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REVIEW - Wicked Lasers 1W (1000mW) 532nm Reference Series

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OK, so here’s my review of the Wicked Lasers Reference Series 1W 532nm show/lab laser system.



When I agreed to test this system it was with the requirement that I be allowed to evaluate the unit for no less than 4 months bfore reviewing to give me some time to really use the system. Now that the 4 months are up, it's time for a writeup:

The laser arrived brand new from the factory packaged impeccably in foam and bubble wrap. These are made to order, so it doesn’t get much fresher than this.

The unit comes with an FDA-style PSU which contains the necessary keylocks and safety interlocks.

My initial power measurements using a Scientech meter at a local university physics dept. indicated that the unit was giving ~1.32W of output with <5% CW power stability after warm-up. Not too shabby.. Divergence is very good, I measured it at 1.24 mrad.

My initial impression was that the Reference Series is solidly built, easily on par with the best Chinese systems I’ve seen. The output is up to snuff and nice and stable. As of 1-12-10 the power is still at ~1.30W and <5% CW stability measured with a Laserbee I LPM and a 50/50 beamsplitter. There are some very small losses from the beamsplitter, but ther are negligible.. Modulation stability is good, with only very minor power fluctuations occurring occasionally. This review unit is TTL, so I can’t say anything about linearity.

According to Wicked’s site, the specs are:


The beam quality isn’t perfect, but it appears to be within the m^2 <2 specification, near TEM00. Beam profiles are never perfect with any Chinese high-powered DPSS (>500mW) so this system is right on par. There is a small amount of structure in the beam, so the power distribution is not Gaussian. The beam is perfectly round with a single spot. I used a magnifier to expand the beam at the aperture to avoid as much marring of the profile by airborne impurities as possible. At this scale (the beam diameter is 3mm) a little dust can change things a whole lot. The expanded beam is then projected onto a wall about 6m away. The spot is expanded to about 8 inches across here::



Wicked’s website states that these systems include both TTL and analog modulation capability, but Steve (CEO of Wicked) was unable to tell me how to switch between the two (there is no labeled control for this on the PSU), and my example accepts TTL signals only in it’s current configuration. Analog blanking is very important for show use, so I feel that Wicked should be knowledgeable enough about their own products to be able to describe how to operate them in accordance with their specs.

I installed the laser into a scanner and fired it all up. The unit functions perfectly in the projector, even running cool enough that I was able to use a wood case and forced-air cooling rather than a metal plate. The system remains completely cool even in the hottest room I’ve used it in (~85F). (There are some drawbacks to this design, but I don’t have access to a machine shop so I’m limited to my own creativity in terms of enclosures and cooling.) It’s an impressive looking projector in terms of output, that much is for sure. I was absolutely blown away by the room-filling power, and 1W really isn’t all that much in terms of stage projectors.



The only cons I’ve found after spending 4+ months with this laser are the price and WLs inability to tell me how to set the PSU to accept analog modulation. This system retails currently for $3995US. This is far too expensive IMO, and I have informed Steve of this and supplied him with rates for comparable lasers from other retailers. He has been very receptive, and has assured me that they intend to lower the price soon to become competitive in the current market. Until then my verdict is that the Reference series is an excellent line of lasers with very good specs and first-rate construction, but the price keeps me from being able to recommend them as a good value.
 
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