May 15

by David

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.

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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