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DMX cable by the foot?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by PilotLight, Aug 2, 2006.

  1. PilotLight

    PilotLight Member

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    Guys,
    Any one know where to buy DMX cable by the foot. I would like to make a few on my own in order to save a few bucks. If you could look at some of your cables and get me some numbers off of them and a short description of it would be a start. Like what gage? or Manufacture?

    Thanks,
    Mike
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Well if the cables won't be abused to much, common CAT 5 will work if it is pined correctly. If you want cable specificly designed for DMX Beldin 8227 will do ya, and if you are really going to be abusing the cable go with tourflex.
     
  3. cutlunch

    cutlunch Active Member

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    You can also use cable designed for digital audio specified with a 110 Ohm impedance . Proel does such a cable.
     
  4. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    If you use dmx through a cat5 cable can you run it through routers and cat5 switches, I would love to do that over making a run up to the cats and down across the balcony every time I needed a cat-5 run.
     
  5. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Any number of suppliers who sell pre-made cable will suppliy just the cable as with the above recommendations. Theater suppliers, fixture manufacturers and or suppliers, cable companies, production companies, literally hundreds of sources for a DMX protocal cable or even if light duty use Cat 5 cable suppliers.

    DMX protocol is the key. After this, Belden and other compaies model numbers are abundant given Carol, Beleden, and a multitude of specific to distributer suppliers out there.

    A worthwhile investment is buying a copy of DMX Protocol so as to see what specific types and brands initially at least were specified and the differences between them. Won't tell you who to get the cable from per say but will provide info in differences between grades. Lots of suppliers and sources out there, can't even list the amounts of cable in stock I currently buy from or have in the past.

    Perhaps a websearch on dmx cable will show the extent of the availability.
     
  6. Chris15

    Chris15 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    It is my understanding that the answer in short is no. If you are using DMX over Ethernet then yes, but as far as I know, DMX will not run through network gear. It should be fine however to run it through a patch panel, just not through active equipment like routers & switches. There is DMX over Ethernet stuff out there, but I have little to no idea on that.
     
  7. BillESC

    BillESC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    The best we've found is DuraFlex. It is twisted pair and double shielded.

    It will run you about $ .88 per foot.
     
  8. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    that makes a lot of sense. I suppose the active gear has no way to tell that it is routing dmx.
     
  9. farmerjo1111

    farmerjo1111 Member

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    Belden 9729 is the prefered DMX cable. you should be able to find this cable at just about any Electrical cable supply company. I just bout a 500' Spool form an electrical contractor but I don't recall how much.


    Dustin Strobush
    ETC Systems Group.
     
  10. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    What makes cat 5 usable for DMX is that it is a twisted media, 802.3 (the ethernet standard) is a much higher data rate then DMX, and therefore DMX can run on the media just as well as 802.3 data. Ethernet is the protocol, Cat 5 is what the protocol runs on (and it runs the same on fiber as it does on copper). The DMX512 protocol however is not a routable protocol like 802.3 is. DMX aquates to more of a serial protocol (think old modems) then the ethernet protocol. You can get DMX to ethernet nodes (artnet, shownet, etcnet2) that will convert your DMX signal to ethernet so you can run multiple universes accross one wire, and manage where your data goes. ACN which just got standardized is what is going to replace DMX eventualy, and that protocol is a routable protocol so you will be able to use off the shelf switches and routers to run with. This is the reason that is is sudgested to pull cat5 in renovations so that when the day comes that ACN will be usable its a simple matter of changing connectors, not pulling new wire.
     
  11. ricc0luke

    ricc0luke Active Member

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    be advised CAT 5 cable isn't shielded and is will not hold up to abuse well.
     
  12. Chris15

    Chris15 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Yeah, CAT5 UTP is not shielded, but CAT5 STP is, so it would likely be the better option, but if I'm correct, DMX runs using balanced signals, so it SHOULD cancel out and not be a problem. In the real world, I doubt that would be the case. I also have a feeling that there is now someone who is manufacturing a Cat5 type cable for touring and the like which will withstand abuse and couple it with Neutrik's Ethercon connectors and you have a cable which will withstand abuse.
     
  13. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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  14. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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  15. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    It is not that the shielding makes the cable stronger, its the fact that most cat 5 used for instalation in walls is solid copper, not stranded. When the cable is handled alot the strands will crack and break. If you are going to be handling the cable alot use stranded cable, if not, you can get away using solid core.
     
  16. klaue

    klaue Member

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    DMXoE is actually a hardware based translation layer specifically designed for formatting DMX packets for TCP/IP transmission. Like the parent said, it is safe to run self-built cabling through a CAT-5/6 line if there is no other equipment on there(patch panels are fine) but running the DMX cabling directly from a lightinhg console to a router or router to a dimmer rack/inteligent light is NOT a good idea. The DMX protocol physically uses only 250mV signal(max), I don't know what ehternet is, but I'm willing to bet it is higher. Given the power difference aside, the packet size/error checking is completely different. DMX is only one way communication, all of it on-the-fly, I guess the assumption in designing the protocol is that everything is updated so fast that one corrupt frame is nothing to worry about. Ethernet on the other hand has rigorous error checking and two way communication built in, DMX also uses packets that are 513 bytes long(I believe the length/frame rate changes with the amount of data being updated, not sure on this one) and ethernet has varying lengths.

    Simply put, two VERY different protocols and standards, NEVER to play equally together(bad smoke, bad).
     
  17. Console1

    Console1 Member

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    Thumbs up to the Tourflex. Thumbs down on the Cat 5 for what you are doing.

    Go with Bill's Duraflex or at least Belden 9729. In particular use of suitable good quality cable is important. Mic cable and CAT 5 sheilded or not is NOT suitable IMHO.

    I've seen a lot of different cables used for DMX that work. And I've seen some really crazy stuff happen from use of improper cables and goofy homemade splitters. Speaking of splitters please do not try to run DMX through routers unless your using something like ETC's Net2 or Strand's Shownet.

    Since you want to make your own cable go to your local electrical supply house and buy the proper cable. Pick up the 3 or 5 pin connectors and let the fun begin. All you need is a soldering iron, electrical solder, and a cable male and cable female XLRs and proper data cable. All DMX cables should be male at one end and female at the other. Wire color may vary, but the twisted pair must go to pins 2 and 3. Be sure to use the strain relief properly on the connector. Tubing or heat shrink at the connector is good too. Problems occur where the cable is stressed near the connector.

    The pinout for the five pin XLR connector is:

    Pin 1 Cable shield (also called drain) wire.

    Pin 2 Data Not (also called - Data)

    Pin 3 Data (also called + Data)

    Pin 4 spare (may be spare Data Not)

    Pin 5 spare (may be spare Data)

    Shell case The XLR connector body does not get connected to the cable

    wire.

    I never leave home without "Recommended Practice for DMX: A Guide for Users and Installer." By Adam Bennette. Copyright PLASA, 1994. Available from PLASA and USITT. From USITT: $6.00 USITT members, $9.00 for non-members. Known as the DMX Bible, the standard reference text for DMX users trying to keep themselves out of the hell an unreliable DMX system can make.
     
  18. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    After I'm done doing a Clear Com distro/patch panel and 18) 18" DMX patch cables I'm working a Saturday on - given I already have 63 hours this week and will be working all weekend, I'll have time to check my sample cables to verify some info.

    For now, there is lots of cable on the market, good and band and in type. Three main styles, rubberized, synthetic rubber and plastic. All are on the market and all have advantages and disadvantages. Compare and contrast in getting samples as much as possible and don't fall victom to a friend of any one supplier of a brand or type over another. Instead of cable, figure out what works best for your application and take your time in determining this. Ten year old Beleden DMX protocol cable oxidizes in being hard to later repair once it breaks and it will as a no less problem possibly similar to something with a PVC jacket that upon bending around a sharp corner, breaks really easily.

    No perfefct cable out there, what's best for your need is in the end best for your need. Try lots of brands and samplels before deciding a specific brand or type.

    Also a current question on Lighting Network where different answers or opinons were found. http://www.lightnetwork.com/index.php

    You will note distributers, customers and who is from the manufactorers replying and offering here just as much as customers. of various brands end result advice or opinion. Lots of gear out there, try it all.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2006
  19. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Over the weekend I worked with Duraflex and Pro-cable though I initially thought it was Lex I was grabbing off the scrap cable pile. This is three of at least six primary suppliers of my own DMX cable needs or from one year to another constantly switching brands and seeing what works best for my needs. Tried a lot of cable over the years, find most decent but none yet are perfect for my needs. Most are fine but none yet perfect or in testing best.

    The single pair Pro Cable seemed from the outside a lot like that of the Lex single pair in look. Once inside a Lex cable on the other hand, it’s much more like that of a Duraflex cable - perhaps slightly more tough but if so not by much. Slightly different outer jacket than that of the Pro Cable’s jacket. Took three times as long to strip the outer jacket of the Pro-Cable as opposed to the Lex cable. Stripping the Pro Cable is always a pain to do but also says something about the Pro-Cable itself that makes it a useful rugged cable. This stuff when a barbarian stage hand decides to strip a loom of cable with other than a hook blade makes for cable, that in outer jacket, one which won’t be cut by a careless utility knife blade slitting both cable and cable under it thus does not come back for repair in having a slit in it. Only new Gepcoflex cable and newer rubber Beldon or Carol cable has a similar if not almost as good resistance to being cut by careless technicians. The Pro-Cable does not matter how new it is in resistance to barbarians. Check out a Stanley #11-961 utility knife hook blade for de-looming purposes otherwise to defeat this problem. Removes the cut cables in for repair by 3/4's this given of them most cuts to cable left are still after that from those not using a hook blade.

    Of the three above, they are all decent and good cables. Add to this that TMB in having their very expensive Pro Cable line has also come out with a less expensive economy grade which is cheaper and solves some of the problems with their premium grade that literally a tank could run over but is not so user friendly to repair (not an easy cable to strip much less the Kevlar filler is hard to cut) much less has a low temperature outer jacket. The Economy grade of cable from them is a very good type of cable I recommend as something more similar to that of a very balanced in a cost effective but good cable way, the Lex and Creative Stage Lighting grades of thermoplastic DMX grade cable most sold today compare with.

    This given TMB’s Pro Cable as said, is very indestructible as long as it’s not touching something hot. This I mean in a cable grade that has a really tough outer jacket and filler much less conductors that rarely break. If you can afford it, there is a reason that Pro Cable amongst most in the industry would agreed to be the more hard core of all DMX cables - only it’s very expensive cost and potentially outer jacket melting down in the major problem. (Inner conductors are rated for a higher working temperature than that of the outside conductors meaning it will still work long past looking really bad. Problem is once it looks bad most reject it for being bad. TMB sales reps. note the operating temperature but also stress that it will keep working after the melt down. This is a valid point that it will work even if tossed aside for being bad due to a at times large melted hole in it.)

    Rosco and High End Systems also sell some decent cable by way of my testing that I would offer are similar in grade to that of the Lex and Creative Stage Lighting lines of cable. I have a Rosco play test sample as with a High End play test cable or two in the inventory that after a few years are yet to come back to see me for repair. Only times I see them is when I get tech people on their toes pulling cable for shows and asking if the cable marked test cable should be sent back to me or just continued to be tested. Both types are yet to fail and have served many tours and shows well. Avoid Martin cable. While they have lost the press on - non solder connectors, and upgraded the cable some, it’s still not so good cable in a dependable type of way.

    Also worked with some Wirlwind microphone cable over the weekend. This crap of specific class (because they do in fact make some decent DMX cable) twisted non-tinned thus defiant microphone cable I worked with which is throw away cable for me except when doing sound type jumpersv - not so frequently. Only reason I was doing Wirwind cable was I was doing some form of 3-Pin XLR to Balanced 1/4" Phone plug. Something about the Radio Shack balanced jumpers I bought, once one end was cut off so as to attach to the XLR turned out to be not so “balanced” and instead of only one conductor and a shield with (+) and (-) sharing the same conductor. Instead I had to make jumpers and trash the Radio Shack crap. I will have not assumed that something listed as balanced on the package will have not been but that’s the extent they offered in this case only a 1/8 to 1/4" adaptor/jumper. There was no 1/4" to 1/4" jumpers available - this as minor detail in another five bucks wasted in buying a second “balanced cable” which was mono instead of stereo as reality. If I have time on Monday, perhaps I will become the pissed off customer in returning the cable even if it’s already cut in half. Not that it would change a corporate world or do any form of good no matter how much I might complain. Hey, you work for X place, we would love to sell you batteries and cell phones... Perhaps I’ll just go in as a joke, ask for a balanced cable, take out my knife, cut it in half and ask them to explain the lack of second conductor. This given time to wasted and some in the past concept of changing the world to suite one’s needs or at least out of necessity to be honest.

    Wirlwind cable is not Radio Shack, in fact their 61 pin plug I prefer over that of other companies type of it - especially that over a Socapex brand for a DMX snake cable. Were not most of the Wirlwind I see not all twisted instead of braided and tinned copper shield, I might use more of it. I like it’s outer jacket covering in it’s bond to the shield wire and in general it’s inner conductors and filler by way of cable makeup. One of these days I will try the DMX version of it and possibly specify it. For plugs themselves, while similar but not, the Wirlwind plug I like over that of the male version of the Neutrik. I’m yet to see a Wirlwind failed male strain relief notch that as opposed to a Neutrik male shell I replace by the hundreds per year. Amphonlol and Switchcraft are better yet on the male, but in Wirlwind being very similar to that of the Neutrik shell, it must be using a better grade of metal in not bending than breaking. For the cable itself, I think the rubberized cable of a Wirlwind cable to be very user serviceable and rugged enough as long as DMX grade is the same as that of microphone grade. In many ways, out of repairing much older Belden DMX cable and the Wirlwind coming across my work table, it’s almost similar in the man difference being Belden cable I’m repairing it rubber and Wirlwind is synthetic rubber. Ok adhesion to shield wire and not much movement in inner conductors by way of decent fillers and materials of the inner conductor jackets not able to move about. Wirlwind DMX cable again is for me at least within consideration as a cable.

    Add to the above Carol Cable which is an alternate though less theater based supplier of digital grade or DMX grade cable but just as good if not in jacket better than that of Beldon. I mostly work with older - much older Beldon grade cable in it’s 10+ year failing. That said, the Carol cable now 7+ years I was buying is now also failing. Perhaps not as good but this given not much Beldon left in the inventory. Both were rubberized and tend to dry rot with time. This in addition to both shield wire and inner conductors in time oxidizing thus not liking to take soldering/re-soldering. This in a way the above Creative/Lex and especially TMB versions at times just as old don’t seem to oxidize due to thermoplastic jacket material in keeping out the humidity, potentially the water, and salt water if not the DF-50 fluid in the air. I love a natural rubber outer jacket over my cables, just have problems seven years later with them in dry rotting, inner conductors green sticking, and during repair conductors not taking solder even if they did readily while fresh. Such cable from what I have seen has a specific shelf life and while very rugged - Carol cable having the best adhesion to shield, they dry rot and allow inner conductors to oxidize with time. Thermoset and thermoplastic cables don’t as readily.

    While I love a rubber jacketed cable and think at times nothing better - you won’t find any SJE cable in my active cable spools, for data cable in my usage, it seems to have around a seven to ten year lifespan. Darned if I don’t specifically remember making most of the Carol cable in the inventory now coming back to see me in having conductors that break often three inches short of the plug, or in the case of the 10 year old Belden cable dry rotting along it’s length, I’m done buying natural rubber types of data cable. This given hard usage and being bought for the ability for someone to slam a door on it and the cable being just find in abrasion and abuse resistance. This much less especially heat resistance. Hopefully another 40 more years to go as a tech person, I don’t want to see and remember specifying the cable I use on a rotating basis. This given the Pro Cable for the most part while more dull ten years later still is very rugged as long as someone does not let it touch say a Leko.

    Along these lines of a seven to ten year old cable in the inventory is that from the original AC lighting PVC cable. Ten years later and it’s still in the inventory, much less in building rack components, and fitting a DMX grade cable into a strain relief, it’s still at times chosen out of my scrap pile. Problem with the AC cable was that it is while very good and rarely failing due to conductors, so thin it more or most commonly fails due to not able to be coiled or in bending/cutting fractures of it. This in their old cable also as a cable that was a defiant challenge to mark as to who owns it. Stuff in XLR single pair cable last for ever but in only about 1/8" OD was easily cut by way of knife or bending around a sharp corner very easily. Cable more in the at least 3/16" thick to 1/4" thick size is much easier to mark and or breaks and cuts easier. This and is easier to coil up. AC Lighting as a company has changed their cable to an upgraded version I’m yet to sample. I am told it is much better and given while small it did last well, I would believe it to be a very good grade of cable. Other than the size of the original cable, there was nothing wrong with it and ten years later, it’s still in the inventory often working just fine.

    This as opposed to some of the newer cable Lex, Creative and most especially something from ETC (blue lettering) though not ETC the lighting company by brand supplies that while industry standard the older cables did not have problems with. Got a bunce of ETC cable at one point that works fine only they in supplying us for three pin XLR used two pair cable. Some suppliers in doing this and even in Pro-Cable doing XLR they also have four wires, point being all four conductors are soldered to a pin of the conductor. It’s only once the conductor breaks loose that it causes gremlins in your system by way of floater conductor when twisted in a specific way that touches an opposing pin, yet during testing does not. Yep, a floater cable within a plug is a wee problem. For XLR cable, having four conductors does not in any way ensure that should one conductor break your show will work as per TMB’s thoughts at one point in going blue/white double conductors. Instead it ensures should one conductor break, a cable that one will find very tricky to catch once a conductor becomes a floater in touching but not all the time - this while at other times still seeming to work. What I got from ETC and later thru Gepco by way of two pair cable with three pin XLR was even more problematic in that both had for conductors, all four were even stripped, in the latter, only two conductors while equal in length were attached, the other two conductors just floated about within the plug. That’s a bad thing and even cutting back the not used conductors did not help because years later as the cable un-twists, those cut back conductors at times later grew longer and started touching again in crossing pins. That’s a problem however with two pair DMX cable used for a XLR/DMX use. The ECT cable was decent cable, and the Gepco was excellent cable, just a wee problem with using it for shows still not solved in being out there in the inventory. ETC cable reimids me much of the Crative Stage Lighting DuraFlex or that of the High End cable all of which are within a certain class of cable.

    Gepco cable on the other hand was and is a really good and recommended outer jacket to a cable type. It’s as if a thick foam were sprayed over that of the conductors. Good adhesion to the shield wire and decent compression to that on the inner conductors in preventing them from flattening out from twisting thus becoming longer or shorter on a conductor by conductor basis. Gepflex cable is darned good DMX cable and potentially is worth their more expensive price for it over that of more Duriflex types if by way of resistance to abrasion alone. The Gepco Flex cable is nice cable, only the slight problem with the above extra wires floating about which would be an easy fix, not being able to make do my choice of plug to my standards in doing so and price at one point stood in the way of the next year’s contract. This and lack of response to requesting help. Hate having to keep reminding vendors, those hungry get most of my attention in at least having the courtousy to reply when they get a message. Gepco we get most of our RJ-45 cable from, good cable type in addition to overall good DMX cable.

    Many sound cable suppliers that can also supply a DMX grade cable. While I would love to be making all the cable we use, given a six year backlog of projects, I just don’t have time these days to fix gear and build new. Normally the company I shop from gets it’s cable these days or this year from Lex Products. For the cable spools I buy on the other hand, I buy them from Creative Stage Lighting for their DuraFlex cable. That’s of course this past year, next year perhaps I’ll go with with Coast (main supplier of Beldon cable) has to offer or perhaps one of many companies including doing the economy line of TMB. Pehaps Rosco or High End or even Wirlwind as a supplier, all cables have merits and most major suppliers have some good product on the market to compare and price match with what they have to offer.

    Something to consider is floater wires verses cable memory. All data cables will be used and abused as per a wire rope at times, only a 24ga wire is not so strong. Going with a cable that offers a up to 20ga conductor can spell the difference between a cable that fails due to conductors especially at times breaking somewhere within the length of cable if not at the plug terminal, verses something at least as strong as a zip cord in withstanding some abuse. After DMX protocol, there is various DMX cables on the market with different AWG’s of wire out there. 22ga wire might be a really good cost effective grade that will last a wee bit longer than the 24ga norm.

    Floater conductors verses cable memory also is a factor. Creative Stage Lighting in DuraFlex while a very good DMX cable has a only loose tension on the inner conductors of the cable. This means a cable that will always coil up nicely in not having a memory of how it was abused in twisting last time but also inner conductors that move about a bit more in at times one end of the cable having a conductor or conductors bunched up on one end and it breaking loose on the other end. This as opposed to say a old Belden grade where the rubber did not move within the jacket and broke conductors instead of moving or a ProPlex that has cable memory and after time perhaps won’t coil up as nice but also does not move about in inner conductor at times being half an inch shorter on one end.

    As said however, I do buy the Duraflex cable and have been using it for a few years now without other than normal problems. In DuraFlex only a few others have, I especially like the foil shield, with drain wire and braided shield combination. Very easy to heat shrink a drain wire and cut away the braided shield. This as opposed to twist up a braided shield wire and fit it into pin one of a five pin DMX plug. This cable failing over that of another is not the case, it’s a good and decent cable. I use it as a bench mark to compare others to simply. At one point last year I was having a huge amount of cable built. The sound company I was having solder the plugs was taking what cable I was supplying instead of selling me their’s and just charging me for labor in getting the cable ready. Clark it would seem later in studying the DuraFlex also sold that exact cable, only it did not have the name to it or was specificied to be DMX protocol cable. Instead it was their best microphone cable. The sales person upon noting the cable assured me it was the exact same cable he was also buying. Could be possible that DuraFlex cable in a sort of standard is more a generic type that is in general available on the market. This is not known for sure but very possible after seeing a sample of a non-Dura Flex cable that was in all ways the same. Clark, Gepco and other sound based wire companies I expect have access to the same wire, in addition to what they are offering in their own specification grade. Those sound based wire companies are also keeping up with the TMB, Lex and Creative suppliers for RJ-45 based ethernet cable in heavy stage rugged jackets. Defiantly some companies to watch or get samples from. This in additon to say AC Lighting, Coast and the fixture manufacturers. It’s possible at some point that if Rosco has a decent grade of DMX cable on the market, even American DJ might also at some point if they offer a pro grade of it.

    My advice is to get a sample of each brand/type. Cut it, pull it, burn it, soak it in salt water and dip it in DF-50 fluid. Most will hold up just fine, other’s wont. After that it’s just a judgement call in what held up and or seems beyond this best for you in being the best between cost effective and rugged. Since you will be applying the plugs to the cable, most likely warranty on the cable won’t be an option to worry about. I is if one has time to wait for your cable to visit it’s manufacturer however given they did the work. Most will have limited warranties, ProCable is lifetime warranty. Good as a concept until one considers shipping costs and time with it gone - this verses time it otherwise would take to just repair the cable. Sure, you buy a pallet of cables and half of them for this large order look like the whole shop made them for you including the receptionist, you will both have been better off making your own and they did you no favors in providing cable. All a question of time in building your own verses what others can do for you.



    Not a standard or in any way advice on what specific brand to buy. Only some extent of study into the subject of cables if it helps.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2006
  20. BillESC

    BillESC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    In other words...

    Ship uses DuraFlex. :)
     

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