Head Liquidmetal Instinct Review
Like other Liquidmetal racquets, the Liquidmetal Instinct mates two of Head's popular technologies from racquets of past, to its latest technological offerings. Back is the Twin Tube frame design, which gained a large following when introduced to the Head Radical line of racquets in 1995. The other carry-over technology to the Liquidmetal line is Intellifibre technology - Head's previous feature technology. Along with the inclusion of Liquidmetal - a material stronger than titanium - the Liquidmetal Instinct also features Total Sweetspot Construction (TSC). TSC is designed to increase torsional stability in the racquet head by extending the sweetspot out towards the 10, 2, 4 and 8 o'clock positions. The TSC and Liquidmetal technology is visible on all Liquidmetal racquets with its silver color and corrugated texture. The Instinct comes in a 100 sq. inch Midplus head size, and features a fairly dense 18x19 string pattern. According to HEAD, the LM Instinct wasn't just a line extension. HEAD's Director of Research and Development, Herrfried Lammer, explains, "this is the most researched racquet we have ever had. Since we were developing a completely new mold, new specs, and looking at new playing characteristics we had this in playtesters' hands all over the world. We were looking for a more powerful player's racquet that still had control and it took all this testing to get it right."
For our three-week playtest we strung the LiquidMetal Instinct with a 17 gauge multifilament, synthetic string at 59lbs. Read on to learn our playtest results.
From the baseline, the LM Instinct swings easily yet still retains good heft. Chris explains, "my initial impression of the Instinct was that it felt like a light racquet with an even balance. However, I later discovered that the racquet was heavier and more headlight than it felt. I had no problems maintaining consistency or shot direction. However, I would definitely add some weight to this racquet if I were to continue using it to increase its ability to handle heavy shots. I was surprised at the amount of spin I could generate with the Instinct, as I usually find racquets with tight string patterns only benefit spin production when I hit slice. With the Instinct, I was able to generate both slice and topspin easily. The Instinct felt very comfortable and I removed the string dampener from the racquet after about the first 30 minutes of play, preferring the feel of the racquet without it."
Don had mostly praise for the LM Instinct. "From the first groundstroke, I knew I liked this racquet. I had my doubts, considering its dense string pattern, but quickly found this to be a non-issue in the LM Instinct. OK, it's a tad light for me, but the addition of only 5 grams at 2 and 10 o'clock made it almost perfect. It was easy to maneuver but still retained a solid feel, even against hard-hit shots. This was one of those racquets that delivers the ideal combination of power and control for me. I could have good rallies without having to muscle shots, yet still was able to go for a winner without fear of over-hitting. I could pick up deep shots from my opponent, almost half-volleys from the baseline, and hit an effective, deep shot. I was pleasantly surprised that both slice and topspin were pretty easy to generate, despite the 18x20 pattern. Nice, comfortable feel too. My only complaint is that I don't care for the rectangular handle shape."
Wendi also liked the mid-weight of the LiquidMetal Instinct. "The LM Instinct felt very solid on my groundstrokes. It had a nice weight, not too heavy or too light, and felt very natural for my game. I was successful on the run and felt that it was easy to make quick adjustments. I enjoyed decent power, especially on my backhand and running forehand."
Josh adds, "groundstrokes with this racquet were great. I was comfortable swinging away on both sides of the court and was able to generate a fair amount of topspin. The real positive came when I was forced to hit a return from mid-court. I was able to grab the ball well in such situations and consistently place it in the corners. I was pleased with the comfort of the racquet. The Instinct offered a nice dampened feel and I didn't experience any discomfort from off-center hits. I expected the racquet to be more powerful because of the headsize. To my surprise, the Instinct felt more control oriented and allowed me to stick with my long, loopy strokes. The Instinct was also easy to maneuver along the baseline and in transition from the baseline to the net."
Granville had a less enjoyable experience with the LiquidMetal Instinct. "I struggled with consistency, power and targeting. I found the LM Instinct a little too whippy, sorely underpowered, and at 100 sq. inches, somewhere between a mid and oversize. The Instinct also was not head-light enough for my liking. It felt a bit clubby at only 4 pts head-light. I also don't care for the rectangular shape of Head's grips. One day I liked it, the rest of the time I didn't. The rectangular shape seems to favor a heavy topspin player using a western grip. I use a regular eastern grip and hit a relatively flat stroke." Overall Score 75
Our playtesters were unanimous in their praise of the LiquidMetal Instinct on volleys. Chris observes, "I really liked the Instinct at net. Again, I would add some weight to increase stability when returning heavy balls. On the power front, I felt the Instinct provided enough pop for put-a-ways or to keep half-volleys deep. However, the Instinct's power is far from overwhelming, and I found plenty of feel and control when softening the wrist for a drop-volley or a short angle."
Granville found redeeming value in the LM Instinct at net. "I volleyed well with this racquet. The things I didn't like on groundstrokes seemed to enhance my volleys. Solid and powerful due to good distribution of weight, the racquet is also comfortable due to its soft flex. I found the Instinct very forgiving and comfortable at the net."
Wendi also enjoyed volleying with the LM Instinct but could have used more power. "I was confident at the net with the Instinct. It had a nice, smooth feel and good touch. I was able to put my volleys deep into the court with good control. I didn't feel my volleys were particularly powerful, but they were very consistent. I noticed that I kept more balls in play but had trouble hitting the winner."
Don continues, "volleying with the LM Instinct was fun! I liked the maneuverability afforded by the racquet's lighter weight, yet enjoyed the solid feel of how this weight was balanced. Nice combination of power, control and touch. Whether hitting aggressive punch volleys or a soft dropper, I was confident when playing at net with the Instinct."
Josh offers, "I had no reservations when coming to the net with the Instinct. The racquet offered more control and maneuverability than the 100 sq. in. head size would suggest. I was able to dig balls out that were hit to my feet and wide to either side. The maneuverability of the Instinct was most impressive during doubles play." Overall Score 76
Most of our playtesters felt the LiquidMetal Instinct's strength on serves was reliability and control, but that it was lacking some power. Wendi explains, "I wasn't getting the power that I wanted out of the Instinct on my serves. My serves were more consistent but also more predictable (for my opponent). I depend on a faster serve since I haven't developed a slice serve yet. I would have liked some more time to work with the Instinct on serve."
Granville offered a firearm analogy for his serving experience. "Serving with this racquet is like shooting a 22 caliber pistol. Good for plinking and target shooting but it is not going to stop a bear. I prefer something of a higher caliber, where one well placed shot from anywhere on the court will do the job."
Josh observes, "The best word to describe the LM instrinct on serves is dependable. I felt comfortable hitting first and second serves in any situation. My second serves were kicking well without sacrificing much pace. The Instinct also offered good control."
Chris sums up his serving experience with the LM Instinct. "I was able to serve almost as well with this racquet as with my weighted up Yonex MP Tour-1. With a little extra weight, I think I could get additional 'pop' and weight on my serves. The only thing I felt missing was that my flatter first serves felt a little light. I also felt my arm would start to get fatigued when gunning first serves with the Instinct. Again, I think this was a weight issue for me, and could be remedied with some lead tape. Most of the time, I concentrated on moving the ball around the service box to keep my opponent honest, rather than just trying to blast the serve past him. I was able to place the ball very well with this racquet and felt confident going for the corners even on second serves. My second serves were very consistent with the Instinct, and I consistently found some good kick to the backhand corner."
Don agreed with Chris, adding, "although I served well with the LM Instinct, I felt is was a little light to really do damage. I had to swing harder to achieve the same pace as even a slightly heavier racquet, especially on first serves. The additional 5 grams I added resolved this, and I settled into effective and consistent serving. Second serves had good bite despite the denser string pattern. Directional control was excellent and I just seemed to serve with more confidence using the LM Instinct." Overall Score 73
The LiquidMetal Instinct favors more aggressive returners due to its lighter weight and medium-flex. Josh falls into that player category. He says, "again, I was able to swing away without worrying about the returns landing behind the baseline. I could execute solid slice backhand returns that fell below my waist, though I struggled returning serves hit high to the same side."
Chris had the most fun returning serves. "I felt like I was getting a little extra pop returning all but the heaviest of serves with the Instinct. I was able to keep most returns deep and on target, as well as finding some nice short angles to trouble serve and volley players. I felt very confident with my slice backhand return, which seemed to be very consistent during the three-week playtest. I was so happy with my chip returns during one of the hitting sessions that I found myself chip and charging - a la fellow Briton Tim Henman. The Instinct also felt very comfortable for such a light feeling racquet."
Don echoed Chris' sentiments. "I returned well with the LM Instinct. Against most serves, I could take some backswing and hit a fairly offensive return. When returning big first serves, a blocking motion got the ball back, albeit not as offensively as I would have liked. Again, a little added weight helped provide a little more oomph on these returns. I really enjoyed slicing backhand returns, and could place the ball almost at will."
Wendi found the LM Instinct to her favor on returns, offering, "I was very happy with my returns with the Instinct. I was returning serves with some ease that normally give me problems. It was quite effortless to return serves, even big serves from more advanced players."
Granville was the only player who took issue with the LM Instinct on returns. He explains, "I was not happy with my play when it came to serve return. The racquet is so soft I was getting nothing extra from the racquet. To be more exact, simply blocking the ball back is not enough with this racquet. The ball landed too short to offer any defense on the follow-up. I had to hit out on the return to offer any glimmer of offense." Overall Score 76
The LiquidMetal Instinct is a lighter weight player's racquet with a little extra pop. Most playtesters felt it maintained its own identity, differentiating itself from the LM Radical Midplus (a little more power and less control). Additionally, the "dense" 18x19 string pattern seems more open in the 100 square inch frame, allowing more spin and a bit livelier string bed. As is, the LiquidMetal Instinct is a solid, lighter weight player's racquet that's well suited for 4.0-5.0 players. With minor customization (added weight) it should appeal to 5.0+ players too.
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Review date: Nov, 2003. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.