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HEAD Radical Tour Raw Ex Paddle Review: My In-Depth Thoughts

Could 15mm be the gateway to powerhouse drives, counters, and control?

(picture Dennis Rodriguez)
Verdict
The HEAD Radical Tour Raw Ex pickleball paddle was released in early November and is the first raw carbon paddle that HEAD has released. With a new look, new shape, and simple graphics, the Raw Ex definitely looked promising to me. Not to mention HEAD made one large change, they made the paddle 15mm thick instead of the typical 14mm or 16mm options seen from most companies. The raw carbon hitting surface, combined with HEAD’s Handle Stabilizer Technology, allowed for a very comfortable playing experience. I felt the 15mm design was a well balanced combination of both power and control. Overall I would definitely give this paddle a try if you are looking to upgrade to an elongated raw carbon paddle and want something in the price range of $170. The Raw Ex would be suited for all player levels. 


View at Just Paddles
SpecsDescription
Paddle Weight8.1 oz
Paddle Face MaterialRaw Carbon Fiber
Paddle Core MaterialPolypropylene Honeycomb
Paddle ShapeElongated
Paddle Length16.5”
Paddle Width7.5”
Grip Size4 1/8” (Actual size can vary up to 1/8”)
Handle Length5.5”

First Look

Out of the box the minimalist look caught my eye right away. The subtle graphics in the raw carbon face were a surprise. Past paddles designed by HEAD typically would include a lot of color and exaggerated graphics. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews you know I’m a huge fan of simple and clean. Another thing that I noticed immediately was the shape of the paddle face. It is wider towards the top and becomes more narrow as it gets closer to the base of the face. I would assume this tapered face allows the Raw Ex to have a larger sweet spot while maintaining that elongated feel. The 5.5” handle, while tailored for those with a tennis background or two handed backhand, definitely adds swing speed to drives and overheads. The grip really stood out to me when unwrapping the Tour Raw Ex. The Ergo Grip was designed to provide a softer feel, dampening vibrations for more comfort during play. HEAD has always had great grips in their tennis rackets so it is nice to see them taking pride in their pickleball paddle grips as well.

(picture Dennis Rodriguez)

Background Research

Build Quality

The quality of the paddle feels exceptionally well built. It feels sturdy in your hand, the grip feels extremely comfortable, and the edge guard appears well-constructed. Some sources state that the 15mm polypropylene honeycomb core effectively minimizes noise upon contact. There wasn’t a noticeable reduction in noise when using the paddle but I definitely noticed less vibration and better shock absorption. Head states that their “Handle Stabilizer Technology (HST) encompasses a specialized 8S-Resin handle reinforcement solution offering superior shock absorption and handle stability”. This leads to a more stability at ball impact as well as less strain on your arm during play. The raw carbon also seems to be holding up well after a couple months of consistent use. 

Feel

While a 15mm thickness vs 16mm seems minimal, the slight difference can be felt almost immediately. The power and pop is significantly increased with the lack of that 1mm. The HEAD Raw Ex is not thermoformed yet it feels solid and allows for good pop at the net during firefights and counters. The 5.5” grip length and 4 1/8” thickness offers a comfortable hold, particularly for players like myself, who favor a two-handed backhand. During my play testing, I felt the combination of power and control to be well-balanced, which allowed me to execute drops and dinks with precision while still maintaining a strong drive. I will say, however, I was not particularly impressed with the spin. This paddle definitely needs to be worn in a bit because the spin did actually increase the more I played with the paddle. Still, its spin is nothing to write home about.

Power & Pop

The leverage provided by the longer handle contributes to increased swing speed for drives and overheads, however, I definitely generate more power and pop with my thermoformed paddles. The sweet spot felt large for an elongated paddle, which is most likely due to that tapered head. The energy the Raw Ex generates is good, but not great. Again, this is coming from a guy who typically plays a 16mm thermoformed paddle. If you like the soft feel of non-thermoformed paddles but want a bit more of a punch, the Raw Ex certainly provides that. 

Soft Game

The tapered design of the head definitely increased the sweet spot which in turn added to a more comfortable soft game. Be advised, as the head begins to flare out towards the top, this also raises the sweet spot (as seen in the picture below). This may take some getting used to for drops and drives. Where you will really notice the benefits of the raised sweet spot is at the kitchen line with better reach while still making solid contact. Dinks felt easy to execute with variety and consistency. Where I found this paddle to continuously lack for me was in the spin category. I just felt that I was not able to shape the ball like I typically do. With the exception of spin, I am very happy to see Head trying something different with the 15mm thickness and the different head design. I think there are definitely benefits to this design and the versatility of the Raw Ex allows it to cater to players of all levels looking to enhance their soft game without compromising too much on other aspects of play. 

(picture Dennis Rodriguez)

Social Proof

One of my drill partners, Josh, is a 4.5 player and has been using the HEAD Radical Tour Raw Ex as his main paddle since its release. Here are a few things he had to say about it;

“It [Raw Ex] has a good amount of pop because of that 15mm thickness but it doesn’t feel so hard that I lose control. I recommend using lead tape towards the top to add a little more power and spin. I also add a strip of weight to the throat to balance it out.”

Josh

Overall Experience

To sum it up, Head did something different and released something we have not seen before. That alone made me feel it was worth trying. Is the Head Radical Tour Raw Ex a game changer? No, unfortunately not, but I do think they are on to something and we will see more companies releasing 15mm paddles in the future. I enjoyed the touch and the power of the paddle, I LOVED the grip, but I just was not impressed with the spin.  I would recommend that you demo this paddle because there are definitely some stand out features that you may really enjoy. For a paddle in the $160-170 range, the HEAD Radical Tour Raw Ex is worth checking out. You get the reliability of a company that’s been in the racket industry for decades while also getting the industry standard raw carbon face.  

References

Head.com, JustPaddles.com

Hey guys, my name’s Dennis. I’m a full-time Firefighter and “part-time” Pickleball Instructor who honestly loves coaching, teaching, and competing in sports. I played baseball & tennis throughout highschool and college and fell in love with pickleball. My goal with Pickleball Portal is to give you the most honest and reliable info on everything related to pickleball gear and equipment! I want to arm you with the knowledge to feel confident in your paddle choice by giving thorough reviews and comparisons through my hands on testing. Also hoping to share some tips and tricks with you to help your game and continue the growth of this awesome sport! dennis@pickleballportal.com

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