Playtest: HEAD C3 Rocket 16
By Greg Raven
C3 Rocket is a new multifilament control-oriented string from Head. As with several other Head strings, C3 Rocket uses ribbon-shaped strands. These ribbons surround a solid core, but are not bonded to the core.
The “C3” stands for Crystal Coaxial Construction. The “Crystal” portion is a refined polyamide material, which is less stiff for better playability and easier stringing. The “Coaxial” refers to the free-moving monofilament core, which according to Head allows for better feel, control, and power. The “Construction” refers to the C3 Rocket’s elasticity, which Head claims gives C3 Rocket better touch and sound at impact.
According to Head, C3 Rocket is an all-around high-performance string for all player types, with control, power, feel, and durability, as well as good spin properties.
C3 Rocket is available in 16 and 17 in white only. It is priced from $14 per 40-foot set. For more information or to order, contact Head at 800-289-7366, or visit head.com.
In the lab
We tested the 16-gauge C3 Rocket. The coil measured 40 feet. The diameter measured 1.29-1.33 mm prior to stringing, and 1.24-1.26 mm after stringing. We recorded a stringbed stiffness of 73 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 66 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. C3 Rocket added 15 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.
The string was tested for five weeks by 38 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3.0 to 6.0. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages. Average number of hours playtested was 34.8.
Installing C3 Rocket is easy, even though the ribbon construction gives it a natural texture. There was little coil memory, and tangles were quickly cleared.
No playtester broke his sample during stringing, one reported problems with coil memory, two reported problems tying knots, and two reported friction burn.
On the court
Our playtest team reports show that C3 Rocket is a very well balanced string. In fact, C3 Rocket is the second most balanced string we’ve seen, in terms of having comparable scores in each of our scoring categories. Of course, balance is only half of the picture. If the scores are comparable from category to category, you want those scores to be as high as possible. As it turns out, C3 Rocket scored well above average in Playability, Power, Control, Touch, Comfort, and Spin, and above average in Durability, Tension Holding, and Resistance to Movement. C3 Rocket’s overall score is even well above average of the 114 strings we’ve tested to date.
Four of our team members broke C3 Rocket during the playtest, two at 4 hours, and one each at 5 and 6 hours.
Head tells us that it had a difficult time classifying C3 Rocket as a control string because it does everything well, and its scores certainly support this.
Our playtest team gave C3 Rocket high scores across the board, with no deficiencies anywhere. Based on these results, C3 Rocket could be the string of choice for players who are picky about string performance in a couple of areas, but still don’t want to give up too much in other areas. And if you as a stringer have to deal with that vast body of players out there who don’t know what string they want, but they want something good, C3 Rocket’s performance in our playtest shows it could become your go-to string.
“This string has very high dwell time. The ball feels like it’s on the strings longer. This allows for great spin control. The comfort, durability, and playability make this one of the better all-around strings I’ve used in a long time.” 3.0 male all-court player using Wilson nPro strung at 64 pounds CP (Prince Premier w/Softflex 17)
“This string not only has that magic combination of power and control, the comfort is right on the mark.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Prince O3 Hybrid Tour (16 × 18) strung at 63 pounds LO (Gamma TNT 2 16)
“This is a very comfortable string with great control from the baseline. Both flat and topspin strokes consistently find their mark. It’s very easy “right out of the box.” By the end of my first session, I was playing extremely confident tennis.” 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 5.1 Surge strung at 60 pounds LO (Head Intellistring 16)
“This string feels good from the first hit. The control is outstanding and hitting out is never a problem.” 4.5 female all-court player using Head Airflow 1 strung at 60 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 17)
“Excellent String! Crisp response on volleys and great feel on touch shots. Decent power on serves and plenty of spin when needed.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson n5 Force strung at 63 pounds CP (Wilson Enduro Pro 16)
“String plays excellent for the first 10 hours. After that, though, there is some tension loss. This adds some welcomed pop to serves but compromises control.” 4.0 male all-court player using Head i.Radical OS strung at 63 pounds LO (Head Intellitour 16)
“This is a superb control string. Power is not overwhelming, but it is there when needed. Whether taking a full swing from the baseline or executing a touch volley, the depth and trajectory are always predictable.” 4.5 male all-court player using Dunlop Aerogel 5 Hundred strung at 62 pounds LO (Prince Lightning XX w/Powerfoil 17)
“If you prefer comfortable strings with excellent touch and control, this is worth a try.” 5.5 male all-court player using Wilson nPro Open strung at 59 pounds CP (Wilson Sensation 16)
“This string has a muted feel and a low power level. Full swings are required. There is not quite enough bite, but the comfort and tension maintenance are good.” 4.0 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 55 pounds CP (Babolat VS Team 17)
“Minimal coil memory makes this very easy to install. Minimal tension loss makes this string play well over time. While this is more of durability, control string, its playability and comfort will give it broad appeal. Volleys are crisp and deep, touch shots are very easy to execute. This is a great string for those who want a comfortable string with polyester-type control and durability.” 4.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Head Flexpoint Radical MP strung at 56 pounds CP (Goson Polylon SP 30)
“This string has great bite and it’s very easy on the arm. It’s not quite as playable as natural gut, but it is definitely a very user-friendly string.” 3.5 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson K4 strung at 60 pounds LO (Babolat VS Touch 16)
“The combination low power and high durability make this a great choice for big hitters looking for a comfortable nylon option. This is not recommended for compact stroke styles. This is a “make your own power” string. A great choice for wild swinging juniors or advanced players who want some comfort with their control.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal Heat strung at 56 pounds CP (Polyester/Natural Gut 16)
“This string has impressive feel and control. Given the high power level, I recommend slightly higher tensions. There is definitely some string movement, though, so be prepared to straighten your strings often.” 4.5 female all-court player using Head Liquidmetal 4 strung at 56 pounds (Wilson NXT Tour/Polyester 16)
“As a multifilament user who requires high playability, I was very pleased with this offering. It seems to do everything well. I had no problem hitting very penetrating groundstrokes or soft, angled touch shots. The control is excellent.” 5.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 6.1 strung at 60 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)
“For a nylon-based string, this has great control. While there is some moderate trampoline effect, there is no “spraying.” I can take a full swing just as if I were playing with a low-powered polyester.” 5.5 male all-court player using Völkl DNX 10 Midplus strung at 62 pounds CP (Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough 16L)
“This a solid, muted-feeling string with ample comfort and control. At the right price, I would consider a switch.” 4.0 male all-court player using Yonex RDS 003 strung at 55 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 17)
“This is very easy to install and the tension maintenance is incredible. The bite on topspin strokes is very pronounced. This is a very impressive nylon offering.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head Metallix 2 strung at 61 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 17)
“Tension maintenance is impressive. While this isn’t a great string, it doesn’t have any major flaws. The overall quality is good.” 6.0 male serve-and-volley player using Prince Shark MP strung at 65 pounds LO (Prince Sweet Perfection 17)
“This is a very playable nylon. The bite is exceptional, making it very easy to control the ball.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head FXP Radical Team strung at 53 pounds LO (Klip Legend 16)
“This string does not have any glaring flaws, but it lacks the “wow” factor. It is a standard nylon offering with above average comfort and decent control.” 4.5 male all-court player using Babolat Aeropro Drive strung at 61 pounds LO (Babolat Attraction Power 17)
“This string has great durability and spin, but excessive power makes it slightly hard to control.” 6.0 male all-court player using Head FXP Prestige Team strung at 58 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire Professional 16)
“This string starts a tad stiff, but it softens nicely over time. I enjoy teaching with it because the string bed is very predictable. However, I need something with better feel and more zip for match-play.” 5.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 60 pounds LO (Nylon 17)
“Installs very quickly. The playability, comfort and control are exceptional. Just when I was starting to really enjoy this string, it broke.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson K Six One strung at 62 pounds LO (Wilson NXT Tour 17)
“Heavy topspin takes its toll on this string. It’s very comfortable, but there is some notching.” 5.0 male all-court player using Prince O3 Red strung at 64 pounds CP (Gamma VS Touch 17)
“This is a soft multifilament with an outer layer that increases durability. The power and control from the baseline are decent, but the ball tends to fly on volleys. This is recommended to baseliners who are looking for more pop.” 5.5 male all-court player using Wilson KSix One strung at 60 pounds CP (Wilson NXT Tour 16)
“The feel is great, but the durability is lacking. Big hitters should probably stick with a more durable material.” 5.0 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal 1 strung at 61 pounds CP (Babolat Pro Hurricane 16)
“This string plays like an all-around nylon. There is nothing about it that would cause me to carry it in my shop or play with it. While it is comfortable, it does not offer anything unique. ” 3.5 male baseliner with moderate spin using Prince Thunder Rip strung at 62 pounds LO (Unique Big Hitter 17)
“From the very first hit, this string lacks power and control. It plays and feels dead. The string movement adds to the lack of control.” 4.0 male all-court player using Head Metallix 4 strung at 52 pounds CP (Gamma ESP 17)
“At 62 lbs. this string transmits a little too much shock. Given that it plays stiff, I recommend stringing at the lower end of the tension range.” 4.5 male all-court player using Prince Triple Threat Hornet strung at 62 pounds LO (Wilson NXT OS 16L)
“This is definitely very comfortable, and it seems to have great durability. The power, however, is just average. This would be a good choice for nylon fans looking for more comfort and durability.” 5.0 male all-court player using Head i.prestige MP strung at 58 pounds LO (Pacific Tough Gut 16L)
“While this string makes an excessive ping at impact, the power is great. It has good control, but it lacks feel.” 4.5 female all-court player using Prince Precision Mono strung at 63 pounds LO (Nylon Multifilament 16)
“This is a soft and comfortable string, but it doesn’t have enough bite or power. The durability and tension maintenance make it a slightly above average string.” 5.0 male all-court player using Prince O3 Hybrid Tour (16 × 18) strung at 54 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 17)
“I have trouble gauging depth with this string and the feel is not what I’m used to. In order to keep the ball from flying, I had to use more topspin than I’m used to.” 4.0 male all-court player using Head MicroGEL Extreme strung at 60 pounds CP (Wilson Natural Gut 16)
“This string feels slightly hollow. The spin and tension maintenance are great, but I’m used to a slightly more solid feel.” 5.0 male all-court player using Prince O3 Tour MS strung at 60 pounds LO (Prince Premier w/Softflex 17)
“Very durable and great feel, but lost tension too quickly.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix One (68 Holes) strung at 60 pounds CP (Wilson NXT 17)
“This string does not have one single characteristic that stands out. It is a good all-around string.” 5.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Prince O3 White MP strung at 60 pounds CP (Polyester 17)
“This is an average all-around string. My aggressive stoke style proved too much for it though. By the last 30 minutes, I could tell it was going to break. Ultimately, it’s not for me, as it doesn’t have the spin of polyester. Plays like a “middle of the road” nylon monofilament.” 5.5 male all-court player using Yonex RDS 002 strung at 55 pounds CP (Luxilon Timo 17)
“This string is too stiff and unforgiving for me.” 4.0 male all-court player using Völkl Tour 9 strung at 59 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)
(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||23|
|not quite as easy||2|
|not nearly as easy||0|
(compared to string played most often)
|Number of testers who said it was:|
|about as playable||9|
|not quite as playable||16|
|not nearly as playable||1|
|OVERALL DURABILITY |
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
|Number of testers who said it was:|
|about as durable||23|
|not quite as durable||6|
|not nearly as durable||2|
|From 1 to 5 (best)|
|Resistance to Movement||3.2|
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.
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