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PREVIEW: Carlton Vapour Trail Tour / Elite

Discussion in 'Badminton Rackets / Equipment' started by kwun, May 8, 2009.

  1. Easy Tiger

    Easy Tiger Regular Member

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    Internet + credit card + postal address = any racket you want.

    Of course if you live in a carboard box things could get tricky.
     
  2. Danstevens

    Danstevens Regular Member

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    Hi guys, as you may have read from my posts in other threads, my club has been planning a move to Carlton (from Inflight) for quite a while now. Today, the switch was finally completed and we held an event to "unveil" our new sponsor. Anyway, I'll cut to the chase. All of the new Carlton rackets were available to demo (and because today's session was 9:00AM-3:00PM, I certainly had plenty of time).

    I'm afraid I didn't get chance to hit with all of the new range due to having other things to do but I did get through most of the new rackets. I tried to stick to the higher-end ones as I thought they'd be the ones you were interested in. I can't say I spent a great deal of time with many of the rackets so my reviews are likely to be fairly vague. Before I go in to the reviews, I'd like to say that I found all of the rackets I tested really easy to get used to. I'm not sure why this was the case but all of them felt really natural to me.

    Air Rage S-lite
    This was the first racket I tested, not actually by choice, more because it was thrust in to my hands by Joe, another club member who'd been hitting with it for about the last 10 minutes and thought it was great. This racket seems to have been designed with female players in mind but the pink and black paintjob looks rather nice and I certainly wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen with it.

    The Air Rage S-lite is supposed to be a 3U racket (85g according to Carlton, 87g if you listen to Sweatband) and it certainly feels like a light 3U racket. Not overly light but definitely not heavy either. When hitting overheads, it felt really solid and inspired a lot of confidence in me to attack. I didn't find it to be the most powerful racket I've ever played with and it wasn't even the most powerful racket I played with this morning but it offered a pleasing amount of power. Hitting from baseline to baseline was very easy even when I was put under pressure.

    Where the racket really excelled itself was in playing reaction shots or control shots. Defending smashes was a joy - I felt that I could effortlessly block back smashes that I would have struggled with when using other rackets. Sweatband list the balance as head-light and the manoeuvrability of this racket would agree with that. This racket was very useful at the net. From the first netshot I hit, I knew I'd be impressed with the S-lite's capability at the net. My net game was excellent, netshots went tight and lifts went high and deep. The S-lite felt amazingly quick at the net. Drives were also pleasingly good, I was able to get good racket head speed with the S-lite and that translated in to really fast, crisp drives.

    Feel: Excellent - I'd say a 9 or 9.5 out of 10
    Control: Again, excellent - probably a 9
    Power: Good but not awe-inspiring, I'll go for 7.5 to 8
    Defence: Superb, 9.5 or maybe even 10
    Manoeuvrability As with defence, at least a 9.5

    Final words I like this, I like it a lot. It mainly seems suited to doubles specialists but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for certain singles players either. It was really easy to use so anyone who is a high beginner or intermediate would be fine with this frame. It feels a little stiffer than the advertised "flexible" flex rating but it's not too stiff either. If I were to give it a flex rating from my experience, it would probably be medium. Available for £83.99 from Sweatband (the best price I found after a quick bit of internet shopping), the S-lite isn't cheap but it's a quality product and IMO worth the price.


    Vapour Trail FX-Ti
    After the joy that was the Air Rage S-lite, I must say that I felt a little underwhelmed by the first Vapour Trail racket I used. First impressions of the FX-Ti were very good - the paintjob is striking but for the right reasons. The yellow and black colour scheme looks great and actually goes rather nicely with the club's new black and yellow Carlton shirts. From there though, I'm afraid to say my opinion of the FX-Ti went downhill.

    Hitting overhead shots, the FX-Ti just didn't feel as stable or solid as the Air Rage S-lite. It didn't feel really rattly but something about it just made it feel a bit cheaper than the Air Rage (the FX-Ti is actually £30 cheaper in price though so it is substantially cheaper than the S-lite). Perhaps the graphite used in the Fx-Ti isn't quite as good as that in the Air Rage.

    The FX-Ti definitely wasn't as manoeuvrable as the Air Rage S-lite but I wouldn't say it felt like a sledgehammer either. Defence was adequate if not amazing. At the net and when playing dropshots, the racket felt a little bit dead. I felt a little bit distant from the shuttle so control play definitely suffered. Obviously, I only got to try one string set-up (black Carlton string - I'm not sure which one at around 23-25Lbs) and that may have been the culprit, I don't know.

    Feel: Meh, quite disappointing to be honest - 6.5
    Control: Not great, 6.5
    Power: 7, the FX-Ti just didn't feel especially lively
    Defence: Not too bad, I'll go with 7.75
    Manoeuvrability 8

    Final words After loving the first racket I tested, this was somewhat disappointing. It didn't feel as lively or connected as the Air Rage S-lite. The FX-Ti felt slightly heavier, despite the fact Carlton list it as having the same static weight as the S-lite. I imagine this is due to the even to moderately head heavy balance. As for suitability, this racket is equally suited to singles and doubles. It isn't particularly stiff or demanding so most people will find it usable. I'm still not sure I'd recommend this racket to anyone though. It's been a while since I've tested anything around this price point (£52.99) but I would think there would be something better for the price. As I said earlier, it may have just been the strings that caused my woes but I believe some of the other rackets were strung with the same stuff so I'm inclined to believe it was the frame that caused the lack of feel and liveliness.


    Vapour Trail Elite
    Fresh from the disappointment of the FX-Ti, I hoped my next Vapour Trail experience would be a more positive one. Stiff, head heavy and with a high static weight, Joe advised me that this was a demanding beast. Still, I felt up to the challenge of taming the Vapour Trail Elite.

    This racket has power in abundance. Whenever I needed to hit a deep clear or hard smash, the Vapour Trail Elite gave me what I wanted - bucket loads of controllable power. Feel from the frame was also very good, I felt connected when playing drop and netshots.

    Defence suffered a little - the racket wasn't as manoeuvrable as the other rackets I tested today. It certainly wasn't unusable though - it didn't feel like a liability when I was on the back foot. Again, quick drive exchanges aren't really this racket's strong point. You get plenty of power if you can make the shaft flex with quick flicks of the wrist but the slightly lacking manoeuvrability meant this wasn't the best racket for hitting drives.

    Feel: Pretty good - 8.5
    Control: 9
    Power: 10 - this racket is a beast
    Defence: Acceptable but not brilliant - 7.5
    Manoeuvrability Likewise, 7.5

    Final words This is definitely a racket for advanced players. It's stiff, heavy and doesn't feel as though it would be especially forgiving for less experienced players. If you're an advanced, attacking singles player, you'll find the Vapour Trail Elite a fun hit. Doubles specialists will probably want to look elsewhere. At £104.99, the Elite isn't cheap but it backs up the large price tag with excellent performance and a quality feel.



    I'll post some more reviews later but I feel like having bit of a break now.
     
  3. Danstevens

    Danstevens Regular Member

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    Right, I'm back. Let's get started again.


    Vapour Trail Tour
    I decided it was best to put the Elite down for a bit and let someone else try it out. At the demo table, the Vapour Trail Tour stood out as one of the shiniest rackets I've ever seen. Strangely, it looked very "blingy" without looking tacky. Yet again, Carlton have shown the other manufacturers how to paint rackets. All of the new Carltons look brilliant.

    For me, the Vapour Trail Tour was a pretty ordinary racket. It felt as though it was good quality and solid but I just couldn't get anything out of it. The Vapour Trail Tour is IMO far too flexible for me. It turned out to be the most flexible racket I demoed all day despite Carlton's specs saying otherwise. I think it was due to the flexibility that I was struggling to hit as hard as I did with the stiffer rackets. Another club member, Andrew had the complete opposite experience to me, he loved the flex and was getting great results from the Vapour Trail Tour. That proves it's not a problem with the racket as such, more a problem with racket/player compatibility in my case.

    After having no joy with hard overhead shots, I was pleased to discover the racket performed relatively well in other scenarios. Manoeuvrability was good thanks to the light weight (listed as 84g) and even balance. Hitting lifts from the net was simply effortless due to the flex and control for netshots was good. The Vapour Trail Tour again came in to its own when defending smashes - the flex meant that I didn't have to do much to punch the shuttle high and deep but I still had the option of playing a finesse shot off smashes to gain the attack back. Drives were pretty average, the light weight was good in terms of racket head speed but again, the flex left me frustrated. I seem to remember someone saying in the Zelm thread that they thought the Trixon 8 was too flexible and posted something along the lines of "it didn't recoil quickly enough". I got this same hard to describe feeling from the VT Tour. I could generate good racket head speed but the racket just felt slow to respond. I can only put this down the the flexibility of the shaft.

    Feel: Pretty good. An 8 or maybe 8.5
    Control: Perhaps an 8
    Power: For me, not good at all - 5.5. Please remember that users of more flexible rackets may be able to get more out of it.
    Defence: Very good - 8.5
    Manoeuvrability: 9

    Final words I'm sure the Vapour Trail Tour is a very good racket if it's suited to you. Sadly, it wasn't suited to me. I could tell there was good performance in there somewhere, the shaft was just too flexible for me. The VT Tour is a really easy racket to use, it might be a good racket for children playing at a relatively high level (perhaps an under 13 or under 15 club or county player) or people that find they can't bend stiffer shafts. I imagine this racket would perform very well if you're a more defensive doubles player or like to play the net a lot. At £92.99, it's anything but cheap - I think if you're the sort of player who it suits, it might be worth it though.



    Vapour Trail ST
    On paper, this is very similar to the VT Tour so you would think I would hate this frame. I didn't play with it for very long but my experience with it was definitely more positive than that of the VT Tour. The paintjob on the VT ST is quite nice but certainly not one of my favourites from Carlton. It's by no means an ugly duckling but it isn't quite a beautiful swan either.

    The ST was good fun to play with. Light and whippy, I could see this being great for doubles. Despite Carlton giving them the same flex ratings, the ST seemed quite a bit stiffer than the Tour. This added stiffness was just enough to make it useful to me. Overheads were quite crisp and came off the racket with adequate pace. This is by no means the most powerful racket I have used today but it wasn't severely lacking in power either.

    Much like the Tour, the ST was rather useful in and around the forecourt with its light weight and even balance. Smash defence was again, good and drives were an improvement over the Tour.

    There isn't really much to add as for me, the ST played like a slightly stiffer version of the VT Tour so all in all, not a bad thing. The ST is also substantially cheaper than the Tour, coming in at £65.57 and so, if I was the person considering both of these rackets, the ST would be a no-brainer for me. Of course, everyone has different racket preferences and you may feel completely the opposite.

    Feel: Pretty good. An 8 or maybe 8.5
    Control: Perhaps an 8
    Power: 7.5 - It still isn't a beast but I got more from it than the Tour
    Defence: Very good - 8.5
    Manoeuvrability: 9

    Final words As you'll see, I've given the ST the same ratings as the Tour barring power. This is because from my experience, they play very similarly. The Vapour Trail ST represents great value at £65.57, there aren't many rackets that offer this level of performance at such a good price. It isn't bargain basement cheap but it's certainly a palatable price tag for such a good racket. Again, it's probably suited to people with slower swings and leans towards defensive players or those who generally stay at the net in doubles.


    Vapour Trail S-lite
    In our club, this racket has been affectionately dubbed the "Toni the Tiger frame". For those of you who have seen the Frosties advert, when you look at the VT S-lite, you'll know what we mean. All joking aside though, the paintjob is rather nice.

    The VT S-lite is a strange beast, despite looking very similar on paper to the Air Rage S-lite, the VT feels much lighter to hold and swing. I've no idea why this is and I didn't have any scales on location to weigh the two rackets to find out whether there was any difference in weight. When I got on court with the VT S-lite, I found it to play relatively similarly to its Air Rage counterpart. I wasn't able to get too much testing in though so I'll leave the review of it here for now and maybe write a more detailed review after I've clocked up some more court time with it.


    To wrap up this series of reviews, I'd like to say that I think Carlton have done a great job with the new ranges. The VT ST represents fantastic value and then at the high end, the Vapour Trail Elite is just a beast if you can handle it. There's a wide range of rackets to suit all sorts of players and ability levels. The paintjobs of all the rackets are lovely as well. I'm very impressed with Carlton - I think they represent a solid alternative to Yonex and IMO, Carlton is an underrated brand at the moment. Maybe now they have a web presence again, the Carlton brand will become more popular.

    On one final note, my reviews are totally subjective and you may feel totally differently to me about a particular racket. That's absolutely fine because each player has their own preferences and their own idea of an ideal racket.
     
  4. Destricto_Ense

    Destricto_Ense Regular Member

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    Hey Dan, that sponsorship deal doesn't mean you have to play with Carlton shuttles, does it? In my experience they're second only to Wilson Toplines in crappiness.
     
  5. Danstevens

    Danstevens Regular Member

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    It does.

    I've found that the GT-4 flies relatively well, just not for very long. We've found the GT-1 to be a pretty decent shuttle though. It's easily as good, if not better than the Inflight ones we used to use. I'd still take AS-50s over GT-1s but I wouldn't say they're too bad.

    As for worst shuttles, the Head feathers (whatever they're called) rank quite highly on my list of awfulness.

    Of course, with shuttles, any review I give or experience I share is quite subjective as the places we play in are likely to be quite different and the age of the shuttles you and I used will also be a contributing factor to the differing experiences.
     
  6. Sevex

    Sevex Regular Member

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    The GT1 shuttles are pretty decent, most are around AS40ish, some around AS30. I think most people would rather have the AS50's over anything other than aeroplane black, which you can't get easily in the UK. I agree with Head being the worst of the more expensive. I found the inflight shuttles to be good for a few points before they broke.

    Anyway, back on topic...

    Dan, how flexible did you find the VT superlite? I own one and despite using it for a fair while and being able to return anything whilst playing with it, found it too flexible and headlight to generate any power at all. Agree with it feeling insanely light though. Flexibility also led to it feeling less stable on overhead shots. I only use it when I'm playing with someone else who loves defending, otherwise the person I play with just gets smashed at while I get nothing. As you stated for the tour, it flexes too much and doesn't rebound in time.

    IMO if the superlite was stiffer then Carlton would have an amazing racket. I'm also not a fan of the ridiculously long handle on the racket. As it is it is still good, just not as good as the older airblade superlites, although I'm now overflexing those as well. Suppose that's what comes of improving.

    One big advantage Carlton have is that there headlight rackets are actually headlight, head heavy, heavy. Unlike Yonex, the nanospeed series is NOT headlight (IMO!)

    I hope all brands get better coverage, not just Carlton. It's nice for consumers if companies are in competition, they step their game up and we get more nice products to try! Also more variety, which can get confusing...
     
  7. Danstevens

    Danstevens Regular Member

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    The flexibility didn't strike me immediately as a problem like it did with the Vapour Trail Tour; as I said in the review though, I didn't get chance to hit with the VT S-lite for very long so perhaps if I'd have hit with it for longer, I would have noticed the flexibility more. I'll probably hit with it again sometime next week and I'll post my findings for you.

    The S-lite definitely seems to be suited towards the more defensive, control oriented players so I wouldn't say it was really a racket for me. I found hitting clears to be OK but I didn't get chance to really unload on many smashes whilst testing it so maybe that will be where the S-lite comes unstuck and shows me that it's too flexible.

    I'm being cautious about giving you a definitive opinion as yet (sorry for my slightly evasive answer) but I really don't want to type something up now only to completely contradict it in a few day's time once I've spent more time with the VT S-lite. Have you tried the VT Elite yet? It seems like it would be racket that's to your liking.
     
  8. Destricto_Ense

    Destricto_Ense Regular Member

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    Rather strangely, Carlton are way overrepresented in Ireland. More people here have Carlton than Yonex.
     
  9. Easy Tiger

    Easy Tiger Regular Member

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    Carlton and Yonex are about the only brands you can buy in shops here.

    When I was playing in the 80's there were more Carlton than Yonex, but now with the influx of Asian players it's the other way around now.

    When I enquired about the VT series when it first came out, the local distros didn't know what I was talking about.
     
  10. cayzi

    cayzi Regular Member

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    Nice rackets!

    Anybody think that this models Trail Tour ST-Tour performs better than Victor, Forza??
     
  11. cayzi

    cayzi Regular Member

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    Did you test AIR Range Tour model compare to Vapour Trail.

    I like power-smash and control. I play single and I like a racket which is easy to handle and gives you power , speed, smash with not much effort needed - I do not have strong arm and wrist.

    Regards
     
  12. staiger

    staiger Regular Member

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    If you play with a Carlton VT Tour/Elite in Asia , you will be treated like royalty as everyone would ask you to lend your racket to them for a few hit. It is so hard to get a decent Carlton within s.e asia ! also I was surprise of how many people on other courts know about VT
     
  13. Danstevens

    Danstevens Regular Member

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    I didn't get chance to test the Air Rage Tour but I'll see if I can later in the week. If I do try it out, I'll post my findings here.
     
  14. dr_lager

    dr_lager Regular Member

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    All of this is super informative...I'm wondering if anyone has experienced the Airblade, Powerblade and Vapour Trail Tour? I couldn't stand the Airblade, and am currently using the Powerblade Tour. I'm more of a control than power player, although I tend to play more at the back of the court (odd mix I know), so I'm also quite a defensive player.
    From what I'm reading, the VT seems like it would be a good move, but if there's not a huge difference between it and the Powerblade I could probably hold off for a while...
    Thanks for any comments you may have!
     
  15. cayzi

    cayzi Regular Member

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    What a great racket to use!!!!!
     
  16. cayzi

    cayzi Regular Member

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    I just wanted to say this.

    Before this racket I bought AT900T 3U/3G and it just feels great and after using it at 2 game my game improved right away. I really felt that I'm connected with a racket.

    Then I took kBrave and Vapour Trail Tour racket and start playing with it. It feels good, it feels light, a lot more arm power-swing to get same power as AT900T is having but defense and net shots was easy but not much different as AT900T.

    What I want to ask Easy Tiger in this case is , do you find yourself easy to use two such a different racket. I'm thinking to sell Vapour Trail Tour and buy-try something different. I guess Elite would be to stiff for me?
     
  17. Easy Tiger

    Easy Tiger Regular Member

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    I can't compare the VTT with the VTE because I haven't used it, but it seems to me inline with other singles-orientated rackets like the AT700. Sounds to me like you like head-heavy rackets so take your pick I guess.
     
  18. cayzi

    cayzi Regular Member

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    VTT is just greast racket to use. Light good control and great power as well.

    Can someone tell me how stiff is Elite because I would like to buy it as well. Some says that Elite is more stiff and hard to use compare to Tour.

    Regards.
     
  19. shot3gun

    shot3gun Regular Member

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    Will these rackets ever appear in shops in north america or canada?
     
  20. Danstevens

    Danstevens Regular Member

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    Stiffness is all relative really - what you define as stiff may not be the same as what I define as stiff. The Elite is a lot stiffer than the Tour though. If you struggle with stiff, relatively heavy rackets, the Elite probably isn't for you. On the other hand, if you like rackets with stiff shafts and a fair bit of weight, the VT Elite is probably right up your street. I can't imagine it being easy to transition from such a light, flexible racket like the VTT to what is essentially the opposite with the VTE.
     

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