diy usb dmx controller

DIY USB DMX Interface for under 10$

The DMX protocol is basically the same as the RS485 protocol, so we can use any RS485 USB converter to control DMX devices. DMX controllers are usually not that cheap, using this guide, you save money for possibly a hardware MIDI controller for your lighting software.

Required Parts

Before you start using this guide, I want you to know there is a second tutorial available on creating a USB-DMX controller using an RJ45 cable HERE

  • RS485 Adapter that uses an FTDI RS232 Serial Chip (Buy HereHere, Here), I got the one as shown in the image below but any USB to RS485 converter that is based on an FTDI RS232
  • Female (Chassis) XLR connector (Buy Here, Here, Here)
  • (Optional) ABS Enclosure (Buy Here)

DIY USB DMX Adapter RS485

 

Installation / Wiring

The USB-RS485 converter has the following 3 to 6 connectors:

  • A or Tx+ or +Data or +ve
  • B or Tx- or -Data or -ve
  • GND or GROUND or 0V
  • (optional) 5V or VCC
  • (optional) Rx-
  • (optional) Rx+

We only need the 3 connections, the GND,Data+ and DATA- are the only connections required for sending a DMX signal. These 3 signals correspond to the 3 pins/holes in a XLR connector:

XLRConnectors

The connections of the XLR/DMX plug as numbered above are:

  1. Ground/GND
  2. Data-
  3. Data+

Now it’s simple, just connect the corresponding ground and data outputs and your DMX Dongle is ready:

  • Connect GND of your RS485 to pin #1 of your XLR
  • Data-/TX- of your RS485 goes to pin #2 of you XLR
  • Data+/TX+ of your RS485 goes to pin #3 of your XLR

RS485toXLR

Try to keep these wires as short as possible, long wires may add extra interference… if experiencing problems, try twisting the data+ and data- wires. I used regular cat5e networking cable for the wiring.

 

Not all devices seem to work out of the box, below is a Fix for those devices that are not sending DMX:

Device not sending DMX Fixes

Here are a few fixes for if your board does not send DMX, Please leave a comment on the fix you tried. It would be a great help for anyone having problems with this board in the future.

I recently got a reply from “Pepe” suggesting a new Fix that will fix unstable DMX adapters.

mWp6VDh

I bought this one and is working, and I see a small modification here on my chip out of the box. There are two shorted pins (as I remember I try to short some pins to get continuous work. maybe that was that case that was working for me)

I attaching a diagram (Make sure to check the orientation of the chip (you can test it by shorting reset and VCC) so maybe this is another Fix (for those wich get it work for few minutes and then it fail) http://prntscr.com/7yvfmb

Ps a AGDD+test pin are conected to maing ground ( GDN + PWR Led (a GDN side)

Hopefully, this will help.

Video Tutorial by Absolete Frosty

I would like to Thank “Absolete Frosty” for making a very detailed English video tutorial for this guide.

Part #1 – Hardware:

Part #2 – Software:

Absolete Frosty’s Youtube Channel 

Compatible Software

Windows: The best free software available(for windows) is Freestyler DMX, download and install  HERE.

Freestyler DMX Loadscreen

Now in settings choose the interface “Enttec open DMX“.. this device is based on an RS485 and works with any RS485 device.

freestylerdmxsettings

Now click save, add your fixtures and start programming your show.

Other Software : 

Mac: QLC+, Download Here. Personally, I find this the easiest, best program there is for free.

***Other compatible software :
DMXControl
Martin M-Series Software + (Fixture Library)
(Mac Appstore)JV Lightning DmxControl free and pro

F.A.Q

DMX Signal randomly stops:
– Try plugging your DMX Adapter in a POWERED! hub (with external power supply) this may fix random stops.

What software can I use? :
http://www.enttec.com/?main_menu=Products&pn=70303

Drivers? :
The FTPI chip should work without manual driver installation, if the default windows drivers aren’t working for you you can try downloading & installing these drivers:
http://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/D2XX.htm

Normal LED behavior :
Plugged in, not sending: Red Led
Pugged in & Sending: Red Led ON & Green LED Flashing

Small, quick and easy test software?:
kmtronic.com DMX Tester

QLC+ won’t work:
The Mavericks update broke DMX output on mac’s, you need to replace your FTDI driver with an older version.

Other problems try these:
– Try on different computers & always try the windows driver first.
– (laptop) Try unplugging the power adapter & try again
– When trying, only use 1 DMX light, if these works try adding more lights to the chain.
– more solutions in the comments below.

Board :

rs485board

Sending DMX :
dmxrs485

Confirmed not working RS485 adapters :
Pro 5ft. USB to RS485-RS422 Converter with FTDI Chip
Prolific USB to serial adapter (uses pl2303)
Any MAX485 Adapter : (image provided by marmil)
Bh7TZhI

Reader creations

Photo’s of your creation can be mailed to admin@stevenbreuls.com, these images will be added to this post to help other users create their device.

Thanks to kefke44 for creating a 3D printable enclosure for this build. Free to download Here.

 

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536 Responses

  1. I’ve been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

    1. lageoi have a small project thats ruinnng 5 RBG strips and several white LED strips. i’ve been using the Dmx master shield to drive my dimmer board. It seemed to be working fine for a day and a half and then the other morning i went to turn it on, the power indicator lit up, but its not sending dmx to the dimmer. not knowing what else to do, i pluged a new one in, it worked great, problem solved, 10 minuets latter it also stopped sending. i’m totaly perplexed. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

      1. You will probably have two RS485 drivers active at the same time. In general only the USB-RS485 converter should be driving the DMX signal, all other DMX products should only have their receiver enabled, and their RS485 driver disabled. In most cases this is a hardware input to the RS485 chip, and when left unconnected (open) the behaviour of the chip cannot be predicted. Check the datasheet of the RS485 chip and make sure that the driver is disabled.

  2. I just try to make that, because I have some usb-485 FT232RL converters, but FreeStyler returns a problem to make it works and I don’t know how to use DMX Control (I don’t speak german).
    I want to try this “USB-DMX” conversor to control a wall washer that have an DMX input, do you know how I can do it?
    Thanks,

      1. Hi I saw this and really needed a DMX interface so I bought the board and put it together just as in the instuctions. When i plug it in,PW light turns on, when i open Qlights, RX light turns on and my mini par that i’m testing it with starts flashing about every two or three seconds. I once got it to work and could control it RGB for a few seconds, but even then it still flashed white every few seconds. Tried the FT-Prog on my old windowsXP but the program doesn’t recognize it. I wanted to ask if you had any ideas before I start soldering it up.

        1. not sure what the problem is but i don’t think soldering will fix it. Looks like some interference problem… how long are the wires from your board to your female/xlr adapter?

  3. My RS485 – USB from the first (eBay) link you posted is ordered about 2 weeks ago. I think I get it in 2 weeks.
    I’ll let you know if it work! Thanks for this very usefull post.

  4. Yesterday I received my RS485 – USB thing (first eBay link). I already had a XLR connector for building the complete into a box.
    I connected the xlr to the rs485 -usb, and plugged it into my PC. There was shining 1 light from the usb thing. I started up Freestyler and I choose Enttec Open DMX. Huh, it says there wasn’t a adapter plugged in. I plugged a dmx cable in the adapter and putted the dmx cable into a mushroom. It was on te right channel. After I had done that a second light goes on.
    But still freestyler didn’t saw a adapter. Also if i select Enttec Pro dmx and click on the usbchannel it was in it didn’t work. But when I select the enttec pro there was blinking another green light.
    I still haven’t got it working. I think I need some drivers. Can anyone help me? I already installed the drivers from the enttec site but that doesn’t changed a thing.

    1. In Windows Device Manager, is there a “USB Serial Port(Com x)” under “Ports (COM & LPT)”? If not, you have to install the FTDI driver that came on the CD of the RS485. In Freestyler, this will only work with the Enttec Open DMX, not with the Pro.

      1. There is a category ‘unknown’ and there stands ‘USB-SERIAL CH340 (COM3)’. There were not any drivers in the package, i contacted the company from ebay and send me a link for a drivers. But after install nothing changed.
        Even after reboot, Freestyler says by Enttec open DMX: ‘No USB->DMX found’.
        Maybe you can help me with Teamviewer or something?

          1. Status from the USB-RS485 says there are new drivers installed, but still doesn’t work with freestyler.
            Can you contact me via mail so you can help me via Teamviewer or something?

              1. I know how to install them, but the windows driver which is pre-installed in windows 8 stays running.

        1. Lars, did you make it work in the end?
          I also bought a converter which was automatically detected by Windows 7 x64 as ‘USB-SERIAL CH340 (COM3)’ and I can’t make it work too – Freestyler says “No USB->DMX found”

          Since it does not use a FTDI chip, installing the FTDI drivers has no point (though it seems to install the COM driver successfully)… it uses different drivers.

          I’m afraid it won’t work since it’s not a “direct” USB->RS485 converter… it’s actually USB->RS232->RS485 converter (it uses the CH340G+MAX485 chips):
          http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Free-Shipping-1PCS-USB-2-0-to-RS485-Serial-Converter-Adapter-CH340G-MAX485-or-SN75176-CNT/812021_1435407038.html

          It’s installed only as a COM port in Windows, but the Enttext FAQ talks also about “USB serial converter” device which I don’t see in my device manager…