For some people, quiet buttons on their home arcade sticks are a must. Whether it’s because they play late at night when everyone is asleep, or they live in a small apartmant complex where the sound of buttons can easily be heard by neighbors, these folks need a way to muffle the sound of the buttons on their arcade sticks. Arcade buttons however, were originally meant to be used in noisy arcades where there really was no need to make them quieter. While companies like Sanwa have offered silent buttons for a premium, it has often fallen to the community to create solutions for this. Enter Pei and his HBFS series of buttons.
In 2012, Pei decided to take matters into his own hands by crowdfunding his original HBFS-30 silent buttons on Indiegogo. Using a combination of padding and technology originally used in mechanical keyboards, the HBFS-30 (or HBFS30-G1, as it is now called) was a hit and the donation drive was a success. Now, a year later, Pei (with the help of Gamerfinger) is back with a second generation button, the HBFS30-G2, which we have obtained copies of for this exclusive Shoryuken review.
The HBFS30-G2 is an evolution of the previous HBFS30-G1 button. It features the same unique hexagonal shape, padded clear plunger and Cherry MX micro switch as the previous model. The main difference lies in the adapter system for the Cherry MX switch. Whereas the G1 required a separate external adapter that plugged into the bottom of the button, the new G2 has the adapter built into the housing of the stick. This deals with the main issue with the G1, wherein vigorous play would often shake the adapter loose in the middle of a match. With the new built-in adapter, any risk of this happening is gone.
As with most arcade buttons, the HBFS30-G2 is made of high-quality ABS plastic. Just from the feel alone, you can tell that these are some tough buttons – maybe even too tough, as the locking tabs on either side do not have as much give as an equivalent Sanwa button. This means that inserting and removing them from a stick takes a bit more elbow grease than normal. The same can be said for the locking pegs that hold the transparent top cap in place.
As for the micro switches themselves, the Cherry MX switches are widely renowned for their quality and longevity, and are guaranteed for 50 million presses by Cherry themselves – more than the stock switches in Sanwa or Seimitsu buttons.
To achieve its low sound output, the HBFS30 line uses a combination of padding and quieter Cherry micro switches to minimize the noise coming from the buttons. In testing the G2, we performed the same test that we did with the pre-production HBFS30-G1 last year. We checked the noise level from from the buttons (HBFS30-G2s using both Cherry MX Red and Blue buttons with a Sanwa OBSF-30 for comparison) from three different distances: point blank, one foot away and three feet away.
This time however, we mounted the buttons on a Razer Atrox Arcade Stick. We also had access to a room used by professional radio DJs for recording voice overs to do the testing (which should account for the lower values seen here than in the previous test). The software used was Sound Meter for Android. Results are as follows:
OBSF-30 – 77db
HBFS30-G2 (Cherry MX Red) – 69db
HBFS30-G2 (Cherry MX Blue) – 68db
1 foot away
OBSF-30 – 64db
HBFS30-G2 (Cherry MX Red) – 52db
HBFS30-G2 (Cherry MX Blue) – 54db
3 feet away
OBSF-30 – 58db
HBFS30-G2 (Cherry MX Red) – 43db
HBFS30-G2 (Cherry MX Blue) – 46db
As we can see, the HBFS30-G2 is clearly quieter than the stock Sanwa button. More importantly, the muffled sound doesn’t seem to travel as far as that of the stock OBSF-30, with the noise level greatly dropping off as the distance from the button increases. This is important as it means that the sound from these buttons is less likely to reach other people within the same household.
The HBFS-30 comes with a clear cap that allows for art inserts to match the top panel art of any stick. Meanwhile, the Cherry MX micro switches can be switched out to suit the users desired feel. The default red switch offers the least resistance and quietest actuation. However, those preferring a more tactile feel can switch to the blue or brown switches, and those wanting a less sensitive button can simply use the black one.
In addition to all of this, the bottom of the buttons has holes for mounting LED lights for those inclined to do so.
As previously stated, the feel of the HBFS30-G2 can be changed depending on the type of Cherry MX micro switch used. The samples sent to us had both the red and blue micro switches. Among the four available types, these are probably the closest in feel to the Sanwa OBSF-30. The main difference is that the blue switch has a tactile “bump” in the middle. Folks who prefer a bit more feedback on their buttons will likely prefer these over the red ones.
The HBFS30-G2 will retail for$5.99 over at the Gamerfinger shop, but those who pre-order can purchase them for a reduced price of $4.99. This price is slightly higher than one would expect to pay for a similar clear or skeleton button (both the Sanwa OBSC-30 and Seimitsu PS-14-KN go for about $4-$5 depending on where you buy them). It’s also slightly higher than that of silent buttons from Sanwa (the solid coloured OBSFS-30 goes for $4 and the clear OBSCS-30 is $5). The extra cost can be justified, however, by comparing it to the cost of other buttons with similar long life buttons. Sanwa OBSF-30RGs go for about $6-$7 depending on where you buy them, so compared to that the HBFS30-G2 is actually quite a good value, especially when you add the quietness factor and the ability to customize the feel of the button.
Overall, the HBFS30-G2 is an excellent piece of hardware. It takes the already impressive HBFS30-G1 and improves on that model’s one major flaw. While the button may seem a bit pricey compared to the stock buttons from Sanwa or Seimitsu, it’s not bad when you consider all the features and compare it to other top of the range long life buttons. This is a great product that shows what can be done when the community steps up to solve a problem.
- Quieter than stock buttons.
- Cherry MX buttons will last a long time.
- Built-in adapter for the Cherry MX switches won’t fall off in the middle of a match.
- Can change feel of buttons depending on microswitch selected.
- Built-in holes for LED mods.
- Hard to install due to hard plastic tabs.
- Slightly more expensive than the silent buttons from Sanwa.
The HBFS30-G2 is currently available for pre-order through the Gamerfinger online store. Planning on getting a set? Share your thoughts on the comments below.