Having recently been a noob myself I figured I’d let other new folk into what I’ve discovered about various response types. (Response is the grippy bit in the yoyo designed to catch the string and return it to your hand.)
I grew up with Duncan imperial promo yoyos (coke, sprite etc) which were thin and had with a wooden axle and (if any) starburst response. Thin yoyos designed for looping tricks. Starburst response developed with these yoyos. To understand why you gotta understand how they were built.
A wooden axle is very slipery when running fast, so if your string is loose you can sleep for a while. That’s because the axle is porous (ie. the grain of the wood means only the bumps are in contact with the string reducing friction… though the wood powder helps lubricate too.) A side effect of the grain of a wood axle is that it becomes more responsive (wants to return) the slower it spins. This is a good thing, as less spin means the yoyo wants to die.
Starburst response was an evolution of wood axles. Putting raised bumps around the axle on the yoyo sides gave the string something to grip for a return, which had similar qualities to wood. Namely, that slower spins were more responsive.
Then bearing yoyos and unresponsive play happened. Gaps widened and the whole idea of yoyoing changed.
In an unresponsive yoyo you generally wish that it’ll spin as long as possible, which means keeping the string away from the response.
The extreme version of this is recessed silicon. This is sticky stuff that sits in the groove of the yoyo and waits to be touched by the string (which will only happen if you manage to “bind” a whole lot of string into the yoyo to fill the wide gap.) Like some fancy sports car, it’s high performance, but unforgiving. Recessed silicon (though popular) binds least secure when the yoyo is slow. Starburst lasts nearly forever, but if you don’t like it, you’re stuck with it. (Eventually it’ll wear out and you’ll have to replace the yoyo… but this takes a loooong time.)
Duncan worked on friction stickers, kindof a half-way point between starburst plastic and recessed rubber/silicon. Friction stickers give a great response which shares the good qualities of silicon and starburst, but wear out quickly, (and require time to wear in to play best. Friction stickers are described as “great but short lasting”.)
Between recessed silicon and friction stickers, there’s endless varieties of pads (thicker chunks of rubber or silicon.) These give a whole spectrum, between onedrop (who’s deep “flowgroove” pads are almost identical to silicon) to the many standard cbc pad yoyos, which are not unlike friction sticker response. Pads are usually described as “slippery till they’re worn in”… then eventually wear out and need replacement. Most pads last a lot longer than friction stickers - the thicker ones almost forever.
A third approach, using rubber orings (common in yoyojam yoyos) was also tried. These little rubber (or silicon) donuts stick out from the yoyo plane and are ready to grip the string when enough lands in the gap. Somewhat like starburst they’re always there. They make for a more responsive yoyo… but with a twist. An o-ring yoyo will play very unresponsive… until it binds… then it will bind very tight. If that plays well for you, or if it means lots of cracked knuckles, depends on your style. O-rings last a long time, they’re an either “on or off” response, which takes a while to wear in, and lasts nearly forever. (Most o-ring yoyos can be modded with flowable silicon easily.)
Between all these approaches, yoyojam (and many modders) have mixed response types. Usually this means o-ring vs. starburst. This gives you the best qualities of both - positive binds at low rpm etc.
If you’re new…
You’ll probably want to start with a moddable responsive yoyo. Starburst response will work well for you… if you end up being a looper it’s all you’ll need. Hybrid response (cheap yyj) or o-ring will grow with you. For the price of some flowable silicon you can mod an o-ring yoyo for unresponsive play at a later date. Completely unresponsive (protostar etc) are not generally good learning yoyos. Walk before you run.
Whatever yoyo you have though you can modify the response (at a price) by applying thick lube to the bearing. You’ll reduce spin time but make your yoyo more manageable. You can always clean your bearing later if you wish to do unresponsive play.
Well I hope this may have demystified things a bit. Here’s some yoyos to try with each style response:
Starburst yoyo: YYF Velocity, etc.
Hybrid yoyo: YYJ Dark Magic (old version), Speedmaker, Hybrid Hitman etc
O-ring: YYJ Lyn Fury, Mini Motu, Revolution, X-ConVict, Hitman etc
Pad response: Dark magic II, Protostar, PGM, many metals, etc.
Almost silicon response: Any recent onedrop, eg. Y-factor, dingo (undersize) etc (These are thick pad yoyos and which can take flowable silicon.)
Silicon response: YYJ Legacy, Severe, most other metals, etc.
(These lists are very subjective and just there for guidance. Do your own research and ask around on the boards for other recomendations. Starburst, hybrid and o-ring generally start responsive. Pads can be responsive or unresponsive depending. Anything approaching silicon will generally be unresponsive and require you to learn binds before you have much fun.)
If you’re into looping yoyos, you’ll just have to check reviews. Your size, weight distribution and yoyo shape preferences may vary…