Types of Light Source - LED vs Incandescent and others

Explanatory Articles 5 MIN READ

These days, advances in technology and sustainability considerations mean that many people are pushing to use LED light sources for everything. Whilst LED light sources are great, there are reasons why you may want to think twice about eschewing them completely. Below are some key considerations.

LED Lighting

In recent years LED lighting has made enormous technological advancements.  At the turn of the century, LED was just about only good as an indicator light on your stereo. These days it is a staple of stage, special effect and architectural lighting.

Modern LED luminaires work on an 'additive' basis, which means there are at least three light sources within one luminaire. These are typically a red element, green element and blue element. When these are mixed at equal levels an overall "white" light is produced.

This means that LED luminaires are ideal for highly saturated and bright colours such as reds, pinks, turquoise, green etc. This article used to state that LED lights did not produce a suitable white light for illuminating people due to the additive nature. This is still true of cheaper ‘RGB’ (red, green, blue) fixtures, however many higher end products now include a true white LED, as well as amber and sometimes UV LEDs to give a wider range of options for colour mixing. These fixtures are referred to as ‘RGBWA+UV’ or sometimes just RGBW or RGBA, and can produce excellent colour rendition to become a suitable replacement for incandescent light. 

LEDs are highly power efficient, do not give off notable heat, and highly responsive to lighting control. Further for the purpose of event lighting, stage lighting and concert lighting, LED lamp life is virtually infinite and thus presents a very low ongoing cost.

Drawbacks of LED are minimal if using a suitable fixture, and these days the argument of LED vs. incandescent can be compared to mp3 vs. vinyl. 



For decades, this was the most commonly used and conventional lighting source available and to all intents and purposes is very similar to a lightbulb you might use in your home. 

Incandescent light produces a natural ‘full-spectrum’ white light when at high brightness, and produces an attractive ‘amber shift’ when dimmed. This means that some designers still prefer to use it for fashion shows, and as an effect light.

Due to the legacy of incandescent lighting, the range of lighting fixtures is huge. The fixtures are often more attractive in terms of their physical appearance as well, which can be a consideration if they are a part of a stage set or installation.

In stage lighting, incandescent lamp life is relatively low and these fixtures therefore present a high running cost. They use many times the quantity of power required for LED lights, and this is the primary reason that they are now being phased out in favour of LED fixtures.



This light source is produced by creating a spark between two electrodes within a small space - a little like a very small, powerful tesla coil. This spark is maintained and can produce a range of different hues.

Discharge lighting is most commonly seen used for street light and in car headlights.

Whites produced by discharge lighting is not perfectly full spectrum but does present good white accuracy for general and functional purposes.

Discharge is reasonably efficient and, for the purpose of event lighting, lamp life is very good. However, it is also being phased out in favour of cheaper, more reliable LED. 


SXS can provide a range of lighting for different applications. Get in touch to discuss your needs.