Tibhar E.Lebesson is one of my favorite blades. But, after the introduction of poly ball, there wasn’t many chances for me to test it. However, on 26th October 2016, I heard a big news on this blade – it became European Champion blade! As its name expresses Tibhar E.Lebesson is a signature blade named after Emmanuel Lebesson who is the member of French men’s national team. At 2016 European Championship he used Tibhar Evolution FX-P on both sides of Tibhar E.Lebesson. (That is also a proof that Butterfly Tenergy is not the only one that can be Champion rubber. But, I will skip it because this article is a review only on blade.) For that reason I selected E.Lebesson as the first blade review on my new blog.
Tibhar E.Lebesson is based on Tibhar Samsonov Alpha that was the representative blade of Tibhar 15 years ago. Tibhar Samsonov Alpha is of course the signature blade of Vladimir Samsonov who is one of the most famous European players. The construction of E.Lebesson is identical to that of Samsonov Alpha. For thar reason its feeling and performance are very similar (almost identical) to that of Samsonov Alpha. However, it looks different because of different graphic design. So this review will help your understanding of Tibhar Samsonov Alpha except for graphic design and shape.
E.Lebesson is a 5-ply wood blade. Its thickness is about 5.5mm, and is similar to that of Stiga Allround Classic. Wood for top layer is Limba which is seen from many table tennis blade including Stiga Allround Classic. So at a glance, blade construction of E.Lebesson looks similar to that of Stiga Allround Classic.
However, there are three big difference between the construction of E.Lebesson and that of Allround Classic. First, the wood for second layer of Tibhar E.Lebesson is mahogany which is a very hard wood. On the contrary the second layer of Stiga Allround Classic is Ayous which is a very soft wood. Second, the second layer is vertically placed. That is the same direction as that of top layer. Usually second layer is horizontally placed. I.e. the grain of second layer is perpendicular to that of first layer. However, the grain of the second layer of E.Lebesson is parallel to that of top layer. Third, the center layer of E.Lebesson is horizontally placed. Usually the center layer of 5-ply wood blade is vertically placed, and for that reason its grain direction is identical to that of top layer.
Among those three differences, the most important one is the second difference – the direction of second mahogany layer. The grain direction of wood is very important. Wood can resist to the strain along grain direction. However, wood can’t resist the strain perpendicular to grain direction. For that reason the wood which is placed in horizontal direction can’t affect much on bending stiffness of blade – differently speaking, the rebound speed of blade. When we consider the bending stiffness of blade which is the most important factor of the performance of blade, only the wood layers placed in vertical direction are important. That is the reason why the top layer of blade is always placed in vertical direction. Also, the wood layer placed in horizontal direction affects the feeling on the fingertip of index finger. If the horizontally placed wood is hard, the feeling on index finger is very sharp (or hard). On the other hand, if the horizontally placed wood is soft, the feeling on index finger is soft and comfortable. So, if the second mahogany wood which is very hard is placed horizontally, it doesn’t meaningfully affect the speed of blade, and instead it will just make the feeling on index finger very sharp. But, the idea of Tibhar is to utilize the hard wood for increasing speed while not making the feeling too sharp by placing the second mahogany wood vertically, i.e. parallel to top layer. And, it is the key reason why the feeling of E.Lebesson or Samsonov Alpha is so unique.
The head size of E.Lebesson is 154mm (length) x 149mm (width). It is a bit longer and narrower than the head of Samsonov Alpha whose size is 153mm x 150mm. Although the difference is not significant in size, it means the difference of head shape. If we compare those two blades at a glance the head of Samsonov Alpha looks more compact, and the head of E.Lebesson looks apparently longer. That makes the head of E.Lebesson somewhat normal – I.e. far from unique – except for its compactness. (Usually, the size of blade head is about 157~158mm x 150~152mm for most of blades.)
The compact head of E.Lebesson will reduces the overall weight when rubbers (= coverings) are attached to both sides. Generally the compact head is not good for powerful topspin. However, it helps the precision of small movement on table and the quick change between forehand and backhand.
Regarding graphic design, the signature of Emmanuel Lebesson and the ‘Tricolor’ which is the national flag of France are printed on the surface of head. ‘European Champion’ is not printed on blade because E.Lebesson was launched many years before he got the big title.
The size of handle is as follows:
- FL (flared handle) = 105mm (length) x 26~33.5mm (width) x 24~24.6mm (height)
- ST (straight handle) = 105mm (length) x 27.8mm (width) x 24mm (height)
Above values are not catalog data but measured data. What is impressive is the length of handle. 105mm handle is not usual in the handle of table tennis blades. 100~102mm is the usual length of handle. However, we can find many blades with this long handle in the range of traditional Tibhar blades. This long handle can be advantage or disadvantage. Long handle may be comfortable for the players with big hand. And, it gives more room of variation for players who tend to change the depth of grip frequently while playing. However, for the players who always play with deep grip, the long handle may disturb the bending of wrist when the players try to perform some backhand technics such as backhand topspin.
Width of handle is normal. Not wide, and not especially narrow. Both of FL and ST fit for the players who don’t like wide handle. But, both of FL and ST are relatively thick when compared with common Butterfly or Stiga blades. Usually the thickness of ST handle is 21~23mm. 21mm is somewhat thin, and 23mm is super thick. But, the thickness of the ST of E.Lebesson is 24mm! Also, even though it is not that thick at the end, the FL of E.Lebesson is also very thick at the root – thumb cut (= the slanted part that player puts thumb) – of handle. Usually the thickness of the root of handle is 21~23mm. But, that of E.Lebesson is also 24mm, which is super thick. At the end of handle, the thickness of the FL of E.Lebesson is only 24.6mm that is relatively thin when compared to the thickness of root. So, differently from common blades, the FL of E.Lebesson looks straight when viewed from sideways.
Although the handles of E.Lebesson are thick in value, I don’t feel that those are especially thick. That is due to the shape of corss section. The cross section of the handle of E.Lebesson is close to ellipse. If the cross section of handle is squared, the circumference of handle is relatively long. And, if the cross section of handle is close to ellipse, the circumference of handle is relatively short, even though the width and height are identical to those of handle with squared cross section. That is the reason why I don’t feel that the handle of E.Lebesson is thick.
Regarding graphic design, three lines of red, white and blue colors are placed along the center line of handle. Of course it represents ‘Tricolor’ which is the national flag of France.
At the place of lens, there is an Aluminum plate instead of transparent plastic lens in which the name of blade and that of maker are written. Although the Aluminum plate doesn’t look as expensive as that on Butterfly Timo Boll series, it is quite unique, and looks good.
E.Lebesson is not a heavy blade. Its weight is usually 80~85 gram. And, the weight of light one is even under 80 gram. Further, as is mentioned above, the head of E.Lebesson is compact. As a result, the weight of rubber attached is also reduced, and it makes overall weight even lighter. Again, also as is mentioned above, the handle of E.Lebesson very long, and it lowers the center of weight, and as a result the feeling of wehgit of head is further reduced.
I first tested E.Lebesson some years ago, and I have tested it many times. But, I have never felt that it is heavy even when I attached heavy rubbers. Heavy weight will never be the problem of E.Lebesson.
But, the light weight can be the drawback of blade in case the player want more power of topspin from middle area of court. However, thanks to the long handle it can be complemented. Just changing the grip shallower by sliding hand to the end of handle will give more centripetal force that is needed for more powerful topspin. Longer handle makes this kind of adjustment easier, and the handle of E.Lebesson is longer than the handle of usual blades.
3. Lab Test
Before testing the blade at the court of club, we can examine the performance indices of E.Lebesson.
Concerning the meaning of four performance indices.
- Ep : Elasticity Index (Primary)
- Ec : Elasticity Index (Central)
- Vp : Vibration Index (Primary)
- Vl : Vibration Index (Lateral)
You may be not familiar to above four indices because those indices are only used in this blog. Concerning the detail of four performance indices, please refer to following articles in ‘Background’ section :
For performance indices of E.Lebesson is as follows:
- Ep = 1.20
- Ec = 1.22
- Vp = 1.12
- Vl = 1.01
First, let’s see Elasticity Indices (Ep and Ec). Fig.08 is the comparison graph of Elasticity Indices.
Elasticity indices are concerned with rebound characteristics of blade. Differently speaking, speed of blade. Ep of E.Lebesson is 1.20. It means that the bending stiffness of E.Lebesson is 20% higher than that of Stiga Allround Classic which is a reference blade and whose index is always 1.00. As you can see the blades with much higher Ep for example Butterfly Korbel or Butterfly Timo Boll ALC on Fig.09, E.Lebesson is not a fast blade. It is just 20% stiffer than Allround Classic and as a result a bit faster than Allround Classic. So we can think that E.Lebesson is a fast allround blade.
Ec of E.Lebesson is 1.22, and is similar to Ep. It means that the increase of the rebound of ball by the increase of impact force is linear. (Please refer to the article ‘The example of comparison by performance indices’ in ‘Background’ section.) We can’t expect deep hold of ball or strong ‘kick’ when we hit ball very hard. We can expect that E.Lebesson will always show precise response to our impact input, without deep hold or additional kick.
Even though very hard wood is placed vertically at the second layer, the speed of E.Lebesson is not that high. That is just because of its thin construction. As a pure 5-ply wood blade with just 5.5~5.6 mm construction, E.Lebesson is considered as relatively fast blade.
Then we can compare E.Lebesson with some other blades. At the beginning I selected two Tibhar blades with similar characteristics – Tibhar Samsonov Premium and Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB. Those two show similar Ec as E.Lebesson as is shown in Fig.09. But, Ep of Samsonov Premium is lower than that of E.Lebesson. It means that rebound speed of Samsonov Premium is lower than that of E.Lebesson. However, Ec (1.23)of Samsonov Premium is relatively higher than Ep (1.10) of it, ratio of Ec / Ep of Samsonov Premim is much bigger than that of E.Lebesson. So some players will feel more additional ‘kick’ from Samsonov Premium than from E.Lebesson when they hit the ball very hard. On the contrary, ratio of Ec/Ep of Stratus Samsonov CB is smaller than 1.0, and is also smaller than that of E.Lebesson. So some players will feel that Stratus Samsonov CB holds ball deeper than E.Lebesson when they hit the ball very hard, even though Ec itself of Lebesson is bigger than that of Stratus Samsonov CB.
(I’m considering to consider Ec / Ep as additional performance index in the future. But, it hasn’t been decided yet. I will decide it after I test more blades with more various poly balls.)
Similar comparison can be done for other blades. Stiga Infinity VPS V is similar with E.Lebesson in Ep. But, its Ec is much lower than that of E.Lebesson, and as a result Stiga Infinity VPS V holds ball deeper than E.Lebesson when player hits ball hard. Stiga Rosewood NCT V and Butterfly Korbel shows the same tendency but much faster because those two show bigger value of Ep. Butterfly Timo Boll ALC is faster, with higher Ep. But, it also shows the same tendency as Stiga Rosewood NCT V and Butterfly Korbel.
It is hard to find the blade as linear as Stiga Allround Classic and Tibhar E.Lebesson. When we use Stiga Allround Classic or Tibhar E.Lebesson, we can easily predict the behavior of ball because the response of blade is linear. It makes very aggressive shot possible because player can believe the control of E.Lebesson. That kind of blades are very easy to use regardless of rebound speed. ‘A bit increase spee d while keeping the linearity of Stiga Allround Classic’ may be the most important advantage of Tibhar E.Lebesson.
Successively, let’s see Vibration Indices. Fig.09 shows the comparison graph of Vibration Indices.
Vibration indices are of course directly concerned with feeling. High value of Vibration index means hard or sharp feeling, and low value means soft or comfort feeling. Please note again that higher value doesn’t mean better performance. There isn’t better or worse when we tell about feeling. That is no more than the issue of preference.
Vp of E.Lebesson is 12% higher than that of reference blade – Stiga Allround Classic. It means that E.Lebesson is harder than Allround Classic. That is the influence of hard mahogany wood of second layer which is vertically placed. But, the vertical placement of hard mahogany wood doesn’t much affect the horizontal characteristics, and the result that Vl of E.Lebesson is similar to that of Stiga Allround Classic. Even though hard wood is used for 2nd layer, it doesn’t effec the characteristic of lateral bending. At the fingertip of our second finger, differently speaking at the wing edge of blade, we feel very simlar feeling from E.Lebesson as from Allround Classic.
Further, we may feel that the feeling at the fingertip of index finger is even more comfortable because Vl is relatively smaller than Vp. Some players feel it, but other players don’t.
Tibhar Samsonov Premium shows the same tendency of feeling. Its Vp is similar to that of E.Lebesson, and its Vl is also similar to that of E.Lebesson. So many players feel that Tibhar Samsonov Premium is similar to Tibhar E.Lebesson. However, some players are very sensitive to Ec or Ec/Ep, and in that case they will feel that E.Lebesson is quite different from Samsonov Premium.
On the contrary, Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB shows relatively high value of Vl although it shows similar value of Vp as E.Lebesson. So, players will feel that Stratus Samsonv CB is sharper than E.Lebesson at the fingertip of index finger (or at the wing edge of blade).
Stiga Infinitiy VPS V, Stiga Rosewood NCT V and Butterfly Korbel show similar tendency as Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB – similar Vp as that of E.Lebesson and higher Vl than that of E.Lebesson. Interestingly, none of those three blades shows higher Vp than E.Lebesson. It means that primary feeling of those three blades are softer than the feeling of E.Lebesson. I.e. E.Lebesson is harder than those three. However, relatively high value of Vl of those three blades makes players feel those three blades very sharp at the fingertip of index finger, while they will feel E.Lebesson comfortable at the fingertip of index finger. This is again the issue of preference. If the preference of a player is just concerned with Vp and Vl, there will not be problem of feeling when the blade is changed from Korbel to Infinity VPS V for example. However, the same player will not be able to change blade from Korble to E.Lebesson. We will not make mistake of selecting new blade if we have the information of Vibration Indices.
Timo Boll ALC shows the same tendency as three 5-ply wood blades – Stiga Infinity VPS V, Stiga Rosewood NCT V and Butterfly Korbel. But, both of Vp and Vl of Timo Boll ALC are higher than those of the three blades. If we are using any one among those three and want to select one with the same tendency but totally harder feeling, Timo Boll ALC will be the solution. But, if we are using E.Lebesson, replacing blade with Timo Boll ALC will not be easy.
I’m not sure whether above comparison will be always meaningful for you or not. But,I hope that at least there will be somebody who will be helped from my performance indices.
This article is the first review on my new blog, and for that reason the accumulate data of performance indices isn’t sufficient yet. But, time will solve the problem. I expect that I will be able to provide the database of performance indices that has sufficient amount of data.
4. Court Test
I also tested E.Lebesson at table tennis club. But, please note that there is always bias due to my playing style and my preference. Even though I always try to test the blade objectively, the result is not as objective as that from lab test. I don’t think that the result of court test is not meaningful. But, please don’t forget that your own result can be different from the result of my court test.
Before the introduction of poly ball, I had tested many pieces of Samsonov Alpha and E.Lebesson. At that time I had always felt that the rubber with hard feeling is not that good for E.Lebesson (and for Samsonov Alpha). The rubbers with medium sponge or soft sponge had been generally good. For example Tibhar Nimbus Soft or Sinus Alpha. Especially Sinus Alpha has been the rubber of E.Lebesson.
Afterwards, before the introduction of poly ball, speed glue was banned in September 2008. Then Butterfly Tenergy 05 appeared at that time and was quickly spread into the world of top players. One year after, ‘Tenergy type” rubbers started to be produced in Germany, and those rubbers have become the mainstream of table tennis rubbers. Now in 2017, most of table tennis rubbers are similar to Butterfly Tenergy. (Further, most of those rubbers are similar to Tenergy 05 in shape. There are few rubbers those are similar to Tenergy 64.) During the period of 2008~2014, my favorite rubber for the combination with E.Lebesson was Tibhar 1Q. Butterfly Tenergy 05 was also good, but was not as impressive as 1Q. I also tested Butterfly Tenergy 64 and Tibhar Aurus. Then speed was good. But, I couldn’t easily put much spin in various situation of table tennis. Even I felt that the soft top sheet and hard sponge of those two rubbers makes the feeling of E.Lebesson even hard, and far from comfortable. I once thought that there isn’t the rubber that perfectly fits for E.Lebesson. However, 1Q solved that problem. Relatively hard top sheet and 45 degree sponge of 1Q made fantastic combination with E.Lebesson. It didn’t give me very high speed. But, instead of high speed, it give me the freedom of making high trajectory of topspin. I could easily control the trajectory of topsin, with much spin. Speed was just moderate, but wasn’t any problem for me at all.
So the conclusion was the rubbers with ‘relatively hard top sheet’ and ‘a bit softer sponge’. In fact Tibhar Sinus Alpha which was the rubber of E.Lebesson has the same combination. Its top sheet is harder than that of Tibhar Nimbus, and its sponge density is only 42.5 degree. (Please note that 42.5 degree of German rubbers is similar to about 30.0 degree of Butterfly rubbers. There are two difference standards of sponge density.)
Fortunately, the conclusion can also be applied to poly ball. The rubber with relatively harder top sheet and relatively softer sponge fits very well for E.Lebesson. However, due to the difference of balls, I can’t feel that 1Q is the best fit for E.Lebesson any more, although it still makes very good combination. (It is no more than the result when I tested. The combination of 1Q and E.Lebesson may be the best one for another tester.) For me, 1Q doesn’t create as much spin as the age of celluloid ball although somebody may think that the spin from the combination of 1Q and E.Lebesson is more than sufficient. For making high trajectory as I made in the age of celluloid ball, I tried some new rubbers from Tibhar. Currently the top range of Tibhar rubbers is Evolution series. At the beginning with poly ball, I tried Evolution MX-P on E.Lebesson. I didn’t expected that it will make perfect solution. And, as I predicted Evolution MX-P was somewhat too hard on E.Lebesson due to its hard sponge. Then I tried one step softer rubber – Evolution EL-P whose sponge density is about 44 degree, and two step softer rubber – Evolution FX-P whose sponge density is about 40 degree. As a result, I finally found that Evolution FX-P makes the best combination with E.Lebesson for me. It doesn’t provide high speed. But, I don’t want high speed from E.Lebesson and instead want the ability to make dramatic arc trajectory of topspin. Evolution FX-P gives me what I want.
I also tried Butterfly Tenergy 05 and Tenergy 05-FX, and found that Tenergy 05-FX also makes very good combination with E.Lebesson. Altough it doesn’t provide high speed, it makes me easily create very good trajectory of topspin. The feeling of Tenergy 05-FX is also very good. Tenergy 05-FX is also the rubber with hard top sheet and soft sponge.
The rubbers with soft top sheet and hard sponge give different result. Tibhar Quantum, Tibhar Genius+ Optimum and Butterfly Tenergy 64 are the rubbers of this kind. When Buttefly Tenergy 64 or Tibhar Genius+ Optimum is combined with E.Lebesson, hard smash is very effective. Although those combinations can’t make very fast ball of smash, the speed is acceptable. And, the smash is very precise. Block is also very precise even though the feeling is not that comfortable. This kind of combination is not for me. However, I believe that there will be players who will love the combination of E.Lebesson and the rubbers with soft top sheet and hard sponge. If you feel that the feeling of this kind of combination is not comfortable, just selecting one step softer sponge in the same rubber family will be good solution. For example, you will be able to select Tibhar Quantum S instead of Tibhar Quantum.
Some years after the launching of Tibhar Evolution -P series, Evolution -S series was launched. P means ‘power’ and S means ‘spin’. The first one of Evolution -S series is Evolution MX-S with hard sponge. I tested it and found that it can make very powerful topspin. However, I also found that it is somewhat too hard, and not easy to control. So I waited softer version of Evolution MX-S, and in 2016 Evolution EL-S and Evolution FX-S were launched. I found that the combination of EL-S and E.Lebesson is fantastic performer that can make very poweful topspin. But it is sometimes a bit harder than what I want. Also the combination of FX-S and E-Lebesson gives extreme control in every technic of table tennis. However, it requires more power of player if a player wants to make powerful shot. Both of EL-S and FX-S make good combination with E.Lebesson, but the selection between those two will differ by player.
Tibhar E.Lebesson is an all-round blade with enhanced speed. And, when we hit ball hard with E.Lebesson, it doesn’t kick or hold the ball. The response of blade on our impact input is always linear, and it makes us easily predict the result of what I do. It makes very precise control possible. Regarding feeling, E.Lebesson is a bit harder than many known 5-ply offensive blades. But, the feeling at the fingertip of index finger is comfortable, while many known 5-ply offensive blades provide sharp feeling at the same point. The overall characteristics of E.Lebesson let player easily using various kinds of table tennis technics. Although E.Lebesson doesn’t fit for aggressive topspin, instead it fits for modern all-round style in which block and counter-topspin are very important. Thanks to the compact head and lightweight, E.Lebesson is an easy-to-use blade. E.Lebesson is recommended for players who lay emphasis more on control than on speed, and who are searching for lightweight blade.
- Linear response on impact : It is very easy to predict the result.
- Comfortable feeling.
- Very precise control of topspin and block.
- Very good weight balance.
- Rebound speed may be insufficient in case player wants very high speed of smash or topspin.
- Blade doesn’t hold ball deep : This is the issue of the preference of player.
- Long handle may disturb the movement of wrist.
- Some players will feel that the shape of handle is strange.
- Modern all-round style that player plays close-to-table area and plays with topspin and block.
- Fast attack style in case player doesn’t want high rebound speed.
(Basically E.Lebesson can be used by players of any style. However, maybe this blade will not be the best for following playing styles.)
- Powerful topspin from mid-distance.
- Continuous topspin at close-to-table area : This style requires low value of Ec/Ep.
- Chop defense : Compact head doesn’t fit for this style.
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