The nation’s marine retailers are tight-lipped about EcoTech’s latest LED light launch and for good reason. They’re under an involuntary embargo until Monday the 24th of February.
But Jake Adams at Reefbuilders is under no such information embargo, and even got to interview Ecotech’s Co-founder Justin Lawyer ahead of the launch. Based on his interview, here’s what we know so far:
The 5th generation Radion has been designed with light spread and uniformity in mind. Much more than the previous Gen 4 model and they’ve done this by doubling the number of diodes that the XR30 is populated with, and by spreading that out much more across the underside of the unit. The aim is that Gen 5 units will cover a larger reef tank surface area, which may also mean you’ll need fewer of them.
Experienced reefers also know the importance of an even light spread when growing corals. A cone of point-source light is hard to farm corals with as it has a hotspot directly under the light cluster which can be too bright, then anything outside of that light cone can actually be underlit or even in shadow. This is where multiple T5 light units did so well. They offered bright, even light, but not too bright or too dim, and did about as much as is possible to reduce any shadowing and encourage even all-round coral growth.
So with the Gen 5, Radion peak par is less, but overall light is much more even, meaning less hot spots. It will also come with a new HEI 2 opaque lens cover, again spreading light, making a more uniform, diffused light and although they didn’t mention it, with we hope, much better, more diffuse colour mixing and less of the Disco effect.
Other LED light manufacturers like Orphek also know the importance of using high numbers of diodes in their units to offer a more even, less point source light spread. Only what I don’t like about the Orphek lights is that for me, I get a multi-point source light because of every diode being individually lensed, and still get that annoying colour shadow.
EcoTech’s Justin Lawyer mentioned a “flat output field” which will appeal to everyone from coral farmers lighting larger trays to home SPS keepers and let’s face it, coral keepers in general. It may also mean that Radion owners will only ever need the single-lens plate factory fitted with the new unit (which looks cool,) instead of having to purchase a separate diffuser like the current one, which when fitted, makes the awesome looking Radion chassis look like something cheap and Chinese.
The XR30 will boast 102 individual, smaller diodes. For comparison, EcoTech’s own AI Hydra 64 has 64 diodes, and according to the video, the G5 will run at 180 watts max. It also has a totally redesigned fan which will be quieter and more gunk resistant and the unit as a whole, more water-resistant.
I always feel that our modern reefs are way too noisy and my own slice of the ocean never really feels like one, in part because of the fan noise. The other problem with fans is that they have to work in a really harsh environment. Heat and humidity is one thing, but salt is quite another and combine that with dust, maybe fag smoke and even dog hair, and it’s often the fans that succumb on our beloved light units.
The half-sized XR15 will also get the Gen 5 treatment, and there’s even a new model on top called the XR30 Blue where the unit has been populated with more of the diode colours that EcoTech users fed back they used and less of the diode colours they don’t. This is a good thing as it steers them tonally towards the popular AB+ lighting programme, and will hopefully discourage knocking units way out of gamete and into an unnatural, unhelpful lighting hue which does nothing for aesthetics or coral growth.
The conundrum for potential purchasers will be whether to quell any future anxieties and buy the fuller colour unit, or the deliberately stripped back Blue. EcoTech kind of did this with the recent AI Prime 16 Sol, going heavy on the blue and removing the channels that users didn’t know they didn’t need. Speaking from the current experience of working with AI Hydra 26 and 52 models, you can actually grow corals really well on the blue channels alone and get amazing colour pop to boot.
The Facebook selling pages have already seen an influx of EcoTech owners selling their Reeflinks as they heard months ago that Gen 5 would run without it, as well as the just-launched Versa doser doing without it on the Mobius control platform. It did always seem weird too that their own AI lights could run straight to Wi-Fi, and for a lower buying price than the Radion range. No mention of a freshwater Radion G5 at this stage, but all of the above alterations will also go down well with the aquatic plant community, who also crave even output, no shadows or hotspots and more diffuse, even light. Digital set-up is said to be super quick too.
So exciting times lie ahead, and a few of EcoTech’s competitors will no doubt have their heads in their hands as EcoTech’s lighting offering further strengthens and cements their place in the market. Unit price dependent of course, which is still to be confirmed.
More info on reefbuilders.