Finding 3-Wire Strings in 2020

i13

Senior elf
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Jul 5, 2013
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813
Hi all

It's been quite some time since I've started a thread on ACL. For those of you who like to run traditional LED strings in your display and prefer the 3-wire DC type, I'm documenting my search progress here so that you can kick-start your search for these increasingly difficult-to-find lights.

Successful options:

I have found a Sydney-based retailer who stocks the 3-wire type at http://www.christmasinlights.com.au/
Not all of their range is 3-wire so I have to send them a text message and ask. I've done this a few times and they understand what I'm looking for.
They use marked-down pricing but I’ve never seen their items listed at the higher prices stated.

Work in Progress:

I'm placing a large order of 3-wire, 31V, 10m, 100 LED connectable strings from Dongguan Kaxled Lighting on Alibaba. They’re charging US $6.50 per string and US $11.88 for 3-wire, 31V, 5m, 200 LED connectable icicles. https://ledlight.en.alibaba.com/?spm=a2700.12243863.0.0.624d3e5fy4J2dh
I'm pleasantly surprised that their colours include obscure ones like orange, aqua, purple and pink.

Another supplier who seems to be willing to supply the strings is https://gdbctech.en.alibaba.com/?spm=a2700.12243863.0.0.624d3e5fy4J2dh
I will try them if things don't work out with Dongguan Kaxled Lighting. They insist on making a sample string to calculate pricing so I don’t know what their pricing is.

I'll post in this thread again as I progress with the order.

Unsuccessful options:

I tried Deason Lighting (US $5.50 per string for IP44, US $7.85 per string for IP65 and US $33.00 for 5m IP65 icicles with an unspecified number of LEDs) and Toprex (US $13.99 per string) but had no luck. For 3-wire, 31V, 10m, 100 LED connectable strings, they both have a minimum order quantity (MOQ) of 30 strings. While I did exceed that, they wanted me to separately meet the MOQ for each colour and that isn't happening.

Zhongshan Starking Lighting is unable to supply 3-wire, 31V. 10m, 100 LED connectable strings regardless of quantity.

Other points:

Other things I've found when preparing an order directly with a supplier:
  • The suppliers sell spare LEDs for a pittance. If you're someone who (like me) repairs dud sections in light sets, you may as well stock up on spare LEDs.
  • As I'm buying connectable light sets, I'll need to have lead-in cables. It can be cheaper to buy the connector from the supplier and the cable itself in bulk within Australia.
  • If ordering connectable sets, remember to get end caps for the connector at the far end of the LED string.
  • If the postage quote seems too expensive, clarify whether it is being sent by air or sea. Sea tends to be cheaper but slower.
  • Enquire with multiple suppliers when you want something specific. It is quite likely that a supplier will refuse to supply it or impose an unrealistic MOQ.
Thanks to the other ACL members who have previously posted in the Christmas Light Shopping Bargains section. You have helped me find some of these suppliers.

If you're reading this post and wondering why I care about the number of wires, see https://auschristmaslighting.com/threads/dont-buy-lytworx-leds-from-bunnings.6367/
and https://auschristmaslighting.com/wiki/Controlling-2-wire-Multi-Function-LED-Strings
The 2-wire strings are pretty much standard everywhere now. I prefer the 3-wire light sets because there is no reverse polarity, meaning that they can be on at 100% brightness with absolutely no flicker. It also means that I can plug both channels into a single screw terminal on pretty much any DMX controller. This is useful when I want the light set to behave as a single channel and only consume one channel on the controller.

Single-polarity strings have been available at Coles and Target in the last couple of years. They have the following limitations:
  • They're small.
  • They're not connectable. They can't be converted to connectable due to their wiring.
  • A very limited range of colours is available.
  • They're only single-channel.
If you’re looking for these, they’re the 2-wire strings without the usual 8-function built-in blinking.

Having said all of this, Hanson Electronics sells a controller for the 2-wire reverse-polarity strings so they're a viable option. I have never seen this controller in action.

If you have found another supplier that I overlooked, please post here.
 

marmalade

cats & pixels
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newcastle
As per my other post.. bunnings has some pretty good options this year, my store had a lot of the 31V strings in all sorts of colours/configurations! The DC2-30 works perfectly on them.
 

i13

Senior elf
Joined
Jul 5, 2013
Messages
813
It's unlikely that Bunnings would have any 3-wire strings. That said, this does remind me that I recently had a look at some 2-wire Bunnings icicles that a friend has in his static display. I'm pretty sure he bought them in 2019. I noticed that it would be possible to hack them to make them single-polarity. This could be done by cutting, swapping and soldering the wires along the top every time it drops back to two wires. This would result in a single-channel, single-polarity icicle set. I think this would work for most low voltage connectable icicle sets although you'd have to be careful that you make the polarity the same if you plan to continue connecting them. It might also work for non-connectable icicle sets but I haven't yet had a chance to look at any up close. You'd need to add wires if you wanted to make it into a three-wire, two-channel icicle set.
 
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i13

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Joined
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Messages
813
All good, you could have posted that response even after correctly reading my first post; I now realise that I simply asked for suppliers and you gave me one. I should have specified "3-wire" in the last line of my first post, especially when I asked immediately after mentioning 2-wire strings. Thanks for the response.

Another supplier is https://www.witchesofhalloween.com.au/lighting/
They have lights in Halloween colours. My friend with his static display has recently ordered the 100 UV and the longer orange+purple from them and both have 3 wires. That said, I would still suggest asking about the number of wires before ordering because these sorts of things have been known to change from one batch to the next as a general rule. The brand is Connectable Ready and it looks like they're also available at https://www.christmaselves.com.au/
 

djgra79

My name is Graham & I love flashing lights!
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Moving from 3 wire to 2 wire was a cost saving action from the suppliers. Essentially they can make a set of lights with 1/3 less wire (possibly the most expensive material) and then up to them if they pass on that saving to retail businesses. If you can make something for cheaper and the (regular non-blinky) customer wouldn't notice the difference when they plug it in and turn it on, why wouldn't you?!
 

i13

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Messages
813
I unexpectedly had a reply from Toprex today. When they quoted me the US $13.99 per string (above), they pictured a different style of string. The LEDs might have been socketed and they didn't have the usual concave lens that spreads the light. Today they pictured a string that appeared more like the store-bought style and I get the impression that this is cheaper. The available colours are "orange, pink, red, gold, cold white, lemon yellow, warm white, Golden apple, light aqua blue, deep aqua blue, gouache color, aqua green, purple, RGYB". The MOQ of 30 still applies and they still seem to want me to separately meet this MOQ for each colour.

The colours offered by Deason Lighting are red, blue, yellow, green, pink, purple, white and warm white. They were going to allow me to have two colours on the same channel.

Dongguan Kaxled Lighting (who I'm ordering from) has clarified with me that I don't want "changeable" (meaning socketed) LEDs that are easily swapped out. I decided against this option because I've never had store-bought socketed LED strings last long in the weather. For comparison, the non-socketed strings that I ordered in the top-atom group buy still look like new. It seems that top-atom is no longer trading https://auschristmaslighting.com/threads/big-w-equivalent-strings.4583/
 

marmalade

cats & pixels
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Messages
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Location
newcastle
It's unlikely that Bunnings would have any 3-wire strings. That said, this does remind me that I recently had a look at some 2-wire Bunnings icicles that a friend has in his static display. I'm pretty sure he bought them in 2019. I noticed that it would be possible to hack them to make them single-polarity. This could be done by cutting, swapping and soldering the wires along the top every time it drops back to two wires. This would result in a single-channel, single-polarity icicle set. I think this would work for most low voltage connectable icicle sets although you'd have to be careful that you make the polarity the same if you plan to continue connecting them. It might also work for non-connectable icicle sets but I haven't yet had a chance to look at any up close. You'd need to add wires if you wanted to make it into a three-wire, two-channel icicle set.
Can I ask why the search for 3 wire strings anyway? You can still get the same effects from 2 wires using any h-bridge type controller. I'll again reiterate that the DC2 can drive all the leds or the 2 individual led groups separately, negating the need to cut out and swap the leds that are reversed.

Some of the the new lyteworx ones have red on forward and green on reverse polarity, is that the kind of thing you are looking for?
 

i13

Senior elf
Joined
Jul 5, 2013
Messages
813
I have a preference for the 3-wire strings. It might be similar to how some of the long-time ACL members prefer WS2801 over WS2811 pixels.
  • They allow me to plug both negative wires into a single screw terminal on the controller and use them as a single channel. This doubles the number of strings per controller.
  • The light is brighter but not as harsh; all lights can be on at the same time with absolutely no flicker. Due to the reverse polarity of the 2-wire strings, they can't exceed 50% brightness and there will always be some flicker. My eyes are sharp enough to notice the flicker with the original plugpack. The noticeability of the flicker would be determined by the rate at which the H-bridge swaps but the 50% brightness limit would always apply; it is a limitation of the strings themselves. I want to get all of the brightness that I can because the traditional lights are alongside pixels and possibly a street light.
  • I don't want to have multiple types of controllers. My display is old and it already has 3-wire strings. If I keep things consistent then I can put any light set wherever I want without having to worry so much about its proximity to the nearest controller that happens to be the correct type.
I figure that as I'm placing an order directly with a supplier, this is the chance for me to order the type of lights that I prefer. I may as well document it here in case someone else happens to want them. The way I see it, the 3-wire strings have advantages over the 2-wire strings and the 2-wire strings don't have any advantages over the 3-wire strings. I will add a little side note here saying that hacking 2-wire strings to run on a slightly lower voltage is usually easier than 3-wire strings but I don't expect this to apply to icicles or connectable strings (which I'm ordering). I'm also specifying the voltage in my order.

I'm mostly ordering single-colour strings. The only 2-wire reverse polarity strings that I have in my display are the heavy duty ones that Target sold in 2017 and 2018. The LEDs themselves change from white to coloured depending on the polarity and I'm using DPDT (double pole double throw) relays to change it. Note that this configuration also has the same three advantages that I listed above. Thanks for pointing out the red-green Lytworx strings. If they're colour-changing LEDs then I could wire them up like this.

You can probably see this from my post but I'm the sort of person who picks up on fine details. I will make design compromises and accept that the display has its imperfections but not if I can avoid it. The viewers obviously don't care about the number of wires but I hope they can appreciate that my attention to detail does improve the display in general.
 
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i13

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Joined
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Messages
813
Another possible (but diminishing) source of 3-wire lights is second hand. Posting "Wanted" listings on places like ACL or Gumtree might find some.

I decided to add another 15 strings plus some end caps and extra connectors to my order from Dongguan Kaxled Lighting. They haven't posted my lights yet and were happy to let me increase the order.

If I find icicles at the after-Christmas sales this year, I will buy some and attempt modifying them to have 3 wires. I'll post my method here if it works or an explanation if it doesn't.
 

i13

Senior elf
Joined
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Messages
813
I had a look at the 2-wire icicle lights at Bunnings today and although I couldn't see the main wire, the only sets that seemed to be wired the same way as the ones that I posted about on the 13th are the big 2000 sets. These are not sold as connectable. I might buy a couple of these at the sales and try converting them to 3 wires. With their current price at almost $150, I don't think they'll sell out beforehand. I don't yet fully understand how the other icicles are wired, not even the connectable ones. They have four wires connected to the LEDs that are part-way down each drop while the 2000 sets only have two wires conected to these LEDs. This makes them easy to identify. The four wires suggests to me that the LEDs in an icicle drop are wired in parallel to each other and the drops are in series with other drops to make it add up to 31V DC. I'm just not yet sure how this would accommodate different length drops (which would require different currents) and the ability to connect the strings.

If you have some information on how these 2-wire input icicles with more than 3 wires in most LEDs are wired, I would be interested to know. I suspect that they're not easy to convert to 3-wire input but I won't know until someone explains the wiring to me or I have a set with me that I can unravel. Pictures of the top wire could help me figure it out too.
 
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