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East Meets West - There's More Than Meets the Eyes

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    Posted: 07/31/2017 at 10:00am
Interesting read, thanks for the translation. Here in Germany most people use ESN or Butterfly, nearly no one uses Chinese rubbers.

Which ESN rubber totally depends on where you live. For example in NRW, the state with the biggest population, many people use Andro because Andro is the brand of the Schoeler-Micke table tennis shop which is located in Dortmund, NRW. If you go down south you will find a lot more Donic which belongs to Sport Schreiner (Frank Schreiner), if you go to Berlin many people will play GEWO which is the brand of the Contra store. You will find Butterfly in the higher leagues a bit more than in the lower ones but it's mostly ESN.

I no longer play ESN stuff, it's too bouncy for me, I like H3 Neo a lot better.

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Well I am Beijing and visited a large wholesale TT store on Sunday.
I was there for a couple of hours and 3 people came to buy blades in that time.
1 tool Carbonado 190 CP, H3Prov on FH and Jolla Rhyzm 425 on FH.
The other took Carbonado 145 FH , H3 Prov FH and Barracuda BH.
The third guy took a Chinese Viscaria (260 RMB) and H3 Prov on FH and some SP on BH.
I was surprised to see that in all the cases, the shopkeeper applied 1 layer of speed glue and one layer of waterglue to the FH side...No boosting or any other shit.
I had a hit with a couple of guys and they were pretty good for their age, they would be 2000-2100. They were in and out of the shop in 15 mins, no boosting or sheet...Just on with their play. To their surprise I had a boosted H3N on my FH and they told me not many people use boosters unless they are playing leagues or something.

Edited by ashishsharmaait - 07/31/2017 at 9:44am
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Thanks Zeio - excellent writing and translation work.
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Thank you Zeio for putting this together, and the good Read. | Cornilleau TH (Competition)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote zeio Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07/29/2017 at 1:10am
East Meets West - There's More Than Meets the Eyes

Originally, I wrote this in response to slevin. In the process of putting this together, it grew so much in size, that I felt it deserved its own thread.

This is not your typical EmRatThich's run-of-the-mill post on CNT equipment philosophy. This is an in-depth elaboration of the thought-process from the point of view of the general public in China. Here it goes.

Originally posted by slevin slevin wrote:

So, perhaps, there is a difference in perception based on where one resides in. I can see how ESN is unpopular in China. I wonder how it is in clubs in Germany and in the UK (perhaps some European members can chime in).

It's not exactly that ESN is unpopular in China, rather, ESN rubbers get a ton of attention and love. It's just that people are very clear on the relative positions of Butterfly and ESN. In terms of rubber usage and choice, it is MUCH broader in China than one may think.

Here are some examples to give you a sense of that.

The following comment comes from a thread on Rasant Grip and Powergrip on a Chinese forum, which sums up the general perception of ESN in China.
Quote 從前彷BRYCE, 傳統日套, 08年後彷TENERGY, 由90年代中到現在, ESN 一直都是模仿

(From imitating Bryce and traditional Japanese rubbers in the past, to imitating Tenergy since '08, ESN has always been imitating from the mid-90s onwards.)

And in response to that by a blade maker,
Quote 仿得四不像,还不如国产的狂飚有特点

(Imitating like a Père David's deer, that is even worse than the domestically-made Hurricane with its uniqueness.)

The following quote comes from a thread on Tieba in which the OP felt the Sigma Pro 2 was a great rubber but wondered why it didn't generate much fuzz. It echoes with the one on ooakforum.
Quote esn的东西 欧米茄 西格玛 蓝火 锐煞 雷神 等等等 无非就是esn给出厂家颗粒方案 海绵规格 厂家挑选组合再选个颜色 这些厂家丝毫没有技术 就是esn掌握全部技术 胶皮都是一样的总性能 侧重点有点更改就出来了那么多乱七八糟的型号 最好还是都被t秒 esn现在就是碰到瓶颈了

(ESN stuff like Omega, Sigma, Bluefire, Rasant, Rhyzm etc. are nothing but pips options and sponge specs that ESN present to the various brands, from which they choose a combination and then pick a color. These brands do not possess any tech. It is all in the hands of ESN. All rubbers have the same base performance. Little changes of emphasis then led to all these messy derivatives. In the end, it still gets seckilled by Tenergy. ESN is stymied by a bottleneck now.)

The abridged excerpts below are taken from a Tieba thread, in which the OP gave an overview of the various new rubbers released in the second half of 2015. The tone of the piece is pretty neutral and reflects the typical preference in China. At the beginning of the article, the OP stated that it was obvious the pace of rubber release had slowed down in 2015, alluding to a saturated market.

Quote 老F1估计现在用的人还比较多,多尼克新出的这个F1要比以前硬,中国人打球正手硬一点比较踏实,老的F1就是为正手设计的,不过到国内都被当成反手套胶用了,对这个品牌来说,想用加硬的F1来撬国内正手这块蛋糕不太现实,因为再如何改进,面胶不粘正手就基本不理这碴儿。

(There is probably still a sizeable crowd using the old F1 right now. Donic's new F1 is harder than before. For Chinese forehand, a higher hardness feels more secured/solid. The old F1 was designed for forehand use, but here in China it has been turned into a backhand rubber. For this brand, trying to pry into the forehand share with a harder F1 is not all that realistic, because no matter how you tweak, a non-tacky topsheet for forehand just won't get you any love.)

Quote Acuda这个系列多尼克也更新了,蓝绵变成蓝色的,所以加了Blue这个词,其实新的Acuda系列有三款,P1到P3,之所以只说P1是因为P2和P3就是老款也是认可度不高,这种硬度在国内用的人真的不太多。凭心说Acuda Blue还有蓝火这些多尼克的套胶真的是不错的产品,没什么明显的短板,但问题是最近这两代的蛋糕海绵的产品之间的差异性实在是太小了,多尼克一个品牌下的这样,更何况还有其它三四个德国牌子在国内。所以到最后这几波德国产品对买方,只剩下品牌喜好和价格这两个因素制约了,非要说颜色区别也算一个。

(The Acuda series also gets an update from Donic. The sponge is now blue, hence the Blue in the name. There is in fact three models, from P1 to P3, but only P1 gets mentioned because even the previous P2 and P3 didn't get much recognition, as those two hardnesses really don't have much of a userbase. Truth be told, the Acuda Blue, Bluefire and the likes are truly decent rubbers without obvious flaws, but the problem is that the last two generations of porous sponge rubbers do not have much if any difference. Such is the circumstance for even a brand like Donic, not to mention the same is true for a few other German brands in China. And so for the consumers, it boils down to brand loyalty and price, as well as color if that is a factor of consideration.)

Quote 原先的OMEGA系列够多产品了,第五代也有四款容易混乱。只说这个OMEGA V ASIA,除了弧线比较低还是像OMEGA系列的产品之外,手感什么的都完全不是一个路数了。并且硬度比较微妙,拿七夹纯木来看,放反手需要有点水平,放正手略软。这张胶的容错性挺好,弧线性是独家特点,好上台是德国胶的通用优点。

(The original OMEGA series already has enough selections, with 4 more additions for the 5th iteration confusion is set to arise. For that reason, I'll talk about just the Omega V Asia. Other than a lower arc that is familiar to the Omega series, the feel is completely not the same thing. Also, the hardness is quite interesting. When coupled with a 7-ply allwood, it takes a bit of level on BH, but feels a tad soft on FH. This rubber has good tolerance, and the arc is its feature. Ease of landing shots is the typical strength of German rubbers.

It can be viewed as a buffed Vega Asia, and so has a higher demand from the user. Frankly speaking, among the wave of German porous rubbers that first flooded the market, only Xiom Vega Asia still sells well now, and of course price is a major factor. Going slightly off-topic, many rubbers in the 200 bucks(Renminbi, US$1 is roughly RMB¥ 6.2 in 2015) price range do not sell in China. It is certainly much pricier, but sometimes that extra 50 bucks are often noticeable in the performance. Butterfly is crazy expensive, but the typical line of thought that "instead of buying a 180 bucks rubber, one would be better off shelling out an extra 200 to get on the Butterfly bandwagon" may change in the near future, because for the 200-300 bucks segment, there are already rubbers with some unique traits yet feel totally different from Butterfly. With the bigger pores, the transient dwell between topsheet and sponge feels much longer, and during play the sensation of stoppage is more obvious. That sensation is not for everyone, but the new Omega rubber is definitely steering toward the other German rubbers.)

Quote 最后总结一下斯帝卡,总结一下AIROC。斯帝卡的套胶一直都比较冷门,套胶虽然一直在坚持日产,但和蝴蝶一比较就会发现有比较明显的差距,首先就是产品线非常混乱,超轻一诺王这个产品真心是符合市场需求的,可惜到了无机时代被工程师玩坏了,整出来BOOST这个太过于极端化的东西。私以为CALIBRA一直都是斯帝卡套胶的巅峰,无机免灌,内能持续时间超长,一体化程度高,两点不足在于重量有点点重和面胶的摩擦力和蝴蝶TENERGY系列还有点点差距,真是可惜后继无人。其次斯帝卡的套胶从性能上看不属于完全的日套,日本套胶里尼塔谷的日产系列和蝴蝶都是小发力的时候不太走球,但有旋转,越发力越稳定球质越高,天花板不明显,但斯帝卡挂着日本套胶的名字,小力量下更像是德国套胶,没什么低档位可言,AIROC有改善,从老的那一代开始就有,但到了新的系列还是没有太过明显的质变,到了高档位斯帝卡的产品才有日套的风格。所以这样半个日套半个德套范的产品,性能上又不是1+1大于2的结果,能持续招揽到用户,也只能说是情怀了。

(To sum up for the Stiga Airoc, Stiga has always been a niche brand for rubbers. Even though they insist on "Made in Japan," when compared with Butterfly there is an apparent gap between the two. First, the product lineup is very messy. Innova Ultra Light was truly what the market wanted, but sadly was broken by the engineers in the glue-ban era when they released the overly-extreme Boost series. I personally feel the Calibra series is Stiga's best-ever rubber, gluing-free yet with an extremely long-lasting built-in glue effect, and highly integral topsheet and sponge. The two shortcomings lie in weight which is on the heavier side and the topsheet grip is a little behind Butterfly Tenergy series. It's a big shame that there is no new comers. OTOH, from the performance standpoint, Stiga rubbers do not behave entirely like Japanese rubbers. Among Japanese rubbers, those "Made-in-Japan" series by Nittaku and those by Butterfly typically do not feel all that bouncy on low force, but are spinny, yet the shots feel more steady and higher quality the higher the force, add to that the bottom-out effect is not obvious. In contrast, even though made-in-Japan, Stiga rubbers behave much like German rubbers, with few low gears. Airoc improves upon that, has been from the previous generation, but still not enough in the new generation, as the Japanese character does not emerge until the high gears. All in all, for this half-Japanese, half-German rubber, performance-wise it is not 1+1=2, and whatever the userbase it can attract is probably due to nostalgia.)

Quote ……Nimbus Delta系列是挺拔对于高密系列产品线的更替,那么这个量子系列就是对以往Q系列的更替。这里不说EVOLUTION,是因为变革这个系列几乎是超脱出挺拔整个产品线的东西,风格没什么可以往回追溯到的产品。但挺拔这个牌子个人感觉有生命力就是因为还总有些超出预期的产品出现,比如粘魔,比如那个紫海绵的粘性正手(真忘了叫什么名字了,惭愧),虽然已经断代了,但还是让人眼前一亮。相比它,有些牌子就不行,ESN出什么我出什么,到最后每家东西除了名字和海绵颜色全一样,没什么意思。

(If the Nimbus Delta series is Tibhar's successor to the high-density sponge product line, then the Quantum series is the successor to the Q series. I will skip over Evolution here, because that series is almost beyond the entire Tibhar lineup, as the character of the series has no previous models to trace back to. Still, Tibhar gives off the feeling of liveliness because it always comes up with rubbers that are beyond expectations, such as the Nianmor, or that tacky forehand rubber Grip-S, that even though have been left behind, still made people wow. In contrast, some brands are not as good, in the sense that whatever ESN comes up with, I release it. At the end of the day, every brand is exactly the same, save the names and colors. No point in that at all.
Why Quantum is not suited for forehand? That opinion is based on feel. Chinese have been playing with Hurricane so long. If Hurricane is not glued and laid outside for 15mins here up in the North, the topsheet would be no different than a shoe sole, of course the recent snow is also a factor, but still it shows how hard the Hurricane topsheet is. Even if Quantum is similar in overall hardness, that mano-a-mano feel during play is something that the Quantum and the majority of German rubbers do not possess. Even if you stick it on the MJ SZLC, it still won't feel hard. Just check out the majority of people when choosing foreign rubbers for forehand, 05 and 80 are the top picks for Butterfly, all because of their hard topsheet, which offer the feel of stability. Therefore, this is purely "old habits die hard" that is keeping Quantum from taking over the forehand of fellow countrymen, not because there is anything wrong with the rubber itself.)

Now for some supplementary information.

The late Mats Bandstigen of Stiga once explained the reason behind its insistence on Japan over Germany for producing its rubbers in an interview with magazine Table Tennis World in March 2009.
Quote TTW:斯帝卡的球板非常受欢迎,也有自己的工厂,那么套胶呢?球板是不是比套
TTW:说到日本海绵,斯帝卡的套胶几乎都是在日本做的。2000 年以后,德国的内能套胶兴起很快,作为欧洲的品牌,斯帝卡为什么没有向德国下订单呢?

(TTW: Stiga's blades are hugely popular, and the company has its own factory. What about rubbers? Are blades more important than rubbers to Stiga?
Mats: We have always been non-stop in the R&D on new rubbers and technologies. Yet, our rubbers are not as popular as our blades in China, probably because in China people like playing with Chinese sponge, and our sponge is made in Japan. In the past, the use ratio between Chinese and Japanese sponge is perhaps 9 to 1. I predict, in the future, that ratio will not be as lopsided, that use of Japanese sponge will increase a bit. Even more, our new rubber such as the Boost series is more suitable for water-based glue.

TTW: On Japanese sponge, almost all of Sitga's rubbers are made in Japan. From 2000, German Tensor has been swiftly rising. As a European brand, why has Stiga not made an order with Germany?
Mats: Very simple. We still feel that Japanese sponge is better than German sponge, so we decided to make it in Japan, even if the cost is higher.

TTW: When Stiga designs a blade, is there any consideration given to the type of rubbers to be paired with? If you think that Japanese rubbers are better, are there more thoughts given to designing blades to be paired with Japanese rubbers?
Mats: There is no such consideration when making blades. It has more to do with the market demand, like this blade is more suitable for European players, or that blade is better suited for Asian players. But as of this moment, that gap is closing. Back then Europe and Asia used different blades, but now the range of choice is closer.)

Well, I'm sorry, Mats. The use of Chinese sponge is actually rising since the times you have left us. It is also heartbreaking to say that Stiga's market share in blade is dwindling.

In another interview with Donic president Frank Schreiner by magazine Ping Pong in October 2015, Frank was asked about his thoughts on the Chinese market.

Quote 《乒乓》:能否谈谈在您的印象中,对于亚洲或是中国乒乓球用品市场的印象?




(Ping Pong: Can you share with us your impressions on the Asian or Chinese table tennis equipment market?
Frank: From our perspective, I have no way to get to know about the Chinese market from the inside out, as I am in Germany which is very far away from China, but I believe our branch company in China can make a sound judgment about the Chinese market. I think that both the Chinese and German markets are similar in nature, because we have good products and market share, and so is able to get the recognition of the people. If I have to say, the one thing different between China and Europe is that the Chinese market is more traditional, people there are not as willing to switch from products that they are familiar with. But in Europe, we must release new products every year, to meet the demands of the local people for a faster product life cycle.

Ping Pong: Starting from last year, through various resellers we have learnt that the market growth in China has noticeably eased off, even declined. What do you take of this phenomenon?
Frank: Although I do not have an in-depth understanding of the actual market situation or the sales figures of other brands, for Donic, our business has been improving. From my own understanding of Donic sales figures, from this year to the year-end, our sales will see a slight increase.

Ping Pong: Currently in China, competitions among German brands are very fierce, what do you think is Donic's strength compared to other German brands?
Frank: It is very difficult for me to critique other brands, but we have the best rubber making technologies in Germany. Our blades are made in Sweden, and Sweden is a very nice place for blade manufacturing. Also, we have a very strong capability in the design and production of clothing. I think this is our advantage. In marketing and advertising, we have many well-known players. In Europe, our contract player DO has a profound effect on the market. In Asia, our new contract player Zhou Yu is also a very popular player. I think they can help in promoting Donic and our market share. Overall, from my perspective, I think our product sales figures in the world market is second only to Butterfly.)

Here is the thing. On the issue of Chinese market decline since 2014, Frank was not very frank with his Chinese friends. I have the global sales figures of Tenergy since its release, from none other than its manufacturer, Asahi Rubber. What I can tell you is that there had been a sharp decline ever since the introduction of the 40+ ball. In the past, sales recovered two to three quarters after the price hike and no out-of-region sales policy, but this little white cellulose acetate ball really was no slouch at destroying sales. Tenergy sales did not recover for two and a half years, that is, until the release of Rozena in 2017.

Interestingly enough, in the Table Tennis World version published January 2016, Frank's tone on the Chinese market was slightly different.
Quote TTW:您对于多尼克在亚洲的市场有什么特殊的印象?


(TTW: Do you have any special impressions of Donic in the Asian market?
Frank: Market demands are in fact the same. Everyone likes good products. As long as product quality is kept up, they will be welcomed by customers. But here is my impressions of the Chinese market: they are more reserved on equipment. Often times, they will keep using a set of equipment, and not very willing to try out new equipment. This is completely different from Europe. Europeans are very willing to change their own equipment. I feel this may have to do with regional spending habits.)

Like he said in the Ping Pong version of the interview, Frank did not truly understand the Chinese market.

People in China are more than willing to try out new stuff, the thing that people there don't like is what I've been preaching all this time - messy product lines.

In China, people tend to hold the belief that "newer doesn't always mean better." A similar belief is evident in Japan, once you check out the domestic sales ranking. That's apparently the obstacle facing ESN, as that has become their "selling point" in recent years. But to the people in China, ESN has become a synonym for "old wine in a new bottle."

What people do in China is they will test out whatever new model that piques their interest AND compare it against what they believe is the industry leading model. For forehand, the general Chinese playerbase believes DHS Hurricane 3 is the king, and simply will not consider any grippy rubbers, as pointed out in a quote above. I wrote about this behavior two years ago. For the minority who plays with foreign rubber on forehand, they do try out new stuff but will in the end stick to what they feel best for themselves in the long run.

For backhand, Tenergy is still considered king in China. Though with the multiple price hikes since 2010, more people have joined the ESN camp. And with the CNT effect trickling down, more people are going back to Chinese tacky rubber. The market is slowly but surely getting harder for both Butterfly and ESN. Rozena can be viewed as a forced response from Butterfly.

Edited by zeio - 07/15/2018 at 1:23pm
Viscaria FL - 91g
+ Neo H3 2.15 Blk - 44.5g(55.3g uncut bare)
+ Hexer HD 2.1 Red - 49.3g(68.5g 〃 〃)
= 184.8g
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