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Exploring the Differences: Conventional Tracklights vs. Magnetic Tracklights

Tracklights in focus

In interior lighting, tracklights are commonly used when designers need a flexible and highly customizable lighting solution. Due to the modular nature of track lighting systems, tracklight fixtures are extremely easy to change, and home-owners will be able to take advantage of this fact to experiment with different tracklight fixtures and configurations to find their own lighting ‘sweet spot’.

Picture this: in the living room, a track runs above the sofa, parallel to it, and has 3 light fixtures shining downwards to light up the sofa side of the living room. You decide to add a large painting above the sofa, but after putting it up, you realize it needs a bit more light to accentuate the painting as a wall feature. With a track, this is simply a matter of purchasing a new tracklight fixture, and attaching it to the track – a process that can be done by most people in just a few minutes with the help of a step-ladder(no electrician help needed).

Ease of changing fixtures also mean ease of maintenance – no special tools or equipment are required to change most tracklight fixtures, and there is also usually no need to touch any connecting wires. This makes maintenance of tracklights relatively safe and convenient.

Another huge advantage tracklights offer is that every track only requires one lighting to power the whole track, and multiple track rails can be combined to form a single, long track. Coupled with the fact that many types of connectors are available (elbow L-joints, T-joints, etc.), tracklights can be an effective way to achieve optimal placement of lights in a space without having to create a large number of lighting points. With less lighting points, it also means that you will save more on electrical fee!

For example, if you are going for tracklights for the below floorplan.

You only require 3 lighting points for this light set-up in a kitchen + living space

However, if you are going for spotlights or surface mounted ceiling lamps, you will need about 9 lighting points to light up the space effectively.

There are several track lighting systems available on the market, each with their own sets of features and characteristics but also limitations. We will examine two such systems: magnetic track systems and conventional track systems.


Conventional Tracklights

By the term ‘conventional tracklights’, we are referring to the traditional surface-mounted track lighting system that have been sold in the local market for more than a decade. Conventional tracklights actually come in many different forms (2-wire, 4-wire, etc.), but we have found that the most popular format used locally is the 2-wire (single circuit) J-style track. This is the most common type of track system that is used for both residential and retail spaces.

When the term ‘tracklight’ is used, the image of the above-described track system is what comes to mind for most people, and this is testament to just how common this track system is. The ubiquity of conventional tracklights can sometimes work against itself – when planning for lights for a new space, ‘common’ is a word many do not like to hear. Despite this, however, the practical advantages that conventional tracklights bring with them will often outweigh any aesthetic concerns.

Some of these advantages include:

  • Ease of installation: most contractors and electricians will be familiar with installation of conventional tracklights, which usually translates to lower installation costs and lesser complications.

  • Cost-effectiveness: conventional tracklights have been around for quite some time, and are widely available, contributing the the lower costs of the tracklights.

  • Ease of replacement: as mentioned above, most local stores sell conventional tracks in the 2-wire, J-style format. This means it is generally possible to find replacement light fixtures without being restricted to just one store.

  • DIY: You can add as many tracklights as you like on your own or include different design of tracklights in a single track rail to spice up the aesthetics.

Furthermore, the sentiment that conventional tracklights look ‘common’ may be prevalent, but it does not need to be the case. With a large variety of fixtures available, conventional tracklights can be used to light up and decorate an interior in innumerable ways as long as some creativity is exercised.

Ara Tracklight comes in black and white casing with a choice of sand gold rims to elevate the overall aesthetics.

Demi tracklights comes in black and white casing, with a mini version available as well.

Magnetic Tracklights

By the term ‘magnetic tracklights’, we are referring to the relatively new magnetic track systems that have become popular in the past five years. As the name suggests, magnets within the light fixtures are often used in these systems to hold magnetic tracklight fixtures into a metallic track. These days, magnetic mechanism is switched to clip-on system as a more cost-effective alternative.

Magnetic tracklights are often considered a more modern and sophisticated way of incorporating tracklights into a space. They provide a more novel aesthetic by virtue of being a newer, trendier product. Magnetic track systems can also be recessed into false ceilings, essentially integrating itself into the ceiling and becoming part of it.

Due to the deeper profile of magnetic tracks, components of magnetic tracklight fixtures can be contained within the track rail, with less of the fixture’s body visible – all this comes together to create a seamless, minimalistic look in a space.

This is how a surface mounted magnetic track looks like:

This is how a recessed magnetic track looks like:

Most magnetic track systems utilize an in-line external driver, which is basically a transformer component mounted in each track to power the light fixtures. This means there will be one point of failure for the whole track: if the driver is to wear out, none of the lights in the track will work until the driver is replaced. It is for this reason that in our experience, having drivers contained within each light fixture tends to be the better choice – replacing worn-out fixtures becomes less urgent if there is still lights for use within a space.

Our magnetic tracklights have built-in drivers which is easy to maintain if you need a new replacement.


To summarize the above, advantages of magnetic tracklights include:

  • Clean aesthetics: magnetic track systems offer a look that is clean, elegant, and minimalistic, making it a staple in modern interior design

  • Integration with false ceiling: the ability to be installed seamlessly with a false ceiling creates more design possibilities

  • Smart functions: due to the larger size of tracks, larger components can also be used in fixtures without sacrificing aesthetic value, and makes incorporating smart function into lights easier.

Due to the fact that it is newer on the market, magnetic tracklights do command a higher price tag locally. While this may put off some people, the fact that they are still being used in local homes is testament to the distinct advantages that magnetic tracklights bring to the table.

Atom magnetic tracklights comes in 9W and 18W with an adjustable variant available.

Neve magnetic tracklight comes in 9W and 18W.

Luno magnetic tracklight has the ability to adjust the focal point, which allows users to dictate the amount of light spread per fixture.


A Quick Comparison

While both conventional tracklights and magnetic tracklights are tried-and-tested lighting solutions that can be used in all kinds of spaces, some situations may suit one better than the other.

Some things to consider when choosing between the both are:

  • Magnetic track rails have a larger, wider profile, whereas conventional track rails are slimmer and flatter.

  • Magnetic track rails can be recessed into a false ceiling, while conventional track rails can typically only be surface-mounted.

  • Magnetic tracklight fixtures are often proprietary, and different systems cannot share fixtures. Conventional tracklight fixtures are largely using the same format in the local market, making replacements easier to find.

  • Magnetic tracklights typically cost more than conventional tracklights

  • Magnetic track fixtures are mostly integrated modules, and cannot be used with light bulbs. Conventional track fixtures have many bulb-based options available.


In Conclusion

Regardless of the system chosen, tracklights are a simple, but effective solution for lighting up a space. Flexibility, cost-efficiency, customizability and ease of maintenance are the main reasons why tracklights why have been a staple in lighting design for the past 20 years, and we believe they will continue to be so for a long time to come.

Check our full collection of tracklights as this will be a good start to understand what design suit your needs. Still unsure and have tons of questions to clarify? Feel free to pop by our gallery and speak to our lighting specialists! We will be happy to help you from there.

Our gallery: 1093 Lower Delta Road, #07-20

Operating hours: Tues – Sat: 11am to 7pm, closed on Sun Mon & PHs


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