I recently bought the Prince Response Pro because of the comments made about it from Simone Jardim, a 5.0 level pro and gold medeal winner. Even though I'm just a 3.5 level player, I was intrigued when, according to Simone, it performed with aggressive, game winning passing-shots.
I've been a more aggressive player and despite seeing other players beat me because of finesse and touch, I've always been a power player.
So, I purchased the Prince Response Pro and decided to give it a go. I put it through the ringer and played with it exclusively for an entire month. I could tell within minutes of playing a practice round with it...I knew I was in for a treat. I've never got used to a paddle so quickly! I instantly liked it!
Very few paddles can actually help a player get better; but this one does! It's nudged my Engage Poach Advantage out of my top spot. In this play test review, I'm going to explain why.
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Like I said, I'm not a 5.0 level player but I love the game of pickleball. I come from a tennis background where I played in high school. So, I've been a fan of racket sports pretty much my whole life.
As I've improved over time with pickleball, I've seen my need for a paddle with accuracy grow and grow. That's why I'm such a fan of the Poach Advantage from Engage.
But the Response Pro offers another level of accuracy and precise power I just don't get with the Poach Advantage. The Response Pro has offered me more of that "point and shoot" type of accuracy. I've felt that before with other paddles but with this one; its there more often. More consistently.
The DEEP baseline serves this thing allowed me to perform were insane! If I wanted to push my opponent to the deep corner on a serve, I could...consistently!
My topspin forehand hits had pop to them without losing a lot of precision. Did I hit deep return of serves on the line every time? Of course not, but that has more to do with the player; not the paddle.
The point I'm trying to make is that this paddle is consistent, steady, powerful and on target the majority of the time. In my opinion, it's worth every penny!
Aside from my topspin forehands and deep serves feeling fantastic with this paddle, it impressed me the most with a shot I wasn't expecting to be able to hit...
I had a lot of shots hit at me where I had to hustle to get over to the ball, but I was late getting my feet set and could not get in front of the ball...so I had to reach and flick with my Response Pro just to try to get a little paddle on the ball. Not only did I connect, but my return was on point!
I want you to picture a right handed player running to his left to try to get to a backhand shot but having to stretch and reach across his body just to get a little paddle on the ball to keep the point alive. That was me, out of position, reaching across my body with a little, hopeless backhand "flick" at the ball.
This backhand cross court flick I was able to perform was amazing! It wasn't just a poor attempt to get the ball back over the net, it was actually an effective, sometimes lethal shot!
One play in particular stands out. My opponent had hit a great cross court shot, forcing me to run and make a play on the ball. My opponent then came up to the center of the kitchen line, prepared to put the point away with a smash or drive shot.
But my cross court flick was SO on point, it connected with the sweet spot of the Response Pro and flew low over the net, landing right into the right hand corner of the kitchen line, then out of bounds. Point over. Game over. Winner...me!
I literally stopped and looked at this paddle in amazement. I've never had a paddle assist me in making such a difficult shot. I was sold.
I chose the "standard" weight for the Response Pro. Prince advertises that the standard version comes in at 7.8 to 8.3 ounces. It also comes in a "lightweight" version that has a range of 7.2 to 7.7 ounces.
Paddle weight is not an exact science that's why manufacturers give themselves a little wiggle room. If you order an 8.2 ounce paddle, it may not be exactly 8.2 ounces.
I like the standard weight of the Response Pro but if I had one small gripe about this paddle is that I'd prefer it to be a teeny, tiny bit heavier. But, it's possible I got a "standard" paddle closer to that 7.8 ounce range than 8.3oz.
Overall, even after just 10 minutes of play, I was impressed with how this paddle felt in my hands. Prince has taken the traditional "tennis oval" shape and applied it to their pickleball paddles. They're the only ones doing that, and I'm a fan.
The oval shape just makes sense - it gives you more hitters real estate. It has that wide body feel but it felt light and nimble in my hands. The oval shape provides a nice round, wide sweet spot that was noticeable day in and day out.
I did notice some dead spot towards the top of the paddle but, those just turned into "miss-hits" that still made it over the net. Every paddle has dead spots, and the Prince Response Pro has a few at the top.
But even when I didn't connect in the center of the paddle, and didn't quiet hit the bullseye sweet spot, the ball still came off the paddle decent, It didn't fall dead like I've seen in some paddles.
It's perfectly balanced too. The weight isn't central to any one part of the paddle. It isn't "head heavy" at the top of the paddle face. Nor is it handle heavy either. It's a perfectly balanced samurai sword on the pickleball court.
Right from the get go, I could tell this paddle had some "oomph" behind it. I've played with other paddles and within in 30 minutes, had some miss-hit shots that fell short. But those paddles were lighter...
That didn't happen with the Response Pro. It's certainly possible that it would have happened if I had chosen the lighter version. But, with the standard version, I felt like it had an appropriate amount of kick to it.
But, did I feel the paddle was overly aggressive like the Gearbox X5 Power? No. Not at all. In fact, it felt like a perfect balance of power and control. I'd call it precision power.
For example, the deep baseline hugging serves I smacked with this paddle felt really good! But power is only good if you can control that power and with the Prince Response Pro, I felt like I was in complete control of where I wanted my power to go.
I had some great deep serves with this baby. There was a little break-in time to get used to the paddle, and some serves early-on were too deep but I was able to adjust and get comfortable with this paddle very very quickly.
The pop of this paddle was also on display on my return of serves as well. I had many deep returns, keeping my opponents back at the baseline and even a few that I was able to blast back in between my opponents before they could make a decisions as to who's ball it was.
Power and speed can win a point early on, and this paddle delivers that!
The amount of control I felt from the Prince Response Pro was impressive as well. The accuracy I felt with my serves really stood out to me.
My top spin forehand return of serves also were very consistent. Over time, I felt like I was able to put the ball where I wanted it to go.
I never once felt like I wasn't in control of this paddle. Which is rare. Most paddles reveal their weakness to me early on. But with the Response Pro, it kept impressing me, and becoming more comfortable.
Control at the kitchen line was good as well. It felt good stepping into the kitchen line and bouncing one back at my opponents to the opposite side of the No Volley Zone.
One the down side, I did have some higher shots at the kitchen line than I'd like to admit. Effective shots at the kitchen line need to be low. I hit some that were just flat out too high.
Those shots resulted in the ball getting popped back at me. I was essentially lobbing up a smash for my opponent, versus keeping the ball low over the net.
But this probably has more to do with me as a player than the paddle. A more skilled player would most likely find the control needed with this paddle with no issues.
In my opinion, measuring a paddle's "dinkability" as I call it, is one of the most difficult things to do.
It's difficult because skill level has a lot do with it. Advanced players can produce good dink shots with almost any paddle. They've mastered the art of "touch."
But, since I'm not a 5.0 tourney pro, I still need to concentrate in order to put just the right amount of touch on the ball when at the kitchen line...regardless of the paddle.
So, when it came to judging the Prince Response Pro's dink shot at the net, I started but just playing a friendly game of Dink and Go with three other players...my partner and the two players across from us.
We simply took turns hitting dinks back and forth. The goal was to just dink and go...keep the volley alive and hit it back and forth. There was no point trying to be won. We were just trying to work on our touch at the net and see who could hit the best dink over the net.
The Response Pro performed well in my opinion. Its perfect balance comes into play here. Not being a "head heavy" paddle really helped here. It felt smooth and easy at the net and produced plenty of touch.
I did hit some shots too high however. Which is a big "no no" at the kitchen line because the ball will be smashed back at you.
Sometimes I swung too hard, producing too much plow through on the ball on my own. That's my error.
But other times I felt like the paddle's large sweet spot put just a little extra kick onto the ball, making it sail a little too high for my liking over the net.
Would a 5.0 or better type of player like this paddle at the net? YES! I think they would love it and have very little issue finding the proper amount of touch at the net.
This is where I really came away smiling when reviewing this paddle! Yes, it's a composite paddle with a fairly rough paddle face - which by default gives you some spin ability.
But I wasn't expecting this paddle to produce this much spin!
For me, where I noticed this paddle put spin on the ball the most was during my serve. As I started to reel in the power needed for an accurate, deep and lethal serve with the Response Pro, I began to experiment a little.
I felt like I had the power aspect of my serve under control so I began to incorporate a little spin into it. Instead of keeping my paddle face flat or open for a traditional serve, I began to close my paddle face slightly.
I've never really been one to put spin on a serve because I always loose consistency (you never want to lose a point on the serve...ever) but pretty soon I was closing my paddle face (towards the outside of the court), cutting up and over on the ball - producing a spin serve that was leaping out of bounds after kissing the baseline!
It was a beautiful thing to watch! I was so impressed with this paddle!
And...the game had just got more fun for me!
And it didn't take hours for me to be able to hone this in either. I literally played with my serve for 10 minutes and was nailing them at my opponents feet with lethal cut side-spin behind every one!
When I played opponents around my skill level or less experienced, they had a real hard time handling the spin I was producing on my serve with this paddle. This aspect alone, made the Prince Response Pro my go to paddle!
The Spectrum Pro (pictured above) is the exact same paddle as the Response Pro in every way, except for the length of the handle.
If you have smaller hands or prefer a smaller, short grip/handle; I'd go with the Spectrum over the Response.
But rest assured, the performance of the paddle will be the same! They're virtually identical except for the length of the handle.
So, Prince makes two version of the Response. The Response and the Response Pro. Here are the main differences between the two versions.
1. The cost. The Pro is roughly $50 to $60 more expensive
2. The Pro version comes with a UV protective layer to protect against sunlight. The standard Response does not.
3. The standard Response is lighter. The average weight is around 7.3 ounces. The Response Pro can get up to 8.3 ounces. So, if you like heavier paddles (like me) choose the Response Pro.
4. The standard Response comes with a slightly thinner grip (4 1/4" or 4 1/8") where the Pro comes in 4 3/8.
*I prefer the "Pro" version because of the paddle weight options. The guts of the paddle are the same but, I always play better with paddles in the 8 ounce range.
As you can tell, I am a big fan of the Prince Response Pro! It's probably the easiest paddle I've ever just picked up and played with. The feel and comfort of it is outstanding. Any new player or advanced pickleball player is going to like what this paddle offers.
It's currently my top pick and personal favorite!
If you're an advanced player looking for a new paddle - I urge you to give this one a shot!
If you're a newer player but loving the game of pickleball more and more and want a better paddle - I think you have to at least consider the Response Pro!
Videos Source: Pickleball Central