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TSP Spectol Red Review - The Faster, Softer, and More Deceptive Version of the Classic Spectol

13 September 2017  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

About the Reviewer

Patrick HrdlickaPatrick 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.

I was recently given an opportunity to evaluate three short pimpled rubbers for, i.e., the TSP Spectol Red, Yasaka Rakza PO, and Nittaku Moristo SP. This post is about TSP Spectol Red specifically. You can find links to the other 2 reviews at the bottom of this post.

I have been playing with short pips in my backhand for a little over two years and the reviews should be viewed in this light. During this time, I have tried 10+ different short pimpled rubbers including Spinlord Waran, Spinlord Waran II, TSP Spectol, RITC 802-40, Xiom Zava, Stiga Clippa, Stiga Radical, and Stiga Royal.

Testing procedure
I evaluated the three short pimpled rubbers on the Nittaku Ma Long Seven blade that I recently reviewed, along with a sheet of DHS’ Hurricane 3 Neo (provincial version, 2.15 mm, 40-degree orange sponge, black) in my FH. The rubbers were attached to the blade using Revolution 3 normal viscosity glue. I evaluated each set-up over at least two sessions, playing a mix of simple drills and matches against my regular practice partners using Nittaku J-Top 40+ plastic balls. 

TSP Spectol Red (1.7-1.9 mm, red) – The Faster, Softer, and More Deceptive Version of the Classic Spectol

TSP Spectol RedThe regular TSP Spectol has been a top-seller for decades and is one of the best-known short pips rubbers. According to TSP, Spectol Red is a softer and faster version that is made using the “integrated Dynamic Tension technology”. TSP further states that the light Japanese offensive sponge offers a unique catapult effect and tons of speed, and that the proven Spectol pip design provides for a highly dangerous pips-out effects. TSP lists the speed, control, and spin as 107/84/86 and 97/89/80 for Spectol Red and regular Spectol, respectively. 

The TSP Spectol Red comes in simple red and black cardboard packaging. The rubber’s key characteristics, including a comparison with Spectol Blue, are listed on the back. The sheet has a rubbery smell with a faint hint of booster liquid. It is exceptionally light weighing 43 g uncut (height x width: 177 x 167 mm) and 30 g cut to the 160 x 151 mm Nittaku Ma Long Seven blade. The matte top-sheet feels grippy and appears to be of high quality. The vertically aligned pips are small (~1.9 mm diameter), have a truncated cone shape (more than regular Spectol), and are higher than average short pips and therefore relatively soft to the touch. The top of the pips are rough and grippy. There are 16 pips per 5 cm in the vertical direction, and 10 pips per 5 cm in the horizontal direction. The red sponge has a low density of tiny pores and feels relatively soft (~ 40-degree on the ESN scale). 

Playing impressions
The first couple of BH drives revealed that the TSP Spectol Red indeed is a little softer and somewhat faster than the regular Spectol. My BH drives were, accordingly, a little bit less consistent, but still very controlled. The level of deception (spin reversal, knuckle ball or wobble) is very low, albeit marginally higher than with the regular Spectol. Short pimpled rubbers such as Spinlord Waran and – in particular – Xiom Zava, produce a much more treacherous ball trajectory and knuckle ball effect but are also associated with lower levels of control. The throw angle is – by short pips standards – medium. I seemed to have a little bit more clearance over the net than usual. Hitting through backspin – be it flicking on short pushes or BH drives on long pushes –  is quite easy, although slightly less consistent than with regular Spectol, a characteristic that I attribute to the softer and faster nature of the Spectol Red. The short pips are fast and grippy enough to easily allow for BH ‘loops’ from mid- and far-distance. For sure, these shots are easier to play than with the Spinlord Waran or Xiom Zava rubbers. Blocking with the Spectol Red is relatively comfortable and lightning fast. Occasionally, I felt that the rubber was a little bit too soft to adequately absorb the kinetic energy from very high quality loops, resulting in blocks that overshot the table. I found it easy to play short touch shots and pushes. A respectable amount of backspin can be produced on long pushes. While I rarely chop from mid- or far-distance with short pips in matches, I enjoy to practice these shots. It is quite easy to vary between floating dead balls and heavy backspin chops with the Spectol Red, although the rubber is too fast to play this game style consistently. 

The Spectol Red is a short pimpled rubber that has many of the characteristics of the original Spectol rubber. It is faster, softer, and slightly more deceptive and less controlled than the original Spectol. While the original Spectol is the quintessential allround short pimpled rubber that can be used for offensive as well as defensive strategies, Spectol Red lends itself toward a more aggressive game style that still allows for defensive strategies when absolutely needed. Anyone contemplating a shift from regular/inverted rubbers to short pimpled rubbers, should have the Spectol Red (and, especially, regular Spectol) high on their list because it is a rubber that is relatively easy to adjust to, given its lack of deception.

Speed: 9/10
Spin: 7/10
Control: 8/10
Deception: 3/10
Hitting through backspin: 8.5/10
BH “loops” from mid-distance: 8.5/10 
Blocking: 8.5/10 
Short game: 8.5/10
Chopping: 8/10

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Yasaka Rakza PO Review
Nittaku Moristo SP Review