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Revised Diode Dynamics SL1 (H11): The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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  • Revised Diode Dynamics SL1 (H11): The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    This is not intended to be a full, in-depth review, which is why I didn't post it in the Product Reviews section. This is just a rundown of my thoughts and impressions based on the brief period of time I've spent with the product.

    I apologize for the lack of output photos, but I'll save that for a complete review in the future.

    I received my set of the revised SL1's on Monday and I spent about an hour or so testing them in my spare 2013 Accord headlight, checking out their beam pattern, and comparing them to the other H11 LED bulbs I have at my disposal.

    So let me begin with the positive impressions and go from there.


    The Good

    - Near perfect color, IMHO. I'd read from others' experiences that these were a bit on the warmer side, but to my eye, they appear to be a nice, crisp 5500K. They're just a tad warmer than the CrystaLux G11's, which I'd say are closer to 6000K. These should be a great match for my OEM LED fog lights and running lights that are also around 5500K.

    - Glare is well-controlled. There's a bit more glare directed towards on-coming traffic than with the G11's, but the intensity of that glare is too low to cause any real concern. But what's great about the SL1 compared to the G11, is that the glare right above the cutoff step is far less intense. With the G11's, there's about 350 LUX (at a distance of 6 feet) of glare just above the cutoff step that probably shines directly into the rearview mirror of the car ahead of me. With the stock bulbs, that glare is still there, but it's only around 200 LUX or so at the same distance. And with the SL1's, it's only 140-150 LUX, much less than stock or the G11.

    - The central area of the cutoff line (around the cutoff step) is nice and clean, and the step is well-defined. While I wouldn't call the cutoff line "sharp" by any means, the SL1's cutoff is less fuzzy in that central area than the G11's. The difference is minor, but it was the first thing I noticed when I fired up an SL1 for the first time.

    - The hot spot is tighter to the cutoff line than the G11's, and the brightest area is right where it should be for good distance performance. The hot spot and peak point aren't quite as high and tight as they are with the stock halogen bulb, but the SL1 comes the closest of any LED I've tested thus far in my Stanley H11 projector.

    - The fan noise is subdued, on par with the G11 in terms of volume and free of the jet engine-like hum of the VLEDS Micro LED/Turbine5. They should be almost inaudible under most conditions when they're installed in an actual vehicle. Unfortunately, I won't know for sure anytime soon (see 'The Ugly' section below).

    - The new, adjustable collar is fool-proof, and pretty much guarantees that the default position will be perfect for most headlights right out of the box. There's a hole for the adjustment screw dedicated to the default 9-3 position, so there's no chance that the bulb will rotate out of alignment during installation (unlike the G11). It's a clever and efficient solution that works well.

    - These bulbs are solid (and heavy!). Paul wasn't exaggerating when he said the revised SL1 could be used as a hammer. I don't think these will have any issues with the plastic housing coming apart at the seam, unlike the originals.

    - Also, their size and shape make them easy to grip and turn. The G11's are awkwardly-shaped and made out of aluminum that was sharp enough to slice a finger open the first time I attempted to install one of them.


    The Bad
    - The cutoff line, while somewhat clean around the step, is a bit too wavy for my tastes in areas further away from the center. The SL1 is better than the Micro LED/Turbine5 in this regard, which clearly indicates that it has superior focus (which it surely does). When looking at the cutoff from end to end, the G11's is smoother overall, though I do honestly prefer the SL1's sharper central area and cutoff step (not to mention its hot spot is tighter to the cutoff line, which again, is ultimately better for distance performance).

    - Brightness, while still very good, falls a bit short of the G11. That's completely understandable given the difference in power consumption (roughly 21 Watts for the SL1 versus 28 Watts for the G11). The SL1 also suffers less from heat soak, meaning that it can maintain more of its output for longer periods of time than the G11. That said, the G11 is still the brighter of the two, measuring a peak of 10,500-11,000 LUX at a distance of 6 feet, compared to 8500-9000 LUX for the SL1 (the variance is due to the difference in brightness between the two bulbs in each set). I'm sure the results would be much closer were I to run both bulbs for an extended period of time, but I did not take the time to do so. The Turbine5 gets left in the dust with a peak brightness of just 6500 LUX, so the SL1 is definitely above average in regards to output.

    - The retaining screw used for the adjustable collar is really tight and requires a considerable amount of force to break loose. It's also easy to strip, and both of the screws on my set were already partially stripped before I even touched them.

    - With the included gaskets, they require quite a bit of force to rotate and lock into place in the projector/housing. I recommend replacing the gaskets with those from a set of standard H11 halogen bulbs. It makes installing the SL1's a bit easier, though they're still on the tighter side. At least you don't have to worry about throwing off the alignment of the emitters during installation, unlike the G11's.

    - While the bulb as a whole is much more durable, the collar is still made out of somewhat thin plastic and could potentially break during installation. The collar on the G11 is made out of aluminum, which is almost impossible to break. You'd break the headlight housing before breaking the G11's collar, which may not be a good thing now that I really think about it.

    - The metal portion of the bulb is a bit loose within the plastic shell, but it doesn't really affect anything as the mounting collar and metal body are directly attached (meaning the bulb is still nice and secure within the housing). This is just me nitpicking at this point.


    The Ugly I'm really hoping this is an isolated incident, but one of my bulbs suffered a fatal flaw during testing and the other was close to doing the same thing.
    After being powered continuously for less than 5 minutes, I started noticing a sharp decline in the output of the bulb I was testing. It had started out with a peak brightness reading of roughly 8500 LUX, but had fallen to just 6500 LUX in a matter of moments. Not only that, but the hot spot had changed shape and the point of peak intensity had moved all the way over to the left of the cutoff step. I immediately knew something was off, as no bulb loses that much intensity in such a short period of time. Not only that, but the hot spot should never shift like that.

    So I removed the bulb from the projector to find that what appeared to be thermal compound had started oozing out of the gap between the PCB and the metal body of the bulb on both sides. And on one side, the thermal compound had actually managed to pool up around the bottom emitter, and was high enough to effectively block a portion of its output around its edges (which would explain the drop in brightness, as well as the shift in the beam pattern). There were also signs that the thermal compound was beginning to make its way through the seam between the two halves of the metal casing. I'm sure most of the people on here know this already, but thermal compound is thick when it's cold and thins out as it's heated. It's for this reason that most people use the pea or rice method when applying thermal compound to the CPU when building a PC. A little goes a long way when it comes to thermal paste, as it spreads quite easily once it's hot.

    This leakage occurred while the bulb was lit for just 5 minutes, leading me to wonder what might happen if the bulb were left on for a longer period of time. I'd hate for the thermal compound to start dripping inside of the housing, causing permanent damage to the projector bowl.

    The other bulb exhibited similar leakage, but not quite to the same extent.

    I plan to reach out to Diode Dynamics for a return soon, but I wanted to post here first to give you guys a heads-up and to warn you to check your bulbs for similar leakage issues. As I said, I'm really hoping that this is an isolated incident, and that maybe they got a little overzealous when they applied the thermal paste to this particular set of bulbs. I have no idea, but it's definitely just my luck to have issues like this with an otherwise excellent product hahaha.

  • #2
    Thanks for the review. Surprisingly I've had some of the same results you have except for the oozing thermal paste.

    - The retaining screw used for the adjustable collar is really tight and requires a considerable amount of force to break loose. It's also easy to strip, and both of the screws on my set were already partially stripped before I even touched them.
    I actually broke the head of the screw on one of mine. I forgot to mention this to Paul. I found that if you use a small screwdriver set (like those to fix glasses) its not enough torque to break the screws loose and you'll strip the head, especially if you have cheap bits. You need a large size screwdriver with a small thin tip to really put some torque and force to the screw.

    - With the included gaskets, they require quite a bit of force to rotate and lock into place in the projector/housing. I recommend replacing the gaskets with those from a set of standard H11 halogen bulbs. It makes installing the SL1's a bit easier, though they're still on the tighter side. At least you don't have to worry about throwing off the alignment of the emitters during installation, unlike the G11's.
    Same here. The gaskets on original halogen bulbs really seem to be like no other on the market, LOL. They are softer rubber and just a little bit thinner than most of the aftermarket gaskets. I always swap them and had to for the new SL1 because it was just too tight to lock the bulbs in place.


    As for the beam, this new version does not quite have the same chip alignment as I have outlined in my evo77 SL1 mod. Paul did confirm there was a minor change but they chose to go with a less aggressive alignment position. We have been corresponding on this topic and bouncing ideas off each other.

    My personal opinion through the testing I've done is I think you'll like the beam better by performing my modification. Though, as already stated, since the G11F has more power it will be slightly brighter than the SL1 even with the modification.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by evo77 View Post
      Thanks for the review. Surprisingly I've had some of the same results you have except for the oozing thermal paste.
      Thank you! Yeah, the oozing thermal paste is quite troubling. To make matters worse, I tried to clean up the excess thermal paste on the first bulb and it actually spread onto one of the emitters when I gently dabbed at it with a q-tip. Now that bulb is completely ruined. I hope Diode will still honor the warranty...


      I actually broke the head of the screw on one of mine. I forgot to mention this to Paul. I found that if you use a small screwdriver set (like those to fix glasses) its not enough torque to break the screws loose and you'll strip the head, especially if you have cheap bits. You need a large size screwdriver with a small thin tip to really put some torque and force to the screw.
      Yikes! I can believe it. I was using a small screwdriver set because my larger screwdrivers couldn't fit in well enough to reach the screw, and I killed my hand trying to apply enough torque to break it loose. Fortunately, once I got it loose the first time, it was no longer an issue and the screw now goes in and comes out like butter. That first time was a killer, though haha.


      Same here. The gaskets on original halogen bulbs really seem to be like no other on the market, LOL. They are softer rubber and just a little bit thinner than most of the aftermarket gaskets. I always swap them and had to for the new SL1 because it was just too tight to lock the bulbs in place.
      Seriously, I don't why the aftermarket hasn't been able to successfully copy the wonderful gaskets of the original halogen bulbs. The material they use is just too stiff and ever so slightly too thick, and it makes installing the bulbs way too difficult.

      I was only able to get the SL1 into my test headlight with its stock gasket because I had enough room to get good leverage on it. In the actual car with limited space behind the headlight? Hell no LOL. There's no way I could get them in there without replacing the gaskets. Not only that, but I'd probably knock the headlight aim out of whack by trying to apply enough force to lock the bulb in place. Hey, it's happened to me before.


      As for the beam, this new version does not quite have the same chip alignment as I have outlined in my evo77 SL1 mod. Paul did confirm there was a minor change but they chose to go with a less aggressive alignment position. We have been corresponding on this topic and bouncing ideas off each other.

      My personal opinion through the testing I've done is I think you'll like the beam better by performing my modification. Though, as already stated, since the G11F has more power it will be slightly brighter than the SL1 even with the modification.

      I'm actually a bit surprised by the beam pattern you recorded for the revised SL1 (v1.1), as my bulbs produced a very different beam pattern with a hot spot that was closer in shape to the G11's. Strangely, my SL1's hot spot actually extended a bit further to the left of the cutoff step than the G11's, but not quite as far to the right of the cutoff step. The G11's hot spot is a tiny bit wider, but other than that they're very close. In fact, my revised SL1 looks more like your modded SL1 only the hot spot appears to extend much further to the left. I wonder if DD has made some running changes to the latest batch?

      Can the evo mod be performed on the revised SL1? The collar is now 2 separate pieces that lock together with little teeth, and it doesn't look like shaving the bottom collar down without messing that up would be very easy.

      I think these bulbs are just a few small tweaks from perfection, IMHO. The focus is still just bit off, as you can tell by how wavy the cutoff line is with the upward flares and whatnot. The evo mod definitely reduces those "flares", so that's probably as close to perfect as these will get without smaller, more tightly-spaced emitters. The 3 ZES array is almost the perfect length to match an H11 halogen filament, but I think it's a bit wider, which may explain why the hot spot is too tall. I don't know for sure, I'm just theorizing.

      I'll try to get some beam pattern pics up later to show you what I mean, but in the meantime, here's a few shots of the thermal paste ooze (I'm sure my post will get flagged for this...):

      https://www.amazon.com/photos/shared...IG95bQDzzDFonr

      https://www.amazon.com/photos/shared...OOVosSq86ZyCca

      The first pic is of the bulb that "failed", and the second pic of the "good" bulb that looks like it might suffer the same fate soon. As you can kinda see in the first link, the blob of thermal paste is actually taller than the chips and is touching that bottom chip.

      Comment


      • #4
        Wow that SL1 v1.1 output, delicious. Exactly what I'd want an LED PnP bulb to do.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by niZmO_Man View Post
          Wow that SL1 v1.1 output, delicious. Exactly what I'd want an LED PnP bulb to do.
          I agree. As long as it's at least as bright as a standard halogen in critical areas, it would be an ideal output. Nice and smooth, with a gradual progression of brightness from the foreground to the cutoff, and with no hot areas on the road just beyond the foreground (like there are with the stock bulbs in the Stanleys). I actually had that kind of output when I had the G11's installed the first time and they weren't tuned properly. They weren't as bright as they would've been with proper alignment, but the plus side was that the foreground was less intense and the hot spot was similar to the SL1 v1.1 above.

          Comment

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