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DMX and XLR leads


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Quick answer - no.

 

XLR is really a connector type, DMX is a communication standard. The connectors for DMX are XLR too, but properly 5 pin, and microphones 3 pin. Microphone cable shouldn't be used for for DMX (often is, and often works; it could however bite you in the a@@@ at the least convenient time), DMX cable can be used for audio.

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A question from a novice. Are DMX and XLR leads the same?

 

The leads used for DMX & Mic cables are not the same. Microphone cable is a co-axial cable with two inner conductors and a screen, the inner conductors carry the Live (L) & - return ® signals, the screen (X) encircles the two and helps in the rejection of outside interferences in a balanced configuration (there is more to it than that, google "balanced audio" for detailed explanations). If you remember it that way it also helps you to remember the pinout configuration XLR = 1(X) 2(L) 3®!

 

DMX control cable is a twisted pair data cable with the conductors usually surrounded by a lapped foil wrap. It is not suitable for carrying audio signals. This cable rejects extraneous interference in a different way, there are lots of articles on the web about this if you want to find out.

 

I have tried to answer this simplistically as you should really read up on the differences between balancing and the way DMX works but the short answer is that they are not the same and if used in the wrong application will more than likely cause problems either with interferences in your audio signals or strange faults occuring with your DMX fixtures. Keep them separate!

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For added confusion to the issue, older moving heads and some american manufacturers (like High End) often have 3-pin XLR connectors for their DMX ins and outs, which then need a 3-5pin adapter to connect to a modern DMX line. So it may be possible to find some XLR3 DMX cables out there which would look near identical to an XLR3 mic cable.

But they shouldn't be interchanged, after all if they were both capable of doing each others jobs, we wouldn't have two different knids of cable, we'd only need one. As we have two it's safe to assume that they don't.

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The leads used for DMX & Mic cables are not the same. Microphone cable is a co-axial cable with two inner conductors and a screen,

 

Just to be pedantic here, microphone cable (i.e. balanced audio cable) does have two inner conductors and a screen but it is not co-axial. The term coaxial comes from the inner conductor and the outer shield sharing the same geometric axis. Actual coaxial cable would, by definition, have only a single insulated conductor surrounded by a screen...think antenna cable or video cable.

 

Bob

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But they shouldn't be interchanged, after all if they were both capable of doing each others jobs, we wouldn't have two different knids of cable, we'd only need one. As we have two it's safe to assume that they don't.

 

Actually DMX cable works fine for audio, as it exceeds the standard. DMX cable is more expensive though and most of it doesn't coil as nicely, so thats why we have two sorts.

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But they shouldn't be interchanged, after all if they were both capable of doing each others jobs, we wouldn't have two different knids of cable, we'd only need one. As we have two it's safe to assume that they don't.

 

Actually DMX cable works fine for audio, as it exceeds the standard. DMX cable is more expensive though and most of it doesn't coil as nicely, so thats why we have two sorts.

 

 

but that doesn't make them interchangable, you still can't run DMX down a mic cable very reliably.

 

 

edit : text emboldened

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I would say it's as usual with 3-pin as with 5-pin DMX cable, but thats in sweden.

 

It is my understanding that 5 pin DMX plugs used to be used years ago so that they could be distinguished against the audio leads (3pin XLR plug) However 99% of the lighting that I have every come accross has had 3 pin. (apart from a few of the old controllers such as Pulsar Masterpiece, LightProcessor Q Commander, Zero88, etc.

 

From how you entered the question, it sounds like you are maybe part of a band or DJ setup and are familiar with XLR leads for audio and/or microphones, hence why you called them 'XLR Leads'. If you are using them in this fashion, ie a band or mobile disco setup, to be honest, normal microphone/XLR patch leads will work fine on a few bits of intelligent lighting here and there. Its only when you start running larger and more complex systems is when you want to start using the proper cabling to ensure you do not get interferrance someone along the line. I can imagine its a few scanners and a few par cans maybe, in which case, normal XLR/mic cables will be fine.

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It is my understanding that 5 pin DMX plugs used to be used years ago so that they could be distinguished against the audio leads (3pin XLR plug) However 99% of the lighting that I have every come accross has had 3 pin. (apart from a few of the old controllers such as Pulsar Masterpiece, LightProcessor Q Commander, Zero88, etc.

 

DMX always uses a 5 pin XLR. However as only 3 pins are used, a 3 pin XLR can make the connection (so could a piece of chock block for that matter), but then it's not really DMX.

See the Blue Room Wiki

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It is my understanding that 5 pin DMX plugs used to be used years ago so that they could be distinguished against the audio leads (3pin XLR plug) However 99% of the lighting that I have every come accross has had 3 pin. (apart from a few of the old controllers such as Pulsar Masterpiece, LightProcessor Q Commander, Zero88, etc.

 

DMX always uses a 5 pin XLR. However as only 3 pins are used, a 3 pin XLR can make the connection (so could a piece of chock block for that matter), but then it's not really DMX.

See the Blue Room Wiki

 

If it ALWAYS uses 5 pin, why do all of the new intelligent lights have 3 pin XLR connectors?

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However 99% of the lighting that I have every come accross has had 3 pin.

 

99% ?? I'd guess that's only true if you're working at the very bottom end of the market? There are some notable exceptions, of course, but in general "pro" gear does it properly, adheres to the spec, and uses 5 pin. Cheap and disco kit seems to be the main users of 3pin - but as I said, there are a few notable exceptions.

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If it ALWAYS uses 5 pin, why do all of the new intelligent lights have 3 pin XLR connectors?

 

errrm, no they don't.

which particular new intelligent lights are you talking about? did you draw this conclusion after looking at all available lights or just one or two models you bought recently?

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