Everything you need to know about RGB Strip light

RGB strips have become a growing trend in PC lighting, delivering unique control capabilities and improved aesthetics.

The two most popular implementations are static colours and adjustable LEDS. For static colours, the controller sends one colour at a time to the RGB strip to produce a lit effect.

For adjustable LEDS, your motherboard sends a signal to the controller that then dynamically changes the colour and brightness of each LED in sync with audio or video output from your system.

Each RGB LED has four wires. One for each colour and one common anode (+) or common cathode (-) lead. Anode lead is the longest of the four leads.

Related: Looking for a RGB strip light wholesaler?

How Do RGB LED Light Strips Work?

RGB LED light strips use pulse width modulation (PWM) to change the brightness of the strip.

A PWM signal consists of a square wave that switches between low and high voltage levels.

The duty cycle, or percentage of time at a high voltage level, determines the average brightness of an RGB LED strip. At 100% duty cycle, or if the LED strip is always on, the brightness is at its highest.

At 0% duty cycle, or when the LED is off, the brightness will be zero. Since PWM signals from a motherboard only change between high and low voltage states – it can’t give you discrete control over an RGB light strip’s brightness- which explains why some RGB LED strips are less bright than others.

RGB LED controllers must be used to change the brightness of an RGB strip, whereas using a motherboard would only turn the strip on or off.

Every RGB LED contains three LEDs: one blue, one green, and one red.

Each LED can generate 256 different hues of the same colour. If you combine three colored LEDs, you may generate over 16.7 million colour options (each LED may create 256 distinct hues).

How does RGB create this colour combination?

Each pixel on an RGB strip has a common anode (+) and a common cathode (-), which are the longest two of four LED leads.

When current flows from the blue lead to red lead, the green led lights up. When current is flowing from the green lead to the red lead, the blue light glows.

Simply change the brightness of each LED to produce different colours. If you wish the colour purple, for example, you would raise the brightness of the red and blue LEDs while lowering that of the green LED. Similarly, if you want the colour yellow, you should decrease the blue LED and increase those of the red and green LEDs.

RGB strip lights also work on the same principle. The colour range of RGB LED light strips is quite broad, although they do have limits. For example, they can’t produce the hue brown or bright pink.

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How Can You Control RGB LED Light Strips?

Individual RGB LED light strips come with an RGB controller.

RGB controllers allow you to change the colour and brightness of each individual LED. This allows for more detailed lighting effects than what motherboard PWM signals can do.

An RGB controller is responsible for receiving input from your motherboard or directly from a video card (if it has RGB headers).

An RGB controller can be used with one LED strip or two. An RGB controller is also responsible for sending power to the strips it’s powering, which eliminates the need for an external 5V power supply.

RGB controllers come in three main varieties: wired (remote), wireless (RF or IR), and addressable (DMX).

Let’s have a detailed discussion about it.

Types of RGB LED Light Strip Controllers

RF Controllers:

RF stands for radio frequency, which is the wireless technology that allows your mobile devices to communicate with wireless routers.

RF controllers are completely wire-free and don’t rely on hardwiring to receive power.

This makes them very appealing. However, RF controllers can be unreliable in large home theatres where lots of 2.4GHz devices are active at the same time.

Wired Controllers:

Wired controllers connect to an RGB strip and receive power through a 5V external power supply.

They contain LED drivers and use PWM signals from your motherboard or directly from a video card (if it has RGB headers) for control.

Unfortunately, wired controllers are limited to a certain distance from the LED strip which could be less than 20 feet in some cases.

Wireless Controllers:

Wireless controllers are not limited by distance.

They typically use infrared or radio frequency technology to send signals, but they can also use an AC adapter for power.

Since the signal is wireless, you’ll need to pair your remote with the controller before it becomes functional.

Wireless RGB LED light strips work much in the same way as RF controllers do, but they don’t use radio waves for control.

DMX Controllers:

If you intend to hook up multiple LED strips or install a complex light show, you should consider using a DMX controller.

DMX stands for digital multiplex, which is an entertainment industry standard that allows for precise control of lighting equipment from a central console.

A DMX controller doesn’t require configuration and acts as the brains of your system. It also uses software that provides easy-to-use interfaces.

A DMX controller may control up to 512 channels at once.

DALI Controllers:

Control your RGB LED strip lighting directly from a wall switch with a DALI controller.

DALI stands for digital addressable lighting interface, which is an international standard that allows lighting systems to seamlessly communicate with each other.

These controllers are ideal for larger areas like office or towers or hotels.

RGB LED light strips can be controlled using a regular wall dimmer switch by installing a DALI controller, which functions the same way as a regular dimmer switch.

There are several types of DALI controllers, but they share the same functions and features:

Sends PWM signals to LED strips Allows for manual control from a wall switch Eliminates controller compatibility issues Provides two-way communication between the lighting system and power supply Goes easy on the electrical bill

Types of RGB LED Light Strip Controllers

Your RGB LED strip controller should be compatible with your system. If you plan to use the same lighting system across multiple systems, consider using an addressable RGB controller that can be easily configured.

When choosing between wired, wireless, and remote controllers, keep in mind that wired controllers are limited by distance while RF controllers may be affected by interference from other devices in your home.

If you want complete wireless freedom and don’t care about the price, you can go with a wireless RGB LED strip controller.

However, if you only need to control a couple of LED light strips, we suggest choosing an RF remote with a short range that is compatible with your components.

If you’re a perfectionist and want complete control, go for a DALI controller because it will allow you to create the exact atmosphere or lighting effect you have in mind.

However, if your goal is only to switch between pre-loaded lighting profiles, choose a regular RGB LED strip controller with an RF remote.

Finally, if you need a lot of lights, choose a DMX controller to keep your energy bill low.

Whatever you need, find an RGB controller that fits your needs and budget.

RGB LED Controllers vs Motherboard PWM Connections

As you can see, RGB controllers are actually very similar to motherboard connections in terms of functionality.
The biggest difference is the number of connectors available on an RGB controller compared with what’s available on your motherboard or video card. For example, if you have an RGB header on your motherboard, it’s likely limited to just one connector since most motherboards come with only one RGB header.

RGB Controllers vs External Power Supplies

It can be easy to think of RGB LED light strips as being wire-free solutions. However, the power supply is still required for RGB controllers other than those that use an AC adapter.
While hardwiring an RGB strip may seem like a better solution, it’s more complicated and not as reliable as wireless options.
The biggest benefit to going wireless is the lack of a power supply. An external power supply is required for all types of controllers except those that come with an AC adapter.
This means your RGB controller will need a power supply, even if it’s wireless.


We hope this blog post has helped you understand the different types of RGB LED light strips and their controllers so that you can start planning your own project. If not, we have a whole range of resources on our website to help make your next lighting design idea come true.
What are some other questions you still have? Let us know in the comments below or contact one of our experts at +86-13924943006 for personal assistance today.