7/31/10: East Coast, USA: TT members, it's taken me over a month of web research, posts on tt.tenniswarehouse.com and talking to various stringing professionals and vendors. After all the research and discussions, plus doing the math in my own head, I've finally decided on the.... Gamma X-2. Why did I go here? Well, aside from the dislikes regarding the clamps, all of my research suggested that the X2 is an extremely well built machine, quite capable of delivering a professional-level string job. It was really hard for me because I was so close to purchasing an Eagnas Challenger I, but decided now is not the time to gamble on potential issues with build quality/customer service. My gut feeling is that the machine overall is a quality machine, but I couldn't bear the thought of having a problem with the clamps and having to "fix" them on my own (or not be able to get world-class support were I to run into a problem; again, not really fair to the folks at Maxline since I've not personally dealt with them, but I've read more complaints regarding those machines and the service than I did with Gamma (which were virtually none); hey, I'm just a consumer trying to make the best decision he can). Anyway, I figured that after the shipping, my cost for the Challenger I would be somewhere around $370 dollars, which is, in my mind, too much to spend for a 1st machine where, according to most of my research, there is a considerable enough chance I may run into a problem. I still have the Challenger I in mind for 12 months from now (if I feel strongly then that I want/need fixed clamps and 6pt mount). So, anyway, what were other factors that influenced my decision? I. Add-ons: I'll be honest, I had many a poster tell me, "don't just buy a machine for the free string," but when you're doing value proposition, my math says if I avg $30/string job and I'm getting five free packs of string ($150 in stringing for me), I'm getting the machine for $9.00 plus shipping. That's hard to turn away from. II. Clamps: Believe it or not, without having yet used them, the clamps don't don't seem so bad to me. My local string uses Prince NEOS 1000 stringers and had a Prince Universal Flying clamp that is identical to the Gamma flying clamps. I did a first-hand inspection of the clamps and noticed the sharp edges that everyone complains about... easy enough fix: I'll do what others have suggested/done and tape them with athletic tape or something protective to cover the edges on the clamp handles. What I was told was the most important concern with clamps is that they don't slip. I think I'll find that happy medium by adjusting the clamps before I start stringing. III. Value: At $159.00 and after talking to guys who own $400+ stringers for home use only, I've learned that the guys (I know) who have the more expensive stringers also have access to other stringers and don't seem to use their "personal use" stringers as much as the guys who own the sub-$200 models. Again, from a value proposition perspective, not counting the savings on the free string, if I string my racquet 6 times, I've paid for my machine. IV. Rotational Gripper vs. Linear Gripper: This was one of the points that I struggled with for a long time, as everyone I spoke with that has used both told me that linear grippers are better. The only linear gripper models I considered were Mutual Power and Eagnas (Challenger I). I know a couple guys who own Eagnas models who told me that they have problems with the linear gripper slipping (I guess they need to adjust them with an allen wrench or something). I also heard of a few issues with rotational grippers slipping (less often than sub-$500 linears though). Well, if I'm going to spend money and risk slippage, I'd feel better about having to work with a $200-or-less machine vs a $400 machine. All told though, most I've seen with the Gamma rotational gripper models don't have major issues. V. Accuracy: I've seen enough research to draw the conclusion that this has to do more with the person stringing than the machine. I've seen videos where guys using drop weights don't go 0-degrees on the X-axis every time (which in my mind, would lead to an inconsistent string job with a drop weight). All my research suggests that electronics are probably the most accurate, but even still, they need occasional calibration. Also, my research suggests that tension is relative to the machine and that what's most important is doing it the same way every time. VI. Two-point Mount vs 6-Point Mount: My only hesitation with the two-point mount was the infamous, "frame shrinkage or racquet breaking" reports. Yes, this was a concern but I've heard from a number of USRSA stringers that 2pt mounts are fine if the stringer makes certain his mounting is secure. Also, my primary stringing pro only uses the Prince Neos 1000 machines and they don't have side mounts. I also know a guy who let someone string on his 6pt mount Babolat electronic machine and that person cracked a frame during stringing, so, so much for the thinking that it can't happen on a 6pt. If it can happen on either a 6pt or a 2pt, if I can get a quality machine that's a 2pt for hundreds less than a 6pt, I'll go with it (hence, the X2 decision). Also, I'm not a stringer (yet) and have never strung a racquet, but my mathmatical mind tells me energy of the force of the pounds of stress on the frame doing a string job does not magically go into the four additional mount points. In other words, they don't act as an energy sink. The stress is still going into the frame; it's just that you have four additional points to secure the frame. Now, I've never done any real research into all the differences between 2pt vs 6, its just me doing a little simple math: force applied to a frame is force applied to a frame and therefore, whether or not frame distortion is visible, the racquet is still being stressed at the fibre/micro-fibre level. VII. Fixed vs Flying Clamps: This was my last hurdle to overcome. Everyone I talked to in person told me, "go with fixed: they're easier, faster and produce a more accurate stringjob." I would agree, only that my own research suggests that flying clamps can be equally fast and produce an equally accurate stringjob. As for drawback, in my own mind, I thought that drawback would be more of an issue with flying clamps than with fixed, except for my in-person, up-close observation of fixed clamps drawing back after tension release on a string. Though I have yet to use them, in my mind's eye, the way floating clamps are setup to affix to more than one string may prevent drawback (perhaps, even more so than fixed clamps which affix to a single string). So, there you have it. In the end, I decided that my biggest gain in going with a more expensive stringer with fixed clamps and 6pt mounts (and a linear gripper) would only be in the area of convenience. The Gamma X-2, to me, appears to be as sturdy as the X6FC, X6ST, 602 Progression FC, etc. If I'm getting the same build quality and it's just going to take me a bit longer, or be a bit more inconvenienced because I have to unclamp and move vs. sliding; I felt that for hundreds less, I could deal with that. Also, again, given that I avg $30 per string job, I pretty much played a little math game in my mind and told myself I'm getting a $159.00 stringer for $9. Finally, the X2 seems more portable than the fixed clamp machine I considered. My runners up: Eagnas Challenger I: (I wanted so badly to go with this one; especially given that with it, I also would have gotten free string and a full set of tools. Were this machine $250.00 vs. $319, I would've thrown my "caution" to the wind and taken the chance on build quality and customer service). Silent Partner Swing: This was also close from the sub-$300 machine standpoint; but the Gamma seemed to be as sturdy if not sturdier, plus the value proposition was better with Gamma (more for less: strings and tools with drawer and tray; though the clamps from Silent Partner look a lot more "user-friendly). I would like to thank all of you who were so kind and patient in answering all my questions and helping me to narrow my choices. I hope none of you who own more expensive stringers do not take offense to some of my comments regarding fixed clamp, linear gripper machines. My comments were not intended to offend and were only to show why I decided on the X2. If I had/have to step up to the next echelon of features, sad to say, I'll migrate away from Gamma (sorry, no offense Gamma; but I'm a value guy and for the next level of features in a DW stringer, other companies seem to give you equal or more machine for less money). Eagnas guys, I plan to keep this stringer for at least one year, then re-evaluate. If I decide to sell this one for more features, I'll be browsing your catalog again. Hopefully all the complaints about build quality and customer service fade away. Keep in mind that consumers all want great products, but beyond that, they want equal if-not-better customer service. Great service makes the people spending the money feel good about their purchase, even when the product sometimes falls short of expectations and in the end, grows your new customer base and keeps existing customers coming back. Thanks again everyone and my apologies for the long post!