Tennis Industry magazine

 

Playtest: Prince Premier with Softflex 16

By Greg Raven

Brand & model

Prince’s new Premier is a multifilament string designed for ultimate gut-like playability. To achieve this goal, Prince wraps its micro-filament core with filament outer wraps made of Softflex, which it tells us is the most elastic material ever used in tennis string. Premier also has a soft polyurethane coating.

Prince says the elasticity of Softflex provides tremendous shock absorption and dampening for an ultra-soft, enhanced feel — making it ideal for players with tennis elbow. Due to Softflex’s excellent recovery from stretch and impact, Prince also claims tremendous resiliency and minimal tension loss.

Prince Premier with Softflex

Where a standard synthetic fiber rebounds only partially after stretching, Softflex fibers stretch and rebound almost like a rubber band.

Prince Premier with Softflex is available in 16 and 17 gauges (1.30 and 1.25 mm) in gold only. It is priced from $14.00 for sets of 40 feet. For more information or to order, contact Prince at 800-2-TENNIS.

Bench testing

We tested the 16-gauge Prince Premier with Softflex. The two coils measured 40 feet 4 inches and 40 feet 3 inches. The diameter measured 1.31 mm to 1.32 mm prior to stringing, and 1.27 mm after stringing. We recorded a stringbed stiffness of 68 RDC units immediately after stringing at 60 pounds in a Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 95 (16 × 18 pattern) on a constant pull machine. After 24 hours (no playing), stringbed stiffness measured 64 RDC units, representing a 6% tension loss. Our control string, Prince Synthetic Gut Original Gold 16, measured 78 RDC units immediately after stringing and 71 RDC units after 24 hours, representing a 9% tension loss. Prince Premier w/Softflex added 13.8 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.

The testers

Tested for five weeks by 40 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3.5 to 6.0. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages, to reduce preconceptions and biases regarding manufacturers, type of construction, and materials. Average number of hours playtested was 21.8.

Stringing

Stringing Premier is notably easy. There is virtually no coil memory, and most tangles shake out. You almost have to knot it before you have a problem. There feels to be a light coating of lubricant on the surface, which is normal for a polyurethane-coated string, as the polyurethane can become “sticky” toward the end of the crosses.

Premier cuts to a nice point, and although supple out of the package, it retains enough stiffness that blocked holes are not a problem.

Prince Premier cut-away

As noted by several of our playtesters, the surface of the string seems to deform rather quickly at intersections, so it’s a good idea to straighten your cross strings as you work, as the longer the string sits in one position, the more difficult it is to move it later. Once again, though, this could be a function of the polyurethane coating.

Thirty-five out of 40 of our playtesters rated Premier as being as easy or easier to install than other strings. None of the playtesters broke his sample during stringing, reported problems with coil memory, or reported problems tying knots. Three playtesters reported friction burn, which is not unusual for string with polyurethane coating, even one that is lubricated.

Playtesting

Our playtesters were pretty excited about Premier. Perhaps not surprising given Prince’s goal for Premier, playability and spin potential garnered ratings well above average. We did not expect, however, that 34 out of 39 of our playtesters would rate Premier’s durability as being as good as other 16-gauge strings, or better, or for the 16-gauge Premier to tie for second place in Power of all the strings we have ever playtested.

Our playtesters also felt that Premier was above average in touch/feel and comfort, all of which combined to give Premier an average rating well above average, putting it in the top twenty strings we’ve tested.

Seven playtesters broke Premier during play, with the breaks coming after 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 13, and 26 hours of play. The average number of playtesting hours was 22.

Conclusion

In addition to its high scores, Premier garnered high praise from a large number of our playtesters, and we had an unusually high number of enthusiastic responses. For players seeking a comfortable string with good playability for a lot less than the price of natural gut, Premier may be the way to go.

Playtester comments

“If there was a perfect synthetic, this would be it. It is as close to gut as you can get, much like Babolat Xcel Premium but with better durability. It doesn’t fray like NXT Tour and it seems to hold tension better than most multi-filaments I’ve used. It’s a soft string that’s easy on the arm and has great pop. This really stands out. Awesome durability. Every time I picked up the racquet it felt as though I had just strung it. And, it strings up very easily. Kudos to the manufacturer.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince Control DB strung at 63 pounds LO (Prince Lightning XX 16)

“This string offered great playability, control, and feel. A treat to playtest. I would carry this string.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Head i.prestige MP strung at 60 pounds CP (Tecnifibre 515 16)

“There was very little string movement. The strings feel crisp and have lots of bite. I find this string extremely comfortable to play with. It is one of the easiest strings to work with: very little coil memory or burning. I intend to add this string to my inventory. It is definitely a keeper.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Dunlop 200G strung at 65 pounds CP (Prince Syn Gut w/Duraflex 17)

“This is a string that is above-average in many categories. Easy to string, with very little coil memory. Nice playing string with controllable power. This string gives just the right amount of feedback with virtually no harshness even on off-center hits. One of the stand-out features of this string is its resistance to movement. The outer coating appears to be very soft, therefore the strings lock in almost immediately. This is usually a detriment to durability, however it does not notch past the outer coating until much later in the string’s life. Hard hitters with heavy spin may find durability a little lacking, but I found it to be average for a non-durability string and an acceptable trade-off in a string with this type of playability. This string should be enjoyed by a wide variety of playing styles.” 4.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Pro Kennex 7g strung at 67 pounds CP (Prince DNA Helix 16)

“A fantastic string that I hope to carry in my shop. I tend to have a tender elbow at times and this string was very comfortable. Hope the manufacturer offers a free sample!” 6.0 male all court player using Prince More Precision strung at 70 pounds CP (Prince Sweet Perfection 16)

“I thoroughly enjoyed playing with this string. Excellent mix of control, power, touch/feel, and spin. Strings did not move much at all, even after several hours of play. With the spin I put on my serve, I sometimes have elbow problems, but not with this string. Fantastic.” 4.0 male all court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 6.1 strung at 60 pounds CP (Wilson Synthetic Gut Extreme 16)

“I really liked this string. It held tension well, and I had good control of the ball. Seemed to play similar to my usual string.” 4.0 male all court player using Pre Kennex Kinetic Charged strung at 65 pounds LO (Tecnifibre TrC 16)

“Very easy to handle during stringing. It felt particularly soft. Lively string that produces plenty of power yet leaves me with great control and excellent feel on touch shots despite my low tension.” 5.0 male all court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 6.1 MP strung at 52 pounds LO (Tecnifibre NRG2 17)

“This string is definitely a keeper and I will add it to my string inventory at the first opportunity. The test string was very easy to install with only a slight degree of coil memory. Additionally, the string held tension exceptionally well. Although the test string plays a little stiffer than my normal string, it has a clean, snappy feel and seems to generate a little more power than many other strings that I have used.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Wilson Triad 3 strung at 54 pounds CP (Prince Wrapsure 17)

“A great players’ string. Love the overall feel and comfort, and I’m surprised by the pop it has. Would recommend this string to higher level players.” 5.0 male serve and volleyer using Wilson H2 strung at 62 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“Outstanding comfort! Virtually no vibration even without a dampener. Sound is excellent, too. This is a superior ‘players’ string that installs easily and yet resists movement very well. Teaching was a breeze — easy on the arm even in cold weather. It did have some control issues in play, especially with topspin. I attribute this to the fact that it has more power than my normal polyester. This should be a strong competitor for Tecnifibre- and Wilson NXT-type strings.” 5.0 male serve and volleyer using Fischer Pro Extreme FT strung at 39 pounds LO (Gamma ZO 16)

“This string holds tension better than any other string I’ve tested. The RDC stringbed stiffness dropped only one unit (59 to 58) in the first 24 hours after stringing. This is phenomenal. Subsequent weekly measurements were 53, 52, 52. ERT 700 measurements substantiated the RDC values.” 4.0 male all court player using Fischer Pro Impact FT strung at 58 pounds CP (BDE Perf 17)

“At first I did not care for this string. It strung up lower than usual by about 10 pounds. However, once I adjusted to that it was a good string. Spin and control were lower than usual, but power and comfort were up. Overall a very playable string that I would easily use for crosses in a thinner gauge.” 3.5 male all court player using Babolat Pure Drive + Team strung at 54 pounds CP (Gamma Poly Extra / Gosen OG Sheep Micro 18/17)

“Started out with a really slick feel, but once the string broke in, it felt pretty nice. The string seemed to hold tension well, and gave a good bite on the ball for a string this gauge. I wouldn’t play with it myself, but would carry it for a player who was looking for a synthetic gut upgrade.” 5.0 male all court player using Head i.radical OS strung at 51 pounds LO (Prince Syn Gut Original 17)

“Nice string, offering good power with control.” 4.5 female all court player using Gamma Diamond Fiber 9.5 strung at 63 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire XP 16)

“This string is very flexible and smooth, which makes it easy to string. The first time I played with this string it had way too much power and not enough control. As time went on it played much better, and after several days it played almost as well as my normal string, but with a softer feel and more power. It still had less control, but overall I liked it.” 3.5 male all court player using Prince TT Warrior OS strung at 62 pounds CP (Pacific TourGut 16)

“This string has a good feel to it. It reminds me of NXT. It has good durability. It strings up ‘tight.’” 5.0 male serve and volleyer using Wilson Hyper Carbon 4.0 strung at 58 pounds LO (Wilson NXT Tour 17)

“This string has a good combination of durability and great playability. I am looking forward to finding out what string it is and how much it costs. I may have found myself a new string.” 5.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 strung at 63 pounds LO (Prince Syn Gut 16)

“Overall a good string, but a little stiffer than I’m used to. Toward the end of the playing time it actually felt better than during the first hours.” 5.0 male all court player using Head i.S6 strung at 60 pounds LO (Prince Syn Gut w/Duraflex 16/17)

“The most outstanding characteristics were the muted sound and the feel of this string. Comfort level is high with no ping or buzz. Very solid feel. Would enjoy a 17-gauge version.” 3.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Babolat Pure Control + 360 strung at 60 pounds CP (Tecnifibre NRG2 18)

“Great string. Loved the feel and touch.” 5.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Prince AirDrive MP strung at 64 pounds CP (Prince Sweet Perfection 17)

“Good string. It did not break easily like synthetic gut, and the feel was really good.” 5.0 male all court player using Prince TT Hornet MP strung at 63 pounds LO (Gamma Syn Gut 16)

“This string appeared to hold tension quite well, and was good at resisting movement.” 4.5 female all court player using Prince More Control DB 800 strung at 58 pounds CP (Tecnifibre NRG2 SPL 17)

“Although I only was able to play with this string for five hours, I was impressed with the comfort and feel. It’s right up my alley.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince DB 850 OS strung at 62 pounds LO (Prince More Feel 16)

“This string was very easy to install. Not much in the way of coil memory, and the lubricated coating mode weaving easy. Knots tied up with no problems. Playing-wise this string was slightly better than average. I had excellent power on my serve and groundstrokes. Control wasn’t quite as good as my normal string. I seemed to lack power on my volleys. Overall I was satisfied with this string.” 4.0 male all court player using Gamma Diamond Fiber M6.5 strung at 61 pounds LO (Tecnifibre NRG2 SPL 17)

“This string felt very soft to me. I prefer a string that has a crisp feel to it. Stringing was a breeze with this sample. I would like to try this again in a thinner gauge.” 5.5 male serve and volleyer using Head Liquidmetal Radical MP strung at 58 pounds LO (Head synthetic gut 17)

“Surprising durability. The strings seemed to lose tension at a quicker rate than most strings of the same gauge and type. Overall, though, a good string.” 5.0 male all court player using Pro Kennex Kinetic 7G strung at 60 pounds LO (Prince Polygut 17)

“It took me two sets to adjust to these strings. After that, I found the string to be a good blend of control and playability. For my style of play, durability doesn’t seem to be a problem. However, I would probably restring every 12-15 hours of play due to tension loss and string movement.” 4.0 male all court player using Head i.X5 OS strung at 58 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 16)

“This string is larger in diameter than my usual string, but it played comparably well. I would have liked to play another 22 hours to see if it would match my usual string in longevity.” 3.5 male all court player using Wilson Hyper Hammer strung at 56 pounds CP (Wilson Sensation 17)

“This string has a nice feel, but the stringbed deflection went from 55 after stringing to 37 after 20 hours, with only 35% potential energy left. Also, the strings moved too much.” 5.0 male serve and volleyer using Prince Control DB strung at 63 pounds LO (Wilson Polylast 16)

“This was a frustrating string to play with. While I appreciated its feel, I was annoyed with its seeming unpredictability and poor resistance to movement. There was also a lack of spin/grip from the strings.” 5.5 male all court player using Volkl C10 Pro strung at 57 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire XP 17)

“I really didn’t like the playability of this test sample. It makes a twang sound with every stroke and is too spongy for my style of play. It made playing laborious rather than enjoyable.” 5.5 male serve and volleyer using Wilson Hyper Carbon Pro Staff 6.7 strung at 57 pounds CP (Bow Brand Natural Gut 16)

“It played stiff at first with not much power, but after about three hours or so it finally gave some pop to my strokes.” 3.5 male all court player using Head i.radical OS strung at 67 pounds LO (Tecnifibre TRC 17)

“Overall a very stiff string. Virtually no tension loss, even after several hours. Strings did not move much at all. Lacking in feel and control. Seemed to be very durable for heavy hitters.” 4.5 male all court player using Prince TT Grande OS strung at 62 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire XP 16)

“I expected a fairly soft, resilient feel due to the way the string felt during stringing. However, it played dead and clunky. I was surprised it broke so quickly given it didn’t look worn.” 4.5 female all court player using Wilson Hyper Hammer 3.3 strung at 60 pounds CP (Wilson NXT 16)

“I really didn’t like this string.” 3.5 male all court player using Wilson Hyper Hammer 6.2 strung at 60 pounds CP (Prince Syn Gut w/Duraflex 16)

(Strings normally used by testers are indicated in parentheses.)

Playtester ratings

EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings)
much easier 2
somewhat easier 15
about as easy 18
not quite as easy 4
not nearly as easy 1
OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to the string played most often)
much better 3
somewhat better 8
about as playable 13
not quite as playable 9
not nearly as playable 5
OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
much better 2
somewhat better 13
about as durable 19
not quite as durable 4
not nearly as durable 1
RATING AVERAGES
Playability 3.5
Durability 3.5
Power 3.6
Control 3.5
Comfort 3.5
Touch/Feel 3.4
Spin Potential 3.3
Holding Tension 3.3
Resistance to Movement 3.2

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About the Author

Greg Raven  is an associate editor for RSI magazine and technical writer. He is certified as a Master Racquet Technician by the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association. He can be reached via e-mail at greg@usrsa.com, or through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. He plays tennis five days a week, and is turning into an avid cyclist.

 

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