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View Full Version : Silent Partner Scoop - Quest Model DC only


warrenkm
12-27-2009, 04:01 PM
I did a fair amount of research on ball machines (okay, a ridiculous amount) and decided to give the Silent Partner Quest model a try. I purchased a refurb/demo unit which they sell directly from the usual major auction site. It was about $100 cheaper than the new model. I'm guessing it was in fact a demo model, or perhaps a qual unit. I'm a weekend warrior type who has played off and on for 20 years. Honestly, I'm a hack player, but my wife was a tournament player and I wanted something to improve my basic movements to give her at least somewhat of a challenge. I have not used any other ball machines so please keep that in mind. I have no point of calibration.

They shipped immediately and I received the unit in 3 days via UPS. Packaging was outstanding and the only evidence that this was a used model was discoloration on the ball wheels. The shell and hopper are moderately thick plastic. The meat of the machine, that is, the brackets that hold the wheels and the main motors, as well as secure the entire assembly to the base, are made of thick machined aluminum. The motors that controller the carousel, the elevation, and the base (for oscillation) are fairly small DC motors with integral sealed gear housings. They groan a little during oscillation but appear to do the trick without being over loaded. Each of the ball wheels is controlled by a separate, and large, DC motor. The only major component that is attached to the plastic shell is the membrane keypad/control unit. The keys were responsive and the LED indicators bright enough to read in direct sunlight. The internal wiring is lose - that is, it is not secured by grommets at regular intervals along its run, and this doesn't thrill me from a reliability perspective. From what I can see aside from that, they use good quality connectors and the electrical and microelectronic fabrication is clean and neat. There is no easy way to get inside the unit to clean out fuzz, but a standard house hold vacuum cleaner extension does pretty well. There are about 8 screws or so that hold the outer plastic to the base unit, the carousel pops off, the control pad is held on by four screws, and there is a main power switch to remove if you need to get inside.

At the same time I received Tretorn pressureless balls, 96, which are all that I have used in the unit.

After charging overnight I set out on a balmy overcast and 30 degree morning to give it a go at the nearby school courts. The unit is easy to align and height calibration is automatic, based upon setting a known position at the extreme via a microswitch. It takes no more than a few seconds for the autocalibration to complete. From there on, the height, speed, and topspin are adjusted to the targeted region of the court, which I did via the supplied remote unit. The range of the remote is more than adequate and the machine emits an audible beep to let you know that it has received your command. Except for a couple of times, where there was a solid 30 mph gale across the court, it was easy to hear at distance.

The machine feeds the ball very consistently at fixed positions and the 2 line oscillation mode. The full court oscillation worked fine, although I did not explore it in great detail. I am a bigger guy, former body builder, but exercise 6 days a week and fancy myself in good condition, but a perpetual barrage of balls over the entire court quickly wore me down to the point that I simply had no hope of keeping up. Note that calibration of the full court oscillation feature requires setting height, topspin, and speed at a fixed height above the net, at which point the unit is ready to go.

This is the first time I have used pressureless balls and quite frankly they felt like hitting concrete. I broke a set of strings after about 2 hours of hitting (wilson 17 @ 60). After about 10 cycles of the bucket-o-balls I either got used to them, or they softened up a bit, but not after breaking yet another set of strings. I'm a hard hitter with a lot of topspin, so that combination, the thin strings, and the pressureless balls was probably not good. I have a lot to learn about picking the right strings.

I played up to 3 hours and saw no signs of the battery weakening. I really haven't tried anything above about 60 mph with high topspin. There's plenty of speed and room left and I'll get to that on the next go around.

The good: A lot of fun and there is a lot to be said for grooving strokes. In about 10 hours of play I feel like I have my forehand under control with plenty of zip and my backhand is getting sharper despite some shoulder issues. The unit delivers balls. It delivers them consistently. It is easy to use and its capability is well beyond mine.

The bad: I didn't spend a lot of time working with the built-in keypad (I went straight to using the remote), but the remote stopped functioning after about 9 hours and when I went to use the built-in keypad the up-speed membrane button wasn't working. So, it may have decided to quit at some point during use or was shipped non functional. Again, the remote stopped working and I don't know yet if it is the battery (Have to order - specialized), a hardware issue, or a software issue with the remote. So, naturally, the company is taking a week of holiday so I don't know how this will be resolved until the second week in January. The problems may have been from me buying a demo unit, but it was sold by the manufacturer as a factory eval'd demo, so they should have given it a going over. It's conceivable that pressure on the remote from boxing, sitting on the shelf, or whatever ran the battery done prematurely. I can pull the control pad and send it to them as I am an engineer and am comfortable with in the field trouble shooting. There are up sides to buying used units (infant mortality, etc.), and I would not have expected this, obviously. Although this doesn't instill a lot of confidence, I would certainly hold off judgement until I have a chance to speak to them. Not even the most perfect company in the world can manufacture 100% flawless units off the line. As we say, it's not when something goes wrong that determines the quality of the product, but how the manufacturer handles it when a problem does occur.

semi-bad: There were a few mis-feeds and the spinning springs that feed the carousel don't quite reach the entire hopper so there are usually 2 or 3 balls that don't get fed at the end. A couple of times it double fired, and this is because the carousel can, well, sort of wedge two balls between it and the bottom of the hopper. Two times they both dropped into the feeder at the same time and came out together. One time the unit stuck and I had to go dislodge them. The plastic hopper will bend a little bit, just enough to lodge a second ball underneath. It's very rare and don't see it being a problem overall.

Summary: So far I am pretty happy with the unit. I don't have much tolerance for anything less than solid build quality and reliability for an item of this price, and I don't think all the gremlins are worked out of this yet, but maybe I just had a bit of bad luck with this demo. As to playing - it's great. Like I said, I have nothing to compare it to, but it does exactly what I wanted it to do. Full court oscillation works pretty well and will wear anyone out. Battery life is great. Better than my internal battery.

I will post a follow up on how the company handles the issues. This is my first posting here on this forum and again, I'm a very novice player. Please feel free to ask any questions, or if there is something in particular you'd like me to test I'd be happy to give it a shot next time I'm out.

Kevin

1st Seed
12-27-2009, 05:45 PM
Kevin Welcome to TT, and congrat's on you're first post.
Good review
I ran into a similar issue when I put my Edge star AC through it's paces.You'll need an additional pin to install inside the carousel from causing it to lift and jam.A 1/4" pin works great for me.There should be a tapped hole already?
You made a good purchase SP has excellent customer service and they'll take care of any repair or operational problems.
I've been avoiding pressureless balls little to hard for my tastes.Those tretorn's are like shooting Rawlings baseballs.Better grap a Hip hop from sp as well another great machine.For what you pay for it doesn't look like much but it's all good.Does it all,topspin underspin,ok lob feature great for my lessons the kids love it.makes teaching a dream.
Enjoy!

warrenkm
01-10-2010, 02:34 PM
Follow-up:

SP contacted me immediately upon returning from the holiday break and my problems have been resolved. I am 100% satisfied with their technical support and the quality of their product. On the off hand chance anyone has problems with their unit I feel confident that SP will do whatever it takes to make things right. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get any more playing time in as the weather has been uncooperative.

COPEY
01-11-2010, 03:18 AM
Follow-up:

SP contacted me immediately upon returning from the holiday break and my problems have been resolved. I am 100% satisfied with their technical support and the quality of their product. On the off hand chance anyone has problems with their unit I feel confident that SP will do whatever it takes to make things right. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get any more playing time in as the weather has been uncooperative.

Can't say I'm surprised. SP has a great reputation with respect to its products and the way they back them up. Glad to hear everything worked out for ya. ;)