Superstringer T50 w/ Wise Tension Head review

... or: "Best stringing machine for the money?"

When I decided to move back to Europe, I sold my second stringing machine, the Gamma Progression ST II (my review here). Back in the motherland, I set out to find the stringing machine with the best price/performance ratio. Or in other words, at what price point could I find a complete package, without deal-breaking sacrifices?

My wish list:

* Electronic pull mechanism, featuring both constant pull and lockout
* Ideally linear pull that's easy on the string
* Self-centering 6 point mounting system (less work, less stress on the frame)
* Solid clamps, ideally self-releasing / semi-automatic

In addition, no deal breakers please, e.g. pink with yellow hearts on it, no terrible reviews etc.

After some research, it became clear that a combination of a solid base with the latest version of the Wise Tension Head would make the most sense. Both parts should have come pretty far in their respective development, and each is reasonably priced.

Eventually, I settled on the (all black) Superstringer T50, which met all my criteria for around €1,200:



First, the bad

Poor packaging: As Apple and other companies know, packaging is the first and thus important impression of what you've just bought. Here's the first impression you get from the T50:



So there is some protection on the bottom, left, and right. However, there's still play towards the sides, and most concerningly, the machine can move up and down quite a bit. When we (2 people) carefully lifted the machine out of the box, one of the feet already fell off. After that, I wasn't sure if the play in the sidearms I noticed later comes standard... Definitely concerned what a machine with moving parts would go through in this packaging from the factory to my doorstep.

Another surprise was that the included manual was for the F40, instead of the T50 - not even a note attached.

The rubber mat* that's glued to the tool tray was too long. The "glue job" was poorly executed, plus the glue smelled pretty bad. Then if you lift the mat, it gets even uglier. I ended up removing the matt altogether and cleaned the metal as best as I could - looks much better now. Why not omit the mat altogether?





Not all screws were tightened properly and evenly - some too loose, some too tight. As a customer I probably shouldn't have to think about this, and if I do, how do I know how much I should tighten each screw?

No starting clamp included, so that's another ~$50 on top. Other tools are included, not exactly premium but function OK.

The plastic mounts locking in the frame each had a sharp seam in the middle - not nice to expose your beloved frames to that. I carefully sanded them off with fine sandpaper.



Also, you cannot lock the turntable*, e.g. to pull strings at an angle (sorry, Prince Speedport racquets).

So overall a bunch of serious quality issues, which could easily be addressed!

Now, the good

The look and feel is more solid than the official images would suggest, mostly due to sufficiently big swing arms and screws. Looks quite elegant in all-black, too.

So far no issues whatsoever with the semi-automatic clamps - easy to move, clamp, and release. Maybe even more importantly, they give in very little to the pulling and releasing of the string, would estimate less than 1 mm. Sometimes they do shift sideways upon locking - when that happens, 1 reset does the job.

If you're not familiar with semi-automatic clamps: their lock to the turntable releases when you let the clamp drop onto its base. That saves as many steps as there are strings to pull.

The side-arms move in at the same time and are thus automatically center the racquet, which is simple, saves time, and evenly locks in the frame.

We're already at v12 of the Wise Tension head, and it shows. It seems like a solid work horse that delivers consistently - for the most part it's been set it and forget it. After stringing about 50 racquets, the sled started to get stuck, but carefully applying oil onto its bearings solved that issue. Would recommend the Tension Head to anyone who wants to go electric.

Other notables

Subjectively, the string could slide a bit deeper into the gripper - that might partially be user error, but would be nice if that wouldn't require conscious effort, or 2 hands. Either way, it's slowing me down a bit.

There's no "tie the knot" button. Wise suggests to use the pre-stretch button. But you need to press that again to go back to normal, which I forgot from time to time. Old habits...

You don't need the optional foot pedal since your thumb is right next to the button when you put the string in the gripper.

As mentioned above, the gripper bearings will need some oil from time to time. For lack of better options at hand, I used some clear bike chain lube, which seemed to work well and last quite long. Just be careful - start with a tiny bit, and avoid the inside and top of the sled that grabs the string. Otherwise no more grabbing the string!

The swing arms have some play, and that play might not even be 100% even on both sides. Also, the frame is held by the 2 x 2 sidearms and the 2 center mounts, and doesn't actually rest on the rubber pads on each end. I had to experiment a bit to get the racquet to sit tightly. It still has some play vertically, probably due to the rather wide angles of the mounts, and the gripper / diablo pulling the string slightly downwards (so that you can rotate the racquet handle over it). Since I usually string around 20 kgs I'm not too concerned with that in practice.

Superstringer kindly provides some extra equipment and adapters with the machine. However, the accessories are not labeled, which can cause some confusion. For example, due to the sharp seams on the plastic mounts I wondered if the sidemount adapters for badminton racquets were supposed to be used for tennis racquets as well...

Verdict

Superstringer surely cut some corners putting this package together, which left me with a negative impression of the brand. Most issues seem easily fixable, so hope they'll start cranking through those in the very near future.

In the meantime, once you've done that work for them, you get the most important high end features, and no deal breakers. At least that's the case for me. For my string jobs, I felt that I've not been sacrificing speed, quality, or consistency, even compared to $10,000 Babolat or Wilson machines.

Overall, this might be one of the top 3 machines for the money. As with most things, hope it'll get even better over time!

*Update 2016-12-06: Supposedly you can now lock the turntable, and the rubber matt glue job has been improved. Things are moving in the right direction!