Hospitality/Leisure, Product Reviews

First look: Plumen LED lamp

Making a version of the original Plumen lamp in an LED format took two years of intensive engineering research.

EIGHT YEARS after the swirly Plumen compact fluorescent lamp became an instant classic, bestowing hipsterhood on all who bought one, the team behind it has an answer to the two questions that have dogged it from the start: ‘when are you bringing out an LED version?’ and ‘when will it be dimmable?’

The reason this week’s launch of the dimmable LED version has taken so long – two years of intensive engineering we’re told – is because both developments are no mean feat in this format.

The original compact fluorescent design by Samuel Wilkinson was genius. It took a generic product and turned it into a objet d’art whose sinuous form looked intriguing from different angles. The problem is, of course, the very essence that inspired it: since 2010, the mercury-containing glass fluorescent tubes have become distinctly unhipsterish.

The instantly recognisable double-looped shape remains, of course, but it’s sleeker, allowing the lamp to sit in many more fittings and shades. It now has a ceramic housing, creating a more premium finish, while the LED tubes have a matt, bone-like finish.

The engineers have mounted the LEDs in a spiral in the middle of tubes with enough distance between LED and tube to ensure no lamp imaging, a major achievement. And at full power, the LED lamp looks great, delivering the Holy Grail of a LED version.

It does dim, but with some provisos: first, this is LED, so don’t expect the smoothness or range of incandescent dimming. Second, don’t expect the colour temperature to get warmer. It won’t.

Plumen says it has a full dimmable range to 0 per cent, but this wasn’t our experience with both a Helvar 454 (on the incandescent-optimised output) and a Relco RT81 leading-edge dimmer, where we experienced cut-out at lower levels and some striations at the lowest possible setting.

But these are minor picks. Make no mistake, this is a major technical achievement for Plumen and a second lease of life for a deserved icon of lighting.

The instantly recognisable double-looped shape of the original compact fluorescent version remains, of course, but the LED option is sleeker, allowing the lamp to sit in many more fittings and shades.


  • See innovative LED technology from over 200 exhibitors at LuxLive 2018 in London this November.  The show takes place on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018 at ExCeL London. See the full programme HERE.