DMX LED Light Strip VS SPI LED Light Strip, Which One Is Better?

There are many types of addressable LED strips in the market, but in general, they can be divided into SPI addressable LED strips and DMX512 addressable LED strips.

What is DMX512?

DMX512 is a standard for digital communication networks that are commonly used to control lighting and effects. DMX512 controller adopts 3-wire control mode to control DMX LED lights. For architectural lighting, large DC attenuation requires DMX repeater to be installed at a distance of 100m, and the control bus is set to parallel mode. Under the protocol, an address needs to be set for each light, and the address is generally set by a coder.

Under standard, the controller sends 512 data packets each time, and the chip assigns its own address according to the written code. The number of data packets intercepted by each chip depends on the number of designed channels, for example, RGB intercepts 3 data packets for the three channels of RGB, and RGBW intercepts 4 data packets for the four channels of RGBW.

Each packet consists of 11 bits, one of which is a start bit and two stop bits, and the other 8 bits are for the brightness of the channel that is divided into 256 levels from 0 to 100%. The control system can realize R, G, B, W each with 256 levels of gray scale, truly realizing full colors.

What is DMX512 used for?

It was originally intended as a standardized method for controlling stage lighting dimmers, which, prior to DMX512, had employed various incompatible proprietary protocols. It quickly became the primary method for linking controllers (such as a lighting console) to dimmers and special effects devices such as fog machines and intelligent lights.

DMX512 has also expanded to uses in non-theatrical interior and architectural lighting, at scales ranging from strings of Christmas lights to electronic billboards and stadium or arena concerts. It can now be used to control almost anything, reflecting its popularity in all types of venues.

DMX512 pixel led strips also has incomparable advantages, which are mainly reflected in the following aspects:

  • The DMX512 led strip can be arranged by the address code and cooperate with the DMX512 system to achieve more complex functions and effects.
  • DMX512 signal has higher data transmission frequency and stronger anti-interference, suitable for more high-end applications.
  • DMX512 is a dual-signal transmission, and it has the function of resuming the transmission. The damage of a single IC will not affect the work of the entire light strip.

What is SPI?

SPI stands for Serial Peripheral Interface and is a synchronous serial communication protocol. It allows you to transfer any kind of data. The SPI protocol is typically used to control addressable (or pixel) LED strips, because it enables transfer of more than 512 values. Typical SPI protocol used for addressable LED strips can control even 1000 individual RGB LED pixels.

SPI protocol is more suitable to control RGB LED pixels used in addressable LED strips. There is an issue though with SPI– there is no standard protocol to control pixel LEDs. You probably heard already about WS2811 or TM1914 LED strips. These are different SPI LEDs. That’s why you must set correct SPI protocol for your pixel LED strip you’ve purchased for your installation.

Compared with DMX512 pixel led light strip, SPI pixel led light strip is cheaper and more popular in the market, and its styles are more diverse.

  • Divided by the position of the IC, SPI light strips can be divided into built-in IC pixel led strips and external IC pixel led strips.
  • Divided by working voltage, it can be divided into 5V, 12V, 24V.
  • According to whether there are 2 communication lines, it can be divided into breakpoint continue led strip and non-breakpoint continue led strip.
  • Divided by the color of the light strip, it can be divided into mono white, tunable white, RGB, RGBW and RGBWW pixel LED strips.
  • According to the beam direction of the LED chips, it can be divided into top beam magic light strip and side beam magic light strip.

DMX LED Strips VS SPI LED Strips

Chip Size Smaller Bigger
Wiring Simpler More complex
Transmission 400kHz and 2MHz 250kHz
Channels Not fixed 512 channels for one DMX universe
Pixel Density Can be denser /
Code Writing Unnecessary Necessary
Control Distance / Longer
Compatability / Better
Signal Input Input Side Either End
Signal Stability / Better
Partial Failure Depends on IC chip models Does not affect other points to work
Failure Detection More convenient More complex
Pixel Combination When converting to DMX By writing code
Overall Cost More economical Can be expensive


SPI and DMX-controlled LED light strips both can deliver dynamic lighting effects of all sorts. But when it comes to specific projects, lighting planners need to take a variety of factors into consideration before making the decision that fits the project best. For example, for a large project that requires long-distance transmission, DMX seems like the better option. 

In the case of DMX, if a single light source fails to work, it doesn’t affect the rest; that’s not the case for all SPI strips. In terms of budget, DMX lights usually cost more than SPI ones. Last but not least, the same importance should be attached to the expertise of lighting professionals on site. In light of time efficiency, on-site engineers are likely to go with the protocol they are most experienced with because spending extra time on training and getting familiar with something new is time-consuming and delays project delivery.

Shine Lighting offers a wide array of DMX and SPI LED flex lights and have numerous experience in delivering such projects across the world in entertainment, architectural, commercial, residential, light shows, etc.

Feel free to contact us if you want to learn more about our addressable LED strip light series.

Leo Fu

Leo Fu

Hi, I am Leo Fu, the co-founder of Shine Lighting. I've been running a factory in China that makes linear strip lights for 12 years now, and the purpose of this article is to share with you the expertise related to LED strip lights from a Chinese supplier's perspective.