Duncan Freehand Zero Review.


#1

After FoolsGoldDigger’s review of the Freehand Pro I decided to give a Freehand yoyo a try. So I went to my friendly neighborhood toy/yoyo/kendama store who also support our local skill toy club, the “Yolex” club. I purchased a Duncan Freehand Zero with the 3 counterweights as well as the new Yo Yo Factory responsive Replay.

I’m still looking for a good quality responsive yoyo that’s not too responsive. That is, I want to be able to do at least a trapeze without the yoyo either snapping back immediately or having the spin die immediately.

First of all, the price in the store was $26 which seemed really high. They then told me it was on sale for $16.95 which is a reasonable price point for this yoyo. That is, it’s a price point which matches up pretty closely to what you can buy it for online. Is it actually worth $16.95 is another question entirely.

You can see the specs here on YYE. The most interesting spec is the weight which is listed at 65 grams although it feels much lighter.

Responsiveness: Wow, this thing is so responsive that it’s almost useless as a trick yoyo. When I took it apart there was sort of a thick goo on the bearing and spacers. After cleaning this off it was only slightly better. There are, however, extra spacers you can swap out but the spacers included make the gap even tighter. This is a consistent quandary I have with Duncan yoyos. The whole point of the Flipside I bought for my grand daughter was that you can flip the bearings to change the responsiveness. Flipping the bearings changed the yoyo from “very responsive” to “very slightly less responsive”. The bearing upgrade for the Metal Drifter also only changed it from “very responsive” to “very slightly less responsive”. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Response pads: Oh man! It uses those friction stickers that I hate so much. On the Metal Drifter my grand daughter wore out those pads in a matter of weeks. They just don’t last. But maybe I should look at it this way: If I clean the bearing and let the pads wear out I might have a yoyo that doesn’t snap back at the first sign of slack. The yoyo might actually become useful. But is that what I really want? Do I want a yoyo where, if I remove one response pad and break it in for hours, only then does it become playable? As a contrast, every YYF yoyo I own was playable right out of the box. Now that I think of it, that’s been true for every other brand of yoyo I own except for Duncan.

Spin time is measured in seconds. Double digit seconds if you’re lucky. It’s unfortunate for the Freehand that I bought a Replay the same day. By comparison the Replay, which is cheaper but doesn’t include the 3 counterweights, spins almost as long as the Replay Pro. The Replay feels better in the hand, has a weight that feels more like a yoyo than a toy, it responds when you want it to with very little unexpected snap back, it’s just a vastly better yoyo. After an hour of throwing the Freehand it started to loosen up a bit. But it’s still just a super responsive yoyo with short spin times.

The Freehand Zero is obviously designed for 5A tricks. I mean, it even comes with 3 counterweights. Maybe I just don’t get why you’d want a super responsive yoyo if you’re learning 5A tricks. That makes no sense to me at all.

There’s a plastic trash bag in my closet which I call “The bag of shame”. It contains the yoyos that didn’t make the cut; yoyos that reduce the fun rather than increase the fun. They may be good giveaway yoyos for a kid who wants to learn, but they’re not worth playing with when I have yoyos which are so much better in my collection. Although there are a few different brands of yoyos in the bag of shame, is it a coincidence that every Duncan yoyo I own has ended up in that bag?

Summary: I just don’t get it. I have no idea why this is a popular yoyo. It doesn’t excel in any way. It feels light and toy-like in the hand, it responds way too quickly, it just doesn’t make sense as a freehand 5A yoyo. In my opinion the only thing worth keeping were the counterweights. Put the rubber ball counterweight on a Replay Pro and you have a darn good 5A rig for about the same amount of money.


#2

Probably not a great yoyo for someone who wants instant perfection, or a solid responsive yoyo (that will stay responsive without maintenance)

I find removing one sticker is a pretty good fix, but I do agree that duncan frictions stickers aren’t great.

My advice would be- forget trying to make it a great responsive throw. Clean the bearing with mineral spirits, add a tiny drop of thin lube, remove both pads and scrape off the annoying adhesive. Pop one 21mm yyf silicone pad in it, and enjoy. Trust me and try this setup before you banish it to the bag of shame. It won’t be responsive but it will play nicely.

The fhz can be a great yoyo with a little work, which I always found fun.


#3

Replace the friction stickers with duncan sili stickers. Makes a world of difference in wear.


#4

^^This’ll make a difference. Most folks who were wild about them had them modified - either with a silicone recess or a pad recess. Modifying them makes a world of difference.


#5

I love mine, for no reason but that is the FHZ.
Bt I have mine moded for silicone respone.


#6

I like that you did this review. In fact, I was thinking of doing a FHZ review too. But anyways…

^^^ the above is where things went wrong, aha! Because unfortunately, as you found out, the Freehand Zero is pretty responsive. I really don’t like the Duncan friction stickers either. It’s too bad that when they re-did the FHZ a ways back Duncan didn’t improve the original design with a standard silicone response that could take silicone pads or flowable silicone. As already said, the way to go is an FHZ modded for silicone response.

I used to have two FHZ with silicone and I loved them. Right now I just have a stock FHZ and I keep thinking of getting it modded.

But even with silicone response, this the FHZ tilts really quickly at low RPM. Basically, it’s not a stable yoyo at all. But also that’s why it helped make me be more careful with my string alignment.

Essentially, the FHZ used to be what many of the top players used to use (Escolar, Yuuki, Jason Lee, and so on) and made tricks on but now it is way out-performed in its price range. Basically, I would only recommend an FHZ for those that want to practice on a yoyo that is not so forgiving. Low spin times, unstable, and a bad response system. I love the FHZ and need to get mine modded. The stock response is the weakest aspect of the FHZ by far. Great as a yoyo to use for smoothing out tricks but maybe too frustrating for those expecting more modern performance.


#7

And playability…


#8

Oops, I think I’m confusing the friction stickers and silicone stickers. I believe I’m using the latter actually, though I’m not at home to check. I just don’t like how the response is not flush on the FHZ.


#9

The sili stickers are slim enough that unless you are looking for recessed response the stickers are almost flush.


#10

You have to also remember that the FHZ is an extremely old yoyo. The replay came out this year and the FHZ was around 2005ish. For its time, the FHZ was groundbreaking. Nowadays its more of a novelty collector’s item than a playable yoyo. At least to today’s standards of play. The best part of the FHZ is its modd-ability. You can buy custom FHZ spacers that make it unresponsive. Or get a pair of SPR’s to make it use a size C bearing. You can silicone recess it or use the silicone pads. And the Performance rings from duncan really make the yoyo excel. If you want a FHZ to play to today’s standards, it is definitely possible, you just need to put in the mod work.

Imagine getting a 1960’s sedan to drive at today’s MPG standards. It would be impossible stock, but if you do some work on the engine, transmission, and fuel injectors, anything is possible.


#11

Great review.
If it doesnt work,nope;chuck it.


#12

This is very true, as are the comments about comparing what was cutting edge 10 years ago vs. what’s cutting edge now. That difference in standards for modern yoyos should probably have been the key point in my review. I just didn’t realize that the FHZ was such an old yoyo.

So maybe a better way of phrasing it is this: The FHZ was a great yoyo for it’s time, but there are so many better yoyos for the same price today that the FHZ can simply no longer keep up. Unless you’re looking to experience the historical aspect of this yoyo (that is, how did the greats do their tricks with a yoyo which is so difficult (by today’s standards) to use) then this yoyo isn’t worth adding to your collection.


#13

Great review… That is how I felt when I got a FHZ fresh out of the packaging and gave it a throw. I thought, this thing sucks compared to what I had read about it.

Then one day I went to the General’s house (Ernie K) and met Alex Lee who had a modded FHZ. That thing played way better than stock! Since then I have a small collection of FHZ’s and FH2’s (about a dozen or so) that are some of my favorite players! Sili-recessed, large bearings and stock small bearings and plain stock with the duncan sili-pad… Again ALL great players.

Like everyone else said… take those Friction stickers out (or leave 1 used/“dead” friction pad in it on one half) and add a Duncan replacement Silicone Pad to the other half of the yoyo. Clean the bearing and play it dry OR with 1 tiny, TINY drop of thin lube.

Let us know what you think then if you get a chance :wink:


#14

Actually, I cleaned the bearing and then gave the yoyo to a friend’s son who saw me playing yoyo and wanted to give it a try. So it’s in good hands now :wink:


#15

Gotta try a good modded one. Nothing beats a sili recessed FHZ. Well, a lot of things do, but you get the point.


#16

Indeed. Nothing beats a sili recessed FHZ, even though a lot of things technically beat a sili recessed FHZ. Technically schmecnically.


#17

I think the whole “the FHZ sucks stock” is a little over played.  There have been how many contests won on a stock FHZ?  Yuuki won with one I know.  Danny Severance was  amazing with his!  Spencer, Paul, and many others invented numerous tricks on a stock FHZ.

Many more, but the point is it’s not the yoyo that’s the problem.  So many ways to play a FH, stock, dead stickers, only 1 sticker, sili recess, sticker recess, add weight rings, etc.  May just be the best yoyo ever designed (and mod’d)


(major_seventh) #18

Mine is a silicone modded, but the stock gap was a little too wide for the narrow response grooves to give nice, snappy binds.

I sanded down one of the spacers on concrete and voila! I love this thing.

By the way, does anyone know the best way of removing FHZ caps? And once removed, can they simply be popped back in?


#19

Sometimes you can take it apart and use the bolt to push them out. I usually just take my pocket knife and catch the edge and pry it out, it doesn’t take much. Yes they just pop back in.


(major_seventh) #20

Cool, thanks.