Got my new SAM SP-1 Ball Machine

Discussion in 'Other Equipment' started by jluspo, Oct 8, 2006.

  1. jluspo

    jluspo New User

    Sep 28, 2006
    Hello All,

    I just want to share with you all my initial thoughts and review of my new SAM SP-1 Ball machine. I gathered a lot of information from reading other people's review that I though I'd return the favor.


    In case you didn't know, the SAM SP-1 Ball Machine is the "lowest" model of the SP series ball machines from SAM. I believe that the price point of this machine is at a level that when compared to other machines at this level, you get more bang for your bucks. You can read about the differences between this and the higher model machines in other sites but the features that are important to me are all available in this model. Other features are considered nice to have while some are features that I really wanted, like the remote, but was out of my price range.

    I purchased it from one of the retailers that I have dealt with in the past and they even price matched another retailer, provided they can verify the price. Five days from when I placed the order, FedEx showed up and delivered a large well-packed box. I was very surprised at the speed in which the machine was at my doorstep.

    I purchased this machine sight-unseen! All I had to go with are images from web sites and reviews by other users in this and/or other sites. I must have read everything that I can find regarding tennis ball machines and identified some of the critical features that I wanted in a machine. Basically, I wanted a ball machine is a machine that I will not outgrow anytime in the near or distant future. I am a 3.5/4.0 player (depending on the day of the week) and I want something that I can use to hone my skills as a player. I also have 2 kids and their friends who are very into tennis and have volunteered in the local USTA team-tennis group to provide some training to several kids. I want a machine that is of a "professional" grade that delivers ball fast-enough to give myself and my kids a challenge. I also wanted spin. Of course, I wanted all of these for under $1K.

    The SAM SP-1 is solid and tough. After playing with it this entire weekend, I came to the conclusion that this will last me a very long time. I actually hit the machine with a strong forehand several times and it didn't even budge. The outer shell is built with a thick molded plastic and I don't see it breaking anytime soon. I took a peek at it's internal workings and I don't see anything plastic in the mechanism.

    Transporting the machine from my vehicle (I have a Ford Explorer) to the court is somewhat of a challenge. It is heavy but it does include roller wheels and it has an extendable handle to make it roll more like a large luggage. The ball bin is somewhat awkward while in the collapsed position and does not lock in place. A bungee cord helps keep this in place. Once in the playing position, however, this bin locks securely onto the machine like a large screw-on cap. I was able to roll this machine with a 140 ball hopper (with wheels) and my racquet and a water jug in one trip. Challenged but I was able to do it.

    The ball speed is plenty strong. At it's fastest setting, I don't think I can find anyone, or have seen anyone, who hits a ball with that much speed (other than Federer or someone of that caliber).

    The top-spin/back-spin is easy to control via a knob. With out this control, balls will fly out of the park.

    The feed rate knob controls the number of seconds between every ball feed. I think it can go from one every 2 seconds to 13 seconds.

    The random sweep switch is basically an on/off switch that enables that feature. Basically, this function turns the machine from side to side, just like an oscillating electric fan. Balls will randomly shoot out of the machine depending on the setting of the feed rate. This setting is an on/off switch and the width of the sweep is not adjustable. Basically, it covers the entire width of the singles court. If you want to get a really good workout, put this on and see how long you last. This is a feature that I wish I can adjust!

    This machine has a manual elevation adjustment knob. This manual knob turns a screw which controls the elevation. Clockwise to raise and counter-clockwise to lower the elevation. The SP1 does not have an electronic elevation adjustment! For the most part, this knob works very well and serves the same purpose of the electronic version. The electronic version is purely more convenient, in my oppinion. This is the feature that I could not find any detail anywhere.

    This machine includes a smart charger that turns the charging to trickle mode after it fully charges the battery. Also, the manual says that full charge is accomplished in 6 hours (I believe).

    Using the machine:

    I used the machine for approximately 6 hours, in 2 trips, this weekend. Battery was still strong at the end of 3 hours. I could not see a difference in the strength of the feed from the first few minutes to the end of the 3rd hour.

    The machine does not have a delay function from the time you turn it on to the time it feeds the first ball. Basically, once the machine is turned-on, you have to wait 15 seconds for it to get up to speed. After this point, you can set the feed adjustment knob from 0 to whatever level you wish. It will feed balls immediately after that. I find that it wastes 3 balls before I can get to the other side of the court.

    At a stationary position, I noticed that there are differences in the depth of feed from one ball to the next. I attribute this to the difference of ball pressure from one to the next. I purchased a bucket of Gamma pressureless practice ball and mixed them with my old balls.

    Once I got the hang of it, I was tearing up balls. My backhand is my weak side and would like to work on it right away. Within a few hours on the machine, I found that I was hitting late and needed to turn down my grip. It was only from the constant feeding of balls to the same spot that I was able to groove my backhand. I guess I could have found this out some other way but no one will feed me balls in one place until I found my groove.

    I also worked on my forehand. Basically, I wanted to adjust my timing so that I can hit the ball on the rise. This is not easy to do. I kept at it and found myself getting some success. I'm not saying I now play like Aggasi but I know what I'm doing wrong and will keep adjusting until I get my timing tuned.

    I put the machine on sweep mode and after a 15 minutes or so, my heart was racing so fast that I though I'd better stop before I pass out. What a workout!

    Thanks to my new machine, my whole body is now aching and will probably get a good night sleep tonight.

    I hope this review gives some more information to someone who is seriously considering a ball machine. My honest opinion is that if you really love tennis and can afford it, you should go ahead and buy one. Don't expect miracles but with the help of the machine and proper techniques, you will improve. I should have done this years ago!

  2. jamauss

    jamauss Hall of Fame

    Jan 25, 2006
    Good review.

    I have the same machine and agree with everything you said. Also - I think you'll find that those Gamma balls are going to lose a ton of fuzz after going through the machine a little. After a session, run your fingers along the inner well of the two wheels and see how much fuzz you can collect.
  3. dcottrill

    dcottrill Rookie

    Aug 28, 2006
    Fantastic review. Please keep us updated on your satisfaction with the SAM as you put more hours on it.
  4. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

    Oct 20, 2006
    Thanks for the input--mighty generous of you! I'm looking at that machine for my own workouts and for the lessons I do; looks like I'll probably get one very soon. I'll also keep an eye out for any more of your feedback.

  5. jluspo

    jluspo New User

    Sep 28, 2006
    Follow-up review after a couple of week's use.

    Hello Again,

    One of the reasons I really want to be detailed in this review is so that someone out there who is looking to purchase a ball machine may use this review to make better decision on which model to buy. I cannot make any comparison review between the SAM SP-1 and other brands because I have never even seen or use any of the portable models before. I used one at a club years ago but I don't even know the brand. As I can remember, it was a very large machine - about the size of a washing machine.

    Anyway, after several weeks of use, I can definitely say that this machine is a winner. I'm one of those "lucky" people who work from home and it doesn't really matter what time I work as long as I get my work done. Because of this, I have been taking the machine out during the day, almost every day, since I bought it (unless it's raining). I re-read my original post and my opinion on this machine is the same as when I first got it.

    However, there are a few of things that I think you should know if you're really serious about buying one of these machines.
    1. First and foremost, I will definitely buy this machine again - no doubt about it.
    2. If you can afford it, go ahead and buy the SP-4. It has all the bells and whistles the one can ever want in a machine of this caliber. However, the difference of $800 is hard to swallow. The only reason I say this is because the SP-4 has a full-function wireless remote control that you can use to adjust every aspect of the machine while on the other side of the court. Without the remote, I would have to run back to the machine, make the adjustment, test the adjustment, then run back to the other side. That's alot of running but I think of it as improving my footwork:mrgreen:
    3. The machine is not capable of producing a "real" lob. They sell an attachment for this but I think it should have been included.
    4. The oscillation feature is too wide for one person to cover at any length of time, in my opinion. Because of this, I hardly use this feature. The SP-2 allows you to adjust the width of the sweep and maybe this is the model that I should have chosen. However, I use this feature with my 11 year old daughter. We play a game like a racquetball where we alternate hitting a ball - regardless of where it lands. Increasing the speed of the feed makes this game interesting. The one who hits more ball into the net has to run around the court the number of balls he/she hits into the net.
    5. The machine is built like a tank!
    6. I use this to teach my daughter and her friends. At the ball speed setting of 2, they use this to simulate a weak 2nd serve and attack the ball to put away the point. It works really well. They actually used this in last week's team tennis match.

    In my honest opinion, if you're considering a ball machine, take a good look at the SAM. I really like mine.

    By the way, just in case you're wondering, I do not work for SAM or have any affiliation with the company. I'm just a satisfied customer who want's to give someone else who is considering a ball machine an honest review of a particular model.

    If you have any specific question about the SAM SP-1, ask me through this forum or PM me if you want to ask it privately.

  6. dcottrill

    dcottrill Rookie

    Aug 28, 2006
    Thanks for the update. I anticipate getting a ball machine when tennis weather returns in the spring, and the SAM SP is my current front-runner. Just haven't decided which model yet. Like you, I think the adjustable sweep would make the back-and-forth oscillation more useful, so I will probably get at least an SP-2. The two line drill and the 10 function remote control are also very appealing, but I just don't know if I can justify the added expense. I probably won't decide until I actually sit down to pull the trigger. only real concern about the SAM is it's portability. You mentioned the wheels and the pull out handle that allows you to roll the machine like a piece of luggage. That sounds good, but the machine looks kind of big and heavy. How does it roll over rough surfaces? (One of the courts where I anticipate taking the machine has a semi-rough gravel parking lot.) In another thread, a happy Lobster Elite owner mentions that after he unloads his machine from the car trunk, he places the ball hopper in the playing position, fills it full of balls, and rolls it to the court. In your experience, could the SAM also be used in this way?

    Again, thanks for taking the time to update your impression of your SAM. I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds reviews such as yours very helpful.

    Happy hitting.
  7. jluspo

    jluspo New User

    Sep 28, 2006
    This is a big and heavy machine! If there's anything that they can improve upon is it's portability. The 3" wheels are too small to effectivly roll over gravel and grass surfaces. I've read from others that they purchased one of those luggage cart and put the machine and balls in one cart. The user that I read doing this owns a Tennis Tutor, however.

    The ball bin is equally large and disconnect from the main machine - it holds 300 balls. I don't think you can have the ball bin attached full of balls and roll it around. The extendable handle is made such that you'll have to tip the machine in order to roll it.

    I hope this helps.
  8. dcottrill

    dcottrill Rookie

    Aug 28, 2006
    Yes, very helpful. Thanks!
  9. JeffCyner

    JeffCyner New User

    Mar 27, 2007
    After a few weeks of research today I ordered my SAM SP-4. I am super excited about receiving my new toy soon. Thanks for everyones very valuable postings in this and other threads on this forum (in particular jluspo's posts in this thread).
  10. Jack & Coke

    Jack & Coke Professional

    Feb 8, 2007
    Redondo Beach, CA
    Where are the SAM SP's made?
  11. whoster69

    whoster69 New User

    Oct 14, 2006
    Ukiah, California
    Good info! Thanks for posting.
  12. au

    au New User

    Feb 29, 2004
    hi, i bought my isam sp1 from the *biggest online auction site* and before getting to use it, i lost or misplaced my manuals and power cord. i was wondering if other owners of the isam sp1 could send me a picture of the power cord so that i can identify it and set up a family search squad out to locate it. thanks much!

  13. Loco4Tennis

    Loco4Tennis Hall of Fame

    Jul 29, 2007
    Manassas, Virginia
    This is my review of the SAM-P1 tennis ball machine
    I bought this machine this summer, paid around $840
    This is my first and only machine I have played with
    This machine like mentioned is not as portable as described; this is a heavy machine, not recommended for kids, women, old, or people with back problems
    Its not only the 50lbs but also the bulkiness of it, its like picking up a 50 lb TV
    It does have small wheel to roll once on the ground and it works fine on smooth paved ground like the tennis courts but not good on grass
    Like mentioned earlier the machine weights about 50 pounds, and its bulky, but like also mentioned by OP this machine is build like a tank, heavy duty plastic casing,
    I have smacked with the ball a couple of times and it did not move the machine at all, or stop the ball feed

    The machine has:
    speed 0-70 mph knob,
    topspin, nospin, backspin knob,
    ball feed knob
    oscillation on/off button,
    oscillation with manual increase and decrease knob of sweep,
    manual increase and decrease knob for height adjustment

    the battery life is 4 hours, I can use the same charge 4 days with no problems
    I initially thought I would need the extra ac to dc converter for courts that have power, but with 4 hr battery life, it is not needed
    The ball capacity of the machine is 300 balls, I usually use 60 ball hopper and it’s a workout, when I fill it with 200, I end up having to take a break after half that or come up and work on volleys to rest a bit

    The oscillation is a bit tricky to setup and it will not always deliver the shoots to the extremes you set it too, it will feed the ball where the ball feed is for, this might seem like a problems at first, but it creates a random shoot scenario witch I find to be a good thing

    Setting the topspin or backspin to their highest setting does produce more spin then I want to practice with, specially the topspin, because the ball will be spinning so fast making the ball very heavy at impact

    While the machine is bulky and a pain to transport, it does what it said it would do and since it appears to be build with good heavy gauge materials it seems like a machine I am going to have for a long time

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