Microplex to DMX – The Complete Guide – Learn Stage Lighting .com

Microplex to DMX – The Complete Guide

By David / a couple of years ago

Say you have a DMX lighting system and want to use a microplex dimmer or console.  Can it be done?

Say you have a microplex lighting system and want to use a DMX device.  Can it be done?  Or are we just stuck in a pickle where we’ll simply have 5 lighting consoles in order to turn the lights on?

The good news, as you may have guessed, is that you can convert Microplex to DMX and DMX to microplex.  There’s no “magic” formula, and so you won’t have to stand on one leg and spin around to make this work, thankfully.  Let’s dive in!

How are Microplex and DMX Different?

If you have a Microplex lighting system, you may notice that it uses the same 3-pin XLR plug as many DMX devices.  It would seem like you could just plug them together, right?  No!  In fact, you may destroy your DMX chips by doing this.

Microplex to DMX

Thanks to ryanmilani

One of the core differences between these 2 protocols is that Microplex sends power down the XLR line in order to self-power simple consoles from the dimmers, so you don’t have to plug the console into the wall!  Consoles like the NSI 7008 / Leviton 7008 don’t need to be plugged into wall power because of this feature.

The nitty-gritty details of exactly how Microplex is a bit of a mystery.  Unlike DMX, it is a proprietary protocol, and NSI/Leviton doesn’t give out the ingredients to their secret sauce!

Microplex and DMX are both multiplex protocols, but unlike DMX, Microplex is NOT digital, it is analog.  This throws a wrench in the works when you try to convert the signal, there’s no easy way to do it!

Microplex to DMX – What Doesn’t Work!

You would think that using a 3-5 pin XLR adapter could possibly work, right?  However, as we discussed above, the protocols are different, so while your equipment will be plugged in together, it will not “talk”, because it is not speaking the same language.  It’s like your console saying “¿Hola!, cómo estás?”, and your dimmers saying “I don’t speak French!”.

So that won’t work…But what about using a dimmer pack that has a Microplex In/Out and a DMX In/Out, such as the Leviton D4-DMX?

As you may know, you can use a DMX device with 3 and 5 pin to convert the plug but not split the signal, but this also doesn’t work with Microplex.  Once again, good idea….but it doesn’t work!

Microplex to DMX – What Works!

So now that you’re tired of me making bad analogies and silly jokes, here’s what actually works!

You need a box.  Because we are converting signal between protocols, we need some kind of box.  Now, we have 2 options:

1. Leviton N0501 – This a good, inexpensive box for converting between Microplex and many other protocols, including DMX.  It can also pass-through Microplex, so you can use both DMX and Microplex devices with your console(which can be DMX or Microplex).

Now, the N0501 (sometimes called the IF501) has multiple models, so it’s important that you choose the “Leviton N0501 Protocol Converter and Auto Sequence Control Device, DMX512, LUMA-NET, RS232, MIDI and 0-10V” model, if you’re converting DMX to microplex or vice-versa.

This allows you to either a) control DMX dimmers from a Microplex console or b) control Microplex dimmers from a DMX console.  Keep in mind that this box is not 100% plug and play, and you will need to open it up and move some jumpers around – however, the manual does a very good job of illustrating and giving you examples on what to do!

2. A New Console – If you are in need of a new console, there are a few that output both Microplex and DMX.  That way, you can use both Microplex and DMX devices on the same console, but no actual “conversion” has to take place from Microplex to DMX.

Check out which consoles can do this in my Complete Guide to NSI Lighting Controllers!


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  • Stephen says:

    We have NSI dds 9800 Dimmer packs and we have several LED lights that are DMX. We just replaced our old NSI MC 7532 board with a ETC SmartFade 2496. We cannot get control of our lights and from this post we are finding out it is because the old board and dimmers are multiplex. Is there a way to make this current set up work with a converter?

    • David says:

      Yes- This Leviton IF/501 Converter mentioned above will get the job done, and it’ll work so seamlessly you’ll never know it’s there!

  • Jared says:

    I am interested in controlling all of my nsi microplex dimmers via dmx, as well as using other dmx fixtures on a dmx controller. I am slightly confused on which option to choose on amazon. Thanks

  • David says:

    Hi Jared,

    The Leviton IF/501 Converter will work for your dimmers. Now, keep in mind that it is a $400+ box, so it may just be cheaper to buy new DMX dimmers (The Elation DP-DMX20L is around $120 for a 4-channel dimmer).

    Let me know if that makes sense!,
    -David

  • David says:

    Jared,

    Just to clarify, you need the IF/501 converter in the “MPX/DMX to CMX” style.

    Thanks!,
    -David

  • Marty Pierce says:

    I have NSI 2408 Dimmers and a MC7516 control console that is controlling lights via mpx. The console will output dmx and mpx and the dimmers will do mpx or dmx. The dimmers are currently set up for mpx. What do I need to do to change the wiring on the dimmer from mpx to dmx? Is it as simple as undoing the mpx wires and putting those into the dmx terminals?

    • David says:

      Hey Marty,

      It is literally as simple as switching the plugs on both end, as long as they are both 3 pin DMX. If they’re not, you can buy 3-pin to 5 pin XLR adapters or solder new plugs on.

      If your console doesn’t have a separate power cord, you’ll need one of those with DMX as well.

  • Randy says:

    At my church I have an NSI MC 7016 control board with microplex output only. I also have a number of microplex ND 4600 dimmer packs operating par lamp fixtures. There is also an I/O 501 interface box someone installed to operate a dimmer switch on stage via the LUMA-Net plug. I just purchased some new LED par lights that are 3-pin DMX. Can I use the I/F 501 interface box to operate both the microplex dimmers and the DMX LEDs simultaneously?
    I assumed the control box was DMX when I purchased the LEDs.

    • David says:

      Hi Randy,

      Unfortunately, the I/F 501 box can only convert (1) type of protocol at a time.

      So, you can either convert MPX to either Luma-Net OR DMX…but not both at the same time. Sorry! You’d need a 2nd box to make all this work. It may be cheaper just to get that Luma-Net switch replaced with a DMX dimmer.

      Thanks!,
      -David

  • Marvin says:

    We have converted our NSI Microplex system to DMX and are using Light Factory software and love it. We do however have a dozen NSI DDS 5600 dimmer packs that we want to use on occasion for productions. I purchased NSI’s conversion kit which consists of a set of DMX plugs and a chip as I recall. All of the conversion is complete except the patching of the DDS 5600 into the software. Since a DMX dip switch format is ten positions, how do I convert that to my dimmer which has 8?

  • Robert says:

    Hello David,

    Thanks for the hope generated by reading your article. We have 28 year old NSI NRD 8000 programmable dimmer at our church and have added Chauvet lights with control by Enlighten. Am I correct in understanding that the I/F 501 box can convert AMX to DMX? And, if so, would we be able to control the lights on the NSI dimmers via Enlighten? I hope we can.

    Thank, David.

    Robert

    • David says:

      Hi Robert,

      That should work no problem! If you want to know for sure before you buy – email Leviton’s support and they can give you a definite answer. (I know that the manual for the IF501 is a little complex)


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