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Playtest: Prince Hybrid Power EXP

By Greg Raven

Prince now combines one-half set of Prince Poly EXP and one-half set of Prince Premier LT as Prince Hybrid Power EXP. This string comes standard in demos of the EXO3 Rebel, EXO3 Rebel Team, EXO3 Ignite, and EXO3 Ignite Team, which are designed to be Prince’s player frames. In an earlier playtest (RSI, March 2009), Premier LT received the highest overall score of any synthetic we had tested to date.

Prince Hybrid Power EXP

As for Poly EXP, it is made using a co-extrusion technology that allows Prince to combine different types of polyester materials in the same string to create the perfect poly for any player.

The target customer is the player looking for the spin and control of a poly with improved comfort and playability.

Hybrid Power EXP is available in 17/16 in optic yellow/natural and gray/natural, although the same string combination is available in 18/17 as Prince Hybrid Spin EXP. Hybrid Power EXP is priced from $15 for sets of 22 feet/20 feet. Reels are available. For more information or to order, contact Prince at 800-2-TENNIS, or visit princetennis.com.

In the lab

We tested the 17/16 gauge Hybrid Power EXP. The coils measured 22’ (Poly EXP) and 20’ (Premier LT). The diameters measured 1.26-1.28 mm and 1.29-1.32 mm before stringing, and 1.22-1.23 mm and 1.25-1.26 mm after stringing. We recorded a stringbed stiffness of 79 RDC units immediately after stringing at 60 pounds in a Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 95 (16 x 18 pattern) on a constant-pull machine. According to Prince, you can use Hybrid Power EXP with the Premier LT in the mains for comfort and feel, but we tested it with the Poly EXP in the mains, which Prince claims is better for control, endurance, and spin. We advised members of our playtest team to reduce the tension on the mains by 5-10 percent.

After 24 hours (no playing), stringbed stiffness measured 72 RDC units, representing a 9 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. Hybrid Power EXP added 16 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame.

The string was tested for five weeks by 41 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 28.2.

The Poly EXP feels thick to the touch, but it strings up like a typical poly. The Premier LT is much softer, of course, to the point that it can mush out a bit on blocked holes. The surface of the Poly EXP is so smooth that we were unable to straighten the crosses as we worked, so straightening had to wait until after all the crosses had been installed.

One playtester broke samples during stringing, six reported problems with coil memory, five reported problems tying knots, and one reported friction burn.

On the court

Judging solely by our playtester ratings, Prince Hybrid Power EXP is definitely for players who are already using full poly setups or poly hybrids, and are looking to temper the poly experience with a softer string. That is to say, while Touch/Feel and Comfort scores were just average, Hybrid Power EXP received a 5th-best score in Resistance to Movement, a 17th-best score in Tension Retention, a 19th-best score in Durability, and well-above average scores in Power and Spin Potential, out of 135 published string playtest reports. These category scores combine to give Prince Hybrid Power EXP an overall average score that is well above average.

Yet, there is more to the story (as there often is with strings), with some of our playtesters commenting on how comfortable Hybrid Power EXP is, and one playtester admiring its qualities for feeding balls.

Two players broke the sample during the playtest period, one at six hours and one at ten.

Conclusion

Besides the great scores our playtest team gave Prince Hybrid Power EXP, the comments we received about this string reveal a somewhat surprising depth and complexity in this combination. Of course, being a hybrid, you could also string it up with the poly in the crosses, and change the tensions around. Between the Poly EXP and the Premier LT, you have two premium strings to help you get the stringbed characteristics you want.

Playtester comments

“Installation is quick and easy. As with many hybrids, this string plays stiff initially. Thankfully, the feel and playability improves noticeably after 2 or 3 hours. The response is comfortable and crisp. Feeding balls with this string is a pleasure.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Babolat Aeropro Drive strung at 57/62 pounds CP (Babolat Addiction 16)

“This hybrid has great feel and control.” 4.0 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson nSix One Tour strung at 56/60 pounds LO (Wilson Super Spin 16)

“This string has a wonderful feel. Very low vibration. Remarkable bite.” 3.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Dunlop Aerogel 2 Hundred strung at 58 pounds CP (Tecnifibre NRG2 16)

“I have never been a fan of hybrids until now. While the durability is low for the breed, the touch and feel are noteworthy. This string grabs the ball, allowing for massive spin. This is a high quality string.” 5.5 male all-court player using Head Liquidmetal Radical OS strung at 59/65 pounds CP (Babolat VS Touch 16)

“Very crisp! Great power on serves. Tension maintenance is excellent. I would definitely recommend this to my customers, especially string breakers.” 4.0 female serve-and-volley player using Head i.S6 OS strung at 50 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire 16)

“This string has higher power than most hybrids. Very solid feel and good spin.” 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson nSix One Team strung at 55/59 pounds CP (Luxilon Big Banger Original Rough/Wilson Sensation 16/17)

“This is a comfortable and powerful hybrid with great control.” 4.5 male all-court player using Head MicroGEL Radical MP strung at 60 pounds LO (Luxilon Big Banger Original Rough/Luxilon Monotec Supersense 16/16L)

“Great durability, control, and resistance to movement.” 5.5 male all-court player using Wilson K Pro Tour strung at 56/60 pounds LO (Wilson Extreme Synthetic Gut 16)

“Great power and control.” 5.0 male all-court player using Prince O3 Speedport Black (hole inserts) strung at 62 pounds LO (Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour/Babolat Conquest 16/17)

“This is one of the best control strings that I have ever tried. I can ‘swing for the fences’ without worry. The mains are very stiff, but the crosses add just enough ‘give.’ Hard hitters will appreciate the control and durability.” 4.0 male all-court player using Pro Kennex Kinetic Pro 7g strung at 63 pounds CP (Prince Lightning XX 16)

“Perfect combination of durability and playability.” 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson K Blade strung at 63 pounds LO (Polyester/Natural Gut 17/16)

“Great control, durability, and touch. High comfort and power for a string bed with polyester. This will definitely bring more people into the hybrid market.” 5.0 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson nSix One (68 Holes) strung at 55/58 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 17)

“Finally, a polyester hybrid I can endorse! Great feel on ground strokes, decent spin on serves, and crisp precision on volleys. After 12 hours, the string loses some comfort. I would like to try it at a lower tension, as I think the possibilities are endless.” 4.0 male all-court player using Prince O3 Red MP strung at 53/57 pounds CP (Gamma TNT2 Pro Plus 17L)

“Plays great in a dense pattern. Above average control and outstanding shock absorption. Very easy to keep the ball inside the lines, even on the biggest swings.” 4.5 male serve-and-volley player using Head MicroGEL Radical MP strung at 58/62 pounds LO (Babolat Xcel Premium 16)

“Plays great initially, though mains are quite stiff. Great control on volleys. Spin on ground strokes is pronounced. Very little string movement. Control and power are very good in the beginning, but power goes down after some initial tension loss.” 3.5 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 6.1 Stretch strung at 52/57 pounds LO (Babolat Xcel/Gamma TNT2 Fat Core 16)

“This is the perfect string for the aggressive baseliner. Big swings are rewarded with great control. The feel is slightly lacking.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson nTour Two strung at 58 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut Original 16)

“This is a firm string with low power. Great control and spin. Recommended to college players and string breakers.” 5.0 male all-court player using Vantage VT231 strung at 54 pounds CP (Natural Gut 16)

“Good power and control. Excellent durability. Not enough feel.” 4.5 male all-court player using Babolat Drive Z Cortex strung at 54/58 pounds CP (Babolat Addiction 17)

“Decent tension maintenance and no string movement. The feel is much softer than one would expect, given the polyester mains.” 4.5 male all-court player using Prince O3 Speedport Black (port inserts) strung at 60 pounds LO (Prince Premier w/Softflex 16)

“This is a soft and powerful hybrid. For those who like to err on the side of control, I recommend the high end of the tension range.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson Kobra Team FX strung at 60 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation 16)

“This hybrid has a good combination of playability and durability.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Dunlop 200G (Muscle Weave) strung at 65 pounds CP (Prince Synthetic Gut Original 17)

“Good comfort and durability. Holds tension well. Spin, control, and power are average.” 4.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix Two strung at 57/61 pounds CP (Gosen Polylon SP 17)

“This is a very durable hybrid. Very little string movement. Those who prefer a livelier feel are advised to lower the tension even more than the recommended amount.” 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Wilson nTour strung at 58 pounds LO (Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power 16L)

“The polyester mains add some heavy bite, while the crosses are comfortably soft. No string movement, even on my 14 main pattern.” 4.0 male all-court player using Prince Graphite Classic MP strung at 57/54 pounds LO (Wilson K Gut 16)

“Lowering the tension would add some feel. This string has a nice crisp response.” 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson K Zen Team strung at 56 pounds CP (Wilson Hyperlast Spin 19/16)

“Impressive playability. Comfort slightly lacking.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate spin using Babolat Drive Z OS strung at 50/55 pounds CP (Wilson NXT Tour 17)

“Very durable. Excellent resistance to movement. The feel at impact is solid. Despite the stiff polyester main, this string has an over abundance of power. Big hitters might want to pre-stretch and increase the tension.” 5.0 male serve-and-volley player using Dunlop M Fil 200 strung at 56/57 pounds CP (Pacific X Force/Natural Gut 18/17)

“Easier to string than most polys. The crosses have to be pulled carefully to prevent burning. Great playability. I would recommend this string to my customers.” 6.0 male all-court player using Prince O3 White MP strung at 58 pounds CP (Prince Lightening XX 16)

“Great spin and control. Minimal string movement. Comfort is average, but touch is slightly higher than one would expect. Tension goes down noticeably after six hours. Good combination of playability and durability.” 4.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Babolat Aeropro Drive strung at 55 pounds CP (Kirschbaum Competition 17)

“Compared to most poly hybrids, this one has superior power. Very quiet. Great for club players looking for an arm-friendly, lively hybrid. Like many polys, it does lose tension fairly quickly. However, this makes it feel and play even better.” 5.0 male serve-and-volley player using Gamma G310 strung at 42 pounds LO (Gamma Zo Tour 17)

“Above average comfort and feel. Great mix of durability, comfort, and touch. Zero string movement.” 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson K Blade Tour strung at 56/58 pounds LO (Wilson K Gut/Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power 16/16L)

“This string plays very firm. Feel, touch, and control are on the low side.” 4.0 male all-court player using Pro Kennex Core 1 No. 10 strung at 62 pounds LO (Pacific X Force/Gosen OG-Sheep Micro Super JC 18/17)

“Although not my ‘cup of tea,’ I can definitely understand why big hitters and string breakers would use it.” 4.5 female all-court player using Prince O3 Tour MP strung at 53/55 pounds CP (Tecnifibre NRG2 17)

“Installation is easy, but nothing else really stands out. This a decent hybrid, but not a ‘game changer.’” 3.5 male all-court player using Pro Kennex Graphite Acclaim strung at 50/53 pounds CP (Babolat Tonic + Thermogut Ball Feel 15L)

“Good durability. Too stiff for me.” 5.5 male all-court player using Wilson K Tour strung at 51 pounds CP (Wilson Extreme Synthetic Gut 16)

“Not for the novice player. This string requires skill to produce power and control. You must swing firm and hit the ball ‘on the screws.’” 5.5 male serve-and-volley player using Wilson K Blade strung at 55/60 pounds LO (Wilson NXT 17)

“Great durability, but low marks for touch and comfort. Feels dead compared to my typical nylon multifilament.” 4.5 male serve-and-volley player using Prince O3 Hybrid Lite OS strung at 60 pounds LO (Prince Premier w/Softflex 16)

“Not enough ‘pop.’ The response is too dead. The soft feel might make it a good option for those with tendon problems.” 4.5 male all-court player using Prince O3 Speedport Black (hole inserts) strung at 50 pounds LO (Head Sonic Pro 17)

“While younger players might appreciate the control, the poly is a little too stiff for my older tendons. The cross string is refreshingly soft. Perhaps installing the nylon in the mains would do the trick.” 5.5 male all-court player using Babolat Pure Storm LTD strung at 58/55 pounds CP (Natural Gut/Polyester 17/16)

“Tension on the polyester should be reduced more than the recommended amount to approximate the stiffness of a similar gauge nylon.” 3.5 male all-court player using Wilson Hyper Hammer 4.0 strung at 55 pounds CP (Wilson Sensation 17)

“The polyester main is very stiff and hard to install. This string plays with sufficient power, but not enough control. Slight mechanical miscalculations are over-penalized. Volleys are easier to stick than ground strokes.” 4.0 male all-court player using Gamma Diamond Fiber M 6.5 MP strung at 70 pounds LO (Gamma 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 2
somewhat easier 5
about as easy 22
not quite as easy 12
not nearly as easy 0
OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to string played most often)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 1
somewhat better 7
about as playable 12
not quite as playable 17
not nearly as playable 4
OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge)
Number of testers who said it was:
much better 7
somewhat better 20
about as durable 11
not quite as durable 2
not nearly as durable 1
RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best)
Playability 3.4
Durability (19th overall) 4.2
Power 3.4
Control 3.5
Comfort 3.0
Touch/Feel 3.0
Spin Potential 3.3
Holding Tension (17th overall) 3.6
Resistance to Movement (5th overall) 4.1

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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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