James is back with a guest post. The Angell React racquets have impressed him. Here is his Angell React Pro 96 review.
Angell React Pro 96 Review
The Angell React Pro 96 is made by Angell, aka Paul Angell, the man behind Dunlop/Slazenger professional custom frames and a pioneer of pro-stock ‘pin’ formats.
Angell specializes in products with high-quality control and also gives you the option to customize a finished frame to many spec levels or even your bespoke specifications within achievable reason, I’m led to believe, if you ask nicely.
The new Angell frame is called ‘React’ and comes in a couple of head sizes (96&99) and string patterns. I know that Jonas is reviewing a custom spec React 99 18×19, another exciting frame.
Check out the Angell React racquets.
The confidence of the 18×20 pattern
So this brings me to the Angell React Pro 96. Who is it for? Well, my doubles partner, for a start. He has a long history of using Head Radical MP frames in 18×20 patterns before customizing his own spec frames based on an old Slazenger 16×18 pattern frame, even custom paint jobs and grip/palette swaps. After becoming frustrated at the spec tolerances of major manufacturers, like many, he rocked up one day with some Angell React frames.
I shall be blunt: the first frames were 16×19 patterns, and both of us found the launch angle and general liveliness of the frame quite hard to reason with, BUT many people like a more open pattern, and this should not dissuade you if you do.
The frame left a good enough impression for him to change and order the same spec immediately but in an 18×20 pattern.
Out of the box, the paint looks and feels lovely, with the design of the yoke/bridge a nice aesthetic feature of the frame. The custom serial number, personal to you, is stuck solidly in the throat of the frame. Angell keeps a record of what you ordered and, therefore, can replicate it in the future if needed.
First impressions are, therefore, pretty nice indeed. It feels like a quality product.
We have noticed that, yes, the paint chips, but I cannot be critical of this because other manufacturers, even those with the best QC, have paint that chips on some models, too, this is not any worse, it is a quality finish.
The specification of the custom test frames starts as 295g unstrung weight, and I believe his were 6pts h/l, specified with the old school Head (TK82) grip shape. Frames are strung in Head Hawk Touch Pro-player issue mains and Isospeed Classic Professional cross strings, both about 1.25 gauge.
On the first swing it feels like it has decent substance and plow-through, almost familiar. Except it swings quickly through the air, which feels less familiar, but that isn’t a negative.
What does it remind me of? The 18×20 pattern on contact feels similar to what I’ve been used to, a head 18×20 pattern, but with seemingly easier access to launch and spin. The frame is not stiff. It feels well engineered and dampened despite not being foam-filled like its TC custom siblings. (I tried the V1 custom TC95 and thought….ooooh, this is NICE…..but that’s another story). Stable, but not at all ‘stiff,’ with familiarities would be a reasonable sum up.
On impact, with nice strings, I’m not saying this is ‘PT57A2’ buttery feel, but there is a certain familiarity, a ‘oomph’, a solidity, a familiar impact feel, which is meant as a compliment. Confusingly, perhaps therefore that the frame in some ways reminded me of an IG Radical MP and also an older model… whatever is woven into the layup of the React, I have no idea, and I won’t pander to Paul’s almost tongue-in-cheek marketing of ‘React’ fibers. This is a quality product made of what feels like top-notch materials, high modulus carbon, Taparan/Kevlar/Twaron or some form of aramid fiber and something else that feels familiar from the IG rad/prestige.
And I know Paul would understand my view on this, the wheel is still round. Whatever layup changes are made to frames can make them ‘feel’ more ‘stable’ or ‘flex’ when the same or similar materials are arranged or layered or angled a bit differently to achieve a higher RA stiffness or feel like it bends differently.
Quality (out of) control
I’m not knocking other brands here; I use them myself, but the lengths I have had to go to get matched frames or just simple things like spare grommets would raise eyebrows.
Remember, Angell guarantees the spec you order and has readily available spare grommets at a price point that is 2/3 of what mainstream manufacturers are about to attempt to quote as a retail price point. Bespoke guaranteed high qc zero-tolerance frames, that is pretty much pro-stock speak.
Who is it for?
I’m not going to describe what each shot feels like with this frame because we all have different swing styles and ideas of how a frame should feel. In the 18/20 pattern, this frame is point and shoot straight as an arrow, and the speed and spin coming off this frame at me is more than what frames he used before. There is ample touch around the net with this frame, time and time again, I have seen a lot of quality tennis produced with this frame.
So, who is this frame ‘for’. Well, it works well at high-speed competitive doubles, and clearly, the damned thing belts a ball.
I would say that the Angell React 96 suits someone with more modern, fast swings, like Taylor Fritz. Who, by a quirk of fate, uses….a pro stock lightish weight IG Radical MP…..however I don’t think this is fair because I don’t personally swing like that, and I thought the frame was great.
So, I will quote perhaps another well-known reviewer’s phrase/term. ‘ Babolat Benefits’. This frame suits someone, not just a fast-swinging modern player, but it suits someone who KNOWS their frame and likes a 95/MP slim beamed racket like a Prestige or older Radical or Dunlop 200g/300g…..but they wish they had a few ‘Babolat Benefits’ without the extra jump in head size. A bit easier power, easier access to spin, and is more forgiving when off-center….but still, a nice size head that feels nice to ‘throw’ perhaps on a one-handed backhand. It’s stable enough to knife slices and volleys, and this React 96 18×20 does that.
A modern control racquet
The more ‘aero’ beam may not be too tasty for someone who uses a thin box beam, but it is perhaps better to swallow that change rather than be unhappy with a larger head size.
So, the Angell React 96 (custom pro) 18×20. A frame that would suit seriously aspiring young swinging hard-hitting future competitive players who need access to top quality high qc identical frames for their match play.
Note that other brands quote +/-7g on their frames, and one is about to attempt to lessen the issue for ‘mortal’ players by claiming ‘each frame within 5g and the same balance point’ in actual English that still gives a potential 10g tolerance swing and random swing weights. Good idea, better, but still utter nonsense, unless your pro shop has machinery and knows how to measure and balance frames or find matching frames for you, this could be a huge issue.
Get the kitchen scales out, measure your favorite frame static weight, find a balance board and measure the balance point, seek advice, and find a shop to measure your swing weight and get to know YOUR preferred specifications. Talk to a quality pro shop.
And then, who knows, look at Angell, they may have the frame you are looking for.
The new Angell React range, then. The funky-colored frame benefits the up-and-coming demanding youngster who is serious about their equipment and game quality.
But also works for old farts like ………me.
Thanks to Martin at Mandls for the use of the frames. Not so much thanks for the aces.
Life in the old dog, yet.