7 Best Synthetic Gut Strings
A Comprehensive Buyer’s guide
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The original artificial replacement for natural gut, synthetic gut strings are a time-tested option for players who desire reliable all-around performance in an affordable package.
Due to their lower cost and lack of use on the ATP and WTA tours, players often mistake synthetic gut as an inferior string that’s only suitable for beginners, which doesn’t tell the whole story.
This guide seeks to provide a balanced view of synthetic gut. It explores everything you need to know, including its pros and cons, comparisons to other types of strings, stringing advice, and a hand-picked selection of my favorites in this category to help you decide if they’re right for you.
|String||Best of Category|
|Gamma Synthetic Gut||Overall|
|Gosen OG-Sheep Micro||Spin|
|Wilson Synthetic Gut Power||Comfort|
|Head Synthetic Gut PPS||Control|
|Prince Synthetic Gut with Duraflex||Durability|
|Babolat Synthetic Gut||Honorable Mention|
|Dunlop Synthetic Gut||Honorable Mention|
|Volkl Synthetic Gut||Honorable Mention|
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What is Synthetic Gut?
Synthetic gut is an artificial tennis string that manufacturers introduced in the 1950s as a more affordable option to natural gut, the first of its kind.
A Brief History
In 1875, Pierre Babolat developed the first natural gut tennis string made from sheep gut. His company transitioned to using the outermost layer of cow intestine called the serosa for added durability in the 1950s.
Although natural gut delivered exceptional performance, the production was time-consuming and labor-intensive, resulting in a higher price tag.
Not too long after nylon’s introduction in 1938, manufacturers spotted opportunities to explore artificial alternatives to natural gut to provide participants in the growing sport with less expensive options.
Enter synthetic gut, a synthetic alternative with a name that draws confusion due to its similarity with natural gut. Babolat developed Elascord, their first synthetic nylon string, in 1955.
Materials & Construction
Most synthetic gut tennis strings use nylon as the primary material with a solid core construction that features one or more outer wraps for added durability and comfort.
These types of strings differentiate themselves through the quality or grade of nylon, minor variations in construction, the addition of secondary materials, and unique colors.
For example, Prince Synthetic Gut with Duraflex is a popular string with a solid nylon core wrapped with strong aramid fibers and a final outer wrap to improve durability and comfort.
Synthetic gut is widely known for its all-around moderate performance. Although the string won’t wow you in any specific area, you can expect well-balanced performance at an affordable cost.
Relative to other string types, here’s what you can expect.
- Solid power
- Mid-range comfort
- Low cost
- Respectable playability duration
- Sub-par durability
- Less spin potential
- Lack of feel
- Excess string movement
Of course, not all synthetic gut performs the same. Some deliver moderately better performance in specific areas. However, their performance is generally consistent with the above pros and cons.
Due to its lower durability, chronic string breakers will want to steer clear of synthetic gut. Although it’s less expensive, you’ll end up restringing often, so the savings won’t pay off in the long run.
Players might experience arm discomfort for a variety of reasons, but the most common culprits include:
- Stiff racquets
- Stiff strings
- Poor technique
Synthetic gut typically offers mid-range comfort, so they’re unlikely to be the primary culprit when dealing with arm problems.
With that said, multifilaments and natural gut strings will offer a gentler response and are better options if comfort is a top priority.
Synthetic Gut vs. Other Strings
There are four primary types of tennis string, synthetic gut, natural gut, multifilament, and polyester. More broadly, each string offers distinct playing characteristics you can expect when buying them.
This section outlines how each compares to synthetic gut.
Synthetic Gut vs. Multifilament
Synthetic gut and multifilament tennis strings are both artificial and frequently made with nylon as the primary material.
However, these two strings differ in their construction. A synthetic gut is usually a single solid core with one or more outer wraps, while multifilaments weave together hundreds of thousands of tiny microfibers.
As a result of their construction, multifilaments usually offer extra power, comfort, and feel. However, beyond that, their performance characteristics are very similar to the synthetic gut.
Synthetic Gut vs. Polyester (Poly)
For materials, synthetic gut generally uses nylon, while polyester strings use polyester, as the name implies. It’s worth noting that many polyester strings now contain additives to enhance their performance, hence the term co-poly.
Similar in construction, polyester strings have a single solid strand or filament, while synthetic gut is composed of a solid core with one or more outer wraps. However, nylon is softer, and polyester is stiffer, resulting in strings with dramatically different performance.
Players seek polyester strings for their lower power and spin, which helps them hit with greater precision. They’re also highly durable. However, the stiff material results in less comfort and feel, and they require frequent replacement to maintain their optimal performance.
Polyester tennis strings are more expensive than synthetic gut, and their performance drops quickly, so the overall cost of using them can be dramatically higher.
Synthetic Gut vs. Natural Gut
It’s easy to distinguish these two strings by their material. Synthetic gut takes advantage of artificial material like nylon, while natural gut uses fibers from a cow’s gut or intestine.
Furthermore, synthetic gut uses a single solid core with one or more layers of outer wraps for its construction. In contrast, natural gut is composed of multiple strands of intestinal fiber woven together.
Overall, natural gut is a superior string offering better performance in nearly every category. However, it comes with a hefty price tag that can cost more than ten times synthetic gut.
If you’re considering purchasing a set of synthetic gut, it’s helpful to know how to approach stringing to get the best performance.
When you string with synthetic gut or have someone string it for you, you’ll need to decide on an ideal tension, which refers to the force applied to a string when installing them, expressed in pounds or kilograms.
Although the best tension for synthetic gut is a personal preference, there are some useful guidelines you can keep in mind to help you decide what’s right for you.
Start by referring to the recommended string tension for your racquet, which will provide a range that the manufacturer has determined the racquet delivers optimal performance. You can usually find it printed on the side of your frame, or you can look it up on a retailer’s website.
For example, your racquet might suggest a 50 – 60 lb (22.7 – 27.2 kg) tension range. If you’re stringing your racquet for the first time, the midway point or 55 lbs (24.9 kg) is an ideal starting point, which gives you plenty of room to adjust up or down based on your experience.
All else equal, a stringing synthetic gut at a higher tension will provide you with more control, while a lower tension will increase power. Studies have not shown spin or durability to be influenced heavily by tension.
A Note on Tension Loss
Like all strings, synthetic gut strings lose tension after stringing. In 24 hours, tension can drop by as much as 10%.
However, after settling, synthetic gut does a relatively good job at holding tension, which means they’ll maintain their performance longer, resulting in a string that doesn’t require frequent replacement.
When to Replace
To maintain optimal performance and comfort of your synthetic gut strings, you should replace them regularly. How long they last will depend on various factors, including:
- Frequency and duration of play
- Style of play
- Level of competition
- Personal preference
For example, if you’re an intermediate player who hits multiple times per week, you will need to replace your synthetic gut strings more often than a beginner taking lessons once per week. Some of the pros will only play a few games before reaching for a freshly strung racquet.
However, as a high-level recommendation, I’d encourage you to take the number of times you play per week and multiply that by two to get the number of times you should be replacing your strings per year.
Another sign that it’s time to restring is when your strings form deep notches at the cross-sections. You may need to pull your strings back to see the grooves, but they’re more prone to break the deeper they get. Fraying may also occur but is less common with synthetic gut.
With experience, you’ll begin to feel your strings need replacing. Keep an eye out for a loss of control, spin, power, or comfort, which are all signs you might need to replace your strings.
For a custom feel and performance, hybrid stringing combines two separate strings with complementary attributes. In some cases, that might be two different types of strings, but you can even mix different gauges or thicknesses of the same string to form a hybrid setup.
Hybrid stringing also presents an opportunity for players to save money by stringing a more expensive string with a cheaper option. With that in mind, here are some popular synthetic gut hybrids.
- Synthetic Gut with Polyester: A poly’s lower power and spin combined with the more synthetic gut’s more forgiving feel and lower cost are an excellent option. In most cases, players will opt for the poly in the mains and synthetic gut in the crosses.
- Synthetic Gut with Natural Gut: Natural gut is expensive, but you can reduce the cost by stringing it hybrid with a synthetic gut. If you opt for this hybrid, go with a lower gauge (thicker) synthetic gut for improved durability and string the natural gut in the mains.
- Synthetic Gut with Multifilament: If you prefer the softer feel of a multifilament, you might consider stringing a hybrid with a synthetic gut to reduce power slightly. You’ll also likely save yourself some money because most multifilaments are more expensive.
Regardless of the hybrid you choose, keep in mind that the string you use in mains will dominate the overall feel. Due to its lower cost, it’s most common to string synthetic gut as the cross string.
Although not required, you may also want to experiment with dropping the tension of the crosses by 2-3 lbs (.9-1.4 kg) to improve string movement and topspin. More often than not, players will do this when stringing a synthetic gut with polyester.
Hunting down a new set of synthetic gut tennis strings for your game starts with knowing what’s out there in the first place.
The following are the most reputable brands that make synthetic gut tennis strings. I’ve experienced using all of them, and although some are better than others, they’re all worth considering.
If you have a company you’d like to see added to this list, drop me a comment at the bottom of the article and let me know. I’m always on the lookout for new strings to try.
To help you track down the best synthetic gut for your needs, I’ve pulled together a list of my favorites. The following are strings that I’ve playtested, organized by attribute.
Keep in mind that while I’ve selected each string that I found best aligns with specific performance criteria, others may also work well for that need. For example, while I’ve chosen Gamma TNT2 for power, Wilson Synthetic Gut Power and Head Synthetic Gut PPS are strong candidates.
Best Overall – Gamma Synthetic Gut
Gamma offers an extensive line of tennis strings, and one of their most popular is their synthetic gut, which strikes an excellent balance between affordability and performance.
Gamma Synthetic Gut is perfect for those who are new to tennis and looking for a reliable option or anyone in need of a budget string that delivers above-average performance for this type of string.
As a bonus, the string comes in three gauges, 16, 17, and 18, and a handful of different colors, perfect for kids.
Best For Spin – Gosen OG-Sheep Micro
Players looking for maximum spin on a budget and who want to avoid polyester tennis strings should check out Gosen’s OG-Sheep Micro.
Featuring a thinner solid core surrounded by a wrap of filaments, this string offers a slightly stiffer feel that delivers the best spin of any synthetic gut strings I’ve tested.
The price is excellent, and it comes in three different colors and gauges, giving you more options to dial in your ideal performance. For the best performance hitting topspin, go with the thinner 17 or 18 gauge, but keep in mind that durability will drop the thinner you go.
It’s worth noting that Gosen makes a variation on this string called OG-Sheep Micro Super, which features a slightly thicker core and more durable coating for better durability if needed.
If you’re not dealing with any arm injuries or discomfort and are open to exploring polyester tennis strings, you can check out my guide.
Best For Power – Gamma TNT2
One of my personal favorites in the synthetic gut family, Gamma TNT2 is a premium offering with a unique co-polymer solid core, meaning it features nylon and additives for enhanced performance.
The string also features an outer layer of nylon wraps and a pearl nylon coating. Gamma tops it all off with TNT, their advanced thermal processing technology that bolsters the string’s resilience for improved playability, durability, and control.
One of the best synthetic guts I’ve tried, Gamma TNT2 delivers above-average power and surprising comfort. The string is also available in four gauges, including 15L, 16, 17, and 18, and various colors to suit most player preferences.
If you’re looking for a powerful string, you may want to check out some of my multifilament recommendations as an alternative to synthetic gut.
Best For Comfort – Wilson Synthetic Gut Power
Although Wilson Synthetic Gut Power delivers plenty of power as advertised, I find its best quality to be comfort as the most arm-friendly string I’ve tried in its class.
This string features a solid nylon core like many others on our list. However, it differentiates itself with high-powered bi-directional Nomex X-Bands or wraps layered around the core for enhancing energy return and responsiveness, resulting in a more lively response and improved feel.
Wilson Synthetic Gut Power comes in a handful of bright colors and two gauges, adding variety to the offering. Overall, it’s one of the best, outshining others with arm-friendly comfort.
If you’re looking for maximum comfort, I’d encourage you to check out some of my favorite multifilaments.
Best for Control – Head Synthetic Gut PPS
Synthetic gut tennis strings aren’t inherently the most control-oriented. Instead, they skew more on the power side of the spectrum. However, I’ve found Head Synthetic Gut PPS to deliver better control than many other strings in this category.
The string has a solid core layered with Head’s PowerStrip technology, a unique polyamide for greater resilience for a string that’s not underpowered but emphasizes control.
Head’s Synthetic Gut PPS comes in a few colors and two gauges to help further refine your selection. Overall, it’s a well-balanced synthetic gut that’s a solid option for control. Check out my polyester string recommendations if you’re looking for maximum control.
Best For Durability – Prince Synthetic Gut with Duraflex
Prince’s Synthetic Gut Original remains a staple in this string category, but their Synthetic Gut with Duraflex offers even better performance.
It’s an affordable solid core string that incorporates Duraflex wraps to stiffen up the string for a crisper feel that improves durability and control. For maximum durability, I recommend players go with the thicker 16 gauge.
As a bonus, this string comes in more colors than any other synthetic gut, making it perfect for kids or anyone looking for a custom look.
Best For Hybrid – Yonex Dynawire
Yonex Dynawire is an underrated premium synthetic gut offering that delivers excellent all-around performance and is a terrific option for pairing with other strings as part of a hybrid string setup.
You’ll find a high polymer nylon at the string’s core, surrounded by a thin metal film that improves resilience and power and a layer of outer wraps for enhancing comfort and durability. Yonex tops the string off with a silicone treatment that’s slick for improving snap back.
I’ve parid Yonex Dynawire with a few polys with excellent results. For better durability, I’d encourage you to opt for the 16 gauge.
Although I didn’t select these three strings as the best for any single performance attribute, they’re all solid offerings that I’m comfortable recommending players check out.
- Babolat Synthetic Gut
- Dunlop Synthetic Gut
- Volkl Synthetic Gut
As you should expect from a synthetic gut string, these offer well-rounded performance in an affordable package.
How to Choose a String
Selecting a tennis string can feel overwhelming with the number of options, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Follow these four steps to help simplify and narrow your options.
1.) Select a String
In the previous section, I outlined my top picks for the best synthetic gut strings across various performance criteria, including:
Go with the option that resonates most with you. For example, if you like the sound of extra power, then Gamma TNT2 will be a great option.
Gamma Synthetic Gut, my overall pick, is an excellent place to start if you’re unsure of which direction you should take. Once you use it, you can consider how you liked it and switch to a string that better matches the attribute you’d like for enhancing your game.
2.) Select a Gauge
Once you’ve nailed down your string, you’ll need to select a gauge. Remember, a thinner gauge will provide you with more spin, while a thicker gauge will improve durability.
I’d encourage you to opt for the lower gauge to get more mileage from your strings if you’re new to tennis. Every string on my list comes in 16 and 17 gauge, so 16 is the thicker option you’d want to select.
3.) Select a Tension
Before taking your racquet to a stringer at your local club or tennis shop, the final step is selecting a tension. Start by looking up the recommended tension range for your racquet. Once you have that on hand, you can use a lower tension for more power or a higher tension for more control.
If you have no idea where to start, split the difference and go with the middle of the recommended tension, but you can always bump it up or down based on your preference. Here’s a quick example.
- Recommended tension range: 50-60 lbs
- No idea where to start: 55 lbs
- For extra power: 53 lbs
- For extra control: 57 lbs
These tensions are a great starting point, which takes your preferences into account while leaving room to adjust up or down based on your experience.
Perfect for a wide range of players, synthetic gut tennis strings are versatile for beginners to intermediate tennis players looking for reliable performance in an affordable package.
If you’re new to tennis and feeling the pressure to purchase a higher-end string, then I’d save your money for the time being. You’ll be in a better position to reap the benefits of a premium offering once your skills improve and you gain some experience.
Hopefully, you found this guide helpful in your search for tennis strings. Feel free to comment below if you have any questions or if you’d like to share your thoughts on any synthetic gut tennis strings you’ve used.
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