Skip to main content

Replies sorted oldest to newest

As Jingles said, if it is a data rated cable, you're fine for DMX.

But, let me say this, I bought some Accucable, which is ADJ's DMX cable, and I'm very pleassed with it. I also reocmmend you use some tape or something to let people know more easily that it is DMX cable, not XLR even though they look identical. I am using white electrical PVC tape on BOTH ends to easily mark mine. I also ordered ends and made my cables to my specs(300-foot reel came out to: 1 200-foot main run, 6 3-foot cables and 3 25-foot cables).

Bottom line is that while "better" quality cables SHOULD last longer, a properly maintained cheap cable can last just as long. Take care of your cables and they'll take care of you.

My recommendation: Accucable.

I've had expensive cables fail as easily as cheap cables. Given the choice, I go with the expensive cables because of the better ends and usually the inner wiring. But if you don't take care of them, it doesn't matter what you spend. Honestly in most cases, it's the ends where the money is spent.

Let me put it this way: I have cables 20+ years old working JUST fine and in current production. However, put a brand new out of the package and fresh from the factory top dollar cable in the hands of my in-laws, and I can guarantee it will NOT last the end of the night going through their hands. Don't think I'm joking. I've seen them wreck the cable trying to remove it from the cardboard with a staple in it, or from the oh so hazardous removal of the twist tie....(Not zip tie, I mean like those thin wire twist ties). Of course, these are the same people who let lights drop off a truss 12-feet in the air(because they wouldn't bring the truss down first via the crank stands), drop off the truss onto the ground, shatter and break, put it in the Arriba case and then not tell me about it. And then when I get angry, they say it's my fault. Gee, I didn't realize that the laws of gravity were given to me for my exclusive enforcement! I can't know a light is broken if nobody tells me and I wasn't around when it smashed into the CONCRETE and didn't hear it go "crinkle, crinkle, crinkle".

Needless to say, crew needs to be properly trained. After 50 shows with those bozos, they have shown that they couldn't get a job as an elevator operator, because if they took a 15 minute break, they'd forget the route.

So, take care of your gear, take care of your cables. I'm pleased with the Accucable. It doesn't seem to have much "memory" issues, seems to take to coiling nicely and feels relatively rugged. I'll be buying more. Not sure WHEN, but I WILL be. I have to figure out what I need to make. I'll probably get one of those DMX signal distros too so I can have a run to front truss, run to back truss, run to floor lights and run to spots.

While you're at it, make a few DMX terminators. I keep losing mine! Well, not this time. I found it stuck in a fixture after a show. I built 2 more to be safe. Never a bad idea.

I was running just fine using standard XLR, but I'm much happier running actual DMX cabling.
hey chris,
if you dont mind me asking? what is the differance between xlr and dmx cables. we have all EWI cables wich i consider very high quality. 3 years in the riggers and no problems yet. but if there is a specific app. for dmx i need to get it. i get some litle glitches in my fixtures and i wonder if thats why..

thanks man
XLR cable is at 1000-600 ohms, while DMX cable is at 120 ohms. 120 ohms is loaded for data communication applications.

While XLR and DMX may look identical, they aren't. Used DMX cabling for lighting and XLR for microphones.

I don't care how "high a quality" the brand is, if it's the wrong cable for the job, quality won't matter. But, if you're sticking with a good brand, then that's good, as long as you're using the right cable for the right job.

You have two choices. You can build your own cables or buy premade. That's really whatever works best for your application. ADJ's AccuCable comes in many lengths, including 3,5 10 feet and longer(25 is my favorite length in general, but it's not good with the lights are all next to each other).

Also, make yourself a few DMX terminators unless you can buy them. I bet you can buy them for a decent price if you can find them, but 5 minutes with a soldering iron and a 120-ohm 1/4" resistor should also do the trick just as well.

Between running proper cabling and a DMX terminator, that should help. BUT, as has been pointed out to me, MyDMX dongle dones't put out a very "strong" signal, so it's recommended to get a splitter/repeater such as the OptoBranch/4, which I also have in my rig anyways for convenience.

All this lighting stuff for a sound guy such as myself....

Also, because DMX and XLR look identical, don't rely on the fact that your crew SHOULD read what is on the cable, because some cable doesn't tell you what it is. DO segregate your DMX cabling in order to properly label it. In my case, I have put a wrap of white tape on both connectors of the ends on my DMX cabling. "White" because it rhymes with "light". Hey, works for me. Otherwise, it's too easy to confuse things.
I explained this in detail a while ago about XLR and DMX, differences, names, etc. Have to see if I can't dig it up.

As for labeling cables, might I also suggest labeling for length as well. Simply take some e-tape and wrap it around the cable at each end at the base of the connector. Don't do it on the connector its self, because you might have to lop off that connector because the cable gets pinched/cut in half. You can re-use the connectors on any DMX then vs just what length it is labeled for. We use ROYGBIV minus the I since there is no Indigo colored e-tape. So it works out like this:
Red 5'
Orange 10'
Yellow 25'
Green 50'
Blue 75'
Purple 100'
White 125+'

Also have cards on the insides of the lids of our cable caddies explaining the color scheme as well (can see then with the case open). Every cable in the shop, minus large snakes and feeder, is labeled in this manner: XLR, NL4, NL8, sub snakes, DMX, A/C, Stage Pin, L620, Multi, VGA, composite, RGBHV, etc. Helps cut down on confusion a lot. I can tell anyone to get me two 25' L620 cables and they will know what cable I want without digging through cases and guessing the length.

We don't really label XLR and DMX however. All the XLR in the shop is either CBI or Whirlwind. The PVC jackets are much duller then the jackets on the DMX. Likewise, 5 pin is much fatter then 3 pin, so that can be told from a glance. When we pack shows as well, the lighting cable and the audio cable don't mix. For strikes, my lighting guys generally aren't wrapping XLR and audio guys aren't wrapping DMX, so that is generally not an issue. Likewise, when it gets back to the shop, the cases are emptied and everything is put back onto the wall. Now I know some on here aren't at that level, so Chris's suggestion of labeling DMX and XLR with something around the connector is a good idea.
I am placing my electrical tape ON the connector itself, partially to act as an additional securing factor since I've had more than 1 AccuCable connector come apart on me, but I'm wondering how much of that was due t someone not paying attention. I find when I put the tape on the cable itself, it tends to come unravelled or move and then get sticky around there and hence picks up dust, gunk and gets on my hands. Then again, maybe I need to step up to better brand. OR, maybe, I should just build all my own cables and use colored shrinkwrap... But if I gotta lop an end off in the field and do a repair...

SerraAva is not alone in trying to use a color scheme to identify cable lengths. I would do that myself as well, but I never have the time to do it. I also buy cables on sale and in numbers, so I have a lot of different cable lengths, mainly 20' or 25'. I'm not going to say his idea isn't a good one, because it is a good one, it's just not something I really need to do. I just need to ensure lighting and microphone cabling don't get mixed up.

When you have crew that is both inexperienced and not paying attention, mixing up cables is too easy to do. 3, 4 and 5 pin XLR are the same physical size connectors as far as barrel size. I have to remove the excuse factor for them. The one problem with DMX is the fact that there is too much 3 wire when if it was 5-wire, we'd almost never have issues.

In an ideal world, things should be more as SerraAva suggested: You have the audio guys dealing with audio, and the lighting guys dealing with lighting. In my case, I have to have guys who move from one task to another, and so they might be striking sound one minute, and the next they are taking down a lighting tree.

I could go on and on about the sonic differences of different brands of cabling for quite some time, because not all cable is created equal. In the case of this application, it's necessary to clearly differentiate between lighting cabling and XLR microphone cabling. That is what is most important.

When you get to my level in audio, you do tend to what better labelling, but as I said, time doesn't permit. When you get to SerraAva's level in lighting, it makes absolutely perfect sense to be as organized and labelled as possible. No guesswork, and no memorization as the color scheme is on the box too. Need a shorty? No wasting time rummaging around and hoping for the best, now there is an easy to follow code.

I'm also still recommending ADJ's AccuCable because I use it and like it for lighting so I'll most likely stick with it.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.