Tennis AccessoriesTennis Equipment

Tennis Racquet Vibration Dampeners

Do you need a vibration dampener on your racquet? What are the best ones you can buy?

Tennis vibration dampeners are the accessory of choice for countless pros and thousands of recreational players across the globe, but do they do anything to your racquet? Or are they purely cosmetic?

Not only that, do they help your game? Will they improve your strokes? Will they prevent tennis elbow?

And if they are a must-have piece of kit, is there such thing as the best vibration dampener for your racquet?

All that and more in this in-depth guide to vibration dampeners. Let's take a look.

What is a Tennis Vibration Dampener?

Goerges Vibration Damepener

Let's start with what it is. A vibration dampener is a small piece of silicone rubber inserted into a tennis racket's string bed near the racquet's throat.

If you shift your eyes to the left of the picture above, Julia Goerges has one on her Babolat Pure Drive.

These mini shock absorbers first appeared way back in 1964, when Rene Lacoste produced the first vibration dampener called the Tanti-Vibration Dampener to aid injury prevention.

Tanti Dampener

Naturally, other brands followed suit to create their versions of dampeners, and it's become a widely used modern-day tennis accessory.

Today they go by many names, and you'll hear them called vibration dampers, absorbers, dampeners, worms, damps, rubber bands, shock absorbers, and doughnuts.

Manufacturers even like to spin it with terms like “Pro Damp”, which is designed to make you think you're getting something better than a standard one. 😀

Regardless of how they're named, all of these terms describe the same thing; a product designed to reduce the amount of vibration from the strings after you contact the ball.

What Does a Dampener Do On A Tennis Racquet?

Yonex Dampener

Suppose you surveyed one hundred players on why they use vibration dampener or what it does. In that case, you'd get a range of responses from changing the way it feels, curing tennis elbow, reducing vibration and general injury prevention.

However, the purpose most players have when they use vibration dampeners is because it changes the “ping” sound after the ball makes an impact with the racquet.

The rubber dulls or muffles the sound, and for most players, this is for mental/auditory wellbeing than a physical purpose.

From my experience, they do make a big difference on the sound, and if you've ever had one pop out during a rally, you instantly know it's not in there when you hear that pinging sound on the next shot.

Some players hate that sound, which is why dampeners are so prevalent on tour and across tennis clubs worldwide.

Do Tennis Vibration Dampeners Prevent Injury or Tennis Elbow?

arm friendly

So if these shock absorbers reduce vibration, they must prevent injury or help ease tennis elbow, right? Many players believe this is the case, but the answer is no.

Dampeners do not help tennis elbow, change string tension, increase string durability, boost power, add spin, or any other benefits you may have seen touted elsewhere.

This misconception has spread because manufacturers use terms in their marketing to make you think playing without a vibration dampener is leaving you open to elbow problems. 

It then only takes one respected club member to put a dampener in their racquet, sing its praises and before you know it, every other club member is using one 😆

However, numerous pieces of independent research have shown that string dampers do not reduce the amount of racquet frame vibration that you will feel in your forearm; they only reduce the amount of vibration of the strings. Hence the acoustic effects.

Research from Taiwan to England shows that the dampening device is too small to actually reduce frame vibration. String dampers do not reduce the amount of racquet frame vibration received in the forearm, They remain a popular accessory among tennis players because of their acoustic effects and psychological support, rather than any mechanical advantage. Dr. Francois-Xavier Li, University of Birmingham School of Sport and Exercise Sciences.

There's no reduction in vibration from the frame because vibration dampeners are too small to have any effect.

Despite this research, the myth that vibration dampeners will reduce frame vibration and prevent tennis elbow persists.

I found zero difference in arm friendliness from my own experience of playing with and without a dampener.

The only explanation I can give is that some players find that ping sound more jarring, which probably translates into thinking their elbow has to soak it up. 

Putting on a dampener muffles the sound and likely creates a placebo effect.

However, no matter what vibration dampener you put on your stringbed; if you're using a frame that's too heavy, too stiff or a string that's harsh like polyester, this all has a significant impact on the shock and vibration of your arm endures which no small piece of silicone can impact.

If you're suffering from tennis elbow, I'd recommend looking into arm friendly racquets and the type of tennis string you're using.

Most manufacturers produce a line of racquets with built-in dampening properties to their frames, giving better shock absorption.

Where Do You Put a Vibration Dampener?

Shock Absorber Placement

Given that there aren't many areas on a racquet, you can install a dampener without it negatively interfering with the ball; you wouldn't think there'd need to be any rules.

However, according to the USTA's Official Rules of Tennis and the ITF rulebook, a vibration-damping device “may only be placed outside the pattern of the crossed strings” (Rule 4, Case 3).

Therefore, legally you can only fit it in one of three places.

  • However, there's rarely enough room at the very top of the racquet.
  • At the extreme left or right of the frame, which doesn't seem very logical. Although a dampener only weighs ~5g and probably won't affect the balance of the frame dramatically, having it in the middle of the racquet head looks weird. I also think you might keep seeing it in the corner of your eye during the shot.
  • Near the racquet's throat before the first cross string as per the picture above. The only logical spot.

There are no rules on the shape, but it must be a reasonable size.

What Other Impact Can a Dampener Have on a Racquet?

Del Potro Nuclear Fh

Aside from the impact on the sound of the ball at contact, the only area a dampener can affect is the racquet's feel. 

The loss of feeling is perhaps one of the downsides of having a vibration dampener on a tennis racquet, as you don't feel the ball as well on your strings.

This boils down to purely personal preference, though; some players love a muted response, and others want to feel the ball on the strings, so whether it's good or bad is for you to test and decide.

When I play with a dampener on, I think you get less feedback on how well you hit the shot.

You get a somewhat muted sound regardless of whether you hit a screamer in the middle of the sweet spot or hit off centre, so I generally play without one. The sound is different and slightly grating on the ears, but you get used to it.

What Are The Different Types of Vibration Dampener?

Button Dampener

Vibration dampeners come in three main styles:

  • Button
  • Worm
  • Elastic Band

Button Dampeners

Button Dampeners

Button dampeners are usually circular (sometimes square or cut out like a brand's logo) like a button and are more commonly seen than the worm style.

Most pros go with these as they're easy to fit, which means removing and putting one in a freshly strung racquet before a ball change is a job you can do walking back to the service line.

Popular button dampeners include the Djokovic dampener from Head, Dunlop's spider dampener to support the marketing efforts around their popular Black Widow poly string and the Sampras Tourna Dampener.

The only negative is that button dampeners fly out during play from mishits. They are only held in place by two main strings, so if you make contact near the throat, then you'll have to search around the court for it. So remember to keep a couple of spares in your bag.

Worm Dampeners

Worm Dampeners

The other common vibration dampener is known as a “worm” dampener. This dampener is long and thin, and it is fitted by weaving it between several strings.

As a result, it is in contact with more of the stringbed and produces a more dampening effect on the sound.

Compared to button dampeners, they are a bit faffy to fit, but once they're in, usually they won't come out.

Popular worm dampeners include the Gamma Shockbuster and the Head Smartsorb.

Elastic Bands

Agassi Rubber Band

If you were a fan of Andre Agassi, you're likely familiar with his DIY dampener – the elastic band. 

Agassi tied a rubber band to his strings, and it had the same effect as a rubber dampener. It might not look as cool, you can't get one with a logo or smiley face on, but they do the same job.

The dampening isn't quite as severe as you get from a button dampener, but the thicker the band, the more significant its effect.

Andre used a band as he didn't like how rubber dampeners felt, so instead, he used a size 64 rubber band.

If you want to use a rubber band dampener, here's how to fasten it to your racquet.

How To Install a Vibration Damper

Damper

The denser the string pattern, the harder dampeners are to fit, but generally, they're simple to install. The only time I find them annoying is on a freshly strung racquet with stiffer strings, as they do require a bit of force to budge.

The button dampeners are more straightforward as you push the damper slot into one of your main strings as far as it will go, then either bend the dampener or pull the opposite main string until it slots into the other side. Then slide it up onto your first cross string.

The worm ones can be slightly fiddly and are best explained in this video below. 

Do Professional Players Use Dampeners?

Khachanov Dampener

Hundreds of professional players use vibration dampeners; however, there are two notable absentees. Roger Federer doesn't use one, and neither does Serena Williams.

Federer did use one back in the day, but it fell out once, and he never put it back; saying the sound annoyed him at first, but he got used to it.

He does, however, use Power Pads which have a similar, although not quite as dramatic, effect at nullifying the sound.

If we look at the current top 30 (as of early 2022) on the men's side, 60% use a dampener; the other 40% don't. You can see the breakdown in the table below.

Ranking Player Uses a Vibration Dampener?
1 N. Djokovic Yes, Head Djokovic Dampener
2 D. Medvedev Yes, Tecnifibre Vibra Clip ATP Vibration Dampener
3 A. Zverev Yes, Head Zverev Dampener
4 R. Nadal Yes, Babolat Custom Damp
5 S. Tsitsipas No
6 M. Berrettini Yes, Head Xtra Damp
7 Casper Ruud Yes, Yonex Vibration Dampener
8 A. Rublev Yes, Pete Sampras Tourna Vibration Dampener
9 F. Auger Aliassime Yes, Babolat Custom Damp
10 Cameron Norrie No
11 Carlos Alcaraz No
12 Jannik Sinner No
13 Taylor Fritz No
14 Hubert Hurkacz No
15 D. Shapovalov No
16 D. Schwartzman No
17 Pablo Carreno Busta Yes, Luxilon Legacy Vibration Dampener
18 Reilly Opelka Yes, Smiley Face Dampener
19 R. Bautista Agut No
20 Nikoloz Basilashvili No
21 Lorenzo Sonego Yes, Wilson Pro Feel Dampener
22 G. Monfils Yes, Luxilon Legacy Dampener
24 K. Khachanov Yes, Kimony QuakeBuster
25 Alex De Minaur Yes, Luxilon Legacy Dampener
26 Dan Evans Yes, Luxilon Legacy Dampener
27 John Isner No
28 G. Dimitrov No
29 C. Garin Yes, Luxilon Legacy Vibration Dampener
30 Frances Tiafoe Yes, Yonex Vibration Dampener
~ D. Thiem No
~ R. Federer No
~ D. Goffin No
~ F. Fognini Yes, Pete Sampras Tourna Vibration Dampener
~ S. Wawrinka Yes, Yonex Vibration Dampener

6 Recommended Vibration Dampeners For 2022

Dampeners

Below I've highlighted six of the most common vibration dampeners used on the ATP and WTA tours, and they're all solid choices.

I've had a couple of emails from people asking if I can recommend the best dampener available, but it's impossible to give any product the crown of ‘best vibration dampener'.

All you're getting is a piece of silicon, so they're entirely interchangeable.

In the grand scheme of things, it's a relatively trivial thing to get right on your racquet, so my recommendation is to pick your favourite design.

Just remember, the button style muffles the sound less than a worm style as it covers fewer strings.

Wilson Pro Feel Dampener

Wilson Pro Dramp Feel

Check Price

The Pro Feel dampener takes the shape of the iconic W logo and is one you will see used by several pros who are sponsored by or using Wilson racquets.

It is simple to fit/remove, and it comes in several colours to complement your racquet or string job.

Head Pro Damp

Head Pro Damp

Check Price

This is Novak's dampener of choice, although his version is orange and comes with the Serbian eagle on one side.

You can also buy a Djokovic version with the Djokovic “D” logo. They are usually sold in packs of two and come in various colours.

Pete Sampras Tourna Vibration Dampener 

Sampras Tourna Dampener

Check Price

The dampener made famous by Pistol Pete is the Tourna Dampener. It's also where the nickname for the product ‘doughnut' comes from.

A straightforward design and one you see a lot of pros using alongside TournaGrip overgrips.

It has “Pete Sampras” printed along the sides, and they usually come in black, red or white.

Tecnifibre Vibra Clip ATP Vibration Dampener

Tecnifibre Vibra Clip Atp Vibration Dampener

Check Price

The Tecnifibre Vibra Clip is one of the more unique designs of vibration dampener, and several pros, including Daniil Medvedev, use it.

Weighing in at just 2 grams, it's incredibly light and has a slightly different fastening system that locks it in place.

Babolat Custom Dampener

Babolat Custom Damp

Check Price

The dampener of choice for Rafael Nadal to match his racquet is the Babolat Custom Damp.

This one is an excellent choice for players who want to play around with the level of dampening, as you can remove the clear rubber piece in the middle for more ball feel or keep it for extra dampening.

Gamma Shockbuster II Vibration Dampener

Gamma Shockbuster 2

Check Price

The Gamma Shokcbuster II is a vibration dampener with a new twin-tube design created to contact more areas of the main strings for an increased dampening effect.

Not my favourite, but for those who like to nullify the sound of the string, this is a good choice.

Luxilon Legacy Dampener

Luxilon Legacy Dampener

Check Price

Used by several pros like Gael Monfils, the Luxilon Legacy Dampener has a dense silicone construction; this provides a very smooth and dampened feel.

This is very similar to the original Vibra Stopper O dampener that used to come bundled in with Luxilon strings for many years but sadly, no more!

What About Some of the Different Dampeners To Hit the Market?

Adv Dampener

I've seen quite a few new style dampeners hit the market; some have even tried to raise money via Kickstarter and various other crowdfunding sites.

However, my problem with these is that they all make outlandish claims and don't offer anything different to what is already there.

Take, for example, the ADV Dampener pictured above. You get three in a pack to experiment, but they're marketed as a feat of engineering. While they look cool enough, they're no better than a simple button dampener.

The other issue with this style of dampener is that they're not a universal fit and will not work on specific string patterns or spacing.

While I don't think it is a bad product, I can't see the price tag justification compared to the dampeners that have been available for years.

Should You Use a Vibration Dampener?

Nadal Dampener

Dampeners are all about personal preference. Some players like them, others don't. But given the relatively low cost of buying one, it's worth testing out.

Ultimately they're somewhat of a misnomer as they dampen string vibrations, not frame shock, and so do not prevent injury.

So while It's not a product that will improve your game, it may produce more of a pleasant sound to your ears and if you enjoy the aesthetics of adding them to your racquet, give them a try!

If you are a player who likes the ‘pock' sound, then use a worm dampener, players who only want a quieter ping should use a button dampener and those who want a loud ping should use nothing.

What are your thoughts on vibration dampeners? Let me know in the comments.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

Related Articles

31 Comments

  1. I used dampener when I was using Head racquet, after I switched to Wilson, I stopped as it feels better without it. Strange for me but using dampener is more like security blanket.

    1. Bit like RF 😀

      I use one now and again, often forget to put it in.

      I did previously think that it was better for the arm, but after reading up that was clearly debunked.

    1. No I haven’t announced the winners, although the leaderboard is up to date on the comment leaderboard page for 2020 minus the latest posts.

      It’s on my to do list. I had planned to do it before IW but tbh I am not sure what to give away. I usually do tennistv, but that wouldn’t be a very good prize.

      Ideas?

      1. Rui, you could spend the night drinking champagne talking about rackets, strings, dampeners, little red squares ….the list is endless.

  2. For me, the problem with using dampeners is the awkward feel when you hit an off centre shot, it distractes me a bit. It’s more pleasant without one in those cases.
    Thanks Jonathan.

  3. On stiff racquets with poor dampening, fitted with polyester strings, you can feel the high frequency from string vibration on your hand at ball impact. Sure, the amplitude is low but I can feel the buzz.
    I would prefer not using a dampener because I like a low frequency pop. The “problem” is that on most modern frames the sound is very ugly, more like a crack. Off centre hits sound even more awful.
    So, I prefer the silicone thing.
    My son plays without one. He prefers the extra feedback.

    1. I will have to try that out. I did use to think dampeners helped but when I read some of the studies and tried with and without can’t say I noticed the difference.

      I do have a 70RA frame that I usually have RPM Blast in and a dampener. So I will play next time without it in.

      1. In a high quality racquet I doubt the string vibrations will travel down the frame even on a RA70 one. The major difference is the “Twang!” sound. On a Pure Drive, polyester strings without dampener sound like hitting a tin can with a stick.
        On my very old thin’n’heavy 90” frame the sound is a marvelous pop.

    1. Nah, even the RG reschedule makes little, if any, sense. The epidemic can subside in two months if we are lucky and get a hot and dry spring or it can stretch for many months if otherwise. But with this berserk climate the best is to not make many plans.
      Take care and stay healthy.
      (Damn, now all I can do is practice shadow swings at home. Furniture: beware!)

      1. That was a stupid move on their part. Not conferring with other tournaments, ATP, ITF, WTA etc. Looks like USO is not pleased. Why not wait and see.

    2. Yeah, the whole thing is a fiasco in this difficult time. ATP vs ITF… or Fed (LC) vs anti-Fed. Not just about LC though, did RG even consider other tournaments during the same period as well?

  4. Honestly I also can’t stand the fact that an article on this Webpage is introduced by N.Dopovic.
    @Jonathan: Couldn’t you switch to a picture exhibiting just a damper itself ?

  5. Hi Jonathan,

    Thank you for your great detail article.
    Have you tried Babolat RVS Vibration Dampener? Its weight is around 7gram. It touches the bottom frame so vibration to frame might be reduced. Will it be effective to prevent arm injury? Thank you.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks, yeah I’ve seen those, are they still available? Not tried but someone I’ve played against had one, it used to fall out all the time.

      I don’t think they can prevent arm injury, no dampener can but it might help a bit to reduce the vibrations due to that piece of metal in there and how close it sits to the frame.

      If you are struggling with your arm and have tried softer strings etc, I’d give Pro Kennex racquets a go.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button