Review by Kevin Steele
When it comes to creating a really immersive gaming experience, nothing beats a good subwoofer. I discovered this initially with my MAMEframe arcade cabinet when I replaced the inital subwoofer-less speaker system with one that included a subwoofer. Suddenly games came alive, and you could feel the impact (literally) of your shots with the aliens or asteroids. It was such a simple change, and yet make a dramatic difference in the overall gaming experience.
Therefore I was more than mildly interested when I discovered the pinball subwoofer system from Pinball Pro: a meaty 8" subwoofer speaker upgrade.
The kit contains everything you need to upgrade the bass component of your pinball's sound system, and includes a custom mounting plate/adapter, 8" subwoofer, and a clip-on volume control. The assembly process takes just a few minutes, and requires no soldering or modification of your machine.
I always like to see small "promotional" goodies included with a package, as it indicates to me that the manufacturer is proud enough of their product to want everyone to know it's been installed. The Pinball Pro Sub-Woofer comes with a pinball card and keychain:
The default 6" subwoofer used in William's WCS-95 pinball system is okay for bass, but just barely. Add in the fact that you cannot adjust the bass levels for the default speaker, and you've got a less-than-satisfying bass sub-system. Frankly, with a game such as Attack from Mars, I want bone-rattling explosions when I blow up a saucer!
Even just looking at the two speakers, it's easy to see how they're going to "stack up": the Pinball Pro subwoofer looks intimidating, even when it's not plugged in:
The Pinball Pro subwoofer comes with a custom MDF mounting board adapter that allows you to quickly fit the larger speaker onto the existing speaker mounting. The inner holes match up with the existing mounting bolts, while the new speaker screws into the outer holes.
Installation couldn't be much easier: you unscrew and detach your existing speaker, bolt on the adapter frame, screw in the new subwoofer, and then re-attach the speaker wires. It takes literally a couple of minutes to install.
The final part of the installation process is a small volume control "pod" that clips onto your pinball's sound board.
In the case of my Attack From Mar's AV board, the volume control clips onto resistor R17. It's a simple install, and I appreciate the fact that no soldering or permanent changes to the AV board were required.
Firing it Up
The final step is to adjust the volume levels, something that actually is harder than it sounds. To get the bass levels you want, you need to adjust both the machine's sound level and the new volume control. This is a bit of a "balancing act," especially since both volume controls affect the system volume (obviously!) — it took quite a bit of "back and forth" before I found a comfortable setting that also gave me deep, thumping bass. Once I did find the magic combination of volume levels, the difference was earthshaking (do I need to add "literally" again?).
The change in the overall gaming "experience" was immediately noticeable: Attack from Mars is very much a shooting game disguised as a pinball, and when you're pounding the pinball into the main saucer's targets, you want a satisfying "boom!" with each hit. The Pinball Pro subwoofer delivers exactly what you want. It almost feels like you've got a shaker motor installed in the cab — the vibrations are that intense.
The Pinball Pro subwoofer is a great upgrade for a pinball machine: for about $75, you can get deep, resonant, vibrating bass sound. Pinball Pro makes versions of their subwoofer upgrade for nearly any pinball machine, including Bally/Williams machines (70/80's machines, System 11, WCS-89, WCS-95, and Pinball 2000), Data East, Sega, and Gottlieb.
Trust me, there are just no words to adequately express how immersive good bass is in a game, when you can feel the machine shake in your hands and can feel the impact of each explosion on your body. Recommended by RetroBlast.