This is only a starting-point of course, there are countless others and there are new ones emerging every year. These are ones we have personally used and recommend (with a few exceptions marked with *). We will try to keep this list updated over time.
Updated July, 2021
This is the outstanding open-source light sequencing software used by almost everyone to run pixel light shows. It is available for all computer platforms. For Macs- download it from the App Store.
FalconPlayer, formerly Falcon Pi Player, is a show-runner/scheduler used by most to run their light shows. It runs on Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone SBC (Singe Board Computers). xLights can “talk” to it to upload controller data, playlists, sequences, and media. It is managed through an easy-to-use Web Interface.
Firmware to build entry-level WIFI pixel controllers using cheap NodeMCU/ESP hardware. If you don’t mind soldering and compiling code (for the newest features)- this is a great way to get started. Released versions come as a Java flash utility- so no compiling necessary. You can run ESPixelStick on ESPixelStick hardware, or roll your own using D1 Mini, ESP-12 (ESP8266), or ESP-32 (compiling newest beta build required) microcontrollers.
It is important to note that working with ESPixelStick and similar software/hardware solutions generally involves some knowledge of microcontrollers, like Arduino and similar boards. It’s easy to learn, but if you are uncomfortable dealing with computers or electronics- you may want to look for pre-built controller solutions like those from Kulp or Falcon (below).
If you are looking for an inexpensive controller solution, especially to get started, that doesn’t involve soldering, you can buy pre-built ESPixelStick hardware on Amazon…
WLED is a great all-in one pixel controller, built on ESP/Node MCU hardware, similar to ESPixelStick. It has many more features than ESPixelStick for running as a stand-alone controller (with a large included library of effects), but also has more overhead when running as as show controller. It is very easy to install using distribution binaries, and very easy to configure and update over-the-air.
Similar to ESPixelStick (above), if you aren’t comfortable dealing with the “nitty gritty” of computers or electronics- I recommend you look at pre-built controllers like those below from Falcon or Kulp.
Controllers and Hardware Vendors
Falcon is one of the largest and oldest manufacturers of LED pixel control boards. I don’t personally run their controllers (just their differential receivers), but they are one of two I recommend looking at. The other one is…
Kulp is one of the leading manufacturers of LED pixel control boards. I use Kulp boards for most of my display. Kulp has the advantage in that their controllers are “capes” driven by Beaglebone SBCs running FPP. Daniel Kulp is also one of the primary developers working on FPP. So- Kulp controllers are an ideal stand-alone solution.
Another vendor of pixel control boards and accessories. They are in Australia, so shipping times can be a bit longer (but much-much shorter than Chinese suppliers). He has very well-built products, and the exchange rate makes them very reasonable for US customers. I buy differential boards and some accessories from him.
Outstanding US vendor of pixels, pixel supplies, accessories, and controller hardware. Excellent customer service. Very fast shipping. I highly recommend them. They sell Kulp controllers, and are a great source if Daniel’s own store is sold out.
Another great source of pixel supplies and accessories at reasonable prices. One I wish I had found earlier in this hobby!
Great source for PSUs, power distribution, and their specialty- wireframe props! This is another vendor I wish I had known about when I was getting started. They have combo power distribution boards with differential receivers that I plan to make heavy use of in the future.
One of the cheapest sources for Mean Well PSUs. Also carries power distribution boards and kits, and splicing PCBs.
Popular controller, floodlight, and pixel source. Comes highly recommended.
Generally pixel controllers and some of the more specialized hardware are not available from them, or are very expensive compared to the above vendors. Amazon often has better pricing on commodity items like power supplies, connectors, and wire. They are also a good “in a pinch” source of pixels if you need them in a hurry and can’t wait on an order from China. Amazon probably has the best return policies as-well.
I use Amazon Associate links to help support my hosting costs for this site. While I encourage everyone to look to a variety of vendors for the best prices, using links like the one below helps support this site.
Venerably eBay is a great source for things like connectors and wire. I always check their pricing, especially when buying anything in larger quantities. Keep an eye on the actual source and shipping information though- eBay has a lot of Chinese suppliers, and you can often get better deals on the same stuff from…
AliExpress is the retail side of Alibaba, essentially Chinese Amazon. I buy almost all of my pixels from one vendor there:
They are inexpensive and their quality has been great, and if you buy in larger quantities they have free or low-cost rush shipping via DHL or UPS. Most of my orders have arrived within a couple of weeks. I’ve had a very-very low failure rate, less than 1 per 1000 overall.
There are many-many pixel vendors on AliExpress, including several others that sell “Bluebell” pixels. The latter seem to be of similar quality regardless of who you buy them from. There are a few “big-name” vendors there you will find highly-recommended by others: Ray Woo, Paul Zang, and Daniel Zhang. I personally don’t buy from them because they focus on 12v higher-quality pixels, and I’m happy with inexpensive 5v ones. In any case- I recommend you shop around for prices, and I recommend buying a small quantity first so you can check out the quality, before diving in with an order for 1000s.
Beware Chinese holidays, or a better term would be “festivals”. Some of these are from 5-8 days long, and generally NOTHING gets done during them. These can delay orders for 1-2 weeks. Most of them are based on the lunar calendar and the dates change every year.
For more info:
Boscoyo is one of the oldest and largest “coro” prop vendors out there. They also sell pixel strips, matrix grids, and many other accessories. I’ve bought all of my strips and props from them so-far.
Another outstanding player in the “coro” prop market. I haven’t ordered from them yet, but they come very-highly recommended, and I plan to get some props from them for next year’s (2021 as of this writing) show.
Popular source for coro props at reasonable prices, with fast shipping. They sell controllers and DIY kits too, but I’ve only bought coro props from them, and they have been very good quality and arrived quickly.
If you don’t have a 3D printer- these guys print and sell a lot of great mounts and adapters for controller boards, PSUs, and coro props. They also sell or give away STL (3D) files for their products and others, and have started selling xLights sequences as-well. I’m making fairly extensive use of some of their prop holder prints starting in 2021.
Sequencing lights to music is an art, and is very challenging and time-consuming. Most of us don’t have the time or aptitude to do it well. For this reason- many of us either buy or download freely-given sequences to either use as-is, or to adapt for our own shows. Our show is a mix of free, paid, and self-made sequences.
xLights actually has a built-in library of free sequences to get you started. You can access it from within the xLights app: Tools -> Download Sequences/Lyrics. You can also access free sequences and graphics via their Resources page: https://xlights.org/resources/
Another popular source of free sequences is…
Free sequences can be hit-and-miss. Some are great others are pretty bad, but- free is free and I appreciate everyone who donates their time and talent to make them available.
For paid sequences there are dozens of vendors. Just google “xlights sequences” to find them. There are a wide variety of tastes and prices, so for this you really should do your own research. Some have excellent sequences for under $30, others are “premium” and can cost $70-100 or more. A lot depends on the number of props supported, quality, and frankly- the market. I’ve seen a lot of the same songs and similar sequences from $30 vendors that others are selling for $60. Shop around. They all have demo videos- so watch them before you decide. When you do- watch for what you CAN use for YOUR setup and future plans. That premium sequence with moving head spotlights, smoke machines, whole-house matrix, and three huge mega-trees probably won’t translate well to your layout if you are just starting out, or don’t ever want to go to that extreme.
I’ve used these vendors for paid sequences. Some of them offer free sequences at various times throughout the year as samples. Many also have “year end” or “seasonal” sales. This is not a complete list, just ones I have personally used, in no particular order:
Other sequence vendors I’m aware of, but that I have not purchased from:
If you are looking for additional “ambient” holiday effects, take a look at AtmosFX. You can turn a rear-projection window or other video display into something special using their videos. I use AtmosFX with some of my ambient lighting when I’m not running musical sequences.
I highly recommend Ubiquiti’s wireless products if you are using WIFI for your show. They are reasonably-priced, but commercial-grade and offer outstanding performance. In-particular their weatherproof NanoStation loco M2 (Amazon Affiliate Link) is a popular choice for those using WIFI for their display. If you are working on a neighborhood display- their point-to-point WIFI products are often used to coordinate shows from house-to-house, across streets. They are also ideal for large displays where wired Ethernet connections aren’t practical.
Jeff is entertaining and a wealth of information from running his own display for many years. A LOT of information I’ve used has come from him.
Very popular source of DIY LED Pixel information, along with home automation and 3D printing!
Another fantastic and in-depth resource for Christmas Lighting. Especially good for those just starting out.
Every “newbie” should check out the xLights Beginner Seminar series. The xEssentials videos are a deep-dive into getting the most from xLights. These are updated every year (after the holidays).
* Full-disclosure: These vendors (*) are highly recommended by others, but I have not actually purchased from them. If/when I do, I will update.