Tuesday, 15 December 2009

What Makes A Good Badminton Racket

This the eternal question that all badminton players search for. With so many rackets available these days, all promising faster smashes, more control, more consistency for your game, more aerodynamic capabilities, lightning reactions and god knows what else, it can be very difficult to know what to go for. The truth is that the badminton racket is just a tool of the trade. Can it make you a better player? It can improve what you already have by a slight amount, that is the only truth in the hyped up marketing world we live in. It is exactly the same for other sports such as tennis, squash and golf. Golf is especially a problem, there are even channels dedicated to offering new technology and new clubs that will increase your driving length by 50 yards or whatever. People go for this hype, but is it all hype or is there some truth in it all?

Yonex have marketed the new Arcsaber Z slash as being the faster racket ever made. They didn't make the claim themselves they just allowed some players to test it for them by having a smash speed contest. The fastest recorded speed was achieved with the new Z Slash. It is a useful exercise in racket promotion because Yonex don't have the same marketing power they had a few years ago. When they sponsored all the top players they could just stick a picture of Lin Dan or whoever next to the product and casually mention that the worlds best player uses Yonex rackets. This is a big boost for any company to have because if the worlds best are using your equipment then it must be good enough for the rest of us. Yonex don't have this luxury anymore, so they have turned to other means. They now have to sell the racket as a stand alone product. Now that we all know that this new Z Slash is the reason behind the fastest smash ever recorded, does that make you want to go out and buy it?

It probably does for the less informed badminton players around the globe. All around the world there are novice players opening up their new Arcsaber trying to belt the cover off the shuttle. They are all very upset when they don't get the results they were after. Why does this happen? Because they don't even know if the racket suits their game before they buy it. They may not have the technique to generate the power they are looking for. If you have a suspect technique then no racket is going to make you play better, no matter how much it costs. You have to know your own game inside out before you can recognise how good any badminton racket is for you. You need a very consistent technique to be able to tell if there is a difference in what you are playing with.

The way i can spot if a racket is better or worse for me is in how much it helps me do what i do. I keep going on about low work and high work rackets, and there is a good reason for this. A badminton racket is designed to make life easier, just like a tennis racket or a golf club or whatever. If you are an advanced player then you will have consistency. This is the be all and end all in every sport, consistency. Beginners and intermediate players are those who are climbing the ladder of consistency. Without consistency you are erratic and unpredictable. You can hit a sizzling smash and then hit a slower smash on the very next shot. You don't really know why this has happened, it just has. The same applies to golf. There are millions of recreational players out there who can hit good shots and bad shots. Tennis players can hit aces and then double faults on the next shot. This happens because of faulty technique mainly. There are other factors such as footwork and positioning which play a huge part as well. All these small things combine to give you the finished result, and it all comes down to you, the player. This goes on before you have even hit the shot, the racket has not become a factor yet.

An advanced player has this consistency, they can hit the shuttle wherever they want to from any position on court. The shuttle will land in around about the same place most of the time. It doesn't really matter what racket they are using, they will always get similar results. Their technique is refined and grooved and consistent, and the game is so much simpler and easier. Their smashes will be around about the same speed all the time. This the amount of work they put into every shot based on their technique. The second you start trying to hit harder then that is when problems begin to surface. Your technique is not as consistent and the result is a lack of control and direction. Errors begin to creep in to your game. Buy hey, it can't be the racket because Yonex say it will allow you to smash at unbelievable speeds right? There is some truth in this because that racket has not changed, you have. You are now the problem not the racket.

A good badminton racket is a low work racket. If you hit a clear it should land in the back tramlines more often than not if you have the right technique and positioning. The difference between a good a good racket (one that suits your style of play)and a bad racket (one that doesn't) is how much it helps you. I can pick up a racket and hit a few clears with it. I will look and see where the shuttle has landed. Hopefully my technique is consistent enough for me to notice any difference. Where did the shuttle land compared to another racket? Was it shorter or further? If it lands short, then all things being equal, ie string tension, then the racket is less efficient for me. If the shuttle lands further away then that racket is more efficient for me. For the same amount of effort i have seen a different result. I did not try to hit the shuttle harder, or with more force, i just let the racket do its thing. In effect i have tried to isolate the racket from my myself so i can see if there is a difference to my shot with it. This is very difficult to be totally 100% accurate because there are always going to be slight differences with technique from one shot to the next. The better players have very little differences so they can tell straight away what is happening. They can then say to themselves, this racket feels good because i can now hit the shuttle a bit faster with the same amount of effort. Or i now find it easier to hit a clear because the shuttle is travelling further with the same amount of effort. You then have to make adjustments to compensate for this. There is not much point in having a racket that enables you to hit the shuttle further if the result is that you are hitting everything out of the back line.

I did my own tests with the lead tape on the bottom of the handle to see if there was any truth in the research that i looked into. Well it did work for me. For the same amount of effort the shuttle travelled further, about 6-10 inches difference. This was a very big difference for me. For about £2 i had just made my racket more efficient. The research was right for me. Not many players use lead tape on the bottom of the handle because they have never heard about it, most add it to the top of the racket. It still makes a difference but it is worse for your arm and shoulder in the long run. Adding any weight will make the racket feel more cumbersome around the net area, but you have to decide what is best for your game. It is just a balancing act, you win at the back with increased power but lose at the front of the court due to the added weight.

And so we come back to the Arcsaber Z Slash. No doubt this racket is a quality piece of engineering. I have not even played with one, but i know that it will be a very consistent racket. It will be stable on impact because almost every badminton racket that is on the market today has similar technologies that aid stability. The differences are only slight, which is why any badminton racket will only help you by a small margin. You are not going to smash the shuttle twice as hard with a Z Slash or any other make or model. However, there may well be a small difference which can make things easier for you. These small differences can make a difference to your game.

Take this as an example. Give an advanced player a £10 steel beginners racket with factory strung strings at about 15lbs tension when are used to playing with a stiff framed high technology racket strung at 30lbs. What happens? Well at first the player thinks, god this feels shit. Their shots are not as consistent as they normally are. The shuttle is not going where they want it to. However, after about an hour things are improving. The player has got used to the new racket and the string tension, and while it still does not feel right, the shots are becoming more consistent and accurate. They have already compensated for the difference. After two hours of play there is now not much difference at all. All the clears are landing in the right place, and the smashes are going where they intended them to. The point i am trying to make is that good players can play with anything and make it work. The racket will still feel hard to work with, it would be high work racket, but the result is around about the same. Perhaps a 5% difference?

The flip side of this is the beginner who has just gone on the internet and seen the new Z Slash yonex racket. They see that this racquet is behind the fastest ever recorded smash and they think, i gotta get one of those because it will improve my smashes. The result is that they have no idea if that racket has improved their game or their smash because their technique is faulty. They cannot compensate for the difference so their game just carries on as normal. Sure, they may hit the occasional great shot, but they could have done this with any other racket. My suggestion is that a novice player is going to find it very difficult to make an informed decision.

I play golf about twice a year, i am very bad, i have no consistency because my technique is all over the place. You could give me the most expensive golf club with the latest technology that promises to make me drive the ball an extra 30 yards. It will be a useless exercise because i have no way of telling if that club has made a difference to my driving. However, if you give the same club to tiger woods he would be able to tell the difference right away. Some golf clubs have been banned because of the difference they can make, so technology does make a difference. Grooves in the club head allow players to get more spin on their iron shots, so we now see balls landing on greens and spinning backwards by a considerable amount. The problem is you need to have the right technique to get this result. Most players cannot do this because their technique is flawed. The same applies to badminton and any other racket sport.

So back to the question of what makes a good badminton racket? The answer is you do. In most of my racket reviews i mention power and control, and that is a bit misleading because power and control come from technique, and yours is different to mine, so what i think is a powerful racket may not be the same for you. In reality no racket is "powerful" it just makes it easier to get some power that is generated by yourself. Same applies to control, you have to create your own control, the racket will be useful for making it easier to control the shuttle if the head is stable on impact. You can then get more consistency with your technique. Remember though that it is the strings that connect with the shuttle, and they play a much bigger part in terms of control.

I like high tension strings, i believe they give me more control over the shuttle. Some people argue that this is not the case, and that low tension is better for control because the shuttle is in contact with the strings for longer. The truth is that high tension does give more control and it comes down to the movement of the strings on impact. If you have loose strings then they will move more on impact. This means you do not have a totally stable base when you hit the shuttle, which equals less control. Tight strings will not move around as much so there is more control available. The racket simply holds the strings in place, so if you add a stable frame to all of this then you will have even more control.

If you are thinking of buying a new badminton racket then please experiment with the strings first. They have a real impact on your game. I would much rather have a cheap racket strung at 30lbs than a Yonex Z Slash strung at 20lbs. The strings will have more of an effect than the racket ever will. What makes me laugh is that in the UK the manufacturers maximum string tension for the Z Slash is 24lbs. This has been the case for many years now and it really gets on my nerves. Take central sports in the UK, the biggest authorised yonex dealer in the UK. It has taken a long time for them to finally offer stringing at higher tensions. They go to a maximum of 28lbs with the Z Slash but cannot be responsible for anything over 24lbs. Ok this is a fair point. But in the past you got a good racket with shit tension, which is a waste for me. The first thing i would do is take out those crap factory strings and throw in something better at higher tension, then i would see how the racket felt. Anything else is just a waste of time.

I could play with my cheap £20 racket with 30lbs tension and tell you that it has more control than a Z Slash at 20lbs tension. It has nothing to do with the racket and everything to do with the strings. So the next time you see some marketing that promises extra control on your shots, understand that the strings will be largely responsible for that.

A good badminton racket is one that makes things easier. I think next time i do a review i will base it on how easy it is to work with. I know i am givimg the new yonex racket a tough time here and i keep on referring to it. So far the most efficient racket i have played with is the apacs lethal 70. I consider that racket to be the best for my game. The Z Slash may be just as good, perhaps better than the lethal 70, i will not know until i have actually tested it. I also just bought the apacs nano pro tour 9600 because i liked that as well, and it was a good price. There is no way i am going to pay £150 or however much that Arcsaber is, just to test it out. If someone wants to send me one then fine, it will get tested and reviewed.

Can you compare one racket to another? I can compare it for my own game, not yours. For example, when i tested the Edgesaber 7 and 10 from apacs i said that to get the best out of it you needed to hit the shuttle right smack in the centre of the string bed every time. For me the Edgesabers are hard to work with, the head is not as stable as with the lethal 70, the tantrum 160 or the nano pro tour 9600. Or my old carlton airblade tour or the browning oxylite i used a few months ago. I could still play with the edgesabers but they didn't help me out as much. My clears where coming up shorter than with the other rackets, i am only talking about inches here, but over the course of a game it makes a difference because i was having to compensate that little bit by swinging me arm faster on impact. This leads to less control because i have changed my technique just a bit. After an hour everything is back to normal and control is much better, but when you compare this to the others it just means i had to compensate more for those edgesabers. So in my review i give it less control than the lethal 70, and less power because for the same effort i did get less power. This not to say the edgesaber is a less powerful racket for someone else. They may have a much faster swing speed and better technique, so in this case they will generate more power from this racket.

However i can compare my own findings to another racket that i have tested. I can't know for sure that i can generate a bit more power on my smash using a lethal 70 than with an edgesaber 7 or 10 for the same amount of effort unless i get a speed gun and test it. But i get better length on my clears with the lethal 70 for the same effort because i have seen it in action. The tension was the same for all rackets so i base my conclusion on this. The difference is only a few inches, but there is a small difference nonetheless.

The adverts on the central sports web site for the new yonex racket has a big banner that states some guy hit a world record smash of 414 km/h, and that the Z Slash increases offensive power and smashes. The only real way to find out if one racket is more powerful than another is to test them without the human element. Only the guy who hit that smash will know if he put a bit more effort into it than he did with a previous smash.

You could create a machine that simulates a smash action and then hit it into a suspended shuttle. The record the speed of the shuttle at a fixed point. All the rackets would need to be to exact same tension from the same string manufacturer. You would still get differences, such as the shuttle quality and string quality variances but it would be as consistent as you could possibly be. Only then would you find a true answer to the question. It would be great if someone actually did it.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Apacs Nano Pro 9600 Tour Review

Ok, i have been testing the Nano Pro 9600 Tour for the last 2 weeks now, giving it one of the most thorough tests i have given any racket. I have probably played with it at least 10 times. Well the result is that it comes a very close second to the Lethal 70, very close indeed. It appears to have the same head stability, and that makes all the difference. It is slightly more flexible then the Lethal 70, but not by much. I strung it at 28lbs, so it was a little bit less than the 30 i used on the Lethal. Here is the thing, not one single apacs racket has ever had a string break whilst i have been testing it. I guess i am just lucky in this respect, but it does help to show the quality of the factory apacs strings, which have been in all the tested rackets. It also shows the rackets can take higher tensions without any trouble at all, another testament to their durability.

The last 2 tested rackets have something different to the others, there is definitely much better stability when hitting the shuttle. This results in very good consistent shots time after time, and that is what the difference is. These last 2 rackets are as good as anything out there, if not better, and that includes the Yonex brand. The bonus is that these rackets cost much less than the latest Yonex offerings. If you do happen to buy either the lethal 70 or this Nano Pro 9600 i would really like you to comment on what you think of them, because although we are all different, i do believe these 2 bats are at the very top of the tree.

Here is the technical details..

Frame Material : Hi Modulus Graphite + Nano Carbon

Shaft Material : Hi Modulus Graphite + Nano Carbon

Flex : Medium -- Stiff ( 7.5 - 8.0mm)

Shaft Out/In Dia. : 7.5/4.0mm

Weight : 3U (86-88g) G2

Length : 675mm

Max. Tension : 30lbs

Balance : 285 ± 3mm

Special Features :-

ISO frame with new grommets system

Anti-Vibration cab
Aerodynamic wing X-section frame

Add to this the string tension of 28lbs with apacs spider 66Ti string and a towelling grip.

The first thing to notice is that the balance point is slightly less than the lethal 70, so the nano pro tour is less head heavy, and a more even balance. Having played with both, there is very little difference between the balance of the two, you will hardly notice it. The nano tour is also a bit less stiff, there is bit more give in it, but again, the difference is small. The nano has a solid feel when you first hit the shuttle, and it is down to the head being very stable. Much more stable than the Hotshots and the Edgesabers. This makes it very easy to work with, and you will find you can mishit some shots and still get a decent result. On defence it also makes the difference, the shuttle will come off the strings very well indeed, you do not have to put in as much effort to lift off smashes, and if you do, you will find the shuttle can be driven back with a lot of interest. It is a low work racket, and i like low work rackets!

I did notice there was some weight in the head, but i think apacs have got the balance just right. You do need some weight in the head to get power and some control, but you can make it feel as though it is not there by just adding the grip to balance it out. This means you have a racket that does not feel heavy and cumbersome, yet you get the benefit of knowing the head will help you. I think this is where yonex have come up a little bit short with the arcsaber 10, to me it feels too head heavy and very cumbersome. You will get the benefit from the back of the court when you smash, but around the net for the reaction shots you lose out. I like a compromise between the two, and i think this is what the nano pro tour gives you. It all depends on what you like in the end, and what you can get used to. The new Z slash appears to be more evenly balanced, so i guess yonex are aware of the need to produce more user friendly rackets. The price is still a complete joke though.

Apacs are moving in the likes of yonex with these last two test rackets. They offer better value for money, and the end product in my opinon is better to play with. The only reason why people choose yonex over the likes of apacs is because of the aggressive marketing and the brain washing. Well i am probably doing my bit to market apacs with this blog, and the reason is that they took the time to actually read this blog and allow me to test their rackets for them. I get nothing in return, and don't want it either. I am buying myself a lethal 70 at the end of all this, just like anyone else does. They are a company that should now be able to move forward now, because they have managed to get their hands on the best rackets that apacs in Malaysia are making. Getting the lethal 70 for the UK is a big bonus in my eyes, and now we have another little gem with the nano pro tour 9600.

I probably do not need to tell you how it plays because it is virtualy the same as the lethal 70, great power and easy control from all around the court. Easy to use, great on defence and on clearing and snashing, great everywhere in fact. Doesn't matter if you play doubles or singles, it will be great in any situation as long as you have the skills to back it up and see what it can do.

The reason why these 2 rackets are different is in the head stability, this is the major breakthrough, and it sets them both apart from previous rackets. The nano costs £59 here in the UK, and it is a great racket. I will give it a 9.5/10 second only slightly to the lethal 70.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Apacs Lethal 70 Review

Ok here is the review of the Lethal 70, the new to the UK racket from Apacs Sports. Retail price is £79.99 which is pretty steep, but when you realise how good it is you may be more willing to part with your hard earned cash. I will get right to the point, this racket is the best apacs racket by a mile. Much better than the 160i and that was very good. This is in a different league, and i will tell you why in this post. First of all i will get the technical stuff out of the way, which has been nicked from the apacs sports website who are selling it at the moment.

Higher 'kick point' for better racket performance
Manufactured using PU compression moulds for greater shock absorbance
Hollow shaft with all NEW T-joint design giving excellent power generation and super stability
Rapid shaft recovery after every shot

Specification :

Frame Material: 30T HM Graphite ( Mitsubishi M30 ) + Titanium Mesh
Shaft Material: 40T HM Graphite ( Toray M40)
Flex Stiff
Shaft Out/In Dia. 7.4 mm
Weight 3U (86-89g) G2
Length 675mm
Max Tension 40lbs+, Yes 40lbs!
Balance 290 ± 3mm (Head Heavy)

Special Features :-

* ISO frame
* New shaft and t-joint design for lower torsion.
* Spring back reaction on the shaft improved by 30%. Better energy transfer during impact.
* Full Titanium Mesh Power Frame

Ok forget about the marketing hype and look at what matters most, ie, the weight, the balance and the flex. These are what define the way a racket will behave, as well as your skill level. By the way the test racket i used was strung at 30lbs with apacs spider Ti string. You can string the lethal 70 to 40 lbs which is just plain crazy. The weight is 86-89g so it has a bit of weight on its side. It is head heavy, but not too head heavy at all, it didn't feel cumbersome to play with and i had no trouble with faster reaction shots at the net. Adding the grip takes away some of the head heavy balance anyway. The flex is stiff, but not ultra stiff. These are the most important pieces of information of any racket.

The thing that makes this lethal 70 stand out from every other apacs racket so far is that the the head is unbelievably solid. It just does not distort at all, and you feel this as soon as you hit the first shot. Because of this it is far more forgiving than the edgesabers. The edgesabers are pretty unforgiving because to get the best out of them you really need to be hitting the shuttle right in the centre of the head every time. Of course this is not possible so you lose power quite often. With the lethal 70, hitting consistently is a whole lot easier. I don't know what apacs have done to make it like this but it makes a hell of difference believe me. This also gives very good control on shots because the head is stable.

Power is also there, in fact there is a whole lot of power. The head heavy balance and overall weight give you a great advantage in the power department, but the racket also helps you as well. It is the most powerful racket by a mile based on me having the same technique as i always have. For the same amount of effort the shuttle comes off the racket faster, so this tells me this is a low work racket, which is exactly what you want. Always bear in mind that technique is what gives you power and control, the racket can only do a tiny bit, but that tiny bit gives you more confidence, and that can make a difference when it matters.

It was good from the rear court, for getting me out of trouble. I can usually tell if a racket is any good by how much it helps me get out the corners. You always get caught out and pushed deep into the forehand corners when you play singles and it takes a bit of effort to hit back to a good length. Well the lethal 70 helped me out, i felt it was solid and consistent from tricky situations.

This racket is probably the best feeling racket i have played with, and that is the best compliment i can give it. It is better than the tantrum 160 because it is more stable and more consistent. It gives a bit more power as well because it is head heavy. In fact i would say it is better than any yonex racket i have used, and when compared to those it is also cheaper. If you do choose to buy one you will not regret it it all. The moment you hit that first shot you will just know what i am going on about. The frame had no problem with the tension, and i think it works best at higher tensions, like most stiff framed rackets do. Don't be put off by the head heavy balance, it really is not that noticeable, and you can always add some weight to the handle to give you even more power. I suppose i better give it my rating...


VERDICT= BEST OF THE APACS RACKETS, BEST RACKET I HAVE USED, BETTER THAN ANYTHING IN FACT. And by the way, i am not sending the test racket back because i am buying it!!

Next post will be a review on the apacs nano pro 9600 tour, the other test i got to play with.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Apacs Nano 7007 Power Review

The final racket i have tested is the Nano 7007 Power. As the name suggests, it has nano technology in it. The technical spec is that it weighs around 85g, but it feels lighter than this when you play with it. The balance is 285mm, it feels pretty evenly balanced. The flex is 7.5-8.5 which means it is fairly stiff. Is has been pre strung to 28lbs by the guys from Apacs in apacs ti string. The head shape is isometric an it has the muscle power style grommet design.

First impressions is that it feels much like the two Hotshots rackets, and all rounder which is light and easy to use. I know that this racket is one of the budget range, but i don't know how much exactly that is, i am sure it will be on the main Apacs site already. No doubt it will cost less than the Hotshots, but because it is so similar it could be an option to save youself some cash and by this instead. Having said that, the Hotshots have that very annoying elctro plated finish so they shine like crazy under ligthing. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. I have played against someone ith one of the Ashaway Electro plated rackets and it was really off putting. When they serve to you to bloody thing shines in your eyes off the hall lights. This can be an advantage to you if you do have one of these models, all you need to do is position it so it catches the lights and reflects into your opponents eyes every time you serve.

I has no problems using the Nano 7007, it felt well made and pretty solid on impact. The frame can handle the tension at 28lbs, and could no doubt take a bit more, which is very good for a budget racket to withstand. Most manufacturers will stay well away from suggesting this kind of tension on a budget racket, but all the Apacs rackets i have tested can take higher tensions without any problem at all. The Nano 7007 is a good little racket and well worth buying. It does a little bit of everything but is better suited for defensive and net shots play because it is light. You have to put in more work from the back to get power, but that is the case with all light rackets that are even balanced. If you know what you are getting then you will find the right bat to suit you best.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Badminton Racket Review- Apacs Tantrum Power 160 international

The third badminton racket i have tested from the test batch is the apacs tantrum power 160. I must admit that i was a little bit wary of what this racket would be like due to the other tantrum model i tested a few months back. That was the tantrum power 11 international and it was not so good, no feel, a distinct lack of power, and basically just plain hard work to use. I can tell you that the 160 is nothing like the 11. It is like chalk and cheese comparing the two. Nope, the 160 is probably the best apacs racket i have tested so far, even better than the nano 999 power, and i liked that one a lot.

The technical spec is a little bit vague because there isn't one! So i will just go off what is written on the actual racket. On the racket it tells me that it is made from hi- modulus 50 tonne graphite and nano carbon, and that is it. What i can tell you is that the weight is around 85g and the balance is slightly head heavy. It is strung at 28lbs with apacs string and it has an oval shaped head with an isometric shape right at the top of the head. It is different to the two hotshots head shape and it is a tiny bit longer as well. It also has the muscle power grommet system, and it is stiff/very stiff.

I could tell this was a good racket after the first few shots. You just get that feeling when this happens, if you know what i mean. The balance is the key for me. I am not a fan of the extreme head heavy rackets like the yonex armotec, they feel so cumbersome. A slight head balance is much better for me, and this is what the 160 has. The reason is that it gives you stability when you hit the shuttle, the head does not twist on impact and so you get a nice solid feel. It also helps give you a bit more power on your overheads from the back of the court. This is what i noticed when i hit the first few shots. At 28lbs tension the shuttle comes off the strings very well indeed, especially on fast drives and net kills. You get that crisp sound which i love. The strings worked really well with the racket, and it is certainly an easy to use kind of racket.

Control is also good because of the stable head, so my shots all went were i wanted them to. For me this is the best apacs racket i have tested by a long way. It offers more control and power than both the edgesaber 7 and 10. Those rackets are unforgiving and less stable on overhead shots than the 160 was for me. It comes a close second on power than the nano 999 power, but that racket has a lot more weight going for it, so it is very powerful. However, it is more difficult to use around the net and for reaction shots because of this weight. The tantrum 160 offers the best all round package for me, you get good power and it is easy to get used to around the net because it is only slightly head heavy. You can of course add some lead tape to the handle and change the balance to suit your own game. It all comes down to you and your game. If i had one i would just leave it as it is, but that is just me.

The big question is the cost. Problem is i have no idea how much this is going to be. Having said that, i have a feeling it will not be cheap. There is a lot of technology in it, but the main point is that it just feels good to use. It is well made quality wise, i have never yet had an apacs racket break on test. The frame can handle 28lbs no problem. I think apacs uk are just sending me this to test the water before they commit to bringing any over from malaysia. This racket will be a big seller. It is going to go up against the likes of the top yonex rackets here in the uk, but it will hold it's own in this company.

Overall i would give the tantrum power 160 international a 9.5/10 this is by far the highest rating of any of the apacs rackets so far, and it is one of the best rackets i have seen. If this is the sign of things to come, then apacs will soon be up there with the more established badminton racket brands here in the uk.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Apacs Fusion Hotshots Review

Ok i have now tested the the Apacs Fusion Hotshots 7777 and 7778 badminton rackets. First impressions are that they are virtually identical in the way they play. The specs are the same, ie the weight, balance and stiffness, so as a result they are very very similar. The weight is 85g and the balance is even in both rackets. Both have an isometric head shape, and they do feel pretty light, so they are easy to swing around.

I would place them as a defensive/ net play kind of racket, because i found they were at their best at the front of the court. From the back i found they lacked a bit of power. They are fairly unforgiving from deep at the baseline. You have to put in the work to get the power. This is not to say you can't get power, but it takes more work to get it. These two rackets are begging for some lead tape on the handle, i reckon this would really transform them in the power stakes. I found no problems with control at the front of the court, and net shots and drop shots were sound and consistent. This was probably due to the higher tension (28lbs). This always helps control, and you can comfortably string these to 30lbs, which is the max recommended tension. All the previous Apacs badminton rackets have shown no problems at this tension, they can take it.

I would give the hotshots 7777 and 7778 the following...

POWER= 7/10

Don't know how much they will cost so i can't give you a value for money rating. If i was mr Apacs i would price them at about £40-£50. If i spent this amount on them i would have no problems, they are quality rackets, well made and i had no problems with them at all, quality and build wise. As always you can choose the tension and type of string at a nominal price. Apacs are a lot cheaper than the other online retailers are for stringing your racket. I have been using the Apacs string and i have yet to have one break in any of the rackets i have tested, and i have given them some stick. This is quite surprising because of the high tension.

The Apacs fusion hotshots are a decent choice, but the Tantrum power 160 was the best of the test rackets so far. I am still testing that one, but it is a hell of a lot better than the tantrum power 11 that i tested a few months ago, and i mean a lot better. I will post that review within the next week. If any of the Apacs guys are reading this, then don't forget the shoes? (HINT, HINT).

Monday, 15 June 2009

Latest Apacs Badminton Rackets

I have just received another batch of Apacs badminton rackets to test. They are..

1. Fusion Hotshots 7777
2. Fusion Hotshots 7778
3. Nano 7007 Power
4. Tantrum Power 160

All these rackets are strung at 28lbs tension with Apacs strings. These are not available on the Apacs website yet because they are for the new season, so i have a little bit of an advanced testing on my hands. I also do not know how much they are going to cost. This a good thing because my reviews will be be purely based on how good i think the rackets are. If you pay a lot for a racket it can sometimes sway your opinion. Most people believe that if something costs more then it must be better. This is not the case, as the nano 999 Power showed last month.

There are a few other Apacs rackets on sale at the website at the moment that i have not tried out, hopefully this will change.. The product listings are also growing nicely on the website as more stock comes in. Give it another year and there will soon be a whole lot more to choose from. From looking at the Apacs catalogue there appear to be loads of rackets on sale in the far east that have not hit the UK yet. However, they are slowly making there way here.

There is also a special offer on at the moment on the Apacs site, with delivery just 1p. There is also a £7 discount on the Aero Flight 700 shuttles. I tested these a good few months ago, and was very impressed with them. The price has gone up since then, which is a shame, but all shuttle prices have gone up a lot over the last year. I really need to find some cheap ahuttles that are decent quality. If some manufacturer can come up with something right now then they could make a killing. The holy grail is a budget shuttlecock that has quality and durability.

I will be testing the rackets over the next few weeks, so look out for the up coming posts as i give my verdict on them.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Li Ning BadmintonRackets

I was watching the Surdiman cup finals today on the internet and saw the chinese badminton team kitted out in their Li Ning gear. They were also using Li Ning badminton rackets. I had heard some time ago that Yonex could not afford to sponsor the chinese national team and so they are now sponsored by Li Ning. In the UK, virtually nobody has ever heard of this brand, i certainly hadn't. The Korean team were also playing with Victor rackets and equipment, and they were previously sponsored by Yonex. It would appear that Yonex is losing it's dominance..

Is this is a good thing? I say yes it is because we may finally see some real competiton and this will help to make Yonex drop their prices. Here is another burning question for all those people who have been brainwashed by Yonex over the years- how can it be that these top players can still play at the same level without yonex badminton rackets? The answer is that yonex rackets have been hyped up for years and people automatically believe they must be the best because they are the most expensive.

How can Lin Dan beat Lee Chong Wei playing with a Li Ning racket, when Lee is playing with a yonex racquet? I have never even seen a Li Ning racket in my life, i didn't even know they made badminton racquets, but it seems this makes little difference to Lin Dan, or the rest of the chinese team. The same goes for the koreans who use the Victor rackets. This illustrates my point very well, that it depends on who is holding the racket, ie the player. This past year has seen the biggest shake up as far as sponsorship goes, with teams switching manufacturer, yet all these players are still playing at the same level. This means that the badminton racket is not that important, which is what i have been saying for the last year on this blog.

Will this mean the demise of Yonex? Will they become a second rate brand? Will they lose their market share? I think they will certainly see a drop in sales in China because people will start to use the Li Ning rackets. I bet that Victor will see an increase in sales as well because if they are good enough for the top players then they must be good enough for the rest of us right? This is what sells racquets. This is why the likes of Victor have paid so much money to sponsor these teams.

There will no doubt be interest from players in the UK about Victor and Li Ning. I guarantee that the online retailers will be looking to stock more of these badminton rackets. I bet central sports will be a little bit worried about this, as they are the biggest Yonex dealer here in the UK. But i bet the smaller shops will be over the moon because if Yonex loses it's grip on them, they can now just stock other brands who will not price fix everything, and so us players will get a better deal.

I may be wrong here, and it could end up being the same situation, just a different manufacturer, but i don't think so. It has always been the case that people view Yonex at the top of the tree, and every other brand comes behind them. Brands such as Carlton, Wilson, Head, Forza, Apacs, Fleet, Victor, and any other brand out there. The reason is that we have been brainwashed for years by Yonex, by clever marketing and high prices. I have used Yonex badminton rackets in the past but they were no better than the Carlton Airblade i used, or the Apacs rackets, or the Browning rackets from Racketworld. The only difference was the price, which is the biggest factor for me. There is now way on this earth that i would pay over £100 for a badminton racket and many others feel the same way too.

On another note, i am reliably told that i am getting some new Apacs rackets to test. Not sure what they are yet, but they are new for the coming season here in the UK. I am also getting some Apacs badminton shoes to try out, so hopefully i will post these reviews pretty soon.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Badminton Racket String Tension- The future

There is much debate about string tension and how it effects power and control. I have looked into this in previous posts and the answer is that it all comes down to who is holding the badminton racket, ie, it all depends on you. Some players argue that low tension means more power and high tension means less power. Then you have the argument over control, and some say low tension means less control, and high tension means more control. Is there a right answer to all of this? Probably not because it all depends on the player, always will.

There is no right and wrong answer to this and i will tell you why. Let's take the notion that low string tension gives more power. This is based on the fact that at low tension the strings will flex more and act like a slingshot, and propel the shuttle off the string bed, thus giving the power. Sounds reasonable doesn't it? The problems start when you add the player into this. Everyone has a different swing speed, so the strings are going to flex differently depending on the swing speed of the player, and so you will get varying amounts of power.

The same goes for the notion that high tension gives less power. Does it? It all depends on how fast you can swing your badminton racket, and so make those strings flex enough to generate power. If you are a beginner and you string your racquet at 30lbs, chances are the shuttle will not travel very far because you simply cannot make the strings flex enough, period.

If you measure the swing speed of a player, and they already do this with speed guns, it should be possible to find the best string tension to give the maximum power for any given player. They do this type of thing in golf already to find the best club to match the player. Perhaps they have already done this for badminton. Can you imagine how good this would be?

You could have your swing speed analysed and then matched to the best tension for you. I suppose you could also match the exact racket to your swing speed as well. The manufacturers know the flex ratings of all their badminton rackets, so it would be possible to know exactly how much any racket would flex from a certain swing speed.

I wonder if someone like Yonex has thought of this already. They already have a speed gun at the All England where you can go and find out just how fast your swing is. They could then tell you what the best tension is for you from your swing speed. Going a bit further, they could probably tell you which actual racket would be the best for you, and with which string tension you should be using as well.

Can you imagine how many rackets they could sell from this information? Any racket manufacturer going could also do the same thing for their entire badminton racket range. The only problem is that the major manufacturers do not have their own shops, but if a retailer had a speed gun in their shop? Jesus, i think i have just found the answer to all badminton players dreams. I can see it now... The retailer has a little book that has all the different rackets flex ratings, and from this they know how much it will flex from any given swing speed. In fact you probably don't even need this, you would have a computer program that would calculate it all for you. You just enter the swing speed and the program does the rest.

The customer just brings their own badminton racket with them and uses this for the swing speed test, and then you get the correct tension to use for this racket. Perhaps this is the way forward, who knows, but if i was a badminton retailer it would sure be a pretty novel idea to sell more rackets

Friday, 24 April 2009

Badminton Racket Review- Browning Oxylite Ti80

Ok here is the review of the Browning Oxylite Ti80 badminton racket. First off let me say that the only two places to buy this racket are from ebay or amazon, and they are both from Racketworld, who seem to have cornered the market for Browning in the UK. There is another online retailer called sportyshop, but their prices are way higher than what racketworld sell for. God only knows how racketworld can sell their rackets for the prices they do. Either they make very small profit on each racket, or they get for for ridiculously low prices in the first place.

Either way, it doesn't really matter, what does matter is that they are cheap. I have found the technical spec for the Browning Oxylite Ti80 from the racketworld ebay store. One thing that makes me laugh right away is that the recommended retail price for this bat is..£190!! No chance, not in a million years. That has to be the most stupid price i have ever seen for a badminton racket. Do you seriously think that us badminton players really believe that this racket should be £190?

However, the actual price is just £24.99, that makes a saving of £165.01 what a bargain! The reality is that it never did cost £190, not even when it was brand new. Ok, back to the review...

The spec says it is 80g. (From holding it i can say it is not 80g, more like 85g).

100% Oxygen Injected Carbon Titanium for the ultimate in lightness and durability
Widebody frame for power.

New technology 'box frame' head for superb stability in the head and crispness of shot.

New Browning flex system shaft technology for ultimate smash power.

Titanium strings for superb response.

Breathable grip for extra hand comfort.

Complete with quality full length protective headcase.

There is the technical jargon. It doesn't really mean a damn thing to me. The main points are that it has an isometric head shape, and one other glaring point missed on the spec is that it should say it is stiff. The balance is head light, but not too much.

I really do not want to go on about the technical fluff because underneath all this is a very good, well made badminton racket. In my opinion it has got to be one of the best value for money rackets you can buy. It is not a new racket, it is the 2007 model, but this is why it is so cheap, and the reason why racketworld can sell it so cheap, along with all their other rackets. They specialse in this market, and they beat everyone else out of sight.

I had this Browning strung at 30lbs with BG65, which was probably too high, however, the frame can take this tension no problem, so if you have one, and wondered what you can string it to, well you can safely go to 30lbs, probably more i reckon, but say goodbye to your shoulder if you do.

Control is excellent, power is also good. It feels solid, which is good news. It feels like a more expensive racket, which is also good news. It is not a hard work racket, it helps you out, and this makes it easier to use. There is not much more to say really, it is a good racket in my opinion, not as much power as the Apacs nano 999 power, but then again it is a little bit lighter. I would describe it as an all round racket, it does everything well.

The price is the real winner at £24.99, but if you bid for it you could even get it cheaper than this. The only drawback is the delivery charge, which is £7.95. This seems a bit excessive, but racketworld get a bit touchy when you mention this. They charge this amount because it is registered first class delivery, so you pay more for this. I can see why they do this. Afterall, the last thing you need is for someone to say "i have not received my racket". As the seller, racketworld would then have to send another racket out. If the buyer was being a little bit dishonest, they may have actually received the racket but just said they didn't, to get another for free.

I am sure this has happened in the past with racketworld, so the recorded delivery is to protect themselves as well as the customer. However, whatever the reason, it still means this badminton racket will cost an extra £7.95, which is a shame really, because at £24.99 it would be an even better bargain.

Racketworld are about to launch a new website. As a customer of their's in the past i was sent an e-mail to register for the new site. I have already done this, and i hope that now they have their own site, their prices may be even cheaper because they are not tied to ebay or amazon, so they do not need to pay them a slice of the profits. The big gamble is that they need to get their website infront of an audience so they can sell badminton rackets. I hope they are successful, they offer a great service and i have not heard a bad word said about them. Their feeback on ebay is 99.9% positive, so it proves they know how to sell and deliver low cost badminton rackets.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Browning Oxylite Review

I have been using the Browning Oxylite 80Ti badminton racket for the last few days, it is not actually mine, but i have borrowed it in a sort of trade deal. I am going to write a review of this racket in the next post because there are many people out there who use Browning rackets, or are interested in buying them. I can tell you that this particular racket cost just £20, and it offers unbelievable value for money.

It is very well made and is very solid too, you don't usually find this with cheap badminton rackets, they tend to distort and twist on impact. Not the case with the Oxylite 80. My early impressions are very good indeed. I will give it real good going over in the next few days and post a review on it. By the way, if any of you have a website or blog and you use adsense on it then you will need to update your privacy policy or google may ban you from using adsense. I will put a permanent link to it in the sidebar in the future.

I still have not heard anything from Victor sports or from Head UK, so i will be sending a few e-mails to them in due course to see if i can wrangle a few more badminton rackets from them.

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Friday, 13 March 2009

Badminton Racket Review- Apacs Tantrum Power 11 International

Next badminton racket review is for the Apacs Tantrum Power 11 International. What a long name that is! It has to be one of the longest names i have seen for a badminton racquet. I will say this from the outset, the tantrum power 11 is my least favourite of all the apacs rackets i have tested so far, and it is the most expensive as well. Perhaps this shows that just because a racket is expensive, it doesn't mean it will suit you or your game. Here is the technical spec...

Frame : Japan Toray M40 (40 Tonne)
Shaft : Japan Toray M46 (46 Tonne)
Shaft Out/In Dia. : 7.1-8.7 / 3.7-4.4
Weight : 87-89 g
BCP : 285+/-2 mm
Length : 675 mm
Tension : 28lbs (apacs spider Ti)

Ok, the first thing about this spec is the Japan Toray bit. From what i can gather, Toray indusries are a big Japanese synthetic fibre maker, so their technology has obviously found its way into badminton rackets now. The weight is 87-89g, but it feels lighter than this, and it also felt like a medium stiff racket. The balance was also fairly even, with a slightly head heavy balance, but once the grip was added this made it feel even.

I will get straight to the point right now, this is my least favourite racket from the Apacs range. It is just damn hard work using it. It lacks power and it does not offer too much in the way of control either. I cannot put my finger on why this is, but the racket feels dead. An example of this is when i tried to lift off a smash. The shuttle went half court. You really have to put in the work to get the shuttle to the back of the court. This is not ideal at all. The same problem occurs when clearing from baseline to baseline, you have to give it extra effort to make the shuttle go.

I also found it very difficult to control the shuttle, especially when blocking to the net. My blocks kept on "popping up" to the net, i could not get my returns tight to the net. And bear in mind that this was strung at 28lbs tension, so it should, in theory, have offered more control. After about an hour of this, i did manage to get used to it, but even then the racket just did not feel right. Now, it may just be me, so if anyone else has got this racket i would really like your take on it. The price is also a killer at £75.99.

My overall rating for the Tantrum Power 11 International-

POWER= 5/10

I know this is a bad review, but in my eyes it is a bad racket, and there is no way i would pay that kind of money for this badminton racket.

Having tested all the Apacs range so far, here is my take on them...

1. Nano 999 Power- Most powerful in the range and one of the cheapest, you win twice with this one, which is why i got one myself.

2. Superlight- Feels solid, easy to move around, best for net play and reaction shots due to the light weight. Bonus is that it has a head heavy balance for a little bit more power overhead. Would certainly add lead tape to it.

3. Edgesaber 7 and 10- Good all round rackets, but are more difficult to get the best out of than the previous 2 rackets mentioned. If you time the shuttle well it will go, if not, it won't, fairly unforgiving rackets so your technique will need to be spot on, but when you get it right they are good to play with.

Hopefully i will be getting some of the latest Apacs badminton rackets to test very soon, unless they stop sending me them because of this latest review!!

Just one more thing, if you ever needed a song to get you in the mood for training then have a listen to this

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Badminton Racket Review- Apacs Superlight

Next up for review is the Apacs Superlight badminton racket. I have been playing with this for around 10 days now, after using the Nano 999 Power. The difference is like chalk and cheese, two totally different rackets, but each has their own advantages depending on your own game. The Superlight is just that, very light indeed. The spec says it is 74g, but it feels heavier than this simply beacuse it is head heavy.

The fact is that this badminton racket is designed for reaction shots, touch shots and net play. You buy this type of racquet to give you an advantage in these areas, so if you are strong around the net, enjoy fast flat driving rallies, or enjoy defensive shots, such as tight blocks to the net, or driving the shuttle back, then this racket will help you to do this, without question. From the back of the court, it has the disadvantage of being so light. You need weight to help you hit the shuttle harder, so if you have a hard smash, a heavier racket will help develop more power. You must look at what you have already got, ie, what are your strengths and weaknesses?

Technical Specifications

Material: Toray T1000 ( Ultra High Strength Nano Carbon)

Weight: 72-74g

Balance Point: 315mm +/- 3mm (very head heavy!)

Stifness- stiff

Strung at 28lbs (apacs spider Ti)

Ok, the point that stands out in the spec is the balance point of 315mm. This means it is very head heavy indeed. To be honest with you, it does not feel that head heavy. It is head heavy, but not to that extreme, if you can understand what i mean? Because it is so light overall in weight, the fact that it is head heavy is a bit of a suprise. However, what you are left with is a very light racket that you can swing around easily, but you still get a little bit more power because it is head light. It is a strange combination, but it works well.

It has a good solid feel when you hit the shuttle, the head does not twist on impact, so it is good for control. Smashing wise, you can swing faster because it is so light, but you cannot generate the same power as the nano 999 power from the same amount of effort, the nano has the advantage of weight on its side. The superlight has the advantage at the net, and especially for driving the shuttle back, the effect is superb, and the shuttle comes off the racket face really well indeed. At 28lbs tension the effect is even better. Lifting off smashes is very good as well. I would place this badminton racket as a defensive racket first and foremost. You can generate power from the back of the court, it just takes more work to do it, and that takes a toll on your joints and muscles, so for this reason the superlight is better for defensive shots, net shots, and all those other little shots that require little back swing.

As far as personal preference goes, i would place this superlight behind the nano 999power, but above both the edgesabers. I used the superlight for doubles play because that is where i think it is better. For singles play i like something with a bit more weight, which is why i got the nano 999 power. Overall, i would say the superlight is a very capable badminton racket, it offers good control and consistency, but if your looking for pure power, then go for something with more weight. If your looking for control around the net, driving and reaction shots, then the superlight is designed for this, it is up to you to decide if this type of racquet will suit your game.

POWER- 7/10


PRICE= £49.99


At £49.99 it does seem a little bit expensive, and it is about the same price as the Karakal SL70,which is what this racket is going up against, however, in my opinion the superlight has a lot more going for it than the karakal because it is far easier to generate power due to the head heavy balance.

I have been to the All-England badminton championships earlier this week, on the thursday, and i did a bit of snooping around while i was there. I made some contacts with Victor and Head UK, as well as meeting up with the guys from Apacs UK. Hopefully this will lead to me getting some more badminton rackets to test in the future. The retail stands were dominated by Yonex of course, with god knows how many stalls offering the latest yonex products at stupid prices. The thing is.. they were selling like hot cakes, even at higher prices. Makes me wonder how this happens, but if you go into the arena and see the unbelievable badminton being played i guess it inspires you, and your little mind is thinking... perhaps i need a new racket to play like that, so you go out and look for something new.. and the only thing you can buy there is a yonex racket, or shoes, or t-shirt, or bag etc. Yonex has already got you.

However, there does seem to be a change on the way. The Korean national team is now wearing Victor sports shirts, there were even two Malaysian players sponsored by Apacs. Head had a few sponsored players, so perhaps Yonex's dominance is starting to wane a little. This can only be good news, because competition will drive down prices for us lot, it may even make yonex drop their prices, which are artificially high because of the mass marketing machine that drives them. The only problem i have with yonex is the prices they charge, the badminton rackets are good, the shoes are the best you can get, you just pay more because of all the marketing costs.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Badminton Racket Test- Apacs Nano 999 Power

Ok, i have now given the Apacs Nano 999 Power a good ole testing, and have played with it about 10 times in all, so i think i now know enough about it to post my review. Here is the technical info...

Weight- 90grams!!
Flex- 7.5-8.5 (medium)
Balance- 285mm+-3mm
Max string tension-30lbs (strung at 28lbs with Apacs string)
High modulus graphite
Nano technology
Nano tech system
Isometric head shape
Apacs soft feel grip

First things first, this badminton racket is heavy, and it has a head heavy balance. It is fairly stiff in my opinion, a bit more than a medium flex, and it is as powerful as hell. It is like a bomb going off if you time your shots just right. Now it may be everyone's cup of tea this Nano 999 Power because of the weight, but i have said this before, a bit of extra weight is good, it makes the shuttlecock go faster and further with the same amount of effort.

I personally rate this racket as the best Apacs racket so far. I would also like to add some lead tape to this thing to give it even more power, and it would probably put it close to 100g with the grip and strings as well. Sounds stupid? Not to me it doesn't, it makes clears and smashes so much easier. I have played singles with this racket only, and it is because i certainly feel this is a singles racket due to the weight. You need to get used to the weight, especially on defensive shots because it harder to swing around when the going gets quicker, it does take a bit of time to sort this out, but i can honestly say that for singles especially, it works for me.

The weight gets you out of trouble from the deep corners, and you get a solid feel when you time it right. I had this at 28lbs and i could still hit out from the corners without to much trouble. The racket needs to be responsive and provide a good hitting base to do this, otherwise your shots will fall short into court and you will be on the end of a whole lot of running if you hit short in singles.

Think of it this way.. Pete Sampras used a Wilson racket all throughout his career, and that racket was as heavy as a wooden one. He made sure it was heavy by adding more weight to an already heavy racquet. How hard did he hit the ball? His technique was spot on, but he used the racket to get the most out his shots as well. Do not be put off by weight, it you want to hit something harder then use something heavier.

The Nano 999 Power is a bit of a misfit really because it is very heavy yet it has a stiff flex and you don't usually see this combination. What you typically see is a heavy racket with a flexible shaft, and these are aimed at beginners. The Nano Power is different because of the flex. Now this means two things. The first is that you are going to need a fast swing speed to make this beast flex to get the power. The second is that because it is heavier it will be more difficult to swing it fast. You have two problems here. However, if you can swing fast you will get the full enchilada of power, and i mean real power of the racket face. Add to this little scenario the string tension, and you need even more swing speed to get the power. Remember, this test racket is strung at 28lbs, so you have the medium/stiff flex, the heavy weight and the tight strings all working together, and this is what makes this badminton racket such a powerful thing, and you absolutely need to have the technique to get the rewards. If you want a little more forgiveness, then string at a lower tension, it will help you get power without having to swing as fast.

Now can you imagine what would happen if you add lead tape to this as well? The overall weight will increase, but you will make it easier to swing, you will make this beast work for you instead of working for it. This would give you the maximum benefit, and you will certainly notice an increase in power for the same amount of effort. Another benefit is that because it is stiff you also get the control, so you now have more power with the weight, and this stiff flex helps you to control the power, add the string tension of 28lbs and you get even more control. Result= very good racket.

The price is about £35 from apacs sports UK and you can specify your string tension as well, which is a great bonus because factory strung tensions are totally crap, and it can certainly take 28lbs, and no doubt take 30 if you wish. When was the last time you saw a £35 badminton racket capable of taking this kind of tension?

My overall rating for the Nano 999 Power is this:-


The best Apacs racket i have tested, so good in fact that i am going to buy one myself, and i cannot give it a better recommendation than that really. Will not be for everyone due to the weight, but i promise you, you will not be disappointed with this badminton racket. The Apacs description suggests it is is aimed at club players, but don't read too much into that, you will find it works equally as well no matter what standard you play at. A club standard player woud more than likely have a lower string tension and so the Nano 999 Power would work well for them, a higher standard player would no doubt be well aware of higher tension, and at higher tension you get even more benefit, so it works for any standard of player in my opinion.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

More Apacs Badminton Rackets

I have just received another batch of Apacs badminton rackets to test. These being the Nano 999 Power, the Super Light and the Tantrum Power 11. All are strung with Apacs string at 28lbs tension, so for any of you out there who are a bit wary of whether or not an Apacs racket can handle this tension, then fear not, because they can!

I have only had them for 3 days, but i have played with the Nano 999 Power 3 times already, and my first impression of this badminton racket is that it designed for pure power, it is heavier than the others, has a head heavy balance, and the shuttle flies off this racket. After the first few shots i could tell it was going to be good. It is one of the most powerful rackets i have ever used. I will play with all of them in the upcoming days and post my reviews of each one shortly, the first will be the Nano 999 Power.

On another note, it seems the e-mail i sent to badminton england regarding the All England and the yonex monopoly has fallen on deaf ears, i have not had any reply. Not to worry, i will now direct a new e-mail at a specific person, and not just badminton england, this will hopefully get me a reply, if not, it will just show how great my badminton association really is, i mean, a paid up member of this association cannot even get a reply? Shameful isn't it?

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Yonex Badminton Rackets and the All England

The All England is just around the corner and no doubt it will be as popular as ever, with tickets selling out for the finals day, as has been the case for the past few years. This is good for our sport, but what is not good is the fact that Yonex have virtually taken over all the selling of badminton rackets and goods at the tournament. I have mentioned this in a previous post, but i got an e-mail from Apacs UK he other day that highlights this problem.

Apacs applied for a space at the all england to show off their rackets and stuff, but no sooner has they got permission than Yonex pulled the plug on them, and would not allow them to even have a stand there. Understand that even if they had been given a space, they were not allowed to actually sell anything, just have a presence is all they were allowed. Now they cannot even be there at all. This has also happened to Inflight Sports in the past, and no doubt other companies.

Is this good for badminton? Nope, not in my eyes. Yonex will have a mass selling project underway at the all england, headed by central sports, who are the only authorised yonex retailer allowed to sell yonex goods. This is great for central sports, this will be the week when they sell the most rackets and goods of the year. As well as selling stuff, they will have their business infront of all the people that matter, the buying badminton players from all over the world, but most importantly the buying public of the UK, who will remeber the central sports name, and no doubt think of them when they come to buy their next badminton racket.

The point is that the all england is the biggest badminton tournament on the circuit in terms of tradition and prestige. It was going along long before yonex came along to sponsor it. It is a badminton tournament first and foremost. The fact that yonex have sponsored it for so many years has helped it a whole lot. But why on earth should they be allowed to have a stranglehold on it just because they sponsor it? Why can they decide who has the right to show their products, and not even allow other companies to sell their rackets?

If the all england was sponsored by a company that had nothing to do with badminton, let's say it was sponsored by Barclays Bank. You would expect this company to have a strong presence, with stands offering their services. But you would also have other companies there too, like badminton manufacturers selling and promoting their stuff as well. The all england used to be like this, there were loads of stands on the concourse, and it was a buzzing atmosphere behind the scenes, with contacts being made, and companies selling rackets and other stuff. This has gone now, it is just a big yonex monopoly, you have no choice but to buy yonex.

This is crap. A badminton tournament should be a place where everyone can sell things, and badminton players can look at all the many different companies out there, and touch and feel the latest badminton rackets. Yonex should not be allowed to do this, and the ba of e should certainly have something to say about this, if they dare. They are the one's who have the ability to change what is going on here, but do you think they would risk upsetting yonex bu telling them to stop. Can you imagine what would happen if yonex pulled out of their sponsorship? The tournament would carry on no doubt, because it sells out, and they do have tv contracts with sky and others. But in my eyes they are yonex slaves, and i would welcome the ba of e to comment on this if anyone is reading this from the b a of e. I am a paid up memeber, so i think i have the right to know why this happens. I want a choice, and i reckon many other paying badminton players do as well.

As far as Apacs go, they are quite rightly gutted at being cut out of the all england completely. Other companies have felt the same in recent years, and this monopoly is not good for the tournament. The ba of e organise the all england, it is their tournament, they decide who sponsors it, they must surely have a say on what goes on at the tournament, and how it is run. So come on badminton england, you have the best badminton tournament in the world, so please make it a fair playing field behind the scenes as well.

To make this a bit more interesting, i am going to write me a letter to badminton england to find out what is going on, and get their side of the story, just to clarify this situation.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Another Badminton Racket Experiment

I have been messing around with my badminton rackets recently, in particular i have been testing different tensions and different amounts of lead tape and the effect it has on my singles and doubles play. What i have done is have two different string tensions in two of my carlton airblade badminton rackets, one for singles and one for doubles. I have also added different amounts of lead tape to these rackets.

The singles racket has a lower string tension, about 24-25lbs, and has more lead tape added to it. The doubles racket has higher tension, about 27-28lbs and less lead tape added. My reasoning is this..

In singles you are playing an all court game and you are hitting more shots overhead, and more shots from the back corners when you get in trouble, which happens all the time in singles. If you want to succeed at singles then you need to be able to get out of trouble because no matter how good you move around court, you will at some point, get put into the extreme points of the court.

To get out of this trouble you need your racket to help you out. By lowering the string tension it helps you get a bit more power, it makes it easier to hit a more powerful shot. By adding the lead tape it also makes it easier to get some power from your badminton racket. These two factors combined help you. The trade off is control. Lower string tension gives less shuttle control.

Using these two factors i find it easier to hit the shuttle. I have mentioned this in previous posts when i did the first experiment with the lead tape. It worked for me, and i have used lead tape ever since, and will continue to do so becuase it costs hardly anything but you gain so much. I find i can get a good length on my shots from baseline to baseline, and also when i end up in the deep corners, both forehand and backhand corners from below net level.

It takes good technique and timing to hit the shuttle out of the corners and get a good length. What i have found is that for the same amount of effort the shuttle is going about a metre further. This extra metre has come from the lower string tension and the lead tape. And this extra power gives you more choices. I will explain..

If your opponent puts you into the corners and you hit out to the baseline then your opponent has to cover for this. This means they have to move further back in court, back to their base position. If you cannot hit out of the corners to a length, then your opponent will just sit closer to the net and be able to move their base further up the court. They will be able to take a chance because they can anticipate your short return, and will know they have time to move back. This will put you in even more trouble, and you will be shuttle chasing. If you play a reply to the net, no matter how tight it is, your opponent will be there early, and you will be shuttle chasing some more.

That extra metre i now have will keep my opponent guessing, and i now have the choice of being able to play to the net because my opponent is not sitting on top of it, or hitting to the baseline. This makes a big difference in singles i can tell you. This is what i have been noticing for the past few weeks with this racket combination.

The trade off is the lack of control, especially on net shots. The lower string tension does not help control, but it is a case of getting used to the different feel from the racket. It takes a few games, but i can accept this becuase i feel the benefit of the extra power is more valuable in singles for me.

As far as doubles goes, i have been playing with high tension a nd less lead tape. My reasoning is that in doubles i play a lot more reaction shots, such as smash returns, net kills and drives. The extra tension gives me more control, and the shuttle comes off the racket faster, it feels more responsive. I also get more control at the net for playing spinning net shots, and also, most importantly, i get more control on my serve.

The trade off with this combination is less power overhead on smashes. I cannot hit the shuttle as hard as i can with the lower string tension and more lead tape, unless i put more effort in. This extra effort takes it toll after a while because it is now not as easy to hit hard. However, i feel that, for me, it is better to be able to play more accurate shots in doubles than it is to have raw power from the rear court. The difference is not that much, but it is certainly noticeable. I have less lead tape because i need the badminton racket to be more reactive and faster to move. It is all a question of getting the right balance, and this is why i have been experimenting, to find the right combination for me.

What i now have is two identical rackets, they are both carlton airblade tours, but they have totally different playing characteristics. I didn't need to go out and buy myself a new racket, i just modified what i already had. I guess what i am trying to get across is that you should take the opportunity to experiment before you rush off and buy a new badminton racket.

On a different note now, is it just me or have RSL shuttles gone downhill recently? I am a big fan of RSL, but i am growing more and more dissappointed with them every time i play with them. RSL have based their reputation on providing durable shuttles over the years, but this hard won rep is going down the pan very quickly for me. Someone needs to tell them to get their act together, so i am doing just that. The recent batches are not up to standard, so please sort this out RSL. The prices have gone up and the quality has gone down, not a good combination if you ask me, this is the fastest way to lose customers, which would be a shame because this is their life blood.

On another note, i have sent an e-mail to Forza UK to get some badminton rackets to test. The reply said that they had some demo rackets, but they were all out at the moment with customers. They said i should e-mail Forza Direct. The problem here is that Forza Direct do not sell or stock badminton rackets, it is just a company website, so how on earth am i supposed to get rackets from someone who does not sell them? I will e-mail them anyway just to see what happens.

On yet another note. If you have a badminton related site or blog, then please let me know about it, and i will link to you. There must be loads of you with an interest in badminton and badminton rackets. If you enjoy this blog and would like to link to it, then feel free to do so, just link with the text of "badminton racket" to help this blog get a bit more exposure, and then i can hold all these badminton companies to ransom, and force them to let me test more rackets, which would help us all out in the long run. Hope this random post helps you out a little.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Badminton Racket Shops

Badminton shops are everywhere on the internet, some are quite good and some of them are very lame. They all try to sell us the same thing, badminton rackets, but as i look at the listings on google it always seems to be the same companies doing all the advertising, day in day out. Here in the UK we have the big players in the online badminton market, namely central sports, uk rackets, tennis nuts, millets sports and sweatband. This lot are the main players, and it no doubt follows the 80/20 rule, whereby 80% of badminton rackets sold are done so by 20% of the shops.

Not only do these shops spend money to appear on google's sponsored listings, ie they appear on the right hand side of the search results, they also appear in the natural listings, the one's right in front of you on the screen. They do this by spending money omn optimising their websites for certain keywords, such as "badminton racket". This is the holy grail for any online shop, to be on the first page of results for that term, or others such as "yonex badminton racket", "cheap badminton racket" and so on.

This is very important if you want to sell more rackets. You need to be visible, you need people to know you exist. You can have the best online badminton shop around, that looks really great, and offers the best deals, but if nobody see's it, it is worthless. This is big business indeed, and the competition is fierce. The term "badminton racket", or badminton racquet, depending on how you spell it, gets around 40,000 searches every month, and if an online shop is ranked in first position it will take the lions share of this, it will have more visitors than any other shop.

Now how many badminton rackets do you think a shop could sell if it had 40,000 visitors every month? A lot is the answer. Now also, those sponsored results, the one's on the right hand side, these people have paid google to appear there. The number one position will cost more than the number two and so on. Every time someone clicks on their advert, they have to pay money to google for it. The cost can be up to £1 per click on google for the number one position. This money will be paid even if the visitor does not buy anything from the store. This is how google makes it's money.

The whole game is based around getting people to visit your store and buy badminton equipment. Another way is to have an affiliate program. This works by allowing website owners to advertise products for an online store. If someone clicks on the advert an then goes to the shop and buys a badminton racket, then the affiliate gets a commission of the price. The store gets a sale, and the affiliate gets a cut of the sale, everyone wins. The other big incentive for the shop is that it gets a backlink to their website. Backlinks help to rank websites, so the more backlinks that point to a site, the higher it will appear in the rankings, and the more rackets you can sell. This is how it works.

This ugly little blog follows a different path. I have around 150 people visit every day from google, sometimes more, sometimes less, but on average it is about 150. People find this badminton blog by typing things related to badminton rackets in google. I rank nowhere for the term "badminton racket" but i rank all over the place for hundreds of other keywords, such as "apacs badminton racket" browning badminton, badminton string tension, badminton racket guide, etc, these are the long tail keywords. I do this because i have a lot of content on this blog, with over 50 posts all related to badminton rackets, and google cannot help but rank me for obscure terms because this blog contains these words somewhere in all the text, on all the pages.

I get visitors by sheer content, and google loves content, the more i post, the more visitors i get, the more people can read what is on here, and perhaps learn something about badminton rackets. Can you imagine the complete horror if this blog was to rank in the number one position for the term badminton racket? Those online shops would be horrified. I would be taking away their business, instead of having their flashy looking website appear first, this ugly looking blog would appear, and they would not be happy at all.

I would then have 40,000 visitors every month and not them. Now in my opinion, this blog is more valuable to badminton rackets than some online shop is becuase there is information on here, and it is all independant. If a racket is crap, i will say so, but have you ever yet seen an online shop mention the fact that a racket is crap? They never will, because they are trying to sell you them, it is not independant at all, so what use are they?

If this blog ranked high for the main badminton terms then those online shops would be sending me e-mails asking if they can please advertise on this blog. The only reason they would do this is because i get visitors, and visitors means sales, and sales mean profits and money. The online shops don't really care about you and your game, they care about your money.

Central sports has cornered the UK market for Yonex. They are the recommended yonex retailer at the All England championships, and this really does stink. Why? because they have a total monopoly on what is sold at the all england. Yonex does not allow other retailers to even have stands at the all england, and central sports just cash in on this with yonex. This is a disgrace to me. When i used to go to the all england there where loads of stands with all kinds of different manufacturers selling stuff, and it was great for the badminton players to have the opportunity to see all the latest offerings from the manufacturers. These days it is just a big yonex selling monster, and it does the game no good at all. The badminton association of england should hang it's head in shame becuase it is just a yonex puppet, but does it even have a choice?

Yonex are the big sponsors of the all england for god knows how long, and the ba of e needs yonex to keep sponsoring this flagship tournament, because i doubt that anyone else would. I am pretty sure that our association could have some say in the running of it to allow other companies to trade on the concourse, but they will not do it in case yonex pull out of the sponsorship deal. The real losers in all of this are us, because we have little choice but to contribute to the yonex machine at the all england.

Central sports must absolutely love the all england, this is the time when they sell most stuff, anf get their name out to the masses. This is why they can afford to promote their online business on google first page day in day out. Do have a problem with central sports? No, they are just doing their job, it could be exactly the same with any other shop. Do i have a problem with Yonex? No, badminton needs yonex, they have a total grip on badminton worldwide, they sponsor more international tournaments than any other company, if yonex pulled out of badminton, who would fill their place? I don't think there is anyone else to do it. So badminton needs yonex, but i just wish everyone would stop kissing their arse, and stop being their puppets.

And back to badminton rackets... So we have the main players all advertising on google for a share of the spoils. At the time of writing this the number one sponsored listing is, guess who? yep, it's central sports, and the advert tells us that they are the premier uk yonex stockist. They sell the yonex stuff. Also ranked high are sweatband badminton for the term "badminton racket". Sweatband sell cheap badminton rackets, but it is only very recently that they have started selling yonex rackets, they have concentrated on other brands such as carlton. So they are up there for badminton racket, however, they do not appear for the term "yonex badminton racket". Why is this?

Well if you go to their online store you will find they sell just 7 yonex badminton rackets. They currently sell the nanospeed 9000X for a whopping £135. Do they not know that you can now buy this racket for around £80? Of course they do, this is the reason that they do not advertise for the term "yonex badminton racket" because they know damn well that they cannot hope to sell many yonex rackets when their prices are so high. Us badminton players are not stupid, and when we go online to find our next racket we will do a bit of shopping around to find the cheapest deal, and £135 for a nanospeed 9000X is not a good deal.

So why do they do it? Why do they insist on trying to sell these rackets for a price that nobody will buy for? Or will they? there must be some people who just go online and see a price and then go and buy it straight away. These are the people that the stores are hoping to find, and they do find them, because they keep on advertising. They would not advertise for badminton rackets day in day out if they did not sell them, it works for them, so they keep on doing it.

So where the hell do you go if you want to buy a badminton racket online? Well there literally hundreds of online stores, but only a handful that will sell rackets at a decent price, and the one's that do this, are the big name shops who spend more money on getting their name known. Honestly, some of the online racket shops are total crap, and sell stuff for stupid prices. There is no way they can hope to sell much if they sell too high, yet they still insist on advertising these high prices. What is the point?

Let's break this down a little. You want to sell rackets online so you get someone to build you a website. Not any old website either, but a flashy looking one with all the bells and whistles, that looks appealing to visitors, that makes you stand out from the rest. This will not come cheap. So you spend a lot of cash on just the right design. You then need all the rackets in place, ready to sell, so you spend a whole lot more money on your stock, thousands probably, becuase the more stock you buy, the cheaper each item will be. But you don't want to go out and buy loads of stock just in case you can't sell enough of it. You will need to get the balance right on this one.

So now you have the website and the stock. Now you need to get people to visit your shop, and so you need to market your name all over the internet, and to do this you need to spend some more money. You need to advertise your shop, so you go to google adwords and start paying for your badminton racket shop to be listed on google's sponsored listings, and you also go to yahoo and msn, and to the other major search engines, and reapeat the process.

You also want to appear in the organic listings, so you hire an search engine optimisation company, to help you move up the natural listings for the main terms related to badminton rackets. This is not cheap either, not cheap at all. These companies will then go out and optimise your website for these keywords and get you some backlinks, to help you move up the rankings for badminton terms. So far you have probably spent a whole lot of money. You could perhaps go the ebay route, and open up an ebay store, just like racketworld, and sell your equipment through ebay, or amazon. This represents a much cheaper alternative, and puts you infront of a wide audience, but don't forget that ebay will take a slice of the profits, and paypal as well.

After you have done all of this, the one thing you absolutely must offer to the customer is the best price, and best delivery, and best customer service, or else they will not buy from you. So why in the name of all that is holy do these shops still sell rackets at high prices? It defeats the whole object, and it does not make sense to me at all. If i had an online store i would be checking the other stores to see what prices they were selling rackets for, and at very least try and match that price. I would certainly not waste money on advetising, if my prices were too high, yet there are stores that do this. It is crazy. All this does is waste time, because you click on the advert, visit the website and then realise that you are not going to buy anything from them because of the price. They have lost money because they paid for you to click on the advert in the first place, and you have lost time by clicking through the website to find something you did not want to, ie a high price.

If i had a store i would only advertise for things i knew damn well i could sell cheaper, or as cheap as the competition, otherwise what is the point?

Here is another tip. If you buy a badminton racket and you get poor customer service, then go to somewhere like badminton central and name and shame them. Badminton central is a badminton monster, and by monster i mean that it is a big player in the online badminton world. It gets thousands of visitors every day, with very active forums. Badminton players go on these forums and have their say. It is mainly taken up with asian and north american players, but there are players from all corners of the globe on there.

The badminton companies also check out what is going on at BC, because it has so many visitors. They do look in the forums and see what is being said by the members, and all it takes for someone to sound out a certain company who has treated them badly and they are in there, offering an apology, because they know damn well that bad publicity will hurt their business. This is great because it helps to protect us badminton players, and also keeps the online stores in check. So next time you are not happy with a company just go on BC and let rip in the forums. It can also work the other way, if someone has a good experience with a racket and says so, or recommends a certain racket, then this will be good for business for the company, they will surely get some visitors from the BC community. The same thing goes with Badders in the UK.

I think this post has gone on long enough about nothing in particular without really achieving much! It has probably not helped in the slightest about choosing where to buy your next badminton racket, so my apologies.