Automotive Holley RetroBright headlamps? Good, bad or ugly?

EJR

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Interesting. Thanks for that video. It'd be amazing to have access and the necessary knowledge to use that equipment. By a photo I didn't mean a photo of a cutoff against a wall, but more of a comparison of what Virgil or Daniel consider a good LED reflector vs the Retrobrights.

Virgil and Daniel do and have provided their 7 inch round lamp recommendations. They may not package that advice in a side-by-side comparison to other lamps per se which would visually show a clear "winner" because once again, the measured data is what's most important. They know that photos can mislead so they rely on the objective data to determine what is best.

What was the equipment reading? Where are the notes? How do all those numbers compare to, say, a JW Speaker of similar characteristics.

Without a proper understanding of the U.S. lighting requirements or a proper understanding of what makes a "good" beam vs a "bad" beam vs a "ok" beam or how that translates to visual performance, these numbers are just numbers to the masses.

Case in point: see below and tell me what this information means to you? What can you conclude from it?

testtable.PNG


I just can't listen to someone say "don't buy this, it's crap" and just take their word for it, no matter if they are considered deities in their field. Each use case is different.

Exactly! Which is why I've began a journey to test lamps myself. But you know what I've learned along the way so far? Sometimes we think we know more about a subject than we actually do and we insert our *uneducated* OPINIONS into a science that is fundamentally based on FACTUAL DATA. Automotive lighting is a COMPLEX subject and its not one that can be fully explained in a few online forum posts. Learning is a process and it isn't until you really do thorough research and consult professionals that you come to the realization that you've had some (or a lot of) things completely all wrong. Not saying these individuals can't sometimes be a little off base on occasion, as they are human, but you have to humble yourself. No one becomes knowledgeable without first learning from knowledgeable sources.

Daniel could recommend me what he thinks is the greatest reflector in the world, but maybe the lens turns yellow after 2 months, so what good was it that it was optically perfect in a lab? I value glass over plastic a lot and for others it may be irrelevant.

Yeah you kinda lost me here. This statement doesn't make sense. Pretty sure Stern doesn't/wouldn't recommend lamps that yellow after 2 months.

I'd much rather have 3 pages of regular folks who had actually bought the headlights and came here to share their experiences so I can mix and match what I read/see to adapt it to my needs. But apart from a few forums here and there and the aforementioned awful YouTube videos, it seems we don't have much.

Its definitely great to have a community to share their experiences and thoughts but you have to take it with a grain of salt. People can and do give bad advice. In fact most people are HORRIBLE judges of lighting. Brighter does not always mean better. Just look at the reviews on Amazon of LED and HID headlight bulbs inside halogen lamps. Hundreds of reviews with uploaded photos of headlight beams shined on a wall with garbage bulbs. Beams completely altered negatively all while being oblivious to it all. This goes for just about any other type of lamp: sealed beams, light bars, fog lamps, etc. People cannot be relied on for proper evaluation of forward lighting. I know that some just don't want to accept this as fact but its reality whether you like it or not.
 
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crdiscoverer

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Exactly! Which is why I've began a journey to test lamps myself. But you know what I've learned along the way so far? Sometimes we think we know more about a subject than we actually do and we insert our *uneducated* OPINIONS into a science that is fundamentally based on FACTUAL DATA. Automotive lighting is a COMPLEX subject and its not one that can be fully explained in a few online forum posts. Learning is a process and it isn't until you really do thorough research and consult professionals that you come to the realization that you've had some (or a lot of) things completely all wrong. Not saying these individuals can't sometimes be a little off base on occasion, as they are human, but you have to humble yourself. No one becomes knowledgeable without first learning from knowledgeable sources.
The famous Dunning–Kruger effect. I know that I know very little about car lighting and I see the massive mountain ahead, but I feel like toddlers when they are told that the sky is blue because it is and if we keep asking we get to the other extreme and are thrown a scientific paper on Rayleigh scattering. I would love to sit down with any expert and get educated so that the next time I understand what to look for without simply trusting somebody else's opinion. As we all get more knowledgeable we can teach others which benefits us all. Going back on topic, I still don't understand what's so bad about the Retrobrights, we are just being told they are when most of the data I see online (other forums, videos, photos) indicates that they are an acceptable replacement for a sealed beam.

I guess we would need to reformulate the question differently: When it comes to period-correct reflectors that can still be bought new, what is worse/more dangerous: sealed beam? Hella H4 ecodes? Koito H4? Retrobrights? Consider the many instances of incandescent bulbs not running at the ideal voltage, an issue LEDs don't have.

Yeah you kinda lost me here. This statement doesn't make sense. Pretty sure Stern doesn't/wouldn't recommend lamps that yellow after 2 months.
The point here is that I don't know if they do long term testing. I assume they do, but again, I don't have the data. Let me tell you a quick story of just following experts in a field: I needed a pair of really good headphones after the pandemic hit and I started working from home. I read myriad of articles and reviews and watched lots of YouTube videos and the experts raved about the Sony XM4s (new at the time). My girlfriend went the easy route, closed her eyes and just got the Bose 700. My Sony's were all plastic, creaked when I moved my head, the touchpad didn't work when taking phone calls and overall didn't feel like $400 headphones. The Bose had none of those issues. What was the problem? Everything I read circled around audio quality and feature/gimmick bloat. What mattered to me wasn't covered by anyone. Did they sound great? Yes, but the Bose sounded 90% as good.

Car headlights are in a sense both easier and harder to evaluate. Is optical performance the main focus? Well, yes, but how about durability? Is the polycarbonate UV-treated? Ease of installing or changing a bulb? Aesthetics? How much are the LEDs in them dimming as they warm up? Headlights may be like my Sonys and have the most amazing beam pattern, but leave you with buyers remorse anyway. I saw Virgil (or Daniel) saying the Hella Bi-xenon are the best 7" headlights in the world. Have you looked at them? And for $600 with basically nothing else included like ballasts:

1669768840570.png
 
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crdiscoverer

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But the Cibie has long been out of production. Our options are either Hella (of which there are several sub-models) or Koito.

But then I just found this, which is very close to what I was looking for (the fluted glass "lens"):


So I might create a separate topic, but any experience with Dapper? They cost exactly the same as a pair of Retrobrights, but most of what I see on their site is "looks" and not beam performance or anything even remotely technical about the lights, not to mention I was cringing watching their videos. Ugh...
 
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EJR

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So I might create a separate topic, but any experience with Dapper? They cost exactly the same as a pair of Retrobrights.

There is nothing legitimate about Dapper lighting. They don't produce or design real lamps. The fact that they offer their lamps with LED pnp bulbs should tell you enough.
 

ButchW

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Another option bites the dust... The idea sounded promising, but maybe not the implementation?... Retro looking, projection LED, glass lens...
Butch
 

crdiscoverer

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Another option bites the dust... The idea sounded promising, but maybe not the implementation?... Retro looking, projection LED, glass lens...
Butch
I'm evaluating getting a set of whatever sealed beam or H4 7" reflector which can be more easily baked and separated from the lens, asking Dapper Lighting to sell me a pair of fluted glass lenses, and slapping a D2S or H1 mini projector in them. If nobody makes the headlights I need, I can make them myself and probably get much better results.

So if someone has had experience disassembling any 7" reflector, do let me know. The cheaper the better since I don't actually need the reflector bowl to be good. I know for a fact that my Vision Plus Hella ecodes are perma-sealed.
 

RHS-113

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I'm evaluating getting a set of whatever sealed beam or H4 7" reflector which can be more easily baked and separated from the lens, asking Dapper Lighting to sell me a pair of fluted glass lenses, and slapping a D2S or H1 mini projector in them. If nobody makes the headlights I need, I can make them myself and probably get much better results.

So if someone has had experience disassembling any 7" reflector, do let me know. The cheaper the better since I don't actually need the reflector bowl to be good. I know for a fact that my Vision Plus Hella ecodes are perma-sealed.
 

crdiscoverer

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I am aware of the controversy surrounding retrofits and I understand it's not something anybody should attempt, plus the need to adhere to regulations and such, but I respectfully disagree. I've done it on several cars (gasp!) and all of them have turned out safer to both its passengers and others on the road as a result. Let's be clear I'm talking about properly done retrofits and not just swapping whatever stock setup there is for a cheap Amazon LED.

To count the number of cars on the road with oxidized lenses, incorrect bulbs, bad wiring/incorrect voltages, broken adjusters or headlight assembly mounting points, the list is endless... Servicing just a few as a "garage hobbyist", doing it properly making sure everything is aligned and adjusted as it should is making one more car less dangerous at night. And in that other post Virgil worries about a not-perfectly-clear lens or a projector falling off. When the reality is that you have all those other issues in cars you see every night. While we are at it, let's have those very smart engineers fix the always-on clusters that make people forget to turn on their headlights at night too.

This is a topic for another thread and I know this rubs a lot of folks the wrong way, but all arguments Virgil makes in that post can be applied to virtually any headlight from a car that's been on the road a few years. Headlight assemblies don't live in a lab. They get damaged, corrode, break and sometimes is not as easy or even feasible to find a 1:1 OEM replacement. Should we be throwing those cars away then?
 

ButchW

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OK... It looks like I'm down to the Truck-Lites or Peterson's.. I'd be ok with that, but I'm not happy that they both use polycarbonate lenses... I'm not spending the $$ for J.W Speaker, and am wary of the Holleys and Dappers.... I do want LEDs because of the old, small alternator, and I may put aux. LED lighting on for desert driving... I origanaly thought spending $400 for the Holleys was my biggest problem, but that just opened up a bigger can of worms...
Butch
 

Silly Rabbit

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I think Rigid ownes Trucklite now, so they stayed with their quality. I have had the Trucklites for probably 5 years, the lenses still look brand new. I believe Trucklite were the first to do an led housing, for military use. So their products are built right and made to take abuse and last. I throw a coat of wax on them when I wax the car to help wash bugs off.
I would have gone JW Speaker but people that have had both said they are both great, and so for the price they would go Trucklite if had to do again and save some pennies. I think with either you can't go wrong.
 

ButchW

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I'll probably go with Truck-Lites... But I was camping with a friend that has 2 Jeeps... He is a electronic junkie, and outfitted the 1st one with all f the good stuff, including JWSpeaker headlights... The 2nd one he wanted to save a little $ , and went with United Pacific or Grote ( I can't remember which)..... He said that he thought they were as good as the JWSpeakers,and would have gone that way on both, if he had known at the time.... I still think Truck-Lites are the way to go for me though....
Butch
 

crdiscoverer

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Just to close this one out, I made the decision to stick with standard halogen for now and I got a set of 7" Koitos, which come as a kit with Koito bulbs and the full relay wiring. I do still have issues with voltage drop but I'll make a separate post about it since I need help.

After a very quick test last night, they are definitely several levels beyond my old "VisionPlus" Hella H4s. Once retro-looking LED products improve more, I'll make the jump, but for now I'm happy with the outcome.
 

John_Galt

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If you feel like posting up about your Koito H4's, please post some white wall pics at a resonable distance, most importantly with your camera settings locked between shots. Virgil stated more than once that the Koito H4 was significantly more efficient than any other 7" H4 based lamp, and I think we would all be happy to see some beam pics (with locked camera settings) so there is some frame of reference for others considering them.
 

crdiscoverer

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If you feel like posting up about your Koito H4's, please post some white wall pics at a resonable distance, most importantly with your camera settings locked between shots. Virgil stated more than once that the Koito H4 was significantly more efficient than any other 7" H4 based lamp, and I think we would all be happy to see some beam pics (with locked camera settings) so there is some frame of reference for others considering them.

I will but I want it to be a fair comparison by making sure the headlights are receiving full voltage. I'm dropping about 1.1v even with a brand new Koito relay kit that came along with them so I'm trying to troubleshoot that.
 

ButchW

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I still want the LEDs for the low power consumption, and I don't want the fly's eye look, so after the Holidays, I'll probably get the Truck-Lites... Unless some thing better comes a long. :rolleyes: ... I hope the Koitos work out well for you...
Butch
 

crdiscoverer

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I still want the LEDs for the low power consumption, and I don't want the fly's eye look, so after the Holidays, I'll probably get the Truck-Lites... Unless some thing better comes a long. :rolleyes: ... I hope the Koitos work out well for you...
Butch

The Retrobrights were announced around Q4 2021. It may not be too long before they come up with version 2. Unless almost none were sold and they cancel the whole thing or just keep making the same one forever. I had them in my cart in TRS' website and saw them going out of stock often, so that'd be a good sign, but then you try to find info in forums, Reddit, YouTube about them and there's basically nothing unbiased, so that leads me to think they didn't sell that well and Morimoto simply had low stock or since it's a niche market most folks who get them are not inclined to post reviews anywhere.

I'd recommend you to get a set which is not too expensive and wait for the "retro-looking LED sealed beam replacement" market to mature. The Trucklites seem to check those boxes so you should be good.
 
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