I had a chance to go to the 2013 Pinball Expo in Chicago this past Saturday. It was an amazing show! There were a ton of pinball industry insiders and fans present. One of the highlights for me was my chance to meet George Gomez. George is a veteran in the gaming industry. He designed some great pinball machines including one of my favorites Monster Bash. My favorite George Gomez creation is the Tron upright arcade cabinet. It is arguably the best looking arcade cabinet ever. He told me he was 26 when he worked on that game. Amazing! I also had a chance to play a ton of pinball machines, including the most recently released machines. I especially liked Star Trek and Wizard of Oz. They were beautiful machines and had some really fun gameplay. One thing that many of the machines had in common was the use of LED lighting. Many of the older games were converted to LED, and all of the new production machines had LEDS. If done right they really enhance the look of the machines and I wanted to do the same with my WCS.
I’m in the process of installing some upgrades to my World Cup Soccer pinball machine this month, including a full LED kit. I’ll be doing that very soon. However in the meantime, I picked up a cool little “LED Flipper Button Kit” from the Cointaker booth at Expo. It was great to meet Chris and Melissa. Cointaker is one of the leading pinball LED suppliers and has a great line of LED products. As far as the LED Flipper Button kits, they had tons of color options for both Stern and Bally/Williams machines. I picked up the yellow kit for my two flipper buttons. They had them for sale for $25 as a show special. They are normally $31.99 on their site as of this writing. The kits are made for pairs of buttons. My WCS pinball machine actually had three buttons, the third being a “Magna-save” button on the left side of the cabinet beside the left flipper button. They didn’t have a single button kit and I didn’t want to buy a two-button kit for just one button, which was a little disappointing. I’ll come up with another way to light that button in the future.
The kit’s contents include two translucent buttons (clear for the yellow kit), two LED boards fully assembled with LEDs (yellow for this kit) and wiring to connect to a Stern power connection, mounting screws, and instructions. Since I purchased the Williams kit, it also included a power adapter that allows you to hook it up to a spare power connector on a power board near the coindoor.
The build quality of the kit looks really good. The instructions are very clear and have photos to help clarify the installation steps. I especially like the wiring. It is a smaller gauge that is easy to work with, and is long enough to route through the front of the cabinet around anything that could be in the way.
The installation is pretty simple. Swap out the existing buttons with the translucent buttons, screw the LED PCBs near the buttons, and plug it in. I found that I needed to remove the opto-switches from behind the buttons to be able to remove the buttons, which was very easy to do. It also made it easier determine where to place the LED PCBs before installing them. I recommend having the opto-switches in place before actually mounting the LED PCBs to make sure that the LEDs don’t interfere with the switches. Also, the LEDs need to be bent upward away from the cabinet before the PCBs are mounted so that they clear the buttons’ mounting PAL nuts.
I mounted one LED PCB, and then routed the wiring around all of the existing wiring and components to make sure that it would be tucked out of the way. Then I mounted the other. I actually drilled small pilot holes, being careful to not go all the way through the cabinet, before screwing the PCBs to the cabinet. They mounted pretty easily.
After mounting the PCBs I plugged everything in and tested them out. They were VERY bright and the buttons looked great. The lighting clearly passed through the translucent clear buttons and made them look nice and yellow.
The buttons tested out well, but when I went to actually play test them I ran into my first problem. For some reason the playfield wasn’t dropping into place properly. Turned out that the playfield apron was hitting the LED PCB mounting screw by the left flipper button. It wasn’t much but plenty to prevent the playfield from dropping. I ended up moving the board a little closer to the button to make sure it would clear. There really was very little room to move it but I was able to move it enough to clear the apron. Not sure if this is an issue with WCS machines or an issue with all Bally/Williams games of this era. I recommend checking this clearance before screwing the board down to keep the installation looking clean. In my case I now have two extra holes. At least they’re inside the cabinet and not somewhere visible when the game is in play.
The button still lit well, so the PCB position is pretty forgiving thanks to the bright LEDs.
After I got the playfield down and the glass and lockbar reinstalled, I fired up the game for a playtest. It played great. The buttons felt a little lighter but they still played pretty good. They definitely have a slightly different feel, probably due to the plastic being a little harder than the stock buttons. Translucent buttons always do feel a little different. I didn’t think this actually affected gameplay though. One think I did notice was that there was a lot of light bleeding up from below the playfield. I think I’ll end up installing some black felt or something similar to block out the light. I might see if I can redirect the light on the right to light up the shooter rod and spring. That might look cool!
I have to say I’m very happy with this kit overall. It is built very well and is easy enough for anyone to install in their machine. I really think this will compliment my LED kit installation once that gets installed. I highly recommend this kit! I hope that I’m able to pick up more LED products from Cointaker in the future. I’ve got my eye on the yellow LED Shooter Rod Kit for a future purchase!
- Excellent build quality
- Super bright LEDs
- Clear, easy to follow instructions
- Lots of color options, including color changing LEDs
- Mount position could interfere with Apron
- Lots of light bleeding past playfield
- No single button kit for machines with an odd number of buttons