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Volair MACH 1 16mm Carbon Fiber Pickleball Paddle Review: The devil is in the details

Let’s see if/why Julian Arnold’s signature paddle has what he claims to be the critical features for high-level game play

Verdict
If you’re seeking a blend of spin, control, and power, you can end the search. The 16mm version of this paddle falls under the control category, but don’t be deceived by its label – it packs an unexpected punch in terms of power and spin. This paddle is truly a match made in heaven for players like me. Personally, I’m a fan of generating spin and relish the ability to gracefully drop the ball where I need to, even when faced with high drives that seem to defy gravity, hovering 2-3 feet above the net. Likewise in the kitchen, this paddle allows me to execute that maneuver with remarkable ease. Not only is this paddle well-balanced, but it also provides an exceptional level of comfort during gameplay. It required minimal adjustment time for me to acclimate to its feel and control. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player, I wholeheartedly recommend giving this paddle a try. It’s sure to elevate your game to new heights, regardless of skill level.

View at JustPaddles
SpecsDescription
Paddle Weight7.8 – 8.1 oz
Paddle Face MaterialRaw T700 Carbon Fiber
Paddle Core MaterialPolypropylene Honeycomb
Paddle ShapeElongated
Paddle Length16 1/2”
Paddle Width7 1/2”
Grip Size4 3/10″
Handle Length5 1/2″

First Look

It’s nearly impossible to overlook the familiar shape of this paddle, especially if you’ve watched the #1 pro player Ben Johns. While the paddle shape itself is quite common and can be found in various other brands, I thought the Volair label on the side was pretty sporty. As I held the paddle, the grip felt nice in my hands, although I must admit it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It had a slightly boxy feel, reminiscent of a tennis racket grip. Personally, I found it enjoyable, but when I shared it with a few colleagues and students, they found it to be “too different” from what they were accustomed to with their own paddles. However, what stood out to me was that the Volair didn’t feel excessively head heavy or excessively light. As someone who values a well-balanced paddle, I believe it provides optimal maneuverability and reduces strain on the elbow and forearm.

Build Quality

From the moment I took the Volair out of the box, I could immediately sense its quality. It didn’t have that cheap feel that some paddles often exhibit. The grip felt solid and secure in my hand right from the start. Normally, I prefer to add an overgrip to my paddles, but this one felt perfect as it was. What struck me the most was the surface texture, which had a satisfyingly gritty feel. This gave me the confidence that it would generate some impressive spin. I’ve had concerns in the past with carbon paddles losing their gritty texture and spin quickly, but even after a month of use, this paddle still maintains its spin potential.

Considering it’s a 16mm paddle, it strikes the ideal balance between power and control, just the way I like it. However, I did encounter one drawback. After only a month of use, I noticed the edge guard starting to lift off the Volair (see picture below). It raised a bit of a red flag for me, but fortunately, the paddle is still under warranty, which is a positive. It’s worth noting that I tend to hit my overheads with more force than the average player, so if you come from a tennis or other racket sports background and have a tendency to unleash powerful shots occasionally, this might be something to be mindful of with this paddle.

shows that the edges is falling apart
shows wear and tear in the center area where the ball is hit the most

Feel

When I put my paws around the standard 4 3/10 grip size of this paddle for the first time, I sensed greatness. It became one of my preferred paddle grips right out of the box. It was the ideal balance, neither overly thick nor too thin. While the handle length is technically categorized as long, measuring 5 1/2 inches, it actually felt shorter in comparison to other handles I’ve used. For players who utilize a two-handed backhand, the experience is satisfactory, although I must admit that the Selkirk Halo XL handle, boasting a length of 5 3/4 inches, offers enhanced comfort in that regard. As I started hitting with the Volair, I noticed an unexpected pop, surpassing that of other 16mm paddles I’ve experimented with. Although it doesn’t match the sheer explosiveness of a Vatic Pro, for me, it felt just right.

I appreciate paddles that seamlessly blend power and control, and this one delivers on both. It’s worth mentioning that there is also a 14mm version available, purportedly offering even more pop and a slightly heightened power. At that point, it becomes a matter of personal preference, tailored to each individual’s playing style. The paddle’s sweet spot felt remarkably generous. Even on off-center hits, I encountered few dead spots toward the outer edges of the paddle face. This attribute proves invaluable for blocks and resets.

Responsiveness & Power

Unlike paddles with excessive pop and inherent power, which often require a delicate touch, the Volair enabled me to swing freely and fall back on what I’m used to. I like being in control of my power rather than relying solely on the paddle’s capabilities. This approach not only enhances my touch but also contributes to my consistency on the court.

One standout feature that left a lasting impression was the amount of topspin I could generate on my serves. Opponents couldn’t help but notice as my serves and groundstrokes made contact with the ground and seemingly launched towards them with added force. The topspin is POTENT. I had a couple guys state my serves felt very heavy when they’d return them, which is great because that usually means their return will not be as deep or strong. It’s all the little advantages that start adding up.

Soft Game

Balancing the soft game with the right amount of power is crucial to me. While I value a paddle that provides a gentle touch, I’ve come across numerous 16mm paddles that felt excessively cushion-like, posing several drawbacks. It significantly affects shots like overheads and drives. The Volair however, gave me the confidence I want when executing my drops, resets, and dinks, without compromising my ability to put the ball away when the opportunity arises. I think Julian Arnold succeeded in crafting a paddle that strikes the perfect equilibrium between power and touch, which many claim to have, but is mostly an elusive combination.

Overall

I gotta say, I had an absolute blast playing with this paddle. It totally upped my serving game and gave me a major confidence boost. I’ve tried other paddles that claimed to offer power and confidence, but they always fell short in some way.

Now, I know paddle preferences are personal, but if you’re anything like me and want something that can do it all, this paddle could be your soulmate. Sure, it might not be the top dog for singles or the king of touch and resets, but it’s a solid all-rounder that can handle any shot you throw at it. And honestly, that’s more important to me than being amazing at just one thing and sucking at everything else. This paddle is the epitome of “jack of all trades, master of none, but better than being a master of one.” It’s got a little bit of everything, and the Volair Mach 1 16mm has my vote.

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