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Pinball Rehab

pinball repair and restoration

LED Reference Guide LED Reference Guide Hot

The dizzying array of LED choices can get a little confusing.  Through trial and error I've come up with the following general suggestions for LED selection.  Of course every game is different and tastes are different, so feel free to buy a batch of LED's and experiment.

Note: Warm LED's are available only in white.

Note: Cool colors are purple, blue and green, warm colors are yellow, red and orange (see Image 7).

Note: If you're in Europe, pinballcenter.eu has equivalent choices for all of the bulbs mentioned.

General Advice

  1. I see a lot of games where the LED's are way too bright.  Test your machine in game room lighting and if the LED's are distracting (especially in the lower-middle, center section of the playfield) or you walk away with colored dots in front of your eyes, back off on the brightness.
  2. There is a huge difference between a single (what I will call classic) LED used in some bulbs and a single SMD type chip used in other bulbs (see Image 1).  The latter is brighter and provides a wider cone of light.  Make sure you know which you're buying, it's not always stated on the website.
  3. There is not as much difference between manufacturers (other than cost) as there is between types of LED's (number of LED's per bulb and classic style or SMD).
  4. There are still a few polarized LED's sold (they only work when installed in one way, if reversed they don't work) so pay attention to the description if it matters to you.

Inserts

  1. Match the color of the LED to the insert for the best effect..
  2. LED's must be perpendicular to the insert for maximum effect.  Adjust the lamp mounting hardware, if just slightly off, or use a flex LED if the bulb is parallel to the playfield (see Image 2).
  3. The brightness will increase the most with white and yellow inserts since they pass the most light.  Cool color inserts like blue and green will dramatically increase in brightness.  Warm colors like red and orange will show a modest increase in brightness.
  4. For white and yellow inserts use a frosted, 1 or 2 LED bulb if there are a lot of them, they are in the lower, middle part of the playfield or you just feel they are overpowering.
  5. Larger inserts and inserts towards the back of the playfield will not show as bright as smaller inserts and ones towards the front.
  6. You can adjust your brightness selection based on item 3 and 4 above.  For example, use a Comet Pinball or Cointaker 1 LED Premium in cool inserts, smaller inserts and lower playfield and use a Comet Pinball or Cointaker 2 LED in warm colors, larger inserts and upper playfield.
  7. Some games will have severe ghosting on the controlled lamps (see Anti-Ghosting LED Comparison).  If ghosting is a concern use the Ablaze Ghostbuster,  Cointaker Premium or Comet Pinball non-ghosting.

Playfield GI Lighting

  1. Use frosted LED's or the Cointaker 170 for GI lighting (see Image 3).  Both disperse the light out instead of directing it up.  Comet Pinball also has a couple of excellent choices.  Their Optix Maximus casts light over 300 degrees and is the brightest diffused bulb available.  Their 2 SMD Fluted Bullet is similar to the GI lighting used on recent Stern's and has excellent throw.
  2. Use a brighter choice near the back of the playfield, when GI lighting is far apart, you have a dark plastic or you want to highlight something.  Go with a less bright choice, or colored bulb, if the bulb can be seen when playing the game.
  3. To approximate the original look of incandescent bulbs, use warm LED's.  Cool LED's are also fine, or you can use a mix of cool LED's, with cool colors, and warm LED's, with warm colors.
  4. LED's do not dim (at least not with incandescent bulb circuitry), so if you have a game like Addams Family that heavily utilizes GI dimming during light shows, LED's may not be a good choice.
  5. If you are sensitive to GI flickering then use either the pinballcenter.eu Noflix or the Comet Pinball Ultimate Optix.

Flashers

  1. Generally I don't think LED flashers are any better than the incandescent version.  If you do want to upgrade the flashers read on.
  2. For multi-directional applications use a 5 LED bulb like the one from Cointaker (see Image 4) or Comet Pinball and match the color of the cap.
  3. For directional applications use a standard LED flasher (see image 4) and match the color of the cap.

Backbox GI Lighting

  1. Generally I don't think backbox LED's add a lot and often look worse, but continue reading if you want to use them.
  2. If possible match warm LED's to warm colors and cool LED's to cool colors.
  3. Use a single LED frosted bulb.
  4. Sometimes selectively using colored bulbs can really make the backbox pop.  There are also times when a color changing LED will look great.

Spotlights

  1. Spotlight bulbs are difficult because they are used in different ways.
  2. For brightly lighting an area use a high-power LED, which has one LED on the top and then one on each side (see Image 5).
  3. To light a large area, but not as brightly as in item 2, use a wide angle or SMD type LED.
  4. For a narrow but far reaching light use the Cointaker narrow LED or their 2 or 4 LED bulbs, which both have narrow focused beams.
  5. Comet pinball's Optix Maximus spotlight spreads light over 300 degrees and is probably the brightest spotlight.  It works well across multiple applications.

Bumpers and Lanes

  1. Although there are bumper LED's available (see Image 6) I prefer a frosted or 170 LED matched to the color of the bumper/lane.

Exposed Bulbs (over ramps, etc.)

  1. Use a frosted 1 or 2 LED bulb of the appropriate color.
  2. You will have to modify the condom if you still want to use it, although to me it looks fine without it.

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LED Reference Guide
LED Reference Guide
LED Reference Guide
LED Reference Guide
LED Reference Guide
LED Reference Guide
LED Reference Guide