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04-03-2012, 08:04 PM #1
Quick Voltric VT Z-Force 4U G5 vs Armortec 700 4U G5 comparison
Perhaps it was wishful thinking after all that Yonex had at last created a worthy successor to the AT700?
As some of you may well know, I've been using the Mk1 and Mk2 versions of the AT700 in the 4U G5 guise for many years. IIRC possibly around 9 years. I've known for years I've not been able to get hold of this racquet anymore so here at last I thought from all the discussions I've seen, that I'd finally stumbled on a worthy successor to my all time fave racquet.
The overall unstrung weight is about the same at 81g, and in a visual comparison with the AT700 the VT ZF has:
1) a smaller head (about 1mm from top to bottom and 2.5mm left to right). It's also worth pointing out that the overal head is more traditionally oval shaped instead of the egg shaped isometric type of the AT700
2) 21 x 22 string pattern instead of 22 x 22
3) a shaft that is slightly slimmer than AT700
And after 3hours of playing with the same BG80 strings at 26lbs, my observations of my two VT ZFs are:
1) The strings felt tighter at first but appeared to bed-in almost immediately. With both ZFs, after a few minutes they immediately felt like my AT700 would do after 4 - 5 hours. I have no problem with that, but time will tell how much tension they appear to lose etc. I would say this is a positive point as i racquet that feels bedded-in gives me more confidence from the off.
2) The ZF is most definitely NOT like an AT700 and while it feels slightly head heavy at first. After 2minutes of play I realised this is MUCH more head light than the AT700. It's almost reminiscent of the AT800-DEF, but with a tiny bit more weight to the top.
3) Due to the nature of the relatively head light frame (and it is relative to the AT700), my control improved markedly over my AT700. This meant that every shot that required little take back had greater feedback, control and accuracy. This is even more noticeable when playing at the front of the court in mens doubles and my confidence to intercept fast drops and smashes to turn defense into attack was good.
4) My serve action needed to be faster and/or more deliberate with slightly more follow thru for low/short serves. Service flicks were much easier to deliver and against some of the lesser talented members of my club i was able to produce over 23 service aces with combinations of: (i) low/short-wide serves (ii) overhead flicks and (iii) low/long flicks that landed deep on the central line.
5) As expected fast cross court drops were easy to produce with normal and reverse slice.
6) Back-hand clears and drops, and all defense shots were easy and more accurate too.
7) In fact almost every shot was easier to play, but the greatest advantage was I could get more accuracy, power and feel on every shot that relied on a short take back and swift snap of the wrist. I would see this as an advantage for those super fast doulbes rallies.
8) Quick response drives and smashes were also good if I played them with a short take back and a snappy twist of my wrist and especially effective as I mentioned earlier when you want to turn defense into attack.
9) Sensitive touch shots that require "soft hands" were also much easier and i could accurately gauge just how much effort was required to recover a shuttle that was less than 12inches from the ground and only a few inches away from net, such that the shuttle would either hit the tape and go over or just clear it by two or three inches in both a straight "up and down" return and also across the width of the net.
10) The sound filtering Yonex has employed in some of the Voltric range does work well in that it makes every drive, and snappy downward wrist shot sound like I've just fired a rifle. And the sheer sound of it was enough to shock my opponent into believing they had little chance of returning the shuttle. It also serves to give you more of an edge and greater psychological confidence. I originally chose the BG80 as it sounded better than any other Yonex string I tried, in addition to being a very good consistent performer and offering great control and power. But now, the racquet contributes to the confidence factor by default so I'm sure event those using a "deader" sounding string will reap benefits.
So if the ZF is so good in so many ways, why does it sound like there's a huge BUT coming along? Ok, let's get to the three main points.
1) As the ZF is so relatively head light in comparison with the AT700, even by the end of the night I couldn't get perfect smash to work the way I like. You know, the one where the shuttle is lifted into outer space and is dropping right onto the rear tramline and you have all the time in the world that you smash so well and the shuttle appears to go beyond the opponent's racquet and hit the floor so hard before he's started his stroke in an attempt to return it.
Yep, that one. Well maybe it was that fact I hadn't practised enough with the new ZF and I just wasn't used to the racquet but it just wasn't happening for me
I also went for three huge jump smashes, two of which I was jumping slightly diagonally backwards to my forehand side and although the jumps were good and I made good contact. I would normally expect the shuttle to hit the ground, but in all cases they were returned.
It feels as if the racquet needs to be two or three inches longer and that my smash is being short-changed.
2) The smaller head means that if you're are hitting with great speed and force but end up making contact just out of the sweet spot, then there's a lot more vibration being transmitted to your elbow and shoulder. I felt this a few times and I know this just doesn't happen to the same intensity with the AT700. I would not recommend this racquet to anyone who's accuracy on making huge smashes or returning smashes tends to be off-centre frequently, otherwise you may find that you'll need a new set of strings or worse still you could break the frame or hurt your arm.
3) All the positive improvement I raised above i.e. better control, accuracy, smash returns are typical when changing from a head heavy racquet to one that has a lighter balance. So I'm not entirely surprised.
I'm pleased to say that my earlier concern about having less control due to the 21 x 22 string arrangement proved insignificant
As someone who doesn't put in the effort to train as hard or work on general fitness and strength as often as i used to, I can see how this racquet offers me huge gains in mens doubles.
I also like that "rifle" sound it makes on almost every aggressive drive and overhead shot and the way the strings feel like they've been pre-bedded in.
However, I played one singles game and I felt I really needed my AT700 on any shot from about 2/3rds back.
But just because my smash isn't working quite yet, it doesn't mean this racquet is bad - it's more probable that I need more time with it as 3hours is never enough to get used to a new racquet let alone re-craft your shots and technique around it.
I can't help worrying that it still may not suit me and that the 3U version will be more of the same but 8g heavier. I get the feeling that two 3U G5 models will be winging their way over to me from HK some time soon.
The bottom line, is that the ZF is nothing like an AT700 and therefore does not exhibit the same attributes. The balance is more head-light and there's more vibration through the head and shaft. Only time will tell whether I can change my timing and technique to get the same controlled unrelenting smash the AT700 offers me.
Last edited by sslam72; 04-03-2012 at 08:13 PM.
04-03-2012, 08:25 PM #2
Would you be able to compare the head-heaviness to another racquet? I assume you almost exclusively use the AT700 4U so maybe this is the wrong question.
Thanks for the review, I'm eager to pick mine up from whenever they are shipped to me, hopefully soon!
04-03-2012, 08:40 PM #3
I have tried other racquets, and have helped recommend racquets for club members and for those I've coached over the years. However, the racquets I've mostly assessed are Yonex and most recently the Li Ning Woods.
I have tried many Armortecs, Arcsabers, Nanospeeds, Muscle Powers but not had much time with the Nanoray series. I have a lot of experience with the older Yonex series e.g. Carbonex, Swing Power, Slim 10, etc.
The problem is that it's always hard to assess what type of racquet suits an individual best until I've seen them play with their existing equipment. In most cases, as you'll see from my post above everyone needs to allow for an adjustment period irrespective of how good he/she may be.
I generally take about 50 - 70hours (2.5 weeks to four weeks in my old days of practising) of play before I'm fully familiar with all facets of a new racquet including understanding the optimum string tension and technique required for me to make the most of it.
I baseline my trials by:
1) Always trying to go for the same G5 grip size as I like to hold the racquet quite loosely and rotate it in my fingers
2) Start with my reference BG80 string @ 26lbs and it has to be strung by my professional stringer that I've worked with for 15 years.
04-03-2012, 09:21 PM #4
sslam72, what is your opinion about Lining Woods N90?
By the way, which one do you prefer Mk1 version of AT7004U or Mk2 ?
Last edited by Licin; 04-03-2012 at 09:32 PM.
04-03-2012, 09:47 PM #5
Thank you for this very excellent comparison, sslam72.
1. How would you compare the stiffness of the VT-ZF to the AT700, in 4U? I mean, when you are actually playing. I notice you stressed the control, speed and effectiveness of the VT-ZF on the short take-back. Do you attribute this to (maybe) a more effective stiffness of the shaft/head combo? Could this also effect timing/effort for baseline smashes?
2. Do you think a slightly less accomplished player than yourself will feel comfortable with this racquet at a slightly lower tension, (e.g. BG80 at 24 or 25 lbs?) or would that compromise on the control/accuracy of the racquet?
04-03-2012, 10:06 PM #6
I couldn't get on with it as it doesn't come in the equivalent of a 4U with a G5 grip and the 3U weight is just too much for me as I lose the manouvrablility I need in mens doubles. Nonetheless, I know a few AT700 3U owners who have moved over to the Li Ning without much fuss.
It's no surprise to see that Lin Dan is plays with this racquet considering the AT700 3U was his personal preference.
Now specifically comparing the AT700 4U Mk1 against the 4U Mk2, the Mk2 is slightly more head heavy. It took a while to get used to it, but I've now got little over 6inches of lead tape stuck to my Mk1 to copy the effect of the Mk2.
04-03-2012, 10:45 PM #7
A few years back, i have tried AT700Mk1 4U in a couple of games, was lucky enough that at that time, the owner allow me to use it in a game, normally i refuse to use other's people racket in a game, since i am really afraid that it will clash suddenly with my partner's racket, & resulting in me having a guilty feeling to the owner, however the owner at that time insist me to try & guarantee that he do not mind if there is a clash or whatsoever..I played with it a couple of games, i really like 4U AT700 Mk1 maneuverability, defense, etc, however it did not pack a powerful punch, as if like something is missing on its head. Apparently, your view on AT700 4U Mk2 described that AT700 4U Mk2 is slightly more head heavy than its predecessor, which is a good news for me. I will look forward to try & purchase 4U Mk2 AT700 if it is suitable for me, if i could still find it, which i think i am able to...
How about AT 700 Mk2 4U stiffness compared to Mk1 ? I supposed they are more or less in the same level of stiffness....
Last edited by Licin; 04-03-2012 at 10:47 PM.
04-03-2012, 11:09 PM #8
In my view, what contributes most to the accuracy and power of the short game (considering stiffness is fairly similar) is the lighter and smaller head. The "smaller head" principle also applies in tennis where a smaller head offers more control but can be less forgiving when you miss the sweet spot. You only have to listen to Ivan Lendl talk about his playing days, when he played with a tiny headed ( IIRC Adidas) racquet.
I do agree that a stiffer head and shaft contribute to better shuttle control if you are a more advanced player as there's less deviation/deflection in comparison with a more flexible shaft and stiff head combo. Power is transferred much more quickly to the shuttle and the shuttle doesn't feel as if it's spending loads of time on your strings. This is why I compensate with the BG80 that appears to grip the shuttle sufficiently well to counter the faster rebound.
I know this as I still have my Swing Power SA, which is quite head-light, with a stiff frame and flexible shaft. But the flexible shaft allows you to feel as if the shuttle is spending slight more time on the strings with it's slower rebound effect. So you get control through greater feel but you don't get the immediate transfer of power that a stiffer head and shaft combo offers.
Anyroad, I can't emphasise the point enough. When playing close quarter exchanges, the lighter head allows you to punch/push the shuttle with a wristy shot and because the weight is less, the follow through will be shorter and the player can quickly recover the racquet back into position to get ready to move into the next shot. And like I've said before, the reference to "head-light" is all relative. When my wrist strength is at its best, I can do exactly the same short and rapid movement with the AT700 4U as with the ZF 4U, so for me it's not a problem. But there are many players in my club who cannot cope with the head heavy bias balance of my AT700.
When i return a low serve with a low and well placed return I deliberately make contact about 3inches below the top of the frame where the strings have less flex to get more control on the shuttle. It's riskier, but i get good results when it's executed well. If i'm aiming to return the serve longer then the shuttle enters the sweet spot in a more conventional way.
For baseline smashes, I always try to get the take back done early but even then I don't operate with a huge takeback. So as the racquet head moves forward, I feel that the lighter head is travelling through faster and if it's slightly more aerodynamic, added to a higher swing speed then yes, this could be the reason why my timing is wrong. But you have to remember that my muscle memory has a second nature expectation that I have a head heavy AT700 in my hand, with a larger more forgiving head.
In answer to Q2: Any good player who can hit the sweet spot 95% of the time with the fast swing speed shots like the forehand drive down the line, or the deep forehand/backhand clear and smashes will get on fine with the ZF. If the number of those types shots you play that miss the sweet spot tends towards the 10%+ margin, you'll end up feeling a lot of vibration in your joints and you won't be happy.
I would not recommend taking the ZF at a tension lower than 25lbs as this would be sub-optimal. If I stick with the ZF in either 4U or 3U guise, I'll probably end up with 27lbs tension once my wrist and arm is stronger. You also have to bear in mind that my reference 26lbs is specific to the stringing machine my stringer has and that some other calibrated devices may string your racquet in such a way that there could be a difference of 0.5lbs to 1lb.
The beauty of the ZF is that it feels bedded-in within minutes, but i would watch this space as I'll report back on how quickly the tension changes over the next week or so.
With regards to accuracy, I can see that the ZF's smaller head means it's less forgiving in comparison with the AT700 and dropping down a notch in tension does give you the impression that the sweet spot is larger, but in actual fact the sweet spot isn't changing in so much as the amount of power you can generate will decrease with tighter strings. So as mentioned earlier, start with 25lbs and of course I'm bias towards the BG80.
I could discuss my feedback on strings til the cows come home, and perhaps one day I'll give you my views in a separate post. You'll begin to realise just how picky I used to be on all things badminton.
Don't get me started on hand position and overgrips. Anyone who's seen me play in the lst 25years will always wonder why my overgrip (Gamma supreme - these days) is wound three to four inches above the handle cone.
Needless to say, I'll mostly be working on a variety of smashes from 1metre behind the baseline to see if I can replicate what I can do with the AT700 and get the confidence to keep using the ZF. I think i just need to make my action more compact and prepare the racquet such that I reduce the take-back slightly and snap my wrist somewhat more than I would with the AT700 on these deeper smashes as the 4U may not be suited to the same smash technique as the AT700.
04-03-2012, 11:12 PM #9
04-03-2012, 11:19 PM #10
Much much thanks. I can say without hesitation, that your recounting of your experiences, and your observations, make for the most illuminating "review" of the VT-ZF hands down. I look forward to your continuing feedback, thoughts and observations.
04-04-2012, 12:40 AM #11
Very nice comparison. Thanks.
04-04-2012, 01:42 AM #12
thanks for sharing
extremely informative here
04-04-2012, 06:37 PM #13
04-10-2012, 10:57 PM #14
Another week later - how am I getting on with the VT-ZF?
Ok, here's my awaited update on the VT-ZF.
I decided not to pick up my AT700 4U for my initial warm up an went straight for the VT-ZF.
And before I go on further, I want to set the record straight and describe the VT-ZF 4U as "mildly head heavy balanced"
I have to admit that playing with this relatively head light racquet does make life a lot easier. I've been carrying a knee injury for the last three weeks and it's got worse, and what equalised the situation was that the greater manouverability of the VT-ZF meant that I didn't have to move my feet and body as much as normal to get the perfect shape. Instead, I just needed get roughly into the right position then twist my upper body and let my wrist do the rest.
The strings don't appear to have softened up and that rifle-like "pow" sound is still prominent.
I was really impressed as during several warm-ups with different players, as I returned a few close-range smashes fairly easily with control and depth, where I know it would have been a struggle with the AT700. My warm-up partner was smashing from halfway back and I was also halfway back. Normally, with the AT700 I would only have time to block with a small degree of wrist rotation from these short distances. But with the VT-ZF, I was able to drive back or clear with consistency.
So just to re-iterate, here's the postives about the 4U version of the VT-ZF:
1) Lighter head allows a more consistent game for someone who may not be able to wield an AT700 4U, or a VT80 3U. This is shown in improved speed and accuracy during rallies where exchanges are low and fast, and a short take-back and swing is required. I feel like I have more time to choose my shot and turn defence into attack. Smash returns were more accurate as the racquet is more agile. My confidence was high and I felt I could be lazy and still play a good shot. This is something I can ill afford with the AT700.
2) Stiff shaft and head provide excellent control, feedback and a more direct transfer of energy into the shot. Accuracy is good as it's easier to control the shuttle with a lighter stiff-headed racquet.
3) Backhand clears are easier provided your timing is good.
4) Returning fast flick serves is easier
5) Attacking is just as easy provided you apply the right technique and timing for this type of racquet.
6) Moving around the court is easier and it's less fatigueing than the AT700
I later switched back to the AT700 only to realise just how much harder it was to play with due to its head heavy balance. So I can understand why so many club players have given up on their VT80 3U and VT-ZF 3U racquets, especially if they are playing doubles where there's less time between shots.
So apart from still needing to work on my smash technique and timing, I do genuinely like the VT-ZF 4U. Switching back to the AT700 just makes me realise just how much fitness, discipline and training I needed to put into my game to play at an above average standard.
I can't stress enough how playing with the AT700 improved my game. With a very head heavy balanced racquet you realise the importance of learning to read the game and understand how by pre-empting the potential outcomes, how this begins to influence your racquet position at all times, I learned to stop being lazy and always made sure I kept the racquet in the right position depending on what was happening on the other side of the net. The downside is making sure your wrist, arm and shoulder is always kept in good shape along with maintaining good core strength in your lower abdomen.
So shall I be making a permanent move to the VT-ZF? Probably not until the smash is 90% right. And at this point, I'll start going up to 27lbs and perhaps 28lbs to find out what is the optimum tension for my game without sacrificing too much power.
I accept that with age and less time to train, I may well end up with this racquet as it allows me to maintain a good game provided my body still works and my eyes and brain are sharp.
As previously mentioned I would recommend this racquet for anyone who can centre a shuttle 95% of the time, as the smaller stiff head is less forgiving for those off-centre shots.
Last Question, Best for Singles or Doubles?
Is this a racquet that should be used exclusively for doubles? I would say "no" as this racquet is fine for singles. As a player who thrives primarily on control and touch, I feel it's more important that you are comfortable with your racquet. And often, when I keep changing from one bat to another, I never quite play as well. So i never have one racquet for singles and then change for doubles.
I find that at the level I've played at, absolute power is not the key factor in winning games. I would always advocate that players work on technique, timing, and precision (and position) over just raw power on the basis that that there's always a chance that you'll come up against a better player who returns every smash you throw at them. And if they are really good, you won't even get a decent chance to smash. So this is where TTPP gives you a better fighting chance and perhaps will be your saviour. People often forget that your power improves with TTPP.
If you're strong and fit enough and your TTPP is advanced then go ahead and become a head heavy convert and go to the top of the scale of the AT700 3U, VT-ZF 3U, VT80 3U, and AT900 Power 3U. But these will also feel heavier overall.
If you're looking for something that's mildly head heavy balanced but overall lighter and less fatigueing then the VT-ZF 4U is just right. It requires less effort to swing and control.
For me, the AT700 4U will always be the ultimate lightweight but very head heavy balanced racquet for a super fit player and it's much more manouverable than any of the 3U counterparts.
04-11-2012, 01:31 AM #15
Cool. I was thinking of getting a 4UG5 for doubles to complement my 3U for singles.
04-11-2012, 01:44 AM #16
04-11-2012, 02:20 AM #17
sslam72, I cannot thank you enough for your clear and lucid observations and conclusions. Your posts have made more sense of the VT-ZF and provided more clear insights into many issues and questions that many of us have. I like that you also point out how the racquet (for that matter, any racquet) demands a measure of respect and application from you, if you wish to do well with it.
Your latest post provides more clarity. It also raises a significant question to people like me who are drawn to the 4U for exactly the reasons you mentioned. The question is: Why does a person with the experience and technique and ability that you have, still find trouble with consistency on smashes? Is it just an organic thing that will happen with time (and familiarisation?) Or do you have some reservations in this regard?
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