I’ll start with my review of the Gungnir Alpha and Beta from late 2015.
Recently I’ve had a chance to test and review two of Gosen’s top end rackets: Gungnir Alpha and Gungnir Beta. Gosen chose the name Gungnir as it is the name of the spear of the god Odin in Norse mythology. So I spent some time with them to see if they could be weapons of choice on the badminton court.
Both rackets are made in Taiwan, and come with G5 sized grips, regular isometric frames, 80 grommet holes, and are rated up to a rather generous 30 lbs string tension. Most notably and very intriguingly, overall racket length is 680 mm, which is 5 mm longer than most all current rackets (I’ll come back to this later).
Include triaxial woven carbon layer for frame strength, and high modulus M30 carbon graphite for frame and shaft. The frame is a tri variant frame design, with an aerodynamic fast frame cross section profile that looks like a hybrid of Victor’s BS series at the upper portion and Victor’s MX series at the lower portion. Indeed on swinging it cuts through the air very quickly, surprisingly almost as fast as a BS.
Appearance and Specs
The Alpha’s colourway is white/black with a bright blue camouflage motif on the frame and shaft. Coming only in 4U weight (83g +/-), it is headlight with a 6.8 mm diameter mid stiff shaft with a rated 8.5mm flex. Measured dry spec (no string, no overgrip) is 82.2g total weight, 36.0g head weight, and a 293mm balance point (288mm corrected for comparison with regular 675mm length rackets).
The specs and subsequent playing reminded me very much of other low swing weight mid stiff rackets like ArcFB 5U, NR700, and BS12.
The Beta’s colourway is white/black with a bright green camouflage motif on the frame and shaft. Coming only in 3U weight (86g +/-), it is head balanced with a 7.2mm diameter stiff shaft with a rated 8.0mm flex. Measured dry spec (no string, no overgrip) is 87.2g total weight, 37.6g head weight, and a 296mm balance point (291mm corrected for comparison with regular 675mm length rackets).
The specs and subsequent playing reminded me very much of other medium swing weight stiff rackets like Arc11 and JS8PS.
On court performance
Strung with my usual string and tension setup of ZM62 Fire @25×27 lbs, I tested and played with them over many sessions of warm up drills and games over a 2 month period.
Within the first few swings, quite immediately I found them to be surprisingly very fast, user friendly, smooth, and forgiving. Altogether they were unusually confidence inspiring. Adapting to them was a non issue, for me at least since I’m coming from balanced stiff rackets. Gosen has clearly done its homework in designing these two rackets with safer middle of the road specs, which are more suitable to the swing styles of potentially more players than some extremes such as Yonex VTZF2 LD or 6U Arc FB. And yet despite the different specs of the Alpha and Beta, the synergistic matching of the right head weight with the right shaft stiffness meant that swing style did not have to change much when switching between the two rackets.
Power: On both rackets, power is easily accessible due to the high head speeds and nicely useful shaft activation. A slight whipping action is easily generated, but there is never any sense of the dreaded head lag. Clears, lifts, and smashes are effortless, especially Beta more so than Alpha. However don’t expect max thumping power of much head heavier rackets such as VTZF2, and nor should they be expected to.
Speed and maneuverability: Not only do these rackets generate rapid head speeds, but they are also highly maneuverable, thanks to their aerodynamic design and relatively low swing weight. Fast exchanges are quite effortless and can be performed at the speed of thought, especially Alpha more so than Beta.
Drives and defence: And because of the surprising speed and maneuverability, these rackets excel in drives and defence, especially the Alpha more so than Beta. I was amazed by more than a few impossibly defensive and counter attacking shots that I was able to generate.
Feel: Both have slightly hollow feel, the lighter Alpha more so than the heavier Beta, which feels more substantial and crunchy on impact. But they are always communicative and never numb like some other well known brands. You will always know what the shuttle is doing on the stringbed. After a short while, it was possible to quickly adapt and judging by feel, perform tight accurate drops, blocks, and touch shots around the net.
Stability: Both are usably stable and accurate on hitting, even when hit slightly off centre. Sweetspot is quite generously sized and seems to be higher up just because of the extra length of the handle. Accuracy is also high, due to the relatively stiff shafts for the head weights, so head lag was non existent, making them perfect for placement and counter attacking.
The main difference between the two rackets is that the Alpha is designed as a lighter racket for doubles speed, defence, and counterattack, while the Beta is designed as a heavier racket for doubles power and attack. Which you prefer will depend on your abilities, your style of play, and what you want out of the racket. The Alpha can also be regarded as for females and front court players, while the Beta is for males all around doubles. For singles, while it’s suitable to use the Beta, the Alpha would not be recommended as it would be too light.
An extra 5 mm
Coming back to the extra 5 mm length, most all current modern rackets are 675 mm long, but the Gungnirs are purposely designed to be at the maximum limit of BWF’s equipment regulation of 680 mm overall length.
On closer scrutiny and comparison with other rackets, the extra length comes not from the shaft but from the grip handle that is 5 mm longer. That’s why in order to properly compare specs to regular 675 mm long rackets, 5 mm was subtracted from its balance point measurement.
Now 5 mm may seem inconsequential, but upon wielding the Alpha and Beta, there is that bit more reach available and the sweetspot is located that bit further up. In an already fast swinging racket, this adds up to not only a bit extra reach, but more importantly, a slightly longer lever for an added punch.
Assuming intermediate and above level of play (where changing hand grip up and down the handle occur instinctively depending on whether performing speed or power shots), this extra 5 mm becomes noticeably useful. Extra power and angle smashing from the back court by gripping lower to the butt? Check. Extra speed driving and defending smashes by gripping higher to the cone? Check. Sure we should already be changing grip during play, but once I got used to the extra 5 mm after a few sessions, it was very enjoyable and quite addictive in accessing the new-found extra speed and extra power that these rackets have to offer.
In summary, the Gosen Gungnir Alpha and Beta are both excellent rackets that I would have never had a chance to try had I not been given the opportunity. Being so user friendly, fast, and yet punchy, these are keepers for sure. If you can find them at a retailer near you, definitely give them a few swings and hits and you may be more than pleasantly surprised by what the extra length has to offer. One thing I surely learned is to remember to adjust my grip more. So go and make sure you adjust yours! Now who says length doesn’t matter!