Are DJ Lasers Safe?

DJ Laser Systems

Lasers are great fun, and will always create a sense of awe when implemented correctly. From a basic green or red cluster laser to the full-colour beauty of a stage laser system at a concert or in a nightclub, these powerful effects never fail to impress. Their potency, however, and specific method of light creation, can be a real danger to eyesight, so let's take a look at the subject of laser safety.

What is a DJ Laser

Laser lights are sophisticated devices that generate light through the process of optical amplification, based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation. In simpler terms, they produce an intense beam of light with a very narrow colour spectrum which makes the colours extremely dense, and visible over long distances.

A DJ laser system is designed specifically to produce a range of colours, patterns, and geometric shapes within the confines of a specific area. The vivid output is powerful enough to be visible in most lighting situations, though the best results are dark rooms with the addition of smoke or haze, which greatly enhances the visibility and effect.

Low-cost DJ lasers were traditionally either red or green, with patterns being limited to starry cluster effects. As the technology has moved forward, blue diodes were added, allowing for RGB colour production and basic colour mixing. This was then followed with the introduction of analog laser systems, seeing power levels rise significantly, and access to a full-colour palette for the creation of vivid purples, pinks, and any other colour variant you could want, with the added ability of full dimming for each colour.

Full colour laser lights in a night clubFull colour laser lights in a night club
Colour DJ lasers behind a DJ boothColour DJ lasers behind a DJ booth

DJ Laser Safety

While DJ laser lights are instrumental in elevating the sensory experience of musical performances, their operation involves significant safety considerations. The concentrated beams of light, especially at higher power levels, can pose serious risks to eyesight and skin upon direct exposure. Consequently, the regulation and safe use of laser lights are governed by stringent standards and guidelines.

While DJ laser lights are an effective tool for creating captivating shows, they pose potential health risks if not used properly. Direct exposure to high-intensity laser beams (especially blue light) can cause serious eye injuries, including retinal burns, which can lead to permanent vision loss. The skin can also suffer from burns with prolonged exposure to certain types of lasers. Therefore, it's crucial for operators to understand the risks and employ safety measures to protect both themselves and the audience.

Safety measures include never pointing lasers directly at people, using lower-intensity beams when possible, and ensuring that the installation of laser equipment prevents accidental exposure. For mobile work and smaller rooms, a laser should ideally be under 1000mW. It should never be accessible to prying hands and ideally should be mounted onto a T-bar or lighting truss, at a height of 2m or more to avoid anyone being at eye level with its direct output.

Which DJ Laser is the Safest to Use?

Realistically there is no such thing as a completely safe laser, regardless of power levels or colour output. A highly focused beam of light will always pose a potential risk of damage to the human eye if direct visual contact is made, but this is no different to looking directly at the sun, as it's easy to avoid and you know not to do it.

All colours of laser are potentially damaging once over a certain intensity, though it's a fairly commonly known fact that blue light is significantly more dangerous, which is due to its particular frequency, which is close to being UV and can pass straight through the cornea and lens, burning into the retina, so needs to taken very seriously. That said, everything has a danger factor if used incorrectly. A sound system that's too loud can damage your hearing, but does that mean you shouldn't use one? No, of course not, you just need to use it properly, with consideration to your audience.

DJ lasers are specifically designed for use in events venues, with a wide-angled output for good coverage from a short distance, and constantly moving beams that help limit single-point exposure time. Suspended at the correct height above eye level, and just using a bit of common sense, effects lasers pose a minimal safety risk and can be enjoyed without worry.

Laser animation of champagne glassesLaser animation of champagne glasses

Entertainment Laser Lights

Lets take a look into some of the more technical aspects of DJ lasers, how they are classified, how they work, and a breakdown of some of the associated terms and specifications the different types use and what it all means.

Are DJ Lasers Legal to Use?

In many countries, the use of laser lights is regulated by health and safety bodies. For instance, here in the United Kingdom, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) outlines specific guidelines for the safe use of lasers in entertainment, which are aligned with international standards such as those from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

Lasers are classified into several categories based on their potential for causing harm. All laser systems are required to have their class rating displayed, which is usually a yellow warning label on the device:

Class 1: Safe under all conditions of normal use.
Class 2: Low-power visible lasers that pose a minimal risk because the natural aversion response or blink reflex will limit the exposure to the eye.
Class 3R/3B: Lasers in these classes may cause damage if the beam enters the eye directly. Safety measures are required to prevent exposure.
Class 4: High-power lasers that can cause damage to eyes and skin from direct and scattered radiation. They may also pose a fire hazard with certain surfaces or materials.

Most DJ lasers and professional entertainment laser systems will be Class 4, due to the fact they are being used out into the open, in comparison to say the laser in a Blu-Ray or CD player, which is hidden away inside the unit and never seen.

Safety Measures

DJ laser lights, with their capacity to transform music events into multi-sensory experiences, embody a remarkable blend of technology and creativity. However, the dazzling displays they enable come with a responsibility to ensure safety. Through adherence to regulatory guidelines, proper classification, and the implementation of rigorous safety measures, the risks associated with laser lights can be effectively mitigated. As technology advances, ongoing research and development are crucial to enhancing the safety, efficiency, and capabilities of these systems, ensuring they continue to captivate audiences while safeguarding their well-being.

Safety is an essential consideration in any setting where laser lights are used. By understanding the hazards, adhering to established safety standards, and implementing a comprehensive approach to risk mitigation, it is possible to protect individuals from the potential dangers posed by laser technology.

For DJs or bars using lasers, safety issues arise primarily through two points, which are power rating and location. With prices dropping, it's easy to go for the biggest, meanest-looking laser you can afford, but this is a real mistake. A laser is not the same as a standard effects light, and its power rating needs to be understood. You can buy a 0.8mW laser pen, and its beam will still be visible as far as your eye can see. The smallest laser system will cover most rooms with no problem, so you can't think of them as you would do a lamp-based effect. Extra power in a laser increases things like beam intensity and line definition, allowing for sharper pattern creation, but this also increases the danger factor of the unit for direct eye contact should it occur.

Laser Terminology - What Does It All Mean?

Laser Diodes: Serve as the source of light. Their compact size, efficiency, and capability to emit different colours make them popular in portable and fixed DJ laser systems. They come in different types depending on the overall cost of the laser system.
RGB: Red, Green, and Blue. The basis for all full-colour laser light systems, giving you individual colour outputs and the ability to create mixed colours. The type of modulation used will control how many colours are possible.
Modulation: Controls the intensity of the laser beam, enabling the creation of patterns or effects that can pulse, fade, or flicker in sync with music. The modulation type used will affect the number of colours a laser system is capable of outputting.
Scanners and Mirrors: Direct the laser beams across surfaces or through the air to create shapes, lines, and animations. Scanners are high-speed motor-driven positioning devices that allow for intricate and rapid movements of the mirrors, creating complex and dynamic visual effects.
DPSS: Diode pumped solid state. This has been the method for getting higher outputs from the output diodes for many years. It's a form of frequency enhancement that gives you more power by pushing the diode through a crystal. The downside is it introduces losses to the output and causes distortion to the beam edges.
Pure Diode: The creation of more powerful laser diodes has allowed for their direct light output to be used rather than sending the beam through anything first as with DPSS. This allows for a significant increase in line definition and colour purity and is the preferred choice for professional users.

These components work in unison, controlled by sophisticated software that allows DJs and lighting technicians to choreograph the laser light show in real-time or through pre-programmed sequences. The software interface provides precise control over every aspect of the performance, including beam colour, shape, movement, and timing, enabling the creation of immersive environments that enhance the musical experience.

What is ILDA?

ILDA stands for the International Laser Display Association. Most good-quality laser systems designed for entertainment will include the ILDA connection, which is an old-style 25-pin data connection. It allows for full communication between specialised laser software and a laser light system for the transfer of image data such as text or custom animations. Unlike DMX which can only alter things like intensity and colour changes, ILDA has complete control of the laser display axis, voltages, colours and timing systems, giving it the ability to create complex patterns and graphics.

TTL vs Analog Laser - What's the difference?

In the context of laser projection systems, the terms TTL and Analog refer to the power modulation (switching method) of the laser diodes power supply, or put another way, how the diodes are turned off and on.

TTL stands for "Transistor-Transistor Logic", and is another way to say that the laser diode modulates digitally, and it’s always either 100% on or 100% off, never anywhere in the middle. TTL laser diodes are generally cheaper, and in some situations can appear brighter than a system of analog-modulated laser diodes with the same peak power level.

TTL laser diodes are usually used in lower-cost, entry-level systems where maximum brightness is required at all times and you don’t need a wide colour palette. An RGB laser projector system with TTL modulation can only make 7 colour combinations; red, green, blue, yellow, cyan, magenta and white.

Analog modulation means that the laser diodes can do more than just turn to 100% on or 100% off, and can emit their beam output at a large range of power levels. Analog-modulating diodes are the industry standard for galvanometer-based projectors, and while costing a little more than TTL diodes, analog diodes offer a much wider colour palette than TTL systems.

Analog modulation also allows you to fade the laser beams in and out, which gives you a lot more creative control for your show programming. Analog systems can create anywhere from dozens to millions of possible colours, depending on the specifications of the system.

In the show laser industry 'analog modulation' defines the ability of a laser source to "dim" the output power of the laser beam, which means that the output power can be adjusted without stepping. Thus, it is possible to display up to 16,7 million different shades of colour with multi-colour laser systems (systems with more than one laser source colour). Depending on the technology of the laser source, brightness can be controlled linearly to a great extent, allowing mixed colours and hues to be created specifically. For professional laser shows, only laser systems with full analog colour modulation are used.


If you plan on adding a laser system to your mobile DJ rig, or installing one in an events venue, the safety of your audience should be at the forefront of your thoughts. Modern DJ lasers and entertainment lasers are as safe as they can be, but the light they produce can be quite dangerous, for the reasons discussed above.

However, it's quite simple to follow the very obvious guidelines and be able to operate one quite safely, while allowing your audience to really enjoy these magical effects lights. The output they produce is astonishing, and cannot be replicated by any other device, with their outright spectacle being more than worth the purchase price.