While we don’t sell LEDs, we recognize the importance of choosing the best LEDs when creating an amazing set of lights. This page is intended to help new builders learn more about how to find the right LEDs for your build.
Before we get started, it is important to point out that our two controllers, LED Sequencer and BlueGhozt, are designed to control entirely different types of LEDs. Therefore, this page will be broken up into a specific section for each controller.
The LED Sequencer is designed to control traditional LEDs. This is the type of LED that OEM manufacturers use in their LED lights and it is the most common type of LED available. This means that there is a broad range of different LEDs that will work with the LED Sequencer. When shopping for LEDs, some things to look for are viewing angle, brightness, operating current & voltage, and packaging. We will discuss each in detail below.
Viewing angle is pretty obvious. It’s a measure of how how far you can walk away from the LED’s main axis and still have it appear to bright. Specifically, the viewing angle is defined as the point where the brightness drops to 1/2 of its peak value in the middle of the beam.
LEDs often use a plastic lens to control the viewing angle. LEDs that focus the light into a narrower beam will appear brighter when you stand in front of them, but will be difficult to see when you stand off to an angle.
We generally recommend using LEDs with a viewing angle above 120 degrees for vehicle signaling functions. The reason is that you want other drivers to see you and know that you are turning or braking even if they are not directly behind you.
LED brightness is quantified by one of two means. Most common is Candlepower, often measured in milliCandela (mcd). It can also be quantified in Luminosity, often measured in Lumens (l). It is key to note that these are distinctly different measurements and therefore one cannot convert directly between the two. White LEDs will always have a higher brightness measurement than colored LEDs by roughly 3-4 times.
Candlepower measures the apparent brightness from an observer’s perspective. This means that an LED with a wider viewing angle will have a lower candlepower score because the light is being dispersed over a wider angle. Two LEDs with the same candlepower, will appear just as bright when viewed from directly in front.
Luminosity is a measure of the total amount of light that comes out of an LED. This is a good number to compare between two LEDs, however, many LED vendors don’t have the luminosity measurement for their LEDs so it may be hard to find. When comparing two LEDs with the same luminosity, the one with the narrower viewing angle will appear brighter when you stand directly in front of it while the wider viewing angle will appear brighter off to the side.
For white vehicle lights, look for LEDs with around 3000 mcd brightness. For Red or amber, look for around 1200 mcd. About a dozen such LEDs should make for a reasonably bright light assembly. Obviously, you can use a larger number of dimmer LEDs, too.
Operating Current and Voltage
The operating current and voltage, also known as forward current and forward voltage, tell you how much energy the LEDs need to light up. These are used to choose an appropriate resistor. These numbers are used to calculate the resistor that will go with your LED circuit. This is also very important because the Ghozt LED Sequencer has a maximum current of 260 mA per channel. Exceeding this limit will damage the sequencer.
When designing an LED circuit, remember that when LEDs are in parallel, you must add their current together. When LEDs are in series, you add their voltage. When putting multiple LEDs together on a Ghozt channel, we recommend doing so in series (usually 2-4) so as to minimize the total current through the circuit.
The most common types of LEDs to use with the LED sequencer use around 2 to 3.5 volts and 20 to 70 mA. If you are looking at LEDs that are significantly outside of this range, then they are probably not good LEDs to use for this application.
LEDs come in various shapes and sizes. The three most common are through-hole, surface mount, and panel mount. This characteristic is important to how you are going to assemble your LED array.
Through-hole LEDs have long, narrow leads that are intended to poke through a printed circuit board and soldered on the back. This type are the best for creating custom LED arrays because they are easy to solder by hand and don’t require a custom designed printed circuit board.
Surface-mount LEDs have flat pads that are intended to be placed on the surface of a printed circuit board and soldered down. This are the best for creating LED array kits because that can be assembled by a fully automated machine. This makes it much cheaper per array when you are making lots of copies.
Panel mount LEDs often have some sort of screw & nut feature with wires coming out so they can be mounted on a chassis and wired to a controller. This type of LED often has a built-in resistor and can sometimes much higher power than surface mount & through-hole types. These are often not the best types of LEDs to use with the LED sequencer.
Other concerns for Traditional LEDs
Some LEDs may appear to be traditional LEDs but may, in fact, be more advanced. LEDs that do not require a resistor either have a resistor built in or have a built-in current regulator. A good example is the PowerLEDs from ExLED. These have been very popular because they are very bright and simple to wire since they don’t require a resistor. While the PowerLEDs have been popular and some have had success using our LED Sequencer with these LEDs, we don’t recommend them. There have been some reliability issues when using ExLED’s PowerLED with our sequencer.
The BlueGhozt is designed to control certain types of addressable LEDs. Addressable LEDs are marketed under many code names, such as NeoPixel, NeoPrism, ColorFlow, and more. Addressable LEDs are LEDs that have a smart chip that can receive a digital control message. The smart chip receives the digital message and adjust the color and brightness of the LED accordingly. Addressable LEDs require a regulated power supply (usually 5V) and does not need a resistor.
Addressable LEDs also have an output pin that allows them to pass along digital messages to the other LEDs in a string. This makes them very easy to wire and generally kits are made with long flexible PCBs, sometimes containing hundreds of LEDs.
There are many types of Addressable LEDs that can have different formats for their digital message. The BlueGhozt is compatble with neopixel type addressable LEDs. The most popular of these are ws2812b and sk6812(rgbw). These two types of LEDs have identical message formats and vary slightly in their color matching and brightness. There are many variations of these two, if you are unsure if your LEDs are compatible, then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also come across the dot-star type addressable LEDs. These are not compatible with BlueGhozt.
If you are looking at a halo, strip, or other addressable LED array, the vendor can usually tell you which type of LED is used and it is often listed on the product page.
5V vs. 12V
Addressable LEDs generally come in 5V and 12V versions. 5V is most common in general but requires an external voltage regulator for automotive applications. 12V are growing in popularity for automotive applications because they have a small built-in 5V regulator. This makes 12V Addressable LEDs more flexible for automotive applications and it also reduces the power consumption.
BlueGhozt can support both 5V and 12V Addressable LEDs. If you are using 12V LEDs, you can simply connect the 12V supply to the BlueGhozt where you would normally connect the 5V supply. The BlueGhozt regulates its own internal voltage and distributes the 12V to the addressable LEDs.
Connectors and Wiring
For addressable LED arrays, the style of connector can vary, but will usually include at least 3 pins. These are power (+5V), data_in, and ground. Many arrays will have a connector at both ends, the opposite end will have a 3-pin connector with the opposite gender that has a data_out instead of data_in pin. This allows you to daisy chain several smaller LED arrays to produce a larger array.
The most common type of connector that is used with addressable LEDs is a JST 3-pin SM-series connector. This uses a male connector for the output side and a female connector for the input side. This is the scheme that the BlueGhozt uses. If you get addressable LEDs from a source that uses another type of connector, you can always cut the connector off and replace it or you can make an adaptor cable. Always double check the connector pinout to make sure that it matches the BlueGhozt.
Some Addressable LEDs have separate connector or separate wires for power and ground. This is because addressable LEDs can use a lot of current, which means that distributing power effectively can be a challenge. We recommend connecting a power and ground wire at both ends of a long strip where possible as this will ensure more consistent power delivery which will mean the LEDs will produce a more consistent and nice bright shade of white.
Where to buy LEDs
While we don’t specifically endorse any of these vendors, we wanted to offer some assistance with finding a good source for LEDs. We stay in touch with many of these vendors and in some cases work with them to develop cross compatibility between our products. With that said, please do your own research and choose a vendor at your own risk.
Yunique LED offers a variety of drop-in kits and other accessories that are specifically designed for compatibility with our modules.
Automotive Custom Lighting offers a variety of parts for LED retrofitting. They sell both traditional LEDs as well as addressable LED arrays.
Illumaesthetic offers individual LEDs as well as panels and full vehicle-specific DIY kits for taillight builds. They also have a number of DIY pages to teach you various aspects of retrofitting and LED building.
FlyRyde has a great Youtube channel where they teach all sorts of aspects of sequential LED lighting as well as other retrofitting topics. They also carry a variety of drop-in kits and other handy products for retrofitting.
Modified Technologies has drop-in kits for 2015+ Subary WRX that are specifically designed to work with our LED sequencer.
Ebay has a lot of decent LED products for good prices but sometimes it’s hard to tell what you are getting. Use caution when ordering from Ebay and read the description carefully. If you do that, you can find some good LEDs on Ebay.