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Playtest: Tecnifibre Black Code 16

By Greg Raven

Tecnifibre Black Code is a coated monofilament polyester with a pentagonal shape. The monofilament core is a co-polyester, which provides the ultimate in durability, according to Tecnifibre. The polyester coating is said to increase durability and reduce friction burn during stringing. The pentagonal shape is said to generate more spin, and offer more feel.

Tecnifibre Black Code

Additionally, Black Code is manufactured using Thermo Core Technology. This means that during the manufacturing process, Tecnifibre gradually heats the materials matrix while stretching it, and then gradually cools it. Tecnifibre tells us that this creates a more elastic core.

Black Code is designed for the player who desires more feel and spin from a polyester string, and is already in use by ATP player Janko Tipsarevic.

Black Code is available in 16 gauge (1.28 mm), 17 gauge (1.24 mm), and 18 gauge (1.18 mm) in black only. It is priced from $12 for sets of 40 feet, and $170 for reels of 660 feet. For more information or to order, contact Tecnifibre at 888-TFTennis (888-838-3664), or visit Tecnifibre online.

In the lab

We tested the 16 (1.28 mm) gauge Black Code. The coil measured 40 feet. The diameter measured 1.29-1.32 mm prior to stringing, and 1.25-1.28 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 68 RDC units, representing a 7 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. Black Code added 16 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.

The string was tested for five weeks by 36 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3.5 to 6.0. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages. Average number of hours playtested was 29.8.

Out of the package, Black Code feels thin compared to other 16-gauge strings, although some of this perception may be due to the slimming effect of the color. Before, during, and after stringing, we had no idea that Black Code is five-sided rather than cylindrical. If you roll it between your fingers, though, you can feel the flats, and you can see the sides under a microscope. Black Code doesn’t have much coil memory, especially for a poly. Tecnifibre recommends reducing the reference tension by five percent when installing a “full” poly string job, which is what we recommended to our playtest team.

No playtester broke his sample during stringing, four reported problems with coil memory, five reported problems tying knots, and one reported friction burn.

On the court

What impressed our playtest team the most about Tecnifibre Black Code was its Resistance to Movement, where it earned the highest score to date, putting it first place in this category. Our playtest team was also impressed by Black Code’s Spin Potential, giving it a score good enough for 8th place of the strings we’ve tested, and Durability, where it comes in as the 14th best string we’ve tested to date (right behind Tecnifibre Pro Redcode). Our playtesters also gave Black Code ratings that were well above average for Playability, Power, Control, and Holding Tension. These scores resulted in Black Code placing 14th overall of the 133 strings we’ve playtested to date.

Two of the playtesters broke the sample during the playtest period, both at three hours.

Conclusion

You expect poly-based strings to score highly on Durability, Control, Resistance to Movement, and even Spin Potential, but you have to wonder how long string manufacturers can keep improving in these and other categories? We hope that Tecnifibre continues to amaze us with their future products.

As highly as Tecnifibre Black Code scored, it is a bit of a surprise that it didn’t score even higher. Several of the playtesters remarked favorably on the comfort and feel of the string, but this is not reflected in the overall scores for these two categories.

It’s also a little surprising that none of the playtesters commented on the color. Aside from the fact that the black looks snappy, it’s nice that it stays on the string and doesn’t transfer to the balls. As for stencil ink, Tecnifibre plans to offer a light-colored ink for use on Black Code (and other dark-colored strings).

Playtester comments

“This is a very durable string with minimal string movement. It compares favorably to the best polyesters on the market.” 5.0 male all-court player using Prince Turbo Shark MP strung at 62 pounds LO (Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power 16L)

“Bite is unreal. Tons of pop. While volleys could be a little more crisp, I’m definitely considering a switch.” 6.0 male all-court player using Wilson K Blade strung at 52 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)

“This string feels uncannily comfortable and precise. It takes very little time to develop confident stroke patterns. Topspin shots cause almost no string movement. Very enjoyably ride!” 4.5 male all-court player using Prince EX03 Rebel (hole inserts) strung at 58 pounds LO (Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 16)

“This is the best feeling poly I’ve ever tried. Power is sufficient and volleys are crisp. Before this test, I could not imagine switching to polyester.” 4.5 male all-court player using Volkl V1 Classic strung at 58 pounds CP (Babolat Tonic+ Ball Feel 15L)

“Loads of spin potential and plenty of control. Comfort and feel are better than with most polys, but, make no mistake, this has the feel of a poly. Noticeable tension loss starts at the four-hour mark. Tension maintenance and resistance to movement never waiver. Durability is outstanding. After 20 hours these strings still look fresh.” 4.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Prince 03 Speedport Black (port inserts) strung at 59 pounds LO (Prince Tournament Poly 17)

“Spin is not a problem with this string. Ball rotation is heavy. I would definitely recommend it.” 5.5 male all-court player using Fischer M Pro No. One (UL) strung at 65 pounds LO (Pro Supex Matrix Hybrid 16L)

“Initially, this string plays with too little spin and control. Fortunately, it breaks in quickly and playability improves measurably. Topspin players take note: String movement is nonexistent.” 4.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Head i.Radical OS strung at 57 pounds CP (Luxilon Big Banger Ace 18)

“Very crisp feel. Spin is effortless and it doesn’t cause string movement. There is noticeable pop on ground strokes and serves. Holds tension very well.” 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson K Six One (68 Holes) strung at 45 pounds CP (Luxilon M2 Pro 16L)

“This is definitely a high-end polyester. It holds tension better than its peers. Control is outstanding.” 4.0 male all-court player using Wilson T3 MP strung at 56 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire Pro 17)

“This is the best polyester I’ve tested. The response is comfortable and crisp. Tension maintenance is above average, and control is top notch.” 4.0 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson nSix One (68 Holes) strung at 54 pounds CP (Wilson NXT 16)

“I thought this was going to be a stiff, ‘no feel’ poly. I was wrong. This string has incredible touch and feel. Control is remarkable. While power is low, achieving depth is no problem. It is not every day when a string can be recommended to both power players and touch artists. This string cuts seamlessly across many niches.” 4.0 male all-court player using Avery M3 Control strung at 55 pounds CP (Gosen Polylon 17)

“No break in required. This poly is comfortable ‘out of the box.’ It is crisp and powerful, with a pronounced dwell time. I’m considering a switch.” 3.5 male all-court player using Prince Diablo XP MP strung at 60 pounds CP (aramid/nylon 18/17)

“This string has excellent control and power. It has surprising playability and touch for a poly. Given the high comfort level, I would recommend reducing the tension by only 2.5 percent.” 5.0 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson K Blade strung at 50 pounds LO (Wilson Enduro Pro/Wilson Sensation 17/16)

“This is a great string for big hitters with control problems. The spin is excellent. The high comfort level is a major bonus.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head MicroGEL Extreme strung at 61/59 pounds LO (Gosen Polylon/nylon 17)

“This string does everything asked of it. It’s a soft poly with a little extra bite and playability.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 58 pounds LO (polyester )

“Even with my dense pattern, the bite and power are pronounced. The pocketing definitely adds a sense of control.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson K Six One (76 Holes) strung at 56 pounds LO (polyester/nylon 16/17)

“Reducing the tension by 5 percent makes this a very playable poly. Compared to its peers, this string seems to offer better feel and touch.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson K Six One (76 Holes) strung at 57 pounds LO (Wilson Ultimate Duo 16)

“The durability, control, and resistance to movement are impressive. Even more impressive, however, is the lack of elbow shock. Polyester has come a long way.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 6.1 strung at 54 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)

“This string is stiff enough to deliver a crisp, controlled response, but not so stiff that it delivers too much shock to the arm. The touch and feel make it surprisingly more playable than its peers.” 5.0 male all-court player using Head MicroGEL Prestige Mid Plus strung at 57 pounds CP (Head FXP 16)

“Impressive durability. Very little string movement.” 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson nPro strung at 59 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)

“This is a very durable string. It is recommended to string breakers. It is a little too stiff for my multifilament nylon taste.” 5.5 male all-court player using Prince OZone 7 strung at 57 pounds LO (Prince Lightening XX 16)

“This string would be perfect in the hands of an aggressive power player. Every stroke comes with an added feeling of control. My improved consistency did not go unnoticed with fellow teammates.” 4.0 male all-court player using Head MicroGEL Radical MP strung at 54 pounds LO (Gamma Live Wire XP 16)

“This string handles stiff, but it plays surprisingly comfortable. Power is adequate. Spin and control are excellent. Though off center hits come with a predictable loss of power and control, there is less shock than one would expect. Though resilience and comfort ‘go south’ after 15 hours, I would consider using this as my primary string.” 4.5 male all-court player using Volkl C10 Pro strung at 50 pounds LO (Babolat VS Team 17)

“This string has plenty of ‘snap back’ pop. Volleys are crisp and overheads are nuclear. The lack of string movement makes this a very durable offering. Comfort and control are tolerable.” 4.5 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson K Six One Team strung at 56 pounds LO (Gamma Asterisk 17)

“This is a crisp polyester with a ton of power. The bite is exceptional, making spin very easy to generate. This is recommended to players who want a durable string without sacrificing feel.” 4.5 male all-court player using Prince O3 Speedport Black (port inserts) strung at 58 pounds CP (Luxilon Big Banger Ace 18)

“Great durability and control. Spin generation and power are unspectacular.” 4.5 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 60 pounds (Gamma TNT2 16)

“I find most poly strings stiff and unresponsive. This string is not nearly as stiff or dead as the general lot.” 4.5 male all-court player using Volkl DNX 1 w/Power Arm strung at 50 pounds CP (Forten Dynamix 16)

“This string plays a little too harsh. It is recommended to younger players with younger tendons.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head MicroGEL Extreme strung at 55 pounds CP (Polyester/Natural Gut 18/16)

“This is a firm playing string. Even with a 5 percent tension reduction, it feels very firm. The spin and control are great, but I would rather play with a softer poly.” 4.0 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Control strung at 52 pounds CP (Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power 16L)

“As a full set up, these strings are too stiff. For poly neophytes, tension reduction and hybriding with a soft cross are advised.” 4.5 male all-court player using Volkl Boris Becker 10 strung at 57 pounds CP (Gamma Synthetic Gut 16)

“Very good control, but a little stiff and underpowered. This string would make a decent hybrid main in an oversize frame.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Head Flexpoint Prestige Mid strung at 62 pounds CP (Signum Pro Poly Plasma 17)

“This is an extremely durable string with very little string movement. Spin potential is decent, but comfort, touch, and power are lacking.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Wilson K Zen Team FX strung at 50 pounds CP (Wilson Sensation 17)

“This string is recommended to power baseliners with bionic elbows and shoulders.” 5.5 male all-court player using Prince Triple Threat Warrior MP strung at 58 pounds CP (Monofilament Nylon 15L)

“This string is not lively enough for my game. The strings get mushy too quickly. The comfort level is fairly high for a poly.” 5.0 male all-court player using Babolat Aero Storm Tour strung at 60 pounds LO (Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour 17)

“The low power level makes it much easier to ‘swing out.’ Despite being a stiff poly, spin does not come easily. The string bed does not ‘grab’ the ball, making it harder to get a handle on touch shots or counter punches. Unfortunately, the high impact shock takes its toll.” 3.5 male all-court player using Volkl Power Bridge 4 strung at 58 pounds CP (Wilson K Gut Pro 17)

“This string feels good initially. Over time, however, it loses feel and goes dead.” 5.0 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Drive strung at 54 pounds CP (Isospeed Professional 17)

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

Playtester ratings

EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings)
Number of testers who said it was:
much easier 1
somewhat easier 7
about as easy 16
not quite as easy 11
not nearly as easy 1
OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to string played most often)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 1
somewhat better 6
about as playable 9
not quite as playable 18
not nearly as playable 2
OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 6
somewhat better 18
about as durable 10
not quite as durable 2
not nearly as durable 0
RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best)
Playability 3.5
Durability (14th overall) 4.3
Power 3.4
Control 3.8
Comfort 3.2
Touch/Feel 2.9
Spin Potential (8th overall) 3.6
Holding Tension 3.4
Resistance to Movement (1st overall) 4.3

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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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