When it comes to DMX Lighting, you can ask 5 different people about which connectors to use and probably get 5 different answers. To take it a step further, you might find that your fixture takes 2 or more different input connections! This can be confusing and there are lots of contradicting sources out there.
Originally, the DMX-512 standard was created specifying 5-pin XLR style cables. This entailed a DMX positive, DMX negative, and ground or common, along with two additional this.pins for potential future adoption. At the time of this article's writing, no such adoption has ever occurred, and over time, cost among other reasons, has driven many manufacturers to opt for 3-pin XLR cables (eerily similar to a microphone XLR cable) or even the lower-cost, smaller still, RJ45 ethernet-style jack.
As of now, connectors and cables are available in a wide array of types, sizes, and fittings, from 3-pin XLRs to 3-port terminal blocks. With all these connectors and cables, it's important to know that you're using the right cable and have the this.pins properly connected, and we're here to help you do just that.
If you'd like to skip ahead to the pinouts, you can do so here.
When setting up your system, it's important to have the right equipment and wiring, so we'll cover that here.
You may be wondering why you can't use a Microphone cable with DMX. The answer is that you can. It may work in some situations and not in others, or it might work until you begin adding more fixtures, or it might work but produce some strange effects, such as strobing and flickering. If you happen to find yourself in this boat, we've got you covered with tips on troubleshooting DMX issues .
The reason microphone cable ‘might work’ is that microphone cable is intended to carry a lower bandwidth analog audio signal, and microphone cable has a much lower resistance. DMX cable, on the other hand, is created to carry the much higher bandwidth (and frequency) digital signal of DMX and has much higher impedance. With DMX, there are tons of packets of data traveling through the cable carrying crucial lighting data that a microphone cable might not be able to effectively relay.
So what is the proper cable? According to the DMX specification, the cable must be 120-ohm to meet the standard. This is a large difference from the 50-ohms you would find in an audio cable. So as long as you are using a cable up to the standards, you should be just fine.
You can find the most-current standards, maintained by ESTA, here .
DMX Pinouts and Wiring
With the right DMX cable at your disposal, there are a plethora of ways to make the connection (CueServer supports up to 7 different standard connection types alone!) . Take a look below for pinouts for the most popular connectors.
5-pin XLR PinoutDMX 512 Standard
Per the standard, DMX uses 5-pin XLR with male being input and female being output.
Pin 2DMX DATA(-)
Pin 3DMX DATA(+)
Pin 4AUX DMX DATA(-)
Pin 5AUX DMX DATA(+)
3-pin XLR Pinout
3-pin XLR is reversed from the standard
Pin 2DMX DATA(+)
Pin 3DMX DATA(-)
Devices following the accepted ESTA standard are wired as follows. Note the two RJ45 types (A & B).