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What is the effect of sponge hardness/density on a table tennis racket?
The hardness/density of your racket’s sponge effects how deep the ping-pong® ball sinks into the sponge. Softer sponge will have more dwell time and allow the ball to sink deep giving the ball a higher arch. Most loopers and those focusing on spinny shots and more arch prefer soft sponge. Softer sponge is lighter in weight and easier to perform more spin on the slow shots: loop against backspin, chop, and push. Harder sponge has less dwell time and does not allow the ball to sink deep into the sponge. Many aggressive counter-looping players like harder sponge because there is more potential for power and spin from mid-distance. Although harder sponge is heavier, one must also consider the sponge thickness when gauging the weight.
Most rubbers for table tennis rackets have two versions, a soft one and a hard one; for example Narucross EX Hard and Narucross EX Soft. This doesn’t mean that the hard is extremely hard or the soft is extremely soft. It just means that one is softer than the other. Before purchasing a rubber for your racket, consult the catalogue review on each rubber.