rfRemoTech 1 Cue Firing System
A look at the rfRemoTech 6th generation 1 cue Alpha Fire distributed firing system.
I’ve been using a set of four 1 cue systems for various small-scale pyro fun over the last 12 months or so. In this article I’ll run over what they’re used for, how they work and what their limitations are.
This review is of the “6th generation” version of this system which uses AAA batteries. A newer version – “X Series 9th Generation” – is now available which uses a single PP3 9v battery per unit. Please refer to the rfRemoTech main product page for further details.
Introduction and overview
Whereas a traditional consumer firing system such as Ignite has all of its cues (outputs to igniters) in one unit and you spread your fireworks out around it – limited in range from the system to your fireworks by your igniter wires or any extensions you run, this 1 cue system approaches things differently.
Here, you assign an individual and self-contained firing system – with one cue – to each firework. Now, your pyro can literally be placed anywhere because your firing system moves with the firework and you are only limited by the range of the remote control (which is significantly further than running bell wire can achieve – I could only get to 30m or so with my Ignite system).
I should at this point say that if you are a beginner with consumer firing systems please feel free to have a read over my introduction to remote firing guide which runs through the basics and explains what some of these terms mean.
Watch my video review of this system
If you prefer, you can watch my video review of this system below. Alternatively keep reading for my written review (which does contain a few additional points raised since the video) and my photos.
Reasons to use this system vs. traditional ones
If you are displaying in either a very long garden, or a large open field, the distances between some items of pyro can be quite large. This can create challenges if you want to fire items a long distance from your main system.
Although you can of course run bell wire to extend igniters, there is a physical limitation to this, about 30m or so when I tested this exact scenario out with my Ignite unit. At these longer distances you also increase the risk of items not firing. What if your battery is low on power, or cold? And although 30m sounds a long way, it’s much less “as the crow flies” if you’re weaving around garden fixtures!
Other solutions would be to invest in another main firing system – which might be overkill or too expensive for your budget – or to hand fire the distant items.
This is where the 1 cue system shines; just assign one of these to each of your remotely situated fireworks. Examples include strobes situated throughout your garden, lancework mounted high or in an awkward place to reach with a lighter or portfire, or fireworks you intentionally want closer to spectators such as F2 fountains or wheels.
Other uses for these systems are to fire stage pyro, airsoft items (ground maroons and other electrically detonated gear) and for body worn special effects like bullet hits. None of these are my speciality however and have not been tested by myself.
Reasons NOT to use this system vs. traditional ones
The main objection to investing in this system is if you’re only ever going to set your fireworks up in one place, around your firing system. Here, using 1 cue systems would be expensive per cue and a complete battery nightmare – each one needs 4 x AAA batteries. You’re much better off in these cases to use traditional systems like the DB04 family, or an Ignite.
Another thing that can rule this system out of being suitable is if you want to use Talon (clip-on) igniters. As I found in my field testing, this system could not reliably fire them, more on this later in the article.
As usual with a Chinese-sourced system, costs can vary widely. I’m a great proponent of buying from reputable UK-based firing system sellers because in the event of problems or defects they can replace the unit. This is far harder and costlier with a Chinese supplier. The costs of course are higher but remember that a cheap price from China quoted in USD could still be subject to conversion to sterling, VAT, import duty and postage – and potentially a very long delivery time.
At the time of writing, a UK-based seller has these for around £20 per unit without a remote control. A set of four with a four button remote costs around £72 and buying a full set of 12 is around £200. Note that prices for the newer 9th generation version of this system are likely to be higher.
So cue-for-cue this is more expensive than a traditional system but remember, these have a specific niche which is being distributed across individual units.
Measurements and remote controls
Being a single cue unit these are understandably small, at roughly 4.5cm x 5cm x 3cm (excluding terminals and aerial).
You can use a single button remote, a four button remote, or a 12 button remote to fire any number of systems individually or together by using the learn button. It’s simply a case of pressing and holding “learn” until the LED flashes and then pressing the remote button you wish to assign to that unit.
Despite being identical in looks, shape and design, I could not get any of my DB04 12 button remotes to pair with any 1 cue system. Similarly, none of my 1 cue remotes would pair with my DB04. So I would recommend buying a remote when you buy this sytem, from the same seller, to ensure it’s compatible.
Performance and problems with Talons
After receiving my units I spent a while pottering about letting off small consumer novelty items (as you do!). These have a standard visco delay fuse so I used clip-on Talon igniters. However I found that about half failed to ignite. This is unusual for me as I have had great success with Talons on my DB04 and more lately, my Ignite system.
Taking a closer look at this I found that the “fire” LED pulses very briefly on this unit compared to my DB04 and Ignite, a situation confirmed when I used a bulb as the igniter and saw the short pulse confirmed. You can see this for yourself in my video at the top of the page.
It is my opinion that this system is not suitable for use with Talon clip-on igniters due to the short pulse time which caused a significant number of mine to fail. The manufacturer’s website (at time of writing) does not state either way whether they think Talons should or should not work. I note however that their newer 9th generation system is listed as “More powerful, can fire 15 standard igniters at most in series connection, also can fire Nichrome Wires and reusable igniters.”
So if you specifically want a 1 cue system that can fire Talons, the newer system is perhaps the one to look at.
Another quirk of this system which might actually be appreciated by some as a safety measure, is that once you have fired the unit there is a delay of around 5 seconds before it will register another press of the remote control and fire again. Obviously under normal operation your pyro will have already fired! However if you intend to use this system to send a pulse to a sequencer or similar, you won’t be able to use the step features of such a system unless you have more than 5 seconds between each cue.
Similarly when you first switch the unit on, be aware of a delay of a similar time before it will allow you to fire. Again this is probably a safety delay allowing you to physically move away from the unit, but it’s important to note if you use this in areas other than consumer fireworks.
When comparing the pulse output of this system vs. a DB04 using a bulb, I first tried to fire both units together (using two different remote controls). When doing this, neither unit fired. It appears they could be jamming each other when used simultaneously. This isn’t something that affects many people, but be aware if you’re firing using multiple remote controls and intend to press buttons on different ones at the same time, you should do some checks beforehand to ensure it works!
Performance with ematches
No such problems with standard igniters which all fired fine. So those using ematches or stage pyro and the likes can be confident the unit should perform as expected.
But what if you wanted to fire multiple igniters? The manufacturer stated this unit can fire up to 2 in series, a UK seller said just 1, in both cases those web pages seem to have been removed since I bought this system to it’s down to me to test it out! (Note that rfRemoTech’s FAQ when talking about firing multiple igniters says to use a good quality 9v battery which relates to their new version of this system, so the claims of multiple igniters there won’t relate to this system).
I decided to start by firing 6 ematches and in parallel which is how I usually do this. This number is not scientific but rather relates to a pyro project I have on the go which requires 6 ematches to fire together; if I can achieve that with this unit it would be very handy!
6 would not fire at all however and the “fire” LED would not even light up. So I dropped down to 5 and that didn’t work either. Finally 4 did work! For good measure I also fired the remaining 2 together and these were fine also. Please see my video above if you want to see this in action for yourself.
I’ve enjoyed using this system and can see real-world benefits of assigning some of your display over to this, such as items a little too far away from your main group of fireworks. Also for those more awkward pieces mounted higher such as lancework.
And clearly this has plenty of use for special effects, stage pyro, paintball and similar activities where you want to detonate a single item remotely.
Yes, the Talon issue is a shame and I think in all honesty I would stick to firing just single standard igniters rather than risking multiples (or at least, do plenty of testing yourself). And it goes without saying this is not a good value way of firing remotely if you don’t need the distributed features.
But for its niche – a small, self-contained single firing unit for single standard igniters – this does exactly what it’s supposed to. Plus whether you order it from China or from a UK seller I think it’s good value too. However, I would definitely consider paying a little extra and buying the newer 9th generation model. It looks to have more power thanks to its 9v PP3.