Review: Kessil Spectral controller

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Designed for Kessil's new LEDs, this controller doesn't just alter lighting intensity and colour, says Dave Wolfenden.

This is a superb piece of kit, and for the price it’s a steal. In fact, I’d suggest that if you own (or are thinking of owning) the new generation of Kessil LEDs, and you see what it does, you’ll find it impossible to not buy one. This little gizmo, which looks like a slightly oversized MP3 player or big smartphone, is specifically designed for the A160 and A360 lights (it won’t run the A150 and A350). The unit is finished in a glossy black and has a backlit 42mm wide x 55mm high LCD colour screen, so it’s plenty big enough to read. Build quality and packaging are excellent.

What’s in the box?

The package includes a metal mounting plate (plus screws and wall plugs); a 1.8m USB power cable plus mains adaptor and a mini-jack style Unit Link cable to connect to the light’s external controller 'input' port.

In use

To run the controller, you’ll need to power it with the USB cable (it needs to be powered continuously, so the mains adaptor makes the most practical sense, although it can be powered from a computer if your computer’s running 24/7). If power is interrupted, it will store all programmed data, but it can’t run any lighting connected to it.  In terms of PC connectivity, it isn’t controlled via an interface on the computer but on the device itself, although firmware updates are available to download via Kessil’s website if it’s hooked up. I updated to the latest software version and it was a cinch, taking around five minutes in total. This is a nice 'future-proofing' feature, which gives the potential for a raft of interesting updates.

Once you’re powered up, connect the controller to your lights. There are two ports which can be configured from the same controller, and these can be programmed independently or both together. Having two ports available allows for some very flexible lighting configurations, such as running separate lighting regimes for the main aquarium and a refugium. Alternatively, varied programmes running from independent ports can run different lights on the same aquarium. Or you could opt to run the lighting for two totally separate aquariums (maybe one marine and one freshwater) from the one controller. If you’ll be using both ports, you’ll need an additional cable (available separately). The lights do need to be wired (there’s currently no wireless connectivity), so you might need to consider how to neatly deploy those cables.

The controller offers manual configuration, allowing for the colour and intensity of lights on each port to be dialled in for basic ‘plug and play’ use. However, ‘program mode’ offers the best features. Selecting ‘quick set’ allows colour and intensity to be altered across six user-selected time points over the course of 24 hours. With only six time points available, it doesn’t offer an incredibly granular method of programming a lighting regime, but it does work very well, allowing for natural changing of colour and intensity throughout the day, with smooth ramping of parameters between the time points. Above all, it’s simple and user-friendly.

An additional 'acclimation’ feature' (a kind of 'sub mode' of 'program mode') allows for lighting intensity to be lowered to 0% (i.e. off) and ramped up to the manual or program settings for a period of 1–14 days. This is a great feature for preventing light shock in newly-introduced corals. It’s easy to initiate; dial in the settings for acclimation (which are then stored), select 'acclimate mode' when the new stock is introduced, and let the controller do the rest — a nifty feature.

Both ports 1 and 2 can be assigned to either manual or program mode independently. The instructions are pretty basic in all honesty, but the unit is quite intuitive to use; you might need to experiment a little to get a feel for what it can do, but that’s part of the fun.  Daisy-chaining of lights is possible from the controller, with each light in the chain running the same programme as the first.

The back of the controller is magnetic, so it can be popped onto the metal back plate which can be fixed to a wall or inside a cabinet, neatly keeping it in place. Want to change the settings? Just lift the controller off the back plate, fiddle away and pop it back — nice touch.

Price: RRP £99.95.

Verdict

What’s not to like? It looks great, you’re able to update it, and it has some lovely touches (like the acclimation mode). It’s simple and unfussy to use and the ability to run two independent programmes makes it superb value.

Ease of use: 4/5

Features: 4/5

Value for money: 5/5

Overall: 4/5

More info: Tel. 01942 216554 or visit www.evolutionaqua.com

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