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Review: DHS Hurricane 301x

19 March 2021  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

DHS Hurricane 301x – Faster and with a crisper feeling than its predecessor

      DHS recently released the Hurricane 301x that is described as a slightly thicker and more powerful version of the Hurricane 301, which I have previously reviewed on this blog. Given that I found the regular DHS Hurricane 301 to be fast and powerful, I expected to be in for a wild ride with the 301x.  

     DHS states that new production technologies have been employed, which supposedly render the 301x less susceptible to fluctuations in temperature and humidity, and thus slow down any performance degradation. Like the regular 301, the 301x is a 5+2 composite blade with a thick arylate carbon layer located next to the thick ayous core (~3 mm). The penultimate ayous plies are surrounded by hard, grey koto outer plies (combined thickness ~1.4 mm). As far as I was able to deduce, using an inexpensive microscope, the main difference between the 301x vis-à-vis the 301 is a thicker Arylate carbon layer. The 301x comes in the same sturdy and shiny silver box as the regular 301, which features an elegant magnetic closing mechanism. Except for the sticker on the front of the box listing the blade’s name, there is little additional explanatory text. Inside, the shrink-wrapped blade rests on cardboard padding. The surface ply is dyed in a metallic grey color that is several shades darker than that of the 301. The purplish-blue handle has an inverted “Y”-shaped yellow stripe, but unlike the 301, the bottom of the handle is completely yellow and the easiest way to tell the blades apart. The playing surface is without text. The handle has a black plastic lens on the FH side and a black circular plastic label on the bottom.

     The playing surface of the 301x has the following dimensions (height x width): ~158 mm x ~151 mm with a thickness of 6.0 mm, which is 0.1 mm more than the 301. The FL handle has the following dimensions: length ~101.5 mm, width ~25.6-35.0 mm, and height ~21.4-25.1 mm. The handle and – especially – the neck are quite thin. The build quality of the test blade was a little questionable. The neck was sanded unevenly, the edges were a little sharp, and – most noticeably – the carbon weave was protruding along the length of the handle giving it a lumpy feel. The test blade weighed 89 g and produced a pitch of ~1378 Hz when bouncing a ball on the naked blade, which is significantly higher than for the regular 301 (1335 Hz), consistent with the notion that the 301x is supposed to be slightly faster.   

Testing Procedure

     I tested the brand-new blade as-is without any additional varnishing/lacquering. I attached well-used sheets of DHS Hurricane 3 (2.15 mm, black, provincial version, 40-degrees orange sponge) and Spinlord Waran II (2.0 mm, red) short pips on the FH and BH side, respectively, using one layer of Revolution 3 normal viscosity glue. I tested the set-up over 4-5 practice sessions playing a mix of regular and match-like drills against my regular high-level practice partner using Neottec Neoplast Pro 40+ or Nittaku J-Top training balls. 

Playing Impressions

Initial Impressions

     The 301x set-up felt surprisingly light and nimble given its comparatively high weight (181 g; my set-ups are typically ~175 g), presumably because the center of gravity is strongly tilted towards the blade head. As mentioned, the blade neck is very thin, which some players with large hands may dislike. Personally, I like narrow blade necks despite having big hands, as it gives me the ability to use a looser grip and make grip adjustments during play.  


     The Hurricane 301x is a fast blade (i.e., OFF), but slower than I expected based on how I remembered the regular 301. However, the trajectory is quite low and long, giving the perception that the blade is really fast. The feeling on FH drives with the Hurricane 3 is direct but not as “pingy” as some other composite blades. Presumably, that’s a result of the outer koto layer and the inner ALC construction. I enjoyed excellent consistency on my FH drives, although I used a slightly more open bat angle to gain a couple of millimeters of additional clearance over the net. BH drives with the Waran II short pips are similarly fast and flat but felt distinctly ‘thinner’ than with the 7-ply blades that I normally use, which slightly reduced my consistency.  


     The blade’s head-oriented center of gravity inherently renders the Hurricane 301x a looper’s blade since it promotes forward momentum. Unsurprisingly, it pairs well with the Hurricane 3 FH rubber, giving it a much-needed kick. FH loops against blocks are fast and deep. Spin levels are a little lower than with the 7-ply all-wood blades that I usually use due to a slightly shorter dwell time. However, the flatter and faster trajectory of the FH loops renders them equally dangerous. When FH looping against backspin, I found myself using a more open bat angle and/or more wrist action to compensate for the lower throw angle. My error rate was slightly higher than usual, but the shots were also faster than normal, winning me a similar proportion of points. It is a lot of fun playing FH-to-FH loop rallies with the 301x given its speed reserves. In fact, I had to pace myself in order not to overshoot the table. 

     I struggled a little bit more with my BH openers against backspin using short pips. A greater-than-usual proportion of my shots got hung up on the top of the net and/or flew beyond the table end. I attribute this to a combination of the blade’s higher inherent speed and shorter dwell time resulting in a flatter trajectory. Players using inverted rubbers in their BH, however, would likely be able to get the ball to travel in a more arched trajectory for greater safety.     


     The H3/301x combination works very well for passive FH blocks, which felt crisp, fast, and yet controlled. I found myself clipping the net more often than usual on more aggressive FH blocks, which likely is a consequence of the medium-low throw angle. However, when I managed to land those shots, they were quasi unreturnable. 

     The thin, sharp, and fast nature of the 301x gave me some challenges on passive BH blocks with the Waran 2 short pips. Passive blocking proved to be too timing-dependent to be reliable, something that I attribute to the short dwell time of the blade. Thus, a greater-than-usual proportion of my BH blocks either clipped the net or careened beyond the table in a flat trajectory. I had much more success using an aggressive block style employing a short wristy motion, as this produced very fast, flat, and often unreturnable shorts. Interestingly, the 301x also worked rather well for BH chop blocks with the Waran II short pips, resulting in hard-to-return spin-inverted blocks.  


     The 301x works well on flicks, especially BH flicks with the W2, which are facilitated by the crisp feeling on ball impact. Moreover, since the blade is quite fast, well-placed flicks are challenging to return for your opponents.  


     Unsurprisingly, the 301x produces blisteringly fast flat hits and smashes that are near-impossible to return. 


     Considering how fast and direct the 301x is, I enjoyed a surprisingly high consistency on both FH and BH long pushes, which were fast, flat, and - judging by my practice partner’s looping efforts – quite spinny. It is important, however, to hit the ball towards the top of the blade head for high-quality FH pushes; if the push is mistimed and hit closer to the handle, the resulting low-spin push is more likely to careen past the table end than with other blades. Short pushes and dropshots are surprisingly easy to execute with the 301x, as the blade is quite subdued on these low-impact shots. 


     Unsurprisingly, it is quite challenging to play BH short pip chops far from the table with the 301x, as it is a fast, relatively hard blade with a relatively short dwell time. While I could land the first 1-3 BH chops on the table, it was hard to maintain the consistency, especially against high-powered loop drives and smashes.


     The crisp feeling of the 301x works well in concert with my Hurricane 3 FH rubber, allowing for the execution of short, spinny serves. Slow topspin/sidespin serves also exhibited respectable spin levels. It is also possible to execute very fast topspin/sidespin serves with good control of ball placement. 


     The DHS Hurricane 301x blade is a great blade for skilled aggressive two-winged loopers, and especially for those using the traditional Chinese set-up, i.e., a tacky slow FH rubber and a springier non-tacky inverted BH rubber. Conversely, the 301x is less well-suited for players using short pips.

Comparison between 301 and 301x

     I re-tested the regular Hurricane 301 using identical rubbers to facilitate comparison. The two blades are surprisingly different. First off, the center of gravity of the Hurricane 301 is tilted more towards the handle, giving the blade a different, less nimble feel, and less acceleration on forward-momentum shots (drives, loops, smashes). Also, the feeling upon striking the ball is markedly softer and has far less carbon feeling than the 301x. In other words, the 301 feels far “woodier” and hollower than the 301x, although it still has a koto “kick”, which results in long ball trajectories. My FH loops were slower but slightly spinnier than with the 301x. The more muted contact point did not impact the consistency of my FH loops but did reduce the consistency of my FH blocks, short pip BH openers against backspin, and BH blocks. Pushes and the short game, on the other hand, seemed more precise with the 301. Defensive BH chopping with the Waran II short pips was marginally better with the 301. All in all, I would recommend the 301 for those using comparatively faster European-style inverted rubbers, whereas 301x is the better choice for those using tacky Chinese rubbers, given its crisper feeling and higher speed.    




About the Reviewer

     Patrick 'Pong Professor' Hrdlicka is a table tennis enthusiast with a Ph.D. in chemistry who combines his analytical and experimental skills with his love of table tennis in order to test and review a wide range of table tennis equipment.