Gamma Progression ST II review

For most of my tennis life, I had the luxury of stringing my own racquets in a sports store.  This tends to come with a few advantages: you get to use a great machine, try a bunch of strings and experiment with different tensions, and most importantly, you're in total control of how the string job turns out.  There are quite a few variables that determine how the racquet feels back on court, and if you care about this, either get a really good stringer who caters to your preferences and feedback, or get a machine and string yourself.

Back in 2005, after a couple of international moves and less tennis than usual, it was time for me to take the game a bit more seriously again.  In Ireland, I joined a team that played in the highest Irish league for 2 out of 3 seasons a year, and had aspirations to go up in season #3 as well.  So it was pretty competitive.  Finding and accessing a great stringer turned out to be a challenge, so I decided to purchase my first machine.  I had exclusively worked on electronic machines and enjoyed it, however I was not ready to spend thousands of Euros on a Babolat or Technifibre.  So I went for a solid budget machine, a less than 500 Euro Pro's Pro TX-03 (available in the US as Eagnas TX-03), and was quite happy with it for a few years.

I even moved it from Europe to NYC in early 2007, distributing parts of the 60+ lbs across 3 bags which I schlepped through airports and subway stations.  I'm glad I brought it though, even though the fuse didn't hold what the 220/110 volts switch promised.  A converter solved that problem.

In an effort to make the next move back to the Bay Area a light one, I tried to get rid off as many belongings as possible.  Luckily, one of my NYC tennis friends decided to buy the machine of me.  But once settled in SF and ready to jump into the NorCal tennis scene, I realized again that I needed my own machine to maximize the tennis experience and minimize the excuses :)

After extensive research and consultation with my gear specialist, I decided to go for the Gamma Progression ST II, with an eye on the Wise Tension Head.  Main reasons: great clamps, solid turntable, diablo tension head, and Gamma's experience in the business.

I ordered from ATS Sports which are in the same building as Gamma, just in case I'll ever need a quick repair or replacements parts.  Discounts on stringing machines are hard to find, so prices were pretty similar everwhere I looked.  ATS's customer service has a good repuration too.  Indeed, they were helpful to accomodate a pick-up at a FedEx location when it turned out that the machine would arrive on a Saturday, so I was able to use it on the weekend.  Shipping across the country took 5 business days.

Here are the tech specs from their website:

1. Manual spring tension winder (9 to 90 lbs / 5 to 41 kgs)
2. 6-Point Quick Mount System
3. Quick Action Swivel Clamp Bases
4. Slim profile all metal diamond coated string clamps with a unique self-locking adjustment knob to hold strings with less clamping pressure
5. 360 degree turntable rotation with locking brake
6. Base with 2 large tool trays
7. Includes Tools (Pathfinder Awl, Straight Awl, Hex Wrench Set, Straight Pliers & Razor Knife)
8. Floor Stand & Custom Cover available separately
9. 5 Year Limited Warranty

So was it the right decision?  Let's take a look at assembly and test drive (click in the image area to view full screen):



At first, I was a bit sceptical about "stepping down" from an electronic to a crank machine, but I have to say that there are elements I enjoy about the new experience.  I found it intriguing to have a 100% manual solution that seems to have been refined over time.  You can actually see most of the parts in action.

Everything works as it should and the strung racquets feel right on court.  Since I like looser tensions I don't care as much about linear pull which you get with the better electronic machines, but depending on your preferred tension and string you might want to consider this.  For me, I think I'll keep the crank until it needs servicing, and then I'll determine whether I'll go for the Wise or not.  I'm particularly excited about the light aluminum turntable and the great clamps.  They move well, are easy to adjust, and do not move once set.

With everything being very simple and mechanical comes a bit extra work to to mount and unmount the frame.  I would have also enjoyed a self-centering mounting system, not only for speed but for an even distribution of pressure on the frame.  Not a biggie for me though, as long as I string 1-2 racquets a week I can take an extra minute or 2.  I do like the red color, however I don't get why Gamma makes their logo that hard to read :)

All in all, I'd buy the Progression ST II again, and would recommend it to all occasional yet demanding stringers out there.

You can find more posts on stringing (UPDATE: including the stringing machine I bought after the ST II) here.

5 comments:

  1. excellent review with detailed photos. you have convinced me to part with $700!! ahh my wallet!

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  2. Thanks for the feedback! I think it's a good investment which can improve your game, and save or even make you money in the long run.

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  3. thanks for the spacer tip! we didn't even notice it was there and couldn't figure why the turntable wouldn't stay firm after screwing the bolts on until i saw your photos.

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  4. Thanks for checking out the review and leaving a note! Gamma should probably figure out how to keep the spacer in place during transport, or at least make it obvious that it exists and where it needs to go. I'll send them a email - let's see what happens!

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  5. Update: Gamma got back to me and said "...about the TT spacer moving out of place during shipping, we were aware of the problem and in November 2010 we secured it so it can't move. the 4 mounting bolts will be in a separate poly bag. The change should hit the market in the spring because we have to move our current inventory." So that issue should be taken care of!

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