(Topic ID: 157752)

Best Made EMs


By Spider3582

3 years ago



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  • 40 posts
  • 18 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 3 years ago by MrBally
  • Topic is favorited by 2 Pinsiders

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    #1 3 years ago

    What is the best made EM brand in the 3" flipper years. I have all EM Gottliebs and know how to work on them. Self taught with trial and error. I am surprised how well made they are. If I get a Williams or Bally what am I in for . I know this question is a matter of opinion
    .

    #2 3 years ago

    All have good and bad points. Gottliebs have those ridiculous latch trip relays and reset banks, all of which are a bitch to service. Those tiny relay stepper things suck too.

    Ballys have terrible light sockets and jones connectors, along with schematics that often make no sense.

    Williams match units are awful, and their steppers aren't so hot.

    #3 3 years ago

    Yea I had one heck of a time to get all the latch relays working right on a 1972 Grand Slam for the base runners, but it seems like once I get it right on a Gottlieb it stays that way

    #4 3 years ago

    Gottliebs by far I'd say (especially if we're talking about style and play, although my all-original 1974 Williams Strato-Flite is HUO and one of my best players and is my go-to game a lot of the time now that it's working. Factory flipper coils still installed and feel like brand new, honestly), Gottlieb's are also perhaps the easiest to work on as well. I like their steppers. Don't like the 70's style match/0-9 units (more of a relay) and much prefer the older style that looks more like a duplicate ball count unit or player unit rather than a tiny little piece. Bending those tabs that hold on the wiper piece is annoying and I already broke one. Also, the units in the head of my 1969 Gottlieb Airport can tilt down 90 degrees if you need to work on the mechanical section of them, just by removing one pin. I was astounded by this design once I noticed it and thought it was an amazing feature and was very very useful for when I needed to go through those. Super easy, love that feature! Don't like relay banks when I come across them. At all.

    ---------------------------------------

    I worked on a Bally last weekend and the one before for a public pinball business, and the head layout is pretty nice. The reel switches are super easy to access and "open", as opposed to things like Decagon units. Found this to be nice as most of them needed adjustment on the 9 position switches. As for inside the cabinet, no complaints I guess. I'm just naturally a Gottlieb and Williams guy in terms of ownership and gameplay, so I don't own any Bally's, which of course means I rarely work on them but not because they're hard to, just because I don't prefer to own them for other reasons. Easy enough to navigate. I'd definitely work on one again, it wasn't too bad.

    ---------------------------------------

    My Williams is okay to work on. Steppers are mounted on sideways in the head I think, which would make things a little bit trickier without removing the whole unit but I never needed to even tweak it as those worked fine when I bought it. My Williams Strato-Flite has an extra 14 or so relays mounted on the bottom of the playfield due to playfield features (in addition to all of the relays in the bottom of the cabinet and in the head), and although this is a ton to look at, it was manufactured very neatly. It's a whole bank but using full sized relays, reset with an 115V coil. If I had to access any switches or sockets under there, it might be a pain, don't remember how low the bank sits from the playfield itself. Every relay in the game has pretty big blades and whatnot, too. Nicer to work on and clean those for anybody I suppose, although I don't have much trouble with the other ones from other manufacturers.

    http://mirror2.ipdb.org/images/2398/image-12.jpg

    ---------------------------------------

    However, I really had to try hard to write this. The basis of it is, they're all kind of similar and sometimes it's even hard to pick out big differences. Different features and some different styles of doing things, but all in the same ballpark. Score motors would probably just be the one big difference besides reels and their systems, and also steppers, but even then it's the same kind of general idea just in a slightly different form factor (for both, really). I don't think any EM by another manufacturer of a similar era is too hard to grasp at all. I went in and repaired that Bally for pay, and that was my first time even looking inside of one. No struggle at all and hopped right in there and got it done that day, even wired it up for free play in the best way possible (commonly used across all 3 manufacturers, no silly wire cutting or anything, still counts up and down when needed) without a diagram just by observing the credit counter when credited and when there were 0 credits left.

    #5 3 years ago

    Once you work on Gottlieb's and know how to get them 100% all the time, especially Multiplayer's, Williams, Bally, and Chicago Coin will just be a walk in the park. Personally I like working on Williams the best, nice big relays, Steppers are well built, and the Score Motor is easier to work on and clean then a Gottlieb IMO.

    Ken

    #6 3 years ago

    Gottlieb Wedgeheads. Very durable and simpler than the multi player games. Plus, there's a demand for them and they look great next to each other.

    #7 3 years ago

    Williams games do have larger relays, easy access score reel switchs and separate ball count and player units. I personally prefer to work on them.

    #8 3 years ago

    I love Wedgeheads. Besides game play, no reset after everyball, some of them no bonus countdown which means less steppers ,score reels etc. etc. I enjoy working on them but I'm not a master Pinball mechanic so I have to teach myself which is OK . I learn more every time, but if I have 10 problems 9 will be on the only non-Wedgehead Spirit of 76. I have spent many hrs on each Wedgehead but once I got it they stay that way , and they are well built. I was just curious about other makes. I don't like pointy people but I was thinking of looking for a Bally or Williams that has the pop up disk between the flippers. Played one the other day and liked it but all I know is Gottlieb

    #9 3 years ago

    If you're good at Gottlieb multiplayers you'll do fine with the others, I'd say. Any differences and new knowledge needed would likely be picked up without much difficulty and even if it was difficult, you certainly wouldn't have to relearn *everything* again.

    #10 3 years ago

    Best-built in order from best to worst:
    Gottlieb, Bally, Williams, Chicago Coin.

    Ease of repair:
    Bally, Williams, Gottlieb, Chicago Coin.

    #11 3 years ago
    Quoted from MrBally:

    Best-built in order from best to worst:
    Gottlieb, Bally, Williams, Chicago Coin.
    Ease of repair:
    Bally, Williams, Gottlieb, Chicago Coin.

    Agree.

    #12 3 years ago

    My first pinball machine was a Chicago Coin and I had no clue what I was doing. I still have it, it sits un-setup in the garage with 2 other machines that don't work yet. (Solid state, busy repairing arcade games but they'll get their turn eventually this year)

    Back then I didn't have the space for it I do now, so I slept next to the damn thing in my room for a few months. It smelled awful. Pretty sure it had mold on the bottom. Creeped me out just to look at it in the corner of my eye while I was in my room on the computer (decades old dirty machinery in your room is kind of daunting to look at constantly in your low-lit bedroom, it was kind of looming haha), so it mostly stayed covered up until I finally moved it in the garage where I kept my arcade games about 2 hours away and then eventually it stopped working, I attempted a repair by removing the bonus unit spider to adjust it, put it off, lost it, and I just let it sit while other machines came in, then when I started needing more space I took it apart along with the other non-working ones and voila. Eventually everything got moved into the basement besides those non-working ones and one I wanted to keep up there, but I think it's next to bring down finally.

    The gameplay is pretty awful but I have the room for it now (and probably wouldn't make back $300 I paid for it) so I'm just going to enjoy having it around and see how many points I can rack up on it. I try to have that outlook with any game I play somewhere that isn't very good. No matter how empty the playfield is, trying to keep going for that high score is a great way to enjoy any game, awful or great. Going to bring it down sometime this year and pop in a new-used bonus unit (and then I'll have a spare) and add it to the lineup. No shame. I never got to work out a few little issues with it and also tried to swap a reel with a 4th-player reel after the coil melted stuck to the metal shaft so I'll get to fix up that hackjob, I used no solder or connectors, just a jumper wire to take tension off one of the coil leads and tied the rest of the wires to the PCB.

    Should be a fun project, even if they're notorious for being awful. I'd feel bad about it (and wouldn't do it) but just converting out the weak points to something like Gottlieb or Williams parts and retrofitting them would be interesting.

    image-4_(resized).jpg
    (From IPDB)

    EDIT: Come to think of it, I could just retrofit a Gottlieb (or others, but I like Gottlieb) bonus unit in. That spider felt awful, very easy for it to come out of adjustment. It was just a very thin piece of aluminium or something, with no pressure or anything to really keep it pressed against the contacts besides the nut in the center holding it on. I'd rather stay original though. It's a cool thought though. I have my eye on a cheap CC original one on eBay that I'll be picking up when the seller returns, says he is away.

    #13 3 years ago
    Quoted from Otaku:

    My first pinball machine was a Chicago Coin and I had no clue what I was doing.

    You probably shouldn't be borrowing pictures from ipdb.org for your post without giving them credit.
    I'm a high school English teacher, and we're all about citing our work...

    #14 3 years ago
    Quoted from monsonb:

    You probably shouldn't be borrowing pictures from ipdb.org for your post without giving them credit.
    I'm a high school English teacher, and we're all about citing our work...

    Didn't realize it was such a big deal here. Added it in, though.

    #15 3 years ago
    Quoted from Otaku:

    Didn't realize it was such a big deal here. Added it in, though.

    It's probably not. I was just giving you a hard time...

    #16 3 years ago

    Darn kids! (who know more than I).

    #17 3 years ago
    Quoted from MrBally:

    Best-built in order from best to worst:
    Gottlieb, Bally, Williams, Chicago Coin.
    Ease of repair:
    Bally, Williams, Gottlieb, Chicago Coin.

    But the first negates the second, so it doesn't much matter. This is why I guard the EM row at the VFW during the show by mostly just sitting on my ass.

    #18 3 years ago

    You need to guard the EM's in the annex. That 'll keep you busy. The Lawman & Jumping Jack will confirm my Gottlieb ranking as far as ease of repair.

    #19 3 years ago

    I've never found Gottliebs any better built than either Williams or Bally. I've generally found Bally and Williams easier to maintain, especially the later EMs when Gottlieb went to some of their follies (Ax relays replacing trip banks, AS steppers, etc). That's not to say Williams did it all right, their match units later in the game are no fun either, but in general Bally and Williams are easier to dial in and keep dialed in. Gottliebs, with the short throw relays, can be a bit fussy at times. And there's simply no comparison when we're talking 70s Bally/Williams score reels vs the farce known as the decagon. The best comparison I can come up with there is German vs. Japanese cars. Japanese, simple and reliable. German, wonderful piece of engineering, overly complex in design, more prone to issues.

    The wedgehead design is wonderful to look at, but in some ways the Bally/Williams lift out backglasses made working on the head easier than the tilt back design of the wedgeheads.

    Bottom line, though, is they all made some fun games, all made a few duds. In general, Gottlieb made fewer duds, while especially in the mid 70s, Bally/Williams lost their way for a bit.

    #20 3 years ago
    Quoted from MrBally:

    You need to guard the EM's in the annex. That 'll keep you busy. The Lawman & Jumping Jack will confirm my Gottlieb ranking as far as ease of repair.

    Hmmmmm. I take you've worked on these?

    #21 3 years ago
    Quoted from EMsInKC:

    I've never found Gottliebs any better built than either Williams or Bally. I've generally found Bally and Williams easier to maintain, especially the later EMs when Gottlieb went to some of their follies (Ax relays replacing trip banks, AS steppers, etc). That's not to say Williams did it all right, their match units later in the game are no fun either, but in general Bally and Williams are easier to dial in and keep dialed in. Gottliebs, with the short throw relays, can be a bit fussy at times. And there's simply no comparison when we're talking 70s Bally/Williams score reels vs the farce known as the decagon. The best comparison I can come up with there is German vs. Japanese cars. Japanese, simple and reliable. German, wonderful piece of engineering, overly complex in design, more prone to issues.
    The wedgehead design is wonderful to look at, but in some ways the Bally/Williams lift out backglasses made working on the head easier than the tilt back design of the wedgeheads.
    Bottom line, though, is they all made some fun games, all made a few duds. In general, Gottlieb made fewer duds, while especially in the mid 70s, Bally/Williams lost their way for a bit.

    Pretty good summation of the whole situation.

    Another thing I HATE about Gottliebs are those relay banks. They are impossible to service installed because when they are in the service position, the switches all move position dramatically. So kinda defeats the purpose. And they are always very important to startup and scoring sequences.

    I FINALLY figured out how to deal with these - I now remove all the screws holding them to the bottom of the cabinet. Then I flip them over. This way I can adjust and clean the switches without moving the bank into the service position. It's a little bit of a pain but it certainly works, and it's really the only thing that does.

    Gottlieb score motors also suck. Why is it always, 100 percent of the time, switches in the 3rd or 4th level that need servicing, and not the ones on top?!

    #22 3 years ago

    The last incarnation of the "decagon unit" (only the first iterations had actual decagonal score reels) were the easiest to work on. They also engineered them so that there was no metal on metal moving contact. The older Gottlieb score reels, particularly the "rat traps" are a bit of a pain to get working right. The motor switches on Gottliebs are also harder to access and service than Bally and Williams.
    Overall though, I'd have to say that Gottliebs are the most solidly built of the three major manufacturers. In my youth, I played many games on location, and it seemed to me that the Gottlieb games stood up to commercial use better than Bally or Williams. The flippers on Bally games in particular would always get weak and floppy. Gottliebs have a very solid feel to them as well. You can see why they used the term, "that extra touch of quality".

    #23 3 years ago

    And originality. Except for Atlantis......

    #24 3 years ago
    Quoted from EMsInKC:

    German, wonderful piece of engineering, overly complex in design, more prone to issues.

    You're telling me! I used to service German-made high speed mailing systems. Totally over-engineered and prone to failure due to their monstrous complexity. I'm glad I'm not in that field anymore.

    #25 3 years ago

    Gottlieb cabinets were far superior near the end of the EM era, especially the head unit. Prior to the 70s each manufacturer had it's good points and its bad.

    #26 3 years ago

    Honestly, in a home environment, all my EMs are rock solid reliable once you get them going properly.

    Gottliebs relay and score motor design was the most robust, in my opinion. Their Decagon score counters are the best. That whole Ax relay nonsense though can be a bear, and their reset bank can also be a pain. Gottlieb had the best sounding chimes. Period.

    I prefer William's stepper units, as Gottlieb's snow shoe design always made it more difficult than necessary to align. But twist one wiper arm accidentally on the William's style, and you've made things way tougher than they need to be.

    Chicago Coin's paper relay stack holders are super awful, but easy to fix with toothpicks and glue. Some games used non polarized capacitors across the relay coils for some reason. I do like how they used Solid State style molex connectors though in their later EM games.

    Bally's score motor design, lamp sockets, and jones connectors are infamous for being poorly made, but I can't complain about anything else too much.

    I personally give the best design nod over to Gottlieb. Their mechanisms just seemed way more robust than anything else that Bally, Williams or Chicago Coin were doing. I'm sure others will disagree, but this is just my 2 cents.

    #27 3 years ago

    I own one Bally, any guesses ?

    #28 3 years ago
    Quoted from mbaumle:

    Bally's score motor design

    I think Bally's score motor design is actually quite good. It is highly serviceable, and everything is generally accessible and easy to find.

    The Gottlieb games, to echo what most others have said, are the best made. Great feeling games.

    In the bingo world, there were two main manufacturers, Bally and United. The United games are a similar jump in quality 'feel' over the Bally games. I was very surprised to feel this difference when I picked up my (only, at the moment) United.

    Any Gottlieb short-throw relay with the short switches is very difficult to adjust properly, and anyone that jumps into these games typically creates problems by adjusting a single switch and not verifying the position of every other switch on the relay. You don't really run into this with Bally or Williams. But, the short throw, when adjusted stays in adjustment well, doesn't attract as much dirt, and doesn't arc nearly as much when dirty (typically). 'Course, part of that's the 24V instead of 50V circuitry.

    I really don't like a lot of the Williams units, but their score reels are pretty easy to work on. Bally's, more so.

    Williams' score motor is a bit frustrating, though (to me). Lots of metal and very easy to accidentally snag a switch.

    I think the Bally units are the best of them all. Their stepper design is very simple and serviceable. The nylon gears are easy to clean and the stepper itself is easy to adjust.

    The Gottlieb score motors, as someone else said, have bad switches on the inside, but that's because everyone fixes those external switches and lets the rest rot. Once a Gottlieb unit is tuned, again echoing most others, it stays in adjustment for a very long time.

    I've only worked on two Chicago Coin games, and each was a little quirky, but mostly Williams parts inside, so I can't really comment.

    Genco and Exhibit games are also great! I like Exhibit a bit better (from a service perspective).

    I really dislike working on a early-mid 70s Williams. The way they installed their relay banks under the playfield is often the perfect place for wires to get snagged and so forth. Not that I can talk much about that with Bally's shutter motor switches...

    #29 3 years ago
    Quoted from bingopodcast:

    I think Bally's score motor design is actually quite good. It is highly serviceable, and everything is generally accessible and easy to find.

    Now that you mention it, I'd agree with you on that. I think the last two units I had issues with left me with a sour taste in my mouth. They were certainly easier to take apart and fix, although something about them felt flimsy to me--maybe it was just me.

    There's something about the metal that Gottlieb used in their mechanisms, though. Everything just feels solid and refined.

    #30 3 years ago
    Quoted from mbaumle:

    There's something about the metal that Gottlieb used in their mechanisms, though. Everything just feels solid and refined.

    Heck yeah! Especially in the 60s - so pretty!

    #31 3 years ago

    I'm not sure about Gottlieb cabs being the best made, especially late. ACD has the wonderful particle board back on it...

    Really, I've never felt any particular cab was any better made than any other.

    I do kind of laugh about Bally's "notorious" lamp sockets. I'll just say this. I've owned two Bally games. I never replaced a single lamp socket on either. I still own one, which I've had for 45 years, and I've never touched the sockets. I have never had a flickering lamp on it either. But I've replaced a bunch of lamp sockets on Gottliebs. I've never really replaced many on Williams games either.

    The final decagons were a bit better, but still not as simple to service and adjust as a Bally or Williams. I would just say I'm mystified by any statement that a Gottlieb motor is better than the other two. Levi's statement about them is the absolute truth. A total bear to see the switches to adjust them. Bally and Williams, especially if you take the motor board out of the game, are a breeze. You can see them perfectly.

    I do love Gottlieb 60s games and the brass plated fittings. You get those shined up and the game looks so good. I guess that's why I only own one 60s Gottlieb now and have 4 70s long flipper games, even though I really like 2 inch games better. It's just that the particular ones I own are just such good games, and there's only so much space.

    #32 3 years ago
    Quoted from EMsInKC:

    I do kind of laugh about Bally's "notorious" lamp sockets.

    In the bingos, they can be pretty darn bad. The 'sockets' are just metal tines that stick out to push on the nipple with a little bit of surrounding metal to hold it in place/conduct. Those tines can get out of whack or cut into the bulb and cause flickering. This is the worst if you have a problematic socket behind a card on a Mystic Lines game - you've got to take off so many layers of stuff just to get to the socket. Luckily, you can normally fix just by pushing on the tine from the back, adjusting it forward a small amount, so that it cuts into the bulb better, thus continuing the cycle...

    Their standard EM flipper sockets are nothing bad. I've also never had a problem with Bally's Jones Plugs, in any game, bingo or non, that I've serviced. Bally Jones Plugs, if exposed to a lot of heat, can warp, but same can be said of all of them. As long as you clean them (again, same for anybody), you're set.

    I'm not as big of a fan of early Williams or United flat pack Jones Plugs, but those are kind of neat, too.

    Bally's fuse blocks, on the other hand... I've certainly had lots of issue with.

    For the most part, Bally's issues are very easy to correct. And one thing which I was alluding to above, they really, really thought about who and how these games would be serviced. Flipper or non, they tried to make it easy to keep the game earning. I think they did a very good job.

    #33 3 years ago

    Well, I've never worked on a bingo. Hell, I've never even played one. So that explains part of that.

    I too have never had an issue with a Bally Jones plug, but I'll admit that I haven't continually taken the plugs in and out so my experience is limited there. I have dealt with Gottlieb plugs where the male plug breaks in half. I figured a way to repair those though and it works great.

    The fuse blocks never bothered me much. Fuse blocks are an easy replacement.

    #34 3 years ago
    Quoted from EMsInKC:

    I'm not sure about Gottlieb cabs being the best made, especially late. ACD has the wonderful particle board back on it...

    I mentioned Gottlieb cabs because late into the seventies Williams and Bally went with a head that was rather flimsy and I have had to patch them back together so they won't break apart. In the 50s and 60s it was whole another story. Some of the Bally's were as robust as can be, and in the late 50s Williams woodrails were very stout as were their mod cabs.

    #35 3 years ago

    Bally's score motor design is basically the same as WIlliams'. Or am I missing something?

    Interestingly enough, Williams' old-school woodrail score motors have similar carousel design to the Gottlieb ones we know and loathe.

    #36 3 years ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    Bally's score motor design is basically the same as WIlliams'. Or am I missing something?

    Interestingly enough, Williams' old-school woodrail score motors have similar carousel design to the Gottlieb ones we know and loathe.

    The later Bally and Williams were similar but Williams kept the carousel thru the mid 60s and from what I have seen it has advantages over Gottliebs, as do their all metal score reel brackets that don't break like the plastic ones.

    #37 3 years ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    All have good and bad points. Gottliebs have those ridiculous latch trip relays and reset banks, all of which are a bitch to service. Those tiny relay stepper things suck too.
    Ballys have terrible light sockets and jones connectors, along with schematics that often make no sense.
    Williams match units are awful, and their steppers aren't so hot.

    Don't forget Bally's crappy fuse holders. They were making their own and the fuseclips always were breaking/cracking.

    Starting around 1970, Williams started putting layouts of the relays and what each switch did on those relays into the manuals. This made servicing alot easier in my opinion. Even later they started putting in all the stepper switches/wiper fingers into the manuals along with layouts/functions of all the Jones connectors.

    #38 3 years ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    The later Bally and Williams were similar but Williams kept the carousel thru the mid 60s and from what I have seen it has advantages over Gottliebs, as do their all metal score reel brackets that don't break like the plastic ones.

    Older Bally pins also had the "carousel" type score motors.

    #39 3 years ago
    Quoted from MrBally:

    Older Bally pins also had the "carousel" type score motors.

    Wasn't Bally the first one to get away from those?

    #40 3 years ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    Wasn't Bally the first one to get away from those?

    IIRC; yes.

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