bartop preview

Retrogaming: homemade bartop

The story began some years ago, when I built from scratch a “true” fullsized arcade cabinet (see the gallery). This Mame Cab was pretty cool, with nice arcade feeling : CRT screen, optical guns (ps 1), trackball, real coin door.

The problem was the size of the beast : HxLxD was 190x80x120 cm. It was taking a lot of space… Space that I needed to create a new study area.

So, I sold my “old” Mame Cab and started to build a bartop which is a lot smaller…


The Bartop is able to run many arcade games and uses Hyperspin as frontend:

Main features are :

  • Backlit marquee and bottom, for a cool look in the dark
  • “Always on” backlit buttons
  • 19 inch DVI display to get a decent size with a 4:3 ratio
  • Stereo sound, with adjustable volume, bass and treble
  • Light Gun support throught Wiimote
  • Side buttons for pinball tables
  • Standard C14 Power plug with on/off switch
  • Accessible usb ports (for wifi, keyboard, etc.)


homemade street fighter 2 themed bartop features

Hardware part


Gettings nice emulators and good looking frontend (which is a matter of personnal taste) often require M$ Windows… and so a full featured PC with good performances. I don’t usualy use Windows at home, but I really put emulators and frontend as priority !

Thus, all electronics parts are “simple” PC parts or interfaces.

PC (I already had all of this, except the monitor and the ssd):jetway_jnc62k_3

  • Mini ITX motherboard : Jetway nc62k
  • CPU : Atlhon XP 64 6000+ together with Akasa AK-861CU AMD Low Noise Cooler
  • 2 Gb Ram DDR2 800
  • DVI Cable
  • 19 inch LCD Monitor : LG L1972H (found on
  • A small 120W power supply (for PC, Leds, audio amplifier and buttons interfaces)
  • Samsung SSD (840 evo)

Electronics parts:buttons

  • Player 1 & 2 start buttons : found on ebay, sold by “procardetails”
  • Dolphin Bar (for wiimote) : can be found on ebay or Amazon
  • Two player Led Arcade Game kit: found on ebay, sold by “amye-shop”
  • C14 Power plug with On/Off switch : found on ebay, sold by “gagaoutleteb”
  • standard 12V 80x80mm PC fan
  • A wiimote + LightGun


  • A DIY bartop kit + plexiglass parts, found on ebay, sold by “djwillione”
  • 12V Audio amplifier + Power + Oval Speaker, same seller
  • White corner & straight lugs, local DIY shop
  • Cupboard’s door magnets and hinges, local DIY shop
  • 5V leds ruber for TV, local DIY shop (link)
  • Small HETTICH plastic assembly parts (link)


  • A4 side stickers : found on ebay, sold by “palma.fr2015”
  • Adhesive black molding : found on ebay, sold by “procardetails”
  • Black and white brillant spray paint, local DIY Shop


Build steps


I first started to paint all visible parts. For the plexiglass used as bezel, as it was protected by a plastic film, I just removed the some plastic film on both sides before painting.

bartop kit painted dsc_0070 dsc_0071

Assembly Preparation

Assembly preparation consisted in measuring, do some “pre-holes” and fixes HETTICH plastic assembly parts

dsc_0012 dsc_0011 dsc_0013 dsc_0003dsc_0002

Buttons “hack”

Before mounting buttons on the control pannel, I had to modify a little bit every wire, because, by default, buttons were back-lit only when pressed and I wanted them to be always back-lit.

Below is the modification : left plug is the orignal, right plug is the modified one:

make baclit arcade button always on : the right plug is the modified onedsc_0020

Control pannel

For the control pannel, the main important part was to center correctly joysticks and arrange screw holes to make same as less visible as possible.

To do so, I did some very small hole from the back, where I drew my measures. Then I did a bigger hole of the same size as skrew head on the top. Finaly, I did a hole of the same size of skrew body from the top.

homemade bartop control boardhomemade bartop control board backside

dsc_0029 dsc_0031dsc_0032 dsc_0033

Assembly part 1

The first assembly part consisted in skrewing main parts, putting plastic foots on the bottom, cut and glue decorations, fix speakers and finaly mount the LCD pannel.

dsc_0055 dsc_0057dsc_0058 dsc_0059dsc_0060 dsc_0061

For the LCD panel, I first calibrated the position with its original foot, fixed the support and finaly removed the  panel’s foot:

dsc_0063 dsc_0064dsc_0065 dsc_0067dsc_0074 dsc_0072

Put all inside

Before finalizing the assembly, I started to install some internal parts that would have been more difficult to mount later: motherboard, marquee and bottom leds, power supply, ssd, and external USB connectors.

dsc_0075 dsc_0077 dsc_0078 dsc_0080 dsc_0081 dsc_0082dsc_0083


Assembly part 2

The final assembly part consisted in mounting the marquee, the backdoor, the power plug, the fan, the wii sensors and a small straight lug to make the control panel more aesthetic.

Regarding the marquee, I put some aluminium adhesive tape all around the led strip in order to increase luminosity, and to have a better light diffusion behind the graphic and the plexiglass. I used corner and straight lugs to fix the marquee graphic, which is sandwitched beetween two sheets of plexiglass.

dsc_0092 dsc_0089dsc_0093 dsc_0096

For the Backdoor, I fixed the power plug and the fan directly on it, then I attached 3 cupboard’s door hinges as well as two magnets on the upper side to maintain it closed.

I also fixed the audio amplifier on the right side and made some holes to keep volume and tone buttons accessible when the backdoor is closed.

dsc_0099 dsc_0118dsc_0120 dsc_0121dsc_0122 dsc_0123

Finaly, I fixed the dolphin bar just below the marquee, and I added a straight lug on the front egde of the control panel to make it looks better, more polished.

dophin bar on homemade bartop dsc_0124 dsc_0127 dsc_0126

Full view

After I put the adhesive molding on edges, the finished product was there !

homemade street fighter 2 themed bartop : right side homemade street fighter 2 themed bartop : left side homemade street fighter 2 themed bartop : front homemade street fighter 2 themed bartop : front and powered on

Software Part

For the software part, I used a tuned Windows 7, Hyperspin as front-end and the following directory_structureemulators :

I also used Touchmote and JoyToKey to customize controls as well as some custom shell scripts to launch emulators.

The picture on the right show how I structured the data.

Tutorials and documentation sources

There is a lots of information and tutorials on the internet for both optimizing Windows and configuring Hyperspin. Below are just links on sites that have inspired me:

To download videos for ingame previews, I used the chrome plugin “Flash Video Downloader” on and


Wiimote / gun

Dolphin bar support multiple wiimotes, but this seems to only work correctly with the dolphin emulator. Other way of using it for mouse emulation (light gun), works only with one wiimote (afaik).

Here is how I set it up for emulators:

  • Use dolphin bar mode 4 : direct input detects it as a standard mouse
  • Use Touchmote to simulate a second mouse button (mandatory for SuperModel) by assigning a keyboard key to button A (button B is the left mouse button by default)



As Nebula emulator recognize both mouse buttons natively, I created a special emtpy Touchmote profil to disable it for Nebula (“emulator_multicpu.exe”):




I used this soft mainly for 2 reasons :

  • Map some non-configurable keys for “futur pinball” (eg: tilt)
  • Configure some windows standard keys, like alt+f4 (quit emulators) or alt-tab (to have a workaround for focus problem that appears with futur pinball)

Extract of my JoyToKey configuration (HeavyBox.cfg):

Emulators settings

Before configuring Hyperspin, I first configured each emulator to optimize settings for best possible control and rendering without sacrifying fluidity.

As it depends on personnal preferences, I won’t details all controls unless I faced some specific issues.


Default video options was ok, but setting up input was a bit tricky. I had to change a part from the GUI (mostly suppress some assigned keys) and assign joystick buttons directly in the config file.daphne_input



Future pinball

Despite the fact that some controls are not customizable (but JoyToKey helped here), input settings was easy with futur pinball.

It took me some time to find the best suited video settings to get the best out of my hardware:



Here again, settings up Mame was not difficult, but having something that provides the best experience possible was tricky at some points.

So I made general settings for 80% of my games, then I fine tuned settings for some slow and/or vertical games.

I also tried all possible settings to get no or very few tearing with my configuration.

mame_setting_1 mame_setting_2mame_setting_3 mame_setting_3_lightgunmame_setting_4

For slightly slow but yet playable games (eg. Deathsml), the autoframeskip works correctly, but I had to change audio latency in game’s specific ini file (eg. deathsml.ini):

Finaly, for vertical game, I downloaded bezel graphics when I found them and I used specific game’s ini file to (eg: dkong.ini):


Nothing special here. I juste used the “multicpu” exe and set the resolution to 800×600 as there was no real visual enhencement to go with more pixels…



This emulator run some Sega Model 3 games surprisingly well. Setting up input is quite easy, but all must be done in the config file. I just searched and set correct input everytime I saw “JOY1_XX” or “JOY2_XX”.

Nevertheless, I did not manage to make “off screen” gun detection with my WiiMote. That’s why I used Touchmote to assign a specific button (Key B) on the WiiMote’s A button and then configured consequently the emulator :


Zinc run perflectly smooth, with no problem on input. Below the rederer.cfg file I used. After multiple tests, using higher resolutions were not better looking together with filtering and blending.

Hyperspin settings

Hyperspin is a very nice front-end with lot of arcade style animations and beautiful themes for games. I used the version 1.4 which correct some issues with joystick control.

However, like many others front-end, Hyperspin has been made to be organized on a per emulator basis… Which is, IMHO, not very practical with lot of arcade games. I personally prefer a “game gender” organization (excepted for Daphne game, but don’t ask why, its just a matter of personnal taste !).

Such organization is possible with Hyperspin but it implies 2 things:

  1. Main menu and gender themes (wheel) must be created manually
  2. Game launcher must be a custom one, because all emulator games are mixed

For the 2nd point, I created some scripts (see Custom scripts below). As for the first point, it was just a matter of time and some file editions.

Custom main menu & games list

The main menu is easy to create : a simple XML file in <hyperspin dir>/Databases/Main Menu/Main Menu.xml, here is mine :

Then, for each entry, a directory with the exact same name must be created both in  <hyperspin dir>/Databases and <hyperspin dir>/Medias for respectively gender game list and game theme.

I used Don’s HyperSpin Tools to build game list files, and then put each xml file in the correct gender’s directory. Eg for “beat em all” in my case : C:\_HYPERSPIN\Databases\Beat em all\Beat em all.xml

Games & Gender themes

Games themes has to be put directly in <hyperspin dir>/Databases/<main menu entry>. Eg, for “beat em all” in my case : C:\_HYPERSPIN\Media\Beat em all\Themes

A lot of game themes can be found on Hyperspin website if you create an account.

As for gender themes, I had to build them myself based on:

  • mame gender for background and wheel titles (<hyperspin dir>/Media/MAME/Images/Genre)
  • emulator themes for zip file structure and video preview container (eg. <hyperspin dir>/Media/SNK Neo Geo/Themes/

Each zip file must be named like the gender in the <hyperspin dir>/Media/Main Menu/Themes. Eg. for “beat em all” in my case: Beat em

Custom scripts

Main launcher

As explained previously, mixing games from multiple emulators required to build a custom script to launch games.

The purpose of this script is to determine the emulator to execute depending on the path where the rom file is (because on the filesystem I organized rom files on a per emulator basis, then gender).

As you can see, I used other custom scripts to launch SuperModel and Zinc emulator as well as a special “focus.vbs” script to launch Hyperspin.

This “focus.vbs” script allows to force the focus to a specific task giving its name. This helps to bypass some lost of focus bugs with hyperspin during startup and when an emulator exits.

Here is how I configured HyperSpin to launch games :


Specific emulator launcher

Excepted for Mame and Nebula which get all their parameters from config files, I had to create specific scripts to launch other emulators.




Future pinball launcher

As futur pinball do not use “.zip” I made a specific launcher script and a dedicated Hyperspin config:

hyperspin_settings_pinballThe script :

Unfortunately, I still have focus problem with Future pinball : it is launched correctly, but controls does not work even when I try to force focus on it. The only way I found is to use “CTRL+TAB”. So again, I used JoyToKey to map CTRL and TAB key to two differents buttons.

Starting HyperSpin

To launch Hyperspin instead of the standard Windows shell I modified the registry key “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon” with the following :

Yet another custom script ! It allows to start everything (Hyperspin, JoyToKey, touchmote) without focus problem nor lagging interface:

Final result

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