Ball Machine shopping.

Discussion in 'Other Equipment' started by MasturB, Sep 7, 2012.

  1. MasturB

    MasturB Hall of Fame

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    What do you guys recommend for a good ball machine?

    A few years ago I dropped almost 2k on Silent Partner's best machine. It crapped out on me after maybe 3-4 usages and they wanted me to send it back to them but I didn't have money to ship it back to them to fix it (I was looking at 250-300 bucks which was a lot for me in 2008 during the recession).

    I've contacted Silent Partner about sending it back to them now and possibly fixing it (it's just been sitting in my room in the corner, still looks brand new). Problem is since it's out of warranty I'm not sure how much it's going to cost to fix and if it's even worth it (I'd probably have to pay for the shipping to and back as well).

    So I'd probably rather buy a new ball machine and hope it doesn't crap out on me after 3-4 usages.

    Anyone have any good recommendations? My price range will probably be between 1k-2k if it's a good machine with a reputable brand. Very eager to get out there and use a machine since a lot of my hitting friends have moved away.
     
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  2. Bolivian10s

    Bolivian10s Rookie

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    The most reliable ball machines in the business is Sports Tutor, I own a Tennis Tutor Plus Player with Multi Function Remote Control, I paid under 2k for a demo model. Easy to use, very powerful and the player mode is the best feature giving me a random workout every time.
    And the service department is the best when ever I contact them, for example the other day I called them because I smacked the front flap and broke it hitting overhead smashes. I called them and the said No Charge as in free! Plus they paid the shipping and they also told these flaps are covered for the life of the machine along with other parts on the machine as well. I LIKE THAT!
     
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  3. COPEY

    COPEY Hall of Fame

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    I'm sure that the Tutor is a fine machine, as are many of the others, but what exactly are you basing your claim on?
     
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  4. Bolivian10s

    Bolivian10s Rookie

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    IMO and the 35 plus years playing tennis and studying equipment over those 35 plus years. I used them all, even the old arm throwing machines back in the 70's.
     
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  5. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    Why would it cost you $250-$300 to ship it back to SP? I'm pretty sure FedEx Ground will ship to Canada for less than $1.50 a pound.
     
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  6. Chotobaka

    Chotobaka Hall of Fame

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    If I were in the market for a new ball machine, I would seriously consider the Playmate Half-Volley, or Full-Volley if I had the funds. I believe the Half-Volley is still upgradeable to the Full.
     
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  7. tennis_ocd

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    What went wrong with it? Circuit card, bat, and perhaps two motors; not very much else to it.
     
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  8. MasturB

    MasturB Hall of Fame

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    When it shipped to me originally, the shipping invoice attached to the box had a $250 price tag on it roughly.
     
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  9. MasturB

    MasturB Hall of Fame

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    This is from the e-mail I sent to their customer service:

    I charged the machine fully the other day and took it out the next day.

    I hooked it up on AC Power, and it was shooting the balls just fine, however I noticed after an hour or so I pressed the button that says machine on battery power and the lights went from 4 to 1, despite the fact I was using AC power.

    There might be something wrong with the AC adaptor. because whenever I plug it in, I hear a lot of clicking inside the huge power box for a few seconds after I plug it in. The light on the car adaptor plugin thing comes on (and it lights green), but as I said, the button the machine that says machine on battery power went from 4 lights to 1 even thoguh i was using electrical power.

    I onyl used the machine for an hour and a half maybe, and only at midcourt range (didn't have the machine shoot the balls for groundstroke practices, just volleying practice).

    ----

    The machine was eventually would barely shoot balls past 3-4 feet from the machine itself. It would start at normal raqnge, then each following ball would get less and less distance until it consistently shot 3-4 feet. They recommended that I send it back because they said it sounded like a problem with the AC option (I had the AC/DC feature) but their technicians weren't completely sure and would have to take a look at it in person. The oscillation function was also messed up.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2012
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  10. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    Where are you? Also I believe SP would have to pay duty on a product they sold and shipped to you but you would not have to pay that to ship a return back to them.
     
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  11. MasturB

    MasturB Hall of Fame

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    I'm in Savannah Georgia. I bought it in 2008 end of summer, but the problem occured in December-January and I had only used it maybe 3-4 hours total.

    I know their place is in Buffalo area/Canadian border. They told me I'd have to pay to ship to them but they'd ship it back to me since it was still under warranty. But I'd imagine now that it's out of warranty I'd have to pay both ways which to me isnt worth it.

    Would rather pay for a new machine that would be more reliable.
     
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  12. COPEY

    COPEY Hall of Fame

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    Kind of what I thought, and fair enough. I certainly won't begrudge anyone their opinion since that's all it is.


    OP - it sounds like you're in need of a machine with lots of bells and whistles since you implied that you'd be using it as a substitute for a hitting partner. My opinion is that any of the popular brands will due (specifically, Lobster, Wilson, Prince, and yes, SP). You were the victim of an unfortunate premature failure with your current machine, but that happens. Surely you realize the problem was that you didn't ship it back for warranty repair. Even still, I can't imagine the repair + shipping exceeding $1k.

    Edit: MasterB - just because you buy a new machine doesn't necessarily make it reliable. As I said, electronic/mechanical/electro-mechanical components and parts sometimes fail prematurely just because. Trust me, SP's reputation for making good ball machines is solid, and that's probably an understatement. I'm not trying to talk you out of buying a new one; I'm just saying that you could spend $4,500 on a machine from high-profile company and have issues with it right out of the box. Again, given what you're looking to use your machine for, any of the well-known companies have products that should meet your needs.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2012
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  13. nutcase

    nutcase New User

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    Before spending a lot of money on a new machine. I would contact SP and discuss the problem with them again to see if you can come up with some agreeable solution with them. I would probably send the machine back to them as it can probably be fixed for far less that a new machine would cost. You would be better off as you already have a new machine, since you didn't hardly use it, that is working correctly and if later you decided you don't want it, you could sell it in working condition. Selling a machine not in working condition won't bring in much money or interest.
     
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  14. mctennis

    mctennis Hall of Fame

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    I bought a TennisTudor machine years ago. It was the best investment I've made in my tennis playing career. Well worth the money.
     
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  15. MasturB

    MasturB Hall of Fame

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    So, turns out it's only going to cost me about $70 for UPS ground shipping to send it back.

    Have to buy the cardboard box and bubble wrap myself. So that's going to be about $20-$30.

    After that it's probably going to be $200-$300 for Silent Partner to repair. So looking at around roughly $300-$400 for a repair. Bleh.
     
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  16. BoingTennis

    BoingTennis New User

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    Hi, I just want to share some of my findings and experience with my ball machine.

    I've had my Lobster VLE for about 2 years. Bought it from Lobster's authorized dealer in Singapore. The dealer had a ball machine rental business and they exclusively used Lobster machines. The owner had evaluated and tried most of the major brands and he finally chose the Lobsters for his rental business.

    Now from my own experience with my machine, here are some findings that might be useful for others looking to buy a ball machine:

    1) They are all pretty simple and straight-forward machines. Basically 3 main components: the control panel (brain), battery, and some motors for oscillation and ball throwing.
    From comparing the Lobster with other major brands, they all use similar kind of battery and motors.
    Most problems occurs because of defective battery or control panel. These two things are very simple to fix, since everything are plug-and-play.
    If I were you, before shipping it to SP, I would spend less than $50 to buy a new battery and try swapping that first.

    2) Save your money and stay away from any premium chargers. You could get your own "premium" charger online for less than half of the advertised price.
    Same thing for the battery. Buy your own battery online for a lot cheaper. Just make sure you stick with the better battery brands.

    3) Remote is a must-have!

    4) At the end of the day, the main differences between the major brands are the durability of the outer case of the machine, features/programming, and most importantly customer service.

    I use my Lobster for around 4 hours each week for the past two years and I have not experienced any major problem. Outer case and the hopper are made out of thick plastic, no problem with them breaking. The stock Powersonic battery has been holding up ok as well. I just keep it plugged to the charger 24/7.

    Hope that helps...
     
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  17. MasturB

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    I guess I haven't really tried to open up the machine inside and look at it.

    Where does one buy these batteries from?
     
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  18. BoingTennis

    BoingTennis New User

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    I don't think I'm supposed to post links to other retail sites on this forum. If you google "12V 18ah SLA", you should get plenty of results.

    Now, 18ah is the battery capacity that came with my Lobster, you might want to open up your SP and confirm the capacity of the original battery and the type of battery post needed.

    Hope that helps..
     
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  19. mmk

    mmk Professional

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    And the dimensions
     
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  20. tennisgeek84

    tennisgeek84 New User

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    Anyone have experience with Lobster ball machine?

    I was thinking of buying this ball machine off of Amazon. Anyone have experience with his machine here?
     
    #20
  21. retrograde

    retrograde Rookie

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    I've borrowed a friend's older version of that machine. Worked OK for a basic machine but I believe it didn't have any spin control.

    In my mind, the Lobster Elite Freedom and the Silent Partner Lite & Lite-R occupy the same niche. Both weigh ~35 pounds and have wheels. This means they're suitable for transporting in a car to take to public courts. As a reference, a full BBQ propane tank weighs ~37 pounds. More deluxe machines from Lobster and Silent Partner weigh in the ~45 pound range. So folks with bad backs or older players should take note, especially if you have to lift up to a high tailgate in an SUV or truck. These things are heavier than they look.

    I haven't used a Silent Partner (thinking about getting a Lite-R) but the lower-end models seem to have an edge over Lobster because you can control spin, and the Lite-R comes with a two-function remote to control feed & sweep. The Elite Freedom has the edge on battery run-time though, at least on paper. Both have 2-year warranties. Silent-Partner is in Canada and ships from Buffalo (you pay UPS shipping). Lobster is in California.

    The Lite can also be customized to add the remote control (search for relevant threads) but I believe that will void the 2-year warranty. It's 12V sealed lead acid battery can be replaced without taking apart the machine. Not sure how it's done on the Lobsters.
     
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  22. Chotobaka

    Chotobaka Hall of Fame

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    I would not purchase a machine that did not allow for spin adjustment. It doesn't seem like a big deal but is one of the critical factors in grooving your strokes against realistic feeds. Battery life seems so-so, too. And, you have to pony up more money for a decent charger.
     
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  23. JoeR

    JoeR New User

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    Santa Rosa JC has one of the Full-Volley machines... and it works really well.
     
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