Playtest: HEAD FXP 16
By Greg Raven
Brand & Model
FXP is a new multifilament designed to build on Head’s well-established FiberGEL technology. (See the playtest report for Head FiberGel in the September 2002 issue of Racquet Tech magazine, and the playtest report for Head FiberGel Power in the January 2004 issue.) FXP starts off with a polyamide 6 core with an integrated "tri-cluster" of gel fibers for power. Around this core is a wrap of polyamide 6 monofilaments, each of which incorporates three polyester filaments for control. Finally, the string is coated with DuPont 66 for durability.
The result according to Head is an easy-to-install string that has a crisp feel and maximum ball pocketing, for power players who need superior control.
FXP is available in 16 and 17 gauges in natural only. It is priced from $11 for coils of 40 feet. For more information or to order, contact Head at 800-289-7366, or visit head.com.
In the lab
We tested the 16-gauge FXP. The coil measured 40 feet 10 inches. The diameter measured 1.36 mm prior to stringing, and 1.30 mm after stringing. We recorded a stringbed stiffness of 81 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 73 RDC units, representing a 10 percent 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 percent tension loss. FXP added 15 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.
The string was tested for five weeks by 34 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3.5 to 6.0. These are blind tests, with each playtester receiving an unmarked set of strings in an unmarked package. The average number of hours playtested was 24.8.
Our playtest team agrees that FXP is easy to string. It has a nice feel, and although fairly soft, blocked holes are no problem. It has virtually no coil memory, and even seems to unkink itself during stringing. More than half of our playtesters reported that FXP is easier to install than other strings, with none reporting it was more difficult to install, making it one of the very easiest to install of strings we have playtested in the last several years. This is not too surprising, given that FXP uses FiberGel technology, and Head’s FiberGel Power also garnered high marks for ease of installation.
As you might expect from a string rated this easy to install, none of our playtesters broke his sample during stringing, or reported any problems with coil memory, tying knots, or friction burn.
On the court
Our playtest team found Head FXP to exhibit above average performance almost across the board. The team particularly liked the Playability, Power, Touch/Feel, and Tension Holding of FXP, with strong scores for Durability, Control, Comfort, and Resistance to Movement.
What’s really telling are the overwhelmingly positive comments we received from our playtest team. Many of the comments echoed Head’s marketing materials, indicating that FXP has hit its design goals dead on.
Head FXP is a solid performer in all the important categories, and according to our playtesters, if its description makes it sound like something in which you would be interested, you’re likely to be very happy once you try it.
Judging by the response we received from our playtesters, Head FXP could be a great “go-to” product for stringers with customers who don’t have a strong preference for one string over another, but still want a quality product. And, as easy as it is to install, you’ll love selling your customers FXP. This could well be the one string that “does it all” for the majority of your clients.
Head is so confident about FXP, that a free set of FXP 17 is being sent to each USRSA member in the United States in this issue of RSI.
“This is probably the best test string I have ever used. I would definitely buy this string when available. It held tension better than any other good-playing string I have ever tested. It also did not move much during my 24 hours of test play. I highly recommend this string for players wanting a great-playing string.” 4.5 male all court player using Head i.x6 strung at 60 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire Professional 17)
“This string played great, and remained crisp during the entire three weeks I used it. It holds tension better than any other string I used. This is a real winner, and when I find out what it is, I intend to use it in each of my racquets.” 4.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 strung at 60 pounds CP (Wilson NXT 16)
“Two firsts for this string: One, it’s the first string I haven’t cut out after the required 15-hour test period. Second, it’s the first string I’ve rated above average in every category. Really nice product. Played crisp, comfortable, and fresh for over 20 hours. Strings didn’t move for the first 10 hours. Nice pocketing feel, and the control was excellent. Unless this string is priced outrageously, I’ve found my new favorite.” 4.0 male all court player using Wilson Pro Staff Surge 5.1 strung at 60/58 pounds CP (Babolat Tonic 16)
“An excellent soft synthetic string. Very comfortable on the arm. The ball seems to hold on the strings a tad longer due to their comfort.” 4.5 male all court player using Völkl Catapult 3 Gen 2 strung at 55/53 pounds CP (BDE Performance 17)
“This string provides very good control while yielding above-average power. It holds tension well. I would like to know more about this string, and will definitely use it.” 4.0 male all court player using Head Classic MP strung at 61 pounds LO (Head Intellitour 17)
“Nice soft string.” 6.0 male all court player using Wilson nSix-One 95 strung at 53 pounds LO (Poly/gut 16)
“Good power, especially on serve. Nice solid feel. The string has a good combination of control and power.” 4.0 male all court player using Wilson Pro Staff Surge X 5.1 strung at 58/56 pounds CP (Gamma TNT 18)
“Easy to string. I thought this was a great synthetic. If the price is less than $10, I would highly recommend it. Will perform well by itself or in a hybrid set. Loved it. Best synthetic I’ve tried in awhile.” 4.0 male all court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 6.0 strung at 61 pounds LO (Wilson Natural 17)
“I recently purchased two racquets. One came strung with an average synthetic. I put the test sample in the second racquet, and the improvement over the other string was profound. This string is very “gut-link,” imparting excellent feel and control. It maintained this quality over the entire test period, but it did begin to notch noticeably after about 10 hours of play, which indicated that it might break earlier than typical “durability” strings. Nonetheless, I give it good durability scores because it did maintain its resiliency over the entire test period. I would probably not switch from my reference string, but I would have no problem recommending this string to better players who would really appreciate its overall playability.” 4.5 male all court player using Pro Kennex Kinetic Pro 5G strung at 62 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire XP 16)
“Easy to install. Nice soft string, which gives a good amount of comfort and power. I would play with this string again.” 5.0 male all court player using Prince Shark MP strung at 54 pounds CP (Prince Lightning Power 17)
“This string plays very well. I used it in my USTA league matches and was very satisfied.” 3.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson Pro Staff 6.5 strung at 63 pounds CP (Wilson Stamina 16)
“Very nice string. What is it?” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson Triad 6 strung at 65 pounds CP (Luxilon Big Banger 16)
“This string has a solid feel from the first hit: it’s comfortable immediately. It displays above-average power and durability, and holds its tension well. It didn’t quite have the playability of a 17 gauge, but the ball rebounds with vigor.” 4.5 male all court player using Head i.prestige strung at 57 pounds LO (Gamma TNT 17)
“This test sample was relatively straightforward to string. It is a good choice for players who like to use lots of spin and for those who use control and feel. Volleying with this string is a joy, with both excellent control and power readily achievable. Because of the rigidity of the string, it provides less comfort than my usual string, but I became a fan and would certainly consider using it as my regular string.” 4.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson Hyper Hammer 2.3 strung at 63 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)
“Very good synthetic. There was no notching until after the string started to move around, which caused a break after 35 hours of play. Not bad.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson Pro Staff Surge strung at 58 pounds LO (Wilson Mono/Gamma TNT 16/17)
“A nice responsive string. I like it.” 4.5 male all court player using Wilson nTour strung at 60/58 pounds CP (Gamma TNT2 16)
“This string plays very well. I am very happy with the power I get from the baseline: I am able to play longer rallies than I normally can. I also like the punch my volleys have, and I put a lot of them away cleanly. The strings did begin to feel a little mushy after 15 hours of play, but overall I like this string.” 4.0 male serve-and-volleyer using Babolat Pure Drive + strung at 58 pounds CP (Luxilon Alu Power 16L)
“Wonderful string to install. Very pliable, yet sturdy when it needs to be, such as when tying knots.” 5.0 male all court player using Prince Turbo Shark MP strung at 61/63 pounds LO (Prince Synthetic Gut 16)
“This string felt great for the first 8 to 10 hours. After that, I had trouble with control, touch, and spin. I wish I had strung it up a bit tighten. Very durable. Lively at first, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but major string breakers.” 3.5 male all court player using Völkl V1 Catapult OS strung at 60 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire Professional 17)
“Good, typical synthetic. Nothing outstanding to make me buy additional sets, or to recommend to customers.” 3.5 male baseliner with moderate spin using Head Liquidmetal 4 strung at 62 pounds CP (Signum Pro 17)
“Decent string.” 3.5 male all court player using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 60 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire XP 16)
“The string feels dead. It was very easy to install, though.” 5.5 male all court player using Prince Tour Diablo Mid strung at 62 pounds LO (Luxilon Alu Power 16L)
“This is a very easy string to handle, but other than that, I rated it average. This could be a great string for someone who has elbow, shoulder, or wrist problems, as the comfort level is very good.” 5.5 male all court player using Head Liquidmetal Rave strung at 62 pounds CP (Luxilon Timo/Head RIP Control 18/16)
“This string is not as soft as my normal string, but it is still an all-around decent string.” 4.5 male all court player using Fischer Pro Extreme FT strung at 60 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire 16)
“This is a decent string that plays very soft. It is tough to generate power, although the feel of the string is very good. I would recommend this string to players who use lighter racquets.” 5.0 male all court player using Prince NXGraphite Mid strung at 60 pounds CP (Babolat Ballistic 16)
“I experienced no problems with stringing. In fact, it is very easy to string, even when installing the crosses. The stringbed feels very stiff compared to my normal string, and I can feel the difference in my arm. The stiffness basically remained unchanged through the test period. There is minimal notching, and the strings tend to stay in place well, so I expect the overall durability to be excellent. Overall an average string for playability, but better than most for stringing ease and durability.” 4.5 male all court player using Fischer Pro Impact Ft strung at 54 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire Professional 17)
“There is nothing special about this string. I thought the playability dropped off after the first three hours. I would not buy this string.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson Hyper Hammer 4.3 strung at 64 pounds LO (Gamma synthetic 16/18)
“Not impressed with this string. Feels average regarding playability at best. Similar to a typical synthetic offering.” 4.5 male all court player using Head Flexpoint Radical strung at 62 pounds LO (Tecnifibre NRG2 18)
“String seems tough and not very forgiving. Durability is good, but feel is not as good as usual.” 5.5 male all court player using Head Liquidmetal 4 strung at 56 pounds LO (Head synthetic gut 16)
“Not my favorite string. Less pop, but decent grab for spin. Not much feel, and they seem a little dead.” 3.5 male all court player using Gamma F-9.0 Diamond Fiber strung at 66 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire XP 17)
(Strings normally used by testers are indicated in parentheses.)
| EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings)
|Number of testers who said it was:|
|about as easy||16|
|not quite as easy||0|
|not nearly as easy||0|
| OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to string played most often)
|Number of testers who said it was:|
|about as playable||8|
|not quite as playable||14|
|not nearly as playable||1|
| OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
|Number of testers who said it was:|
|about as durable||18|
|not quite as durable||3|
|not nearly as durable||0|
| RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best)
|Resistance to Movement||3.4|
See all articles by Greg Raven
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. He plays tennis five days a week, and is turning into an avid cyclist.