By Kevin Steele
Update April, 2004: I added a photo of my results using the 4-LED Red Lamps in the coin door.
If you've read my review of GloWire.com's Lazer LED products, you already know I'm a big fan of these new light sources. Far brighter than yesterday's LEDs, the new ultrabright LEDs open up a new world of possibilities, especially when it comes to illuminating your arcade cabinet. They use less power and produce much less heat than incandescent lamps (an LED is typically 90% effective in turning electricity into light, an incandescent bulb is only about 10% effective). Plus, with a life span measured in decades rather than hours, LEDs are a "one-time" purchase for your cab. Install them and forget them.
When I decided to finally wire up the lights in my cabinet's coin door, I decided that I wanted to replace the stock incandescent lamps with LED equivalents. A quick search through Goggle lead me to superbrightleds.com (Red Line Inc.), which had a wide variety of 12 volt automotive LED replacement lamps for sale.
Since I was looking for a 12volt lighting solution anyway (since a PC power supply puts out 12 volts), this seemed an ideal solution, especially since they had LED bulbs that would fit the T 3-1/4 "wedge" sockets that was used in my Happ coin door.
SuperBrightLEDs prices were very reasonable (ranging from about 80 cents up to 2.50 or so), so I decided to order a variety of their T 3-1/4 wedge LED bulbs and test them to see which one I preferred. I ordered some single-LED white lamps, single-LED red lamps, 4-LED white lamps, and 4-LED ultraviolet ("black light") lamps. (They're listed on the site as 12V LED Car Bulbs, specifically #194/168 bulb replacements).
The company was very quick in filling my order, and I had the LEDs in my hands in only a couple of days.
Opening all the packages, I plugged each lamp into my newly-wired coin door lamp sockets (see "Wiring MAME Coin Door Lights" for full details). I found each lamp had good and bad points.
The single LED white lamp was compact, but not bright enough. The tip of the bulb is an "inverted cone" design, which is supposed to help diffuse the light and spread it evenly. It works, to a point. The light was still mainly focused straight forward, but there was some glow directly to the sides of the bulb. Unfortunately, it barely lit the coin door at all.
The 4-LED white lamp, on the other hand, was bright enough, but the beam was too focused - it was like shining a spotlight on just a part of the coin door button. The lamp also is not what I would consider "white" - it's more of a "bluish" white, more blue than white in my opinion.
The 4-LED ultraviolet lamp looked bright (and had that cool "black light" glow), but it really didn't do much to light the coin door - you could barely tell the coin door button was lit. I suspect that if the coin door insert had UV ink the LED would make it really glow, but without something to react to it, the ultraviolet LED just didn't work out.
The single LED red lamp turned out to be the most promising of all of the LED lamps I originally ordered. It was brighter than the white lamp, and the red light really brought out a rich, vibrant glow from the yellow plastic used in the coin door button. Unfortunately, the lamp was still not bright enough to really illuminate the coin door buttons, especially in a lit room.
Knowing I needed just a bit more red light, I ordered the 4-LED Red lamps, and the results are perfect — a deep, rich red glow, exactly what I was looking for:
Update: John Laur contacted me with his experience using other color 4-LED lamps from SuperBrightLEDs, and I've got to say the results were impressive — check out the coin door with four different 4-LED lamps installed (and one 6-LED lamp for the trackball):
John's got an impressive MAME cabinet to house all those LEDs, as well — be sure to check out his MAME cabinet site for more pictures and details!
SuperBrightLEDs has reasonably priced products, a 30-day money back guarantee, a one-year warranty, and a technical support via email. They even offer a "bulb exchange" in case you need a different type than what you ordered. If you're looking for a long-lasting, cool solution to lighting your MAME cabinet, be sure to check them out.