What Was That Loud Sound?!

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While playing pinball, or while hanging out at an arcade where pinball machines are present, it’s common to hear a loud BANG! It’s a sound so loud and so sudden it can make people jump out of their shoes and look over their shoulder as if they broke something! I want to assure you, that sound is a good thing! But what is it, and what does it mean? Read on to find out!

What is that sound?

That loud knocking sound is caused by a device inside the pinball machine known simply as a knocker. Knockers have been installed in pinball machines since the beginning as a mechanical way of producing a loud sound that contrasted with the melodic chimes and ringing bells. Like most pinball mechanics, the device is basically a metal rod pulled by a type of electromagnet called a solenoid.  When the solenoid is activated, the metal rod slams into the pinball cabinet or a metal plate for the sole purpose of creating that wonderful sound.

Backbox knocker assembly mounted in a modern pinball machine's backbox

A typical knocker assembly mounted in a modern pinball machine’s backbox.

When does it happen?

There are two main instances when the knocker goes off. The first is when a player earns a Replay (a free game) by achieving a specific score set on that machine. The Replay score is also a reasonable benchmark on if you had a “good game.” With scoring values all over the place from game to game, the Reply value is a consistently reliable marker to assess your score.

Even the “old fashioned” electro mechanical pinball machines have a knocker mechanism that will fire when you hit the replay score. Sometimes he whole entire goal of playing an electro mechanical game is to win replays, so the sound of that knocker is the sound of victory!

The other time when you’ll hear a knocker go off is when a player wins the Match sequence at the end of their game. You can learn more about the Match feature in this article. This occurs randomly and unexpectedly and is usually the time when people seem to get caught off guard. So, pay attention to the end of game Match Sequence. Don’t leave a free game on the machine and don’t get surprised by the knocker sound!

Why is it so loud?

Arcades are typically pretty loud places, so if you’re trying to make an announcement, you need to get over the top of all of that ambient noise. The whole point of a knocker is to let everyone in the arcade know “we have a winner!”

So, the next time you’re playing pinball and you make a machine make that knocker sound, don’t be afraid! Smile, knowing that everyone in the arcade now knows that you are officially awesome!