When you’re shopping between different vendors for Christmas light pixels, you may see different vendors have different connector types available on their pixels.
These connectors offer a (mostly) waterproof connection between your controller and the first pixel, and between multiple strands of pixels.
While different types of these connectors may look similar, they are often different and connectors of different types cannot be connected together without an adapter.
First, let’s look at the different types of connectors available, and then I’ll let you know my favorite for your display!
Types of Connectors
There are (3) main types of connectors in the Christmas lighting hobby. These (3) connectors have a lot of similarities – they are all around 14mm in diameter, and all feature 3 pins, a locking ring, and a sealing O-ring.
The direction of the connectors also tends to follow the way that “wall power” plugs work – the female connector comes from the controller and the pixels headed to the “outlet” feature a male plug.
The most common types of connectors in the Christmas light pixel hobby are as follows:
The xConnect plug has the locking ring on the female connector along with the sealing o-ring.
The HolidayCoro “EasyPlug 3” is the same as the xConnect plug and is fully compatible.
The Ray Wu connector is similar to the xConnect, but features the locking ring on the male connector. It was formerly the most popular connector out there, but today has been dethroned by the xConnect.
The DIYLEDExpress plug is another popular plug, this time with the locking ring on the male.
What Connector is the Winner?
As I write this in 2021, the clear winner is xConnect.
Now, that comes with a couple of caveats! The xConnect is by-far the most popular connector today, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw out your old stuff or convert your display over if you purchased a different connector in the past.
Vendors that I speak with tell me that xConnect sells more and it’s easy to see that pretty much every vendors offers xConnect plugs on their lights.
But if you already have a different connector type on your display, it is fine to continue using that. The xConnect and Ray Wu types are the most available out there, so if you do use another type it may be harder to find into the future.
Even if you run your display with split types of connectors (as I do, partial DIYLEDExpress and xConnect), you just have to pay more attention to what type you are plugging in at a given moment and keep you extensions sorted.
It’s not impossible, especially if you keep wire colors different between types of connectors. I also store the extensions I use with my props and light strands so that I don’t have to go searching, so it’s not too bad!
What is a Pigtail vs. an Extension?
When you’re looking at pixels and wire, you may see the term “pigtail” and “extension” for each connector type.
A pigtail is simply a single-sided set of wire that you can wire into your controller’s green terminal blocks directly to offer a quick disconnect of your pixels to the controller. You generally will order female pigtails for most controller builds, but always double-check before ordering!
An extension is simply an extension cord for the given connector type.
Other Connector Options
When you are buying pixels or connectors for your pixels, there are a few other options you will see.
Flat vs. Round
Most vendors will sell both flat and found pigtails for pixels. If you are connecting the pigtail to a controller directly, then you want round as it allows you to use a waterproof cable gland in many controller enclosures.
Flat connectors are ideal when you are connecting a connector to a pixel string that you have shortened for a prop.
You will typically have the option of black, and possibly white or green for your pigtail wire.
Pixels themselves will also offer either black, white, green, or RWB multi-color wires.
Color is really a choice based on your home and display. Darker homes and shrubs tend to look better with black or green wire. Black wire is the most common.
White or cream-colored homes may benefit visually from white wire.
RWB wire (red, white, and blue) is available on many pixels and makes it very simple to switch out pixels in your yard. However, I’m not sure I’ve even seen RWB pigtails, so you will have to be careful if connecting a black/white/green pigtail to RWB pixels.
Pigtails for each connector are also available in a variety of lengths. I like shorter pigtails for controller boxes that will be on the ground, so that they don’t sit on puddles that form on the ground.
I like longer pigtails (up to 30 inch) for controllers that are off the ground as it gives me the ability to get rid of 2′ extensions from the controller to pixels that are very close by.
Just like color, length is preferential, and not near as important as using the correct connectors on your display.
When Should I Use Different Types of Connectors in My Display?
I mentioned above that most often you should aim to use a single connector throughout your display.
There is however, one exception that I like to make!
When you have multiple voltage of pixels (both 5v and 12v, or maybe even 24v!), it’s a wise idea to use different connectors for each type of pixels.
If you were to mistakenly connect the wrong voltage to a string of pixels, you would potentially fry that string of pixels.
This is why in electrical code, connectors used for power generally are ONLY used for one voltage type here is the US. It makes it “dummy proof” so that you can’t physically plug in the wrong voltage to a given plug.
And it’s a smart idea. But, as I mention above, if you’re not mixing voltages, stick with a single plug type!