10 fireworks that’ll give you the most bang for your buck

mzarate@sacbee.comJune 25, 2014 

  • Better display for your fireworks

    Fireworks shouldn’t just scare neighborhood pets. They should bring communities together for a collective celebration. Follow these tips to kick the “safe and sane” pyrotechnic display up a notch.

    Get off the ground: Suspend a board between two ladders to create an elevated platform for fireworks lighting. This gives sparks more airtime and makes for better show.

    Get in the mood: Remember. This is a patriotic holiday. Recite the Pledge of Allegiance before ignition.

    Make it a musical: Ask your music-savvy nephew to set the show to music.

    Combine arsenals: It’s un-American to ignore your neighbors on July Fourth. Get a block party going. Pooling resources makes for a bigger, better show.

    Capture the moment: Put that supercomputer in your pocket to good use. Download an app like Slow Shutter Cam or iLightning Cam or 645 Pro to take better nighttime photos. And don’t forget the tripod.

Neighborhood fireworks displays should sizzle – not fizzle. With that in mind, The Sacramento Bee once again assembled a team of flash-and-boom experts to chart points on the axis of spectacle and price.

Phantom and TNT recently brought their freshest “safe and sane” offerings to Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Station 105 in the Arden-Arcade area for judging. This year’s panel, 12 in all, consisted of Bee interns and staffers, as well as friends of the paper who can’t get enough of crackling, colorful combustibles.

Our accommodating firefighting hosts – at the ready just in case anything went sideways – didn’t offer pre-fireworks chili like they did last year. Instead they cooked hot dogs, a decision our panel judged to be both activity-appropriate and extremely generous.

The Bee is always striving to improve its judging of bright and shiny explosions. This year, Auburn audio engineer Luke Saxelby used a decibel reader to provide accurate noise measurements. (For perspective: A gas lawnmower 3 feet away has a dBA of 100). In addition, a 20-foot ladder served as a giant ruler for measuring blast heights.

Fireworks stands are set to open Friday and sell their goods through July 4. Here are the 10 sparklers, spinners and whistlers we think yield the most bang for your buck.

APACHE FIREDANCE PREMIER

Price: $49.99

Manufacturer: Phantom

What they say: “Three minute duration with seven different effects featuring vivid colors, pearls, strobes and crackle.”

What we say: “Fantastic and lengthy visually, but the many pauses were distracting.” “Large explosive spread over 20-feet in height and width. Remember to step back.”

Length of show: 2 minutes, 33 seconds

Oooh Factor: (out of 5) 4.6

Boom Factor: (out of 5) 4.6

Max Noise level: (dBA at 45 feet) 102

Worth the Price?: Yes: 11; no: 1

DELIRIUM

Price: $49.99

Manufacturer: TNT

What they say: “Colored stars to whistles to torches of silver and blue pearls. Multi-tube, multi-effect fountain with whistles and multi-crackle effects.”

What we say: “Soft fizzing turns to shrill screams.” “Sometimes too smokey.” “Great from start to finish.”

Length of show: 1 minute, 45 seconds

Oooh Factor: (out of 5) 4.4

Boom Factor: (out of 5) 4.1

Max Noise level: (dBA at 45 feet) 100

Worth the Price?: Yes: 9; no: 3

FIRECRACKER FOUNTAIN

Price: $9.99

Manufacturer: Phantom

What they say: Extra-loud crackling barrage that sounds like a strip of firecrackers. Intense long-lasting finish.

What we say: “Pretty blue sparks mingling with white, then crackling Christmas colors.” “Second half comes on strong. Requires lots of room.”

Length of show: 1 minute, 25 seconds

Oooh Factor: (out of 5) 3.4

Boom Factor: (out of 5) 3.5

Max Noise level: (dBA at 45 feet) 94

Worth the Price?: Yes: 11; no: 1

FUNKY MONKEY

Price: $24.99

Manufacturer: Phantom

What they say: “A unique display with chrysanthemum, pearls, fish, flowers and crackle with green, red and titanium finale.”

What we say: “Roar of pink sparks.” “Looks like a strawberry shortcake.” “Crazy silver explosion.” “Green sparks like an angry leprechaun.”

Length of show: 1 minute, 26 seconds

Oooh Factor: (out of 5) 4.5

Boom Factor: (out of 5) 4.0

Max Noise level: (dBA at 45 feet) 92

Worth the Price?: Yes: 11; no: 1

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Price: $19.99

Manufacturer: TNT

What they say: “Orange and green with white flower. Crackles, titanium crackles, green/purple silvery crackles. White glitter/ double crackles with red and green/white flowers.”

What we say: “Fiery explosion encased in golden rain.” “Bushes of silver sparks.” “Not much color but lots of popping.”

Length of show: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Oooh Factor: (out of 5) 3.8

Boom Factor: (out of 5) 3.6

Max Noise level: (dBA at 45 feet) 95

Worth the Price?: Yes: 10; no: 2

MOONDANCE PREMIER

Price: $29.99

Manufacturer: Phantom

What they say: “Blue liquid fish, blue fountain, blue spark with white chrysanthemum, blue sparkle with pine needle, blue spark with crackling.”

What we say: “Like a propane stove being struck by shooting stars.” “Quiet. Then loud.”

Length of show: 1 minute, 49 seconds

Oooh Factor: (out of 5) 3.9

Boom Factor: (out of 5) 3.79

Max Noise level: (dBA at 45 feet) 97

Worth the Price?: Yes: 8; no: 4

NEW YORK HARBOR FOUNTAIN

Price: $49.99

Manufacturer: Phantom

What they say: “Unique long-lasting 500 gram fountain. Silver and purple sparks fly between whistles and colorful sprays, crackles.”

What we say: “Some nice weeping willow effects throughout.” “Long and steady.” “Big white flashes.” “Whistling” joined by “pink flares and red, green and blue sparks.”

Length of show: 3 minutes, 28 seconds

Oooh Factor: (out of 5) 4

Boom Factor: (out of 5) 4

Max Noise level: (dBA at 45 feet) 100

Worth the Price?: Yes: 5; no: 7

OPENING SHOW

Price: $59.99

Manufacturer: TNT

What they say: “The Ultimate finale. Multi-color transitions ending in the biggest multi-tube shower available.”

What we say: “It’s like you put everything you had into one box.” “Sensory-overload finish.”

Length of show: 1 minute, 55 seconds

Oooh Factor: (out of 5) 4.8

Boom Factor: (out of 5) 4.6

Max Noise level: (dBA at 45 feet) 103

Worth the Price?: Yes: 7; no: 5

SURF’S UP

Price: $10.99

Manufacturer: TNT

What they say: Multi-color titanium white and crackle.

What we say: “Initial rumbling turns into an impressive fountain of gold and blue sparks.”“Light show rises fairly high.”“deep ocean-like hiss.”

Length of show: 1 minute, 9 seconds

Oooh Factor: (out of 5) 3.7

Boom Factor: (out of 5) 3.0

Max Noise level: (dBA at 45 feet) 98

Worth the Price?: Yes: 10; no: 2

VIBRANT VOLTAGE

Price: $21.99

Manufacturer: Phantom

What they say: “Super-charged with an awesome 2-minute performance of magical colors and effects.”

What we say: “Nice series of elegant gold sparks with new shapes, some star-like, some shower-like.” “Sounds like fluttering butterflies.” “Great length for the price.”

Length of show: 1 minute, 53 seconds

Oooh Factor: (out of 5) 3.8

Boom Factor: (out of 5) 3.31

Max Noise level: (dBA at 45 feet) 94

Worth the Price?: Yes: 10; no: 2

Special thanks to the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District. Testers were Katrina Cameron, Bernadette Durbin, Don Durrance, Ed Fletcher, Katie Hernandez, Vanessa Ochavillo, Rachel Reddick, Juniper Rose, Luke Saxelby, Isabelle Taft, Quinn Western and Mozes Zarate.

Call The Bee’s Mozes Zarate, (916) 321-1054. Follow him on Twitter @mzarate139.

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