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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I came across this article and found it insightful. It's an old article, from 2002-02-28 so I will still hunt down a cost effective and current HID technology, but I found it provoking none the less and thought it worth passing along.

Cheers~ dk

PIAA lights vs . . . (product review)
will england :: motorcycle notes and tips


I hope what I am about to tell you will save some of us from throwing
away a few hundred dollars on PIAA lights. I am sure I will offend
someone, and I apologize up front. That is the furthest thing from my
objective. I have said before that I have heard numerous people on the
LDR list rave about PIAA lights to the point that I truly believed them.

I am in the market for one or more sets of driving lights to replace
those that were destroyed when I hit a deer with my R1100RT last week. I
really lucked out tonight. I happened upon an auto detailer store that
had a PIAA driving light / fog light display in their showroom. I had
the excellent opportunity to see several of PIAA's products operating
side by side.

If I may regress for a moment to explain my pertinent credentials: I
have a Ph.D. in applied optical physics, and a M.A. in scientific
photography. I mention that only to say that I hope we can shorten the
obligatory demands for me to prove I know what the hell I am talking
about. I assure you all that I do. I know about refractive optics
(lenses); I know about reflective optics (mirrors); I know about light,
illumination methods and phenomena, image formation, image capture,
image analysis and a few other things including ultra high precision
machining, manufacturing, packaging, marketing, and sales. I spent most
of my working life doing those things I listed above, and got paid
pretty well for doing it, which means I am pretty good at what I do.
When I see a product that is a copy of another product I recognize it as
a copy. I have also designed packaging. Molded styrofoam is made in dies
that cost a lot of money to make. Likewise, the dies used to cut the
cardboard from which the box is made are also quite unique and
unmistakable. What the hell am I talking about, you ask? I'll tell you

Advanced Auto Parts sells a brand of driving lights called "Optronics
Night Blaster" model QH-381K. THey are indistinguishable from PIAA
1200s. PIAA's styrofoam is indistinguishable from Optronics', the
cardboard wrappers appear to be cut from the same die. A rose by any
other name is still a rose... or do I smell a rat. I dealt with enough
Chinese and Japanese manufacturers to KNOW how adept they are at
copying, and brand labeling. We've all seen that; the same product sold
by several different stores but with different wrappers. Now comes the
part where I ask you to relay on my expertise in optics. The two lamps
have the same beam pattern: the same illumination pattern. To my trained
eye, it is as unmistakable as a fingerprint. Any of you electronics
dudes want to tell us how many different two conductor plug styles there
are? Is it a dozen, hundreds or thousands? When I flip through my
Digikey catalog, I get bored trying to count them. What do you think the
odds are that both lamps would be using the same quick disconnect plug?
Or do you begin to see that these two lights are one and the same? The
biggest difference between the two is the price. PIAAs are $199.00, and
the Night Blasters are $59.95, or you can sneak on over to Walmart and
buy Blazer brand clones for $25 on closeout. The Night Blasters are
easily worth the $60 they cost. Nicely made lights; nice wiring harness;
nice packaging; good illumination for the money. PIAA's were not any
better, and cost 3.33x more.

Had enough? Not yet! The famed PIAA model 1400 are also clones. You can
pay PIAA $205.00 for them or buy ones that look identical on line from
JCW for less than $40. Some of the PIAAs I saw were such lame performers
that I would recommend that anyone who would think they were good should
seriously consider giving up his license to drive. Why? Because that
person has a very serious visual deficiency. I compared a PIAA 910 to a
PIAA 1200. The 910 was 1/10th the brightness of the 1200. My experienced
eye says the QH-381K was brighter than or at least equal to the 1200,
and for less than 1/3 the cost. I wouldn't pay $20 for the PIAA 910 that
I saw. Could there have been something wrong to cause such poor
performance? I thought of that and investigated. The lamp envelopes were
normal. The reflectors and lenses looked normal. Some PIAA lights are
apparently pure crap optically, and their "bulbs" are only contributing
to the dismal performance.

Let's talk about mechanical finish. Half of any optical system is the
mechanical part. If the machining is crap, the optical performance will
be statistically crap. Parabolic curve time. The old statistical bell
curve. By dumb luck a certain percentage of the crappiest mechanical
lens mounts will be good performers, with a similar number of horribly
bad ones, and all the rest falling somewhere in between. From the text
and photographs contained in PIAA's advertising, I had the impression
that their Platinum series lights were machined from aluminum; the back
ends being brushed aluminum and the front bezel polished aluminum. I
don't know where I ever got that impression. Maybe from the beautiful
photographs and the $200 price tag. I could duplicate the look PIAA
Platinum series with a painted stamping for the rear, and a chrome
plated stamping for the front. On close examination, they look no better
or worse than the $19.99 no-name brand lights in discount stores. You
know the ones. They get rusty right through the chrome after the first

So what if the cosmetics and packaging were dismal if the performance
was great. Honestly, the guy who worked in the store was embarrassed as
I compared one PIAA light to another. Some of them are absolutely awful,
and a complete waste of your hard earned money. I have nothing against
PIAA, and frankly went to the store with the intention of buying a set.
I'm sorry Gary Gerlach, as much as I respect and value your opinions and
recommendations, I am ashamed to admit publicly that, following a brutal
5 year long divorce in a viciously anti-white-male state, I cannot
afford to buy a set of HID lights. As much as I know they are the right
lights for my needs, if I have to chose between paying my mortgage, and
buying my prescription medication versus a set of HIDs, I will,
unfortunately, chose the mortgage and meds. I am relegated to halogen
for the foreseeable future, and thank goodness the insurance settlement
will pay for them.

I hate to be so flagrantly negative. I think we all like to buy the best
and then convince everyone that we made a brilliant decision in doing
so. I have only told you all why I have chosen to walk away from buying
PIAA. Maybe what I saw was a rack full of defective PIAA lights. Maybe
all the PIAA lights I saw on that rack had been sabotaged by a
competitor of PIAA. Maybe PIAA lights are really good, and all the
identical connectors, fit, finish and packaging I saw on other brands
were mere coincidence. If that is the case, then PIAA should be proud to
encourage us to refrain from buying their products sight unseen. I won't
buy them without a "satisfaction or money back" unconditional guarantee
like all the others offer. Everyone stand up NOW and say "I am sorry
Gary Gerlach, you were correct". The PIAA lights I saw were not what I
had expected. Buyer beware.

I am sorry for my incoherence. It is late and I am very tired. Good

1999 R1100RT Very Black... of course (I miss you. Get well soon!)
1972 Suzuki TS185 Dual Sport to tinker with while I wait.
2000 Audi A4 Avant Very Silver
1960 MGA 1600 Very Red
1974 MGB-GT Damask Red
and a small fleet of others in NE Ohio...

note: this article is by the listed author. all articles have been collected from various usenet groups and e-mail lists. DMCA violations, errors, omissions, complaints to will england. compliments to listed author. if no author is listed, none was provided in the source material. all information is correct to the best of my knowledge; however it has not been independently verified. use at your own risk; this database of information is for entertainment purposes only. no warranty is given or implied.

2,341 Posts
I find this very interesting also..

Once they are set up in the manufacturing process they can punch out the product. Originally they made a fair profit and then the economies of scale come into play. They still probably make a fair profit.. on the generic.. Interesting on how they maximise profit when they just change the ink on the box.

Probably happens a lot more than we would like to think..

210 Posts
jackd said:
Probably happens a lot more than we would like to think..
I am a cost accountant for a mfg company; yes, it does happen more than you may think.

2 Posts
Thanks from Australia

As a new member of this group and new owner of a R 1150 RT-P ex Queensland Police evaluation bike [ 12/05 manufacture ].

I thank you for a very informative article. Such critiques down here in the Antipodes are hard to find

786 Posts
Appreciate that info too. I had purchased two sets of aux lights with H3 bulbs off Ebay. Nice lights but, it is less expensive to buy from Walmart which provides the wires, switch, fuse etc., for the same price or less. Nice to know you don't have to buy the most expensive light out there, and these work just as well. Very good article.

Regarding the Motolights. We also bought a set of these for the LT, which are outstanding. As the driver, I never really realized how bright these lights are. My SO had noticed the lights when I passed by her office (she did not know it was me) and saw the lights way off in the distance, and from that moment stated she wanted the lights transferred from the RT to the LT when we traded the bike. After we did this, I had a mechanic take the bike for a test drive, during one of the worst traffic jams this area has seen. Not knowing where he went or what direction he would return from, I saw the LT coming due to just the Motolights, way off in the distance. Among the many hundreds of cars and trucks passing by, this stood out above everyone else. I was quite impressed.

My buddy that has a GW, opted for a set with the amber lights from Walmart. I must say, I am quite impressed with his lights for $60. Maybe not quit the light you get from the Motolights, but if at all pressed for money, I would not hesitate to buy the Walmart lights.

Glad I did not rush into the PIAA lights. I was really disappointed with the PIAA bulbs we had put on the 99. I kept the $50 low beam in, not having a better answer for the immediate need, and had the high beam bulb taken out and replaced with the H3.

For now, I just use the high beam, aimed low, all the time.

25 Posts
interesting article

I have seen some lights at advance an wallmart that as I walked by I thought man those look just like no! couldn,t be,guess its true . But on the HID i,ve got a friend who has them an swears they were worth every penny .
I guess its a mater of whats your life worth . But he uses his bike all year long
rides 2hrs one way to work so that makes it more useable for him to justify the cost.
I,m 55 now an don,t see as good at night as I once did an I don,t like driveing at night . But that being said seems like I get caught out on the way home more than not . But one thing I really like about the PIAA or Moto lights
is the three points of light for day time safety . At night its what you can,t see in the day time its about being seen . Be safe an have a great day

87 Posts
Thanks for the information. I recently purchased a bike that has PIAA lights and I have replaced the bulbs and the tend to be too bright!The local BMW dealer only has 1 strength and hoping to find with less wattage! Once again, thanks!
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