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Donic Baracuda Table Tennis Rubbers Complete Review with Unboxing Videos!

27 February 2017  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

Patrick Hrdlicka

About the Reviewer

Patrick Hrdlicka is a table tennis enthusiast, who was introduced to the sport by his parents at the age of six. Patrick progressed to play in the highest national cadet and junior team leagues in his native Denmark and was among the top 40 players in his age group, which fostered several long-standing members of the Danish National Team. With college looming, Patrick quit the sport for almost twenty years. During this hiatus, he obtained a Ph.D.-degree in chemistry and accepted a position as professor of chemistry at the University of Idaho.

At the beginning of 2014, the mid-life crisis and yearning for table tennis grew too strong for Patrick and he decided to pick up the sport again. Bitten again by the table tennis bug, he plays 4-6 times per week. 

Since his comeback to table tennis, he has enjoyed combining his analytical and experimental skills with his love for table tennis, testing and reviewing a wide range of table tennis equipment.

  

Donic Baracuda Series – Introduction 

Although the original Donic Baracuda rubber has been around since ~ 2009, it continues to have a loyal following of players who praise its extreme spin levels and high throw angle. In fact, the Donic Baracuda was Tabletennis11.com’s 4th most sold rubber in 2016. The softer Donic Baracuda Big Slam was introduced on the market a couple of years later. Donic recommends both of these German-made rubbers to “players who want to experience maximum spin and rotation” and further goes on to state that they are “ideal rubbers for an active topspin game close to the table and from half-distance” and “ideally suited for variable serves and returns.” 

The Baracuda rubbers come in blue (regular) and red (Big Slam) glossy cardboard packaging. Both Baracuda rubbers have a faint sweet booster smell and display considerable doming upon unpacking. The uncut sheets weigh 69 g (regular, max, black, 169 mm x 171 mm) and 65 g (Big Slam, max, black, 169 mm x 169 mm). The identical topsheets are glossy, grippy and have 13 pips per 5 cm in the horizontal direction and 22 pips per 5 cm in the vertical direction. The sponges of both rubbers are bright orange and have a high density of medium (regular) and smaller (Big Slam) pores. A simple blind press test revealed the following approximate order of hardness (from firmest to softest): Xiom Omega V Tour > Nittaku Fastarc G-1 ≥ Tibhar Evolution EL-S > Nittaku Fastarc C-1 ≥ regular Baracuda ≥ Tibhar Evolution FX-S ≥ Baracuda Big Slam ≥ Gewo nanoFLEX 40. I estimate the hardness of regular Baracuda to be 42.5-45.0, while the Big Slam version is 40.0-42.5 on the ESN scale. 

Donic provides the following information regarding the control, speed, and spin of the two rubbers on the packaging front: regular version: 6/10-/10++, and Big Slam: 7/9-/10++.

Testing procedure:
I tested brand-new and unboosted Baracuda rubbers using an OFF- rated flexible 7-ply all-wood blade and TSP Spinlord Waran short pips in my backhand. I attached the rubbers to the blade using three layers of Revolution 3 normal viscosity glue and first evaluated the regular Baracuda followed by the Big Slam version over two sessions each, using seamless 3-star 40+ plastic balls. The sessions involved a mix of practice matches, simple drills, and playing against a Robopong 2050.

Donic Baracuda – The rubber for a controlled looping game-style

Donic describes the regular version of Baracuda as providing “considerably more spin and more precision in all playing situations. Extremely high flight curve when playing top spin”. 

Playing impressions:

The Donic Baracuda weighs 49 grams when cut to a 157x150 mm blade, which is similar to Xiom’s Omega V Tour (50 g), Tibhar’s Evolution EL-S (50 g), or Nittaku’s Fastarc G-1 (49 g). The Baracuda has a neutral feel on FH drives - not too disengaged/numb but also not the most responsive rubber on the market. The first couple of FH drives quickly revealed that the Baracuda is not a speed monster. However, it still has sufficient power to enable mid-distance play. I have heard many fables of Baracuda’s high throw angle, but in my opinion, it is ‘only’ a medium to medium-high throw rubber. Looping is, nonetheless, quite pleasant - controlled and clearly the Baracuda’s greatest strength. There is plenty of clearance over the net when looping against heavy backspin. However, the Baracuda’s moderate speed means that the rubber best is coupled with faster arm action and more leg power than with Tibhar’s Evolution EL-S, Xiom’s Omega V Tour or Nittaku’s Fastarc G-1 to ensure that the ball has sufficient depth and penetration. The spin levels generated on slow loops are – even by today’s standards – very respectable albeit not category-leading. The above-average throw angle becomes especially apparent on loop-to-loop rallies from mid-distance and beyond, as these shots can be played with full commitment and a beautiful arc. Flat hits with the Baracuda are ok, but the moderate pace coupled with the medium-high throw angle means that flat hits have to be played with determination to ensure high top-speed. The Baracuda’s bouncy nature, medium-high throw angle, and noticeable spin-sensitivity caused me some difficulties while blocking, with many balls flying off the end of the table. I missed the firm absorbing feeling that the rubbers mentioned above provide on blocking. Aggressive serve returns can be played with good control despite the Baracuda’s spin-sensitive nature, presumably due to the moderate speed. Passive serve returns and touch shots are trickier due to the rubber’s bouncy nature and required soft hands from my end. The spin levels on my serves seemed ok but surely are not category-leading. A pleasant consequence of the Baracuda’s moderate pace was that I could vary the length of my serves with great confidence – I could serve short and angled or – by using more weight transfer from my upper body and legs – serve long and fast.

Donic Baracuda

Conclusion:
It is easy to understand why the Donic Baracuda continues to be a very popular rubber, especially among intermediate players. It is capable of producing considerable spin on low-to-medium impact shots, it is quite controllable especially when playing aggressively, and will be fast enough for the majority of players. I used a dynamic 7-ply all-wood blade in these tests, which was a great companion for this rubber. Composite blades will – quite likely – also work well and provide a setup with an extra snap. 

Serves: 8.5/10
Serve receives and short game: 8.5/10
Looping: 9/10
Flat hitting: 8/10
Blocking: 8/10

Read Donic Baracuda Customer Reviews & Get Our Best Price >>

 

Donic Baracuda Big Slam – A robust and forgiving allround rubber

Donic describes the Baracuda Big Slam as being “noticeably softer and hence as having more control than that the regular Baracuda. Very fast, well-balanced and with great sound.” 

Playing impressions:
The Donic Baracuda Big Slam is relatively light at ~46 grams when cut to a 157x150 mm blade, which is similar to Tibhar’s Evolution FX-S (47 g), Gewo’s nanoFLEX FT 40 (46 g), or Nittaku’s Fastarc C-1 (47 g). My impressions of the Baracuda Big Slam do not differ greatly from the regular version. It feels slightly softer, slower, and less spinny, especially on high-impact shots. Thus, the feeling on FH drives is solid but not particularly crisp. FH loops, on the other hand, do feel a little bit crisper due to the softer sponge, which also provides an audible click and a medium-high ball trajectory that gives sufficient safety over the net despite the moderate speed of the rubber. Respectable amounts of spin can be generated on low- and medium-impact loops, which also experience a mild catapult. The underlying blade’s character is felt more prominently on high-impact loop-drives, and it is quite clear that the spin levels on these shots are lower than with the regular version. Flat hits are solid and controllable, but not particularly fast, unless played with a lot of wrist snap. Just like with the regular Baracuda, I found blocking to be challenging with the Big Slam version, presumably due to the somewhat bouncy sponge and above average spin sensitivity. For sure, an unusually high number my blocks floated past the end of the table. Along the same lines, passive serve returns and touch shots were a little bit challenging to keep low and short, especially when taking the rubber’s moderate speed into account. Aggressive serve returns, on the other hand, could be played with high confidence, suggesting that active strokes need to be used to overcome the inherent bounciness and spin sensitivity. A solid, but not outstanding, amount of spin can be imparted on the ball on serves. 

Serves: 8.5/10
Serve receives and short game: 8/10
Looping: 8.5/10
Flat hitting: 8/10
Blocking: 8/10

Read Donic Baracuda Big Slam Customer Reviews & Get Our Best Price >>

 

Conclusion:
Donic Baracuda Big Slam caters to intermediate level players with a controlled offensive playing style. More advanced/aggressive players likely will find this rubber to be a little too slow and deficient in spin.

Got any questions or comments? Let us know in the discussion section below! 
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