Reviewed by Chris Rhoads
August 7, 2016
The life of a yo-yo reviewer is not all that glamorous. We do not get to keep every yo-yo we review, not by a long shot. Quite a bit of the time, I purchase the yo-yos myself for review and then trade or sell them off to get more yo-yos to review. Sometimes, I will approach a company and ask them if I can borrow a yo-yo for review and then send it back, and sometimes companies will pop up and ask me if I would like to review a new product of theirs. The last case is what happened with today’s review of the Pioneer. Yoyofriends is a brand new company based in China with a new yo-yo to market. The Pioneer is designed by company owner Jacky Huang, who brings ten years of machining experience to this new project. As we know, machining experience does not necessarily translate to making a quality yo-yo, so it is time to see if this new start up is to the task at hand.
• Diameter: 57.1 mm
• Width: 441. mm
• Gap: 4.4 mm
• Weight: 65.56 grams
• Bearing: Center Trac
• Response: generic 19mm pad
The Pioneer is a rounded wing profile design with large rims that transition straight V-Shape catch zone that eschews the step out when it reaches the gap, instead opting for a near zero walled design and string centering bearing that aids in keeping the string off the walls. The cup shows off a step in rim that helps distribute the weight a little better while keeping it mostly at the rims. There is no IGR to speak of and the rest of the cup wall is just a straight shot down to the flat, hub less floor. Comfort wise, the Pioneer is decently comfortable in the hand but I would have preferred rounded edges. The flat edge on the Pioneer is rather harsh during play. The blast finish on the Pioneer is smooth to the touch and extends all the way to the floor of the cup which should allow for some extended finger spins. One thing about the finish that bothers me a little bit is the colors. They seem to be a little muted. I would have preferred much brighter colors that pop during play. Over all this is a decent design that plays it safe, which is not a bad thing when you are a new company starting out.
The Pioneer sits squarely in the middleweight category at just over 65.5 grams. It is zippy on the string thanks to it being such yo-yo with most of its weight being distributed to the rims. It is stable during play with little to no issues when going off axis.
Response and Bearing
The response is a generic, clear silicone 19mm pad that does a decent job with binds. One odd thing I noticed about these pads is that the ones installed in my review unit have a distinctly chemical smell to them. Now, I don’t normally go around huffing yo-yo responses but this was strong enough that I noticed it when I took the yo-yo apart to inspect the bearing.
The bearing is a large Center Trac bearing. I think we all know my views on string centering bearings. As I have said before, the Center Trac bearings are the ones I find most tolerable. One issue with the Pioneer, that I found was that the bearing posts are extremely tight. This makes it difficult to unscrew the yo-yo and remove the bearing. Over time this could cause for some inconsistent play as the post will begin to gall after repeated opening of the yo-yo.
The Pioneer is smooth on the string with light and nimble play. It plays well at medium at a medium pace with no problems ramping up to faster play styles. As I said above with the design, the play feels safe. It handles all the tricks you could throw at it and with ease. The yo-yo works well in horizontal and standard play and is not too big to jump from string to string in tight combos. Grinds are a stand out feature on this yo-yo. It is easy to control on the arm, palm, and finger. Thumb grinds can be performed when the yo-yo is thrown at a slight angle, even though there is not IGR. Finger spins are a breeze thanks to the smooth finish being placed on the floor of the cup as well. I was able to control the finger spins for the most part but I am not as experienced as most so I had problems keeping my finger tip in the center of the cup.
I know this came up many times in the review but it bears repeating, this is a safe yo-yo. It isn’t going to stand out amongst the higher end yo-yos on the market, or even in the sub $50 market where it will go up against the smaller diameter YYF offerings of the Shutter, Too-Hot, and Genesis. If Yoyofriends could get it down to a $40 or less price point, it would be a great buy for anyone wanting a well machined all around player. As is, it is going to be hard pressed to overcome the buzz of yo-yos in the same price point from higher profile manufacturers.