Nanobox Duo w\CORALUX Storm controller (review)

Blindf8th

New member
About me:
I am still relatively new to the hobby and this is only my second tank (Innovative Marine Nano 16). This is also my first aftermarket light fixture. That said, I have read everything on the market that I could find about all lighting options available to me. All purchases I make are based on in depth reviews and I never buy anything without heavy research first.

Requirements:
To purchase a quality LED light fixture capable of growing anything I would like while keeping a good clean design, great color spectrum for pop factor, small non-intrusive mounting option, and a few extra features like dusk\dawn automation. I was open to all fixtures and mounting types providing they met my 4 requirements.

Order of importance:
Good clean design
Spectrum (Colors that make my corals pop)
Nice mounting option
Dusk\Dawn capable

Initial thoughts (pre-purchase)
Based on my requirements I ended up giving Dave's Nanobox Duo with the CORALUX Storm controller a shot. I was nervous and definitely a little hesitant because of the following reasons to name a few.
• His products aren't readily available at the LFS
• He has no 800 number
• You are dealing with an individual (potential for accountability issues)
• Support
• Warranty
• Trust

I can't think of one time in my life when I spent $465 dollars on something that wasn't backed by a company in the more traditional sense (meaning well established with employees etc.). I chose to buy from a guy in North Carolina that from what I could verify online, had a pretty solid product that was handmade. It was definitely a risk for me and it was outside my comfort zone.

Conversations with Dave:
Dave, as many have already stated, is very helpful when it comes to trying to fulfill your needs and meet your goals. We had a few conversations about what he has to offer and what he believed would fit exactly what I was looking for. From a customer sales perspective he said and did all the right things. He answered my questions and addressed my concerns. He also followed up on those talks (verbal and text) which was a positive and in the end helped me finalize my decision. I felt comfortable enough pulling the trigger, but still held onto a little reservation because pre-sales is one thing... backing it up is something else.

Purchase:
The purchase was made on February 24th and the expectation of when it would arrive was the 3rd week in March. Based on other reviews, I did not expect a fast turnaround. Dave is apparently a very busy man and as of the date of my purchase he still had another full time job (to my knowledge), so I knew it would take a few weeks and I was OK with that.

By March 19th I still had not received it and I had not yet received any updates from Dave, so I emailed him. Two days passed and I emailed him again on the 21st. He provided an update on the 22nd (Saturday) and let me know the order would be done and out no later than 25th (Tuesday) or 26th (Wednesday). Apparently there was a part delay and after a few additional emails, I received word that it would ship on April 3rd. It was delivered to my hands on April 7th. I understand he is busy and to be fair, busy is probably not the best word as he seems to be completely slammed. If he still has his day job… trying to balance that, family, his new company (sales orders etc.), it’s got to be next to impossible to keep up. Given all of these things, I think he is doing an amazing job. From a customer's perspective though, 6 weeks is a very long time to wait for any product you spend $465 on, especially when you had to wait an additional 3 weeks.

Un-boxed and In-hand
---Positives---
The ND (Nanobox Duo) was packed good and I had zero complaints. Once I held the ND it was very clear why the reviews I read online had scattered words like industrial and heavy duty among them. The ND is as solid as a rock. It looks and feels like an expensive quality fixture. I was very surprised and impressed at just how heavy it was. So much so that I initially questioned if the bottom of the goose neck could even hold it in place. The design was great and was exactly what I was hoping to receive. You can tell that Dave does take a lot pride in his work. He is definitely on the right track and to have someone like me give his product a try over the AI's, EcoTech's, Maxspect’s, and the list goes on... he is doing something right.

---Negative---
As I began to place everything out on the table I was surprised that a screw came out and that another one was very loose. The bolt was rattling on the inside of what I believe is the fan motor component. I let Dave know and initially I was upset. Because of the design, I ended up having to take off both sides so I could re-attach the nuts on the inside along with the cushion\spacer that is used to mount the board. Once I tightened them enough I had to super glue both ends in order to keep the sides from coming out (I used a very small amount) Now, we are talking about 2 screws here... that said, spending $465 dollars for anything and then going through fixing it was pretty frustrating. Dave apologized and did a really great job of defusing the situation. He let me vent a few times and just stayed on point. Kudos to him on his approach and how he handled it. Shipping or not though, me spending the hour or so getting it open (without scratching it) and fixing something like a couple of screws\bolts should not happen.

Functionality:
The CORALUX Storm controller the unit comes with is not the most user friendly option on the market. I know he has something on the horizon (Bluefish) that is probably going to help bridge that gap, but the CS is a very capable unit and because it does have 6 channels (2 dedicated to the ND’s default configuration), 4 can be used for other devices which might be a positive for some. I have no idea how I would use them and probably never will, but it is a good thing to be aware of. It didn't take long for me to get the hang of it although I still need to keep fine tuning the 2 channel day\night intensity levels. To see a few demos you can YouTube it I'm sure, but I knew what I was getting and it has delivered the dusk\dawn effect, range in lighting intensity, and cloud\lightning effects I was looking for. The range in brightness is just crazy with 256 levels. In my testing, I don't think I hit a different brightness on every single tick of that 256 levels, but it did a very good job and I was more than satisfied with its ability. I can't imagine not having this with the ND unit.

Spectrum\Color
After taking the CORALUX Storm controller for a spin and tinkering with the white and blue intensity levels, I can make a few statements in confidence now that I have had the ND unit in place for a month now. Fact, the blue combinations of LEDs he uses and the pop of my Zoo's has definitely exceeded my expectations. Fact, I am now able to see colors on my corals that I have never seen before. The LFS lighting combinations are good, but for the first time I can view a colorful coral in the store and know it will look awesome under my ND. This was my #2 requirement and it has delivered. I could not be happier with the color the ND puts out. Initially I thought I might be disappointed with the two channels as opposed to the 6 possible, but Dave was spot on right and I'm glad I took his advice. The default configuration and the two channels the ND comes with by default will not disappoint.

Growth:
Now that I’m a month in, I can provide a little feedback as to what I have observed. One of my Zoo’s that was fully extended towards my stock lights has completely shrunk back down to normal and is looking better than ever. My single polyp Rasta (which I have had for 3 months now) has 2 more polyps which I’m very happy to see. Maybe the two Rasta polyps I’ve added might have grown with or without the ND, but I seriously doubt it. I'm definitely going to be in the tweak phase for quite some time to see where the sweet spot is for all my corals with the lighting options the CS provides, but so far everything is doing very well. At this time I do not have any SPS’s, but I am very confident in the ND’s ability in that arena as well.

Final Thoughts:
The above notes depict my personal experience and are most likely a one off from what most others have or will experience (regarding the negative portion). After talking with Dave, reading about Dave, and taking a step back to evaluate everything as a whole, I believe that he has the potential to take http://nanoboxreef.com/ as far as he wants it to go. His design is dead on, the materials he uses are top notch, and the mounting option cannot be beat by any of the big boys I mentioned above. He is in a specific demographic and capitalizing on it very well. I seriously considered spending $100-$200 dollars more for the Radion G2\G3, but the mounting options alone kept me from pulling the trigger. The Radion is a quality light for sure, but IMO the simplicity of the Nanobox Duo and elegant look surpasses it and the others hands down. Some people have designed a few mounts that make those other options look pretty good, but at the end of the day, those companies do not have any good solutions for the size of my Nano 16 (or any reef in my opinion) with the sleek and clean look that matches the profile I was looking for. To each his own.

It's important to note that if you do any research on the Nanobox Duo, you will be hard pressed to find any negative comments or reviews (I know because I have tried). After having my ND up now for a month I am completely satisfied with my purchase and would purchase again. I would also recommend this unit to anyone looking for a quality LED fixture providing your requirements are along the same as mine. I don't think the build quality can get any better. Great job Dave!

Pictures that I take never seem to do anything tank related justice, but here are some that I took of both the Nanobox Duo and tank (two different shades of blue). Enjoy :)

Blind
 

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Blindf8th

New member
Pics Continued...

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Pics Continued...
 

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terrypercula

New member
I think that's a very well done review. Too many times you see completely biased one sided reviews and you did a good job supplying both spectrums of a product. For a one man crew Dave seems to build a lot of lights and my guess is he's going to need help very soon, especially if he has a full time job still. One thing I either missed or you forgot to mention was if the light is a "full spectrum" or just whites and blues.

I'm looking forward to seeing long term effects of this lighting and whether or not it holds up. While I don't have any doubts it's still nice to see some solid experience under a products belt before making a purchase. Initial quality is one thing but having it potentially years to come is another.

The only thing I'll say is cost wise he's in Kessil territory and that's a tough competitor to beat out. While he may have the controllability advantage on his side for now I don't think it's long before Kessil adds at least very basic functions like a dusk/dawn(without needing an aquarium controller). That being said I think he's in an interesting place where Dave will devolop a bit of a "cult" following almost like ecotech "fanboys" for the nano box society. That cult following will make him hugely successful and one thing I hope long term he keeps a bit of a smaller low profile feel about his company and doesn't do the traditional route of mass production in foreign countries *cough* China *cough*. All in all I would seriously consider buying one if I were in the hunt for a light and I think you made a fine purchase. At the end of the day you kept the money in the USA to what seems to be a great guy :thumbsup:
 

Blindf8th

New member
Thank you very much Dave. I wanted to give myself a little time with the unit before writing out anything. It was getting late, so I left out one portion of the review that I'll touch on below with regards to cost. I'll definitely update ya as time goes on as to how everything works out. Time will be the true test as you stated. In answer to your question, these are the LED's the Nanobox Duo comes with (default).

26 Phillips Rebel ES and SEMILED LED's. The Duo houses warm white, nuetral white, blue, royal blue, cyan and violet.


Cost:
On this particular subject I would say that the ND cost is a little higher than I would like to see. I'm not sure what his costs are nor his margins, but I do believe his sales are not near what they could be because of his price point. A lot of people (like me) will have a hard time spending that kind of money on a light without some re-assurances (concerns I listed above). I seriously considered the Kessil A350W, but for a 24" tank like the Nano 16, the spread is just not there. I've reviewed every site I could find that has a Kessil picture and the spot light affect is 100% unavoidable for the Nano 16. Rock placement could potentially help the viewing perception, but the issue on that width remains. The Kessil site claims the W can do 24", but it does not look good in my opinion. For a tank like your build though, I think its a much better fit as it is a very nice light. Then of course you would need a controller and at this point his pricing starts to make a little more sense. When Kessil, AI, EcoTech, and Maxspect get a mount that's half way decent, then it would have made for a more difficult decision for me personally. The goose neck is nothing new and innovative per say, but its effective and looks great with this light.

I digress... Here was my short list.

Kessil A350W w\Apex 399.00 + 219.00 = $618.00
AI Hydra w\controller and no mounting option 398.99 + 79.95 = $478.94
MaxSpect Razor R24R = $419.00
Ecotech Radion G2 = $650.00
Nanobox Duo w\CORALUX Storm controller = $465.00


If he hit the 399 range on the ND, I think he could snag a much larger piece of the markets pie :). That said, because of the controllers required for a couple of the options above and the limited mounting options, I was able to justify the cost based on the mount and light design. I've seen 1 Radion and 1 AI that had a decent custom mount, so for me, that really sealed the deal. Having a great light over your tank is one thing, but having it in your living room and getting the wife approval is something completely different :eek:)

The lights I did not go with are solid options and like everything, people have to decide what their needs are and what is most important.


PS: I need some more updates to your build sir :p

Blind
 
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jombolo

New member
That is a nice overall setup, very clean and dig the lights. I also had very similar parameters, clean design, dusk to dawn. Because my tank happens to be just over double your size, i didn't want a light that clamped to the back or rested directly on top of the tank with arms. If anyone is looking for nice leds, also consider LED Zeal. here's a link to a VERY extensive RC thread http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2338097&highlight=led+lighting and below a pic of my tank.

<a href="http://s102.photobucket.com/user/jombolo1/media/Aquarium/IMG_20140407_194331872_zpsokedb8hf.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i102.photobucket.com/albums/m87/jombolo1/Aquarium/th_IMG_20140407_194331872_zpsokedb8hf.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo IMG_20140407_194331872_zpsokedb8hf.jpg" style=""></a>

<a href="http://s102.photobucket.com/user/jombolo1/media/Aquarium/IMG_20140405_170528346_zpsfw8wfvve.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i102.photobucket.com/albums/m87/jombolo1/Aquarium/th_IMG_20140405_170528346_zpsfw8wfvve.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo IMG_20140405_170528346_zpsfw8wfvve.jpg" style=""></a>

<a href="http://s102.photobucket.com/user/jombolo1/media/Aquarium/IMG_20140405_170451347_zpstypahfbj.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i102.photobucket.com/albums/m87/jombolo1/Aquarium/th_IMG_20140405_170451347_zpstypahfbj.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo IMG_20140405_170451347_zpstypahfbj.jpg" style=""></a>
 

Blindf8th

New member
Very nice tank and thanks for sharing your light details etc. If I keep going the way I am I might just have to get a bigger tank at some point :)

Blind
 

robstach

New member
Well, I was going to do a review of my recently received ND (arrived yesterday!) but yours was pretty much everything that I would have said at only 2 days in. Granted, I can only comment on quality and the order process as I haven't had enough time to see any growth patterns.

By the way, mine went on a nuvo 16 as well.

I too had initial concerns since this is not an off the shelf type of product and long term support is always something to think about. But, after much debate I went for it.

My ND arrived 38 days after placing the order. Was given a 4 week lead time estimate but that apparently did not work out. I waited rather impatiently hoping that this thing would live up to the hype. I have to agree that Dave is probably swamped and I know he was at a show but was quick to respond to emails.

I had no issues with loose screws but I think I'll double-check just to be sure.

I like your storm controller case MUCH better than the one I received. Mine is white and really doesn't hold together very well at the corners. Not a huge deal but the white just doesn't go with the rest of my gear.

I too got lost a little when configuring the storm controller but after a quick read of the online manual it made sense. A little clumsy with only one knob but overall, not bad at all.

Anyway...

Another point that I'd like to make is that there are three outlets required for this kit. Something I missed in my research. Was hoping to cut down on the power supply clutter. This reduced it by one (4 with stock IM lights) so I guess that is progress!

Like you, my corals are popping with color like never before. Especially my zoas which seemed to have lost a bit of pop over the last few months. Now, they're brighter than I noticed at the LFS.

So - now it's just a matter of time for me. I can say I'm 100% satisfied at this point.

If I had to critique Dave it would be on communication (as addressed above). It's a tough balance... I've been there, but a simple update after a few weeks would help keep things / people from assuming they're forgotten.

I'll post some pictures tomorrow if I can get some time. Also working on some video.

Blind: Do you mind sharing your day and night pwm settings? Curious if we're in the same ballpark. Love your tank by the way.. very nice!
 

Blindf8th

New member
Heya robstach,
Interesting about the case as I thought there was only one kind available. It's definitely not going to win any awards, but it gets the job done as you said. Looking forward to your pics if you get time, its not like we are all busy with life or anything :)

Regarding my Storm config...

Currently running auto sunrise and sunset
Day is set to 65 (white) & 140 (blue)
Ramp delay is set to 180 (max)
Night is set to 1 (blue)

In the next few days I will be more than likely turning the auto (sunrise\sunset) off as I am fighting my first diatom bloom and I think the quality of the lighting upgrade has definitely sparked this. That's a good thing of course, but I need to adjust a few things. I'm also experimenting with non-IM sponge options as well. IM does have the new Ghost Skimmer coming out which looks very promising (so does the 50 bucks more). Time will tell if its worth it, but if its as silent as I have read and its completely hidden from view as I have seen, then it might be on my shopping list real soon. They also announced new media baskets which look exactly like the in-tank's I almost purchased, so I'll be keeping an eye on things.

Keep me updated as I would like to get some feedback from you as well. Especially over the course of the next few months. I'll let you know how things keep progressing for myself and I'll share any lighting config changes I make along with the out come.

Talk at ya soon sir...

Blind
 

robstach

New member
Hey Blind - thanks a ton for the reply. I appreciate it!

I'm running a bit higher on the whites during the day. My corals are loving it but the clown is still a bit spooked. He must think it is the end of days with all of this light shining down... I'm sure he'll get over it.

I use the in-tank media baskets. Purchased the combo but not using the fuge. Love them as I can get much more into the baskets. The new IMs look very similar so they're probably just as good. I currently run chemi-pure elite along with purigen and phosgard in the desktop reactor. So far, so good. No major problems and everything is thriving!

I hear you on the Ghost... thinking about it myself. Right now I'm pretty good with everything but if the reviews sound good I just may go for it. Love spending money anyway :)

Ahh... the diatom bloom. Nothing uglified my tank more than that. Was glad once it finally disappeared. Then I got hit with the GHA and had to add a couple of hermits who dispatched that mess promptly.

I'll snap some shots asap! We will definitely keep the updates going.
 
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