How the right helmet can help your welding | Testing Miller’s latest

Tom
By Tom Suddard
Apr 23, 2024 | Welding, Miller | Posted in Product Reviews | Never miss an article

Photography by Tom Suddard

New products show up in our garage all the time, usually plastered with hyperbolic language proclaiming them to be the best thing since sliced bread. 

So we weren’t that surprised when this $465.37 Miller welding helmet–technically designated the Digital Elite, Vintage Roadster, Clearlight 2.0–showed up proclaiming it was better than every other one. See, we’d been down this road before, upgrading a few years back from a cheap off-brand helmet to one we’d bought for about $100.

That upgrade was night-and-day, and we found ourselves making prettier, stronger welds with less effort. Since we already had a better helmet, what’s the point of upgrading again? And what the heck is “ClearLight 2.0 Welding Helmet Lens Technology,” which Miller claims provides twice the clarity?

We figured we’d try out this fancy Miller and comment on some tiny nuances or features that only somebody welding all day every day would appreciate. In our home shop, we just didn’t think we’d notice a difference–never mind a $400 difference.

But wow, were we wrong. This helmet is so good, we instantly banished our others to “guest” duty and will now only weld with this wherever we go.

First up, that ClearLight 2.0 marketing spiel. Yeah, turns out it's real. If anything, the comparisons on the website don’t do this justice–it’s like going from watching a weld in black and white to watching it in full color, and it’s a game changer.

We figured this difference would only be helpful to professionals, but we think it’s more helpful for amateur welders like us; it’s stunning how much is actually happening in a weld puddle, and seeing that means you can change it for the better. 

This better view might also be because we didn’t flash ourselves nearly as much, either. We’re frequently welding in compromised positions–think roll cage feet or similar–which means we’re constantly blocking the sensor in a normal autodarkening helmet.

Miller solves that in a few ways here. First, with more arc sensors (four total). And second, with a feature called X-Mode, which electromagnetically senses the weld. Combine the two, and we still haven’t managed to flash ourselves while wearing this helmet.

And when the lens isn’t darkened, it's way, way lighter. In a normal helmet, we’re constantly flipping it up as the light state just isn’t that bright.

In this helmet, we’ll leave it down for the entire project. The helmet adjusts sensitivity automatically, too, which means no more fiddling with that knob.

This helmet’s got plenty of other features we won’t dive into–auto on/off, half-shade settings, memory settings, fantastic headgear, etc.–but the bottom line is this: This is the most expensive welding helmet we’ve ever touched. And, somehow, it’s convinced us it’s totally worth it. We’d even argue that we’ll make better welds with an off-brand machine and this helmet than we would with a name-brand machine and an off-brand helmet.

And a PS to the price: Looks like Miller is currently offering a $75 rebate.

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Comments
DaleCarter
DaleCarter GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/23/24 9:20 a.m.

For anyone who thinks this is "too expensive".... it's the cost of 1-2 track tires or one race or one track day weekend. My perspective? "How much are your eyes worth?"...

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
4/23/24 9:24 a.m.
DaleCarter said:

 "How much are your eyes worth?"...

Good point. I feel like the same can be applied to a race helmet: How much is your brain worth?

Rodan
Rodan UltraDork
4/23/24 10:12 a.m.

In reply to DaleCarter :

+1

AND it will likely improve your welds.  The article is not hyperbole... if you're using a 'budget' helmet, the Digital Elite is a major step up.  I was amazed at how much easier it was to see what was going on at the business end of the torch.

iansane
iansane GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
4/23/24 10:24 a.m.

I've got this helmet and it the lens functions beautifully but the headgear is terrible. I have it cranked down so tightly at the pivot I feel like I'm going to break the plastic and it still falls down.

brandonsmash
brandonsmash GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/23/24 11:04 a.m.

In reply to DaleCarter :

So long as you're not getting dazzled, I can't think of any welding hood that will actually allow the harmful bits of the welding arc through to your eyes. They all block the UV. The big benefit from a hood like this, though (note: I'm partial to the Lincoln 3350) is that the better optical clarity allows you to see, and therefore weld, better. 

 

stafford1500
stafford1500 GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/23/24 11:07 a.m.
iansane said:

I've got this helmet and it the lens functions beautifully but the headgear is terrible. I have it cranked down so tightly at the pivot I feel like I'm going to break the plastic and it still falls down.

I have a Digital Elite as well and I agree the head gear is not a great fit for me. The tilt adjuster allows it to creep down when I have it lifted and the main headband has to be too tight when I have it in a comfortable position, giving me a headache after a little while. I have thought about fitting a head gear from one of my older (cheaper) helmets but have not pull the trigger yet.

The helmet itself has all the features I need and works great.

brandonsmash
brandonsmash GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/23/24 11:27 a.m.

That's interesting about the headgear. Interesting, and a bit disappointing. Baker's has the black Digital Elite with external grind button for <$320 *before* the rebate and I was just considering picking one up. I'm a contractor and have not only a home shop but also a warehouse; we weld frequently and I've been wanting to pick up another hood for the warehouse. Right now I have some cheapie Yeswelders there (they're okay but not great), a first-gen Lincoln 3350 from 2016 that works but is falling apart because some of my guys didn't really consider that welding hoods shouldn't be thrown around and sat upon, a Weldkote from the LWS, and a couple other random hoods. I'd like to get a nice hood for the hot work box so when we have to weld outside there's a hood that works well in the sun, but if the headgear is terrible that's a deal-breaker.

At the home shop I have a gen ...3? 3350. It works better in the sun than the 1st-gen but the headgear on that isn't great. The hood itself is fairly heavy but, annoyingly, the factory Lincoln headgear just wants to pull your hair out. It's SUPER annoying. I swapped headgear once and ended up just covering the pivot points of the headgear in loop tape, which has made the hood at least usable. 

EDIT: At $317 shipped before the $75 rebate I decided to bite the bullet on the Digital Elite. I'd have gone for a Digital Infinity but they don't have a DI model with an external grind mode button. I'm looking forward to testing the Miller and my newer Lincoln side-by-side. 

 

Rodan
Rodan UltraDork
4/23/24 2:18 p.m.

If there's one thing that lets down the digital elite, it's definitely the headgear.  I find myself constantly having to adjust and reposition, especially with any kind of skull cap on under the headgear.  The lens is worth it, though.

thewaitingthrophyman
thewaitingthrophyman GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/3/24 2:06 p.m.

I have this hat (If the 2.0 is new new, then in 1.0 guise,mine is 2-3yrs old) its a great piece, if for the headgear alone...  very comfortable and easiest thing to see out of I've used...

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