Lighting dimmers. Everyone needs a few in their kit. You can buy ’em pre-made and robust, or you can DIY them if you are handy. There are even mini in-line dimmers for use in practical fixtures (no cord!). But one of the most affordable dimmers I turn to for tungsten lamp dimming is the Harbor Freight Router Speed Control. At just $20 from your local cheap tool supply, this thing is a no-brainer.
For starters, it’s got an on/off switch. This is very handy for lights that have no power switch, like the incredible Source Four leko, or those fancy new Quasar Science LED tubes that the kids are talking about. The other side of the power switch is a variable dimmer setting, which gives you between roughly 20%-100% of dimming control. It’ll handle up to 1000w, is rated for 15 amps, and has a fuse in case you manage to screw something up.
The only real downside that I have found with these units is that when dimming it may emit a small buzzing noise under high load. Generally this occurs when dimming lights over 650 watts or so. For instance, I get a low buzz when dimming 750w lekos, and it grows a little louder with 1000w heads. But the buzz level at 750w is not at all objectionable for sound recording as long as you’re not right on top of the mic with it…to be honest, most rooms are louder than the noise it emits under medium loads. For smaller loads like Quasar tubes and small tungsten fixtures, you won’t get any buzz at all.
However, these Harbor Freight dimmers won’t dim a Quasar tube all the way down…you only get about 50% dimming range on the tubes. So for Quasar tubes (both 4ft and 2ft tubes), I have been using these Leviton 300-watt lamp dimmers on Amazon. They cost around $14 each, and work great with Quasar tubes, giving you full range of dimming in a small package. You’ll need to add a ground-lift adapter (a “cheater”) as the Quasar power leads are a three-prong plug, and these dimmers are two-prong.
So pick up a few of these dimmers for your kit.