Initially a Letdown, But First Impressions Are Not Everything
|I have to be honest, my first experience while testing the Diadem Icon was not a great one. It has a completely different feel from what I am used to. Now if there’s one thing I have learned as a paddle tester, first impressions are NOT everything. It reminded me of a slightly softer version of the Selkirk Power Air, which I have found to have great power at the expense of control. On day two, however, I began to get a feel for the Diadem’s playability and suddenly found myself excited to see what it was capable of. After a couple months of use, I can say with complete confidence that this is a paddle well suited for beginner to intermediate players looking to up their game with a bit more power and spin, without the sacrifice of control. I had extremely positive feedback from my intermediate level students who demoed this paddle. At a $100 price point, the Diadem Icon is going to be hard to beat.|
View at Just Paddles
|Paddle Weight||7.7 (+/-0.20) oz|
|Paddle Face Material||Carbon Fiber|
|Paddle Core Material||Polypropylene|
|Paddle Width||7 3/4”|
|Grip Size||4 1/4”|
At first look, the Diadem Icon is clearly something different and quite unique. The edge guard consists of three pieces that are essentially screwed into the outer edge of the paddle. Unlike anything I had seen before, yet quite genius because it gives the paddle that edgeless feel while still protecting the edges. This edge guard is also replaceable which, again, is so unique and very convenient for the longevity of the paddle. The Japanese-sourced HMT carbon fiber claims to give the Icon a softer feel than that of most 12mm thick paddles. My biggest complaint with a thin core is the lack of a soft game so I was extremely excited to try this one out.
As stated earlier, I am a big fan of the edge guard and the fact that it is replaceable only makes it more intriguing. I initially had some concerns regarding the durability of a three-piece edge guard, however, after a few months of use, there seems to be no indication that this type of guard is any less durable than that of your standard one piece.
Diadem states that they have applied a proprietary “Spin RP” polyurethane coating to the face of their Icon paddles. You can immediately feel this when brushing your hand against the face. While a bit hard to describe, the smooth, yet almost sticky texture did give me confidence in the spin potential of this paddle. Quite a difference from that gritty feel on other carbon fiber paddles. The polymer honeycomb core has an 8mm density (smaller than average), which Diadem states will help to dampen vibration on impact. I found this to help with tennis elbow and other arm issues I’ve experienced in the past while using thinner core paddles. Overall, the Diadem Icon feels extremely well built for a paddle in the $90-100 price range.
The Diadem Icon comes in two models, lightweight and middleweight. The model I tested was Diadem’s lightweight version so, to me, it felt a bit too light overall. I had one of my younger students test this paddle and he absolutely loved the weight. Being 12 years old, he felt that this paddle allowed him much more maneuverability and overall control. While the Icon is very well balanced, I would still add some lead tape to the sides and base to increase the overall weight for my personal preference.
The high grade Japanese-sourced carbon fiber face does give this paddle a good amount of power while still maintaining its control. Coming from a 16mm paddle, the compression was much less on the Icon. This took a bit of getting used to, but once I did, the added power I could produce felt like quite an advantage. I believe Diadem did an exceptional job in keeping the swing weight of the Icon reasonably low, which is a major contributing factor in minimizing arm issues such as tennis elbow. Lastly, the grip shape felt very comfortable in my hand, and after applying one over grip strictly to increase the grip size, I had no complaints. The Icon feels well constructed and comfortable in your hand throughout the entire swing and ball impact. I have become quite a fan of this 12mm paddle.
Responsiveness & Power
Typically thin core paddles are much harder to control which is why I do not normally recommend them for my lower level students. That being said, you are not going to get that extreme pop you might initially expect with the Diadem Icon. Unlike other 12mm paddles, the Icon has a bit less pop which allows for more control and better play during dinks, resets, and drops. This is what made the Icon so impressive to me. It has a good blend of power and control, well suited for that intermediate player looking to up their game with a more advanced paddle.
It’s important to note that you are not going to get the same power as you might with other thin core paddles such as the ProKennex Black Ace or the Selkirk Power Air. In fact, if you are expecting that kind of power, you will be quite disappointed and should probably consider other options.
Overall, I felt that the ball responded quite well off the face of the paddle. I did notice myself having to generate a bit more of my own power in order to really put the ball away when the opportunity presented itself but, in all honesty, that is what I’ve always preferred. I don’t like a power paddle that does all the work for you because it makes it so much harder to control. I really enjoyed those fast paced fire fights at the kitchen and felt that I had plenty of speed and power with the Icon.
One of my intermediate students currently plays with the Selkirk Power Air and really prefers that extra power and pop due to the fact that she tends to play against a lot of heavy hitters who will not hesitate to drive the ball at her. While she felt that the ball did not respond as “hot” off the face with the Icon, she did notice a significant improvement in her third shot drops and dinks. If a paddle such as the Selkirk Power Air is considered a 10/10 in the power department, I would give the Icon’s power and responsiveness a rating of 6.5-7.
In my experience, power can be learned as your technique improves. As one learns to use their legs, proper weight shift, and proper body mechanics when hitting the ball, generating more power will become inevitable. Having a paddle that is more control focused will allow you to absorb the pace of your opponent and will in turn lessen the amount of miss hits and pop-up’s. While not quite as comfortable as a 16mm control oriented paddle, I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of my soft game with this 12mm Diadem Icon. The SLK Halo Power is the only other “power” paddle I have tested that still allows for a very comfortable soft game and, for $40 less, the Diadem Icon may be a great alternative. While quite a different feel, you are still getting a power paddle that does not sacrifice an excessive amount of control.
The sweet spot on this paddle is quite large as well and because of the unique style of the Icon’s edge guard, this allows for better use of the entire face of the paddle. Mis-hits are inevitable with any paddle but the Icon is very forgiving when contacting the ball closer to the edges of the paddle. While the Diadem Icon is still classified as a power paddle, it would not be unrealistic to describe it as more of a hybrid paddle. A bit of power and control, allowing for that well rounded paddle experience.
The Diadem Icon delivers a unique experience to your Pickleball game. It offers a nice blend of both power and control. I would highly recommend this to my intermediate level students who have a good understanding of the game and are looking to upgrade to a more well rounded paddle. The price of the Icon is very reasonable and the technology is innovative and high quality. This paddle would be well suited for both singles and doubles. So, is this paddle worth taking a look at? One-hundred percent!