The ArcadeGames4U Cyclone Spinner
A New Spinner Blows In For 2006
Review by Kevin Steele
With the sudden demise of Oscar Controls as a vendor, 2005 turned out to be a pretty lean year for arcade spinner enthusiasts, with just one (albeit fantastic) spinner model to choose from, namely SlikStik's Tornado. Well, 2006 is looking to be a fresh start, with a brand new product on the market from an unexpected source: the Cyclone Spinner from ArcadeGames4U.
This is a product that came completely out of the blue, from a company more known for their cabinets than for custom-engineered controllers. This is their first spinner, and I've got to say they've done a great job with it.
The Cyclone for this review was hand-delivered by James Krych on December 26th, Boxing Day, an appropriate date considering the unique box design of this spinner. Enclosed in an extremely sturdy 3/16" thick aluminum box frame, this is an amazingly rigid "spinner in a box." The box comes pre-drilled for mounting, and includes larger holes on the bottom to allow you to put a screwdriver through the hole. This is a very compact spinner assembly, with an installation footprint of just 2" x 2.5".
The spinner is a dual bearing design, meaning it has a very smooth spin and very long spin times (roughly a minute or so). There was some very slight off-axis wobble from the flywheel, but it didn't affect the functionality of the spinner — I do suspect that the spin times would be even longer without the slight shimmy of the flywheel, but honestly once you're over 30 seconds the spin time really ceases to be a relevant factor in how the spinner performs.
The shaft is a 1/4" steel shaft, meaning it can accept any standard spinner top. The shaft height can be adjusted, although you'll need to make sure you have enough clearance under the frame. The spinner comes from ArcadeGames4U with the same rubber knob used in the Devastator control panels, and I do like the top dimple and the precise control that it provides. If you do want to use one of the "cooler" custom aluminum knobs available on the market, they fit just fine as well.
The bearings used in the Cyclone are open bearings, allowing you to actually see the ball bearings inside in action. While this is handy in determining if a bearing has "popped the track," it does allow dust to potentially enter, which could be a future problem. That said, the bearings were very smooth and quiet, and kept the shaft perfectly straight during spins without any wobble at all.
The bearings are glued into place rather than machine-stamped, which does reduce lateral pressure on the bearing, but it does concern me just a little bit, especially when it comes to the long-term endurance of the adhesive. It certainly seems solid enough, and unless you pound your hand down on the knob it may not ever be a factor. Short of testing this with a hammer, there's no real way of knowing if this is a non-issue, but I thought I'd share my thoughts.
The unique aluminum flywheel is a single piece of machined metal, and it provides a fairly good sense of mass — it's lighter than spinners that use a steel flyweight, but not so light that it feels "wrong" when spinning. It has a good heft to the spins while still allowing quick changes of motion and easy stops.
Encoders and Optics and Gameplay, Oh My!
ArcadeGames4U created a clone of Oscar Control's optics board for this spinner, meaning the boards are fully pin-compatible and will work with encoders such as Ultimarc's MiniPac. In fact, the optics board will also be sold separately by ArcadeGame4U for just $10, perfect for those home-brew spinner projects!
The board mounts securely to the back of the spinner through the use of two mounting holes. Strangely enough, there's a third threaded hole below the encoder board, and a matching hole on the other side of the "box." Alternate mounting holes or mounting spots for something else? I don't know.
For testing I used Oscar Control's mouse board hack — while the mouse board is not as sensitive as encoders such as the MiniPac, it did provide a "worst case" scenario to test for backspin or other spinner problems.
The Cyclone proved to be a sensitive spinner, especially with the mouse encoder board, but once I fine-tuned some of the spinner settings in MAME, it worked like a champ with no uncorrectable backspin or stuttering after I lowered the sensitivity in MAME.
During gameplay I found the spinner to be comfortable to use and very responsive. It was easy to change directions, and the Cyclone provided great gameplay in Tempest and Arkanoid.
The Cyclone retails for $60, a reasonable if not spectacular price for a spinner that does not include an encoder — however, if you already have an encoder like the MiniPac for your control panel project, this spinner looks to be a very good match. There are rumors that the price will drop in the future, which will make it a better value.
With good spin times, an great rock-solid design and a small installation footprint, the arrival of the Cyclone is a welcome development and a breath of fresh-spun air in the spinner arena. I look forward to seeing what other great new products the guys at ArcadeGames4U have up their sleeves!