Exar/Exaprize Arcade Stick Modding Tutorial

Welcome to my first thread here in SRK. :hitit:
This thread is about my first arcade stick mod project - turning a sub-par arcade stick into a gaming weapon.

I will be trying to illustrate or show thru pics how I tackled the modding process of the featured stick here and will try to be as detailed as possible so that others may find it as helpful as possible.

Oh BTW, the featured stick is an Exar USB stick - haven’t seen any detailed tutorial in SRK yet, so I decided to do one to help others.

Tools I used for this mission:
Soldering Iron
Precision screw drivers
Black & Decker RTX1 (Rotary tool) with sanding and grinding attachments
Hand drill with 4mm and 10mm drill bits for metal drilling
Side cutter
Insulating tape

Part 1: Survey the Battlefield
Soldier, the first part of winning a battle is to sit down and think about your attack plan. You are now challenged to a battle of modding and are presented of the place of battle. We will have to take a look at the battle field and study it so that we could form a strategy.

Presenting the Exar USB Stick (KOF XII Edition) for PC/PS3. Model number EX0026:


It is just a variant of others that came before it and is technically designed and modified for KOF gaming. Like others before it, it is allegedly made in Japan. Some minor features: Pressing L1+L2 for 3 seconds will re-map buttons to a Neo Geo layout if you like to play KOF for that matter. Aside from that, it is as plain as a stick can be - I will have to rate it 6/10 as it performs well as required but it has cheap feel and somehow deep inside, you will feel that this stick is not meant to last long…thus modding will be required.

6-Button layout with L1, L2 and PS button close above. Use this as reference when re-wiring in the future. Front panel, also sports a metal plate that house the buttons, joystick and the peel-able sticker for the art.


Bottom panel shown below. Remember to remove the rubber feet/stabilizers/stoppers to reveal the screws - I stuck the rubber feet to a relatively similar positions because I don’t want to throw them away for now. To remove the whole back panel, you have to unscrew 5 screws.


Doing so, you get to see the innards of this stick. Going clockwise from the top, you will see the auxiliary PCB, the stock joystick, the main PCB and the push buttons. For a cheap stick, I was surprised to see the components to be much more organized than initially expected.


Push buttons are wired relatively organized. Daisy chained-ground and a wire for each action button (they are also soldered to the contacts). All are connected to the PCB - all properly marked on the PCB




If you will look closely, you will see SANWA. You are not mistaken; this stick sports Sanwa buttons as stock but don’t be excited just yet: Those are not technically Sanwa buttons - only Sanwa microswitches were used and the construction of the buttons are Exar’s design. Also, only 3 out 6 buttons have Sanwa microswitches so the others are POS buttons. I don’t know why this is so but it seems that Exar is just picking components from a bin and just putting together components to build their sticks but so far I’ve seen this setup on other variants/edition of this stick. After modding, make sure not to throw out the Sanwa microswitches of course; they are still Sanwa after all.
To remove each button, turn the button to the left or right until you can freely push it out of its hole.

Like all other Exar sticks (e.g. Royds Arcade stick), this stick uses square gate restrictors that doubles as the mounting plate that keeps the whole joystick together. This metal plate is one of the reasons you should rip it out of the shell because the square gate has thin edges that kinda makes it a wedge that gradually grinds the plastic actuator of the shaft that one day will decrease the stick’s responsiveness.
Remove all screws in the mounting to reveal the joystick’s setup:


Nice to find microswitches in this one as well - not to mention OMRON brand switches (same as JLFs). Another surprise from this stick - looks like Exar really is made from Japan after all. Anyway, like some Seimitsu joysticks, switches are wired directly from the microswitches and connected to the main PCB - again, all marked properly in the PCB. BTW, once you remove the metal plate, the stick is technically floating; no other support but that metal plate.

We won’t look at the auxiliary PCB (the one that houses the top buttons). Here is the main PCB, which is the actual worth of the stick:


I must say, everything is organized and labeled properly to point which wire goes to where. This has certainly made my mod project easier. Basically, you will only have to pay attention on the left and right side of the PCB. The top part is just for the auxiliary PCB connections.

The left side of the PCB has the connections for the action buttons: from square to R2 (excluding L1 and L2). Use this as reference for re-wiring purposes.


The right side is where you will locate the connections for getting signals from the microswitches in the joystick. To note, this is how they are arranged from top to bottom: GND, UP, LEFT, DOWN, RIGHT. All wires used are color-coded and might help in re-wiring the joystick, specially if you have the JLF-H harness.


Unscrewing the 4 screws will unmount this PCB for the mod itself.
One more thing: I suggest not desoldering anything from the main PCB. My mod avoided doing any desoldering directly from the PCB as any wrong move may fry a part of the PCB or accidentally peel off conductors from the circuit. I would even say that, such desoldering is unnecessary as it is recommended to just re-use any wire provided in the stock PCB to re-wire components during modding.

Now that you are familiar with the components, we can now start with the modding itself.

Part 2: Divide and Conquer
For us to properly mod this baby, I believe it is imperative to disassemble the stick component by component to get things out of the way and avoid unnecessary irreparable damage to other components that you are not working on. To “divide and conquer” is the best strategy for a successful mod.
This section will discuss how to disassemble the stick.
Our objective for this section is to strip the stick to its shell.

Removing the Push buttons
This is basically the easiest to do and so we shall start with it.

  1. Desolder or cut wires connected to the buttons - I strongly suggest desoldering the contact points and not cutting the wires so that we could preserve the length of the wire and have plenty of room for errors in the re-wiring process later on.
  2. Turn the buttons left or right then push it out - upon turning the buttons to the left or right (depending on the buttons)m you should feel it getting unlocked off its place and afterwards, you can freely push it out. Repeat for all the buttons left
  3. Optional: Keep sanwa buttons/microswitches - this will be valuable spare parts later on.


Buttons removed


Left: Stock button, Right: Sanwa button that I will be using for this mod.

Removing the Joystick
Unscrew the metal plate restrictor to gain access to the switches.

  1. **Remove the whole joystick shaft **- I recommend doing this so that you could have your opened arcade stick flat on your table for easier work in the future. Also for my Exar stick, the ball top seems to be glued to the shaft itself. With this, I removed the e-ring keeping the shaft, spring and actuator together. Removing the e-ring will enable you to take the shaft out of the joystick mounting.
  2. Desolder/Cut wires from the microswitches - again avoid cutting the wires to conserve on using wires (let’s try to use what we already have).


  1. Finally, take the joystick mounting out of the shell - below you will see the parts of the stock joystick


Below is the Sanwa JLF that I will be using, compared to the stock joystick (re-assembled):


Removing the PCBs
By this time, the PCBs are the ones left in the case/shell

  1. Unscrew the main PCB and the Aux PCB
  2. Remove buttons from auxiliary PCB area - these are the top buttons for start, select, etc. After removing the aux PCB, you can now easily just pull them out of their holes.


By tekkenshu7 at 2011-04-16

Removing the Face Plate
The Exar stick has this metal face plate that technically gives the stick its weight. Modifications will be done to it as well and will be imperative for you to know how to remove and place it back.

  1. Peel off the sticker art - The sticker art basically hides the five screws that holds the metal plate to the shell. You will have to battle your way on peeling this tough sticker off the metal plate.


It is possible to cleanly remove everything to reveal the bare metal panel:


This will now leave you with the Exar shell - you are now ready for the actual modding itself.


Part 3: The Battle
Once you’ve removed the innards of the stick, it is safe to say that you could now start modding. By now, you should have studied and planned how you will re-wire and/or mount your higher quality components.

Basically, you will have to choose what brand(s) of components you are going to use for this mod.
For my mod, I used all Sanwa buttons and joystick; I think you can use Seimitsus as well but I am not sure about using Western components (e.g. Suzo-Happ, IL, etc) as the case/shell’s thickness is only around 2 inches. The Japanese joysticks will fit just right (like the JLF) but will take some tinkering with the case itself.

These are what I used: (got them all from etokki c/o Ryan, aka Laugh - thanks to his quick service)
Joystick - Sanwa JLF-TP-8Y-SK (JLF-H included but no ball top nor mounting plate)
Ball top - Sanwa LB-35 (Dark Hai Ball top)
Buttons - Sanwa OBSF-30 (Dark Hai buttons) (6 pcs)

  • For the buttons you could also use OBSNs as I think they will have a better fit than just the snap-ons

Preparing the Case/Shell for the Joystick
If you look at the bottom half of the shell, you should see this cylindrical plastic that supports the stock joystick. This ‘support’ will actually get in the way of the JLF stick - you have to cut this out using a rotary tool (I used Black&Decker RTX1)


You could cut it until only 1-2mm of plastic remains on the base, giving you clearance for the JLF stick:


Now, looking at the upper half of the shell, you will find that the hole left by the stock stick is not big enough to house the JLF. What I did is mark around 2-4mm of plastic along the perimeter of the hole. You will have to grind or sand away this lines until you could let the JLF’s housing freely sit on the metal panel as flat as possible.


You’ll also notice that I pencil-marked two points on the left and right sides. This is where I will be drilling the metal plate later on. Try to center stick as much as possible before marking the drill points.

Be sure to remove the metal panel before sanding!
Using my rotary tool, I sanded the perimeter bigger. I also cut the upper left screw point. This will make room for the connection to the JLF’s PCB as you will see later on.


We now work on the metal panel. Be sure to have a hand drill or a drill press as the rotary tool may not have the power to drill the holes or make use of the drill bits this time.

Using the markings earlier, drill 4mm holes on the bottom side of the metal panel. These holes will be good enough to fit bolts that will be used to mount your JLF. On the top side of the metal panel, use 8 to 11mm drill bits to create a countersink. The metal panel is thick enough to do this and will enable you to use flat-head/countersink bolts that will leave you with a flush surface on the metal panel.


Try to find countersink drill bits for this. There are specific countersink drill bits that can do this better than using a bigger drill bit and will leave you with a better quality of countersink.

Re-attach the metal panel to the shell and start mounting your JLF. I used countersink bolts with matching hex nuts to secure the JLF in its place. I arranged the TP-MA (JLF PCB) so that the connectors point to the right (the Exar main PCB also have its directional connectors to the right - see part 1)


Now that the case is ready, we turn our attention on the PCB. Crimp quick disconnects on the wires that connect to the PCB on the left side. Also, create a daisy chain for the Grounding of the buttons. You will have to use a minimum of 12 quick disconnects for this part.


Black wire for the daisy chain, Misc colors for the action buttons.
I bent the quick disconnects about 100 degrees for it to fit in the case when I close it later on. Be sure to check for cold solders specially on the daisy chain as this might cause your button not to work as desired.

Since my JLF came with the JLF-H wire harness, I decided to use it. The idea is to connect the JLF-H to the right side of the PCB. What I did is connect wires from the harness to a specific wire that corresponds to up, down, left, or right on the PCB. You could use the TP-MA diagram found on the Akihabarashop website to trace from connections on the TP-MA.


With the positioning of my TP-MA, these are the connections I made by color (assuming you kept the original wires from the Exar main PCB).

Note: this is a JLF-H wire to Main PCB color code.
**Orange -> Red
Yellow -> Green
Red -> White
Green -> Yellow
Black -> Black
Following this will give you the correct directions on your game.

You are now ready to finish everything up
Put in your push buttons (turning them to the left or right to lock them in place if you did not use OBSNs). Connect the connectors to each contacts of the buttons and also connecting the a ground connection to each.

Return aux buttons and the PCB back to their original mounting and secure them with their screws. You could also try to tidy up the wires and tape them to places were they won’t get in the way when you put the bottom panel back.


This, my friends, is what it will look like after you do the transplant :rofl:

Re-attach the bottom panel of the case and marvel on your new gaming weapon:


It kinda looks good by itself, but I have other plans for the exterior of this stick.


Part 4: Rebirth
After putting my Exar arcade stick to waves of tests, I decided give it a new face.

With this, it has been reborn into Dominus v.1. It was my first time to create a vinyl sticker made and implemented. I tried to flatten it well enough but still some bubbles formed.

Oh well, hopefully the bubbles will recede in a couple of weeks as it shrinks.





And finally, the final transformation to Dominus


I have seen one of those KOF XII Exar sticks, but I was wary of the modability of it. Sadly, I don’t think making a countersink on the metal plate would sit well with me. Otherwise that looks like a really easy mod.

It appears your holes haven’t completely countersunk the screws.


  1. Did you have to shave the tabs on the button holes?
  2. Does the JLF shaft have enough clearance for the bottom plate?
  3. Does the exposed JLF shaft meet the standard height (23-24mm)?


I was given to think that the Exar was POS; I guess I was wrong.

Someone should confirm who makes that OEM stick, as I have seen this housing on Neo-Geo and the Innovation stick now.


Also hey, if you don’t desolder the stick microswitches (assuming they’re all Omron), you could’ve dropped them straight into your JLF and have a spare TP-MA!

  1. Did you have to shave the tabs on the button holes?
    I didn’t have to shave the tabs. You see, the button holes are like 0.5mm larger than the OBSF. I kept the tabs so they will lock the buttons in place. It won’t fall off if put it up side down but it’s kinda annoying to let them moving. Some recommendations would be to use OBSNs instead (the Sanwa buttons with the screw-in nuts to keep it in place)

  2. Does the JLF shaft have enough clearance for the bottom plate?
    On the bottom panel, there was this plastic cylinder that supports the stock joystick and it is getting in the way. What I did (see part 3) is I cut it off and left around 1-2mm of plastic was left to give room for the JLF - it did the trick

  3. Does the exposed JLF shaft meet the standard height (23-24mm)?
    When I first mounted it, I felt the shaft to be too high for my comfort. What I did is put 3 washers as spacers from the metal panel before the actual joystick mounting. It sunk the stick about 3mm allowing me to have shorter throws in executing moves

It is very hard to find countersink bits in the Philippines - hardware stores suck and you have to buy bigger drill bit sets just to get this small drill bit. A drill press would’ve helped as well. I only had a hand drill for this mod. But probably, if I could find one (or a bigger drill bit), I think I can completely flush the bolt head seamlessly.

I believe there are some mods that did not require countersinks as well. There are some that glued the JLF mounting plate to the case but I wanted my JLF to be readily removable for maintenance purposes. I decided to go for the countersink bolts so that I could cover it with the panel art later on. Hope this guide inspires :slight_smile:

I believe Exar has been in the scene for quite some time (probably under different names) especially for making stuff for Neo-Geo rooted games. Even the Royds Arcade stick has this same joystick. The company is either Japanese (like HORI) or S.Korean but they seem to be improving their stuff because they started using Japanese components, well not fully yet. I just hated the way the joystick is constructed because it destroys the actuator of the shaft in time.

Oh yeah, they’re all OMRONs, surprisingly. I have plans for those switches as well - I have another stick waiting to be modded and I plan retro-fit these Omrons in them as well (I’m talking about this Ikan/Dreamgear stick)

Sometimes, a custom or modded stick is much more worth having than buying a TE stick. I love to tinker :slight_smile:

Some updates:
After mounting the Sanwa JLF, I tested playing some games with it. I found the shaft to be a little too tall while executing moves. What I did next is a kind of a trial and error: using washers, I stacked up to 4 washers in each bolt used to keep the JLF in place. This sunk the JLF shaft up to 4mm giving me a comfortable height for the stick.

Would you be up for selling the original stock joystick, the one you replaced with the JLF? I love that style of stick.

I’ll check first any shipping options and check if anything can be arranged. Shipping something out of the Philippines is kinda disadvantageous :slight_smile:

crap, didnt realize that part. No worries man, Im sure shipping would be a pain. Thanks anyways!

hehe I was going to ask the same question, till I saw you asked first and that he was in the Philippines. :slight_smile:

Yeah, too bad I guess :slight_smile:
This joystick construction is becoming pretty rare - this is one of them good ones because it sports Omron microswitches. I guess, I’ll slap these on another stick.

Where’d you get the vinyl sticker printed and how much did it cost?

I had it printed from Sticker Art (in the Philippines) - they do printing and layout for car stickers. They printed out the black lines first then stuck the black patterns on to a white vinyl layer and laminated them as one.
My panel layout costed me Php 380.

Looks awesome, I probably would have gone into debt trying to get a TE/Hrap and spent the 380php on Beer Na Beer ! or at the burger machine…

Hahaha! Right on. The problem is in the Philippines, TE and HRAPs are now hard to find. Also, my Exar + mod costed me much cheaper than buying one of those - I still had enough money to buy a San Mig Light and a Tanduay Ice (a case each) LOL

Stick still seems too high, even with the washers. Might need a custom shaft to get it to the correct height.

Also, last I checked, HRAP3s were still in stock in large numbers in shops in Greenhills.