Cable Clarity: DMX & Mic Cables

From time to time, the question always rears it’s ugly head…”Can I just use microphone cables in place of DMX cables for our stage lighting?” The answer is that you really shouldn’t.

While both DMX and microphone cables share 3 pin XLR connectors, the cables themselves are two different beasts. Aside from being labeled as DMX cables and having a somewhat less rugged construction than most mic cables commercially available (not as thick or flexible in most scenarios), DMX cables pass signal through substantially higher impedance than microphone cables. Most DMX operate at 110-120 ohms while mic cables are typically 60-70 ohms.

In many ways, cable is like a hose, and signal is like water flowing through it. By decreasing the impedance (using a mic cable for lighting) is like making the hose wider in diameter. We are then faced with a situation where our output of water is no longer adequate to push the data through the hose at the appropriate speed. This mis-match can result in flickering lights, mis-que’d controllers, and damage to gear or blackouts. All things that should never happen when you’re on stage.

Hopefully this information has helped you see the light and you’ll use the right cable for the job. Call us with questions or for more clever puns anytime.

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