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PostPosted: 25 Oct 2016, 04:13 
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Re-Impact Preference: a blade that makes table tennis easy.


Two weeks ago I got mail I hadn’t had for a long time: a package from Achim Rendler containing a Re-Impact blade for testing. Over the years I tested a lot of his models for Achim, more than a dozen, and quite extensively too, with a lot of pleasure, but I had to give it up. Due to health problems I have been out of the game for quite a while now, and in fact there is no hope of returning to playing matches or even to semi-serious practice-sessions that last longer than ten or fifteen minutes. Achim knows this, so that is why he didn’t send me blades anymore. Until this one. But the package contained only the blade – no letter or note inviting me to test it or explaining what I was expected to do with it, nothing at all. Achim is far too gentle a soul to ask me to do something that he knows would cause me problems, so I expect that is why he didn’t ask anything. On the other hand I guessed he must have been so pleased with the design of this blade that he really wanted me to feel how it played. I knew very well I had to give it to someone else for testing, but given these circumstances I couldn’t. Taking a lot of precautions I tested it myself – cautiously. I used a robot only, and I didn’t push myself, because I can’t, or shouldn’t, so it was a very superficial test: just a few minutes of blocking, looping and flicking against incoming topspin and backspin. It was enough, though, to impress me deeply – this model definitely played different from all the other Re-Impacts I had tested before. It had (in all) 8 mm balsa in it, but except for being rather light-weight it didn’t really play like a typical thick balsa blade – it played better, much better. But you can’t be sure after that kind of half-baked testing, and as I shouldn’t do more myself I asked my sons. They took it with them to the training-hall, testing it thoroughly. They, too, found it extraordinary. That was too much to resist; the next time I went to the hall with them, damned caution, and taking my chances I played seriously for half an hour. It was a mistake; it nearly sent me back to my crutches and I will definitely not ever do it again (are you reading this, Achim?). No more blades to test for me. But at least I now can with confidence post a review - one last time. The blade certainly deserves it.

The blade we tested was the standard Re-Impact size with a straight handle. It weighed about 72 grams without rubbers (on my kitchen scales). It was varnished, brown, and I expected problems because of that, as I sweat and varnished handles tend to become slippery when I play, but this handle didn’t – at all. There must be something special about the varnish or the combination of varnish and wood used for the handle.
The blade is 12 mm thick. The layout is different from any other Re-Impact that I know: there is a 4 mm Balsa core with 1.5 mm Cork plies at either side, 2 mm Balsa plies on either side of those, and 0.5 mm Mahogany outer plies [edit 29 Oct: Achim mailed me now and informed me they are Koto, not Mahogany!]. In the Rapier (the blade we compared it with during the tests because it has Mahogany outer plies as well) the Balsa core plies are separated from the Mahogany outer plies by Cork, but not from each other. This new alignment of plies effectively controls the impact of the Balsa core when contact is made with the ball, for instead of the lively kick of the total of 8 mm of Balsa, you get the much more moderate kick from the 2 mm intermediate plies – enough to make good speed when you want to, but not enough to cause the kind of problems I described in my review of the Rapier and other models. The Preference is, as a result, a remarkably forgiving balsa blade. In contrast to the Rapier (and others) the ball will not fall off the blade if your angle isn’t exactly right, and it is much easier to get the desired combination of amount of forward speed and amount of spin. The Preference is really extraordinary easy to play with.
Of course it is completely rigid, being 12 mm thick, and its sweet-spot is just about as big as its playing surface. But the blade’s touch is surprisingly soft (very much softer than the Rapier’s).
For the test in the hall we used new rubbers, KTL Rapid Soft (red, 2.0 mm) on the backhand side and KTL Rapid Sound (black, 2.0 mm) on the forehand side, reliable all-round inverted rubbers that produce enough speed and very good spin with most blades. These rubbers are light-weight, and didn’t make the set-up very head-heavy. The throw of this set-up was medium high.
The blade, with this set-up, isn’t really spin-sensitive at all, incoming topspin is very easy to control, and placement is absolutely excellent with any type of stroke.

Blocking and driving.
With the KTL rubbers, the Preference is an ALL+ blade, being easily fast enough for quick attack play close to the table; but at the same time it has a great braking ability. You can take the speed off of nearly any incoming ball and drop it closely behind the net, or instead block it or drive it aggressively with very good speed, sending it skidding off the table. Partly due to its weight (which isn’t really very low for a Balsa blade) the blade offers more than sufficient power for hitting/fast driving, close to the table.
Play with the 40+ ball typically involves blocking away from the table. The blade is very good for this, not only because it is easy to vary (and control) the speed with it, but also because it allows producing spin with even a slight (quick) wrist-action, so varying the spin (hardly noticeable for the opponent) is easy as well.
For driving away from the table the blade needs faster rubbers (probably on less soft sponge as well) in order to be effective.

Looping against topspin.
The Preference is perhaps not quite as spinny as the Rapier, which is exceptional in this respect, but even so looping with it is easier and safer. Safer, because the curve of the trajectory of the ball tends to be both higher and shorter than with the Rapier, and this reduces the risk of netting the ball or looping long (again, placement is excellent). Easier, because the blade will allow grazing the ball with relatively slow speed (on most balsa blades, the ball will fall off if you do this; you always have to graze it fast), so the amount of spin is easy to vary from low to high. Also, the blade will produce lots of spin with any kind of stroke technique, long or short.
Controlling incoming spin (loop to loop) is extremely easy and safe as well, as minor variations in the blade’s angle do not have big consequences for the ball’s trajectory.
Looping away from the table works well. Picking up the ball low means refraining, or almost, from closing your blade. You will have to make friction, or the ball will fall off, that is true with any blade. But many Re-Impact balsa blades force you to choose between spin and speed doing this, for if you try to produce both by grazing the ball and making solid contact at the same time, the solid contact will make the balsa kick the ball out of the rubber; the resulting spin will be low and the speed high, which will produce a flat curve and a high risk of hitting over the table. Not so with the Preference. The balsa core will kick in only at very, very solid contact (as in smashing); at "normal" solid contact only the two 2 mm plies will contribute – or so it feels. Anyway, it is quite easy to vary spin and speed with this blade, even away from the table.
Still, for high speed at medium distance you will need faster rubbers than we used. The Preference is, therefore, not a typical mid-distance looping blade, but it will serve very well looper-attackers who occasionally back up under pressure.

Active play against backspin.
Pulling up heavy backspin is similar to looping a low, dropping ball and balsa blades pose problems there, as I explained just now. All the Re-Impact balsa blades excel in pulling up incoming backspin balls; it takes little effort and it is safe – but only as long as you do not try to make much speed, for much speed will ruin (i.e. flatten) the curve of the trajectory (see above). The Preference has a significant plus, here as well, as its balsa core kick is so much better controlled. You can roll a backspin ball back, with little spin and speed, or instead pull it up with lots of topspin and not much forward speed, or indeed pull it up with much spin and much speed as well.
Attacking a backspin ball that bounces high will be easy with other models too, as they aren’t very sensitive to incoming spin, but you have to take care that you do not hit the ball long (you won’t make much spin when hitting hard). The Preference is still rather insensitive to incoming spin, so hitting is safe – but even safer than with other models, because (again) its balsa core doesn’t kick in so wild.
What stands out even more, though, is the effectiveness and ease with which the Preference flicks against incoming backspin. Of course, this is to be expected, given the fact that it combines spin and speed so well. With the Rapier and other models, I always had to be very careful, returning a serve, not to flick the ball either into the net or over the table, by making too much speed. In contrast, the Preference makes attacking a backspin serve very easy. In my opinion, this is vital in over the table play with the 40+ ball, as it allows you to gain the initiative.

We found serving with the Preference not very remarkable. The Rapier produces better spin on serves. Still, the amount of spin the Preference is capable of making is certainly enough for a solid game, especially because its accuracy in placement is so very high.

Pushing, the Preference made good backspin and it displayed quite a bit of aggression, as its basic speed with this stroke was rather high as well. This would suit modern tactics like pushing deep and precise with high speed, so the opponent has little time to react and will likely return a ball that can be attacked effectively.
This – in fact, all of it – fits with the basic strategy the blade seems to have been designed for, viz. quick play with lots of variation in every respect. To do this, to be able to fully concentrate on variation and do it intelligently and creatively, the blade should play more or less by itself; and that is what the Preference does.

Summarizing, the Preference is an innovative, sophisticated Re-Impact design that intelligently sacrifices a little bit of speed and spin (compared to the extreme models in the line) to get vastly better handling, and ideal conditions for controlled, creative variation of speed and spin, resulting in an ALL+ blade with very high control which is suitable for a wide-ranging all-round play, mostly close to the table and also, but likely not predominantly, from mid-distance. Its outstanding feature is that it plays extremely easy, safe, and effective in all situations.

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Last edited by Kees on 29 Oct 2016, 16:46, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 07:11 
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Great review Kees, and really good to hear from you again! :rock: :rock: :rock:

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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 11:01 
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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 15:37 
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My sons argued this blade should play even better with much faster rubbers. What it does with the KTL Rapid rubbers when you loop fast and with heavy topspin from mid-distance is very nice to watch - it produces a trajectory with a curve that bends down quite abruptly as soon as the ball loses some of its forward speed. As a result, the ball will often touch the table closely behind the net and then rush away with a very low bounce, hardly coming up at all. That ball is hard to control or attack for the opponent, so it is very effective at the intermediate level I used to play, but the boys play far beyond that ( :) ) and argued that at their level a player will be able to soft-block that ball and thus produce an awkward return you have to come in for, or he might wait for the ball to cross the side line and rip it back. For them, the ball simply has to be played deep. So they took testing to the next level, yesterday, using Yasaka X Soft (fast and spinny inverted) and Yasaka Rakza PO (a fast and relatively grippy short pip), the Mattias Karlsson set-up, but both rubbers in 2.0 mm (I expect Karlsson uses max). This set-up is very much faster and much more powerful than the one with the KTL rubbers. The ball's trajectory (with loops) is slightly flatter, but still with a nice curve that makes play easy and safe. It allows a very aggressive, fast attack play close to the table but also from mid-distance. Hitting with the PO produces extremely straight trajectories, very fast, very precise. Looping with the inverted produces great speed and tremendous spin. The Karlsson hallmark stroke, contacting the ball low, dropping, with the PO rubber and performing what looks like a loop but has hardly any topspin (or sometimes it does, when he grazes it differently) also worked well with this set-up. That is quite interesting, for with most other Re-Impact models these balls tend to drop off the blade or fly away with little control. It was great to watch (and made me a little sad not being able to play anymore myself). This blade is definitely extremely good, probably for all levels of play. It impressed me again.

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Last edited by Kees on 26 Oct 2016, 21:29, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 16:21 
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Nice review, Kees, despite your physical problems. Sad to hear that there's no hope of getting better; Sounds like you're suffering some sort of arthritis and/or rheumatism.

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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 17:01 
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I've been keeping away from thick balsa blades, but you just whet my appetite to try this one.

Just went to his site, no appearance for this blade just yet.

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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 17:17 
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Kees: I'd assumed that I'd had no experience of balsa blades, but something I read recently (written by you) indicated that the tibhar defence plus is based around balsa. I've used this quite a bit. I'm curious - is this representative of how balsa blades play?


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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 18:31 
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Hi Kees, and others,
I have this blade for quite a time,and your, and your sons testing is welcomed.
I bought it from Achim fully assembled with Evolution MX-P ( FH), and FX-P ( BH ).
This set up was quite heavy for Re- Impact standards, so Achim sent me, along with the blade, Stiga Innova Ultralight for the backhand.
I was not satisfied with this rubber.
Later he recommended Donic Coppa Gold ( FH ), and XIOM Vega ( BH ) in 1.8 mm both, and this is my current set up .
I think that Achim is not recommending rubbers thicker than 1.8 mm for this blade .


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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 18:33 
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@Rockphish: I know nothing of the blade beyond how it plays. You can contact Achim. I'm pretty sure he'll be pleased to sell or build you one.

@LordCope: Yes, the Tibhar Def Plus has two intermediate balsa plies, thin ones (around 1.5 mm) but even so quite effective in taking off speed of incoming balls. Sadly, it kicks as well, when you want to produce speed on your spinny loops. Not as much as thicker balsa blades, but enough to occasionally make you loop long if you're not carefull. I always played it with slow inverted on the FH, never over 1.8 mm. As such, it is representative for blades with thinner balsa plies, like for instance the TSP balsa series for Def and Def+. It is not really like Re-Impact balsa blades, which have thicker balsa cores and play differently in other respects as well. It is certainly not like the Preference (which plays much better in every respect), but then the Preference is not a defence blade at all, in my opinion. I guess it could work with LP on (dampening) sponge or with Anti, and it will chop away from the table, and take off speed as well when you block close to the table, but it really invites more aggressive all-round attack play.

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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 18:37 
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radeB wrote:
Hi Kees, and others,
I have this blade for quite a time,and your, and your sons testing is welcomed.
I bought it from Achim fully assembled with Evolution MX-P ( FH), and FX-P ( BH ).
This set up was quite heavy for Re- Impact standards, so Achim sent me, along with the blade, Stiga Innova Ultralight for the backhand.
I was not satisfied with this rubber.
Later he recommended Donic Coppa Gold ( FH ), and XIOM Vega ( BH ) in 1.8 mm both, and this is my current set up .
I think that Achim is not recommending rubbers thicker than 1.8 mm for this blade .


There is really no reason not to use 2.0 mm, it works quite well.

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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 18:42 
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Thank's, its good to know!


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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 18:54 
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It may be different with heavy and/or heavily factory-tuned and/or very dense sponges. We haven't tried those (never do, don't like them). But anything light-weight and on the soft side (not ultra soft though, like Yasaka Mark V 30) should be alright, in my opinion. In fact, if you use very soft sponges in 1.8 mm or less the ball tends to bottom out or at least come so close to the wood that the balsa kick is quite awkward and control is diminished. If you like thinner sponges on Re-Impact blades, they should be as much harder as they are thinner. But if you use hard sponge over 1.8 mm on the blades, you'll lose much of the quality of the wood, as you're locking it out so to speak.

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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 22:49 
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@Rockphish : You can't find this blade in Re-Impact catalog,its on request.
Kees: you describe the composition of the blade being 7 ply blade.
Maybe it is somewhat different model from the one that I have. Mine has 9 layers.


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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 22:55 
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radeB wrote:
@Rockphish : You can't find this blade in Re-Impact catalog,its on request.
Kees: you describe the composition of the blade being 7 ply blade.
Maybe it is somewhat different model from the one that I have. Mine has 9 layers.


It is not unlike Achim to change things like that, but maybe I have missed something? Can you describe the plies in yours?

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PostPosted: 26 Oct 2016, 23:02 
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Kees wrote:
radeB wrote:
@Rockphish : You can't find this blade in Re-Impact catalog,its on request.
Kees: you describe the composition of the blade being 7 ply blade.
Maybe it is somewhat different model from the one that I have. Mine has 9 layers.


It is not unlike Achim to change things like that, but maybe I have missed something? Can you describe the plies in yours?


I looked, using a magnifying glass as well. Mine really has 7, as I described.

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