Volkl Power Fiber 16 Tennis String Review

Reprinted with permission of the United States Racquet Stringer's Association

Volkl became a new player in the US string market in the fall of 2000. They started by introducing two strings. Power Fiber is one of these two strings. It utilizes a multifilament construction and a new manufacturing process called “High-Pressure-Resin-Misting.” According to Volkl, this process requires 30% less bonding resin to secure the fibers together. That means more fibers for the gauge. It’s available in 16 and 17 gauges. The 16 gauge is available in natural and yellow, while the 17 gauge is only available in natural. It is priced from $13.00 for sets of 40 feet or $160.00 for a reel of 770 feet. For more information or to order, contact Volkl at 800-264-4579 or at www.volkl.com. Be sure to see the coupon for more information about getting a free set to try for yourself.

BENCH TESTING

The two coils both measured 40’1”. The diameter ranged from 1.31 mm to 1.32 mm prior to stringing and 1.24 mm to 1.25 mm after stringing. A stringbed stiffness of 72 RDC units was recorded immediately after stringing at 60 pounds in a Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 95 (16 x 18 pattern) on a constant pull machine. After 24 hours (no playing), stringbed stiffness measured 65 RDC units, representing a 10% tension loss. Our control string, Prince Synthetic Gut Original Gold 16, measured 78 RDC units immediately after stringing and 71 RDC units after 24 hours, representing a 9% tension loss. Power-Fiber 16 added 13.8 grams to the unstrung frame.

TESTERS

Tested for five weeks by 35 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3.5 to 6.0. This is a blind test. The playtesters are sent unmarked strings in unmarked packages. This means they know nothing about the string before they string it and play with it. As a result, no preconceived ideas regarding manufacturers, type of construction, or materials used are able to effect their impressions of the string. Average number of hours playtested was 23.9.

STRINGING

Installing Power Fiber was a breeze. Even though it is a soft, comfort-oriented multifilament, it kept a sharp tip during installation and did not require any repeated trimming to squeeze into shared, blocked, or tie-off holes. We had no problem getting knots to cinch up snugly. And the slightly glossy coating reduced friction when installing the crosses, but it didn’t leave us feeling like we needed to wash our hands when we finished. The length should be enough to handle any frame on the market today and we didn’t have any problems with excessive coil memory. In fact, almost all of our playtesters indicated it was as easy or easier to install than other strings.

PLAYTESTING

As the string market continues to move more toward comfort-oriented multifilament constructions, Power-Fiber should feel right at home. While our playtesters gave it above average scores in almost every category, their highest rating came in the comfort category. This should be just what Volkl is looking for as they enter the market. These days, it seems that all everyone is talking about is comfort. In fact, if you think about it, it really is amazing how far strings have come in the last 10 – 15 years. Fifteen years ago, most stringers didn’t know what a multifilament was, not to mention the players. Today, a string company almost doesn’t stand a chance if they don’t have a multifilament that they are really excited about.

Durability and Control were close second place finishers for this string. It’s always impressive when a manufacturer can develop a comfortable multifilament that doesn’t break in half the time. At first, the high durability rating seemed a little odd because so many playtesters (12) broke the string. But, then we looked closer and realized that it took longer than usual for them to break the string. In fact, when you consider how long it took playtesters to break the string, it leads you to believe that the playtester really liked the string, because they played with it beyond the point when they would have cut most strings out. Twelve playtesters broke Power-Fiber 16, one each after 7, 9, 14, 14.5, 15, 21, 22, 25, 27, 26, 30, and 60 hours.

Power Fiber also received scores well above average in Playability and Power. There were just 2 scores that were only average – spin potential and resistance to movement. We have noticed a pattern between these two ratings. Strings that score low in one tend to score low in the other. In the case of Power-Fiber, it probably has to do with the slightly glossy coating. The coating makes it easier for the strings to move around and that seems to reduce the amount of spin it puts on the ball. But, then again, that glossy coating probably also deserves some of the credit for the strong durability.

A couple playtesters did indicate that they experienced a little premature notching and peeling, but most did not. Finally, we noticed another consistent pattern – being a multifilament, it did not receive the highest tension maintenance ratings.

CONCLUSION

Volkl is making their entry into the US string market with a very strong contender. Power Fiber is an all-around solid performer. It’s easy to install and virtually all of its characteristics were rated above average by our playtesters. Give this string a try for yourself and see if you are as impressed as our playtesters were. You may just want to make space for a new brand of string on your wall.

COMMENTS

“I love this string. What is it? Great string with crisp feel, good power, and playability characteristics similar to natural gut. I would recommend stringing 2 pounds higher than usual in the future. Loved this string!!” 5.0 male all court player using a Wilson 95 strung at 61 pounds LO (Wilson Extreme 16/Gamma TNT 16)

“This was a great string – excellent durability, but adequate feel – an unusual combination. Didn’t seem to lose much tension, and it felt great. Did I mention that it felt great?” 5.0 male all court player using a Head Ti.Radical MP strung at 51 pounds LO (Prince Synthetic Gut Soft 16)

“This string was obviously created with control in mind. From the first stroke, I felt that I was much more in control of ball placement with both my groundstrokes and volleying. The string does play a little stiffer than my normal string, but this took nothing away from its overall playability. Additionally, this string looks great in the Wilson Hyper Hammer 6.6 since the string and the frame are basically the same color. The test string held tension exceptionally well.” 4.0 male baseliner with moderate or no spin using a Wilson Hyper Hammer 6.6 98 strung at 65/62 pounds LO (Prince Sweet Perfection 17)

“A very satisfactory string. Easy to string, plays good, holds tension satisfactorily, adequate power and control. Characteristics for elongation and elastic memory at 60 pounds were normal.” 4.0 male all court player using a Gamma Diamond Fiber C-3.0 115 strung at 63 pounds CP (BDE Perf 17)

“Its durability, control, comfort, holding tension and resistance to movement are all above average. Power, touch/feel, and spin potential are average. Due to this high overall rating, I would definitely carry this string in my inventory if the price is right.” 4.0 male all court player using a Cayman Strike-X 95 strung at 48 pounds LO (Cayman Synthetic Gut 18 DT)

“I would like to play this string again. This potentially would be a good string for a player looking for playability with some durability. Held tension and resisted movement well.” 6.0 male all court player with heavy spin using a Prince Triple Threat Rebel 95 strung at 70 pounds CP (Prince Sweet Perfection 16)

“A very comfortable and forgiving string. Soft, yet durable. I enjoyed the cushion feel on my arm. Durability surprised me.” 4.5 male all court player using a Volkl Quantum V1 MP 102 strung at 57/55 pounds LO (Forten Dynamix 16)

“Easy to handle, such a pleasure to string. It is the easiest string to date that I have handled. If all strings were like this, the world of stringing would be a breeze. I was also impressed by how it played. It had good touch and feel. It was very comfortable to play and teach with. Kudos to the manufacturer, chalk up another string that I would carry in my shop. I will recommend this string to my clients who like soft strings and have arm problems. Hopefully the cost isn’t that high, so I can have a good markup on it.” 4.5 male all court player using a Prince Triple Threat Graphite 100 strung at 67 pounds LO (Tecnifibre TR Pro 16)

“This is a good string. My initial opinion of the string was that it would be stiff and uncomfortable. However, I found this string to be extremely playable and a good combination of control and power.” 5.0 male serve and volley player using a Yonex RD Ti. 70 88 strung at 68 pounds LO (Gamma Gut 3/Gamma TNT 17)

“This was an interesting string. It had a great feel and bite on the ball, and held tension well. However, not a very durable string. I noticed notching after about 10 hours, the outer coating began peeling away after about 13 hours, and the string broke after about 14 hours. It played well and held tension fairly well all the way up to breakage.” 4.0 male all court player using a Pro Kennex Kinetic Charged 110 strung at 65 pounds LO (Tecnifibre TR Pro 16)

“This string pretty much felt and played like the average synthetic gut but was just a bit softer. Seemed to move around a bit even in an 18x20 pattern.” 5.0 male all court player using a Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 6.5 95 strung at 62 pounds LO (Kevlar 19/Wilson Sensation Supreme 17)

“This string wasn’t as forgiving a string. I would recommend this for hard hitters. The color was appealing while not being too obtrusive.” 4.5 female all court player using a Prince Triple Threat Warrior MP string at 58 pounds CP (Tecnifibre Synthetic Gut 17/18)

“A decent combination of playability and durability. The string held up well during match play, but felt a little on the stiff side for touch shots.” 4.5 male all court player using a Prince Precision Approach Ti 110 strung at 62 pounds LO (Wilson Sensation NXT 17)

“I didn’t feel like I was getting much spin from these strings.” 5.0 male all court player using a Gosen Secret Carbon 100 strung at 58/54 pounds LO (Ashaway Crossfire II 16)

“This string was consistent, but not above average playability. Ball seemed to fly off my racquet with little control.” 5.0 male all court player using a Head Ti.Radical Midplus 97 strung at 55 pounds LO (Prince Synthetic Gut 17)

“This string is very average. It lost tension quickly and did not play very well. It was a pleasure returning to my normal string.” 5.5 male serve & volley player using a Babolat Pure Drive 100 strung at 57 pounds CP (Durathin 18/Natural Gut 16)

“I didn’t find anything special about this string. The string moved far more than I am accustomed to.” 5.5 female all court player using a Volkl C-10 Pro 98 strung at 62 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire XP 16/17)

“Generally disappointing string; especially when compared to recent excellent test strings. Average in most areas and was very sloppy as far as losing tension and sliding. Used in tournament and had to really work to generate any pop on serve, which is usually my strength.” 5.0 male serve and volley player using a Gamma Big Bubba Pro 131 strung at 45 pounds LO (Gamma Synthetic Gut 17).

TESTER STATS

Results from 40 playtesters

EASE OF STRINGING

(Compared to string used most often)
much easier
1
somewhat better 10
about the same 22
not quite as good 2
not nearly as good 0


OVERALL PLAYABILITY

(Compared to string played most often)
much better 0
somewhat better 9
about the same 10
not quite as good 15
not nearly as good 1


OVERALL DURABILITY

(Compared to strings of similar gauge)
much better 4
somewhat better 11
about the same 17
not quite as good 2
not nearly as good 1


RATING AVERAGES

Playability 3.3
Durability 3.4
Power 3.3
Control 3.4
Touch/feel 3.2
Comfort 3.5
Spin Potential 3.0
Holding Tension 3.2
Resistance to Movement 3.1


KEY: Respondents ranked string from a possible low of 1 to a high of 5. Median value is 3. Values represent average overall ratings.

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