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Narrow vs Wide Angle LEDs, What's the difference?

Aug 13, 2020

Each angle type plays an important role in the visibility of the message depending on the application. Before we start, lets define a few things. Viewing angle is found by the total angle in which the brightness is greater than or equal to 50% of nominal. This means 30 degree LEDs are viewable 15 degrees to the left and right of the center, giving you a total of 30 degrees. Now, let's start with the less commonly used, narrow angle LED.

When should you use narrow angle LEDs? Narrow angle LEDs are used in highway/roadway applications and railways.

Like the name suggests, narrow-angle LEDs focus their light in a tight, 30 degree beam, which gives a much longer viewing distance. Since it's so focused, less light is visible outside of that main beam. This is not important in many highway applications though, where the long viewing distance gives drivers plenty of time to see the information, notifications, or warnings they need. Looking back at how viewing angle is determined, narrow angle LEDs can still be seen outside of their range, they will just be less than half of their rated brightness.

That leaves us with the more common wide angle LED. Almost every other application uses wide angle LEDs! Drive-thrus, parking garages and other applications can require the message be visible to pedestrians or slower moving traffic. These applications benefit from wide angle LEDs, which have a viewing angle of 120 degrees. Since the light is dispersed over such a wide range, the message can easily be read by someone viewing the sign from any angle. (Unless you're behind the sign, of course!)

Now that you understand the difference, how do you know which LEDs are used on our signs? If you have a sign but don't know for sure, power on the sign and stand off to the side. If you can see the message you'll know they are wide angle; if you can't, then they are narrow angle. Or, there are some places to find this information in our specifications. The first and easiest place to find which LEDs are used is to find the product you're interested in, click "View Product" then check the Item Details section under "LED Viewing Angle" and it will say either Wide Angle LED or Narrow Angle LED. On this same screen, you can also click "View Spec Sheet," and the viewing angle will be listed in the message table. If you need help finding which LED angle is right for you, give us a call and we can recommend a solution.