What are Art-Net and sACN?

dmx networking Apr 03, 2024

It used to be that we just used simple DMX cable out of our console to our lights to control everything. Today, it’s becoming more and more common to use Art-Net and sACN – common forms of networked DMX – to control our lights.

If you’re not familiar with these protocols yet, watch the video below to get the basics.

Then, join me below the video for a gear guide to Art-Net and sACN nodes:


Art-Net and sACN 101

Networked DMX can send MANY universe of DMX down one cable on standard computer networks. 

This can provide some massive advantages, not only in saving cable, but in terms of flexibility of how you set up and re-arrange your lighting system over time.

It can make your setup process a little more complex, and it's not always "plug-n-play.  But, if you are in a space that has a facility-wide network or you are pushing a lot of universes, it really can make a lot of sense to use networked DMX.

Art-Net and sACN Gear Guide:

Now that we’ve got the very basics of Art-Net and sACN down, it’s time to talk gear.  There are a TON of nodes on the market, but how do you know which node is right for you?

Like anything in our world of lighting, there are cheap nodes, middle of the road nodes, and expensive, professional-grade nodes.

But just like an LED par can or moving light, there are drastic differences between the cheap units and the quality units that you should consider before buying:

Build Quality

You may not need the “like-a-tank” build quality of the most expensive nodes, but cheaping out can give you poor results as well.

For example, there are a number of cheap, imported nodes that feature thin plastic casings and cheap RJ-45 or XLR connectors for DMX output – so, if you’re not going to baby your gear, you probably want to pass them up.

Higher quality nodes are also going to feature great quality power supplies and components – and carry the warranty to assure you they won’t give up during your show or service! (and if they do, they’ll be replaced)

Ease of Use

Many (but not all!) Art-Net and sACN nodes allow you to configure them remotely via a web browser or application, making it easy to change settings on the gig.

You’ll find that cheap units require you to dial up their IP address directly, while nicer units will have a computer application that can search out and find the nodes on your network automatically, then configure them via an easy-to-use interface.

On a cheaper unit, you may find you have to factory reset it if you don't write down the IP address - not a big deal if you use (1) fixed rig that doesn't change a lot.  But, if you're doing one-off gigs where you re-arrange your settings often, it may make sense to get a nicer node, and possibly one with a screen and controls on the unit itself so that you can configure it quickly.


Feature-wise, most Art-Net/sACN nodes are able to output either protocol and are able to assign each universe you desire to any of the ports.  You generally can also assign a single universe to multiple output ports – reducing the need for DMX splitters in some situations.

Most nodes also support the ability to take DMX input, though some require you to use a turn-around adapter.

Where the professional-grade units take a step above the cheap guys is in the ability to setup merging and different DMX refresh rates.  These features can save your show!  Some units can even have built-in cues to save backup lighting looks, or to interface with wall controls for houselights, for example.

You’ll also notice that higher quality units are going to use high-quality connectors (very important for reliability!), and often feature the Neutrik EtherCON connector for the Ethernet, which is much more durable than the standard RJ-45 plug.

Power over Ethernet (POE) is a handy feature available on many nodes, and this allows you to literally power your node via ethernet – no external power needed.  To make this work, you’ll either need a router or switch that provides POE or a POE injector.

How Many Ports of Node Output Do I Need?

You’ll need (1) port of node output for each DMX universe that you need to convert out of Art-Net or sACN.  But, with any node, each port does not have to be a different universe - you CAN output the same universe on multiple ports.  Therefore, nodes often replace DMX splitters in many modern lighting rigs.

Many consoles can output a certain number of DMX universes via the “back panel” of the console, and then additional universes via Art-Net/sACN, so you may not need a node for each DMX universe in your show.

However, as we move into the future, we're going to see more and more lighting setups where there is NO direct DMX output from the console - where it all happens via nodes and direct DMX devices.

What Node Should I Buy?

Now that we’ve covered both how Art-Net and sACN work, and some of the differences between different levels of gear, it’s time to talk specific pieces of gear!

Now, as always, the gear I feature here is a sample of great pieces of gear from companies I trust.  There are other brands out there, and surely are other other options which are good which I don’t cover here.  (There are a lot of cheap, poor quality units too – so be careful!)

You can find out TOP node picks on our GEAR Guide, check it out by clicking here!

And then, while you wait for your order to arrive, brush up on how to set up your first lighting network, here!


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