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RD 11-29-2004 11:04 PM

Best Stringing Machine for $3500 or Less
 
What is the best all around stringing machine for $3,500 or less? Would it be the Alpha Orbitor SE, the Gamma 8500 Els, The Prince 3000 or 4000, or some other machine?

Would these electric machines be worth the higher cost compared to the top level manual machines, such as the Alpha Apex, the Gamma 6004 and the Prince Neos 1000? And which manual machine for $1,200 or less is the best all around?

David Pavlich 11-30-2004 07:50 AM

Every machine you mentioned is good. Some have different features that may sway your decision.

It depends on what you are going to do with your machine. Is it for a high volume situation or a home stringer that may do 100 frames a year? In either case, any of the machines you listed will work just fine.

I like a good electronic for a volume situation because of the ease of use and consistency. However, I know a shop that does 200+ frames a month and has 2 Neos 1000s and do a fine job.

I happen to believe that the ergonomics of a good electronic machine make life easier on a stringer that has a lot of frames to do. That's the main reason why I finally opted for the Sensor.

But...that's just one person's opinion.

It all comes down to individual preference, volume and what do you want to spend.

Read through this section. You'll find a lot of posts about a lot of machines.

David

RD 12-02-2004 01:35 PM

Alpha Orbitor SE or Prince 3000
 
Thanks David for your good advice. I found out from Mark Gonzalez at Alpha that the Orbitor SE goes up to 48 inches high, while the Apex only goes up to 45 inches. Since I'm over six three, this makes a difference to me. So I'm narrowing down my choice to the Orbitor SE and the Prince 3000, also considering convenience and constant pull.

Considering their mounting systems, tensioning systems, clamping systems, accuracy, reliability, and any other factors, which machine do you feel is the better one?

David Pavlich 12-02-2004 05:49 PM

The 3000 received a good review at the USRSA site. It has a 4 point mounting system which is typical of Prince machines. But the mount system is very solid.

Alpha has a 6 point system. I don't know if the Orbitor has been upgraded to a floating system similar to the Babolat mounts. Maybe Gaines will jump in or you could contact Mark again and ask him.

Both have good customer service. The Prince is a good looking machine also.

Again, either machine will serve you well.

I guess I should have read further down on the postings. I see Gaines answered some of the questions.

David

RD 12-17-2004 01:45 PM

Best Stringing Machine for $3500 of Less
 
David,

Thanks again for your comments. Yes, the Alpha Orabitor SE has the same six point suspension system that is on the Alpha Apex, recommended by Gaines Hillix. I did receive a report that the Orbitor SE is an excellent machine from someone who had posted an inquiry about it some time ago on the GSS forum, but didn't receive any replies. He emailed back that he really likes the machine for use in his shop.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate any Orbitor SE machine to look at in Southern California. I've learned that only about fifteen have been sold so far, but that number should increase when Alpha does some promotional things they have planned.

I did see a Prince 3000 in a store in Woodland Hills, about 25 miles away. I learned that a buyer for the store where I bought several pairs of skiis and a Kennex Black Ace racquet years ago, selected the Prince 3000 over the Alpha Orbitor SE, as the machine to replace the Babolat Star 3 machines that are in most of their stores, including the one here in Valencia. I understand that they looked at the Babolat Sensor, but felt that it was more than they wanted to spend.

I am very impressed with the Prince 3000. It really looks like a professional quality machine. The tension head is about twice the size of the Prince 2000, a discontinued machine that cost a thousand dollars more. Also, the 3000 has a cooling fan in the tension head to keep it running cool for a long time.

The four point mounting system is extremely easy to operate, and seems very secure. The adjustment parts are made out of heavy duty materials, and are very convenient and quick to use. The electronic controls for the tensioning head are very clear, easy to read and easy to use. The button to pull and release tension is a good size and is right there to hit. But, if you prefer, there is a foot pedal to use and keep both hands free.

The Prince 3000 has three pulling speeds, for different types of strings, a prestretch feature if you want to use it, three presets for your most used tensions, a single time 10% increase of tension for the last pull before tying a knot, an automatic turntable brake, that can be switched to manual, if you don't want to use it on automatic, and a very convenient crank built in to the top of the platform that makes raising or lowering the machine quite easy. It seems to me that this is a very nice feature that I don't see on the other machines I have considered. I brought a measuring tape and found that the 3000 does go up to 48 inches, which I feel is just about right for me.

The clamps I saw on the Prince 3000 were actually made for a 2000 machine, because the manager of the tennis department was familiar with the 2000 clamps and had an extra pair. The clamps that come with the 3000 are a bit larger, and are reported to close on a very slight angle, but to work very well. The new clamps on the 3000 even have two adjustment screws to adjust the closing distance from the string on each side, in addition to the regular adjustment knob for the whole clamp. I'd never heard of that before. The clamp bases move very smoothly, and close easily, but are a bit harder to release than the ones that were on the Prince 2000. I'm trying to locate a machine that has the 3000 clamps, so I can take a look at them.

A very impressive thing about the Prince 3000 is that it is almost entirely made out of metal and looks very sturdy overall. As I have been reviewing the functions and qualities of the various machines, I have become less inclined to want one with a lot of plastic on it. At first, they looked very smooth and modern, but now a machine that is made almost entirely of substantial metal parts looks better to me.

I know that you, and others as well, have advised me to get a lockout/crank machine for the limited amount of stringing I plan to do. But my feeling is that if I can afford to spend over 13K a year in taxes in order to have a nice new house in a gated community with a Tournament Player's Club golf course, two large pools, a private park and tennis courts, I can surely afford 3K for a good quality stringing machine.

I feel that it is important for me to have much better control over the tensions and types of strings that are used by my students and me. Cranking back and forth has been rather annoying to me in the limited amount of stringing I have done. While the electronic machines, such as the Prince 3000 and Babolat models seem to operate so easily.

What do you think?

RD

Audiodude 12-17-2004 02:38 PM

I know this is going to sound snotty, but if cranking the tensioner on a lock-out machine is annoying, then the repetition of swinging a tennis racquet must be unbearable for you. You seem to be putting in some major overtime in the rationalization department trying to justify a more expensive stringing machine. It seems obvious that your requirements would be easily met by any number of good machines in the sub $1,000.00 price range. Just because you can spend the money doesn't mean you should. Buy a nice thousand dollar machine and make a nice donation to Athletes helping athletes. You'll get all the machine you need and you'll do some good for some very deserving folks.

RD 12-17-2004 06:35 PM

Audiodude,

Thanks for your opinion about the relative merits of a lockout/crank machine as opposed to an electronic machine. It sounds like your crank machine, I believe that you mentioned a Gamma 5003 earlier, is working just fine for you. But you must be a lot better at cranking than I am.

You have a good point, in that one of the heads of the USRSA advised me that a lockout/crank machine can do just about as good a job as an electronic machine, and can even be better in the regard that you can control the speed of the tensioning better by hand in order to allow time to keep grommets in place.

However, the limited amount of stringing that I have done has caused me to appreciate how nice it is to either push a button or step on a pedal and have the tension head do the work for you while your hands and eyes are free to take care of matters with the frame and strings.

In addition, a fellow USPTA pro, in this area has had an Ectalon H machine for several years. He would like to get an electronic machine. The same is true for an Ectalon H user in the UK. He would like to add a Wise 2060 electronic tensioning head and a Prince 3000 turntable to his Ectalon H machine. Many other owners who are experienced using their lockout/crank machines would like to upgrade to an electronic machine. Do you think that they don't have any good reasons for wanting to do so? Have you not noticed the posts of stringers who are very satisfied after replacing their lockout/crank tension systems with the Wise 2086?

Furthermore, the electronic machines, especially ones like the Prince 3000 or Babolat Sensor, pull the tension in a much more consistent manner than either you or I or anyone can do with a manual machine. A further advantage of the better electronic machines is that the reference tension established by the major racquet manufacturers is for constant pull machines. It can only be approximated by lockout/crank machines, and usually ends up quite a bit lower and more uneven, both from what I have read and from my own limited experience. You may be an exceptional individual who gets outstanding results with your manual machine, but I don't think that I would be likely to come anywhere close on a manual machine to what I will be able to get on a good electronic machine, such as the Prince 3000.

Then there is the matter that the electronic machines have features which simply aren't on the lockout/crank machines, such as the single pull tension increase for the last string which will have a knot, pre-stretching string, a selection of tensioning speeds that are done consistently for each pull, and a very quick and convenient way to set the tension. Frankly, they just make it more fun. I know a guy with a manual machine who just doesn't like to string very much. I think I know why. I'd rather not get a machine that I don't think I'm going to like stringing on, even if it costs 2K less.

Also, the better electronic machines are simply built better. They are quite a bit heavier, and the parts are machined better, making it easier and more pleasant to use the machine. They provide a more consistent and usually tighter stringbed. If you appreciate quality, durability and reliability, the better machines are more likely to provide it. But the electronic part of an electronic machine may need more servicing than a lockout/crank mechanism would. So score one for your point of view. That is what I like about the very large fan cooled tension head on the Prince 3000. It is likely to need very little servicing, as are the other parts of this machine.

I'm glad to hear that your Gamma 5003 has worked well for you. But I have read in the manual for the Gamma 6004 that they include a type of nut to replace the lever underneath the table that secures the mounting posts, in case the lever fails to function. And I saw a post of a guy who had that exact problem, but didn't have the backup nut to put on. Also, I've seen posts of other parts either coming off or breaking on Gamma machines. At one point I was seriously considering getting a Gamma 6004 or an 8500 Els, but not after I read about these problems with Gamma machines. Also, the experts in the field that I have contacted have repeatedly cautioned about the reliability of Gamma machines. I'm glad for your sake and for the sake of the Gamma company, that that your machine, and those of some others, have worked well, but I'm not ready at this time to consider a Gamma machine, lockout/crank or electronic.

I am looking forward to the time I will be able to do a better job of stringing, with a tighter and more consistent stringbed, and actually have fun doing it, on a Prince 3000. I'm planning on ordering it right after the holidays. I realize that it will take me quite a while to string as well as you and others are doing on a variety of machines. But I think that my study of stringing machines will enable me to improve much more quickly and enjoyably on a Prince 3000, than on most other machines.

Best regards,

RD

Audiodude 12-17-2004 07:09 PM

Sounds like you've already made up your mind. A single post about a lever on a clamp and a few random opinions from "experts" strikes me as not much more than anecdotal evidence, at best. I don't recall reading many posts about defective tensioners, mounting systems, or clamps on the mid level Gamma, Alpha, or even Silent Partner machines. I guess it really all comes down to your own perception of when the point of diminishing returns is reached. I've ordered and received machines from Eagnas (yikes!) and Silent Partner and sent them both back. The Eagnas was built to laughably low standards and tolerances. One glance at the machine was all that it took to undermine my confidence in it. The Silent Partner had a mounting system that didn't really seem secure. I also wasn't happy with the lack of smoothness on the tensioner, you could actually hear the friction. The fit and finish was also sub-par. The Gamma stuck around because I was happy with all aspects of its construction and operation. (Your mileage may vary.) I'm not arguing that the Gamma or Alpha crank machines are the right choice for you. That's like telling you that a Honda S2000 is all the two seater convertible that you need, when what you really want is a 911. I understand that it's not just the results that matter. If you don't enjoy working with the machine, for whatever reason, you didn't get the right machine for you. I would like to know what you end up with, though. Good luck.

Power Game 12-17-2004 07:41 PM

Re: Best Stringing Machine for $3500 or Less
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by RD
Would these electric machines be worth the higher cost compared to the top level manual machines, such as the Alpha Apex, the Gamma 6004 and the Prince Neos 1000? And which manual machine for $1,200 or less is the best all around?

May I suggest a crank machine and a Wise Tension Head. The wise is basically an upgrade, making a nice crank machine into an excellent electric machine.

Gaines Hillix 12-18-2004 09:47 AM

Other than esthetics and the wow factor, the biggest difference between the Orbitor SE and P3000 machines is the mounting system, IMO. The electronics are the same. I prefer the air suspension 6 point system on the Orbitor SE and Apex to the 4 point system on the P3000. I use load spreaders at the head and throat on my APEX(got them free from the USRSA) and just these two points provide as much frame support as the entire P3000 system. On the Orbitor and APEX the frame is also supported in 4 more locations. This is the same kind of system that Babolat uses on their machines, since the Star 3. It also is quick to mount frames on and provides easy access to all of the string holes. Even Babolat uses plastic in their covers for the tension head and the tool tray. But, the decision boils down to what is most important to you. Both of them are good machines. It sounds like the P3000 is what you really feel most comfortable with though. Have you checked with both to see if they'll give you a 30-day trial period? It might cost you the shipping charge to return one of them, but you'd really know which one you wanted to keep that way.

David Pavlich 12-18-2004 11:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Audiodude
Sounds like you've already made up your mind. A single post about a lever on a clamp and a few random opinions from "experts" strikes me as not much more than anecdotal evidence, at best. I don't recall reading many posts about defective tensioners, mounting systems, or clamps on the mid level Gamma, Alpha, or even Silent Partner machines. I guess it really all comes down to your own perception of when the point of diminishing returns is reached. I've ordered and received machines from Eagnas (yikes!) and Silent Partner and sent them both back. The Eagnas was built to laughably low standards and tolerances. One glance at the machine was all that it took to undermine my confidence in it. The Silent Partner had a mounting system that didn't really seem secure. I also wasn't happy with the lack of smoothness on the tensioner, you could actually hear the friction. The fit and finish was also sub-par. The Gamma stuck around because I was happy with all aspects of its construction and operation. (Your mileage may vary.) I'm not arguing that the Gamma or Alpha crank machines are the right choice for you. That's like telling you that a Honda S2000 is all the two seater convertible that you need, when what you really want is a 911. I understand that it's not just the results that matter. If you don't enjoy working with the machine, for whatever reason, you didn't get the right machine for you. I would like to know what you end up with, though. Good luck.

I don't know which Silent Partner machine you looked at, but if you read the USRSA review of the Aria, you will find that your concern about the mounting system to be unwarranted. I have an Aria at home and have done over 1400 frames on it and it hasn't had a single hiccup.

David

Audiodude 12-18-2004 12:43 PM

It was the Jazz. The mounting system for the Maestro and Aria look to be excellent.

RD 12-19-2004 11:00 AM

David,

You made a very good point regarding the upper end Silent Partner machines, such as the Aria. But having followed a number of your posts, you felt the need to upgrade to the Babolat Sensor to find a machine that you really like.

But what is your response to my assessment of the very desirable features on the Prince 3000 machine? I noticed that you had an interest in the 3000 and were asking about it before you got your Sensor. The crank that is recessed into the top of the platform for raising and lowering the machine is a very nice feature, I feel, since electronic machines are fairly heavy.

Other features that impressed me on the 3000 are the adjustment screws on the sides of the clamps to adjust side to side distance, as well as the usual adjustment knob; the very nice layout and convenience of the operational features for the tension head; the ease of the adjustments for the mounting system; the extra large size and the inclusion of a fan in the tension head to provide for greater durability; and the overall sturdy construction, almost entirely of metal, rather than plastic.

I just received an email from a guy who got a Prince 3000. He feels that it is excellent overall in its operation, except that the clamps are good, but not as good as the Babalot clamps. This may be why the machine I saw had Prince 2000 clamps on it. They were a bit smaller and seemed to close evenly, rather than on a bit of an angle.

What do you think about these features? How does the Prince 3000 compare to the Alpha Orbitor SE, or even to the Babalot Sensor, in your opinion?

Look forward to hearing from you,

RD

David Pavlich 12-25-2004 05:01 PM

RD,

I had an interest in the 3000. However, there's a several factors that drove me to my decision.

The absolute confidence in the Sensor by Albert Lee. He has an understanding of stringing machines that exists in another dimension (I accused Albert of having a starting clamp in his crib instead of a rattle :D).

I like the 6 point mounting system of the Sensor better than the Prince's 4 point.

Finally, in the review by the USRSA, the testers mentioned that the tension head would pull about 98% of its traction at a good clip but would slow down for that last 2%. One of my complaints about the Aria was that I could release a clamp before the machine finished tensioning. I would have to wait that split second in order to allow the tension head to complete its rotation. I didn't want to have the same concern with my next machine. The Sensor head is very quick. If I am using a really soft string like Prince More Feel, I can barely get to the clamp quick enough to beat the tension head. Regular string like Prince Syn or NXT, no way. The head completes its duty before I have the opportunity to release the clamp. It may seem like a trivial concern, but in the long run, it adds up.

I hope this helps.

David

RD 12-29-2004 12:59 PM

David,

Thanks for mentioning the speed of the tensioning system as a major factor in deciding on a machine. I learned from one of the head guys at the USRSA that the reviewer of the stringing machines for them is extremely particular in his assessment or a machine when he reviews it. But I appreciate that he does note even minor shortcomings, as well as the desirable features of each machine he reviews.

I hope to actually try out a Prince 3000 with the clamps that are standard on it at this time. I'm also interested to see how quickly the tensioning head pulls, compared to the Sensor. I did watch a couple of frames being strung on a Prince 3000. It seemed to me that the tensioning was done quite quickly. Also, there are settings for three different speeds, so it can be adjusted.

Regards, RD

RD 01-25-2005 02:35 PM

Audiodude,

As a guy from the UK suggested I do, I've "popped" for the Prince 3000. It should be here soon.

What I really like about the Prince 3000 is that it is a durable, all metal, machine, with a large, fan cooled, tension head that should hold up for a long time. It has a crank built in to the top of the machine's platform that makes it easy to adjust a rather heavy machine up to 48 inches high. This is a good height for me, since I'm a bit over six feet three.

The Prince 3000 has a way of adjusting the tension calibration without having to take off parts on the tensioning head, as is necessary with the Alpha Orbitor SE. The Orbitor SE seems to me to be a very good machine, but it lacks both the built in crank for adjusting the height of the machine, and the automatic turntable brake, which are included with the Prince 3000, as well as a means for adjusting the tension calibration.

The other machines I considered by LaserFibre and Gamma were ruled out for my use for a number of reasons. The very innovative designs on the LaserFibre machines and their long warranties are impressive, but reports of difficulties adjusting the tension calibration on LaserFibre machines, difficulties getting through to a LaserFibre representative, and seeing the LaserFibre site go inactive on the internet, made me apprehensive about ordering a machine from them. The Gamma machines seem quite good overall, but there were too many reports of parts going bad and even falling off of Gamma machines. I found that the most knowledgeable people in the industry advised that they felt the reliability is better on the Prince and Alpha machines. What really got my attention was an item in the instruction manual for the Gamma 6004 which advised that if a lever under the table were to fail, they had included a nut of some sort to replace it. Also, the arms on the newer, upper level, Gamma mounting systems seem to be difficult to keep in adjustment.

The Prince 3000 has a very well machined, straightforward and very quick mounting system that seems to be a pleasure to use. It gives extra support at the top and bottom of the frame, where the most stress is. It is an improved version of the mounting system on the Prince Neos 1000, the most recent version of the machine used more than any other one. I'm looking forward to improving my stringing skills on the Prince 3000.

Best Regards

RD

PS: The guy from the UK mentioned that the Prince 3000 would cost $5700 in the UK, compared to the $2995. that it sells for here. I wonder what a Babolat Sensor from France, which goes for $5200. here, would sell for over there? I haven't had a chance to try out the highly regarded Sensor, but after listening to all the problelms I've noted about the Sensor, and other machines with six point mounting, regarding broken springs, fuses that don't work, sticking clamp bases, and difficulties removing the racquet from the mounts after stringing, I'm looking forward to a Prince 3000. I've heard that after it was initially introduced, and a few minor glitches remedied, the Prince 3000 seems to be quite problem free. I'll be finding out.

Audiodude 01-25-2005 06:36 PM

I just took a look at it on the Prince website. I've got to say that that it one fine looking piece of machinery. I'm sure you'll love using it. I do appreciate using the best tools I can reasonably afford and rationalize. As much as I'd love to own something like that, I don't think my highly evolved thriftiness gene would allow it. If you ever decide to sell it really cheap and want to give it a good home, look me up! I'll be glad to help out.

RD 01-28-2005 07:53 AM

Audiodude,

Thanks for letting me know that you were impressed by the qualiity of the "machinery" in the Prince 3000. I guess you saw it on princetennis.com, right?

When you see and work with a Prince 3000 right in front of you, it is really awsome! It seems to work so easily. The parts are so well machined. And things like the recessed crank to adjust the height of the machine, and the adjustment of the setting for tension, are so convenient. Even the table brake is automatic, but can be set to manual, if desired. And it includes a foot pedal for pulling tension, if you want to use it.

The electronic features make setting up and operating the machine so easy. I feel that I will be able to give my attention to what needs to be done, and have both hands available to do it, with the Prince 3000. Setting the tension, the speed of the pull, and even setting up a one time heavier pull before tying off a knot, can be done so quickly.

I am satisfied that the time I have spent studying and comparing the best available stringing machines under $3500. has been worth it. As I was making my decision, someone referred me to the person who is probably the most recognized individual in the stringing machine business. I won't mention his name, because he represents both Prince and Alpha machines, as well as other makes. He advised that the Prince 3000 and the Alpha Orbitor SE are both very good machines, better than others in their price range, but that the Prince 3000 has the edge because it has a few more features in its favor. He confirmed my own study and observations.

But the bad news for you is that I'm planning to keep it and use it for a long time. And if the time to sell the Prince 3000 comes, I think that the demand for it will bring a good price. At least I hope so.

Incidentally, if you were looking at princetennis.com, did you see the notice about the O3? That looks like a racquet that could speed up my stringing!

Best regards,

RD

David Pavlich 01-29-2005 02:44 PM

RD wrote:

>>I haven't had a chance to try out the highly regarded Sensor, but after listening to all the problelms I've noted about the Sensor, and other machines with six point mounting, regarding broken springs, fuses that don't work, sticking clamp bases, and difficulties removing the racquet from the mounts after stringing, I'm looking forward to a Prince 3000. I've heard that after it was initially introduced, and a few minor glitches remedied, the Prince 3000 seems to be quite problem free. I'll be finding out.<<

Yes, springs are a problem. Babolat is working on the fix. However, I've done nearly 600 frames on my highly regarded Sensor and have had no problems with frames sticking, fuses not working or clamps sticking (I keep everything clean to avoid maintenance problems).

Perhaps you don't mean to be, but you sound quite condescending with your often used phrase "highly regarded Sensor". Even with the problems with the clamp base springs, it's still the benchmark machine. I know a shop that uses 3 of them that turns thousands of frames a year. Bob, the owner, stated that unless someone comes out with something better than the Sensor, he'll be buying more of them.

David

RD 02-01-2005 10:57 AM

David,

Rest easy. When I said "highly regarded." refering to the Sensor, that is just what I meant. Why would you think that there is anything condescending in the term "highly regarded"? I think that generally everybody knows that Babolat makes very good strings, and some of the best stringing machines. But it has amazed me how many problems I have heard about the Sensor and other six point mounting machines.

As an example, the knobs that adjust the mounting arms on the Babolat Star 3 machine in use at my local sporting goods store are all chewed up. I was informed that is the result of stringers having to use a wrench to get the frame out of the mounting arms, because it would not release after stringing.
The mounting system on the Sensor seems similar to the one on the Star 3.

Older Babolat and other six point mounting machines tend to have the twelve and six o'clock mounting points bent over, because of the stress at these points. While the Prince machines distribute the load better where there is the most stress. Greg Raven, of the USRSA, addressed this issue in another post. He knows more about it than I do.

You are certainly aware of the problems with springs and fuses on the Sensor. It may be that the Babolat machines are sort of like the high end cars, such as the Mercedes S Series and the BMW 7 Series. They have very innovative and advanced features, but generally require more repairs to keep them operating. All electronic stringing machines, including the Prince 3000 may prove to be similar in this regard. The advanced features and convenience, such as powered constant pull, keypad tension setting, tension presets, single time increased tension for strings to be tied off, etc. may require us to pay the price of increased repair costs.

But didn't you notice that the warranty on the Sensor is for one year, while it is for three years on the Prince 3000, and five years on a number of manual machines, such as the Prince Neos 1000, and the Alpha Apex? I think there is a message here.

Best regards,

RD


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