Do something nice for your tendons – a short list of soft(er) strings

Natural Gut. known for its almost other-worldly feel and responsiveness, the obvious solution for players in search of ultimate comfort is natural gut. At once velvety and crisp, the fibrous collagen in beef serosa produces a sensation that must be experienced to be appreciated. For those with sticker shock, please note: unlike multis that go mushy or polys that get brassy, the tension maintenance of natural gut is second to none. If you’re looking to give it a try, check out Pacific’s line of natural gut, which has 4 of the 10 softest guts tested in the TWU string lab. Here are a couple to consider:

Pacific Prime Natural Gut 16

Pacific Classic Natural Gut 16

Multifilament: If you don’t have a cow handy, the most common method for creating a softer string is to switch out your solid core for an army of shock absorbing filaments (and it wouldn’t hurt to inject it with stretchy polyurethane). Simple right? Nope, because not all multifilaments are created equal. The number and type of fibers along with the amount and kind of bonding resin have a significant impact on playability and feel. On top of that you have to consider the coating, which is another area where composition has consequence. Abrasion resistant coatings will often trade a little comfort for durability. Needless to say, if one multifilament doesn’t feel quite right, keep looking because the perfect feel is just around the corner. In addition to the classics, e.g., Wilson NXT, Tecnifibre NRG2 and Gamma Professional, here are a few others to consider:

Dunlop DNA 16

Klip Venom 17

Tourna Quasi-Gut 16

Zyex: Let’s not ignore the hard data. Stiffness tests for Zyex based strings place them among the softest non-gut strings tested in the TW string lab. You don’t have to take my word for it, test drive Ashaway’s Dynamite 17 Natural or Dynamite 18 Soft. For a slightly firmer feel, try Dynamite 16 Tough. These strings seem to maintain control well at lower tensions, so don’t be afraid to shave off a few pounds. New to the Zyex universe is the paradigm shifting MonoGut ZX, the softest monofilament on the market. TW playtesters have commented that it offers the slippery snap back of a poly with less impact shock than a traditional monofilament.

Ashaway Dynamite 17 Natural

Ashaway Dynamite 18 Soft

Ashaway MonoGut ZX 16

Polyolefin: If you want to dampen the shock of your stiff frame, or maybe just spoil your elbow, look no further than polyolefin ribbon technology. Though built from a firm material, polyolefin ribbons produce a very comfortable response. In fact, TW lab tests confirm that along with Zyex, polyolefin-based strings are among the softest non-gut strings available. You can discover the vibration-free muted magic of polyolefins in a small number of strings, including IsoSpeed Control and IsoSpeed Professional, as well as a couple ultra comfortable Head hybrids, Intellistring and Intellitour. These hybrids feature the RIP Feel cross, which has one of the lowest stiffness scores of any non-gut string ever tested. Finally, there is the slightly stiffer Head RIP Control which features polyolefin ribbons wrapped around a multifilament core for a very unique, comfortably firm response.

IsoSpeed Professional 17

Head Intellistring

Head RIP Control 16

Co-poly: Yes, I know, polyester is stiff and has no business anywhere near a list of soft strings. In fact, when this rigid plastic stuff started popping up in the 80s it was not very well received, offering little more than durability to string breakers. But times have changed. The tipping point was in 1997 when Gustavo Kuerten won the French Open with something called Luxilon, which represented a crucial leap forward in monofilament technology. Since then poly-based strings have not only taken over the pro tour, but an increasing number of string manufacturers are devoting the lion’s share of their R&D to creating friendlier, more playable polys for those of us without Nadalian head speed or 13 ounce racquets. While the strategies and additives used to improve the playability and comfort of polyester strings are too numerous to mention, one thing is for certain: it’s working. An ever-expanding number of players are joining the party, all of them looking for more control on bigger swings. The list of softer polys gets longer every season. In addition to the recently reviewed Dunlop Black Widow, here are a few that we’ve been enjoying lately.

Polyfibre TCS 16

Topspin Cyber Flash 16

Weiss CANNON Silverstring 16L

Polyester based strings are quite firm compared to other string materials and are only included as an option for poly players who might want to explore softer options. Given the native firmness and low elasticity, reducing the tension from your nylon or nat.gut reference is a good call. 

Thanks for reading,


Product Review: Strings

As the resident product-video-girl I am regularly in front of the camera, focusing on different products that we have (specifically strings and bags!). Recently I did a whole bunch of string videos for your informational pleasure, so you can understand best what you’re playing with and putting in your racquet.

I’m working my way through covering all the strings that we have here at the Warehouse, in no particular order, so if you have any strings you want to see or have any questions, make sure you always contact us and ask!

Wilson’s Champions Choice String (we playtested this and did a review on it, which you can check out here).

Pacific Prime Natural Gut string (made in my homeland of New Zealand!)

Luxilon Big Banger TiMO string

Gosen Sidewinder string

Dunlop Silk string

Make sure to comment if you have any questions, I, or anyone else on the team will be happy to help.


Tennis Strings. Where to Begin?

If you’ve ever had the arduous task of going to the grocery store, then you understand that in 2011, there are way too many choices for everything you want. Need some bread? Would you like white, wheat, whole grain, 9 grain, potato, or buttermilk?  Take a stroll down the juice isle and you’re be bombarded with cartons that read: No Pulp, Less Pulp, Calcium Added, and Extra Pulp.

And don’t even get me started on the types of ice creams and flavors that are available. What in the world is a Dippin Dot?!

So I can relate to those of you who take one look at our string page and think, as the kids say, “WTF.” I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I get to try out so many types and brands of strings that I know what to look for and I’m not intimidated by the vastness of the selection. Let me help you by breaking it down as simply and easily as possible.

Before we even get into string types, we should talk about tension. Every racquet has a recommended tension range and it usually lies between 50 and 60 pounds. As a general rule of thumb, the lower the tension, the more power and the higher the tension, the more control. Not sure what tension to go with? I recommend stringing at mid, and then making adjustments from there. Feeling like you’re slightly over hitting? Dial up the tension a couple pounds. Vice versa if you feel your shots are landing shorter than usual.

Now onto the string types. There are 4 basic string categories: nylon, multifilament, natural gut and polyester.

Nylon (AKA synthetic gut or syn gut):
Price Range: Less than $5.00
Pros: Cheap, does everything decently well.
Cons: Does nothing spectacularly well.
Examples: Babolat Synthetic Gut, Prince Duraflex, Gamma Synthetic Gut, Wilson Extreme
The most basic string type is also the cheapest. A jack of all trades, it provides decent spin, power, control and durability. This is ideal for the casual player and those looking for all around performance in an economical offering.

Prince Range: $5.00-$20.00
Pros: Soft feeling, arm-friendly, wide selection, powerful
Cons: Durability
Examples: Wilson NXT, Gamma TNT2, Babolat XCel Premium, Tecnifibre NRG2
Generally speaking, these types of strings are softer and better for the arm (those suffering from any arm injuries take note: These strings are for you!). They are made up of thousands of little fibers all wound together and provide great elasticity for power and ball pocketing. This is a great cheaper alternate to natural gut and offers all weather performance.

Natural Gut:
Prince Range: $20.00-$43.00
Pros: Comfort, arm-friendly, ultimate feel and insane ball pocketing.
Cons: Durability, price, doesn’t like damp or wet conditions.
Examples: Babolat VS, Wilson Natural Gut, Pacific Natural Gut, Klip Legend
Whether you’re recovering from an arm injury or trying to prevent one, this is the best possible string you can get for your arm. Provides a very soft and forgiving stringbed with plenty of power. Natural gut used to be used by just about every pro player until the invention of polyester strings (see next section). Natural gut is seeing a resurgence on the pro tour as part of a hybrid set up (different types of string used in the stringbed — one in the mains, the other in the crosses) as it adds comfort, pocketing and power to whatever string you combine it with. Natural gut alone has to be strung very tightly for big hitters to still have control, but because of its unique natural fiber construction it plays softer at higher tensions. Made from a cow’s intestine, this is not the string for members of PETA.

Price Range: $4.00-$20.00
Pros: Large selection, control, durability, spin
Cons: Stiff, lack of power, tension maintenance
Examples: Luxilon ALU Power, Babolat RPM Blast, Polyfibre TCS, Solinco Revolution, Becker Bomber, Signum Pro Poly Plasma
The hottest thing to hit the tennis world since graphite racquets or Anna Kournikova, take your pick. Most of the pro tour has already made the switch. The question is, is it right for you? What’s all the hype about? And it really boils down to two words: spin and control. Because it is so low powered, players are able to take full, big cuts at the ball, imparting more spin than ever before. The big downside is how harsh it can be on your arm. This is not an issue for the pros as they find the sweetspot more than the rest of us, but off-center hits can be very jarring. The high stiffness level does very little to help absorb all the shock and vibration. Avoid this one if you have arm, wrist or shoulder issues.

That is a very quick break down of the 4 main categories of strings. If you really want to dive deeper into the world of strings, I suggest you head over to our TW University. I hope this clears some things up for you and you are now able to narrow down the types of strings you want to try in the future.

And if not, there’s always Dippin Dots.

Jason, TW