Last summer (2019) I took the leap of faith and bought the pro’s-pro Tomcat (with MT-400).
I’ve been using it now for about 6 months and wanted to share my experience with you, since there are no reviews about it yet.
Take my words with a grain of salt because I never used another machine at this level or above before and therefore I can’t really make a comparison. I’d rather try to judge the machine on its own.
However, I’m a professional craftsman, so I might know a thing or two about quality of tools and machines.
First off – A little more Background.
I started stringing in Summer 2018 with a cheap, used (and crappy) pro’s-pro Challenger I.
It was good enough to get me started but required some modding/tweaking (and patience) to make it work.
After about a year of stringing I got sick and tired of the bad quality of the machine and figured that if I want to continue stringing (which I did) I would need a decent machine, preferable an electronic one.
Not only to make stringing more enjoyable but also to produce better jobs.
I was exclusively stringing my own rackets at that time.
I was thinking about stringing for friends and club-mates (with a better machine) but since my club already had a stringer I didn’t know if it would work out.
So I was still unsure if a new machine was justified for me and didn’t want to spend too much money.
After a lot of considerations between all kinds of machines I finally gave the PP´s Tomcat a shot because at the time it offered the best value for money.
After my experience with the Challenger I never thought I would buy a machine from pro’s-pro again but since their new machine was clearly something else (different manufacture) I finally settled for it.
Order, Delivery, Setup
I know that pro’s-pro does not have a reputation for good customer support but at least with me everything went alright. They answered my questions in a reasonable way but since I had no real issues with the machine I can’t really comment on how they handle such things.
Delivery went without problems despite the weight.
The machine came in 3 packages (no.1: machine, no.2: tension head, no.3: stand)
Although there was no manual or anything it was obvious how to put the machine together.
I just had to connect the baseplate with the stand, the turntable and the tension head by using the provided screws. Some documentation (especially about the tension head) would still be preferable.
I’ll try to keep this short because the whole thing is (as far as I can tell) made by AEF and exact the same as other machines from that factory. They have been reviewed before and are already well known, so I won’t describe all features in detail but rather focus on the things I noticed.
Main features are:
– 6-point mounting system
– self centering side support
– c-shaped side supports
– self centering movable towers
– diamond dusted universal clamps (5-teeth, adjustable)
– automatic clamp bases
The machine out of the box was well oiled up, too well…
After touching it I had greasy/slippery hands which is absolutely not beneficial for stringing.
I had to swipe the hole machine (even clamps and bases) with cloth and special cleaner to get rid of it. The first 2-3 jobs were still a little slippery but after that everything felt alright. I think the last remains of the oil just got carried out by my hand during the first jobs.
Everything else was working well from the start and I didn’t have to make major adjustments.
Before I ordered the machine I specifically asked for badminton clamps (4-teeth) which I know are available from AEF. Sadly pro’s-pro doesn’t offer them as option and told me that the clamps provided are universal use. I considered getting other clamps but after trying the 5-teeth ones I figured there is no need to replace them. When doing the crosses on some rackets they can squeeze the mains a tiny little bit but that’s about it. If I ever get a racket where there is no space for the clamps I will think about it again but so far it has been all good. Locking and unlocking the clamps and bases is a pleasure and gives a reassuring feedback that everything is working as intended.
Overall the quality and functionality is fantastic (especially considering the price).
The supports are solid and hold the racket very well. The clamps and bases work smooth and hold the string tight without damaging it. The turntable rotates easily but doesn’t bend or tilt in any direction when pulling the strings.
Although at first the clamp-bases moved a bit clunky, it got way better after some time. I’m not sure whether the edges of the rails were a bit rough and got grinded in or if I just needed some time to find the right angle to move the bases.
One small downside of the connected (self centering) towers is that you can’t change the position of the side-supports too much. The distance between tower and 6/12 o clock supports can only be adjusted by about 1cm. This is totally fine but I just wanted the 6/12 arms to get more room for adjustments, so I did modify them a bit and now have about 3 cm to work with. This was not necessary. Just something I thought would be nice to have.
For the side support there are adapters (optional) for badminton. They are c shaped rubber pieces that you just put over the regular support. I tried it but find them kinda useless. They limit the access to the racket a bit and are a little to soft for my taste. I just use the regular (hard) support and never had problems with them damaging a racket. However the edges of the supports had a little sharp edge. Probably leftovers from the molding process. They weren’t hard or big enough to damage the frame of a racket but to be safe I sanded just the small areas that are in contact with the racket.
To sum this up I can say that at the important parts this machine really has great quality, however some small details and the overall finish are lacking a bit.
The clamp bases could move a little smoother and there are some flaws in the paint here and there but absolutely nothing to be worried about.
One more thing I wanna mention is the rubber mat that lies in the tool-tray. It had a crazy rubber scent and after a few hours the room smelled like a tire factory. I Put the mat on my balcony and it stayed there for 6 months. The smell lessened a lot but I will wait some more time before I put it back in.
The tension head
Here it gets interesting.
The MT-400 seems to be a new device exclusively for the pro’s-pro tomcat.
If you look at the design of the interface it looks like it is from the same factory as the MT-300, which is awful similar to the superstringer devices (eg. E90) which again is said to be coming out of the same factory as the famous WISE2086.I never used a WISE so I can hardly compare it.
What I can say tho is that it works perfectly fine.
You got all the features you need:
– tension adjustment by 0.1 lbs or kg
– adjustable pull-speed
– knot function
– constant pull
– memory function
The gripper holds even the thinnest strings without problems and the calibration is on point.
The tension process feels smooth and even 20 kg (44lbs) are not challenging to the device at all.
Overall the tensioner performs better than I even imagined. We´ll have to see how it will stand the test of time but so far I have no concerns in this regard.
To start the tensioning process you have three option.
– 1 a button next to the display (I never use that)
– 2 a switch right behind the string gripper (I use that mostly for release)
– 3 just close the string gripper and it starts automatically
I don’t know whether point 3 is standard on other machines but I just find that to be super convenient.
Here is a short video of the tension head:
Well, it’s a stand…
I mean it does its job in holding the machine in place but it just feels a little cheap.
You can adjust the height but it is a pain in the a** and I recommend getting someone to help with it.
Trying to lift this heavy machine with one hand while tightening the stand with the other was surely not something I’d like to do regular.
Also, the adjustable height is quite limited. For me (about 1,9m tall) it sits at the highest position and is just about the right height. Wouldn’t hurt to be able to get it even higher.
If you need to change the height of the machine repeatedly or even move it around you should definitely get a different stand.
But is has a Hook to store some string reels which comes in handy.