Want to save some cash? Read this stringing machine comparison and lace up
your racquet using one of the stringing machines reviewed here.
In this sport, a hundred-dollar tennis racquet can last for years, a can of balls costs less than three bucks, and free outdoor courts can be found at every turn. Tennis really is a budget-friendly game—until you get to the small problem of strings. If you play often and hard, you may cough up $30 for a string job four times a month. that's over $1,400 in one year.
Here's your solution: Buy a stringing machine. We've reviewed four here. They vary in the three major aspects of stringing: Mounting the racquet, pulling the strings, and clamping the string to hold the tension. But they all do the same thing: Help you string your stick while keeping your wallet closed.
If you have no stringing experience (for a primer, see "racquet stringing explained" below), the manuals included with the machines make it relatively easy to learn the basics. But don't kid yourself—your first racquet could take a couple of hours, and you'll need to do several frames before you begin to feel even somewhat comfortable with the process.
After you get good at it, you can string for your friends and teammates—perhaps for the low price of $20 per job.
Having doubts or feeling lazy? Think about it this way: If you save
$15 for every string job you do yourself, even the most expensive model here will have paid for itself in two years. After that, everything is gravy.
The perfect machine for beginners, the Klippermate has great customer service and does a fine string job. Now that's value.
Drop-weight machine • Two-point mounting • Lifetime warranty
Mounting a frame is a hands-on process. For those used to six-point
systems, two support points might seem inadequate, but the racquet
stays secure on the Klippermate.
The string-tensioning system requires virtually no strength to operate, and gripping and releasing the string is easy.
High-quality floating clamps, good awl to punch through closed grommet
holes, and pliers. Plus, the starting pin makes the beginning of a
string job, usually a pain with floating clamps, about as
reliable and easy as with fixed clamps.
ALPHA PIONEER DC ($399)
This machine is great for players who have more money to spend on fixed clamps and a more secure mounting system.
Drop-weight machine • Six-point mounting • Five-year warranty
simple. Large knobs make it easy to adjust the mounting points, and the
frame feels more secure on this machine than any of the others here.
But the support points occasionally get in the way of threading the
parallel string-gripping jaws and ratcheting action allow you to
tension strings without much effort—but the learning curve is slightly
steeper than on the Klippermate.
The swiveling fixed clamps are a nice upgrade from floating clamps. Plus, the machine comes with excellent cutters.
GAMMA X-ES ($949)
This electronic machine is a great option, especially if you want to move up from the manual work of drop-weight machines.
Electronic machine • Six-point mounting • Five-year warranty (one year for string clamps and electrical components)
The six-point system is similar to the Alpha's, but ensuring that the frame doesn't slip takes more time and effort.
You wrap the string around the gripper and simply push a button to
pull it tight. Or, even better, you can use the foot pedal, which frees
your hands to thread the next string while the current one is being
The knobs used to tighten the clamps were hard to turn. But Gamma
provides a cool Pathfinder awl, which creates a tunnel for threading
string through a blocked hole.
PRINCE NEOS 1000 ($1199)
It's a lot for an amateur stringer to spend, but it's worth every penny. This industry standard makes stringing painless.
Upright crank machine • Two-point mounting • Five-year warranty
This two-point system held the racquet securely and was the easiest to use of the four machines here.
a breeze. The crank lets you tension strings with little effort.
One bummer: The turntable can't rotate a full 360 degrees because
the racquet handle bumps into the crank mechanism.
sliding fixed clamps are as fast to operate as floating clamps, but you
have to make sure to keep them clean with rubbing alcohol so they slide
smoothly. Two floating clamps are also included if you need some added
help or prefer to string with those.
Racquet Stringing Explained
The stringing machines featured
here have either two-point or six-point mounting systems to hold the
racquet in place while you string. (Some machines out there have
four-point systems.) Typically, the six-point setup is more secure, but
it also depends on the machine's quality.
This refers to the process of
lacing the string through the grommet holes. Main (up and down) strings
are done first, then cross strings. The racquet maker's website will
tell you (a) how many main and cross strings there should be, (b) which
holes are good for tying off the string when you're done, and (c) which
holes you should skip when you're doing the mains because they're
reserved for cross strings.
There are three kinds of
tensioning systems. Drop-weight machines are the most hands-on (and
slowest), using a weight and gravity to pull the string; crank machines
use a spring-loaded mechanism that you have to operate but requires
little effort; electronic machines use an AC-powered tensioner that
lets you tighten a string with the push of a button. With all three
machines, you tighten one string at a time, first the mains, then the
Clamps hold the string tight while
you remove it from the tensioning system and start to lace up the next
main or cross string. The most basic are floating clamps, which are
unattached to the machine; they hold tension by clamping onto two
tensioned strings at the same time. Fixed clamps, which are more
reliable (and expensive), are attached to the machine and require you
to grip only one string at a time.