YoYoFactory's FAST 401k Espionage Edition yo-yo is the same shape and size as the standard 401k. Also similarly to the original 401k, the response system is the F.A.S.T. 400 series adjustable shuttles, but the Espionage Edition also came included with rubber response shuttles in addition to the plastic ones. The bearing was upgraded to their Dorothy bearing and the body of the yo-yo was coated in a low-friction teflon finish.

There exist two varieties of the Espionage (teflon) finish. The "dry" variant was produced in black and white, as well as blue for the Yuuki Spencer edition 401k. The "eggshell" finish was only produced in white, and is generally regarded as the superior finish.

This variant of the 401k was sold exclusively on yoyonation.


401k Espionage White YYN Edition

My impression was that the shuttles were another fast 201-like gimmick. The previous stuff from YoYoFactory was smooth but bland. I owned a grind machine and a grind monster. They are smooth yo-yos, but they didn't have the looks of the poison/pyro, and they each had idiosyncratic things that made them yo-yos for the collection not the hand. Now, I have tried the espionage. To me, the 401k is the first time that YYF just got it right.Every aspect of this yo-yo comes together into a solid player.


The YYN Edition just means that it has an extra logo on the yo-yo. I'm not really sure how the logo was placed there – it looks like it was burned in – maybe a laser? In any case, the detailing on the teflon finish is clear to read. Let's talk about the finish. It looks to me like it was sprayed on. If you look at the yo-yo's inner rim – where one would put their thumb for a thumb grind – the finish is noticably thinner there. So visually, the finish isn't perfect. Since this is my first teflon coated metal yo-yo, I can't say if it is just the way that teflon coated metal looks, or if the finish isn't “as thick as it should be.” It definitely feels different from the pyro's finish. I'm not sure which is better, but the teflon definitely feels great for grinding.

The finish is made for grinding. When I grind, two things matter the most to me: the finish on the yo-yo, and the yo-yo having good radial and bilateral symmetry. I'm happy to report that my white YYF 401k espionage has both of these. If the coating's primary purpose was to help grind, it certainly does that. Additionally, the 401k is very smooth. Summing it up: the finish plays extremely well, and visually it's good. Since I don't know anything about teflon coating, I don't know if the differences in coating I see are unavoidable, or if it could be coated differently to improve the look. This small knit-picking on the up-close look of the coating is dwarfed by the yo-yo's many other great qualities.


Now for the shuttles. My 401k came equipped with white hard plastic shuttles. The first thing that I did after putting a string on the yo-yo was to twist the knobs on the yo-yo haves until both sides were recessed all the way. Note: The top of the dial doesn't move! This isn't obvious from pictures unless you see detailed pictures and you think about it a bit – only the sides of the knobs move. Some people have said something about the knobs being hard to move – mine were easy to move. They had the right combination of resistance to stay in place, but not being too hard to turn when desire. As it turns out, when my yo-yo was set to plastic shuttles and recessed all the way on both sides, the yo-yo didn't play all that well. The reason is that the plastic shuttle didn't have enough friction to grab the string at that distance. So you end up throwing down the yo-yo and realizing that the string just unrolled, but didn't really put a lot of spin on the yo-yo.

So the next thing I do is I dive into the plastic bag and grab the clear shuttles. It wasn't immediately clear that they were rubber. I took apart the yo-yo, and I turned the knobs on a yo-yo half until the plastic shuttle was all the way “unrecessed.” It was then easy to pick it out of the yo-yo half. Changing the response without a philips head, prying out o-rings, or messing with stickers? Beautiful. This design for changing response systems is very nice. After the white plastic shuttle was out I felt it in comparison with the clear one. The clear was definitely more pliable, so it was the rubber. I replaced both plastic shuttles with the clear rubber ones. Recessed both halves all the way. I had read someone suggest this on one of the boards. They were right! Replacing the shuttles did the trick for me, and the yo-yo plays beautifully now. Unresponsive to tricks, but responsive to the binds. With the pads recessed all the way, the yo-yo doesn't hit the string during tricks, so you get plenty of spin time. Rubber shuttles make the yo-yo great.


The bearing is attached to one yo-yo half. I don't know how to get it off. But I don't really care, since it appears to be working really well out of the box. Nothing in the play is telling me right now that the bearing is anything but wonderful. I'm going to leave it in place. I've noticed on the smoother yo-yos that the bearing is fixed in place. I wonder if this is one of the factors in why the 401k is so smooth. So I think about the inside of the yo-yo now. The 401k is rather parts intensive. You have this relatively complex system for changing the response. Yet, if your yo-yo flies apart, you might cry because your 401k hits the ground, but there is nothing inside this yo-yo to lose. Everything would stay attached to the yo-yo. Good job again, YYF.

Shape and Weight

The shape is something like what you would expect if the Oxy3 had babies with a freehand. The weight distribution gives you some long spin times, the yo-yo is easy to hold. The shape is a successful shape for a yo-yo design, not making any severe compromises. I didn't like the grind machine's weight - it was a bit heavy. And the grind monster's shape was a turnoff. I'm not sure what the weight of the yo-yo is. It isn't particularly light or heavy. I would guess around 70 grams. I am pleased with the shape and weight.

Honestly, this is the first YYF yo-yo where I get it and I say “This is definitely an improvement over other yo-yos.” It's impossible not to like the 401k. Why? With the exception of people who can't live without thumb grinds, the 401k can change to be whatever you want it to be. The interchangeable response system lets you use any kind of pad. It will let you change the response system to whatever friction combination you can come up with on a simple platform, and it will also let you adjust how close that platform is to a standard duncan-sized bearing setup. The 401k combines a solid traditional setup (butterfly aluminum duncan-sized high quality bearing) with an innovative and flexible response system. It reminds me of what a yo-yo inventor would want before he put an aluminum yo-yo into production. You can test this huge number of friction setups


Go out and buy this yo-yo now? Maybe. The YYF 401k espionage is definitely on my recommend list, but if you're going to spend $100 for a yo-yo, it would be best if you could play before you pay. The pyro is another yo-yo that I highly recommend in the same price range. Any good player should be happy with either, so I'll leave you with the bitter-sweet task of choosing.

White YYN Edition YoYoFactory Fast 401k Espionage – Review Part 2

Welcome to the second installation of my review of this yo-yo. This second installation includes my observations after one more day of play on the yo-yo.

After the second day, I've tried several notable things: a) I tried a gold bearing in the yo-yo b) I tried cleaning the dorothy bearing c)I noticed that the rubber shuttle acts differently from the plastic shuttle in adjustment

I took the yo-yo apart because I screwed up a green triangle suicide, and this mistake made a characteristic “knot” around the bearing that I had to remove. Since I don't know a better way, I unscrewed the yo-yo to remove the evil knot. After I fixed it, I through the yo-yo down, and noticed that there was more friction in the bearing, so I took the yo-yo apart. If you want to know how I noticed more friction, see the next paragraph. It was a small difference. I decided to give the bearing a spin on the axle with my finger. It spun for a time that wasn't remarkable. My memory said that it was spinning for a shorter time than when I first got the yo-yo, so I spun it again. The unremarkable spin time when flicked by my finger encouraged me to think that perhaps some small piece of dirt had violated my bearing. I also noticed that the bearing mount is partially coated in teflon, and that some of that teflon coating was sticking to the inner racer of the bearing where it was mounted. The teflon on the mount didn't appear to be significantly interfering with the yo-yo operation (as I have pointed out before, the yo-yo plays very smoothly). But I thought perhaps a small piece of this teflon that has come off has gotten inside the bearing, and it would be good to rinse it out with some mineral spirits. I use mineral spirits because I have read that lighter fluid degrades bearings, and that alcohol can rust bearings. So if this is news to you – take heed! Mineral spirits are cheap, and they are the preferred cleaner of Rick Wyatt, a World Champion for the longest sleeper.

So thinking that there was maybe something in the bearing, I chucked the bearing in some mineral spirits. I also decided to try a gold bearing. I had a gold bearing that I knew spinned for a long time. I took it out and tested it, and flicked it. It spun the typical time for a gold bearing – which is abnormally long, for those of you who haven't tried one. Compared to the average duncan stainless steel mineral spirit cleaned bearing, gold bearings spin maybe 3x as long or something when you flick them. So I installed the gold bearing into the 401k and threw it down. It was louder than before, and when I pulled the yo-yo up while doing a sleeper, the string partially wrapped around the axle. This is a test I use to determine how good my bearing is. Since both sides are recessed, I already know that the string isn't catching on the sides of the yo-yo when I slack it. Therefore, any visable wrapping of the string around the yo-yo will be due to friction inside the bearing. Unfortunately I don't have a good way to quantify the amount that the string does this for you in the review. I will say that relatively, the gold bearing didn't wrap too much, but there was some visable wrapping. Not enough to catch the string, but enough to see. I took the dorothy bearing out of the spirits after not very long. I stirred the bearing around with a pencil to make sure that the spirits got inside. After fetching the bearing with a paper clip, I spun it on a pencil to get the mineral spirits out from inside the bearing. After that, I put the bearing back in the yo-yo. I didn't expect it to play spectacularly because I knew that there would be mineral spirits still in the bearing, and it always takes those a little while to evaporate.

After playing for it, and a little while later 10 minutes or less, I tried the friction test again by sleeping the yo-yo. This time, the string didn't wrap around the axle at all! Woohoo! Cleaning the dorothy bearing didn't screw it up, and my yo-yo was playing well. It was never playing poorly, but now I knew it was playing as frictionless as I can easily measure, which is how it came out of the packaging. Stuff getting inside your bearing is unavoidable. Perhaps the friction before was caused by some small difference in the way I put my yo-yo back together. I don't know, because it wasn't a very large difference at all. What I do know is that the dorothy bearing was quieter and had less friction as measured “in play” than the gold bearing – even though the flicking spin time was longer. That is a bit perplexing to me, but I can't argue with the result. The dorothy bearing seems to work better than a new gold bearing in my yo-yo. I guess this reflects something I read in a post – that the dorothy bearing performs better “under stress” - under a load. Since you need that in yo-yoing, and since there is no load when you flick it with your finger, this bearing just performs better in yo-yoing situations.

Okay, so there is still teflon in the bearing area, but I tried to use my finger to flake it off, and it wouldn't come off. It is pretty well stuck on. Since I don't have a metal finger, I'll just let things run their natural course. It looks like the bearing might get some of it off over time, but it doesn't really matter because it doesn't seem to be affecting play in the first place.

Okay now for the shuttle issue. As I said before, I'm playing with rubber shuttles fully recessed. I like the unresponsive yo-yo's – I've been doing this for about 8ish years now. So I never thought about changing the response options on the 401k. I know that it's theoretically possible, and fairly precise, but I never had a need to. On a whim, I decided to turn the dial and play with the friction settings. What I noticed is this: the rubber shuttles provide more friction than the plastic ones, so when they are fully recessed, they work better. However, because they are rubber, this friction also makes it really difficult to turn the knobs. Turning the knobs to adjust the response level on the rubber shuttles was really quite difficult. My hands started sweating and I had to use my shirt in between to keep from slipping. I was tempted to use pliers. So that was annoying. I understand it though. My solution would be to make the tripod feet of the shuttle out of plastic, and only the tip out of rubber. This might increase the price of the shuttles though. Perhaps that's why they suggest sticking a friction sticker on top of the plastic shuttle in the manual. Since I use the fully recessed setting, and since it is possible to get it in and out (although difficult), I don't care about this issue very much. Nevertheless, it exists. If you are trying to increase the friction, I have no good solution for it. However, if you are just trying to recess the shuttle, then the problem is greatly helped by applying a little pressure in the recess direction to the shuttle pad. Pulling it out would be tricky. But it's possible to do purely through the dials, but a bit annoying. Perhaps there is some kind of coating that you could put on that part of the shuttle to decrease the friction? This might be the best solution. I'm not sure what to use. Maybe some kind of light oil. I wouldn't want to get things gooey.

Today, I also gave my pyro some play time so that I could say a few words comparing the two. Playing with the pyro reminded me of why I like it so much. So this is what I have to say about comparing the two to each other – the main difference between these two yo-yo's, from the perspective of a fairly advanced player who likes yo-yos that are dead unless you return them with a bind – the main difference is the weight distribution. I guess that might have been obvious from the pictures. The pyro is more like a kite, and the 401k is more like a rock. Take those analogies very lightly. The pyro distributes its weight over a larger area, so it feels lighter, even though I bet the weights are similar. The 401k has its weight in a more focused area. I can't tell you which configuration is better. I like both of them for different reasons. If you can play with them before you buy, great. If you can't, then a coin flip will due, since both yo-yo's are great. The second difference is, of course, the coating. The pyro is anodized, so its surface feels a lot smoother. The 401k has a more textured surface. Their grinding abilities seem to be similar. Same objective achieved in two different ways. --Flyguy

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