really is the limit.

 

A note about wiring

I had no problems connecting the igniters up, either to the firework’s fuse or to the base station. My only observation after taking the photographs above was that I’d been a bit messy with the wiring, a consequence of a background in consumer fireworks rather than with professional systems.

Andy P, a professional firer and moderator in our forum helpfully explains: “It’s obviously vital that none of the bare wires are able to touch any of the others, as that would either stop an igniter firing, or may even cause more than one igniter to fire at once unexpectedly.

“It’s very handy that the insulation has been pre-cut as shown below, so you can just pull it off to expose the bare wires:

Igniter Wiring

“You may be tempted to put them straight into the connectors just like that (as Pyro Pete did in the photos above). But with those wires so close together it’s quite easy for them to touch together if the cable is dragged sideways at all, like this:

Fireworks Igniter

“Probably the best way to make it neater and safer is to split apart the first inch or two of the insulated part of the “figure-of-8″ igniter cables, using your thumbnail as shown in images 1 and 2 below. Then trim down the exposed part of the wire, or just fold it in half to make it shorter as shown in image 3. Now, when you put the wires into the connector blocks, it all fits neatly and no part of the bare wire will be left exposed (image 4):

Fireworks Igniter Wiring

“Just as importantly, you should also make sure that the metal part of the connectors are actually pressing on the bare wire and not the insulation, so they make a good electrical connection.”

Many thanks Andy for these useful tips.

 

The unit and igniters in action

After connecting the igniters to the fireworks (or in my case, some test lengths of green visco fuse) and to the base unit it was time to power everything on. The base unit has LEDs which light up green where an igniter is connected to show there is a circuit. The aerials were extended and then a test fire was made. This was simply a case of pressing 1, 2, 3 or 4 on the remote and the corresponding igniter fired almost immediately. Despite the rather thick visco being used during this test (much thicker than the usual fuse found on consumer fireworks) all of the fuses ignited during testing.

This system also allows for quick sequential firing by pressing number 12 on the remote. This is arguably useless with consumer fireworks since you are only igniting the safety fuse on the fireworks which will still burn with some delay and is therefore aimed at professional set ups. However the option to fire all of the four cues at once (pressing number 11) will come in handy for those of you wanting to let off everything together, maybe for your finale.

Firework Igniters

A sequence of shots showing the ignition of a green visco fuse from these clip on igniters

There were no problems with range in the back garden so I took the unit out to an open space to try a line of site range test. The unit operated perfectly at 25m, 50m, 75m and at 100m it was still working. At that point I was so far away from the base station I couldn’t imagine any practical use for the system so far from the fireworks so didn’t test the range any further.

 

System expansion

Although not tested for this article, Wireless Fireworks have confirmed this system is fully expandable by adding additional 4 cue units. This gives the possibility of creating an 8 or 12 cue system for example. Or, you can synchronise the base units to fire together. So pressing 1 on the remote could fire cue 1 on two or three base units. That’s great news for multiple firing across your display area. Dan at Wireless Fireworks advises me that he’ll be producing some video tutorials on how to do this in the coming months.

 

Comparison to Launch Kontrol

At the time of writing the Launch Kontrol system (standard or pro) retails for around £20 and in the standard set up gives up to 5 cues and includes 15 igniters. In comparison the 4 cue system on test retails for £37.49 including batteries but excluding any igniters.

Whilst on paper the 4 cue system does look quite a bit more expensive there are some important differences between the two systems. The 4 cue system is radio controlled, not infrared like the Launch Kontrol. It means the base station on the 4 cue unit will happily sit in long grass or – even better for November – inside some waterproofing. In other words you do not need to ensure you have a line of sight path between the remote and the base station.

Launch Kontrol uses special ribbon cable based igniters whereas the 4 cue system uses individual igniters. The individual ones offer more flexibility in terms of site set up, not least because they come in lengths up to 5m and can be extended using extra wire. Although extension is possible with Launch Kontrol you would need to make two sets of joins per igniter pair. Launch Kontrol igniters work out to about 67p per firework which is very reasonable. The igniters being sold by Wireless Fireworks for the 4 cue system range from 40p down to 28p for 1m lengths (depending on quantity) up to 92p/74p for 5m lengths.

The 4 cue system can have multiple igniters per cue, connected in series. Due to time constraints this feature was not tested for this article however.

 

Verdict

The 4 cue system will introduce you to the benefits of a professional system – namely the radio rather than infrared remote and the individual igniters – without costing too much.

I really enjoyed using it. It was simple and worked well. In fact it has made me somewhat of a convert now from portfires to remote firing. It is such a safe way of lighting fireworks but even better is the fact you can stand with the audience and watch them all go off.

For general consumer use for small numbers of cues I’d expect Launch Kontrol to be favoured thanks to its unbeatable value at around £20 including igniters. On the other hand if you have specific set ups where the radio ignition of the 4 cue unit would be preferable – for example where you can’t get line of sight between the remote and base unit – or where you’d prefer the flexibility of individual igniters, the 4 cue system is well recommended as an alternative.

 

Further information

  • 4 cue firing system: £37.49 with batteries, £34.99 without.
  • Available from Wireless Fireworks who also have a number of related video clips showing these systems in action.
  • Uses radio rather than infrared with a range in excess of 100m during testing.
  • Can fire multiple igniters per cue (not tested).
  • Expandable by adding additional systems for independent or synchronised firing (not tested).
  • Igniters from 28p upwards depending on length and quantity.

If you are looking for a larger system then see our review of their 12 cue unit.

With thanks to Wireless Fireworks for the review unit and the professional team at Firework Emporium for the visco fuse used to test it.

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