(Topic ID: 18209)

Stern quality through the years... Some questions.


By alexlevy

7 years ago



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    #1 7 years ago

    I received my nib ac/dc premium last Monday. My first stern and probably my last nib stern.

    Steve Ritchie did a fantastic job on the game. It plays fantastic and I love just about everything the gameplay has to offer.

    That being said the machine feels like it was built by fisher price. I have had all B/W games leading up to this purchase and I can't get past how cheaply made the game actually is.

    The play field is 1/2" weak 8 flake plywood. The PF hinges give it over an inch of left to right sway making it easy to snag it on the side armor.

    The artwork is nice however it is poorly printed (extremely low Rez). In this day and age 300dpi printing is BAD

    Can anyone tell me if older sterns are the same? RBION for example?

    This is NOT meant to be a flame war or a fanboy circle jerk. I just want honest opinions on other stern machines as I have the opportunity to pick up a few for a good price.

    #2 7 years ago

    IMHO these statements often come from close minded brand loyal pinheads. The Sterns I have experience with need less work than any of the older B/W ones. Im not sure when some will give up the hating and just have fun flippin. I dont hate all Williams just becauese I dont care for a number of em. I guess to each their own. Hope it finds a good new home and you find another you love.

    (Moved from 'all pinball' to 'Stern pinball' sub forum)

    #3 7 years ago
    Quoted from The_Dude_Abides:

    IMHO these statements often come from close minded brand loyal pinheads. The Sterns I have experience with need work than any of the older ones. Im not sure when some will give up the hating and just have fun flippin. I guess to each their own.

    Not sure what you are saying exactly? I'm brand agnostic but I do have a specific expectation for quality when spending 7000 bucks.

    #4 7 years ago

    It isn't less quality. It is just different. Yes, they feel different. But Stern doesn't make cheapo machines. You know what feels heavy and "quality"? An Edsel. You think that just because there is more plastic, fiberglass, and less metal on a Toyota, that the Toyota is of lesser quality?

    #5 7 years ago

    I bought potc six years ago and knock on wood not one thing has ever gone wrong with her so far so good

    Not sure if you are looking for thick heavy wood or a reliable good fun pin

    #6 7 years ago
    Quoted from gambit3113:

    It isn't less quality. It is just different. Yes, they feel different. But Stern doesn't make cheapo machines. You know what feels heavy and "quality"? An Edsel. You think that just because there is more plastic, fiberglass, and less metal on a Toyota, that the Toyota is of lesser quality?

    Agree on the quality. My game doesn't feel cheap, just different.

    #7 7 years ago
    Quoted from rai:

    I bought potc six years ago and knock on wood not one thing has ever gone wrong with her so far so good
    Not sure if you are looking for thick heavy wood or a reliable good fun pin

    Reliability is key but to me durability is also a concern.

    To the comment about Toyota. Yes buying a Camry that will fire up every time you turn it on is important but if the paint is worn away and the interior is coming apart after a few years you would think twice before buying it even if it got you from A to B.

    I'm not looking for heavy. Heavy does not mean quality.

    An example I just had playing: there is a loud audible hum coming from my flippers when trapping. You can hear it over the sound. Is that normal for stern coils? I'm literally asking because I have no previous experience with their machines.

    #8 7 years ago

    Yep, that is normal.

    #9 7 years ago
    Quoted from Pinchroma:

    You can hear it over the sound. Is that normal for stern coils?

    As far as I know, yes. I have only owned 3 Stern games, though.

    #10 7 years ago
    Quoted from Pinchroma:

    An example I just had playing: there is a loud audible hum coming from my flippers when trapping. You can hear it over the sound. Is that normal for stern coils? I'm literally asking because I have no previous experience with their machines.

    Yes, they all do it.
    You can mess with the coil stops and minimize it but it will still be there.

    #11 7 years ago
    Quoted from The_Dude_Abides:

    IMHO these statements often come from close minded brand loyal pinheads. The Sterns I have experience with need less work than any of the older B/W ones. Im not sure when some will give up the hating and just have fun flippin. I dont hate all Williams just becauese I dont care for a number of em. I guess to each their own. Hope it finds a good new home and you find another you love.

    The guy bought the game, how is that close minded? Seems fair enough that he critiques a pin that he spent his money on.

    #12 7 years ago

    Thats's the one thing I absolutely hate about Stern pins, the flippers...

    #13 7 years ago
    Quoted from Pinchroma:

    You can hear it over the sound. Is that normal for stern coils? I'm literally asking because I have no previous experience with their machines.

    Just got a RBION this weekend. If you really listen for the coils, you can hear them. I had the glass off and it shocked me how loud it was then...but I just got used to it and with the glass on now I don't even notice it that much.

    EDIT: Now that I think of it my Pinball Magic is the same way I think.

    Love those Stern menus though.

    #14 7 years ago
    Quoted from TaylorVA:

    The guy bought the game, how is that close minded? Seems fair enough that he critiques a pin that he spent his money on.

    Just sharing my take on it that doesn't make it so. Its just how I view many similar statements regarding Sterns. I mean close mined in the sense that some do not approach playing certain pins with an open mind. I could care less about the brand name on the pin myself but it seems important to others and that is okay. As always to each their own.

    I definitely think its a bummer that he does not care for it. I don't think it will be too tough to sell or at least I hope not.

    #15 7 years ago

    Hey Alex, My Sterns do feel "different" from my B/W -- they feel less substantial is how I would put it. That means they "feel cheaper" though my experience with their reliability has been very good. I've had a POTC, LOTR AND FGY for many years and the worst I've had is a broken armature link on an auto plunger and a loose wire. I have noticed that my flipper coil on my new Tron is very noisy sometimes recently so I'll keep an eye on it.

    I notice when I switch playing from a B/W to a Stern that it takes some time to adjust to the different feel.

    Having said all that, I'm a WOZ buyer and I do believe JJP is really going to up the ante on quality of build. Stern has done all it can to keep its build of material cost down.

    Give it some time, play some other Sterns near you and see how you feel.

    Good luck.

    #16 7 years ago

    Wow, I love the feel of the AC/DC way over my old Williams tables. They feel like clunky boxes compared to it and Spiderman. I am the opposite. No matter how restored I have no interest in the old boxes

    #17 7 years ago

    It sounded like he loved the game. I never have felt the quality issues personally but I do find the flipper buzz annoying. It isn't bad on my current LOTR but my SM had one flipper that would make my ear ring!

    #18 7 years ago

    Awesome thread ! Does anyone else read between the lines ?

    Jim

    #19 7 years ago

    Also the SM is very similar in feel to the AC/DC. Based on your experience I would recommend making sure you touch these tables. I was lucky to find folks with varied collections. It really helps

    #20 7 years ago
    Quoted from The_Gorilla:

    It sounded like he loved the game. I never have felt the quality issues personally but I do find the flipper buzz annoying. It isn't bad on my current LOTR but my SM had one flipper that would make my ear ring!

    I love the game. Love love love it. I'm not selling it for anything. I guess I need time to get used to it but it's going to be an adjustment. Side by side next to ToM or sttng it's a staunch difference. And to the point about the menu's? They are fantastic. Very elegant and clear.

    My biggest complaint overall is the cabinet play field bracket system. Older machines offered no side to side sway. Just in, out and upward pivot and that satisfying "click" when you pull the PF out. Slamming the play field in an out and listening to everything rattle is unnerving especially when you can shimmy it left to right while attempting to slam it back in straight.

    #21 7 years ago

    My Sterns feel really good, and I do like some things that Stern does better. Swapping lights to LEDs is so much easier, and menus are fantastic for example.

    I'm seriously thinking about selling my collection and just going NIB so i don't miss out. It seems as if I can always have the opportunity to buy older machines, but once an amazing new pin is gone, they are so hard to get without paying a $1000-2000+ premium if I just bought it when it first came out. Am I crazy???

    #22 7 years ago
    Quoted from Pinchroma:

    Slamming the play field in an out and listening to everything rattle is unnerving especially when you can shimmy it left to right while attempting to slam it back in straight.

    Slam away... remember these machines are built with operators in mind. Operators aren't pinheads, they just want to make money. These machines are built for commercial use.. babying them at home just means they will last a really, really long time.

    #23 7 years ago

    Same story different thread.

    #24 7 years ago

    Williams may be heavier,but I have MUCH less trouble with my Stern.I love all pinball by the way.

    #25 7 years ago

    Briguy, i don't think youre crazy. It is what i am doing!

    #26 7 years ago

    I'm with the majority of post in this thread. My Sterns just feel different. I actually really like how they feel. I have never considered any Stern I owned to be cheap.

    #27 7 years ago

    I have owned both B/W and Sega/Stern for over 10 years now and to be honest, in the home environment, I have not seen that either one has more (or less) reliability issues than the other.

    #28 7 years ago

    BBH 4 Life!

    #29 7 years ago

    You are basing the whole build quality on the bracket system they chose to use? The bracket system is actually pretty nice. It lets you lift the playfield out really easy. I like it way more than older B/W. The pinball 2000 was superior and JJP bra jet system seems no we also. But sterns is fine and does the job.

    As for thickness of the playfield and overall weight, I say the lighter the better. The machine needs to only be thick and heavy enough. Makes it easier to move and work on the lighter it is. Take a look at how clean the underside of your playfield is with all those led boards and without all the traditional wires. It's great. Also see how simple the back cabinet is compared to B/W.

    #30 7 years ago
    Quoted from Pinchroma:

    I love the game. Love love love it. I'm not selling it for anything. I guess I need time to get used to it but it's going to be an adjustment. Side by side next to ToM or sttng it's a staunch difference. And to the point about the menu's? They are fantastic. Very elegant and clear.
    My biggest complaint overall is the cabinet play field bracket system. Older machines offered no side to side sway. Just in, out and upward pivot and that satisfying "click" when you pull the PF out. Slamming the play field in an out and listening to everything rattle is unnerving especially when you can shimmy it left to right while attempting to slam it back in straight.

    You don't need to slam it, push it back to the stop, hold the apron with your hand and push down on it with your forearm.
    It will glide right in.
    Make sure you are hanging onto the apron, once it goes over the stop it will shoot in there rather quickly.

    #31 7 years ago

    No matter his restored I have no interest in the old boxes

    Ever play ST:TNG or TOTAN or CV. Great feeling pinballs. you are missing out man. How ever I do have NIB LOTR L.E. and SM they also have a great feel to them. As far as quality STERN is a Crap shoot. SM has many little bubbles in clear coat. There are also wood grain lines that can be seen.not enough clear coat. LOTR L.E. had some clear coat issues smudges and in on spot the art was smudged so bad it looked like chemical dropped on playfield colors just swirled together.It is by the left slingshot by upper post so you do not see it as much as the smudge by Frodo's face.Not cool. I had to add washers and a rubber sleave to the post behind the orthanc so the ball would be stopped and fall into the Orthanc in the WAR of the ENTS mode.Both SM and LORD of the RINGs have flipper coil fade. STERN makes me nervous when it comes to quality control.But I still Love the two New STERNS I Own but these issue piss me off I Wrote Gary Stern a personal letter with photos and my concerns regarding quality.I also told him that his efforts in the last two years were a good step for STERN. Just spending the Big Bucks on these L.E. there should not be these issues.

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    #32 7 years ago

    Played all those tables. Some a lot. I just like feel of the newer games. I happen to also like the gameplay more but that's just personal taste.

    #33 7 years ago

    To me the Stern games are built just as well as the old Williams games and contain much improved electronics. It seems like it is trendy to bash Stern, but remember that the old Williams games had more than their share of problems. For instance, the WPC games (TZ, IJ, DM, WH2O, etc) came with a terribly designed power supply which basically all failed (reset issues) and need continuous frustrating troubleshooting and repair. The opto sensors were a complete crap design and prone to failure - especially in the ball trough. Not to mention that two of the greatest Williams games of all time MB and AFM both have drop holes that become completely blown out in a matter of months because they were too cheap to include a $10 piece of metal to protect the hole. AFM came out a full three years before MB, so there is no way that didn't know this problem existed when MB was released...

    What I am getting at is these machines that we have chosen to play with as our hobby are complex and they contain fast moving steel balls; they are never going to be problem free. With the explosion of the pinball community online recently, Stern is under a microscope that no previous pinball manufacturer could have come close to standing up to. The new Sterns are great to me from a durability and reliability standpoint. Spiderman is the most reliable game I have ever had with AFM a close second. Reliability and durability are reasons for me to buy Sterns and not the other way around.

    John

    #34 7 years ago

    Yes the Sterns feel different
    Monopoly feels lightweight
    LOTR feels better, as does TDK and Spiderman
    IM is back to feeling lightweight again

    But this will not stop me from buying another Stern

    #35 7 years ago
    Quoted from PopBumperPete:

    Yes the Sterns feel different
    Monopoly feels lightweight
    LOTR feels better, as does TDK and spiderman
    IM is back to feeling lightweight again

    I think its because they are specifically lighter. Look at those pins. LOTR and Spiderman are packed with stuff. Iron man has 2 plastic ramps, an orbit, and one motorized toy. Of course its lighter. That formula has been stuck to pretty closely by Stern lately.

    #36 7 years ago

    The new Sterns certainly have less problems out of the box than the old Bally/Williams did.

    #37 7 years ago
    Quoted from John_I:

    What I am getting at is these machines that we have chosen to play with as our hobby are complex and they contain fast moving steel balls;

    Roger Sharpe once told me a story of how he explained pin reliability to someone else - they were complaining how unreliable his companies machines were and what could be done to fix that. This is what I remember that he said...

    Roger said tell you what, put your hand on the table here, and let me drop this pinball from about three feet above the table onto the back of your hand. Do you think it will hurt? The guy said no way, and of course it would hurt. Roger said now imagine having that ball thrown at you from three feet away, dozens of times in any one game - do you feel there is any way to make something completely reliable when the machine is doing that?

    The guy said he understood it a lot more then.

    Quoted from vid1900:

    The new Sterns certainly have less problems out of the box than the old Bally/Williams did.

    I've heard this multiple, multiple times from different ops. The difference on the collector side is that you're trading home used games back and forth that have already been super tweaked by other collectors. When you open a NIB game, you get what you got.

    #38 7 years ago

    The cabinets on my B/W have thicker ply than my Sterns.
    The playfields on my LOTR LE and SM are the same thickness. Didn't count the plys though. My SM PF is a little grainy.
    IM did feel way flimsier than my SM or LOTR but I haven't had a chance to measure the cab or pf thickness.
    I have had no issues with my SM or LOTR when it comes to things working, yet other than the one blown magnet fuse. But they are relatively new.
    Stern flippers do hum. Sometimes louder than others. They will fade over time as they are single coil wires. Using the PBL upgraded LOTR coils has pretty much solved the issue on LOTR as they are thicker guage wire and handle the heat better.

    #39 7 years ago

    Stern games are fairly reliable but they have had to cut costs massively over the last few years and so it is inevitable that there is a cheaper look to them. How can there not be? They cannot screen print cabinets, add extra clear, thicker playfields, metal wireforms etc etc.

    I spoke to George Gomez about adding metal ramps. He said he would love to but they are just so much more expensive than plastic. It is the way it is.

    Once you accept this, it is easier. Yes, it bothers me at the moment but they are still the only game in town.......not for long though.

    If anyone thinks I am knocking, I am not, it is just how I see it.

    I am about to buy my first Stern NIB and I just need to accept that there are things I would like to be different but it ain't going to happen!!!

    #40 7 years ago

    Just glue some brick to the bottom to make Sterns more heavy.

    #41 7 years ago

    I don't think the issues with Sterns are the mechanics or electronics. It's the things that really matter that are lacking. Their printing and clear coating processes, the replacement of metal parts with plastic parts and the use of cheaper wood. If you look closely at any cabinet, playfield or decal art on a Stern it is grainy as heck. I have seen posts rip right out of the playfield from ball hits and powder coated siderails rust from sweaty hands. Someone not too long ago posted major scoop wear already on a Tron. I am not anti-Stern, I have SM and LOTR in my top 10 list, but these are just facts. Stern needed to cut costs.

    #42 7 years ago
    Quoted from Betelgeuse:

    I have seen posts rip right out of the playfield from ball hits

    This happens in pinball all the time, especially to Williams games. Certainly not unique to Stern.

    Quoted from Betelgeuse:

    Someone not too long ago posted major scoop wear already on a Tron.

    That game has been on location for a year. Games that get 16-24 hours a day playtime will show wear, just like a taxi compared to your own car.

    The scoop, of course, gets mega wear as it would in MM or any other game.

    Quoted from Betelgeuse:

    powder coated siderails rust from sweaty hands

    Sadly, all these powder coated and painted rails are going to do this.

    We have traded "bling" for long lasting stainless steel. Style over substance.

    If an operator put painted rails on location, it would take days before kids would have their names carved into the paint.

    #43 7 years ago
    Quoted from gambit3113:

    You think that just because there is more plastic, fiberglass, and less metal on a Toyota, that the Toyota is of lesser quality?

    Yes.

    #44 7 years ago
    Quoted from RobKnapp:

    As far as quality STERN is a Crap shoot. SM has many little bubbles in clear coat

    And you think b/w doesn't? Want to come check my TOM and FT?

    #45 7 years ago

    Weight is a good way to judge the quality of an A/V receiver, not a pinball machine or automobile or girlfriend. I've got an IM and a Congo side-by-side, so I'm going to try to quantify the wood thickness question tonight.

    To summarize the rest of this thread (with my thoughts):

    PF mounting system: a non-issue once you know how to use it correctly.

    Artwork: Yes it's pixelated. Stern already addressed this for the cab (decals), and I hope the PF and plastics come next. After all, that's what you look at when you play.

    Flippers: hell yes, I wish Stern would license the dual-winding coil approach. I hate the Stern coil buzz, not to mention how hot they get.

    #46 7 years ago
    Quoted from swampfire:

    I wish Stern would license the dual-winding coil approac

    How is it a license issue ? Dual coil solenoids have been around since the solenoid was invented and almost every automobile has one .

    Jim

    #47 7 years ago
    Quoted from tracelifter:

    You don't need to slam it, push it back to the stop, hold the apron with your hand and push down on it with your forearm.
    It will glide right in.
    Make sure you are hanging onto the apron, once it goes over the stop it will shoot in there rather quickly.

    Thanks for showing me this when I bought the LOTR from you. I've passed this on to a few people who I have caught slamming a PF back into a game.

    #49 7 years ago

    If you want heavy, then MDF weighs almost 2x what plywood does. MDF is smoother, so it takes paint better too (no grain or pores). In fact, in the 90s Williams made some cabs from Plywood with a thin MDF veneer on the painted side.

    If you want strength, then 13 core Baltic Birch is the stiffest 3/4" plywood. Again, very heavy.

    If you want hardness, Lumber Core Maple Ply (all 5 cores made from Maple) is quite hard.

    I've never heard an operator ever say "Gee, I wish these machines were heavier...".

    #50 7 years ago

    Here's what I just measured:

    IM cabinet: 11/16", 7-ply
    Congo cabinet: 11/16", 5-ply

    So it seems that Stern cabinets are as good as Williams, maybe better. I'd think more layers is better for strength and stiffness.

    IM and Congo playfields are both 1/2", 6-ply. No difference that I can tell.

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