I’m sure that you’ve noticed recently that we’ve released two different versions of some of our products, offering a choice between either Warm White or Cool White LED light-sources. But you may be wondering what’s the difference between these two options, which is the best choice for your needs, and if there’s a way to have the best of both worlds. In this month’s Ask Alfred, I’ll aim to answer all of these questions and also highlight some of the products from the ADJ range that offer each of these different options.
First of all, a science lesson. Not all light sources that we call ‘white’ are the same, depending on how the light is generated it can vary greatly from a soft warmth to a stark brightness. Think about the difference between a regular filament bulb on your nightstand and the Xenon headlamps in your car. Or, in terms of entertainment lighting, the difference between a warm halogen and a cool discharge lamp.
This difference in the appearance of light is called color temperature and is measured in Kelvin (K), with warmer looking light having a lower temperature and light that appears cooler having a higher value. Generally, a warmer temperature is considered to create a more relaxing environment, so that’s what you’ll find in homes and restaurants, while a cooler temperature is used to enhance concentration, for example in offices.
When it comes to entertainment lighting, until very recently, color temperature has predominantly been dictated by the technology used. Filament based sources, such as PAR and halogen lamps, have a lower (warmer) temperature, while discharge lamps and white LEDs have a higher (cooler) temperature. However, now, thanks to the continued advancement of the related technology, LEDs are also available that can offer warm white light. This means that lighting users now have the option to enjoy the advantages of LED, such as long lamp life and minimal heat, while also being able to select the color temperature of their choice. A good example of this is the popular ADJ Ikon Profile GOBO projector, which was originally released with a cool white (7500K) light source, but that is now also available in a warm white (3200K) version.
So which option should you choose? Well, to a certain extent it’s down to personal preference. However, if you’re lighting performers on a stage, you’ll probably find that warm white will give them more natural skin tones. Equally, at an intimate event such as a wedding, a GOBO projected using a warm white source may be more in-keeping with the tone and décor. However, if you want a GOBO projection to really stand out, especially in a room with lots of ambient light or on a stage where colored washes are also in play, you’ll probably find cool white to be more effective.
But what if you want the ability to change between cool and warm white, or even select a happy medium in-between? For that you’ll need Dynamic White, which we’ve just debuted here at ADJ with our new COB Cannon Wash DW. This involves a COB (Chip-On-Board) LED that combines both cool and warm white LEDs on a single chip. This then allows you to select either cool white or warm white as you feel appropriate or even blend the two together to achieve a color temperature anywhere in between. You can also alter the color temperature midway through a show or event to achieve different looks at different times.
Understanding color temperature is one of many tools that will help you to select the right lighting fixtures for your particular needs. If you’re looking to buy a unit with a white light source look out for its color temperature value and take into consideration that a low value will mean a warm light, a high number will mean a cool light, and Dynamic White gives you the best of both worlds.
Warm white or cool white: that is the question, and the answer is up to you!
Alfred Gonzales is the Sales Manager for ADJ USA
Learn more about Warm White vs. Cool White from Brian S. Redd's DJ Lighting Help video: