The thermoforming revolution continues this team with the Electrum brand. This is where I'd usually say, "the brand out of ___," but I've checked their 'about us' section and can't find a location, so I'll go with this:
The American brand (yes, I know 98% of them are American) was at the forefront of raw carbon top sheet engineering when that craze started a couple of years ago, so it's no surprise they are also leading the way with thermoforming.
Their standard Electrum Model E was extremely popular and fantastic in its own right, so they logically decided to build off of that paddle's success with the Model E Elite. Other than the moulding process, everything else is the same. It's 16 millimetres thick, 16.5 inches long, weighs between 8.0 and 8.3 ounces, and has a short 5.25-inch handle.
You might recognize this handle length since it's the same one advertised on the Selkirk Invikta, but in my hand and on the court, the Model E's felt noticeably shorter, more like an Omni if you remember that paddle. Such a short handle on a 16.5-inch paddle is unique, and this had the biggest effect on playability throughout my playtest, at least compared to other thermoformed extended paddles with longer handles.
Let's get into some more specific playability, shall we?
This isn't exactly an original opinion because if you've watched any review on the Model E Elite, you'll know that power is its number one outstanding feature. Even compared to other 16mm thermoformed paddles — which are already extremely powerful — the Elite is noticeably more so.
A couple of factors make the Elite so powerful, but the most important one, besides the thermoforming construction, is this extended paddle face. With a paddle face this long, there is more mass behind the ball during contact. The static weight is already high, but because so much of that weight is concentrated in the face, its swingweight is one of the highest.
If any paddle can be described as Thor's hammer, it's the Model E Elite. Its top-end pace-generating potential is the best I've ever tried, and it really is one of those paddles that can help you end the point from anywhere on the court. You can hit penetrating groundstrokes from the baseline and volley with more put-away power. The easy depth on serve is also very impressive and can help you push your opponent back and delay them coming up to the net.
Hand Speed and Manoeuvrability
Here's the issue with Thor's Hammer. Thor is a pretty strong guy, and he's the only one capable of swinging that weapon; it's kind of a similar story with the Model E Elite.
Ok, you don't need to be that strong to wield it, but it is one of the chunkiest and slowest paddles available, at least in stock form. Combine a high static and swing weight with an extended length, and you've already got a recipe for a sluggish paddle, but this longer paddle face and shorter handle really breaks the camel's back in making it so slow.
When designing a paddle, you first consider its shape and then determine the ratio of paddle face to handle length. Logically, the paddle face moves slower through the air than the handle because it's wider and less aerodynamic. Most 16.5-inch paddles opt for less paddle face and more handle, so the Model E Elite swings much slower relative to its competition.
This slow hand speed was very noticeable at the net. It takes a split second longer to react, which made it one of the lower performers I've used in hand battles. This sensation was somewhat frustrating at first, but over time I got used to the lack of hand speed and stopped putting myself into situations where that could become an issue.
It's a paddle that wants to dictate points rather than react to random situations. It has all the characteristics you would want to take control of points, so as long as you're proactive with your movement and shot selection, this won't be an issue, but if you're more of a reactive player, there are much better options.
The Model E Elite's sluggishness also affects — albeit much less significantly — the paddle's spin potential.
Paddles with a longer face and shorter handle are less "whippy" than their opposite numbers. The pivot point is lower down the paddle, so when you snap it through contact, you get less of the slingshot effect as it makes contact with the ball. That slingshot effect is why advanced players can get so much spin when brushing up on the ball.
Now this isn't as drastic an issue on spin as on hand speed, but it does have an effect, most noticeably when I was looking to hit with spin from positions where I wasn't as settled and able to hit with perfect form.
That being said, I don't want anyone to get confused into thinking this isn't a spin-friendly paddle, as it is. As you would expect from something thermoformed, it's still in the 90th percentile for spin but is on the lower end of the spectrum for thermoformed paddles.
Stability and Sweetspot
We got a bit doomy and gloomy there with hand speed and spin (I want to emphasize that spin is still fantastic), but fear not, we will turn back to the positive here with stability and sweet spot size.
Thermoformed, unibody paddles are inherently very stable. That's because they're made from one piece of carbon fibre throughout, so there are no seams for energy to be lost and destabilize the paddle.
What about the Model E Elite specifically? Aside from construction, stability comes from the paddle's surface area and weight. I probably don't need to repeat that the Elite has a big paddle face and a high swing weight, but I guess I just did. It's probably the most stable thermoformed paddle I've tested, which puts it right up at the top of stability charts, second only to the Joola Hyperion CFS 16mm, and even that is a close call.
The Model E Elite is a rock-solid paddle, and that, once again, fits perfectly with its dictating play style. Stability helps with consistency, so as long as you're anticipating your shots, it won't have any surprises in store, and it performs exceedingly well at the net when you have time to prepare a volley.
Stability and sweet spot size go hand in hand. As you would expect from something with so much real estate in the paddle face, the sweet spot is large and plenty forgiving.
Control and Feel
Thermoformed paddles aren't exactly known for their control, but as I mentioned in my CRBN1X Power and Vatic Pro V7 reviews, add enough weight to these things, and you'll at least make them competent in the discipline because the added stability and solidity make for more connection to the ball and better directional control.
In stock form, the Model E Elite plays like the CRBN1X Power and V7 I customized. The control is excellent compared to its other thermoformed peers; however, it's not a soft paddle. It still has that rigid and instantaneous thermoformed feel, so it won't give you that ability to control your dinks, drops, and touch shots during contact, but it won't hold you back if you develop soft enough hands.
I've talked a lot about how having a longer paddle face and shorter handle hurts hand speed and manoeuvrability, but that less mobile feel helps with control. When a paddle is very maneuverable, it's also susceptible to unwanted movement from the slightest imperfection in technique. When you're going for a control shot, you want the paddle face to stay constant through contact; it's why we are always told to keep our wrists locked. The Elite's sluggishness is handy here since it takes a lot more to move the paddle face, which means it's not as susceptible to imperfect technique and, therefore, easier to control.
Who is it for?
The Electrum Model E Elite is yet another thermoformed paddle making me think this molding process is slowly breaking pickleball. The solidity, power, and spin you get with these paddles is truly incredible, and it allows advanced players to manipulate the ball in a way that simply wasn't possible even a year ago.
The Elite is the most powerful paddle I've used, so if you want something with truly top-end put-away power and point-ending-ability, this is a perfect choice. You, of course, can control that powerful response with its great spin potential, but remember you'll need to perfect your spin technique, especially work on quickening your hands, as the paddle is nowhere near as fast as some other extended ones.
As I have with almost every thermoformed paddle I've tried, I really enjoyed play testing the Model E Elite, but I am excited to return to a paddle with a slightly longer handle and quicker feel.