The Malkoff M61 with Nichia 219 Review

carrot

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For submission into the reviews forum.

Awhile ago, Craig of Illumination Supply contacted me, out of the blue, and would I, perhaps, be interested in trying out the Nichia 219 in Malkoff's world-class M61? You all already know my feelings about Malkoff, or maybe not, but suffice to say, I was intrigued. Sign me up, I said, I'll get around to reviewing it eventually.

Well, eventually turns out to be now. I've been using the Malkoff M61 219 for... Umm, 7 months now, and I'd say I like it. Craig didn't tell me to say that, by the way. I really genuinely like it. Consider this my definitive long-term review.

I've been testing it in this amazing Frankenstein host. Each part was given to me at some point or another out of pure generosity from a different CPF member. I think about the great community I've been a part of every time I use it. It's a black Surefire E2e with a Valiant Concepts VME head. Suffice to say, I think this is the way the M61 is meant to be carried.

It's probably a good idea to start from the beginning. Gene Malkoff is a guy in Alabama, who is not only the nicest guy on the planet, but also a clever man too. He realized that there are millions of Surefire lights out there, old and obsolete but still pressed into service because they still work so damn well, mechanically and ergonomically. The old P60-based lights (like the 6P) were and still are, the Toyota pickup truck (hey, a Top Gear reference!) of the flashlight world. As the story I've made up in my mind goes, Gene's wonderful wife, Cathy, refused to retire her old standby, the Surefire C2, and Gene decided to upgrade it, as a surprise. Many months of hard tedious work, designing, soldering, and testing PCBs later, the M60 was born. No matter the origins of the M60 drop-in upgrades, Gene really hit it out of the park with a light engine that everyone instantly needed.

This is an exquisitely machined brass module (hi Roth!) that perfectly mates with any Surefire P60-based light, ensuring a solid thermal path for heatsinking the LED (light-emitting diode) for best performance and longevity of the little electric firebug. Thus, Malkoff is able to squeeze out a lot of light output and plenty of run time without even remotely stressing the LED. To round it out, all of the electrical components used were chosen for their utmost reliability, and then securely potted into the casing with an epoxy to make them permanent, suspended forever exactly as they were soldered, ensuring a lifetime of reliable use. All those *other* flashlights with reliability issues? Not with this engine, it's meant to go in the world's most famously reliable flashlights. Mr. Malkoff is truly a world-class Engineer with a capital E. (Eugene!)

In the M61, the newer revision of this little brass wonder, Gene saw fit to tap the talent of Don McLeish, better known as McGizmo, whose reflector design is simply the industry's finest. Never you mind if someone says reflector building is a precise science -- it is if you're looking for a measurable, quantifiable outcome -- if you want the best beam, Don's reflectors are a work of art. The M61's reflector is a tiny little stippled thing, shiny in its orange peel ways, but manages to do something very special with the light from the LED in a way most manufacturers can only dream of. You get a smooth, smooth beam, with a long, even gradient from spot to spill and no artifacts, a wide symmetrical hotspot, and a bright flood. In a way that seems to contradict itself, the M61 floods a wide berth with light, but also throws its beam effectively and far, enabling you to highlight targets far away while maintaining the all-too-critical context of the surrounding area. You can easily use this light both near and far without feeling the slightest bit inadequate or sub-optimal. In this way, McGizmo has mastered the reflector like nobody else has.

Now you might be thinking that the reflector used in the creatively named M61 219 is designed for the eminent Cree XP-G LED, and not for Nichia's little high-CRI wonder, and yes, this is true. In the M61 219, the beam is no longer flawless, with a slight hint of a ring in its corona, making this light engine ever so slightly less suitable for white-wall hunting. And yet, the M61 219 is better for it. It still retains the amazing throw-and-flood of the original M61, while drastically improving on the color rendering. This might sound to you like a minor, side-note of an improvement, but let me assure you, it is not, and the change in LED is for the best.

The Nichia 219, or at least the sample I received, harkens back to the good old days of incandescent lights, when you'd pop in a fresh set of batteries and be rewarded with a beautiful, crisp white light, with only the slightest hint of golden. It's gorgeous. You couldn't imagine it if I tried with my best prose. Except unlike an incandescent, this crisp white lasts from the beginning of the battery's life, all the way down to the end, and this is thanks to Malkoff's electrical engineering wizardry in conjunction with the vast efficiency increase made from going from incandescent to LED.

This is a crisp white light that is so beautiful it feels right at home when you gaze lovingly at its stunning 200 lumens beam shining on your house's whitest wall while sitting in your armchair and even more incredible when you use it on colored objects. After years of using standard cool white LEDs, and even "warm white" LEDS, it's like seeing colors for the first time. The first time! And when you compare it with other lights, like the Hi-CRI SSC P4, which seems excessively yellow, and the Cree XP-G Hi-CRI, good as it is, seems surprisingly flat by comparison, you realize something - Nichia's still got it, whatever “it” is. Take it outside at night, go on a nice long night hike, and all of a sudden you wonder how you could cope for so long with LEDs that drain color worse than the moonlight. A couple nights in New York's Adirondack mountains and a couple more in Utah's incredible Canyonlands National Park cemented that feeling for me.

So where does this leave us? An LED with so little love from the common manufacturers that we're hardly likely to see it? One that is so incredible, you'll wish that every flashlight you owned, had one? It can be yours, thanks to Mr. Malkoff, but only if you stay inside the Surefire system. Any 3.7v to 9v battery setup can power it, and currently the cheapest way to go is a Malkoff MD2 body, which replicates the interior mating surfaces of an original Surefire, although a Surefire 6P or 9P will be far prettier and far more classy. The M61 219 is the definitive drop-in. It’s the best, most versatile drop-in Malkoff makes.

It’s sold exclusively by Craig at Illumination Supply, who has been famously patient with me while I awaited my muse.

Highly recommended.

Sent from my iPad
 

tjswarbrick

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Mar 19, 2011
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SF Bay Area, CA
Great review, Carrot!
Thanks for the Malkoff background info - I haven't been around here THAT long, and learned a lot.

Your views on the color rendering of the 219 are spot-on in my experience. I thought the M61W (the later-production neutral one, not the warm) was good, but the 219 really puts it in its place.
2 minor notes:
"Retains the amazing throw and flood of the original M61" - I'd have to say: not quite. Transition is perhaps a hair smoother, flood is really just excellent, throw is still more-than-adequate, but the hotspot is neither as tight not as bright as with the M61. A minor quibble, and it doesn't bother me in the least - but it's important to note in case somebody needs the throw of his M61 yet wants the color rendering of the 219.

The incredible LED may only be available from I.S., but Gene isn't the only one working with them. I have examples from Vinh and NB which offer the same tint and color rendition, if not the McGizmo reflector and over-the-top "little brass wonder."

Mostly, I just wanted to chime in to say how fortunate you are to have experienced such generosity from multiple CPF members. Everything I've received from Craig has been top notch, but I've had to buy it all myself.

Thanks again for the accurate, detailed, insightful review. I have reached the same conclusion as you - "Highly Recommended."
 

PoliceScannerMan

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Jul 25, 2005
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Gainesville,FL
Nice review, wow, you banged all that out on a iPad? :eek:

I like my reflectored Malkoffs to be in a P or C series light. For me, the VME head "chokes" the spill beam out. For optic Malkoffs, the VME is fine. Again, this is my opinion, YMMV.
 

mbw_151

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Feb 28, 2008
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536
Location
Oregon
I have a number of Surefire/Malkoff lights all in neutral tints. I just ordered a M61L219 in a 9p from Craig. It should arrive soon. I hope it is every bit as good as Carrot says. If it is, I may be forced into another round of M61 upgrades. What fun!
 

Swedpat

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Jan 5, 2008
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Location
Boden, Sweden
Yesterday (yes, at SATURDAY) the postman delivered to me a paddered envelope. It was the MD2 hot pink with M61 Nichia 219. What a christmas present!
This is my very first experience with high CRI LED. I have many Malkoff dropins as well cool white and neutrals so I have a lot LEDs to compare to.
First impression: the ring is pretty noticable and may take a short time to get used to.
I agree with tjswarbrick about the hotspot; it's less powerful and throwy than original M61. While the tint is cooler than M61W and M91W it seems to be a bit warmer than my M61WL (that one is of first generation). Regarding the color rendering it's great and lifts up colors in a way that LEDs usually don't.
But in my eyes Malkoff M61W and M91W are very close, I perceive them as high CRI LEDs compared to common cool LEDs.
There is something more, however: I read that fans of incandescents talking of a superior contrast compared to LEDs. And I actually think that Nichia 219 has a slight edge over original M61W and other LEDs when it comes to contrast. Do you perceive the same?
 
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