1. Tibhar VS Unlimited & Butterfly Freitas ALC
Two new fiber blades for poly ball were launched in 2016. One is Tibhar VS Unlimited, and the other is Butterfly Freitas ALC.
Tibhar VS Unlimited had originally been launched as Tibhar CCA Unlimited before the launching of Butterfly Freitas ALC. Afterward, CCA Unlimited was renamed to VS Unlimited because Vladimir Samsonov selected it as his weapon. Blade construction was not modified. But, handle color was changed from yellow to blue. Because CCA Unlimited was not discontinued, two blades of identical blade construction are being sold now.
Please refer to article ‘Tibhar VS Unlimited – Overview‘ for more detailed information on VS Unlimited.
Butterfly Freitas ALC is the blade named after Marcos Freitas who is the player of Men’s Portugal National Team. Freitas ALC is based on famous ‘M.Maze’. But, thickness of blade has been increased from 5.5mm to 5.9mm for improvement of power.
Please refer to article ‘Butterfly Freitas ALC – Overview‘ for more detailed information on Freitas ALC.
Interestingly, the plywood constructions of two blades are very similar to each other. Kevlar Carbon of VS Unlimited is very similar to Arylate Carbon of Freitas ALC. And, fiber is placed directly under the top layer. Top layer is Limba. Thickness is about 5.9mm. This similarity doesn’t mean that one is the copy of the other. It happens by accident during the process of the development of blade for top players in poly ball era. The basic idea is similar to famous Butterfly M.Maze whose thickness is just 5.5mm. Tibhar had once contracted with Marcos Freitas. And, Tibhar developed a blade which is similar to M.Maze that had been used by Marcos Freitas. At that time Tibhar made the blade called ‘Marcos Freitas’ which is thicker than original M.Maze for more power. And, the construction of CCA Unlimited and VS Unlimited is basically based on Tibhar ‘Marcos Freitas’. Afterward, Butterfly applied similar idea when the new blade for Marcos Freitas was being developed.
For that reason, we can consider that both of VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC are concerned with one player – Marcos Freitas.
However, the similarity of construction doesn’t always mean similar characteristics. For better selection, we need to examine both of the similarity and the difference of those two blades at the same time. ‘Performance Indices’ will provide us good guideline for understanding the characteristics of blades.
Concerning the detail of four performance indices, please refer to following articles in ‘Background’ section :
- Performance indices : the way to evaluate blade by measurement
- The example of comparison by performance indices
2. Comparison by Performance Indices
Then let’s compare VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC by Performance Indices. For more information, five other blade will be compared at the same time. The five reference blades are as follows:
- Butterfly M.Maze : thinner than VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC.
- Butterfly Timo Boll ALC : thinner construction and harder top layer.
- Butterfly Mizutani Jun : similar as M.Maze but more elastic fiber.
- Butterfly InnerForce ZLC : inner fiber construction.
- Stiga Clipper CR : 7-ply wood.
First, ‘Elasticity Indices’ of seven blades will be examined. Fig.06 shows the comparison graph of ‘Elasticity Indices’.
Ep is directly concerned with the rebound speed of blade. There isn’t noticeable difference between the Ep of VS Unlimited (= 2.08) and that of Freitas ALC (= 2.04). Although VS Unlimited is a bit faster, the difference is ignorable. Both of those two are much faster than M.Maze whose Ep is just 1.70. This is because M.Maze is much thinner than VS Unlimited or Freitas ALC.
Timo Boll ALC and Mizutani Jun ZLC are also thinner than VS Unlimited or Freitas ALC. However those to show higher Ep’s (2.14 and 2.24) thanks to harder top layer (= Koto of Timo Boll ZLC) or more elastic fiber (= ZLC of Mizutani Jun ZLC). Ep of InnerForce ZLC is lower than that of VS Unlimited or Freitas ALC. That is because its ‘inner fiber’ construction results in reduced elasticity. Stiga Clipper CR is the most elastic one (Ep = 2.42) among seven blades in this comparison, although it doesn’t include any fiber material. That is thanks to its thick construction.
Ec is concerned with additional ‘kick’ when player hits ball very hard. VS Unlimited shows the highest value of Ec among seven blades in this comparison. Ec of VS Unlimited is even higher than that of Clipper CR which is the fastest blade in this comparison. On the contrary, Ec of Freitas ALC is relatively smaller. That is the most important difference between VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC.
Examining Ec/Ep is also a easier way to understand the tendency of elasticity of blades. Fig.07 shows the relationship between Ec/Ep and Ep.
Ec/Ep expresses the ‘tendency’ of the elasticity of blade. By examining Ec/Ep and Ep at the same time, we can easily understand the behavior of blades.
Among seven blades, only Tibhar VS Unlimited is categorized as ‘kick’. (It is not strong but mild. And, still it is inside ‘linear’ range.) If we hit ball hard, VS Unlimited will give a bit more kick for additional acceleration of ball. That characteristic will work as an advantage when we want to sometimes use hard smash or more aggressive block. VS Unlimited will be also very good for powerful topspin from mid-distance area. However, VS Unlimited is not perfect when we want to just play with continuous topspin at close-to-table area. (‘Mild Hold’ or ‘Deep Hold’ is good for continuous topspin at close-to-table area.)
All the other blades in comparison show Ec/Ep value under 1.0, and as a result are categorized as ‘(Mild or Deep) Hold’. ‘Freitas ALC’ is in ‘Mild Hold’ range. ‘Mild Hold’ can be considered as ‘Linear’. We can understand that Freitas ALC will give more ‘hold’ while VS Unlimited will give more ‘kick’ if we just compare those two blades. Sensitive player will be able to distinguish those two blades by hitting ball hard.
When compared with other Butterfly blades, the level of hold of Freitas ALC is relatively weaker. Differently speaking, Freitas ALC gives a bit more kick than other Butterfly fiber blades for example Mizutani Jun ZLC or Timo Boll ZLC, although Freitas ZLC can still be categorized as ‘hold’.
Then successively, let’s compare Vibration Indices. Fig.08 shows the comparison graph of Vibration Indices.
Vibration Indices are concerned with feeling. Vp indicates primary feeling which is transferred to player’s palm. And, Vl is the feeling at the wing of a blade. It is felt by player’s inderx finger or middle finger.
There is noticeable difference between the Vp of VS Unlimited (= 1.47) and that of Freitas ALC (= 1.32). It means that primary feeling of VS Unlimited is much harder than that of Freitas ALC. VS Unlimited is even harder than Stiga Clipper CR (= 1.37) which is second hardest blade among seven blades in this comparison. Vp of Freitas ALC (=1.32) is close to that of Mizutani Jun ZLC (= 1.34), and is higher than that of M.Maze (=1.23).
Differently from the comparison of Vp, Vl of VS Unlimited (= 1.33) is same as that of Freitas ALC. It means that the feeling at the wing of blade is identical for VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC. Interestingly, M.Maze shows similar value of Vl (=1.32).
In the comparison of Vl, two blades with ‘outer fiber’ construction – Timo Boll ALC and Mizutani Jun ZLC – show higher values (= 1.41 and 1.37 relatively). VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC are also blades with ‘outer fiber’ construction. Vp of ‘outer fiber’ blades in this comparison is in the range between 1.32 and 1.41. On the contrary, InnerForce ZLC which is a blade with ‘inner fiber’ construction shows relatively lower value of Vl (= 1.19). I.e. much softer than ‘outer fiber’ blades at the wing of blade. We will be able to think that this the difference between ‘outer fiber’ construction and ‘inner fiber’ construction appears at the feeling at the wing of blade that is expressed as Vl.
Examining Vl/Vp is easier way for the comparison of the tendency of feeling. Fig.09 shows the relationship between Vl/Vp and Vp for easier comparison.
Vl/Vp of VS Unlimited is close to 0.9. It means that the feeling at finger is relatively more comfortable than the feeling at palm. Differently speaking, we can understand that VS Unlimited is relatively harder at palm than at finger. Although the primary feeling which is expressed by Vp of VS Unlimited is quite hard, some players who are more sensitive to relative feeling may feel that VS Unlimited is comfortable. The same story is applied to Stiga Clipper CR which is close to VS Unlimited on the graph.
On the contrary, Vl/Vp of Freitas ALC is close to 1.0. It means that the feeling of Freitas ALC is uniform. The feeling at blade wing is not relatively sharper or relatively softer than that at palm. On the graph, Butterfly Mizutani Jun ZLC is close to Freitas ALC.
Butterfly M.Maze and Timo Boll ALC are relatively sharper at finger. It is noticeable when compared with Freitas ALC. If we compare M.Maze or Timo Boll ALC with Freitas ALC, we can think that Freitas ALC is relatively more comfortable at finger.
Both of VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC are based on the construction of M.Maze. But, with thicker construction, Vp of both of those two are bigger than that of M.Maze. Also, both of those two are relatively more comfortable at finger when compared with M.Maze. The difference is more extreme for VS Unlimited, and is somewhat moderate for Freitas ALC.
- As is expected from the difference of thicknesses (5.9mm and 5.5mm), both of VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC are faster & harder than M.Maze.
- There isn’t much difference between the primary elasticity of VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC.
- When player hits ball very hard, VS Unlimited gives more additional kick to the ball. On the contrary, Freitas ALC holds the ball in the same condition. Kick of VS Unlimited and hold of Freitas ALC are not significant, and both of those two blades can be categorized as the blades with ‘linear’ elasticity. But, sensitive players will be able to notice that VS Unlimited gives a bit more kick and Freitas ALC holds ball a bit deeper.
- On the palm, VS Unlimited is much than Freitas ALC.
- However, on the finger in contact with wing of blade, the feeling of VS Unlimited is identical to that of Freitas ALC. M.Maze also gives similar feeling at the blade wing.
- For the players who feel the relative feeling, VS Unlimited may be relatively comfortable at blade wing, or quite hard at palm. On the contrary, the feeling of Freitas ALC is always uniform.
Although the constructions of two blades are similar with each other, the characteristics of VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC are not identical to each other. If a player wants more additional kick for more power of hard hitting, VS Unlimited will be better choice. If a player needs the ability of deep hold for close-to-table topspin, Freitas ALC may be better choice. However, in that case, Timo Boll ALC gives even deeper hold of ball. From the graph, we may be able to think that Freitas ALC is placed between VS Unlimited which gives the ability of additional kick and Timo Boll ALC which gives the ability of deep hold. Both of VS Unlimited and Freitas ALC are much more powerful than M.Maze. And, thanks to its uniformity of feeling, Freitas ALC can be good solution when a player wants to replace slower all-round 5-ply wood blade with faster one. On the contrary, VS Unlimited will be good solution when a player wants to replace thick 7-ply blade with thinner but faster one. If a player have sufficient experience of using some blades in this comparison, the Performance Indices will be able to provide good guideline for the choice of a new blade.
Thanks for amazing comparison , but the size of head and handle is the same ?
Thank you for comment. (And, I’m sorry that my reply has been delayed because I haven’t noticed your comment due to the setting of my blog. I will try to change setting of my blog.)
Size of head and handle is not same.
Length of head is almost identical. But, width is different. VS Unlimited is a bit wider than Freitas ALC. That will not be significant difference.
However, handles are noticeably different. The handle of VS Unlimited is thicker and wider, without concerning kind (FL or ST) of handle.
Dear TTGear Lab,
I am looking for a blade to replace my beloved M.Maze OFF. I tried Viscaria/Timo Boll ALC, I think I play better with it, but it feels less fun for me to use. Is it the Koto outer that I am not accustomed to, or the Kiri center that feels different?
In your experience, what blade would you suggest I try next. I’m interested in Tibhar Unlimited, but wondering if the higher Vp index will feel too different.
What are your thoughts? Great site by the way, look forward to more of your findings!
Thank you for reading and appreciating my article.
If you like M.Maze OFF and doesn’t like the feeling of Timo Boll ALC, Freitas ALC will be better than VS Unlimited for you. Not only Vp but also Ep of VS Unlimited can cause problem. Also there is significant difference of Ec/Ep, and it will also cause significant problem. If we consider all the factors, Freitas ALC will fit you better.
Mizutani Jun ZLC will be also very good choice. And, if you want to try Tibhar blade, please try ‘Stratus Samsonov Carbon’. It is slower than the blades listed above. But, you may feel that it is close to M.Maze. (Differently from M.Maze OFF, Stratus Samsonov Carbon has an ‘inner fiber’ structure. The structure of M.Maze OFF is not inner fiber but outer fiber.)
By the way, the center layer of all of M.Maze OFF, Timo Boll ALC, Freitas ALC, VS Unlimited, Mizutani Jun ZLC and Stratus Samsonov Carbon is ‘Kiri’.
(But, the center layer of ‘InnerForce ZLC’ is not Kiri but Ayous.)
I’m very surprised that your Maze blade has a thickness of only 5.5 mm. I have two of these blades, both with a thickness of 5.9-6.0 mm as indicated by Butterfly. To my knowledge, Maze ALC and Freitas ALC are absolutely identical apart from handle design.
I think that the specifications of M.Maze was changed once. I bought some pcs. of M.Maze directly from Japan immediately after it was launched in Japan. But, afterwards I noticed that the design of head printing of M.Maze in European market is different from original M.Maze that was being sold in Japan. It is distinguished by big signature on blade surface. I couldn’t checked the thickness of European version (or late version) of M.Maze. But, if the thickness of your M.Maze is 5.9~6.0mm. without doubt Butterfly increased the thickness of M.Maze for European customers after it had been discontinued in Japanese market.
Thank you for your analyses. Very good work!!!
Thank you for comment. By your comment I could notice the difference between first version of M.Maze and the latest version of it, and the reason why Freitas ALC is thicker than my samples of M.Maze.
I think that your pieces are European version. It has bigger signature on blade head. My ones are original version. I bought those ones directly from Japan at the time M.Maze was first launched.
Thank you a lot!
Thanks for these reviews – they are useful! IMHO, blade elasticity (rebound / speed) is quite dependent on blade weight – are you picking blades with same weights for comparisions? For example, a 93g Timo Boll ALC plays very different in comparison to a 80g Timo Boll ALC.
Thank you for comment. As you mentioned, elasticity depends on weight. Performance Indices is for the pieces those are close to the average of that model.
1. Your way of reviews is close to scientific. I am really interested in devices with what you measure 4 indexes.
2. If anybody used one of blades reviewed in articles measures allow to create image of equipment’s behavior in mind. Now i use Tibhar triple carbon blade (100 grams). Could you estimate it approximate indices to understand should i buy VSU?
Would you please test Innerforce ALC S if you get a chance ?Deeply appreciating . Cezar
Unfortunately I haven’t got it yet. But, if I get a piece, I will immediately measure it.
Not sure where to write exactly, but can you do a comparison between the Butterfly blades like the Freitas/Maze ALC and Chinese clones? I really wonder how well they can imitate the original blades as they most likely don’t have the same artificial fibers and/or manufacturing refinement as it is in Japan. I’m not just interested in comparison between Butterfly blades but usually the Chinese clone those the most.
Thank you for comment. I can’t do it right now because I don’t have any imitation blades. But, I will try if I have a chance.
Hallo, I would ask for two questions:
1) Are there any differences between Tibhar VS Unlimited and VS Limited Edition 25? Maybe koto instead of Limba outer ply?
2) Do you are really think to make an article about Fortino Force? I can assure that it’s more playable than Pro for many, many players. Very nice blade.
Thank you so much for your reviews, I really appreciate them!
Thank you for comment!
1) VS Limited Edition 25 is different blade from VS Unlimited. Its top layer is Koto while the top layer of VS Unlimited is Limba. Also its thickness is about 5.7mm while the thickness of VS Unlimited is about 6.0mm.
2) Yes. I will write the article for Fortino Force and Fortino Performance. As you mentioned Fortino Force is more playable for many players than Fortino Pro. Fortino Performance is also playable.
Thanks for your analyses. I’m curious about why Freitas ALC is a good solution to replace slower all-round 5-ply wood blade. Could you explain about that ? thank you
Thank you a lot for comment. We may think that ‘all-round play’ need the softness or low elasticity of blade. However, ‘All-round play’ doesn’t always mean the playing style with slow ball. Also, ‘high safety’ isn’t always the most important characteristic for all-round play. What is more important isn’t safety but precision. Precision is concerned with predictability. If the output increases by 30% when we hit the ball with 30% more power, the predictability of that blade would be perfect. Ec/Ep is very important factor that is regarded with precision and predictability. I think that it will be perfect if Ec/Ep = 1.0. We can call that kind of blade as the blade with linear response. And, it will be also good if Ec/Ep > 1.0. It means that the level of response differs by the kind of technic performed by player. Or we can understand that the result of that kind of blade is significantly affected by angle of impact. Vladimir Samsonov who is the representative of all-round player has used many blade whose Ec/Ep > 1.0 and Ep is quite high. Also Zoran Primorac or Werner Schlager had used the blade whose Ep is very high and Ec/Ep > 1.0.
The Ec/Ep of Freitas ALC is quite higher than that of Timo Boll ALC or InnerForce Layer ALC. That is the reason why I recommend Freitas ALC as the replacement of slower all-round 5-ply wood blade. Of course that is only in case that the player want to increase the elasticity of blade. If the player want to stay at low elasticity of blade, I can’t recommend it because its Ep is significantly higher than the Ep of ordinary 5-ply wood all-round blade.
And, I recommend not only Freitas ALC but also VS Unlimited for all-round players because of the reason explained above.