What Is The Best Pinball Rubber? A Look At The Market
Pinball technology has moved on a lot over the years. So now, more than ever, it is worth looking at the debate. What is the best pinball rubber on the market in today? We will take a deeper dive into pinball rubbers available on the market in the UK, and what the options are out there for your pinball machine. Let’s start with the outline question…
The answer to this this subjective. Many people will want to only use the same rubbers that the machine was made with. This is classic “pinball rubber.” Others will use silicone based rubber alternatives as it has many benefits over rubber, but still gives an incredibly close feel to standard rubber. Polyurethane alternatives are much more robust, but many have complained the feeling is vastly different to classic rubber.
So to that point, we have three options within this write up. Classic Pinball Rubber. Silicone pinball rubber replacements and polyurethane pinball rubber replacements. To determine the best, we will rank it from highest to lowest with a simple method. Best. Middle. Worst. Remember, this is our own opinion, we have used all three and based on our own preference in terms of all of the pros and cons. For example. If someone is a purist, the fact that classic pinball rubber is the only one it was shipped with. For them. That makes it the best pinball rubber you can get without any other options.
Classic Pinball Rubber
When it comes to being a purist, the classic pinball rubber is the only choice. Right? Classic pinball rubbers come in a small range and they aren’t even colours. Classic pinball rubber gives you two choices. White and black. The only difference to this is the flipper rubbers themselves, where you get a bit more… flexibility.
The Difference In Colours
The difference between the “colours” (we are waiting for the comment, white and black are of course, the absence of colour :P) of pinball rubbers and their behaviours on the playfield is the amount of bounce you will get from each. The general rule of thumb with classic pinball rubber is simple. The lighter the colour, the more bouncy the rubber. So white was generally the go to colour for ElectroMechanical games where you had shallower playfields. This lighter colour white and more intense bounce would cause more confusion and chaos on the barer playfield.
Compare this to the now seemingly standard black colour rubber used on modern games, you can see why there was the change. Pinball play is now much more about maintaining control and shot accuracy. Playfields are generally steeper meaning the bounce isn’t the only element that can cause a drain. The games have a lot more closer toys and mechs that can send the ball back quickly too. This reliance on control is characterised by elements such as wireforms returning the ball back to the flipper.
Classic Flipper Rubbers Colours
Classic colours on a flipper are generally black, red and yellow. Again, the above rule of bounce comes into play. Black would afford the player the most amount of time and control on the ball. Yellow will make the flipper bounce and accuracy more erratic. Of course, you never tend to see white flippers made of classic rubber, which leads us onto the fact that…
Classic Flipper Rubber Makes Games Dirtier Quicker
This is a known known. When the rubber starts to perish, it makes a game dirtier. This is more true with black pinball rubber. However it is always going to happen no matter the colour. Imagine having a white pinball flipper rubber and how filthy that would get and quickly.
Pros, Cons and Rating of Standard Pinball Rubber
- Purists Dream – whilst in our opinion there is no noticeable difference between natural rubber pinball rubber and silicone, purists want what a game was shipped with. Especially if you have a mint restored woodrail or the like.
- Price – Classic pinball rubber is extremely cost effective if you are purely looking at the initial cost price. Depending on your ownership, this may diminish over time.
- It perishes quicker – Comparative to modern alternatives, classic pinball rubber perishes much quicker. When you have to remove a lot of the game to get to some areas. This may be a negative.
- It‘s dirty – Because classic pinball rubber perishes a lot quicker than modern alternatives, it does make your game dirtier quicker.
- It’s hard to clean – you can wipe it down, but it is hard to do and due to how it perishes, over time that accelerates the process.
- Colour choice is limited – You get two choices, black or white – apart from the flippers. That may not be enough for people looking to mod their games.
We rate classic pinball rubber as the middle pinball rubber you can buy. It’s feel is synonymous with pinball, but others get just as close to that feel. How dirty it get and how quickly it perishes means in a modern world, for us, it isn’t the best option. You can buy classic pinball rubber readily in the UK from the UK’s number one new in box pinball supplier – Pinball Heaven.
Silicone Pinball Rubber Replacement – The Best Pinball Rubber
Silicone wasn’t the next big innovation in pinball rubber technology. Polyurethane came next. What silicone did was bridge the gap between what polyurethane achieved for the longevity and look of pinball rubber. However, most importantly, it still felt like pinball rubber to play. There are two major players in the Silicone Pinball market – Titan Pinball and Perfect Play. I have used both and would like to conduct a coke test for those who can tell the difference.
New Colours, Old Feel
As eluded to above. What silicone rubber replacements did for pinball was immense, especially for people looking to mod their games. PerfectPlay have a range of 9 colours available, whereas Titan have a total of 10 (a very fetching baby blue it has to be said, that PerfectPlay do not offer). Silicone pinball rubbers will give you a negligible difference between the classic feel. If you can notice it at all. As well as a slew of other benefits.
Longevity and Cleanliness
Another major benefit of silicone pinball rubber replacements is that they will last much much longer. Silicone will not crack over time to the extent that rubber will. When pinball rubber perishes onto your playfield, it makes the game dirty. Silicone replacements will not shed the same level of dirt and grime over your game. That’s not to say they won’t get dirty. They will. Just not as dirty as with standard rubber.
The Price Implication
Silicone rubber replacements are more expensive than standard pinball rubber and unless you own the game long enough to change the rubber twice on a game. Which could be a couple of years or more. You won’t personally see that benefit. Of course, when you come to sell, the buyer might be thanking you for the extra effort and money spent.
Pros, Cons and Rating of Silicone Pinball Rubber
- A huge range of options – with a minimum of 9 colour choices available, whichever your chosen flavour of silicone ring. Rest assured there is a colour to suit.
- Longevity – It has to be said that silicone will last longer than classic pinball rubber.
- Negligible play difference – if you can notice a difference in play between silicone and natural rubber, and I am assured there is some, it is negligible compared to others on the market.
- Price – there is a marginal increase in price against your standard pinball rubber options when choosing a silicone alternative.
- Play – some people will say there is a difference, and you cannot argue that. I have to say I do notice a difference when re-rubbering a pinball machine with silicone, the game becomes more lively. However, that happens when you re-rubber a game with standard rubbers too. Older rubber loses its liveliness.
We rate silicone pinball rubber as the best pinball rubber you can buy. In our opinion, silicone is the only choice given its look, feel and overall performance. You can buy PerfectPlay Replacement Pinball Rubber from the Pinball Bazaar.
Polyurethane – Not The Best Pinball Rubber
Well, we have got to this point so it has to be said. Polyurethane is not the best pinball rubber on the market. What it did for the pinball community was to open its eyes to the possibility for new options. Brand names such as SuperBands bought out the possibility for new and exciting options in terms of colour. They also bought into sharp focus the need for a solid and hard wearing rubber alternative. Unfortunately, the feel of the product and higher price didn’t set the world alight compared to the silicone alternative.
Pros, Cons and Rating of Polyurethane Pinball Rubber
- Much more resilient than even silicone on a playfield, this will hold up the longest.
- A great range of colours, higher in some SKU’s than either major silicone supplier.
- Doesn’t win out in any of the key battleground for pinball rubber, namely price, look and feel, compared to its peers.
In our opinion, polyurethane is the worst pinball rubber on the market, whilst perfectly serviceable, it doesn’t win out in any of the key grounds.