Butterfly Viscaria Super ALC Detailed Review – an excellent blade for modern table tennis
Monday, August 14, 2023
Just like the classic Viscaria, the VIS-SALC is a 5+2 ply composite blade. The key difference between the two is that the VIS-SALC uses Super Arylate-Carbon (SALC), a brand-new material developed by Butterfly’s research and development laboratory. The classic ALC fiber that is used in Viscaria combines the properties of Arylate fiber (i.e., lightness, flexibility, and shock absorption) with those of Carbon fiber (i.e., high elasticity and minimal dissipation of energy). The SALC has a higher density of fiber and a carefully adjusted Arylate-to-carbon ratio. Furthermore, the weave pattern is very different (left: SALC, right: ALC).
According to Butterfly, the new SALC fiber results in increased power and a softer touch. Butterfly describes the VIS-SALC as an offensive blade, giving it reaction and vibration ratings of 12.1 and 10.1, respectively, as compared to ratings of 11.8 and 10.3 for the classic Viscaria.
The VIS-SALC is packaged in a sturdy, modern-looking blue and silver box that lists the blade name on the front lip of the box, along with handling information on the back. The name of the blade is printed on the FH-side of the straw-colored playing surface, whereas the BH-side is devoid of text. The handle is dark grey with cream-colored, light blue and dark blue vertical stripes, giving the blade a modern look. The FH-side of the handle features a beautiful golden metallic lens, listing the blade name, which adds to the premium look. A standard, silver, rectangular Butterfly tag adorns the bottom of the handle. The BH-side of the handle features the usual, small, circular holographic lens. The blade is well-made and comfortable to hold, but the playing surface felt a little rough in places, leading me to think that the blade could have been sanded a little more.
The ply composition is very similar to the classic Viscaria, except for the composite layer. Thus, the VIS-SALC has a thick kiri core, a thin intermediate limba ply, a moderately thick layer of Super Arylate Carbon and a thin outer koto ply. According to my measurements, the playing surface of the VIS-SALC has the following dimensions (height x width): 158 mm x 150 mm with a thickness of 5.8 mm. The FL handle has the following dimensions: length ~100.3 mm, width ~26.5-33.6 mm, and height ~22.8-24.8 mm. The test blade weighed 91 g and produced a main resonance frequency around 1464 Hz, which is slightly higher than Viscaria’s ~1440 Hz.
I tested VIS-SALC blade using Hurricane 3 in my FH (black, 2.15 mm) and driving-type short pips in my BH. I tested the set-up over the summer playing many sessions against intermediate level players. Moreover, I used the setup in three sessions against my regular high level hitting partner during which we played a mix of regular and match-like drills using 40+ ABS training balls.
Initial impressions: The VIS-SALC is a little heavier than the regular Viscaria, but not so much that it has any real impact whilst playing. The blade feels nimble and has a center of gravity that is tilted moderately towards the head, facilitating aggressive strokes. The VIS-SALC is very comfortable to hold, and its relatively narrow wings encourage a loose grip and facilitate minor grip adjustments when switching between FH and BH.
As mentioned by Butterfly, the feeling of the VIS-SALC upon striking the ball is softer than with the Viscaria, yet at the same time, it feels more rigid and carbon-like. In fact, the VIS-SALC feels more like the Butterfly Revoldia CNF than the regular Viscaria. The VIS-SALC is, indeed, a notch faster than the regular Viscaria (mid OFF). The trajectories of my FH and BH drives were noticeably flatter and longer than with the Viscaria. The VIS-SALC has the right mix of properties to ensure dangerous, yet controlled, drives. I enjoyed outstanding consistency, especially on BH drives with short pips. One of the hallmarks of the regular Viscaria is that it feels less metallic than other carbon blades, and that it absorbs a great deal of incoming energy. The VIS-SALC shares these attributes, though feeling softer and more rigid.
The feeling produced by the H3/VIS-SALC on FH loops is soft, yet quite rigid. The dwell time is quite short, noticeably shorter than with the regular Viscaria. Thus, my FH loops were fast, direct, and quite flat, but also less spinny than with the Viscaria. Clearly, the VIS-SALC caters to individuals who play the modern style of table tennis: fast and direct, with less emphasis on spin. My FH warmup loops managed to clear the net, but the flatter trajectory necessitated a more open bat angle. As with the regular Viscaria, I enjoyed excellent consistency on my FH 3rd ball attacks against pushes. Unlike with the Viscaria though, I felt that the VIS-SALC produced more power, allowing me to win more points outright. The VIS-SALC’s stability/rigidity offers even more stability on topspin shots from mid-distance and in FH loop-to-loop rallies than the regular Viscaria, which allowed me to take the initiative in extended rallies. That said, one needs to moderate the amount of input power, as it is still possible to overshoot the table, even from afar.
I enjoyed unparalleled consistency on BH short pip openers against long pushes. The blade/rubber combination produced just the right mix of sufficient safety over the net and shot length. The BH openers were also faster and more dangerous than with the regular Viscaria. The crisp feeling produced gave me additional confidence to execute these strokes with authority.
Just like the regular Viscaria, the VIS-SALC works very well for flicks, in large part due to its rigidity and large sweet spot. Thus, it is possible to generate powerful pancake-type FH flicks. My BH short pip pancake flicks were also elevated by the VIS-SALC. That said, I prefer the sharper feeling of the Viscaria on these shot types. The VIS-SALC is a little less well suited for classic mini-loop type flicks due to the short dwell time. While these shots still can be played, they require a softer execution, which will allow your opponent to apply pressure against you.
Just like its predecessor, the VIS-SALC works very well for blocking. Unlike many carbon-based blades, the VIS-SALC feels like it can absorb high levels of incoming energy, producing a direct feeling in the process. I attribute this phenomenon to the unique nature SALC weave. The rigidity of the blade means that the trajectories of the blocks are very flat and direct. The consistency of my FH/BH blocks was minimally lower than with the regular Viscaria (due to the risk of overshooting the table), but the shots were also more dangerous.
Smashing and flat hitting
The rigid nature and relatively high speed of the VIS-SALC, facilitates flat hits and smashes. I especially enjoyed BH smashes using short pips with a medium hard sponge, which produced a cracking sensation. Smashes and flat hits were very difficult to return.
Short game and pushing
The fast and rigid nature of the VIS-SALC necessitates soft hands whilst pushing to avoid overshooting the table. Once this adjustment is made, it becomes possible to produce long pushes that are uncomfortable to attack due to their flat trajectory. Thus, my practice partner didn’t have as much time as normally to prepare for his third ball attack, which weakened their effectiveness. Along similar lines, it is necessary to carefully titrate the amount of input power when playing short pushes and drop shots, to prevent them from going too long. However, that’s not a major issue.
Perhaps a little surprisingly given the above observations, I did not face any issues whilst serving short pendulum backspin serves. The serves were short and low, but lacked a little bit of spin. The VIS-SALC also worked really well on long topspin/sidespin serves, although again, the serves seemed to lack a little bit of spin, presumably due to the relatively short dwell time.
The Butterfly Viscaria Super ALC blade is an excellent 5+2 composite blade that caters to advanced and professional players with a modern offensive playing style, i.e., two-winged loopers playing more directly with less emphasis on spin. It also works very well with short pips. Compared to the classic Viscaria blade, the VIS-SALC is faster, softer feeling, and lower throwing. It has a similar capacity for absorbing incoming energy and a slightly larger sweet spot. As such, it enables execution of shots that are more direct and powerful, especially from mid-distance. Conversely, players who prioritize spin generation will likely prefer the dwellier-feeling, original Viscaria.
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- Butterfly Viscaria Super ALC Proline w/Dignics 05
About The Author
Patrick "ThePongProfessor" Hrdlicka is a table tennis enthusiast, who was introduced to the sport by his parents at the age of six. He progressed to play in the top national cadet and junior leagues in his native Denmark. With college looming, Patrick quit the sport for nearly twenty years. During this hiatus, he obtained a Ph.D.-degree in chemistry and moved to the US as he accepted a chemistry professor position. Since his return to the sport in 2015, he has been combining his analytical skills with his passion for table tennis by testing and writing about a wide range of table tennis equipment. He is a ~2200-USATT-rated left-handed doubles specialist who counts his 2017 US Open (O40 doubles) and 2018 Portland Open (open doubles) titles and Top-16 finish at the 2018 World's Veteran Championships (40-44 year doubles) among his fondest memories. He has a controlled offensive playing style and currently uses a 7-ply limba/ayous based all-wood blade and DHS Hurricane 3 and driving-type short pips in his FH and BH, respectively.
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