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49 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK... I've read all the marketing hype, seen the boys with their Blue headlights.. but now I want to know what is the straight truth, and not the marketing crap.

I just blew a bulb on my TSD car ('96 BMW Z3) and I figure now would be a good time to upgrade the bulbs. The car currently has PIAA 55w low beams (9006 bulb) and Sylvania high beams (9005 bulbs).

The car has a really good lens pattern so its not that I'll be thowing good bulbs into bad lenses (like I would on my '94 VW Jetta).

In the past I've always been a Hella sort of guy. I'm trying some Sylvania Cool Blue lights in my Honda, and while they don't seem BLUE, they do seem to be a nice white'ish light.

I read the info on the PIAA lights and I don't know how much to believe of it. Halogens are halogens, sure, you can run argon, xenon, halogen... whatever it's all just inert gas with a tungsten filament, the technology is still the same.

I know that HID is a totally different technology (used to use HID lights on movie sets). I'm not currently willing to shell out the sheckles for a HID setup in the car.

Should I just get a good set of Hella 9006 bulbs and be done with it, or should I bother with the PIAA bulbs? How about the Sylvania Xtravision or some new thing they are selling the 'Silver Star' bulbs??

I'm looking for good function, I don't care if it looks blue or not. I want to have nice little flamethrowers for headlights.

Thanks guys,

Paul K

2,738 Posts
Pete Morris (building "Son of CoROLLa.). I wanted an upgrade for my Focus. I went with the PIAA Super White H4's. 60/55 watt puts out 110/100. White light not blue and they are street legal. When I put my high beam, low beam and fogs on, I'm impressed. $75 a pair though, but well worth it.

49 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well PIAA says they put out 100w... but only draw 55w. other than PIAA marketing literature, has anybody impartial proven this? I don't want to flame or argue with you, but I'd like to see some impirical evidence, all the reviews I've found seem to almost be a straight copy from the PIAA literature.

I did think the PIAA's that are in the car work well, I just would rather not spend $75 for 2 bulbs if Sylvania XtraVisions will do the same at a fraction of the cost.

I've actually been to the PIAA office in Beaverton, Oregon, and they seem to be more of a distributor of the stuff coming in from Asia. No, not the crappy stuff yousee on Ebay, but I'm guessing their stuff is made in Asia under contract. Is this true? or am I just blowing smoke as per normal?

so, I agree, I liked the PIAA's I had, but $37.50 for a little bulb seems a little high. Yes, I'm cheap.

143 Posts
Have to give a little Sylvania Xtra vision plug. I was assisting on a photo shoot for Sylvania about 5 years ago for their first generation Xtra vision products (sealed beam US spec Halogen rectangle and round sealed beam lenses). We had done a baseline test with some regular headlights to get an idea of the exposure, but when we put the Xtra vision equipped car in the location, the beam spread, brightness, and distance was so much greater, we had to scrub the shoot for the night and rent a special Hasselblad "Superwide" camera body and lens to get everything in the picture.

If you ever see the Sylvania catalog with the jogger and golden retreiver on the side of the road at night, that's the shot. They're still around in a lot of AutoZones and Pep Boys stores.

Very impressive for a US spec lamp at the time. I'm not sure what they can do with just a bulb without the lens package, but they must have figured something out; I just haven't burned out a 9004 in so long, I haven't needed to compare. That and I use a lot of auxilliary and Euro spec lighting.

I think the Xtra visions are definitely worth doing on an older US "sealed beam" application (unless you have immediate access to some inexpensive H4 conversions); worth trying on 9004, etc. applications. The "Cool Blues" are more of a styling statement than anything, IMHO.

Hope this helps!

--Andrew Steere
Dover, NH
[email protected]
96 Exploder, with Cibie Oscar+ and Hella fogs
88 Merkur XR4Ti Euro spec Cibie lights
94 Saturn SL2, stock lights, pretty good for US spec.
...Hella 3000's & 4000's waiting for the rally car to get built...

163 Posts
I think I can spread a little light on this subject;) my major was optical engineering, so even if I am full of crap, that is the fault of my University.

The PIAA literature is mostly BS. A 55w bulb is a 55w bulb, period! However a 35w HID seems to produce more light than a 120w Halogen, so what is up? Actually the important thing is that the light produced by the bulb is able to be used by your eyes. Our eyes see light from deep red (but very poorly) through, Orange, yellow, Green, Blue-Green (our most sensitive range), Blue, and Violet (also very poorly). Light beyond Red is Infra-red (IR) and we fell that as heat, light beyond Violet is Ultra-violet (UV) and we feel that as sunburn.

The sensitivity range of our eyes is a kind of bell curve running from zero at red and violet to max somewhere in the blue-green. A lamp that produced the same bell curve of light would look perfectly white and would be 100% efficient (for our eyes). HID lamps come very close to doing this, that is why they produce so much "light" with so little power. Regular incandecent lamps produce a dull orange color and lots of heat (IR) and thus waste lots of energy in areas that we can not see. Halogen bulbs produce more light in the range that we actually see, therefore the same wattage produces more "light" for the same power. PIAA, Sylvania and others work hard to come up with fillament designs and gas compositions that will make their bulbs produce more light in the usefull range, this is how they make more efficient lights. PIAA has decided to market their bulbs with a statement that their bulbs produce 100w of light with only 55w, compaired to a regular incandecent bulb that may be true but it is not a totally accurate statement and I say BS. That said they do produce some excelent products.

There are some things to consider if you are upgrading your bulbs (assuming you have H3 or H4 replaceable bulbs) putting 100w bulbs into a lens that was designed for only 55w may be a bad idea. More wattage means more heat and heat kills bulbs. If you spend a bunch of money on these bulbs and they run to hot by something like 10% their life can be reduced by something like 50% (I can't remember the exact numbers but it is dramatic like that), conversly if you only reduce your voltage by 10% you get something like a doubling in life of your bulbs.

That is enough for Optics 208 today, test on Friday.

Bradney A. Boli
Over Exposure Racing
Honda Accord #311

49 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Some good articles I've found so far:

I'm not sure if these links will come through right... but basically, in the Autoexpress UK website http://www.autoexpress.co.uk in the Product Test section. They have done some really good testing of H1 and H7 bulbs available in the UK. They test them for build quality, geometry, power draw, output lumens, and other measurements

In general, the Hella, Lucas, GE, and the PIAA lamps didn't rate well at all in the H7 bulb test. The Ring, Osram, and Phillips bulbs came out pretty well. They did an H1 bulb test as well (very helpful for us because many of our rally lights use H1 bulbs)

They even rate some Rally schools too!

I bought just a standard Sylvania (Osram) 9006 light last night and it does appear different than the PIAA. Light quality seems about the same, maybe the existing PIAA is a touch brighter. From the front of the car the PIAA looks brighter, but that's because it doesn't have a painted end like a standard 9006 (HB4) bulb so you get more light leaving the end of the bulb.

I found some good bulb prices at http://www.powerbulbs.com/rallye.htm
They have free shipping and they sell the Hella Rallye bulbs. Although after looking at the test by AutoExpress, maybe there is a reason the bulbs are inexpensive... hmmm...

I'm going to try and keep searching for more independed rest results and see what I can find.

Thanks for the help so far guys.


p.s. I broke down and bought a full set of bulbs off Ebay, some guy was selling a set of 9006,9005 and H1 bulbs for $45... I'm curious to see what I wind up with. I guess I'll just right it off as the cost of doing scientific research... yea, that's what I'll tell my wife ;-)



70 Posts
I, along with my partner at the time Gene Henderson, introduced the first high wattage 9000 series bulbs in the USA about 12 years ago, and a lot of different bulbs from dozens of manufactures have passed through my hands since. Gene is still in the business, and he knows his lights.

Anyway, here is my opinion. Buy some high wattage (80/100W) halogen bulbs (the offroad use only type). Don't be afraid of Made in Korea, as all use GE materials, and are typically technical licensees of Philips, etc. JC Whitney sells these bulbs cheap. Call Gene Henderson at Competition Limited and order a quick connect relay harness, which will reduce the voltage drop to the bulbs, and will save wear and tear on your switch contacts.

Some newer SuperWhite bulbs have a higher "color temperature" than your standard bulbs and create a "whiter" light, but most are still too expensive, and some even put out a bluish light which I find really bad on asphalt. GE now is introducing HIR lamps for auxiliaries which "recycle" IR and develop a whiter, more even light. But, for the money, high wattage bulbs should give you more light than you know what to do with. The life of a high wattage bulb is less than for a standard bulb, however.

The whole 9000 series lamps are pretty bad as a rule, especially the 9004 design. For instance, even the best bulbs won't help if you own an old Taurus.

I would advise against Hella, Philips, Sylvania or any other of the "legit" OEM suppliers, as they have to answer to NHTSA, and as such don't manufacture or sell high wattage 9000 series lamps.

122 Posts
More Lighting 101--Very Long

Brad makes some very good comments! The only thing I disagree with is the statement:
> A lamp that produced the same bell curve of light would look perfectly white and would be 100% efficient (for our eyes). HID lamps come very close to doing this, that is why they produce so much "light" with so little power.

Part of the reason HID are so efficient is because they don?t heat up a filament, they generate an arc. Thus less energy goes to produce heat and infrared light. They produce more light with less energy.

As a lighting consultant, I thought I would add a few comments. First lets define the terms.

Watts = amps * volts. It says nothing about brightness!
Lumens = The unit of measure of the quantity of light coming from the lamp/lens
Foot-candles = The unit of measure for the density of light as it reaches a surface
Color temperature = The unit of measure of color of light in degrees Kelvin
Lamp = H1, H4, 9006 etc
Luminary = the fixture with a reflector and lens

What is the difference between lumens and foot-candles? Think of lumens as the amount of light comming out of the fixture, and foot-candles is what is delivered to the subject. The lens and reflector are VERY important in determining the amount of foot-candles on a surface. Two different luminaries, ie wide vs spot, having the same lamp would generate different foot-candles measurement. (Measured at the same distance and position from the lens.) The wide-angle reflector spreads the lumens over a wider area. Thus reflector and lens design is VERY important in lighting up a subject without wasting energy.

(I have to explain this to my customers why the products I recommend cost more than others that only appear similar. The others are inefficient and thus use a higher wattage lamp to deliver the same amount of foot-candles at the subject.)

Thus comparing brightness by using watts is worthless because it doesn?t measure light. Comparing lumens is much better, because it measures the quantity of light. However, it won?t tell us how bright our subject will be in foot-candles. Thus without a standardized test, it is impossible to compare different lamps and luminaries. If the auto manufactures provided photometric data, you could make useful comparisons.

This can get complex because different reflector manufactures using the exact same lamp deliver different light patterns. The major lighting manufactures provide photometric data and I use a program to calculate how many fixtures, spaced x feet apart, are needed to illuminate a specific area at a desired foot-candle.

Still with me? I hope so. Because it is going to get more confusing.
Next is color temperature. This is the light measured in degrees Kelvin. This is the stuff Brad was talking about. Lower number is red and higher numbers are blue.

1500K ? Ugly orange low-pressure sodium
2700K - warm white fluorescent & regular incandescent bulbs
3000K ? Halogen and fluorescents
4100K - XENARC Standard HID Light
4200K ? Cool white fluorescents (has blue look, next to a 2700k)
6500K ??daylight? fluorescents

As Brad mentioned, human eyes are tuned to the blue-green or middle of the spectrum. This is true, because those ugly low-pressure sodium (orange colored) lights while having high lumens always look dim because they don?t render colors very well; they are at the bottom of our bell-shaped curve. However, does a 3000k appear much dimmer than a 4000K? I don?t know. However, I do know higher color temperature has more glare, ie it is annoying when you look directly at the light source.

Getting back to the question of which lamp is brighter, lets review the data.
The Sylvania H7 halogen (55W at 12.8 volts) is 1335 lumens at 3390K http://www.sylvania.com/auto/pdfs/h7.pdf

The Sylvania CoolBlue H7 (55W at 12.8volts) is 1245 at 3455K. (I think this is simply a regular H7 with a filter to give it a blue appearance. Notice the lumen level drops!) http://www.sylvania.com/auto/cool/welcome.htm

The Slyvania SilverStar halogen lamp 9006 (60w max) is 1000 lumens at 4100K. I have never seen a halogen produce this high of a color temperature. If it is so great, why don?t I see it being used in other (non-auto) halogen flood lamps? I think this is again, just a filter on a regular lamp to give it a blue-white appearance. Notice its lumens is 25% lower than the cool blue! http://www.sylvania.com/auto/silverstar.htm

The Sylvania HID is 3200 lumens at 4100K. http://www.sylvania.com/auto/pdfs/d1sd1r.pdf (The table lists 6400 lumens. That would be too bright, elsewhere 3200 lumens is mentioned.)

The data tells me these halogen ?blue lights? do not produce more lumens than a standard halogen bulb. Save your money and stick with the regular lamps. If you want brighter, you must go with a higher wattage halogen lamp or go HID.

However, luminary design of getting the light where you want it is VERY important. It is so IMPORTANT that the reflector must be designed to work with a specific lamp. The problem is US DOT headlights are not very good. Going to a European spec headlamp with the same halogen bulb can give you better illumination because they put the light where you need it. For more information I refer you to Dan Stern lighting at http://lighting.mbz.org/

The test will be in a week!

Paul Nelson
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