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  • Writer's pictureAlex Hui

TRICK REVIEW - Darkwave ESP by Adam Cooper.

Updated: May 14, 2020

Here is my in-depth review of Darkwave ESP by Adam Cooper.


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If you want to watch the review, here is the YouTube version.


You will get 15 black cards and 15 red cards. Both types of cards are having the same back design.

You also receive 4 double facers, 1 double backer, and 1 black face.

An A7 colour printed instructional booklet is also included. It covers the marking and reading system of the deck.

A link to the online instruction is also provided. It is on Vimeo and can be downloaded on your devices.


The printing of the cards is top class. The images on the cards come with great details, and they are very visible at close-up setting.

However, since there are ESP symbol, image and word on the card face, they are not very visible at parlour environment. Especially for the images, audience can’t understand them without reading the words below them.

The cards are built with resilient stock and they feel tough. It may be one of the strongest stock you’ve ever encountered. That being said, they can be handled with ease just like normal playing cards.

As for the design of image, there is one small issue though it won’t affect performance. While all images come with dark background, the one with Shortwave comes with light background. This discrepancy is unsettling because it makes the Shortwave out of place. And I don’t see how Shortwave fit into the dark theme. This inconsistency is very obvious and I am surprised that the creator has not noticed it.

The tuck box is printed with high quality stock, but it is a little bit stiff at the opening. Performer may fumble when taking out or putting back the deck. And the crib on the box is not too ideal, if the position of items 11-15 can be switched with the logo, it will increase the readability much.

To conclude, the cards are excellently made. Though some people may be worried about the dark theme of the cards, they look like authentic scientific tool in design. The deck should have no problem suiting performers of any styles.


You will receive an instructional booklet about the markings and the second system for images and words. It is 18-page and is written in details. I really like that they include the explanation of the second system in a separate booklet because some learners are better at learning complicated system with words.

The explanation comes as online tutorial on Vimeo site. It is downloadable on your device. The sizes of the download are as below:

  • SD 540p    921.272MB

  • HD 720p    1.429GB

  • HD 1080p  2.544GB

The effect is well explained in a 93 minutes and 5 seconds long video. The explanation is hosted by Adam Cooper in a home setting. However, the camera work is supremely done. It is in wide-angle in a beautifully decorated house. Multi-angles of medium shots are provided throughout the explanation. The camera work is probably better than many other studio productions. However, there is one little issue: the table in the tutorial is not on solid footing and thus shake a lot. I wonder why they didn't slip something under the table foot.

Length (in minutes) of the main parts (I literally counted):

  • What’s In The Box - 0:46

  • Marks For Colour - 04:10

  • Marks For Symbol - 01: 45

  • Words & Image Introduction - 01:44

  • Getting The Word - 06:24

  • The Crib - 02:18

  • The Picture - 06:01

  • Last Thoughts - 01:02

  • The Jay Ose False Cut - 01:25

  • Advanced Handling - 04:07

  • Basic Read - 15:04

  • Synchronicity - 10:26

  • Prediction - 09:35

  • OOTW - 10:40

  • OOTW Advanced Explanation - 05:44

  • OOTW For One Explained - 02:48

The marking system works for both colour and symbol of the card. The marking system is quite similar to usual ESP marking system, but it is cleverly camouflaged in the back design of the card. The markings stand out even at arm-length, which is more than enough in most close-up environment. If you only want to know the symbols but not the colour, the markings work for even double arm-length (I don’t have super eye sight).

There is a second system used for divining the words and images. Adam has explained why a different system is used instead of using markings. To be honest, I can hardly agree that the second system is a superior solution. When I look at the back design, I immediately came up with a marking system which is more usable, easier and saves a lot of effort for performers. The second system is very interesting, but it is pity that somehow the images were chosen because the creator has to integrate this system into the deck. If a marking system is used, the choice of images would be much more flexible, and Adam’s presentation for the second system can still be used, but in a much more flexible way. Besides, either images or words can be revealed without resorting to knowing certain information first. For now, the presentation is used because it is part of the methodology, and the performer may ‘miss’. But with markings, the presentation can work independently with no chance of missing. You don’t even need to turn ‘fails into hits’.

For the ‘Advanced Handling’, it is a handling to be used with the Second System. Personally I think it’s a nice addition for English speakers but not for non-native speakers. However, as discussed above, if a marking system was employed, we don’t even need to have this advanced handling. In my opinion, this second system is just like building a quantum computer to do a 2-digits addition because it looks so cool. Why go for a complex solution when we can use a simpler system to accomplish the same result with much more flexibility and effectiveness?

There are 4 studio performances. I believe the audience are laymen and reaction is legitimate. They are truly amazed by the effects. And I believe so.

In ‘Basic Read’, it is basically the implementation of the card secrets to reveal the identity of the selection. It works for 1-2 spectators and some good tips are provided for avoiding similar selections are picked.

‘Synchronicity’ is like a Spectators-Cut-To-Aces routine with a kicker. It is semi-automatic but involves a very small setup. The effect is easy and also quite impressive with the kicker. It’s a refreshing routine which also works nicely as mental magic (not mentalism). I will definitely use it with this deck or other ESP decks.

‘Prediction’ is a very clean routine which audience has complete free of choice and still the performer can perfectly predicting the card. In terms of methodology, it’s nothing new but still a great routine for beginners and advanced performers alike. However, there are missed opportunities in the construction of routine. Without revealing the secret, if you put a setup in the middle of the deck and a card at the top & bottom, you will have very high chance that you can double hit the selection, and one-fourth of chance that you can finish with a four-of-a-kind. You will understand what I said when you learnt the routine.

There are 3 versions of OOTW here. All of them are very effective. The basic routine is very simple and easy enough for anyone to pick up, though a very small setup is involved. As for the Advanced version, it can be done impromptu. I like the dynamics with audience in this routine and the way Adam handles it. There are some very clever moments with the marking which can be employed in other OOTW routines. Unfortunately, it seems that the performance of Advanced version was cut out in the final production (Adam has mentioned about the performance, so it must be shot), so I cannot see the actual handling by Adam. For the OOTW For One routine, it’s basically the one-man version of Advanced routine, it’s nice but I don’t think it has the same dynamics as the two-man routine.

To conclude, the production of the tutorial is very good. Everything is very clear and there are more than enough details. The routines are solid and well constructed, though nothing very innovative is involved. Overall, this tutorial is bang for the buck. Many sound advices and good routines with the Darkwave ESP.


The cards are easy to handle and it works for even beginners. All routines in this effect don’t require tremendous amount of practice.


In very strict sense, to use the second system, it does not require any memorization if the crib is used. But it is not always ideal to depend on the crib.


The cards are examinable. However, the marking system is quite visible to even untrained eyes. Therefore, you don’t want spectators suspect any markings or they will find it out easily.


Most effects in tutorial are for 1-2 audience. But it works for any close-up environment.


Here are some tips how you can relate the symbol and the symbol in a meaningful way. This is not part of the secret in this deck and thus I hope this will inspire you to come up with something interesting.

Star matches ‘Alien’, ’Tarot’, and 'Satanic’

  • Alien is from other star systems.

  • Star symbol is commonly found in Tarot and it is also related to Astrology.

  • Star shape is often used in satanic symbol.

Wavy Lines matches ‘Devil’ and ’Shortwave’

  • You can talk about seeing flowing lava, and then talk about hell, which relates to devil.

  • It’s obvious that shortwave can be related to wavy lines.

Cross matches ‘Ouija’, ‘Exorcist’ and ‘Horsemen’

  • Ouija board involved movement of the pointer. You can talk about seeing directions, up and down, which forms the cross shape.

  • For exorcist, it is easy. A cross is used in exorcism.

  • As for Horsemen, it is demonic in nature and thus a cross can be related.

Square matches ‘Requiem’ and ‘Haunted’

  • A tomb which is rectangular shape can be related. Rectangle looks like square.

  • For ‘haunted’, you can talk about seeing a house, which resembles a square shape.

Circle matches ‘Crucifix’ and ‘Vampire’

  • For crucifix, it is made of wood usually. Wood is round and has a circular shape.

  • For vampire, you can talking about seeing blood, which drops on the floor. Then you see the circular shape of blood.


  • Very high quality cards with nice design.

  • The tutorial is very well made, with great camera work, detailed teaching and solid routines.

  • The deck is versatile and has many possibilities.


  • The second system for images and words is clever, but it is not superior to markings.

  • Some people may not like the dark theme of the images. But I won’t put it as a big issue because the deck looks like a scientific tool.


Darkwave ESP is a nice addition to the crowded space of ESP decks. The idea and execution of the deck is very nice, though there are some issues mentioned above.

It is a good deck for beginners and even advanced performers who want to add some different touches to their routines. The deck looks legitimate scientific tool and doesn’t look like a trick deck.

I love the effort put in the tutorial, and it is something that other creators can learn about.

At US$30, I will highly recommend to anyone who love good magic. This is an excellent tool to add to your repertoire. Even if you don’t put it into your regular act, it’s still a fun toy to play with. I will certify this with the ‘Perfect Choice’ award.

  • Video Quality: 10/10

  • Effectiveness of Tricks: 9/10

  • Practical: 7/10 (the Second System is a miss to me)

  • Creativity: 8/10

  • Cost Performance: 10/10

  • Final Score: 9/10

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Thank you for reading this review.