A look at Suzo Joysticks

This is a review about the classic "Suzo joysticks", that where made by the Suzo Trading Company in Rotterdam. Suzo is well known as manufacturer of arcade hardware components, but in the 80's and early 90's also made atari compatible joysticks for use with home computers, like the C64, MSX, Atari, Spectrum, Amiga and several other systems.

Many of these home computers had 1 or 2 joystick ports that where compatible with the joystick standard of the atari 2600 gameconsole. This was a very simple standard, because it's a digital interface with only 1 firebutton. Almost all homecomputers (and sega gameconsoles like the mastersystem and megadrive/genesis) took this connection as base and added their own additional buttons and/or fuctions to it.

The VIC 20 and the C64 only supported 1 firebutton, but the MSX, Amstrad, AtariST and Amiga 2 firebuttons. The Amstrad and MSX used a different pin (I believe it's pin 7) for the second firebutton, but the AtariST, Amiga and Sega Mastersystem used pin 9. The joysticks from Suzo used the MSX connection for the second button (can be easily changed with a simple adapter), because the MSX was very populair in the Netherlands, wich the Suzo joysticks also came from.

These joysticks are often said to be one of the best home computer joysticks ever made, because of their durable construction. Often original atari joysticks and those for Commodore did not last very long. Also the Quickshot/Quikjoy and Cheetah joysticks weren't so durable and would quickly break down when sports games like declathon where played with it. Generally the Suzo joysticks had a metal construction, wich made them very sturdy. Unfortunatly the competition pro 9001 has a cheap plastic stick, wich I think is very Suzo-unworthy (probably a cost cutting measure???).

As far as I know Suzo's first joystick was the competition pro, wich I don't have myself. It exists in a leaf and microswitch version. After that, they came with the The arcade and the The arcade Turbo. These joysticks are my personal favorites, and I think their the best they've made. However, what I find odd is why The Arcade Turbo has a leaf switch firebutton, and the regular version a much better microswitch fire button.

Besides these joysticks they had another series, the prof competition series, that probably replaced the competition pro series. It exists in these versions, the prof competition 9000/9001 and the three button prof competition 9000/9000 deluxe. These sticks where probably released to compete against cheaper competitors. Unfortunatly these lack the build-quality of the older competition pro. They have a different construction, the competition pro had a real arcade assembly, but the prof competition was derived of "The arcade" series in terms of construction. I find the feel of the prof competition series to be less then "The aracade" series. They lack the ability to comfortably hold them in your hands (they have to be put on a table) and lack the smoothness of the older competition pro series.

What I noticed especially about the Suzo joysticks is that they started out really well quality wise, but in the course of years started cutting cost and thus on the quality of the components. The competition pro and the original The arcade where very well built, but as it goes with many great products, some manager gets the bright idea that they can make more money by replacing the microswitch fire button with the much cheaper leaf switch. This should not be taken too negatively, because the quality of all their models was still miles ahead of the competition. That doesn't lessen the fact that I find the prof competition 9000/9001 to be the weakest product of the series. This is because of the leaf switches and the plastic core of the stick. The downside of using leaf switches is that they initially are very stiff, but can get very sloppy over time. Microswitches have a much better feel.

Apparently I'm not the only one who noticed this, see also this forum discussion. What's also remarkable is that an identical looking joystick can have different features by difference in build-year. I've got two "Arcade Turbo's", the first one (left) is built in 1991 (there's factory label on the inside), where the switch swaps the two buttons. The wiring is for the MSX. The second one (right) from 1988 behaves differently, here there's only one button active. On two photo's the front and rear side of the pcb's are displayed. (Update 13-08-2012: there is no difference, but the resistors have different values. The "msx one" has a 150K resistor, and the other one a 270K resistor, my usb adapter behaved couldn't detect the button with a 270K value, so I changed it to 150K and now it's fine). I wonder why there are two versions in existance, or that they changed the design later on. I also saw that there is a version of "The arcade" with leaf switches, however both mine have microswitches. (clip from gamingallsorts). Who knows more about this (former suzo employees/product designers), I'm very curious in the history of the product series and the design choices.

On a dutch Commodore forum I stubled onto this thread, the pcb's for leaf switches are also suitable for microswitches! I investigated my own "The Arcade" joysticks, but these seem to have an older pcb revision, wich is not suitable for both design options. My two "The Arcade turbo's" with leaf switches do have an option for microswitches. I think that at some point, they wanted to cut down on the cost, but wanted to keep the option to choose betweeen two design versions, that they could easily revert in case the leaf switch construction would not perform well enough (I'm very curious about this).

The specs:

    - 9 pin db9 connection, (atari standaard).
    - The two button versions are specially wired for msx computers.
    - Some models have a fire button with microswitch instead of a leaf switch.
    - The prof competition 9000 deluxe has suction cups.
    - There also exists a PC game adapter, from Suzo to connect the joysticks to the analog gameport of older pc's.
    - Click here, for a comparison of specifications of the different models that I have.
    - Click here, for an indepth look at the model revision of "the arcade" (not the turbo version).
    - Click here, for a firebutton modification of a 22-2602 board revision.
    - There also exists a beige version of The arcade, specially for the VIC 20 and C64.

    - Atari 2600 joystick pinouts
    - Atari 7800 joystick pinouts
    - C64 joystick pinouts
    - AMSTRAD joystick pinouts
    - MSX joystick pinouts
    - AtariST joystick pinouts
    - Amiga joystick pinouts
    - Sega mastersystem joystick pinouts

Suzo line up

competition pro 9000 deluxe

competition pro 9001

Verschillende sticks

Schakel mechanisme

The arcade met microswitch

The arcade turbo met leaf switch

Detail van de rapid fire fuctie

Schakelaartje onderkant

C64 versie

C64 versie

C64 versie

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