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ProKennex Black Ace Pro Pickleball Paddle Review

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ProKennex Black Ace Pro Pickleball Paddle Review

The ProKennex Black Ace has sprung onto the scene with much fanfare as the latest offering from one of the most respected names in pickleball.

But at a price point of $250, you have to ask yourself: is it worth it? As always, it depends on your preferences and style of play (and your wallet!). 

The ProKennex Black Ace has sprung onto the scene with much fanfare as the latest offering from one of the most respected names in pickleball.

But at a price point of $250, you have to ask yourself: is it worth it? As always, it depends on your preferences and style of play (and your wallet!). 

Let’s take a closer look.

ProKennex Black Ace Pro Paddle Specs

ProKennex Black Ace Pro Paddle Specs

Spin 8.5

Power 8.5

control/Feel 8.0

Pop 10

  • Weight: 7.95 oz
  • Paddle Length: 15.8″
  • Paddle Width: 7.6″
  • Handle Length: 5.3″
  • Grip Circumference: 4”
  • Thickness: 10mm
  • Face: Torray T-700 Carbon fiber

Overview

I tried the Black Ace for several weeks for play and drilling tests in order to get a complete feel of its playability and performance before writing this review.

I purchased the Pro Kennex Black Ace Pro. However, there is also the choice of the Ovation shape, which has a slightly longer handle and a truncated head (and is kind of unsightly in my opinion), and the Elongated XF in the Black Ace collection.Check out why we consider the Black Ace to be one of the best paddles of the year.

My Personal Thoughts

My first thought is a memory of me playing against the Black Ace for the first time. I heard the loud classic pickleball “pop, pop, pop” and wondered what I was I going to see that game. 

I saw a rocket launch off that paddle and hit me in the chest on an overhead. This paddle hits hard, it is hard to control, it feels rigid and the thin core makes it hard to reset. 

When using this paddle you must embrace being the Black Ace and that means going all out aggression with drives, drives, drives an then follow it up with speed ups and overheads.  In all seriousness, this is a definition of a power paddle to the extreme.  

The price is also on the higher end of paddles at $250 and I’m not sure that the price holds up well. This paddle has a lot power on counters and it can match some thermoformed paddles. It just doesn’t hold up to the control those paddles can also bring. The other difference is though I haven’t heard of any build quality issues for the Black Ace so that goes in its favor.

ProKennex Kinetic Black Ace Pickleball Paddle Review

The Black Ace is considered a gen 1 Raw Carbon paddle along with notable paddles like the Volair Mach 1. They are the predecessors to gen 2 thermoformed paddles like Vatic, Legacy, and SixZero.

Power and Control

The Black Ace is really all about power. The ball pops off the paddle face like it was fired from a cannon, which can make for scorching drives and devastating put-aways.

Although it’s great to have that kind of punch available when you need it, I found that even when I tried to dial back my swing speed or shorten up my backswing, my drives often went long.

It was also more difficult to control drops and resets unless I used little to no backswing whatsoever, and sometimes I even found myself backing the paddle away from the ball when trying to hit a soft shot just over the net. 

The sweet spot is smaller than I would have liked, and it was annoyingly easy to mis-hit what should have been a reliable drive. Up close to the net, maintaining control was a big issue as dink and drop attempts would pop up unexpectedly high due to the paddle’s stiffness and power.

In my opinion, this paddle has more pop than the Hyperion CFS 16, but it’s just not as easy to control.

If you’re a player that has control dialed in and needs a lot of help with power then I can see this being a perfect paddle for you. Furthermore, I could see this paddle or the elongated version being a weapon for singles play.

Spin

One big shortcoming I found with this paddle is the lack of spin. Various independent tests have supposedly shown spin results of around 1500-1700 RPMs, but in a real game situation, the ball comes off the paddle face so fast that getting good rotation on the ball and directing your shots can be tricky.

I tried slicing my backhand more and hitting inside-out forehands, but it required more and more aggressive mechanics to achieve satisfying results.

If you compare the Black Ace to a composite or fiberglass paddle, it’s not even a question that it’s easier at generating spin, however, compared to other T-700 face paddles, it was slightly harder to generate controlled spin.

Feel

At 7.95oz, the Black Ace is fairly light for a power paddle. The kinetic system design is intended to reduce vibration and minimize the impact on your joints, which is especially important for players with tennis elbow.

The tungsten beads inside the face and the handle supposedly reduce shock, but they do rattle around quite noticeably (and loudly). I didn’t find this to be as distracting as some other players do, but that’s just me.

The thin, stiff core made striking the ball feel kind of harsh even on drop shots. If you don’t have naturally soft hands, loosening up your grip might make the hitting experience less jolting. That said, the octagonal handle feels comfortable and firm in your hand even without adding an overgrip. 

Durability

The build quality of the Black Ace is as high as one would expect from an industry leader like ProKennex. The paddle feels solid in your hand and its fit and finish is top notch. The edgeless design eliminates the irritating problem of loose edge guards which plagues most other paddles, and the replaceable Air-O-Guard bumper protects the top from nicks and dings. Though I only used it for a few games I had no doubt it would hold up after months of extended play.

Black Ace Vs. Volaire Mach 1

ProKennex Black Ace
  • Weight: 7.95 oz
  • Length: 15.8″
  • Paddle Width: 7.6″
  • Grip Length: 5.3″
  • Core: Reactive Polymer Core
  • Thickness: 10mm
Joola Hyperion CFS 16mm
  • Weight: 7.5 ounces
  • Length: 16.5"
  • Paddle Width: 7.5"
  • Grip Length: 5.5"
  • Core: Polypropylene Honeycomb
  • Thickness: 14mm or 16mm

Both paddles can hit hard and give you the pop and power you crave. One major difference I want to highligh that isn’t a common thought is how loud the Black Ace is.  The Black Ace is one of the loudest paddles on the market. If loud noise is a concern for you then you should consider the Volaire Mach 1 as it it is much quieter than the Black Ace.

The Mach 1 generates top tier spin and can out spin the Black Ace but a decent margin.  My serves and drives were dipping a lot more with the Mach 1.  

One problem with the Mach 1 is they list the length as 16.5” but it measures out to be 16.3”.  For some this might not be an issue but I use every bit of length I can when playing it does make a difference when playing with a paddle that isn’t 16.5”.

Overall both paddles offer a lot of power.  The Black Ace offers power and sound while the Volaire Mach 1 gives you power, spin, decent control and a cheaper price point.  

Conclusion

Like all paddles, the Black Ace has its pros and cons, and preferences will obviously vary from player to player depending on their style and body mechanics. Many players seem sharply divided on this paddle with most either instantly loving or hating it. While power players will appreciate the incredible pop and speed, finesse players will probably not adjust well to the stiffness and underwhelming spin. Unless your game consists of nothing but pure banging it will definitely take some time to get accustomed to the small sweet spot and to dial in the right amount of swing force to get the results you want. 

Overall, if you like to play a fast, hard game you might find a place for the Black Ace in your arsenal. If you prefer long, strategic rallies, though, it will probably not be your cup of tea. Either way, given the sticker price of $250 it would definitely be a good idea to demo this paddle before buying one! 

Written by:

Jacob Hoisington

Jacob discovered pickleball when he one day was biking past local courts and started a conversation with some players. He asked what they were playing and got invited to a beginner’s night where he got hooked on the game. As a long-time doubles’ tennis player, pickleball was a natural fit for Jacob. His first love of the game was trying different paddles as there were so many and ever since he has become obsessed with trying every paddle, he can get his hands on. Jacob appreciates that pickleball is accessible to anyone while still offering competition.

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