When it comes to LED spotlights for our aquariums, there’s basically Kessil, and everybody else. Where nearly all other manufacturers have focused their efforts on building essentially the same tablet-shaped fixture with varying colors and intensities of diodes and a laundry list of features, Kessil has been steadfast in perfecting the LED aquarium spotlight.
Nowhere are Kessil’s advancements in the LED spotlight form factor more evident than the newly released Kessil A160we which was announced later last year, but only started making the distribution rounds in the last month. The Kessil A160we is the successor to the first workhorse LED spotlight that first put Kessil on the map, the Kessil A150.
Kessil’s first spotlight radically changed the way we light up smaller coral aquariums with a beautiful, balanced LED light spectrum which also didn’t skimp on the rare and valuable ultraviolet rays. In the less than four years that Kessil has been on the market, it’s the larger Kessil A350 which has seen most of the upgrades, first in the controllable A360s and then in the “WE” series which saw improvements to their Dense Matrix Array bumping brightness and efficiency by 15%.
The Kessil A160we is a concentration of all the gains that Kessil has made in its design and technology to create one ultimate small LED spotlight which is hella bright, tunable and controllable. Not to mention, the Kessil LED spotlight offers up a ton of value and brightness in what is practically an unimaginably small package.
It goes without saying that since our first teardown of the Kessil A150 the build quality of Kessil products has gotten even better – metal housings, near silent fan-cooled heatsinks, and they did a fabulous job of packing in two potentiometers and two input/outputs on each LED spotlight. But if there’s one thing about the Kessil A150/A160 that really stands out from the pack is the small size which is amenable to being affixed to industrial gooseneck mounts.
Being about the size of a soda can allows the Kessil A160we to be an unobtrusive light over small tanks but better yet, it also enables it to be squeezed in as a supplemental light for larger tanks with existing light setups. And if there’s one favorite trick that the Kessil A160s can do, it is its ability to be directed at precise angles at the reefscape, to target certain corals and to generally fill in the light field in ways that is not possible by other types of LED fixtures.
When it comes to using Kessil LEDs, be it the A150/160 or larger 350/360, we always leverage the goosemount to angle the LEDs in complimentary ways to fill in the shadows and generally illuminate more of the corals. The tank featured in the image above shows a 30 gallon aquarium with a rainbow of coral colors being lit up by a Hydra 26 and two Kessil A160we spots.
In our review of the Hydra 26 LED we lamented the lack of true blue LEDs with peak emission in the 470nm range, a color which really excites the green, yellow and orange fluorescent colors of corals. Meanwhile, if there’s one thing we would change about the Kessil’s color in both the A160 and A360 is their lack of color rendition in the pinkish end of the spectrum.
On its own the Hydra 26 is too pink as you can see in the image above, and on their own the Kessil A160we LED spotlights pictured below, are a little bit too blue, they look a little bit frosty on their own regardless of how the color is tuned. This disparity of color differences is emphasized by our being accustomed to looking at this particular reef tank running on just the pink-dominant Hydra 26 for so long. This difference in pinkish versus blueish spectrum is even more obvious in the images above and below which show individual light sources on independently. When you have access to only one of these types of light it’s hard to “miss” certain colors that should be more “popping” in fluorescence but one thing is for sure; the Kessil pumps out way more UV light than other sources and it practically runs circles around the Hydra 26.
We just happen to have a rarified Apogee UV meter and where the Hydra 26 is providing around 2.0 milliwatts of UV light around 8 inches underwater, a single Kessil A160we provides closer to 15.0 milliwatts of UV at the same depth. It’s precisely for this reason that the Kessil family of LEDs is our favorite spotlight to recommend to supplement existing lighting setups – more popping blues and a generous dose of fluorescence.
Regardless of your color preferences, the Kessil A160we is so much more than an incremental upgrade. With its newfound powers of tunability, and controllability with the Kessil Spectral Controller, it’s really easy to put Kessil A160we and its ecosystem at the top of the list of fully fledged LED lighting systems.
FCC regulations require us to inform you that we were given this product for review but our opinion and review of a product is never affected by how we acquire it