The SolaRay 4K Sphere LED Reef Light from Coral’s Coral would be a very interesting light with a novel form factor if we hadn’t already seen this exact light more than six years ago. At InterZoo 2016 we acknowledged the creative design of the Sanrise Aqua Planet LED light which was subsequently renamed the M031 when the company changed its name to Spectra. In mid-2022 the very same light is back, with exactly the same body, parts, and features – even the same M031 file names on the images – only with a new name and sadly, an increased price.
We know this light well. We liked its cute size and attributes then and we still like it now. It was one of the most stand-out little lights at Chinese trade shows and it had a very reasonable $190 retail price tag. It actually should have been more popular then than it was and we’re surprised that a larger aquarium lighting brand didn’t sweep it up and really make it its own. Sanrise/Spectra do offer OEM and other models like the M018 Aqua Helios were taken by some brands and sold as their own, but there also lies the problem.
Other Equipment Manufacturing
Product R&D is expensive and takes considerable investment into tooling – making the machine molds that make the parts for new products. We’ve spoken to many western manufacturers over the years and to design, build and mass produce a totally new external canister filter for example costs in excess of a million dollars. One manufacturer told Reef Builders their filter needed 90 tools to build new, unique components from the head unit to the canister to the taps and impeller cover. It takes years to do and the investment has to come up front for a production process that you don’t even know will work, or if anyone will buy the end product. It will be the same for LED lighting only worse, as semiconductor-based light emitting diode production goes into the realms of the mega-corporations. Don’t think for one minute that the aquarium industry is a big consumer of LEDs versus say car headlamps or kitchen lighting.
The fastest way to launch a “new” product, therefore, is to find someone who is already making a complete unit that works, they’ve already invested in the tools and you can basically pick and rebadge a finished product with the minimum of investment and risk, and bring it to market as your own relatively quickly. Many electrical products look the same because they are the same. Maybe one will have Wi-Fi while the other doesn’t, the casing may be in a different color but that original equipment manufacturer and their tooling have made that same product under a number of different guises. It’s the same the world over from cars to TVs, computers, and mobile phones, and China (the home of Spectra,) is the number one place to source OEM.
The problem with shortcuts to product launching however is that without your investment, research, and development products don’t evolve and the SolaRay 4K is just such an example of that. Tech moves fast and you would expect a six-year-old phone or computer to get cheaper as chips advance. The SolaRay 4K has the same components it did six years ago only due to global shipping prices its price has increased to $249, and the mount which used to be included is another $30. For $279 this cute, formerly feature-packed sphere now has to compete against a new field of compact feature-packed fixtures.
We still like this light but we’d like it more if it was on Gen 2 or Gen 3 and had moved on and become even better than it was in 2016. If it is the same light we saw then, its price should have come down and not gone up.