Timo Boll Spirit vs ALC vs ZLF vs ZLC vs CAF Table Tennis Blades

Butterfly make a range of different Timo Boll blades making it difficult for players to choose the correct one for their playing style. In this article I’ll compare all the Timo Boll blades (Spirit, ALC, ZLF, ZLC and CAF) so you can decide which is the best for you.

Timo Ball Blade Range

The Timo Boll Spirit and ALC blades offer the most power but the least spin capability. The Timo Boll ZLC is the lightest and suits players who stand closer to the table and need to be able to react quickly. The CAF blade offers the most spin and the ZLF offers the most feeling.

Images below link to Amazon

Timo Boll ALC

Timo Boll CAF

Timo Boll Spirit

Timo Boll ZLF

Timo Boll ZLC

Physical Characteristics

All the Timo Boll blades have a 7-ply structure which consists of 5-ply wood and 2-ply carbon. However, the blades use different types of carbon layers and have different weights and thicknesses which cause them to feel different to play with.

The Timo Boll Spirit blade is the thickest and heaviest. The Timo Boll ZLF blade is the thinnest and the Timo Boll CAF blade is the lightest. Here is a table showing the thickness, weight and composition of each blade.

BladeThicknessCompositionWeight
Timo Boll Spirit5.8 mm5 ply wood + 2 Acrylate-Carbon89 g
Timo Boll ALC5.8 mm5-ply wood + 2 Arylate-Carbon85 g
Timo Boll ZLF5.4 mm5-ply wood + 2 ZL-Fiber87 g
Timo Boll ZLC5.5 mm5-ply wood + 2 ZL-Carbon86 g
Timo Boll CAF5.7 mm3-ply wood + 2 CA-Fiber82 g

Thick vs Thin

The thickness of the blade affects how stiff and hard it feels. Thinner blades such as the ZLF and ZLC have more flex which lends them better for looping. Thicker blades such as the Spirit and ALC help to provide more power which improves the speed of the ball.

Heavy vs Light

Lighter blades feel faster to play with and help the player to react more quickly, whereas heavier blades tend to feel more powerful so the ball travels faster. The lighter CAF and ALC blades help players who play closer to the table and suit quick counter-attacks. The heavier Spirit blade makes the player slower to react but produces a more powerful shot.

Check out my article on blade weight and why it matters to learn more.

Carbon Layers Explained

As mentioned previously, all the blades have 5 wood layers and 2 carbon layers. The main difference between each blade is due to the technology used to make the carbon layers.

  • Acrylate Carbon (Spirit and ALC blades): designed to have a medium-soft touch and increased stability for versatile play
  • ZL Fiber (ZLF blade): lightweight and flexible due to its low density.
  • ZL Carbon (ZLC blade): has a medium-hard touch to increase spin and speed
  • CA Fiber (CAF Blade): has increased flexibility and control

Vibration and Reaction

Two important characteristics we need to consider are “vibration” and “reaction”. Butterfly has assigned each blade a score for each characteristic as outlined in the table below.

BladeReactionVibration
Timo Boll Spirit11.810.3
Timo Boll ALC11.810.3
Timo Boll ZLC11.710.8
Timo Boll CAF10.610.4
Timo Boll ZLF10.59.4

Reaction

This indicates how powerful the blade is. A lower reaction score indicates that the ball will travel more slowly after contacting the blade. A higher reaction score indicates that the ball will move faster after impact.

With regards to the reaction score of the Timo Boll blades, here’s the order from lowest to highest:

  • ZLF
  • CAF
  • ZLC
  • Spirit and ALC

Hence, the Spirit and ALC blades will provide the most power, whilst the ZLF blade will feel the weakest.

Vibration

This helps to provide feedback to the player. The way that Butterfly use the vibration metric is quite confusing because the higher the vibration value, the less the player will actually feel the vibration in their hand. In other words, a higher vibration score indicates a “harder” feel, whereas a lower vibration score indicates a “softer” feel.

Players who like to loop often prefer a lower vibration score (more feeling) whereas players who like to smash and block often prefer a higher vibration score (less feeling).

With regards to the vibration score of the Timo Boll blades, here’s the order from lowest to highest:

  • ZLF
  • Spirit and ALC
  • CAF
  • ZLC

Hence, the player will feel the most vibration when using the ZLF blade and the least when using the ZLC.

Which Timo Boll Blade is Best for You?

Each Butterfly Timo Boll blade is designed to suit a different type of player based on the following atributes:

  • Power (speed)
  • Spin
  • Feeling and Feedback
  • Weight

Here is a table to help quantify each blade.

BladePowerSpinFeelingWeight
Timo Boll Spirit9.17.58.68.9
Timo Boll ALC9.07.48.68.5
Timo Boll CAF8.19.08.58.2
Timo Boll ZLF8.08.29.08.7
Timo Boll ZLC8.98.17.88.6

Best for Power

The Timo Boll Spirit and ALC blades offer the most power and speed due to their thickness and heaviness in comparison to the rest of the range. The Timo Boll ZLF and CAF blades are comparatively weak.

Best for Spin

Flexible blades tend to offer the most spin capability. The Timo Boll CAF blade is the most flexible and offers the most spin followed by the ZLF, ZLC, Spirit and finally ALC blade which is very stiff.

Best for Feeling

Having a blade with more “feeling” helps to provide the player with more feedback. Blades with increased feeling typically suit loopers, whilst many flat-hitters prefer blades which feel more “dead”. The Timo Boll ZLF blade offers the most feeling whereas the Spirit offers the least.

Best for Reaction Time

If you are a counter attacking player who likes to position themselves closer to the table then you’ll ideally want a lighter blade that doesn’t slow you down. The Timo Boll ZLC is the lightest blade followed by the ALC, ZLF CAF and finally the Spirit blade which is the heaviest and will suit players who stand further from the table.

Summarising the Pros and Cons of Each Blade

Timo Boll Spirit

The Timo Boll Spirit blade is heavy and thick which means it offers a lot of power. However, due to its weight, it makes it harder for the player to react more quickly and hence suits players who stand further from the table. It offers a moderate amount of feeling which makes it a good option for players learning techniques as well as advanced players who are looking for a powerful blade.

Here is a link to the Timo Boll Spirit Blade on Amazon.

Timo Boll ALC

The Timo Boll ALC blade is fairly thick which means it offers a lot of power but doesn’t flex much so won’t produce as much spin. It has a moderate weight which means it suits players who stand variable distances from the table as it does not slow reaction times down too much. It also has a good amount of feeling making it useful for learning techniques.

Here is a link to the Timo Boll ALC Blade on Amazon.

Timo Boll ZLF

The Timo Boll ZLF blade is fairly thin and flexible so does not offer the most power but offers an excellent level of feeling for a carbon fiber blade. This blade isn’t super heavy so doesn’t slow the player down too much and allows them to generate a high level of spin.

Here is a link to the Timo Boll ZLF Blade on Amazon.

Timo Boll ZLC

The Timo Boll ZLC blade is a good all-rounder and offers excellent spin for high-performance playing. It is capable of producing a lot of power, but doesn’t offer much in the way of feeling.

Here is a link to the Timo Boll ZLC Blade on Amazon.

Timo Boll CAF

The Timo Boll CAF blade is capable of generating a very high amount of spin. It isn’t the most powerful blade since it is very lightweight but that does help the player to react more quickly and play closer to the table. It offers a good level of feeling and excels when in the hands of a looper.

Here is a link to the Timo Boll CAF Blade on Amazon.

Handles

All Timo Boll table tennis blades have flared, straight and anatomic handle shapes available except for the Timo Boll CAF blade which is only available with either a flared or straight handle. The dimensions are as follows for each handle shape:

  • Flared: 100 x 25 x 34 mm (all models)
  • Straight: 100 x 22 x 27.5 mm (except for Timo Boll CAF which measures 100 x 22 x 28 mm)
  • Anatomic: 100 x 24 x 34 mm (available for all models except the Timo Boll CAF)

Similarities

All variations of the Butterfly Timo Boll blades have the following same features:

  • Blade size is 157 x 150 mm
  • Type is described as “offensive shakehand”
  • A 5+2 ply structure made from carbon and wood

Which Players Use Timo Boll Blades?

Timo Boll isn’t the only professional table tennis player which uses these signature blades. Here is a list of players which use them.

  • Timo Boll ALC Blade: used by Timo Boll, Kanak Jha, Dina Meshref and Michael Maze
  • Timo Boll ZLC Blade: used by Suthasini Sawettabut and Favient Lamirault

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the Timo Boll ALC and Spirit blades?

The Timo Boll Spirit and ALC blades have the same thickness and both use carbon-acrylate with a 5+2 ply composition, however the Spirit is 4 g heavier. This means the Spirit is slightly more powerful but the ALC blade is more suited to players who position themselves closer to the table and need quicker reactions.

What is the difference between the Timo Boll ZLF and ZLC blades?

The Timo Boll ZLF blade is 1 g heavier than the ZLC blade, however the ZLC blade is 0.1 mm thicker. The Timo Boll ZLC offers more power but the ZLF offers more feeling to help increase feedback for the player.

What is the difference between the Timo Boll ALC and ZLC blades?

The Timo Boll ALC is 3 mm thicker but 0.1 g lighter than the Timo Boll ZLC blade. The ALC blade offers slightly more power and feeling compared to the ZLC. However, the ZLC blade has more spin capability.

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