Table tennis is a sport that has thousands and thousands of racket options. The combinations are practically endless.
To give you an idea, in the tabletennis11.com store alone, there are more than 190 million different possible racket combinations.
Given this array of possibilities, it can seem very difficult to choose the right racket for you.
Our goal with this article is to help you decide if you should play with a premade racket or if you’d be better off purchasing your first custom racket. In both scenarios, we will help you choose the best racket for your particular style of play.
We have faced this question thousands of times in our careers as coaches and players, so we feel confident sharing the best options for every type of player.
Table of Contents
- What is the difference between a custom paddle and a premade racket?
- Buying a premade racket
- Our premade racket recommendations
- Buying a Custom Racket
- Our custom racket recommendations for beginners
- Should I buy a custom racket?
What is the difference between a custom paddle and a premade racket?
There are two main differences between custom rackets and premade rackets – Variability and Assembly.
Put simply, premade rackets come with certain components from the factory and you cannot choose them. The blade and rubbers come all in one package so you can’t decide which blade and which rubbers you want to use.
This means premade paddles are more convenient for beginners and social players who don’t care so much about the finer details of choosing every component of their racket.
On the flip side, that is the advantage of custom rackets. When you buy a custom racket, you can choose which components to use, all the way down to the thickness of the rubber.
This is both an advantage and a weakness. As we said before, there are millions and millions of possibilities for custom rackets, so it is very easy to make the wrong choice.
There are a lot of beginners who decide they want to play an offensive game so they go and buy a custom blade with carbon fibers and tensor rubbers.
This will only hinder their development as they won’t be able to control a racket that fast. As a result, beginners with fast rackets feel frustrated and discouraged when their shots don’t land on the table. It’s super important to choose a racket that suits your needs and abilities.
The second difference between premade and custom rackets is that the premade ones come assembled out of the package. It’s in the name really. Most commonly, custom rackets mean that you have to buy the components separately and put them together yourself.
However, most stores are able to assemble your custom racket if you buy all the components from them, so there may be custom rackets that you receive ready to play out of the box.
Buying a premade racket
We recommend premade rackets for most beginners.
These rackets are usually tame and controllable, which is why they are beginner-friendly. They are ideal if you want to take your first steps into the sport and experiment with different techniques.
However, it is crucial that you choose the right premade racket, as there are some cheap ones that have no spin, and some expensive ones that are too fast.
The ideal premade racket should have enough spin to perform all the strokes, both offensive and defensive, and significant control to help you get the ball on the table.
We recommend that you use a premade racket until you know how to execute the basic strokes with good consistency, that is, pushes, blocks, and drives.
Premade rackets are also great for beginners as they are useful for every style of play.
If you’re a defensive player, you’re going to be able to defend with these rackets as they don’t have a lot of speed, and if you’re an offensive player you’re going to feel like your attacks land on the table for the same reason. Premade rackets are usually very controllable.
Once you know how to execute all the basic strokes and you know what style you want to play, we recommend that you buy your first custom racket.
- You don’t have to choose the blade and rubbers, the racket you get is already optimized for beginners.
- They are usually much cheaper than custom rackets.
- They are much more practical since they come assembled from the factory and you do not have to assemble them yourself.
- You don’t have to buy glue to stick the rubbers on.
- You can try all the styles as these rackets are very versatile and controllable.
- The materials can be of lower quality than those available for custom rackets.
- The performance of premade rackets is inferior, in speed, feeling, and spin if you want to play an offensive game.
- Many times the rubbers cannot be removed so you cannot upgrade the racket over time.
- If they were assembled at the factory a long time ago, the rubbers may have lost their grip even before you take them off the box.
Our premade racket recommendations
Having coached hundreds of beginners over the last 20 years, I can safely say that a few premade rackets are better than all of the rest. Playing with $5 racket will hurt your game more than you could ever think.
Want to get better at table tennis? Start your journey by investing in a great racket.
Killerspin JET400 – Our Favourite Premade Racket
Killerspin are a USA-based brand with a lineup of different premade rackets. I love the JET400 because it’s a balanced, controlled racket at a reasonable price. Perfect for anyone learning the basic strokes and versatile enough for any playstyle, it’s the best beginners paddle I’ve tried.
- Weight: 173g
- Speed: 7
- Spin: 9
- Control: 8
- Handle: Slightly Flared
- Blade: 5-Ply Wood
- ITTF Approved: Yes
- Sponge Thickness: 1.8mm
I now recommend the JET400 to all new players I coach and I find it performs well compared to my custom all-round setup.
A high-performance racket, catered to offensive spinners. Read our DHS 4002 review.
Palio Legend 3.0
Recommended for maximum speed and spin.
Buying a Custom Racket
Once you know how to execute all the basic shots and what style you want to play, it’s time to buy your first custom racket!
Because there are millions of possibilities, it may seem complicated to buy your first custom racket, but it doesn’t have to be.
Custom rackets have many advantages over premade rackets, which is why all top-level table tennis players use these rackets.
Custom rackets are built specifically to suit your playing style.
If you are a player who has a powerful forehand but you only block on your backhand side, you can stick a powerful offensive forehand rubber to enhance your attacks and a controllable backhand rubber to help you with your blocks.
In contrast to premade rackets, custom rackets have a player profile for which they are intended.
For example, if you bought a Timo Boll ALC with two Tenergy rubbers, that racket would end up being very fast, with a lot of spin and relatively little dwell time.
That racket would be a very powerful weapon capable of unleashing powerful attacks and is intended for high-level offensive players. Neither a defensive player, an allround player, nor a lower-level offensive player can take advantage of that racket.
The key takeaway is that there is a racket for every type of player, and the choice of the racket should be made depending on the way you play.
- You can choose the perfect blade and rubbers for your playing style.
- The components are of much higher quality. Blades have better feeling and rubbers have more spin.
- As your game evolves, you can change some of the components without having to buy another racket. We recommend keeping the same blade as long as possible, updating the rubbers if necessary.
- You can boost your rubbers.
- Both the blade and the rubbers are more expensive than those present on premade rackets. However, custom rackets can be built cheaper than many premade rackets by purchasing components from lesser-known brands.
- You have to assemble the racket yourself.
Our custom racket recommendations for beginners
We are going to tell you about the best options to build your first custom racket, but if you want more information we have created a guide on how to choose a table tennis blade and how to choose table tennis rubbers for your style of play.
Always buy a racket that suits your playing style.
If you want to play an offensive game, go for a blade in the ALL+ / OFF- speed range. Examples of great table tennis blades you can buy are Tibhar Stratus Power Wood, Butterfly Primorac, or Stiga Offensive Classic.
All of these blades are offensive while maintaining very good control. Their composition is 5 plywood without carbon fibers. They are flexible woods with an excellent feeling, a lot of control, and enormous spin capabilities.
As for the rubbers, I recommend that you buy offensive but controllable rubbers.
For the backhand, you can buy the Yasaka Rakza 7 soft, the Victas Ventus Limber, the Andro Hexer Grip SFX, the Donic Bluefire M3, the Friendship 729 Focus 3 Snipe, the Donic Baracuda, or the Andro Rasanter R37.
We did say there were lots of options!
A good racket for a beginning offensive style player would be a combination of these components. If I were a beginner, I would buy a Tibhar Stratus Power Wood with a Rakza 7 2.0mm on the forehand and a Rakza 7 soft on the backhand in max thickness.
This racket has good speed and spin, but above all, it has great feeling and control. In the future, when the player gets better, they will be able to change the rubbers for faster ones, keeping the blade.
If you are a beginner who bases his game on control and likes to defend as well as attack, I recommend you to buy an ALL or ALL+ blade.
Some of the great blades you can buy are Yasaka Sweden Classic, Stiga Allround Classic, Donic Appelgren Allplay, Nittaku Strike, Donic Waldner Allplay, and Yasaka Sweden Extra.
All of them are blades that prioritize control over speed, and that have excellent feeling and spin generation. They are all woods with a soft touch and a lot of flexibility.
As for the rubbers, I recommend you buy the Yasaka Mark V, the DHS PF4-50, the Yasaka Rakza 7 soft, the Andro Hexer Power Grip SFX, the Butterfly Sriver, or the Donic Baracuda. Most of these we recommend as the best table tennis rubbers available.
For the backhand rubber, you can buy the same rubber as the forehand rubber, as you’re mainly looking for a soft controllable rubber.
It is a good idea that you also think about the possibility of other types of rubber such as short pips, long pips, and antispin. Long pips and antispin are probably a good idea if you are defending on the backhand side and attacking with your forehand.
For those beginners who want to learn a defensive game, we recommend buying a DEF or DEF+ blade.
The most popular blades in this speed range are Donic Defplay Senso, Tibhar Stratus Power Defense, Nittaku Shake Defense, and Victas Koji Matsushita Defensive.
Forehand rubbers that defensive players can use are the Friendship 729 Super FX, the Yasaka Mark V, the DHS PF4-50, the Yasaka Rakza 7 soft, the Andro Hexer Power Grip SFX, the Butterfly Sriver or the Donic Baracuda.
On the backhand side, things are a bit more complicated.
The vast majority of defensive players use long pips on the backhand side. Long pips are ideal for both a chopping game and a pushing and blocking game.
If you want to defend with inverted rubbers, the rubbers we recommend for the forehand side are fine. If you want to defend with long pips, good options are the Donic Piranja and the Butterfly Feint Long.
Should I buy a custom racket?
Overall, you should buy a high-quality premade racket if you haven’t mastered the basic strokes yet and you don’t know which style you want to play.
Once you have made your first steps into the sport and have a defined playing style, you should buy your first custom racket to help you progress even further.