One Drop 54
Reviewed by Chris Rhoads
October 19, 2010
I have always been interested in the innovations and new ideas that come about in the hobbies that I follow. It stems from my upbringing as a science geek who loves seeing what is around the corner. While innovation is easy to spot for my first hobby, computers, it isn’t something that most people think of when you mention the yo-yo. For most, the yo-yo is still just two plastic or wooden concave shells held together by an axle with a string wrapped around it. It goes up and down and is something that kids outgrow when they are eight or so. Few know of the innovations made in the industry such as aircraft grade aluminum bodies, bearings used to extend spin times, automotive silicones used to decrease the yoyo’s ability to return with a tug, and the list keeps on growing from there. Every industry has its leaders of innovation; the yo-yo world is no exception. In my opinion, one of the bigger innovators in the field is One Drop Yo-Yos out of Eugene, Oregon. This quiet and unassuming Pacific Northwest based company has done some truly amazing things with their yo-yo designs over the years. They gave us the hex nut, and later brass nut, replaceable axle system used to strengthen the yo-yo and prevent stripping of the soft aluminum threads found in other manufactures’ designs. They gave us the Projection Profile, a series of small grooves cut into the body of the yoyo that reduces contact with the skin and extend grind times. Finally, they gave us the Soda Blast Finish that gives a unique look and feel to the yo-yo. Today I am tackling One Drop’s newest yo-yo, the 54. It is One Drop’s first entry in the full sized yo-yo category and it introduces the world to a brand new piece of yo-yo tech, Side Effects. I guess it is now time to see if the 54 and its innovations will take flight like the Wright Bros. or if it is going to leave an Oppenheimer sized crater in the yo-yo industry.
- Diameter: 54mm
- Width: 40.9mm
- Gap: 4.34mm
- Base Weight (two halves, response pad, bearing): 58.8 grams
- Weight with aluminum spikes: 63 grams
- Weight with brass domes: 66.4 grams
- Response: Flow Groove
- Bearing Size: One Drop 10 Ball
The 54 came packaged in One Drop’s standard brown cardboard box showcasing the One Drop logo on the top and the minimalist 54 logo on the front. One interesting little bit of text under the logo states in small white lettering “with Side Effects”. Before I go on to talk about the yo-yo itself I need to explain what Side Effects are. In simplest terms the Side Effects system is an interchangeable hub, axle, and bearing post system invented by One Drop and introduced in the 54. The benefits of this new system are numerous and go well beyond just changing the looks of the yo-yo. Swapping out Side Effects allows the end user to customize the weight and play style of the yo-yo, giving an unparalleled amount of versatility. So far only two types of Side Effects have been officially released, aluminum spikes and brass domes, but David and Shawn at One Drop have promised more to come in various shapes, sized, and materials. Moving on to the 54, as I mentioned earlier it is One Drop’s first entry in the full sized yo-yo market. For the profile of the 54, One Drop put aside their ridged Projection Profile and used a smooth walled, rounded catch zone paired with slightly slanted flat rims. The yo-yo fits comfortably in the hand with none of the harsh edges or stiff transitions that usually come with flat rims. The cups of the 54 are wide open and obstruction free. The standout features of the cups are the well in the center where the Side Effects rest. There is also a deep IGR cut into the underside of each rim. The finish of the yo-yo is One Drop’s new Pyramatte finish, which almost completely mimics a Soda Blast finish without having to actually blast the metal. The color choices for the yo-yo run the gamut of the color wheel and it is completely at the discretion of the purchaser as to which color combination they would like for their yo-yo. One thing I do need to mention is that the first release of the 54 is what One Drop considers NQP or Not Quite Production versions. Basically the yo-yos came back from the anodizer with small variations in the color that show up as tiny specks in the finish. Instead of scrapping the batch of yo-yos, One Drop decided to discount them by $15 and sell them as b-grades. Honestly, it is very hard to find the blemishes in the finish on my 54 and they do not affect the play. I applaud the company for being up front about the issue; this batch could have easily been sold as a-grade stock. The fact that One Drop manned up, went public with the issue, and sold these yo-yos at a discount speaks volumes about their dedication to making a high quality product.
Normally the weight section is an easy piece to write, but with the introduction of Side Effects we now have to do some math in order to figure out the weight. If you look in the Specs section you will see that the “Base Weight” of the yo-yo is listed. The base weight is the weight of just the two halves, the bearing and the pads. In order to get the final weight of the yo-yo you will need to know the base weight plus the weight of the side effects installed. At the moment the 54 comes with two sets of Side Effects, aluminums spikes that make the yo-yo 63 grams and brass domes that make it 66.4 grams. With the aluminum spikes installed you are treated to a light and floaty player. With the brass domes installed the 54 changes from light and floaty to solid and heavy hitting. It is amazing how a gram here or there can have such a dramatic affect on the overall play of the yo-yo.
Response and Bearing
The 54’s stock response is One Drop’s house brand of silicone pads. I find them to be extremely durable and long lasting. They can be a tiny bit snaggy for the first couple of throws but after the quick break in period they will give you incredible binds.
The bearing is the well-known and well-loved One Drop 10-Ball. What is there to say about it? It is a long lasting, quite, and smooth spinning bearing that has reached top status in pretty much every forum poll I have seen on YoYoNation. I usually replace the stock bearings in my non One Drop yo-yos with 10-Balls, that should give you an idea of what I think of them.
The tech behind the 54 is truly amazing. My first experience with the 54 was with a red prototype version. The difference between the prototypes and the retail run is that the protos came with brass spikes and aluminum spikes, also the prototypes do not have a groove cut into the well that locks the Side Effect into place. Other than that the base weight of the two yo-yos are identical. The brass spikes are still labeled as “unreleased” so One Drop will not publish the final weight on them but I can say that there is a noticeable difference in play when going from brass to aluminum spikes. With the brass installed the 54 is a solid and hard-hitting yo-yo that will power through tricks at a slower pace. I find them perfect for learning new tricks where speed can be a detriment to figuring out the nuances of the trick. The aluminum spikes give the 54 a speedier and floatier feel. The aluminum spike Side Effects are my preferred set up for everyday play. The reduced weight feels great on the string and allows for extended play sessions without the sense of fatigue that I get from a heavier yo-yo. For those of you that want a good middle of the road feel between the brass and aluminum spikes, the brass domes are the perfect setup for you. They give a good solid feel with a little bit of float on the string and a decent amount of speed during play. One last set of Side Effects that I have been given the opportunity to play are a prototype set of aluminum domes. They are again classified as “unreleased” so there are no published specs on them. From what I have observed during play, these are for the player who wants all-out speed. The domes are always lighter than the spikes of the same metal; I have kept the aluminum domes in my prototype 54 which I now dub my 54 Super-Light.
Now that I have gotten the Side Effects out of the way I should talk about the play of the yo-yo itself. The 54 is one of the smoothest yo-yos I have played to date. I have heard of “Torrent smooth” and I have personally experienced “Oxy smooth”. In time I can see people using “54 smooth” as a way to describe the feel of future yo-yos. The 54 is stable on the string, no matter what Side Effects are installed. During my play test of the 54 I learned a new trick that I saw in Aman Sircus’ latest video. In the video he does a green triangle where he intercepts the string with his knee. It is almost a Ninja Vanish off the kneecap. If done improperly I have noticed some of my other yo-yos become unstable on the string and need a bind and rethrow. With the 54 I can practice this trick over and over again with only the slightest bit of wobble on a hard string hit to the knee. As far as grinds are concerned, the Pyramatte finish grinds just as well as One Drop’s soda blast finish. The only issue I have ever encountered with this finish is that it got slightly sticky for a couple minutes after walking out of my air conditioned house and into the 90 degree heat of my back deck. Once the yo-yo’s temp normalized it as smooth sailing form there. There is one final thing I want to talk about; this is the first One Drop that can do proper matador play thanks to the spiked Side Effects. The spikes are sharp enough to balance on a thumb or finger with ease.
One Drop has set the bar extremely high with the release of the 54, not only for themselves but for other manufacturers as well. This yo-yo is going to be the full size to beat in the market place, not just because of the play but because of the versatility as well. It is going to be very hard for people to justify the purchase of a brand new yo-yo when they can change the play of their current yo-yo with a simple purchase of new hubs. I usually don’t say a thing like this in a review but the 54 is truly one of my all time favorite yo-yos. In fact I can go one step further and say that the 54 made me break a long-standing rule I have for my case. Before the 54 I refused to double up on yo-yos. Now I have two 54s in my collection and I wouldn’t mind owning a third, it is that good. I am now eagerly waiting for new Side Effects just to see what limits I can push the 54 to and I plan on owning all of them. Great job One Drop, I can’t wait to see what future releases you come up with that utilize the Side Effect system.