Quality Parts & Upgrades or the lack thereof.

By thetylander

November 17, 2021

19 days ago

People who know me understand that if you do right by me, I will defend and protect to the bitter end, but you can only do me wrong three times... then it's war!!!

Marcos Pinball has done right by me far more often than not, and have been known to be good at resolving issues. I never bothered to complain once, and am still a 97% satisfied customer. I could name other companies, Big Daddy (very fast shipping!!!) The Pinball Resource (good guys, terrible website!) Matt's Basement Arcade (Keep burning those chips, I like mine with dip!) 

And so on. 
Suppliers are another thing. We could go through a dirty laundry list of good, used to be good, and always bad suppliers but we're going to save them for the reader comments. A place to air your disappointments and to warn others, right?

I don't mod things much.

My wife just read that line and walked away laughing. 
Correction, when it comes to pinball and classic British cars I don't mod things much!

Let me tell you what happened when I recently bought what was advertised as a speaker upgrade kit for our Williams Pin•Bot machine. A "Premium Speaker System" by Pinball Pro, sold and shipped by "The Pinball Wizard Llc." (Note: I have no issues with Pinball Wizard and only mention them as reference to where I shopped online. Your mileage may vary.)

We all make mistakes.

Our Pinbot had old beat up speakers. The backbox speaker set is good but the cabinet speaker was ripped up, torn and blown apart. In other words it worked badly.

I had heard good things about Pinball Pro, (someone was lying apparently) and so I decided to do a...

wait for it...

 In hindsight I should have bought a "somewhat factory correct duplicate of original type but not quite exactly the same" cabinet speaker from Marcos or anywhere else.

Beware the words mod and upgrade, you may end up regretting both.

I did! It's a rare achievement in which I received a bowling trophy with the guy in the classic bowling pose, except he just accidentally nailed himself with the bowling ball in the junk. I love that look of pain and the tears down his cheeks. I know it all too well.

I received my speaker bits in four days and they were well packed. As in they were.... well.... packed, not exactly packed well, but I got a lot of balled up newspaper from Utah out of the deal! The headline may or may not have been "Pastor's third and fourth sister-wife cheated on him with his brother-cousin-uncle." I didn't look because that's what I expected to see thanks to stereotypes.
Just like it is assumed that I watch the Packers, drink beer, eat cheese, and own a cow because I live in Wisconsin. Not true, I don't drink.

Back to the speakers...

With instructions written by a five year old who speaks broken English, but has a general knowledge on what a speaker might be, I dove in.

step one: "Open backbox door and lift playfield all the way up." Hey, kid, there’s no need to open the backbox until long after the speaker is installed. You could damage the flasher control components or alphanumeric displays on the inside of the door when you raise the playfield vertically.

Problem #1: The cabinet speaker needs a poorly constructed pressboard adapter, when you install the oversized speaker on top of this, it raises the whole setup an inch up into the bottom of the playfield wiring and switches when the playfield is raised, so the playfield can not be safely tilted vertically anymore without whacking into stuff or falling down.


Problem #2: the speaker adjustment control (oh, we WILL come back to this!) is attached to the speaker, meaning any adjustments must be made with the glass removed and the playfield raised, meanwhile, you can still easily reach the factory installed volume control through an open coin door. Remote mounting? Nope!


Problem #3: "Remove the upper separate woofer and tweeter and replace with the new premium sound combo speaker." HA HA HA!!!! Yes all “High end audio systems use ONLY combo speakers and NEVER separate woofer and tweeter units for superior sound quality!

B.S. B.S. B.S. B.S. - it's a new song I heard on my premium speaker system, I don't know all the words but I'm sure it doesn't change up much.

Problem #4: Premium speaker assembled with quality construction using only the best Chinese hot snot glue available. Yeah, the tweeter in the high end upper combo speaker was loose and I could see the high end hot snot glue stick quality. They apparently didn't use enough hot glue stick because it broke free. So did the magnet ring on the back.

Junk! Shoulda used boogers, they are environmentally friendly,  dry harder, and resonate with the audio at much higher decibel levels. Hear the booger goodness!

Problem #5: The wires were good and hefty and long enough, great job there, but the plug that hooks to your board…. Ugh!!! You plug it in and two original retaining clips break off because the plug looks right but is completely the wrong shape and size.

Add Insult to Injury!!! You got $170 worth of laughs!

Problem #6: Instructions say “Use your original screws to attach the upper speaker." Funniest one here!!! Those screws are now way too short because they mounted a 1/2” thick azz gasket all the way around the front surface of the combo speaker to make it look posh and to keep the thin tin underneath from bending or snapping. 

PinballPros marketing slogan: "Its Craptastic!"(tm)

Now to go find some longer screws...

So it was finally together and I was almost done swearing. 

Problem #7: After all that, you would expect some decent sound right? RIGHT??? Ha! Don’t fool yourself! Max volume is reduced by 10 decibels (I measured)! That's compared to my original speakers with the blown out cabinet speaker!  The upper speaker sounds like it’s coming out of a cheap Crosley record player that’s had its speaker urinated on by an audiophile… only a tiny bit better.

Now we get to pinballpros speaker mounted control knob thingy!!! 

Problem #8: You know that teenager that drives by your house with his thump thump stereo blaring? You can now mimic that exact sound! Put your pinball machine in music test, select any song and use the laughable adjustment knob attached to the bottom speaker. Turn it up and it gets more thumpy, turn it down and it gets more muffled. You just had a drive by! Yay. Seriously, what the hell is that for? Is it a headache intensity adjustment? 

Problem #9: I probably can’t return it. I installed it, and the whole situation sucks, I will be pulling the speakers out  tomorrow and maybe running them over with the mudder Bronco 4x4! Seriously though, if there are any regrets I wish I had listened to my instincts and ordered the cheaper replacement Marcos speaker in the first place and not trusted the hype for the item on the Pinball Wizard page.

Buyer beware too good to be true and all that.

Nothing is risk free. Sometimes you got to roll the dice, lose, and accept that loss. Besides, you get to practice your swearing when it's totally justified!

It's even more important to tell others so they don't make the same mistakes, and to me, if I am able to pass on that information and help others avoid a scam like this one then it's worth the $170 loss.

I think I should finish with something positive and a recommended product I recently bought.

Because they don't make glass score displays anymore, I had to make a desision. Our Mata Hari has the original glass 6 digit score displays... weak and burned ones. One is already a used replacement from an early Stern.

Either I gambled on buying used originals on fleaBay or I do a...

wait for it...


I weighed all the options and then I ordered a 5 unit populated set of xpin displays for Mata Hari (they came from Big Daddy. When they arrived, I quickly unpacked,assembled, installed, adjusted, and enjoyed! It took all of 30 minutes and it was super easy, barely an inconvenience! These look good and you can't easily tell they aren't the originals. I wanted to hate these, but as I removed the fuses running the 200volt power supply, I realized how many improvements xpin display set has made. Besides the fact that I ham now 43% less likely to electrokill myself working on it.

This also means my Mata Hari is worth less, or more, depending on the person and how much originality means to them. It's not for sale anyway and Mata Hari machines in general are not a hotlist grail blue chip investment opportunity collectors item. It can be eternally cheap because I love my red headed girl with her amazing perfectly shaped gold covered pop bumpers. 

I think the last thing I should make very clear is that I don't believe in cancel culture. I am not here writing this to get people rallied up to put pinball pros out of business for making crappy speakers.

Far from it!

If anything I hope they see my (and hopefully other peoples) complaints and realize they are producing less than satisfactory items. At that point they can either decide to improve their product or ignore it and continue their low expense-high profit plan.
A wise man with a goatee, sunglasses and a coffee in his hand once said  "Ignorance of the consumer's satisfaction certainly can’t keep a business going and soon this will all be a bad memory, lost in the zeroes and ones of the corrupted wayback files in the internet archives."

Okay, nobody ever said that but I couldn't think of a decent outro to the previous paragraph. I'm keepin it real with terrible fake internet beat poetry.

post your hot tips below, good products, bad products, weird products. Tell me I am right or tell me I am wrong, either is fine, but if you tell me that those speakers are good and that I should try adjusting something or other before giving up, then you owe me two Excedrin migraine 500mg tablets for the future headache I will have from the thump thump thump sound.

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13 days ago

This cabinet speaker worked great in my pinbot and was able to close and lift playfield without rubbing the top of the speaker. Great quality!https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000EFMPCW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

13 days ago

It was the correct size and factory mounting holes lined up as well.

11 days ago

Nice suggestion! Drunkpunkjosh’s link is to a Pyramid 5.5” car speaker on Amazon for a good price.
You see, these are the choices we all make. Sometimes we go practical like him, other times we modify and upgrade, with mixed results.
Personally, I decided that Pinbot should sound better than any other machine in my collection because it is awesome in all it’s 1980’s glory.
Since the original article, I have installed a vintage 1984 6” Klipsch speaker in there that was found at a thrift store.
Nothing like real German speakers!!! Just glad it doesn’t play “99 luftbaloons” and “Der Kommiser” anymore.

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