"Xenon", "HIR", "HID" and "Plasma" bulbs - the truth - Drive Accord Honda Forums | radio-pro.ru
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post #1 of 22 Old 09-21-2008, 04:48 AM Thread Starter
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"Xenon", "HIR", "HID" and "Plasma" bulbs - the truth

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There are a lot of bulbs being sold on eBay - and in local stores - that are advertised as "Xenon", "HID simulation", "Plasma", whatever they are called, that promise "Brighter light!", "55w -> 90w", "Improved visibility", "more efficient", etc.

Are any of these claims true?

After both reading about the bulbs (, a very informative site, among others) and trying them out in my own vehicle, I have a pretty good idea what these bulbs really do. First off, they do not use "Plasma" as they are sometimes called.

Here's a quick lesson: True HID (high-intensity discharge) systems use an arc of plasma to create the white, bright light they are famous for, producing light above 4000 Kelvin in temperature usually up to about 6000K, although there are some systems that produce light upwards of 10,000K (although this produces a violet-colored light which is very dangerous). HID systems put out MUCH more light than a halogen system and because of it, they have more focused optics to avoid throwing light all over the road and blinding drivers. While improving illumination in the immediate foreground, the sharp cutoff makes it more difficult to see objects farther down the road, out of the light's projection.

Halogen systems have a bulb that produces light around 3200K, which is the familiar yellowish-white we are accustomed to seeing. Halogens are not as efficient as HID systems, with a typical 55 watt halogen bulb producing around 1000 lumens. In contrast, the HID bulb puts out around 3000 lumens and only consumes about 35 watts, making them tremendously more efficient.

So here's where the "Xenon" or "Plasma" bulbs come in. They promise a higher color temperature and the increased visibility of HID, at the price of a regular halogen bulb. Look, there is no free lunch, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. These "Xenon" bulbs just have a bluish layer added to a regular halogen bulb's glass, filtering out the yellowish rays and making the light whiter. The problem here is, because its filtering out some of the light, the amount of light projected onto the road is decreased significantly.

So how can they be advertised as "Brighter" and "greater visibility"? Simple, because "brighter" is ambiguous and subjective, just like "louder" or "better". "greater visibility" is pretty much a lie no matter how its sliced, but its also subjective. Pure white light does have the advantage of improving contrast and, given the same light output, will improve visibility in clear conditions. The problem is that the bulbs with coating on them have a heavily reduced light output. I can guarantee that using a "Xenon" bulb will NOT make you see better, although maybe you will be convinced it has because you just spent money on them. As a warning, both true HID systems and these "blue bulbs" can both be referred to as "Xenon" -- but if it's an HID system, it'll require ballasts, and "blue bulbs" will not.

Also, the "before and after" shots that seem to "prove" how much brighter these new bulbs are should be ignored. Cameras can skew contrast and brightness very readily, and even the photos themselves can easily be manipulated to show the blue Xenon bulb as much brighter. In some of the shots you can even tell that the entire picture had been brightened because objects outside of the beam pattern are much brighter as well.

Another problem with the bluish color of the light is that it scatters more readily in poor visibility conditions. This is why some cars have (or used to have) yellow fog lights - the yellow is better illuminating through bad weather. The blue color is also more irritating to the human eye which is why true HID systems can be annoying to drivers. The natural yellowish tint of halogens is not as bad as its made out to be.

Also avoid all higher-wattage bulbs for obvious reasons - they put off more heat, they consume more power. Your car was not meant to use a 100 watt headlight bulb, and you might suffer electrical problems due to overcurrent or headlight housing issues because they put out so much heat.

You cannot put a HID retrofit kit into a car with halogen headlamps safely. For one, the halogen reflectors are not precise enough to control the HID light output and you'll be blinding other drivers, but also the HID bulb is a different shape than the regular one and the light is not going to be aimed correctly. The headlamp is a precise instrument and was designed with a single focal point, and if the bulb's filament or arc is not in the exact same position as the original one, the beam is going to be skewed. Some vehicles, especially those that came with HID systems as factory options, have entire headlight housings that can often be swapped into non-HID vehicle with minimal effort and will have the focusing characteristics appropriate for a HID bulb. At this point it would be safe and advantageous to use a true HID system.

The only thing I'd recommend doing to improve nighttime visibility with a halogen system is to get higher-efficiency bulbs such as Osram Silverstar (NOT Sylvania Silverstar), Sylvania Xtravision, Wagner BriteLite, and especially GE Nighthawk bulbs. These bulbs have clear glass and do not filter out any light, they simply have a more efficient filament that is more lumenous. The downside is that they probably won't last quite as long and they cost more (around $35-40 for a pair). For reference, a standard H3 halogen bulb puts out 1000 lumens on the low beam. a GE Nighthawk bulb puts out approximately 1150 lumens with the same power consumption. Not a huge increase, but still significant.

One other high-efficiency bulb that is difficult to find is something called "HIR" - halogen infrared reflecting. I've only seen these in 9005 and 9006 guises, and only a couple of times on eBay. You might be able to find them on Google. They work by reflecting the invisible infrared rays that all halogen bulbs produce back into the filament, making it burn brighter than a regular bulb. The seller claimed a huge improvement to lumenous properties with basically zero compromises. I have not personally tried these but I did find a review a while ago that favorably compared them to other non-HIR bulbs. The specs on them say that they produce almost 100% more light than a standard halogen! These are probably worth a shot, however they are pretty expensive for halogen bulbs ($60 for a pair).

It's easy to fall into the "Xenon" bulb trap because even reputable manufacturers make them. The Sylvania Silverstar is an example and is a ripoff (not only are they expensive, they put out less light than a standard halogen and also they only last for 150 hours instead of the standard 1000). Wagner TrueVision, LazerBlue, PIAA's stuff, and CoolBlue are all similar and should be avoided, unless having blue headlights and trying to look cool is worth driving blind at night.

So, in summary, here is some data to think about:

Standard 9006 halogen (low beam): 1000 lumens, 800 hour rated life $6
Sylvania 9006 Xtravision (low beam): 1060 lumens, 300 hour rated life $10
GE 9006 Nighthawk (low beam): 1150 lumens, 250 hour rated life $14
Toshiba HIR 9006 (low beam): 1800 lumens, 800 hour rated life $27
Sylvania 9006 Silverstar (low beam): 910 lumens, 150 hour rated life $20

If the glass on the bulb isn't clear, don't buy it.
Update, September 18 2008: I've finally been able to test the HIR bulbs for myself and the difference is obvious. The light output is still not as good as true HID systems but its definitely worth the money, and (in my opinion) a better value than HID. I definitely recommend HIR bulbs for anyone that can use them (especially for the Accord sedan as it uses reflectors and not projectors) -- that is, if your car can utilize 9005 or 9006 bulbs.


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post #2 of 22 Old 09-21-2008, 05:33 AM
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Very informative post, thank you. Could you please verify that the Toshiba HIR 9006 bulbs do not require any modification to the front lights assebly? I just replace the buld and that is it right?


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post #3 of 22 Old 09-21-2008, 05:49 AM
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post #4 of 22 Old 09-21-2008, 05:53 AM
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No you must modify the tabs on the bulb to fit in the housing. Law requires that different bulbs have different tabs so since HIRs aren't true 9005 or 9006 bulbs the tabs are different. It's really no problem though, just spent a minute with some nail clippers and you're good. No modification to the actual bulb is necessary.

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post #5 of 22 Old 09-21-2008, 06:00 AM
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This guy is a moron...

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The only thing I'd recommend doing to improve nighttime visibility with a halogen system is to get higher-efficiency bulbs such as Osram Silverstar (NOT Sylvania Silverstar)
Osram & Sylvania are a single company, who offer the Silver Star / Silverstar halogen bulb. Outside North America, known as Osram, they offer the same bulb in Europe as "Silverstar" whereas known as Sylvania in North America, call it the "Silver Star". The f'tard doesn't even know that. And recently, revised & whiter Silver Star Ultra is now offered.

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PIAA's stuff... all similar should be avoided, unless having blue headlights and trying to look cool is worth driving blind at night.
What a ! PIAA, Raybrig, and Polarg all manufacture high-quality, expensive halogen bulbs w/ long-life & come w/ a limited-warranty. Ditto for Hoen, which he totally failed to mention.

This moron has confused rice-offerings from ebay/Amazon/online-vendors w/ actual quality halogen bulbs. None of the aforementioned quality manufacturers use cliche'd & misleading buzz-words (ie. plasma, xenon, etc').
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post #6 of 22 Old 09-21-2008, 08:24 AM
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post #7 of 22 Old 09-22-2008, 05:59 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by needforaccord View Post
Very informative post, thank you. Could you please verify that the Toshiba HIR 9006 bulbs do not require any modification to the front lights assebly? I just replace the buld and that is it right?
No changes to the housing, just a slight mod to the bulb. The difference in light is more pronounced in the low beam than for the high beams. In addition they are not "white", but they are less yellow than the stock 9006 bulbs.

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post #8 of 22 Old 09-22-2008, 07:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Osiris_x11 View Post
This guy is a moron...



Osram & Sylvania are a single company, who offer the Silver Star / Silverstar halogen bulb. Outside North America, known as Osram, they offer the same bulb in Europe as "Silverstar" whereas known as Sylvania in North America, call it the "Silver Star". The f'tard doesn't even know that. And recently, revised & whiter Silver Star Ultra is now offered.


What a ! PIAA, Raybrig, and Polarg all manufacture high-quality, expensive halogen bulbs w/ long-life & come w/ a limited-warranty. Ditto for Hoen, which he totally failed to mention.

This moron has confused rice-offerings from ebay/Amazon/online-vendors w/ actual quality halogen bulbs. None of the aforementioned quality manufacturers use cliche'd & misleading buzz-words (ie. plasma, xenon, etc').
I think you'll find the Sylvania and Osram silverstar bulbs to be different. The Sylvania ones have a blueish tint to them (thus reducing light output) while the Osram ones do not.

The PIAA (and similar) bulbs are not quite junk, as you say, but they offer terrible value for the money.

And as for PIAA not using buzzwords, see this: . Notice the word "plasma"???? Also notice "60w=120w"????

Look at . See those Raybrig bulbs with the words "HID-type" on the packaging?


The article in the original post is a lot more correct than you seem to think it is. The article was well researched and well written and I just don't see any justification for calling the author a moron.

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post #9 of 22 Old 09-22-2008, 09:13 AM
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Can I get lifetime warranty on other HID wanabes?
because my PIAA got one... and I don't think its junk!

I have HID & PIAA halogen.
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post #10 of 22 Old 09-22-2008, 09:24 AM
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Good read, ksills, thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Osiris_x11 View Post
This guy is a moron...
.....
Somebody needs a

Seriously, why so antagonistic?

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post #11 of 22 Old 09-22-2008, 10:18 AM
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Markus, thanks for the correction(s).

I don't fully understand the stigma w/ using the term "plasma." Perhaps someone can explain that to me.

Regarding the "60w = 120w", I too can't make sense of that...

"HID-type", well read below as to why I curiously find that amusing.

It should be noted that Japanese export marketing/advertising is full of hyperbole, especially after Japanese-to-English literary conversion. Just google "engrish" and you'll see first-hand. Some degree of actually making sense is lost in translation. However, nothing seems to be unfounded/unbelievable/fallacious/etc'. Odd, yes. Dishonest, no.

I took offense to the author's derogatory & condescending demeanor towards globally reputable, multi-billion dollar Japanese corporations. Singling out PIAA (basically also Raybrig & Polarg, etc' due to association) was not acceptable, by me. I mean, had he presented some optical/refractive evidence, spectral analysis, and scientific/organized data, I'd keenly have an open-mind towards his opinions.

Indeed, PIAA/Raybrig/Polarg are over-priced. But, they are what they are. High-quality head-lamp bulbs that are DOT-approved and perform better than traditional OEM halogen bulbs. I've owned from all of the aforementioned brands, and all performed adequately. Nothing more, nothing less.

I think it's just the mass-scale of ricers giving the industry a misperceived identity.

If there is/was a difference between the Osram Silverstar & Sylvania Silver Star, it is/was unbeknownst to me. I had the former when I lived in England, and the latter in a few of my past vehicles. I also tried researching online for any differences, of which I couldn't find any information. I do agree that Sylvania's Cool Blue and other halogen bulbs are different than Osram offerings abroad.


Kopi', the reason why I think he's an idiot is because he is comparing mass-produced, multi-application after-market halogen-bulbs to specialized, focussed & dedicated HID lighting systems. That's like comparing Der Fuhrer's V-fuzz Reich'specials to NASA's Space Shuttle launch vehicles. There is no comparison. That should've been the end of the 'blurb. But, he decided to articulate stuff that is already a foregone conclusion and has no doubtful opposition to it.

The article/blog-entry should've focussed on illegal & unsafe lighting equipment (colored/painted-bulbs), not stuff that he doesn't personally fancy and in doing so tying in the likes of those reputable, QA/QC abiding manufacturers.


If you guys (and gals... ) really want to get a grasp & background on the the advent of after-market HID applications, read up on Philips mission-statement regarding such! It's rather interesting, to say the leasts. . .
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post #12 of 22 Old 09-22-2008, 10:50 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by a2shuzy View Post
Can I get lifetime warranty on other HID wanabes?
because my PIAA got one... and I don't think its junk!

I have HID & PIAA halogen.
A lifetime warranty on a Haolgen Bulb? Do you have the link because PIAA's link specifcly excudes bulbs!

Quote:
PIAA Corporation U.S.A., Limited Product Warranty
With the exception of bulbs, PIAA Corporation, USA ("PIAA") warrants its products to be free from defects in workmanship and materials under normal use for as long as the original
purchaser owns them.

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post #13 of 22 Old 09-22-2008, 12:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Osiris_x11 View Post
Markus, thanks for the correction(s).


Indeed, PIAA/Raybrig/Polarg are over-priced. But, they are what they are. High-quality head-lamp bulbs that are DOT-approved and perform better than traditional OEM halogen bulbs. I've owned from all of the aforementioned brands, and all performed adequately. Nothing more, nothing less.
There's a problem with your statement. The US DOT does NOT approve bulbs. The bulb makers self-certify bulbs and, as I've discovered during my tenure as an automotive lighting engineer, very few PIAA et. al. bulbs are actually in compliance. It's a marketing scam to make you think you've got good bulbs when it turns out that you probably don't!

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post #14 of 22 Old 09-22-2008, 12:09 PM
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single most important part:

You cannot put a HID retrofit kit into a car with halogen headlamps safely. For one, the halogen reflectors are not precise enough to control the HID light output and you'll be blinding other drivers, but also the HID bulb is a different shape than the regular one and the light is not going to be aimed correctly. The headlamp is a precise instrument and was designed with a single focal point, and if the bulb's filament or arc is not in the exact same position as the original one, the beam is going to be skewed.
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post #15 of 22 Old 09-22-2008, 12:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lldsandsll View Post
single most important part:

You cannot put a HID retrofit kit into a car with halogen headlamps safely. For one, the halogen reflectors are not precise enough to control the HID light output and you'll be blinding other drivers, but also the HID bulb is a different shape than the regular one and the light is not going to be aimed correctly. The headlamp is a precise instrument and was designed with a single focal point, and if the bulb's filament or arc is not in the exact same position as the original one, the beam is going to be skewed.

Truer words have never been spoken.


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