4 Cue Firing System UK Review
After over a year testing these to destruction, time for a review of my DB04r!
I’ve been happily using – and stress testing – my two humble DB04rs since the middle of last year. If I’m honest, I expected the worst from such cheap systems and that I’d be reviewing these as a warning not to buy them.
But I was proved wrong. In one of the biggest surprises to me in the last 12 months, these two little boxes of remote firing fun have not put a foot wrong. And believe me I’ve tried my hardest to trip them up!
So I figured it was time to put my thoughts to paper so to speak with an official review.
It is important to stress this review relates only to the specific system featured in these photos which has the “Sunshine” logo and is the latest generation DB04r. I am aware of many different versions of these systems including ones with switches in different places.
Other 4 cue units may therefore function differently, have differing programming modes or would have performed better or worse in the various testing I have done. The cheaper versions on Ebay, for example, lack the ability to program each cue independently.
The DB04r main features
With the disclaimer above out of the way (though take note of it, there are various differing units out there!), let me summarise the main features:
- Price from UK retailers typically £25-£35.
- 4 cues (outputs to igniters).
- Compatible with Talon igniters.
- Each cue can fire multiple igniters (note: Talons must be fired in parallel configuration).
- Significant range with the 12 button remote featured here (>200m at which point I gave up).
- Requires 4 x AA batteries; if supplied ditch the free ones and buy Energizer or Duracell.
- A variety of remotes available, from 1 to 12 buttons. See important safety notes below. Investing in the 12 button remote (£10-ish) is recommended.
- Flexible and easy programming – fire individual cues, multiple cues, all cues or pair cues across other DB04rs.
- Expandable by adding more systems as required (though battery overhead can become impractical).
At its most basic then, the DB04r can fire up to four fireworks since it has four cues (outputs to igniters). It is worth me saying at this stage that if you’re unfamiliar with any of the terms used in this review, check out my beginner’s guide to remote firing.
However, you can connect multiple igniters per cue if you want to fire multiple items at the same time. The system works with both Talon (clip-on igniters) and standard ematches.
A variety of remote controls are available for this unit. It is important to buy your remotes from the same seller and ideally bundled with the unit; I have found that none of my rfRemoTech remotes (a separate 1 cue system in this case) pair with my DB04r despite looking identical.
The remote control above left is a 12 button remote which I purchased with the unit. The four button remote shown is typical of remotes sold with DB04r systems if you buy single units.
I strongly recommend buying a 12 button remote control with an on/off switch, even if you’re only starting with one DB04r. This is because it allows you to easily expand your system later by adding a further two DB04rs to give you 12 cues, without needing to buy additional remotes.
It is also a lot safer in my opinion than the four button remotes which I find plasticky, too small and potentially risky when sliding back the protective cover. I explore this more in my remote control problem article.
The 12 button remote – when purchased with a genuine system – has the advantage of a physical on/off button too.
If you buy a cheaper system your 12 button remote may not have this switch; beware in that case as once the battery is in, the buttons are permanently live.
As is often the case with these systems, four free AA batteries are usually supplied and they’re typically unbranded or generic batteries. Throw these in the bin and invest in good quality branded batteries. I have been using AA Energizer batteries and they have performed well for me.
Using, programming and expanding your DB04r
As it happens I have written my own DB04r 4 Cue Online Manual. This goes into much more detail about setting up, using and reprogramming your DB04r and is a highly recommended read.
For the rest of this review I will focus on my subjective experiences from using this system.
Performance and reliability: A year later
My first stress testing of this unit occurred when I switched a unit on and off 1000 times. This was in response to an issue reported in my Fireworks Forum where a unit (exact brand unknown) fired its cues when switched on, a potentially dangerous incident. It passed this test with flying colours.
Next, I wanted to investigate potential failure points with igniters. This is because Forum members each year report a few items not firing across various firing systems and igniter types and I wanted to try and investigate this a bit more scientifically. Again, my DB04r performed flawlessly, igniting every single igniter (>100 in all), albeit under controlled conditions.
Following these in-depth tests, I have since used my DB04r for a variety of firing, including the staging of miniature pyro:
I make no secret of the fact that I was expecting this cheap and cheerful system to break down, fail or do something really unsafe. The 4 cue systems in general are really looked down upon by some firework enthusiasts.
But over a year later and it has continued to punch above its weight. Stick it in a cheap “Really Useful Box” (see the manual, linked to above, for more info) and you have a system that stands a chance against UK weather. Run bell wire and you can extend your igniters. Use ematches or Talons singly or in multiples. Pair DB04rs together to fire pyro at the same time from two units. It really is a very flexible system.
Of course, we are all spoiled now by app controlled systems such as IGNITE with a whopping 18 cues, though a correspondingly higher price tag. Consider this though: Even the IGNITE app in free firing mode won’t allow multiple cues or “fire all”.
And no, I wouldn’t use this professionally. But as a back garden unit and for general messing about, with the scope to expand it and fire your first small shows remotely, before going up the ladder to bigger systems, this is perhaps the best value firing system on the market.
9/10: Cheap, reliable, expandable and an ideal remote firing starter system.