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How To Choose The Best Custom Headlamp Assembly

With custom headlamp assemblies, there are many features and designations. We discuss defining characteristics of euro, projector, u-bar, halo, smoke, black, and other styles.

Custom headlamp assemblies on the market today tend to be grouped into four main designations: "Projector" style, "Halo" style, "LED" style, and "Euro" style. This can lead to confusion, because "Halo" style headlamp assemblies may also be equipped with projector lights and LED bulbs. Or, "Euro" style headlight assemblies may be equipped with halo rings, projector lights, and LEDs… or they may not be. You may be asking yourself which style is the best choice for me? See our Custom and Factory Headlight Glossary for definitions and more details about each style.

What you prefer most for your vehicle is an extremely personal decision - because beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Often, one single favorite choice may not exist. We understand. Because we do offer a lot of stylish, head-turning custom headlamp assemblies, we know after talking to our customers on the phone that the odds are good you'll be agonizing over at least two or three final choices before picking one.

In this article, we can't tell you what to pick for looks. But we can discuss factors our customers have told us helped them make decisions. For example, the overall shape of your vehicle may play a significant role in headlight choice satisfaction. Are the lines angular, or does it feature more voluptuous curves? We've noticed those with squared-off vehicle lines tended to prefer "plank light" headlight assemblies with a horizontal, flat lighting element along the bottom. Why? It creates a straight-edged look of solidity. Those with curvy vehicle lines often chose halo headlight assemblies with perfectly round halo rings instead of squared off or angular ones. Many of them also opted for projector beam lights with the halos.

Anzo Plank Style Headlights
The Anzo headlights shown here are an example of a “plank” style light assembly.

Many owners with vibrant vehicle colors, decals, or custom paint work preferred headlamp assemblies with chrome background bezels, while those with matte finishes had the highest likelihood of being satisfied with "smoke" (tinted) headlight assembly colors. And those with solid colors (especially black) often preferred the look of clear headlight lenses with black background bezels.

Is your vehicle's stance enhanced with a lowered suspension or aero kit? Perhaps you might prefer projector beam headlight assemblies with two, even three light pods. And if you like the specific looks of BMW and Audi headlamps which pioneered halo lights and LED light strips, we've got choices that pay tribute to them further below.

To help you make a more efficient and productive search through the variety of styles offered, we've attempted to explain what each of the styles is best known for below. It's important to remember that when features that define the different styles overlap, the feature that's most noticeable to the eye is the one that consistently wins out.

Euro Style Headlight Assemblies

The 1984 Lincoln Mark VII has the distinction of being the first U.S. market vehicle to feature "Euro" style headlamp assemblies as original equipment.
The following 1985 model year, U.S. market Toyota Camrys, Toyota Cressidas, Nissan Maximas, and all Audi models were the next early adopters of Euro style headlights. By 1986, they began to appear on a much wider variety of vehicles.

A "Euro headlight" assembly is a term for a custom headlamp assembly that features a flush, aerodynamic glass surface instead of fixed-shape sealed beam lamps. This style of headlamp had been in use in Europe since the 1950s, but was not allowed on U.S. market vehicles until the 1984 model year.

Interestingly, the first U.S.-model production vehicle to feature them was the new-for-'84 Lincoln Mark VII, followed by other early adopters such as the 1985 Toyota Camry & Cressida, Nissan Maxima, and all Audis. By 1986, they began to appear almost everywhere and soon became an automotive styling norm. Through the 1990s, Euro headlamp assemblies did not feature a great deal of distinctive styling other than a smooth, one-piece glass outer surface.

Euro Headlamps
"Euro" can be used to describe nondescript factory style composite headlamp assemblies found on most vehicles of the 1990s as well as many from recent times. Shown here are headlamp assemblies from a 1992-99 style Chevrolet Suburban.

Years later as projector beam headlights began to grow in popularity (see further below), original equipment Euro style headlights began to imitate their high-tech look. Frosted glass lens covers were replaced with clear plastic ones which allowed a look in at multi-faceted mirror pieces shaped in a variety of oval and squared-off patterns. In more recent years, Euro light designs tend to feature circular cutouts that look the part of projector beam lenses.

While this may cause confusion as to what a Euro style headlamp assembly actually is, it's important to remember the one thing they have in common is a flush outer lens cover. And because Euro lights do not actually have extra features such as LEDs, halo rings, or projector beam lenses, they offer best value for those looking to step up the look of their vehicle - without higher cost.

These Spyder Chrome Crystal composite assemblies are considered “Euro” style headlights because, while they feature more modern design elements, they do not have bonus features such as LEDs, halo rings, or actual projector beam lenses.
These Spyder Black Crystal "Euro style" composite assemblies hint at the look of projector beams and halo rings at a lower cost.

Projector Beam Headlamp Assemblies

Shortly after the turn of this millennium, automakers began to breathe new styling life into composite Euro headlight assemblies that had begun to seem plain-looking after being around since the 1980s. Instead of a single piece of frosted glass across the entire headlight assembly, clear outer lens covers were used along with multi-faceted projector beam bulbs behind them. These are known as Projector Beam headlamp assemblies.

Volkswagen Passat Projector Style Headlights
The 2002 Volkswagen Passat was an early adopter of projector style headlamps.

Glancing at a projector headlight assembly, you'll typically find stylish round cutouts for headlights, bright lights, turn signals, daytime running lights, and more - all of which are highly visible and styled to look like lenses that a laser beam might radiate from. Because projector bulbs don't require bulky parabolic reflectors that traditional composite housings do, extra space is freed up for stylists to create futuristic headlamp designs that wouldn't have been possible decades ago.

Inside each assembly, one glass ball serves as the projector for the main headlight, and similar-looking round cutouts surround it. Turn signals, parking lights, and DRLs typically use traditional bulbs and some (if not all) round cutouts will be framed by halo lights. If you've got an older car with run-of-the-mill frosted lenses or clear lenses that have become cloudy, custom projector lamps go a long way toward making your vehicle look updated and years newer.

CG Black Halo Projector Headlights
These CG Projector Headlights are a good example of modern projector beam design. One glass ball serves as projection assembly for the main headlight, and similar-looking cutouts surround it. Turn signals, parking lights, and DRLs typically use traditional bulbs and some (if not all) round cutouts will be framed by halo lights.

Black vs. Chrome vs. Smoke Lamps

When you're shopping around and comparing headlights, you may run across terms such as "black", "chrome", or "smoke" in the Product Options fields. Depending on what's available for each design, our website may ask you to select a color from among those choices. A "black" headlight is one that has a black background (bezel piece) visible through a lens cover that's clear - not tinted. The size and quantity of lighting elements within the assembly determines how much "black" shows. Similarly, a "chrome" headlight is one with a chrome background bezel piece.

A "black" headlight is one with a black background (bezel piece) that’s visible through a lens cover that’s clear. Shown here is a Black Euro Headlight by CG.
"Smoke" headlight assemblies have a lens cover that’s tinted and a chrome background bezel piece. Because the tinting reduces light output, these may not be legal for street use everywhere. Shown here are Spec-D Smoke Euro Headlights.

The phrase "smoke" headlight refers to a custom headlamp assembly that has a dark tinted lens cover and a chrome background bezel piece. The amount of tinting determines the how much light is blocked, and it affects how bright the chrome background appears. Against a black vehicle with or without metallic paint, smoke headlights blend in to create a uniform look of solidity - almost to the point where the lights seem like an extension of the painted metal when not illuminated.

Also consider that smoke headlight assemblies make a nice match with matte finish black wheels. Likewise, black headlight assemblies are often chosen to set off gloss black wheels, and chrome headlights add sparkle to cars with lots of chrome trim or rims.

Halo Lights

2001 BMW 5-Series Halo Lights
The 2001 BMW 5-series introduced "halo" lights to the world.

A "halo" headlight assembly features rings of light encircling headlamp bulb openings inside the headlight assembly fascia. Pioneered by BMW on their 2001 5-series model, the halo rings themselves can use traditional incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs, or CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lighting tubes) as a source of illumination.

While halo headlight assemblies almost always feature projector-style headlights in them as well, the presence of the halo rings usually supersedes the projectors - leading to them being described as "halo" headlights by users instead of "projector" headlights.

Headlights with LEDs and halo rings allow the owner to customize when they will illuminate. Depending on where wiring is spliced to, one or both of those lights can illuminate automatically when headlights, daytime running lights, turn signals, or even parking lights are activated.

If you’ve always wanted to add the look of BMW’s original matching-size, side-by-side halo rings to your vehicle, take a look at Spyder Halo Projector Headlights (shown). If your vehicle already has round headlamps, you can add individual halo rings by themselves.
If you’ve got a truck and wish to change the look of OEM stacked rectangular factory lights, we offer a number of halo style headlamp assemblies such as the ones shown here from Recon.

Often, conventional halo rings used by many vehicle manufacturers on older OEM headlight assemblies are illuminated by the same kind of incandescent bulbs found in turn signals or reverse lights. Because each conventional halo may be illuminated inside by only one or two bulbs, bright spots and dark spots develop inside the enclosed ring. Many feel the visual effect of a halo ring that's lit by underpowered bulbs is no more exciting than looking at a parking light that's been left on all night.

A strong upgrade to the underwhelming effect of dimly lit halo rings are custom headlamp assemblies equipped with LED halo rings. Their light is brighter than incandescent bulbs, and a choice of colors allows wild customization opportunities. LED halo rings also burn cooler than conventional incandescent halo bulbs, so hotspots and discoloration on headlamp assembly lens covers is avoided.

Challenger Individual Halo Rings
We offer individual halo rings that can be mounted around factory headlights that are round in shape.

We offer individual halo rings that can be added to many factory headlight assemblies. In some cases, they can be installed around the outside of round sealed beam headlights found on older vehicles.

Custom Sealed Beam Headlights

Custom Sealed Beam Headlights
If you’ve got an older vehicle with round or square sealed beam headlight assemblies, we’ve also got you covered with replacement custom sealed beam headlights in a number of styles.

If you’ve got a classic vehicle with round or square sealed beam headlight units, you may feel like you’re missing out on the chance to customize your headlights. Fear not – because we’ve got custom sealed beam headlight units with built-in halo rings, projector lenses, LEDs, and other custom designs. These “plug-n-play” units install in place of your original headlights quickly and easily without modification.

"U-Bar" Style Halo Lights

Spyder U-Bar Headlights
Instead of being round, U-bar halo rings feature straight lines and one edge that’s open – usually at the top. Anzo U-Bar Style Headlights and Spyder U-Bar Style Projector Headlights are a great way to recreate the look of the newest BMW halos.

"U-bar" is a term used to describe the shape of a halo ring mounted in a custom headlight assembly, regardless if it's a CCFL, LED, or other construction. Instead of being shaped like a circular ring, U-bar halo rings feature straight lines with square edges or extremely sharp angles. The "U" in U-bar refers to the fact that these halos are open on one side, forming a visual U on designs where the open edge faces the top. Other U-bar headlights feature open edges that face down or to the side.

Many newer vehicles such as this 2015 BMW 6-series are equipped with U-bar style halo rings as OEM equipment, instead of completely circular ones.
Like the look of the newest OEM Audi halos? You might appreciate our selection of Spec-D U-Bar Style Headlight designs.
If you own a full-size GM pickup or SUV or just want to add the look of their OEM headlights to your own vehicle, Spyder U-Bar Projector Headlights with side-facing U-bar halos builds on already handsome styling.
Spyder LED DRL Headlights

LED Headlamp Assemblies

Audi LED Headlights
Headlamp assemblies with LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) in them were pioneered by Audi for the 2008 model year.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) headlight assemblies were pioneered by Audi for the 2008 model year. Early “LED headlights” such as those typically featured LED bulbs serving only in a decorative role of daytime running lights, with traditional incandescent bulbs used for headlights.

Spec-D Black Halo Projector Headlights with R8 LED Style
For those inspired by the original Audi LED headlamp design, you may appreciate Spec-D’s LED Headlights (shown). Other, similar choices exist in our LED Headlights section.

Thanks to the march of technology, LED bulbs have been perfected for use as headlight bulbs. As a result, most newer LED headlight assemblies are available with LED bulbs for all lights – including headlamps. To be certain of what you’re about to order, individual product pages for headlamp assemblies equipped with LED headlight bulbs will list light output in lumens.

Shop By Category

To help guide you through the selection of our custom and factory headlight assemblies, we have set up that section of our website with categories that guide you directly to specific styles of projector, LED, U-bar, Halo, Euro, and Factory headlamp assemblies. You'll find all these choices in our "Shop by Category" area.

Additionally, always check Product Option fields for variations that may not be visible otherwise. We understand you may still have questions about custom headlights and what's right for you, so we encourage you to contact us seven days a week with any questions you may have before purchasing.

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