Ball machine value for $$?

Discussion in 'Other Equipment' started by Roddick85, Mar 18, 2013.

  1. Roddick85

    Roddick85 Professional

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    Hey guys,

    I've been doing a lots of research on these boards in the last couple of weeks as i'm looking to acquire a ball machine as soon as the temperature here in Montreal, Canada allows for outdoor play. I've basically narrowed it down to Silent Partner Quest and Tennis Tutor Plus. However, reading the various reviews, it seems that the quality of either machines is a bit of a hit and miss with some users saying the machine worked flawlessly out of the box and others running into all sorts of problems? With that in mind, I'm starting to second guess investing 1k-2k in a tennis ball machine? Are the higher priced models built any better than the low end ones?

    Another dilemma I had last week was that I talked to the owner of my local tennis shop, they carry Tennis Tutor only where as I think a Silent Partner would fit my needs more for probably a bit less money. However as I explained to him my dilemma between the 2 machines, he claimed that they used to carry Silent Partners a couple of years back and that the machine had HUGE reliability issues, but that Tennis Tutor was very reliable, but from reading the various reviews on the web, I don't fully trust his statement. I would like to buy from my local shop so that if the machine breaks, I can deal with them for 1 year, but I heard good things about Silent Partner's support, and they're a Canadian company, so really i'm a bit lost and hesitant... All I want is a quality built machine that I can rely on, that will fit either in my trunk or on the backseat.

    Here's what I want to practice with the ball machine :

    - Volley's
    - Smashes
    - Returning heavy top spin/hard shots (I definitely need a machine that can send a hard shots)
    - Backhand/Forehand (Just practicing my form, don't care much about the speed)

    I need something that will shoot balls at a good pace as I want to improve my footwork, I don't want to wait 10+ seconds for every shots. Judging by the reviews and my needs, I don't think investing in those "player" models with those pre-set that simulate different styles of play will bring much value vs the extra you pay for, but I could be wrong?

    So if you guys could help me clear out my mind, I'd greatly appreciate! :)
     
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  2. Bolivian10s

    Bolivian10s Rookie

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    Sports Tutor has been around over 25 years and they always have taken care of my machines for over 10 years, having owned several models over the years. Buy a Tennis Tutor Plus, that model describes everything you need. It's plenty fast, durable and has a 2 year warranty.
     
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  3. ATP100

    ATP100 Professional

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    They are both good machines, just buy one and get to practicing.
    (I own both, and a few lobster's)
     
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  4. Roddick85

    Roddick85 Professional

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    Seeing as you own both, does the Silent Partner really throw balls faster than other machines?
     
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  5. v-verb

    v-verb Hall of Fame

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    Silent Partner is in Toronto so no cross border hassles for service
     
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  6. Bolivian10s

    Bolivian10s Rookie

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    Silent Partner will throw harder but you can't keep the ball in the court at max speed, so fastest speed won't matter.
     
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  7. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    You can crank up the topspin and the balls will stay in the court if you move the machine all the way back to the fence. I have done this with my Silent Partner Star. There's not much practical value to it as they were kicking up extremely high the time I tried it.

    That said, just like I rarely ever hit the maximum speed available in my car or boat, I very rarely ever use the top speed on my ball machine so I do agree with Bolivian that it doesn't matter much past a certain point. I've tried practicing volleys with the machine on the top setting and unless I'm back behind the service line they are coming too fast for me to do much with.
     
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  8. Roddick85

    Roddick85 Professional

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    Thanks for the input. Just a question, how satisfied are you with your Silent Partner so far? Did you have to do any kind of maintenance?
     
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  9. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    It has been a good machine so far. I bought it a little over three years ago and have put about 150 hours on it. I had a battery go out while it was still in warranty and they sent me a new one. I then replaced that one with one I bought about a year ago. The smart charger I use accidentally came unplugged which I think caused my second battery to die. Replacing it wasn't hard and cost me about $45 and maybe thirty minutes time because you have to unscrew about 15 screws to get to where it is installed.
     
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  10. yonexRx32

    yonexRx32 Rookie

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    I own a ball machine. It throws so hard (especially with pressureless balls) that it will rip the racket off your hands. But that's not the purpose of the machine. Ask any professional. Hitting against hard balls that you can control only 30% of the time is a waste of time. I wasted time until I understood. Having had mine for five years (of great fun mostly) I can tell you the secret to purchasing one: reliability. Because when they break (and they will break) you will have to send them in for repair. The repair won't be cheap, it will take time (in one case over two months) and will rob you of your summer playing days, and the shipping both ways won't be cheap. So your top priority should be reliability and a remote, not 80mph vs 85mph....
     
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  11. Roddick85

    Roddick85 Professional

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    Which one do you recommend for reliability? Tennis Tutor?
     
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  12. yonexRx32

    yonexRx32 Rookie

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    I wish I knew. I have only owned one. Check the warranty (try to get at least two years, but better three years) and make sure you use the machine intensively during that period. If something's amiss you want to catch it before the warranty expires. The things that tend to break are the program functions (alternate side to side hitting) and random oscillator. You can have a ton of fun without those functions so save your bucks and get one that throws straight but adjusts for ball speed, height, frequency, spin, and has a remote. That would be my advice.
     
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  13. tennis_ocd

    tennis_ocd Hall of Fame

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    I have a silent partner sport and don't believe I've ever gone over 50% of max speed (more precisely, midway on the dial.) You could raise the machine on a cart or table, increase speed for serve returns - I never have. As with batting cages, they are for practicing technique not fastball timing.

    Machine has been great. Did fry board but they immediately sent out another under warranty (2 years.) Service was excellent. They really are pretty simple things -- structure which won't go bad unless machine is dropped or severely abused; two ball motors; small oscillator motor; battery and circuit board. All batteries will need eventual replacement. A motor or circuit board is a relatively easy swap if it should fail.

    Two big surprises with machine that I discovered are that you really need courts to yourself; fine if you can go off hours or extreme weather. Two, the machine won't fire damp balls. Any drizzle or court puddles will end the session.
     
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  14. jonestim

    jonestim Professional

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    I use mine at public courts - mostly where there are two, sometimes where there are four. If someone shows up to play next to me I just work on crosscourt/down the line where it places all the balls into the corner away from them. Last night I had one ball roll onto their half along the back fence behind the guys playing - they didn't notice it. During the same time I had about 5 of their balls make it onto my court. Work on consistency of placement and it isn't bad. If I have to use it at the facility with four courts I do need an end court.

    And yes, if it drizzles you are done for the day.
     
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  15. BIGJ98

    BIGJ98 Rookie

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    Tennis tutor has the best customer service out there. One of my friends batteries on his machine from 10 years ago stopped working and they gave him a whole new battery and a ac power cable all for free.
     
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  16. 2ndServe

    2ndServe Professional

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    tennis tutor for their customer service.
     
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  17. anandk74

    anandk74 New User

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    I am looking at buying ball machine for my kids 5 & 9. My older one plays orange ball and I am tired of trying to find hitting partners. I am looking at Tennis Tutor prolite and wanted to know if I can use quickstart balls with it?
     
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  18. nn

    nn Hall of Fame

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    absolutely you can use orange or green dots with tennis machine.

    Since you have two boys tennis tutor plus will be good option. It has three modes (beginner to advance) to switch between them.
     
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  19. anandk74

    anandk74 New User

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    Thanks nn...I heard that these quickstart balls might get stuck bcos of less pressure. Also, are there pressureless balls that would mimic quickstart balls instead of just the reqular balls?
     
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  20. nn

    nn Hall of Fame

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    You can control the speed of the ball from 5-80 range on most of the ball machine. I am not aware of quick start ball stuck in the machine. Just to clarify I am talking about orange (qst 60) and green dot (76) (not regular ball i.e. yellow). I am not sure about red qst 36 works with ball machine (never try) because they are little bigger in shape compare to any quick start balls.
     
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  21. eastbayliz

    eastbayliz Rookie

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    I own a tennis tutor pro lite. It is budget got it for about $800b. Tough that "budget" is this much. Spend a little extra if you can. For 1500, you could do very well. The TT Pro looks like a really nice option. My lite does not do spin. Also have heard that the Tennis Tutor people are very helpful. The Ball Machine has been a great investment for me. It's worth it!
     
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  22. 2ndServe

    2ndServe Professional

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    has anyone measured the speed of a tennis tutor. 85mph seems a bit generous but I don't have a radar gun. Now the 10 spin is pretty good, ball just explodes.
     
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  23. trilix

    trilix Rookie

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    After reading all the rave reviews of the quality of customer support from Tennis Tutor, I'm thinking of buying the Tutor 3.

    Can anyone tell me the noise level of these machines? I mean, Am I going to disturb the other courts.

    Thanks
     
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  24. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    I have used a friend's tennis tutor and my own Silent Partner Star and the noise coming from either of them was similar. What I hear with either of them I would describe as a combination 'clunk' and 'whoosh' sound as each ball is ejected. The machines between ball ejections are pretty quiet so the noise is intermittent, not continuous.

    I've used my machine next to a court where a match was being played by our club pro and one of his guests and he didn't have a problem with the noise (and he's one of the most direct German people I know). I just have the balls thrown diagonally at me across the court so that I am hitting into the corner of the court area which is away from the adjacent court so my balls don't interfere with their play.

    I use my ball machine mostly in a couple of neighborhood courts just a few hundred yards from my house. My neighbor whose yard backs up to the court and whose house is less than 50 yards away from it has mentioned to me that she can always tell when I'm out there using my Star as she hears that signature sound.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
    #24
  25. trilix

    trilix Rookie

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    Thanks for the feedback!
     
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  26. anandk74

    anandk74 New User

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    Thanks for the feedback..I am planning to buy prolite plus so that I can have the top spin option. Looked at TT plus but its another $300 more and was not sure if I need to extend my budget further.
     
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  27. Roddick85

    Roddick85 Professional

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    I think i'm going to go with Tennis Tutor as well. Makes more sense to have a shop close by to take care of the service should I require any.
     
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  28. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    You're welcome. I'd forgotten I shot this with my cell phone a while back but here's some video where you can hear the clunk/whoosh sound a Star makes:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvA8h3XwfzI
     
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  29. Bolivian10s

    Bolivian10s Rookie

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    For me that's pretty loud, probably because you have the Top Spin at max setting causing one of the wheels to ramp up and the other wheel to slow down.
     
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  30. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    Yes that could be a factor in addition to the speed being set pretty high on about 7 of 9 and that I had my cell phone only a few inches away from the machine at the end of the recording. When it is on the other side of the court the noise between shots isn't so noticeable.
     
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  31. Roddick85

    Roddick85 Professional

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    Guys, what kind of balls should I use with a ball machine?
    I usually play with Wilson US Open balls during my matches, when I feel the balls aren't good enough for matches, I keep them in my practice basket. Would those be a good candidate? I hear a lot about possibly using pressure less balls, but i've never used them. Does it feel similar to the balls I used or it's different? What would be the best option for balls for the machine?
     
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  32. mmk

    mmk Professional

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    A couple of times while playing indoors there has been someone on the next court using a Playmate ball machine, and it hasn't been bothersome at all, unlike guys that yell when then hit a bad ball.
     
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  33. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    I started with about 110 Tretorn micro-x pressureless balls and used those for about 2 years before the felt got so worn you couldn't even see the Tretorn logo on most of them any more. Some people say these are too hard and hurt your arm but I didn't have that problem. Then again, I don't hit nearly as hard as a lot of people.

    About a year ago I built a tennis ball repressurizer from some old homebrewing equipment and an automobile tire inflator I already had and have been collecting old balls whenever I go play or finish with ones I've opened and use them. Periodically I'll pull out the ones that won't repressurize or which have too much of their felt gone and toss them.

    Since I tend to buy Wilson or Penn balls that is mostly what I have collected except for balls people have left on our club's courts after matches which sometimes are from other manufacturers but are primarily Wilson/Penn. Between Wilson and Penn, my unscientific observation is that Wilsons tend to repressurize better. I have put some of those balls back under pressure at least ten times and they keep regaining their original bounce and feel. I have three repressurizing canisters full of balls now and each hold about 65 so I can almost fill my ball machine to its capacity of 200. YMMV.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013
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  34. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    I've never used one myself but I've been on courts near where a Playmate was being used and I agree, they are pretty quiet. I would say they make less noise than my Star or the Tennis Tutor I used before buying my Star.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iql5RwGn5dA

    Skip to the 10 minute mark to see and hear balls being thrown up close in HD with a Playmate.
     
    #34
  35. schenkelini

    schenkelini Semi-Pro

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    I am getting ready to buy a ball machine. I have been looking a the basic Wilson machine. It seems like the best overall value and it is made by Sports Tutor. I have a question though. I spoke to one of the guys at my club who told me that the Tennis Tutor models with spin aren't really worth it because the spin does not work that well. What are some of your experiences?
     
    #35
  36. West Coast Ace

    West Coast Ace G.O.A.T.

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    Another very satisfied Silent Partner owner. After wearing out a basic (no spin) iSam, I spent the additional $200 and got topspin capability.

    Ball machines rule.
     
    #36
  37. Bolivian10s

    Bolivian10s Rookie

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    My Tutor with spin feature works fine for me. You can easily vary from heavy to light Top Spin to heavy to light Underspin.
     
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  38. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    I bought my Silent Partner Lite in 2009. It still works great. i love the speed and spin.

    Steve at Silent Partner is great about getting right back to you with any concerns.

    Even after 4 years I contacted him about a small problem and he got back to me immediately, and all I had to do is push on the wires to make sure the connections were tight, and the machine went back to working perfectly.


    Putting your machine up on a cart allows for more realistic return and volley practice.
    Additionally, as you bring the speed way up, having it on a cart means you don't have to have the machine a mile away for the ball to come down.
    I use my cart to wheel the machine, balls, racquets and Gatorade from the back of my van onto the court.

    [​IMG]
     
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  39. guitarplayer

    guitarplayer Guest

    Love my SP. used it today for nearly 2 hours.

    [​IMG]
     
    #39
  40. West Coast Ace

    West Coast Ace G.O.A.T.

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    Nice pic.

    Me too. And Friday was a day off work so I got 2 in. And will be hitting the courts this afternoon with mine since my usually hitting partner is on vacation. Awesome machine. Every time I use it I'm glad I upgraded from the iSam.
     
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  41. Roddick85

    Roddick85 Professional

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    Are there any benefits of having a 2 line function if your going to use it to practice alone ? I'm on the fence about either SP Star or SP Quest. If you look at the video on the website, the 2 line feed seems useful when you use the wide angles to alternate backhand/forehand. Can you do the same angles with the random oscillation? I also thought the SP Quest sounded promising with the vertical oscillation but I read it doesn't work all that well.

    I decided to dismiss the Tennis Tutor as an option. Local owner is asking 200$ more than the sports tutor MSRP, which I think is a ripoff. I'm also not too fond of the bulky black luggage design and short handle. Not saying it's not a good machine, but for the price, the SP appeals more to me.
     
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  42. tennis_ocd

    tennis_ocd Hall of Fame

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    That's a significant price difference. For me, when I break out the machine it's to work on a stroke; not run around the court. 200 hard hit balls is plenty of exertion. I want the incoming balls as consistent as possible. The mix of different ages, remaining felt, manufacturer, etc. make me move more than enough.
     
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