How Does Addressable LED Strip Work

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Light Up Your Life

Addressable RGB LED strips are super cool, and fun, and flashy, and sometimes a bit tacky, but they can also actually be useful too. 

RGB LED strips to come in hundreds of shapes, sizes, and configurations, but they can be broken into two major categories… 3 Channel RGB strips, and Individually addressable RGB strips.  A  3 channel strip has 3 different ground circuits and one common voltage, each different ground channel controls a different color of the light (Red, Green, or Blue).  By changing the resistance on those channels you can change the brightness of each channel, which allows you to produce a wide range of resulting colors. 

Each LED has an integrated driver that allows the brightness on multiple LEDs simultaneously and color to be separately. and it can come in various colors and let us do lovely and complex illumination effects.

Individual addressability, digital RGB LED strips can be used to create an infinite variety of dynamic effects and intricate color patterns.

Difference between the most common addressable pixel LED strips.

SK6812: A single-wire interface chipset integrated directly into SMD5050 or 8-12mm through-hole LEDs. Usually the cheapest option, but with slower data and PWM rates. There are many variants all using the same protocol.

WS2812: like SK6812

APA107: Our current favorite “new kid on the block”. This chipset is integrated into the SMD5050 LED like the WS2812, but uses a 2-wire interface instead, and supports PWM rates up to 30Mbps and up to 9kHz. Newstar’s proprietary design.

HD107s: An upgraded version of the APA107 with a PWM refresh rate of +26kHz.

SK6813/WS2813: 6-pin variant of the SMD5050 package (originally with 6 pins as the SK6812).

WS2815: an intelligent control LED light source where the control circuit and RGB chip are integrated in a package of 5050 components. (1 RGB LEDs per IC)

WS2801: Mid-priced 2-wire interface with excellent 8-bit color per channel, but only 1Mbps data rate and a decent 2.5kHz PWM rate.

WS2811: Bare IC variant, typically used for Christmas style lights and 12V strips (3 RGB LEDs per IC)

WS2811 400kHz: The original version of the chipset runs at 400kHz, unlike all newer versions that run at 800kHz. When using this variant you must use LED TYPE.WS2811_400. these are now rare.

LPD8806: Older but still good, this chipset is a 2-wire interface and can manage 20Mbps and high PWM rates. The downside is that each IC controls 2 LEDs and each channel has only 7 bits instead of 8, so it can only handle 1/8 of the color.

Addressable led strip with controller

SPI LED controllers can be designed to work in RF/WiFi mode for wireless control using an RF remote control or through an app installed on an iOS or Android smartphone. Some SPI LED controllers are configured to convert DMX512 digital signals to SPI digital signals and work on DMX consoles to control digital LED lights.


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