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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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,