Length of data wire to and between individual high-power WS2811 leds

Part of my design uses eight 4 watt WS2811 leds (Ultra Bright 3 Watt Chainable NeoPixel LED [WS2811] : ID 4544 : $3.50 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits), held at the end of ~8’ arms.
I am running individual 4-strand 18 gauge cable from a central intersection of those arms (think an 8 pronged umbrella-like thing) to the +/data/- of each pixel, then returning the output data from these back to the central intersection where it feeds into the data input for the next one. So a string of 8 pixels with average data line length of ~ 16 to the next pixel).

Is this going to be feasible? Would having an expander (or rather, two expanders chained together) be a better plan, even though each channel would only have 1 pixel? Is there any utility in putting a resistor after each pixel? What is the recommended maximum length of data line between two of these sorts of pixels?


Hey! Sounds like a great project.

My experience suggests there’s no hard and fast rule about the length that will work vs. one that will not. It can depend on the wire gauge and brightness used (and thus voltage drop) on the power wires (affects the quality of the data re-transmission at each pixel), whether the data is carried on a twisted pair, the baud selected, and whether that particular length is going to be a harmonic resonant frequency for it. This is why testing is the best answer.

I certainly know some people have a rule of “no more than X ft to first pixel” and I’ve heard X in 6 to 20 ft. So you’re right in the ambiguity zone. Search the LEDs Are Awesome group on FB to consume the diaspora of opinions.

I think the output expander definitely decreases your risk by a lot. It’s how I would do it for sure. I think you would only need a single expander, right? 8 channels, 8 pixels?

At 3W (600 mA) per pixel, you definitely need a separate power bus - sounds like you plan for this already; don’t run power through the expander.