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The LED Rock Light Showdown

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by crashnburn80, May 31, 2019.

  1. May 31, 2019 at 1:55 AM
    #1
    crashnburn80

    crashnburn80 [OP] Vehicle Design Engineer

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    The LED Rock Light Showdown

    This is a rock light comparison review to evaluate which is the best performing and the brightest LED rock light!

    fullsizeoutput_1038.jpg
    Left to right: LUX, Rigid, Baja Designs, KC, VLEDs, Morimoto

    The rock lights covered in this review are:
    Lux Lighting Systems - Monster
    Rigid - Rock Light
    Baja Designs - Rock Light
    KC HiLights - Cyclone
    VLEDs - Puddle Light
    Morimoto - Pixel

    Rocklights are available in many colors, for this review the intent was to compare all the lights in 'white' to best evaluate the performance of the different models.

    The designs, sizes and shapes vary, and some designs offer performance advantages over others.

    fullsizeoutput_ffc.jpg
    Left to right, top to bottom: LUX, Morimoto, VELDs, KC, Baja Designs, Rigid

    For the testing, all lights were placed on a standardized jig, 19.5" from the ground. My Tacoma frame lifted 2.25" on 255/75R17 tires sits 16" above the ground. Adding a few inches of buffer to mount lights above the bottom of the frame seemed like the ideal test height for real world use simulation.

    ITwm8DtuTNGQfAL0lHXPGA.jpg

    Lights were tested individually for accuracy. Initial lux reading were recorded, as well as stable lux readings after 15 minutes of run time. As LEDs heat up, the driver gets hot and the output and power consumption will reduce. For short interval uses this is a non-issue, but for longer interval uses like using rock lights for 4wheeling at night, it can have an impact on performance, which I wanted to quantify.

    sDcCgtnCTguXzzq4k1ynUA.jpg

    While all patterns were listed as 180 degree pattern lights, some lights did better than others at carrying the light intensity out further in the pattern. In an attempt to quality this, I used a 50 lux threshold and measured the distance of how far away the meter on the ground could get from the jig before falling below the 50 lux threshold. I also captured more basic measurements such as power consumption and color temperature.


    The Data

    upload_2019-6-13_22-14-11.png

    KC Cyclone put down the highest output numbers. Comparing to 2nd highest output Rigid, the KC Cyclones come in about 14% higher in initial output, but then for stable output they are 24% higher in lux than the next closest light, Rigid.

    upload_2019-6-13_22-26-35.png

    Looking at stable output as a percentage of initial output, you can see the smaller lights suffer larger losses as they heat up than the larger units, save the LUX light which is a bit of an outlier, more on that later.

    fullsizeoutput_ffe.jpg

    Analyzing at the construction of the lights, Baja Designs, Rigid and LUX all use resin fill on their light housing. Recall that LED output goes down as heat goes up. Resin is a plastic, which is an insulator, which will hold heat in. Smaller light bodies also reduce material and surface area for cooling. KC, VLEDs and Morimoto all use aluminum housings, aluminum is a conductor and a highly ideal material to shed heat for cooling. KC and VLEDs have even created heat sinks on the back to increase surface area for better cooling. The Morimoto Pixel is the heaviest light and benefits most from shear mass of aluminum to draw heat away from the LED, where KC is a close 2nd. Because the LUX Monster only mounts via magnetic mount, I screwed some large washers to the jig for it to magnetically mount to, this may have given it a slight unfair advantage in material to transfer heat to, however as pointed out later it is also one of the lowest power LED models of the group.

    All lights have 180 degree optics, but that doesn't mean that they all perform as well. I wanted some relative unit of measurement for the perpendicular distance the light intensity carried away from the light. I measured the distance from the light source mount to the meter on the ground at the point where the meter would read 50 lux. Such that the meter was moved away from the light until readings fell to 50 lux, then measure the distance directly to the light source, further means the light projects to the sides better. Measuring directly to the light mount was less error prone than guesstimating where the 90 degree point was below the light at the ground. I then used some pythagorean theorem to calculate the perpendicular offset on the ground from the light for better accuracy.

    The larger the number, the larger the light intensity area of at least 50 lux was projected.

    upload_2019-6-13_22-39-48.png

    Brighter lights obviously have more output to carry further, however you will note that the 2nd brightest light (Rigid) illuminates less perpendicular distance than nearly all the others, save Baja Designs. The smaller lights with recessed LEDs utilizing optics to distribute the light are not as effective as larger open face LED rock light designs. KC comes in 13% better distance than the next closest light, the VLED puddle lights, and 21% higher than the next brightest light measured in peak lux, Rigid.

    upload_2019-6-13_22-50-16.png

    Power draw at startup, no surprise the two highest output lights draw the most power.

    upload_2019-6-13_21-53-42.png

    While the intent was to get all white lights, Rigid has several versions of 'white'. The light used in this review was 'natural white', which was a shade lower than intended, hence the 4000k color temp vs the more typical 5000k color temp. The LUX lights were very poor in light output quality, their output spectrum band was so narrow they could not register a CRI rating or a color temperature. In application this means that they make colors monotone so it is very difficult to tell color differences when something is illuminated solely by this light source. While rock lights don't need to have the highest light quality, the Monster lights are pretty poor in light quality to where it is very noticeable looking at something illuminated by their light.

    Mounting
    LUX is magnetic mount only and Morimoto Pixel offers a magnetic mounting option, which is highly ideal if using an underbody frame mount. A metal to metal magnetic mount will also help with heat transfer to assist in keeping the LED cooler to maintain higher stable output. While KC does not offer a magnetic mount, the simplistic single hole through the center mounting lends itself to using a basic cup magnet to adapt a magnetic mount, like this one:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07QPDRGWS/ref=ox_sc_saved_title_2?smid=AHGCJTM0CB9QH&psc=1

    Rigid, Baja Designs and KC only offer bolt on mounts (though KC is easily adaptable to magnetic mount as mentioned above). VLEDs puddle lights only offer an adhesive mount for a recessed opening.

    All the lights have side exit wiring for easy flush mounting except Rigid and VLEDs. In the case of VLEDs with a recessed mounting location, it shouldn't be an issue since it is really intended to be a puddle light vs an underbody rock light. Rigid includes a flush mounting seat with their light, so that the rear exit can be converted to side exit for flush mounting.

    fullsizeoutput_fff.jpg

    sEkkEB1sQcGeT%MFFwl5jw.jpg

    Of course a poly seat isn't going to do favors for cooling and stable output when mounted on a metal surface that could be used to help cool the LED.

    Temps
    I did record temps after 15 minutes of run time with an IR gun, they typically were in the 135F-165F range. However I didn't have high confidence in the values since I only had access to the exposed area of the mounted light for a reading, and that exposed area access varied on the design and it is the back of the LED that gets hot. So I chose to not include the values at this time.

    Some comments on Individual Models

    LUX Monster: The LUX Monster is the most compact and easiest to mount unit if mounting to a magnetic surface, however the light quality is so poor this is really a non-starter IMO. The LUX Max, their next model down, has very roughly 9% less measured lux output but improved light quality with a measurable CRI and 7300k color temp (still high). If evaluating LUX, I'd consider the Max instead of the Monster.

    Rigid Rock Light: Note Rigid only sells these as a kit on their site making them really expensive, but you can find them elsewhere to buy in sets of two individual lights. If looking for a more compact powerful light, the Rigid rock light is the way to go. It is far higher output than the somewhat comparable style of the Baja Designs light. However, this is by far the most expensive light in the group, and hard to justify at 3x the price of KC which is a higher performing light.

    Baja Designs Rock Light: In nearly every test, this light was the lowest performer. It does have good 5000k color temp light, better than the others, and it is the most compact light that has bolt on mounting for when getting the smallest light really matters. However, it is also the 2nd most expensive light and the cost to performance does not seem well aligned IMO.

    KC Cyclone: This light was the best performer in nearly every test, best initial output, best stable output, best perpendicular distance projection. The single center mount is simple and adaptable. It uses a surface mounted lens which helps it achieve the best light spread, compared to the similar looking Pixel which uses a lens inset into the housing. The surface mount lens does expose the side edge of the lens and therefore cause the side edge of the lens to be illuminated when on, whereas most the other lights when viewed from the side will appear dark (save LUX). The Cyclone also has the heaviest gauge wiring. This is the best performing light and it is also among the least expensive. It is the light to buy if the size is suitable to the purpose.

    VLEDs Puddle Light: This isn't a true rock light, it is a puddle light. Many use rock lights for all sorts of purposes and projects, not just illuminating under body areas of a vehicle for rock crawling at night. This light was included for comparison for other uses. It does have mounting challenges if wanting to use it as a rock light as the adhesive ring mount requires a recessed area to seat the light into.

    Morimoto Pixel: The Pixel looks like it has lots of similarities to the Cyclone as they appear similar in design. The Pixel offers a factory magnetic mounting option which is a plus, but the 2 bolt hard mount isn't as cleaver as KCs single center bolt mount. The light output isn't up to par with KC's output, with initial lux output being 36% less than KC. The Pixel is the heaviest light and does the best percentage wise at maintaining stable output intensity.

    Vision X: Vision X had intended to be included in this comparison, however their lights were on backorder for many months. I may evaluate adding them at a later time.

    Product Recommendations
    • KC Cyclone for best output and maximum performance.
    • Rigid Rock Light for smaller compact size needs with good output, though peak output and area coverage intensity are both less while the light costs significantly more.
    OicGXynRSISKoxk3QFDBkg.jpg
    Right to left: LUX, Rigid, Baja Designs, KC, VLEDs, Morimoto

    Special Thanks
    This thread was the idea of @MESO, and lights for the thread were sponsored by @MESO and @memario1214. Shout out to these guys for helping put this together!
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
  2. May 31, 2019 at 1:56 AM
    #2
    memario1214

    memario1214 Vivid Illumination Moderator Vendor

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    Yeah, I gots boost
  3. May 31, 2019 at 1:57 AM
    #3
    crashnburn80

    crashnburn80 [OP] Vehicle Design Engineer

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    Go Hawks!
    I'm not even sure how you can possibly be that fast!
     
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  4. May 31, 2019 at 2:07 AM
    #4
    memario1214

    memario1214 Vivid Illumination Moderator Vendor

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    Yeah, I gots boost
    1) I am kind of a glutton for punishment
    2) THANK YOU for putting this all together.
    3) I just noticed something. The date on that BD rock light is July 2018. I have NO IDEA how you would have received an older unit, but BD updated their lights to some new internals as of 1/1/19 claiming twice the output. I am going to get a new one sent to you straight away so that we can confirm the tested elements stand up to the current offerings. If nothing else we can see if the claimed output on the new units is legitimate :notsure:

    "Updated as of 1/1/2019"
    47085617041_7dac5f0270_z-jpg_eda91bbea272d151e5237306d2a82c8d8dc3d306.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2019
  5. May 31, 2019 at 2:15 AM
    #5
    crashnburn80

    crashnburn80 [OP] Vehicle Design Engineer

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    Good thing they dated their products, good catch! I'll update the thread once I receive the new unit, thank you! It will be interesting to see if it is improved as much as they claim.
     
  6. May 31, 2019 at 2:29 AM
    #6
    memario1214

    memario1214 Vivid Illumination Moderator Vendor

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    Yeah, I gots boost
    Since there was the hilarious delay in rock light availability I placed a big stocking order. I now have some of them on hand so I am hoping that you have the goods by early next week.
     
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  7. May 31, 2019 at 2:39 AM
    #7
    tetten

    tetten Cynical Twat Waffle

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    Great write up! :thumbsup:

    Looks like KC might have done some updates since I bought some Cyclones a while ago, mine are supposed to be white but put out a more purpleish tone. Kind of surprising to see BD perform so poorly in relation to their prices, which sometimes even makes Rigid look reasonable. Even if their new lights produce 2x more lumens they are still close to the bottom on some of those tables.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2019
    crashnburn80 [OP] likes this.
  8. May 31, 2019 at 8:51 AM
    #8
    crashnburn80

    crashnburn80 [OP] Vehicle Design Engineer

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    Certainly looks like they will remain in the low end of the pack even with a 2x output improvement, though it will make the performance much more reasonable compared to the model I have. Will be interesting to compare the updated model.
     
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  9. May 31, 2019 at 10:44 AM
    #9
    Taylor@KC HiLiTES

    Taylor@KC HiLiTES Well-Known Member Vendor

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    See build thread
    Wow, this is such a great comparison. We love seeing these unbiased tests! So awesome to see how our Cyclones perform against other rock/accessory lights. In all honesty, the Cyclones are one of my absolute favorite lights from us and they're actually one of our highest selling light in terms of qty.

    Great job as always @crashnburn80.
     
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  10. May 31, 2019 at 3:13 PM
    #10
    GT7

    GT7 One piece at a time

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    Yeah looks like kc’s for me when I do the meso 3rd brake light
     
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  11. May 31, 2019 at 7:26 PM
    #11
    White lightning boosted

    White lightning boosted Well-Known Member

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    Well done write up sir!
    What I'd like to see is a drove of tw guys check this write up on rock lights out. With all this info it appears theres two top contenders. Let's get a group buy going people!
    Maybe @crashnburn80 could get something going?
    I'm in for the kc cyclones!
     
  12. May 31, 2019 at 8:52 PM
    #12
    crashnburn80

    crashnburn80 [OP] Vehicle Design Engineer

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    The Cyclones are pretty affordable considering their performance, it would probably need to bake a while before considering a group buy. But typically the way this goes historically is after a baking period, the lights are difficult for vendors to keep in stock as TW wipes out supplies.
     
  13. May 31, 2019 at 9:08 PM
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    White lightning boosted

    White lightning boosted Well-Known Member

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    Is there a kit for kc? Or are lights purchased in pairs or individual?
     
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  14. May 31, 2019 at 9:12 PM
    #14
    GT7

    GT7 One piece at a time

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    I know ur bad at computers, but google solves alot of questions
     
  15. May 31, 2019 at 9:17 PM
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    PcBuilder14

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  16. May 31, 2019 at 9:27 PM
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    PcBuilder14

    PcBuilder14 Well-Known Member

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    Is the KC Cyclone that you used in your testing have the clear lens or the diffused lens? I'm assuming clear, but just want to be sure.
     
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  17. May 31, 2019 at 9:32 PM
    #17
    crashnburn80

    crashnburn80 [OP] Vehicle Design Engineer

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    There is a 6 light Wrangler kit, a universal 2 light kit, or singles. I’d just use singles and DIY the wiring, which is what I am doing for my next project.

    Testing was done with the clear lens.
     
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  18. May 31, 2019 at 9:44 PM
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    GT7

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  19. May 31, 2019 at 9:44 PM
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    MESO

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  20. May 31, 2019 at 9:54 PM
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    TRD493

    TRD493 Well-Known Member

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    The wiring part gets me.....my brain doesn't get it!
     

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