RSS Neptune WaV pump, hands on and first impressions

MASA Admin

8 May 2007
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The WaV pump was first announced by Neptune Systems just over a year ago. After a lengthy period of development incubation, Neptune has finally started to ship this interesting new pump. Despite the wait, the WaV has some fairly exciting and promising features to help it stand out in a crowded market of propeller pumps for reef aquarium water flow.

Most aquarium water pumps are designed to plug in to the wall first, with controllability features added on after. With the WaV pump, both the power and the control have been streamlined into a single cord coming from the 1Link power module for the Neptune Systems Apex controller. The WaV is unique in that it is the only device of its kind on the market, and certainly the only pump ever made that requires a full blow controller to operate.

In this regard the WaV follows in the footsteps of the DoS peristaltic dosing system, working only within the ecosystem of Apex controller and its associated modules and accessories. Whether this strategy plays out well for Neptune Systems and the WaV is beyond the scope of this article, but in the meantime we want to highlight our first impressions strictly with the hardware of the WaV pump and 1Link controller, and how they perform purely from a water motion point of view.

We received a WaV starter kit to review which includes two WaV pumps, the 1Link module, a 100 watt power supply and one serial cable to connect the 1Link to an Apex head unit. The WaV pumps plug into the 1Link module using a proprietary cable so that it can only plug into the 1Link, and up to three WaV pumps can be plugged into the same 1Link module.

The 1Link module includes two additional powered accessory ports which may be used in the future to drive small DC devices such as a top off pump or small LED light, but this has yet to be implemented by Neptune Systems. One cool new addition to the Neptune Systems modules is a quick-disconnect attachment fitting molded right into the back plate of the 1Link making installation onto a surface and removal for servicing and maintenance easier than ever.

Before even plugging in the WaV pump we were struck by the great build quality of the WaV propeller pumps. The high quality finish of the WaV pumps is a far cry from the multitude of cheap prop pumps available on the market today, and the fit and finish of the WaV pumps shows that there’s been an incredible attention to detail in the construction of these new controllable DC Propeller pumps.

Connecting the WaV pumps to the 1Link module was a breeze and both WaV devices were immediately recognized by the Apex controller. The drop down menu of options for the WaV pump includes lots of programming modes that will be familiar to advanced propeller pump users, with constant, pulsing, mirror and many other modes to make the pump change flow patterns throughout the day.

One of the biggest differences between the WaV and the Vortech pumps is that Neptune’s propeller pump isn’t ‘live-controlled’, and instead must be programmed each time you want to adjust or change the flow pattern. The programming required to make the WaV do its water flow dance will be no problem for 99% of the time that you want the WaV running a particular program, but it is in stark contrast to how adjustments of the Vortech in Ecosmart Live can be performed in real time.

Once the WaV pumps are up and running, the prodigious flow rate produced by the WaV pumps is nothing short of impressive. Neptune Systems rates their pumps at 4,000+ gallons per hour and while we can’t verify this value directly, we can vouch that the plume of water flow is on par in overall volume with what we’ve come to expect coming out of the Sicce Voyager HP10 and the Vortech MP40.

The overall volume of water being pushed by the WaV pump is comparable to competing pumps in the marine aquarium market, but the WaV has a distinctly more focused plume of water flow. The WaV pump is much more like a wide jet of water flow that penetrates further into the tank, but creates less overall “mass water movement” than the Sicce Voyager HP10 or Vortech MP40.

The difference in the WaV’s characteristic water flow is neither better or worse for reef tanks, it all depends on what kind of tank you have, how much rockwork is in your aquarium display, and how you operate and position your pumps. That being said, the WaV will probably find a more suitable applications in busy reef tanks with a lot of rockwork and little open water space, as the narrow plume of water that it creates can more easily pass between tightly aquascaped reef structures.

Neptunes’ WaV will shine the most when the reefer decides to place their pumps deep within the rockwork, or if there is a need to angle the beam of flow to point in a particular way. Vortech’s can’t stray anywhere away from the glass and Sicce Voyagers are particularly large and blocky water pumps that no one wants to have front and center.

Neptune has hit a real sweet spot with the type and amount of water flow produced by the WaV, you could reasonably compare it to a Vortech pump in that regard. But in terms of noise produced, the WaV pump falls just short of the QuietDrive technology found in the Vortech pump. The WaV pump is “silent” by 2010 standards, running extremely quietly for the amount of flow that it produces, but you can hear it come on and go off, and in pulse mode. That being said, the sound of the WaV will probably not phase anyone who is used to running standard powerheads and even high quality DC propeller pumps – there’s just only so much that smooth bearings, noise-cancelling and vibration reducing tank mounts can do to quiet the sound of the motor.

Judging from the marketing material that Neptune Systems has released, it is clear that Neptune is trying to position its WaV as a worthy alternative to the Vortech pump. We are somewhat dismayed that Neptune Systems has chosen to sandbox the WaV only within the confines of the Apex controller system, the WaV could be a great controllable DC propeller pump for the ‘open’ market. The opinion aside, the company has managed to create a unique product that is sure to create the kind of flow that modern reef keepers demand, with a wide range of controlling features to be found within the Fusion control environment that will please the diehard reefkeeping Control Freaks.

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