How to fix strobing and blinking bulbs in your pinball machine

Posted by Ryan Wanger on

The situation is this: you’ve installed LEDs into your early solid state Bally or Stern machine, and now some inserts have started blinking even though they’re supposed to be solid. What now?

Blame the LED technology of course! The voltage isn’t consistent at the socket and LEDs bulbs will unfortunately dim instantly (rather than an incandescent, which took so long to dim when the voltage dropped that you didn’t notice a thing). This is similar to the problem of ghosting (link to ghosting post), which happens when an unlit bulb flickers subtly. But thankfully, Comet Pinball can come to your rescue, with one of three different options:

  • Flux bulbs: These bulbs have a built -in capacitor which stores a charge, so that when the voltage drops, they continue to shine. This is the simplest and cheapest option if you are only experiencing the issue on a few inserts. The bulbs themselves cost about $1 more than a comparable standard bulb, and your style choices are limited. 
  • Flicker Eliminator Board: This is a series of small circuit boards that you install into the lamp driver in your backbox. It can be installed in about 5 minutes without any soldering, and, as the name suggests, will eliminate any flickering and strobing issues. With this, you can use any style of LED you want. In our opinion, this board is the best mix of convenience and cost. They cost $45-90 depending on the game, but installation will be quicker, and it will likely cost less than buying flux bulbs for every controlled light.

  • Yoppsicles: These special “bulbs” will replace your entire socket with a bright LED that won’t have any strobing issues. This is a great option for someone who has lots of flaky sockets, and has the time and soldering skills to completely replace them, giving a major face-lift to the underside of the playfield.

Regardless of which route you choose, you’ll be able to say bon voyage to inserts that can’t seem to stay solidly lit on early solid state Bally and Stern machines.

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