Here at the Alliance we do reviews a little differently than most have been accustomed to seeing. It's important to understand that racquet reviews are provided to Alliance members in an effort to help them in guiding their clients through the process of finding the right racquet. Likewise, string reviews serve to help the technician recommend the right string for any given racquet and playing style.
RACQUETS--the past precedent set for racquet reviews always involved handing the racquet over for actual play testing on the court. This would be fine if every racquet play tested was done by the same person within the same playing level every time a racquet is tested. However, that never happens and therefore, comments (a review?) by a play tester are always too subjective and do very little to help the technician in finding a racquet for a specific player.
Our goal is to provide members with static and dynamic data that they can actually use in the everyday operations of their businesses. If their customer is using a Babolat model and they decide they want to switch to another brand, for instance a Dunlop, Wilson, Prince or any other frame on the market, the data we provide in our reviews is meant to help the technician navigate to the best frame suited for that player. This can be done based on matching the specs from their current frame or using the current specs and "tweaking" the new specs to address areas where the player needs the most improvement. Everything they need to make the most informed choice--that's the goal of our reviews.
As a technician, how many times have you heard a customer complain about the process of finding a new racquet? They would almost rather go to the dentist and have a tooth pulled than to go through the arduous task of finding a new racquet. At Alliance, we believe that should never be the case. In fact, we believe finding a new racquet should be an enjoyable process. If we know our products and understand our players games there should be no problem for us in helping them find the racquet that best suits their game.
STRINGS--There are literally 100's of strings on the market and while we can't test them all, we've made an effort to test as many as possible based on the strings submitted by the manufacturers we contacted. With strings we're looking to provide some basic but very important information to our members. The String Characteristics Data Base is done in such a way that you can sort from the softest to the stiffest strings from a specific manufacturer or sort to find the softest or stiffest string among all strings in the data base. We're providing elongation and tensile strength data in an effort to give members a clear course to follow when selecting strings for their clients.
Example: Let's say your player favors Wilson string. By accessing the data base you can type "Wilson" into the sort box in the upper right hand corner of the page and you will immediately be given the entire list of Wilson strings. You can see that Wilson Reaction 16 is the Wilson string that we tested with the highest elongation factor (11.17). If you're looking for the string with the highest tensile strength you can sort that particular field to quickly find that the Wilson Super Spin has the highest tensile strength at 220.20.
What if your client has arm problems and you're searching for a very soft string? Maybe you're surprised to find that it's Ashaway's MonoGut. Don't have the MonoGut in stock? Then the second choice would be the Gosen Remplir 17.
This type of data can be very helpful when you're going through the selection process for your customers. For us to give the string to 6-8 random players and then ask for feedback doesn't provide the type of data we're interested in supplying to our members. Racquet technicians need to know their products to better understand what choices to make when recommending strings to their clients. The idea here is to be informative and helpful so that when you have problems to solve our resources are there for you to access.
Machine Reviews; How can you use our machine reviews?
Any professional racquet technician is always looking for the ultimate stringing equipment. However, like most of us the ultimate comes with a price we may not want to pay. So how do we decide on a machine by considering characteristics other than price?
That is what our machine reviews are designed to do. At the end of each review a graphic is included that details the distortion and resultant tension. Please be sure to look at these graphics. They are clear and informative.
First, lets be clear, the two main functions of a stringing machine is to hold the racquet and stretch the string and hold it at a desired tension. There is hardly a stringing machine available today that will not pull the string to the desired tension, even the least expensive drop weight models.
A drop weight machine uses a marvelous natural “resource” called gravity! If the weight is situated at the right spot on the drop weight bar then the tension is going to be accurate and “constant”, as in constant pull. Other than being really slow a drop weight tensioning system is typically attached to a really flimsy racquet support system.
So, that leaves us with two other tensioning options, a spring activated “lockout” and a electric motor “constant pull” or “lockout” mode. Here is where the price can start to increase but the tensioning accuracies are nearly the same. OK, that leaves us with the major function of a stringing machine which is racquet support.
When we evaluate a stringing machine the same racquet, string, and tension is used. The racquet is measured before going onto the machine and again after it is mounted on the machine to assure the racquet has not been distorted during setup. The machine supports are set up in accordance with the manufacturers recommendation.
When all the main strings are installed the racquet is measured again and the amount the racquet has increased in width and the amount the main supports, those at 6 and 12, have become closer together is recorded.
Here is the important stuff! The minimum change, ideally, would be zero, and the maximum increase in width should be no greater than .400, or slightly less than 1/2 inch. A pretty good support system will be in the .200 to .250 region. A marginal support system will be in the .300 to .375 region. A really good machine will be in the .062 to .100 region and a really horrible support system will be anything over .375. Some manufacturers say that .375 is not too much distortion which may be true for a new racquet but not so true for a racquet that has been abused.
Our machine reviews go way beyond this information but if you focus on the support system you may find a machine with a good result at a pretty good price and of course the opposite can be true.
So there you have it. This is what our reviews are all about. Our underlying goal is to make you a better racquet technician by giving you the tools to help you make the right choices--nothing more, nothing less.