NEW GENERATION OFFENSIVE RUBBER
Don Iguana Labs tested four sheets of recently introduced offensive rubber in maximum sponge thickness. Tests were conducted with all four sheets primed and lightly speed glued with Spintech Enduro 50/50 Booster Blend. Sheets were mounted on two identical Spintech 9th Wonder blades, chosen as a fast, stiff platform that would minimize rubber/blade interactions and highlight differences. Unglued impressions were obtained with sheets staying mounted after previous test, one week earlier. Test included cooperative offensive drilling and practice matches in which the tester alternated sides and blades over a four game match. The tester experienced each sheet on each "wing" for one game.
Butterfly Tempest, Butterfly Cermet, Banda Sigma and Tibhar Makss are all "new generation" offensive rubbers that offer some combination of softer, finer grade (small cell) sponge and thin top sheets. Tempest is now claimed to be the fastest rubber in the daunting Butterfly line and Cermet is their latest foray into tensioned no glue/light glue products. Tibhar Makss touts the thinnest top sheet around and 2.6 soft sponge in Max thickness. Banda Sigma is not heavily promoted, but is the Innova Ultra Light sponged brother to hot selling Stiga Magna (which appears to the use the same top sheet with "regular" Innova sponge.)
TEST IMPRESSIONS SUMMARY
BUTTERFLY TEMPEST - New territory, even to the naked eye. Our red Tempest test sheet was blood red (darker and less transparent than Bryce) and the pink sponge lacked the familiar BTY "LED" style numbering system. Our educated test crew surmises that this may not be from the same assembly line as many of Butterfly's horses. Tempest is, however, a worthy contender for Bryce's crown as the Baddest Butterfly. Most similar to the Nittaku Hammond Pro Alpha recently tested here, Tempest is a more compliant weapon than Bryce and has great touch around the table. It has the most linear response of the sheets in the test. Yes, every gear, despite a clear development goal to create some built-in tension in the sandwich. Is it an 11 and off the factory speed chart? Damn close.
BUTTERFLY CERMET - Wonderful cork and driving power! It is quite similar to Tempest in feel but with longer dwell time and a higher throw. The best fast spinning rubber in the test and the best for opening top spin against the push. Perhaps the best news about Cermet is not these expected characteristics for "tensioned" rubber but rather its unexpected speed and resistance to stall. Catapult is a good tensioned product, but has just a slight mushy feel on balls struck "too directly". Cermet exhibits none of those tendencies, playing more like soft Bryce than fast Catapult. Opening loops with Cermet were low, wickedly juiced and quite controllable.
BANDA SIGMA - This sheets is a very good value for the all round player and anyone who wants premium quality without "intro" prices. It has the least grip of this group but is quite predictable and very nicely sponged for counter spinning. The Innova Ultra Light sponge shows more life under this Magna top sheet than in the original Innova UL form. As such, Sigma offers longer dwell time than Magna but retains the improved speed found in Stiga's hot new seller. For many of the more artistic among us, Banda Sigma is a sleeper that seems to reward creativity at every turn.
TIBHAR MAKSS - This ultra thin top sheet German product has a polarizing effect. You either love it or hate it. It has extremely high throw angles and a big cork...but is actually more of a speed rubber than a spin rubber. What 2.6 speed glued sponge will do is catch an incoming loop and let you rip back. The faster the impact the more dynamic Makss becomes, sometimes spraying the ball too wide, but other times crushing balls into unhittable places when your hands are moving in the right direction :) Makss is a 40 mm medium range weapon that can add punch to any control top spinner's strokes.
TABLE GAME RATINGS
Surprisingly, the fast Tempest is more predictable and speed responsive for service, service return and pushing than others in the test. Its low throw angle and high speed make it a dream for flipping and works well when it comes time to pull out the occasional driving serve. Clearly, sweeter at slow speed than Bryce or MP. Sigma's modest grip and medium soft sponge also encourage confident short play. Cermet and Makss were quite lively and very spinny but these two sheets respond to everything...which is not always a good thing :)
THROW ANGLE (HIGH TO LOW)
Makss' masquerade as a spin rubber begins with its high throw angle. Over time you come to appreciate that the Makss ball doesn't really grip and force long blocks at the other end...instead the high throw allows you to bash forward with enough spin to make the ball hit and enough speed to force errors. It is a speed rubber that launches like spin rubber. Like Goldilocks, this tester loved the "Just Right" angle from Cermet. Perfect for lifting your openers against backspin with tons of top when it lands.
HITTING, COUNTERING AND BLOCKING
The Butterfly brothers both come to life as the pace picks up. Like Sriver on steroids (or perhaps Bryce on its best behavior) Tempest and Cermet are visually faster and sound crisper in at-the-table exchanges.
LOOPING AND OPENING
All four of the sheets excel in this department, as they should by design. Makss does not make much spin, but it is so sweet in the apogee department, it must be placed highly. The clear edge here goes to Cermet. As we groped around for a "comparable feel" maybe heavily glued Sriver EL comes to mind to describe Cermet. There were many "accidental winners" hit in this drill with Tempest, rocketing winners launched Dr. Strangelove style...dumbly deadly. Really, most would not be displeased with any of these sheets for three ball offense.
Again, there was consistent competency in the group, especially for 40 mm style spin-hitting. Makss seemed to impart the most "will" when redirecting high speed incoming spin. Cermet probably had the most spin landing on the other side. Tempest has soo much speed at this pace, hitting seems the more natural mode.
CONTROL AND VERSATILITY
Banda wins here. Do not mistake this category for the "booby prize". All round play still has a place at all but the very top level of 40 mm tournament table tennis and Sigma plays much like the 38 mm standards of yore...adding some speed and elasticity to bring the 40 mm back into the "old box" of stroke selection. Only the Tibhar would really qualify as a "good hands only" choice, since both Butterfly sheets had relatively good manners considering they had a little more speed and spin.
Hmmm, Don had a hunch and encouraged me to use Tibhar Makss at the Teams and it served me well, helping me find some dependable offensive in two 50 rating point wins. But now, with these four sheets mounted together, the Makss seems a little one dimensional, especially compared to the good gears in these other three. OK, so give two sheets of lightly glued Butterfly Cermet, please...on the merit of strong openers and stall resistance.
Courtesy of Dave "Lefty" Williams & About.com
Last Update : 17 May, 2003
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