Shoryuken review: Sanwa Denshi JLF Silent Joystick (3rd generation)

By on August 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm
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A silent stick that feels like it isn’t.

For some players, the loud click of joystick microswitches is part of the arcade stick experience; for others, that same clicking is a constant annoyance. There’s a bit of a niche market for the latter group, offering levers and pushbutton pads to quiet those noisy fightsticks down. There’s a strategic motivation as well: some opponents may be paying attention to your inputs as you play, and the sounds your controller makes only aids that approach — although that’s more a concern for the pushbuttons, rather than the lever.

Sanwa_Denshi_logoSanwa Denshi, a longtime arcade parts manufacturer and fan-favorite of the FGC, is usually the company that provides those noisy arcade components for your higher-end fightstick — commonly used by Qanba and Razer, and formerly MadCatz. They’re durable, reliable parts that generally justify their ubiquity. But Sanwa Denshi themselves have tried to offer noiseless levers for those interested, utilizing both optical technology and silent microswitches to accomplish the desired result. However, these prior levers have sacrificed the tactile resistance of the classic Sanwa microswitches in exchange for their silence; that’s where the latest 3rd generation silent JLF lever comes in.

Too little resistance in a lever can really throw your inputs off. You need to be able to feel that your execution is where it should be, especially without auditory feedback! So, the goal: offer a silent joystick that feels just like the good ol’ clicky ones. And Sanwa’s new “high tension” lever accomplishes exactly that.

Now, as a player, I didn’t consciously rely on the sound of my lever’s microswitches to aid my execution. So I didn’t think I would really notice any difference. But after installing the 3rd Generation Silent JLF sample (provided by Arcade Shock) in our HORI RAP.N, I was in for a bit of a surprise.

Installation was simple: it’s a Sanwa Denshi JLF in all regards except the new switches, so it’ll fit wherever you can mount a JLF without any modification, and has the usual five-pin connector. It’ll pop right into most HORI, Qanba, Razer, and MadCatz cases with no fuss.

In testing the lever, I was actually taken aback by the absence of the microswitch noise. The lever feels exactly like a typical JLF: same resistance, same springiness, same range of motion (using a default square gate) — but without the clicks, it was just… spooky! The joystick is effectively noiseless, save for the base of the lever itself hitting the gate edges. How much noise that makes will vary based on how rough you are with your lever, and how well sound carries through the inside of your fightstick’s case.

I tried playing Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 with the silent JLF installed, and as soon as I stopped being weirded out by the lack of sound, there was no perceivable difference in performance. It felt exactly like using a standard Sanwa JLF lever. You can hear the difference as demonstrated in Lemagicdude’s video below:

Is this lever for you? If you’re in the market to quiet down your fightstick, absolutely. The cost is significantly higher than a standard JLF however, currently $54.99 USD at Arcade Shock, as opposed to a mere twenty bucks for a basic JLF. Replacement gates (if you prefer an octagonal or circular gate) will fit on this model the same way they would on the basic JLF. You could even still use Phreakmods’ The Link custom shaft with this lever. Those a bit handier in their modding experience — and willing to drop about another fifty in extra cash — may instead want to look at the high customizablity of Paradise Arcade Shop’s “Project Magenta” optical lever; the extra work and cost will offer many more options in return. But if you like the feel and performance of a Sanwa JLF, this is a fairly economical and satisfactory option.

Pros:

  • Easy installation
  • Microswitches are completely silent, as advertised
  • Identical performance to the standard JLF model, with the same parts/installation compatibility

Cons:

  • Costs more than double the price of a standard JLF model

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Additional source: Lemagicdude via Arcade Shock

Shoryuken.com Editor-in-Chief and performing member of Kita no Taiko. Street Fighterin' since there was only a "II" in the name.