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.