Babolat RPM Blast 16 String 660 Reel Review
- Too firm and underpowered for slower stroke styles
When Rafael Nadal showed up at the 2010 Australian Open with a black octagonally shaped co-polyester called RPM Blast, few could have predicted the hype to follow. Indeed, calls poured into Tennis Warehouse from around the country. Everybody seemed curious about this mysterious new string with the seemingly magical powers. Now that some time has passed, our playtest team has decided to explore why so much of the original buzz remains. It didn't take us long to figure it out, especially if you look at the spin score - 97 out of 100. Even more impressive, if not a little surprising, was the comfort, which the majority of our team ranked very high for a co-poly. Not surprising was the exceptional control, allowing for great precision on fast swings. As for power, RPM Blast gave our team more pop than a traditional polyester, but we found that full strokes were required to access the real benefits. While beginners and intermediates with shorter strokes may not be able to unlock the magic of RPM Blast, more advanced players - especially those who favor heavy topspin - should have a blast with this one.
Power - Score: 67
The lower power level of RPM Blast proved ideal for our playtesters, all of whom swing big and prefer to generate their own power. Of course, this doesn't mean RPM Blast is lifeless. To the contrary, Andy's big strokes unearthed a little something extra. He said, "Though power was not an obvious strength of this string, I would not call RPM Blast 'dead.' This string has a crisp feel to it, especially when hitting topspin, where the ball seems to shoot off the stringbed. It may not offer much power when trying to hit totally flat shots, but when hitting topspin this string gives you a little more pop."
For Troy, RPM Blast erred on the side of control. He said, "The overall power is low to medium. I found this to be somewhat surprising being that this string is one of the softest co-polyester strings that I have hit. Typically the softer the string the more power it possesses, but not in this case. I felt that this string wasn't as powerful as Volkl Cyclone, but at the same time not as dead as Solinco Tour Bite. When strung at low tensions, ranging from 40-47 lbs, I found that the power level remained relatively low, I didn't feel that the ball was going to fly on me."
Appreciating the opportunity to swing big without worry, Mike found the low power of RPM Blast to be perfect. He said, "It's definitely a low-powered co-polyester. I loved it because I could swing as fast as I wanted, going for big spin without fear of hitting long. It was very easy to adjust to without having to hold back on any of my shots, including serve."
Chris also took advantage of the low power level. He said, "I find RPM Blast to be a low-powered string, even by co-poly standards. Like most Babolat strings the response is firm, and I was either getting power from my swing or from the racquet. I hate having the ball fly on me, so the low-powered response was a great fit. I was able to hit the ball big and not worry about it sailing long or wide."
Spin - Score: 97
For our group of heavy hitters, the spin of RPM Blast was not only the most outstanding feature, but it also earned a score that was nearly off the charts. Andy was clearly impressed. He said, "With its gear-shaped design this string grabs and pockets the ball extremely well. Once the ball is on the stringbed the slick surface of RPM slides on itself very easily, providing a comfortable elastic feel, and as the strings snap back into position the ball shoots off the stringbed with loads of spin, like a malevolent super ball."
Also hitting with heavy spin was Troy. He said, "I found this string to offer huge spin. Prior to this test Volkl Cyclone was my favorite spin string, but RPM Blast has taken its place. The ability of this string to recoil as the main strings slide against the crosses and snap back into place is very unique. The only string that I found thus far to have this similar characteristic was Poly Star Energy. The recoil attribute of this string was most noticeable on faster swings. For example, when I unloaded on a cross-court forehand I found some extreme dipping topspin that helped keep the ball inside the lines. I also felt that my preference of stringing at a low tension allowed the stringbed to maximize dwell time and enhance the spin production of an already spin-friendly string."
"RPM Blast was easy to adjust to," said Mike, who got exceptional spin in the beginning. "I got the same pace and great spin I'm used to with my favorite string. Initially, the spin was amazing, but after losing tension it went down a little bit."
The high spin potential allowed Chris to shape his shots with fine precision. He said, "Spin was excellent for me. Like most co-polys, I liked the way this string grabbed the ball. I was able to hit hard, yet go high over the net and still have the ball hook well inside the lines thanks to all the topspin I was getting. I could also drive my slice backhand with good pace and keep the ball low off the bounce with lots of dirty slice. The spin felt great on passing shots, as I could hit with lots of pace while keeping my options open on how I would like to pass the net player."
Comfort - Score: 87
Given the firmness of RPM Blast, it's surprising how much comfort the majority of our team reported. Andy has a theory for this. "Although our TW University gives this string a high stiffness rating (normally indicating more shock and discomfort), I found this string to be quite comfortable. Here's my theory: the string is very stiff with head-on contact, like a flat shot or how we test them in the lab. However, when using topspin or slice, the slick surface of RPM comes into play as it slides easily back and forth across itself. When this happens, the string gives way and feels softer than it actually is, thus making it much more comfortable for players with heavy topspin shots, as opposed to players who hit mostly flat."
For Mike the comfort was almost off the charts. He said, "This was probably one of the most comfortable polyesters I have hit with since starting to play tennis. The soft buttery feel made life easy. I didn't have to worry about the string making my arm sore in any way. Probably my favorite aspect of the playtest was the feel and comfort of this string."
Troy also found RPM Blast to have exceptional comfort for the breed. He said, "I have to say that this string is tied with a select few co-polyesters for comfort. After coming off the Volkl Cyclone review and stringing my racquet with RPM Blast I noticed a lot more comfort and more dampening on the arm. I felt no jarring shock coming from the stringbed. I was amazed with the amount of ball pocketing and vibration dampening this string provided for being a co-polyester."
Though not finding quite as much comfort, Chris managed to tame the firmness of RPM Blast through lower tensions. He said, "This string feels firm and comfort is not one of its highlights. That being said, I had absolutely no issues while hitting with this string. It was forgiving enough off the sweetspot and I didn't experience excessive shock. The firm response allowed me to drop the tension quite low, which improved the sense of it being more forgiving (although that is relative, as the string still plays stiff)."
Control - Score: 90
For advanced players with long strokes, RPM Blast offers incredible control. Chris was not disappointed. He said, "The level of control with this string is fantastic. I can see why pros would love this string, as it allows the player to hit with a ton of power while maintaining control. The firm response had me feeling very dialed into my targeting. I always knew where the ball was going and if my shots would find their mark - which with this string was more often than not. Along with spin, control is the highlight of hitting with RPM Blast."
RPM Blast was perfect for taming Andy's big strokes. He said, "RPM Blast provided very good control. On flat shots the string felt stiff, but by not changing its shape much at contact it allowed me to be very precise. This string helped me generate tons of spin when I would go for a heavy forehand or a slice backhand, giving me great accuracy once again. Control was a strong point of this string."
Also finding great control was Mike. He said, "The control I got with this string made it really easy to dial in all of my shots. I was able to hit those low percentage shots. Serving with this string was another highlight. It was nice getting freebies off aces or high kickers."
For Troy, the low power and high spin added up to incredible control. He said, "I noticed that the relatively low-powered feel, combined with the ability to generate loads of topspin, helped make this a very control-oriented string. Compared with some of the comfort oriented co-polys, this string has the best control. I loved how I could take huge swings on my forehand and the ball would typically stay in the court. Just when it seemed that the ball was going long it would dip down and catch the baseline. During this playtest I had more balls land either on or within inches of the baseline than ever before, and I feel this was partially due to the trust I had in this string's control and spin potential."
Playability Duration - Score: 74
Though our testers noticed some tension loss, all of them were satisfied with how long RPM Blast lasted. Andy, our resident string breaker, was pleasantly surprised. He said, "I felt the tension drop after the first time I played with it, but the string still felt very playable after it got looser. As for durability, I've played with it for over 10 hours and it's still going! Normally I would go through strings quicker than that, even if it's a polyester."
Troy noticed some tension loss but continued to get good results. He said, "After three hitting sessions (about eight hours) the drop in tension was noticeable, but the control still remained good. After about 10-12 hours of play I would cut the strings out. I broke the 17 gauge (1.25mm) in about 10 hours of play, or roughly four hitting sessions."
Mike noticed some changes in the response after three sessions. He said, "It took three 2-hour hitting sessions before I noticed the string lose tension and the playing characteristics change."
Chris noticed a slightly stiffer response toward the end, but the control never went away. He said, "This string lasted my required two-week playability period for a poly - although comfort dropped off a little toward the end. Even as the tension dropped out of the stringbed, the stiffness of this string seemed to help maintain the control I was finding at the start of the playtest."
Overall - Score: 85
Andy - "There is a lot to like about this string. Crisp and firm, but with just the right amount of feel and lift off the stringbed. It gave me excellent control on flat shots, and incredible access to spin. The durability was excellent, and it remained playable for a long time. I'm definitely a big fan of RPM Blast."
Chris - "Spin, control and the crisp response."
Mike - "I liked the soft-buttery feel the string offered. The control and precision made life easier."
Troy - "I have never had so much control from such a soft feeling co-poly."
Andy - "Not much to dislike about this string. I could see beginners or players with shorter, slower strokes finding RPM Blast too stiff. However, with my longer, faster strokes I found this string perfect. It's one of my favorites."
Chris - "None."
Mike - "Tension loss, ands that's about it. Everything else was on point."
Troy - "Not the most durable poly I have tried."
Comparing the string to others they've tried, our testers said:
Andy - "I would say this string feels most similar to Volkl Cyclone. Other than the obvious black cosmetics, both strings are gear-shaped and offer excellent ball pocketing and spin potential. I found RPM Blast to feel a little livelier and more elastic than Cyclone, making it a little more powerful and comfortable."
Chris - "This string is right up there with some of the firmer feeling co-polys that I like. I would compare it to ALU Power, and especially Solinco Tour Bite, in its firm response. It felt firmer than my go-to string, Volkl Cyclone, and offered a slightly deader, more controlled response in comparison. I would say Pro Hurricane Tour is just slightly livelier, but otherwise pretty close to RPM Blast."
Mike - "Compared to other playtests I've done, this is one of my favorite strings. This is one of the softest polys I've used in a long time."
Troy - "It's similar to Kirschbaum Pro Line II, but with better spin potential. It provided similar amounts of spin to Poly Star Energy but with better control. It's also comparable to Kirschbaum Pro Line X. While the Pro Line X has better tension maintenance the RPM Blast has a softer, more arm-friendly feel to it."
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Playtester String Setups
Test Racquet: Yonex RDiS 100 Mid
Usual String: Volkl Cyclone 18
Tension: 51 lbs
Test Racquet: Volkl C10 Pro
Usual String: Volkl Cyclone 16
Tension: 51 lbs
Test Racquet: Wilson BLX Six.One Team 95
Usual String: Polyester 17g
Tension: 53 lbs
Test Racquet: Wilson BLX Six.One 95 18x20
Usual String: Co-polyester 16g
Tension: 45 lbs
Review date: September 2012. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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