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Lobster Sports Elite Freedom Portable Tennis Ball Machine (21x14 x 20- Inch)
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- Designed for maximum durability, its 35-pound ergonomic design and oversized-wheels allow for easy transport, even with a full hopper of 150 balls. A 2-4 hour battery allows you the freedom to play anywhere at anytime.
- The full corner-to-corner sweep of the Elite Freedom will challenge a wide range of players from advanced to beginners alike.
- Oscillation: Random horizontal Speed: 10 to 70 mph Ball capacity: 150 Feed rate: 2-10 seconds Power: battery Court time: 2-4 hours Elevation: manual 0-50 degrees Weight: 35 lbs. Spin: none Warranty: 2 years
- Includes Basic Battery Charger
- Optional Accessories Available: 1-Amp Fast Charger 3-Amp Premium Fast Charger Storage Cover External Battery Pack
- Hazmat and non-returnable
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The Elite Freedom is equipped with features that are not found on any machine in its price range. The large ball capacity and battery size allow extended play on the court. The freedom's oversized wheels and extended handle provides unequalled portability for players who are on the move. Enjoy playing against such advanced features such as full corner-to-corner random oscillation, up to 50-degree lobs to practice your overheads, and speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. Designed for maximum durability, its 35-pound ergonomic design and oversized-wheels allow for easy transport, even with a full hopper of 150 balls. A 2-4 hour battery allows you the freedom to play anywhere at anytime. Item is hazmat and non-returnable.
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There's a few things one should know about the machine before buying. If these are deal breakers for you, I wouldn't recommend:
1. I personally don't feel comfortable using it unless I have at least a court on both sides of me empty. I'm usually a little cautious when it comes to these types of things though. It is mostly just due to balls hitting the opposite fence and rolling too far, or the occasional ground stroke that hits another ball on the ground and bounces. When hitting full ground stokes cross court with oscillation running, balls can manage to travel behind neighboring courts. It is also a little noisy. Luckily I play after work in the afternoon and I have courts where this is possible. One option if someone comes up next to you is to turn oscillation off and hit away from neighbors.
2. For me, it is very difficult to use this machine on full speed. I have not been able to successfully place it to where it gets enough loft over the net and has full speed. It either flies past the baseline or is way to low and not fun to hit. It's not fun to spend a lot of time trying to perfectly place the machine (you have to pick up balls that you don't even hit and it takes a lot of time), so I personally gave up trying to use it on full speed unless the charge is low.
3. A consistent battery charge level is key to quick set-up and consistent placement results. If you go out one day on a short charge, you will find yourself messing around with placement and loft to get same results as full charge. Just charge it fully or consistently before going out.
- Pretty easily transportable - I own a 2012 Camry SE and it fits fine in the back seat. I easily carry it down a flight of stairs then roll it once on level ground.
- Oscillation is pretty accurate on one speed below high. Other reviewers complain about it throwing balls out of bounds, but I have been able to set it up to successfully avoid that. One key is keeping the charge level as mentioned above in 3.
- Ball holder has high ball capacity. I use 86 balls (pressure less) when I go out. Maybe I should increase this. I could see the 150 capacity claimed in the specs.
- High speed setting is difficult to use, cannot get machine to throw balls in desired location (see 2 above).
- Does not have a setting to spray balls in all areas of the court, front, back, left, right (like other expensive machines can). Must stick with one of the multiple available power settings.
- Picking up balls is a pain in the arse (with all ball machines)
I would recommend it to anyone as long as the first 3 points aren't deal breakers for you. I gave it 4 stars because it did what I expected it to do in the price range. It really helped me improve the consistency on my ground stroke. Also, running back and forth with the oscillation feature is a good work out. I didn't have time to join a league because of work, and only had one other person to play with at my skill level. We are around a 4.0 and he had joined a league so he was quickly surpassing me with consistency. After I bought the machine I was back to playing good matches with him.
Make sure your battery is connected when you first get the machine. When I first got it, I plugged it in to see no LED indicator action. Taking off the panel revealed the battery was not connected.
The first day using the machine was difficult. The only way I could get the machine to work was to start everything in the lowest settings, then after it started turn the speed and timing up.
After about ten sessions, this no longer worked. I would start the machine, then it would cut out and stop working.
I contacted Customer Service and was given two options. I could either pay for the shipping to have the Lobster serviced or I could try diagnosing the issues through Skype with one of their technicians, then have their technician, again through the phone of Skype, walk me through fixing the issue after the parts were shipped to me.
I am not mechanically inclined and will not pay for shipping to have the Lobster fixed, as such I will be contacting Amazon to have it returned and get my money back for the defective product.
My advice to anyone looking to purchase a Lobster: Tread carefully and know that any issues will be on you to fix with help over Skype. Those who are okay with this, the Lobster might make a decent purchase.
To summarize, I wanted to buy a $2,000 ball machine but could not justify spending that much last summer, so I did some research to try and determine if there was a lower-cost model that would suit my needs. The Lobster Elite Freedom seemed to fit the bill, but I was concerned because of the number of negative reviews I had read. So I called Lobster Sports and talked to a guy in sales named Tigran. He answered all of my questions and helped alleviate my concerns about Lobster products. He told me that if the machine does not perform as expected in any way, I can contact him personally and he will pay to have my machine shipped back to them, and then they will send me a new machine as a replacement. That and the 2-year warranty helped to reassure me. After talking to him, I placed my order for the machine from Amazon.
After I received the machine, I charged it for 24 hours like the instructions said, and took it out on a Saturday (July 21, 2012) to give it a try. But unfortunately it would not work at all. I had the same problem that some others have been having in various reviews I have read. As soon as I turned on the machine, the fuse popped out. I started it on the lowest speed like the instructions said, but I could not get it to stay on for more than a second before the fuse tripped. I was also frustrated by the fact that the control panel cover had some scratches on it and there was a small part missing (The pointer that you clip in to indicate the elevation that you have it set to). In addition to everything else, both the elevation number and the speed on the dial do not go as high as the advertised speeds. I found out later that the max elevation and speeds listed on the web site are a little higher than what the machine is actually capable of.
Needless to say, I was a very unhappy camper. I contacted customer support the following Monday (July 23). After a few hours, a guy in tech support named Joel called me back. He seemed puzzled as to why I was having this problem, even though so many others have mentioned this same issue in online reviews. He said he would e-mail me an electronic shipping label that I could print out, put on the box, and drop the defective machine off at UPS. He said I could call him as soon as I drop it off, they would verify that UPS had received it, and that he would ship me out a NEW machine the same day. I waited all day for the shipping label and never received an e-mail from him. So I sent them an e-mail and also left a phone message asking why I haven't received the label yet. I was still waiting for it the following day (July 24).
I was finally able to reach Joel on July 25, and he processed the return label and e-mailed that to me. I returned the machine on July 26. He promised that I would be sent a new (Not refurbished) machine. During this time, it was extremely frustrating dealing with their technical support. I had to keep calling back to find out the status, since they rarely ever replied to my e-mails (1 reply out of maybe 4-5 sent). When I talked to Joel on July 25, he promised me that I would receive the replacement machine on Friday, July 27. But I never received a tracking number. I finally reached him on the phone and he gave me the tracking number. I checked it while I still had him on the phone, and saw that it would not arrive until the following Wednesday (August 1). I reminded him that he said I would receive it Friday, and he just said "We ship them UPS ground". Well of course a ground shipment will not make it from California to Michigan in 2 days!
Also, when I was talking to Joel, I mentioned that their web site says that this machine can go up to 70 mph, but the dial only goes to 65 mpg. He said that no, it will only go up to 65 mpg. I pointed him to the page on the web site that compares the various models:
Note: For some reason, Amazon.com strips out the link I inserted. But you can easily find this chart on the Lobster Sports web site.
You have to click on Full Comparison Chart and look at the specs. He went there and admitted that the web site was wrong. This is definitely false advertising, and I have saved a copy of the page in case they try to say later that it was never advertised this way.
I finally received the new unit on Wednesday, August 1, but right before I went out of town for several days. So I didn't have a chance to try it right away. I was able to try it after I returned from my trip the following week. I tried it the first time without charging it, since Joel said it should come 70% charged. I used it for about an hour at the various speed settings, turned oscillation on and off, varied the elevation, etc. This replacement unit seemed to work fine. And it also appeared to be brand new. There were no scratches on the control panel. In fact, the panel had a thin layer of plastic over it to protect it, which makes me even more certain that my first unit was a used or refurbished one.
I used the machine about 3-4 more times, but I wasn't able to take it out every week because of my schedule, and because the weather eventually got much colder here in Michigan where I have been living since April. I did discover one problem with it. When I charged it, the light would never indicate that the machine was fully charged, so there must have been some defect in the light. However, I would just charge it overnight (8-12 hours) after using it, and it seemed to work OK. I decided to not contact Lobster Sports about the light issue because I did not want to have to go through the hassle of returning another machine and waiting for the replacement, and then maybe experiencing another issue more serious than a defective charging light.
After I stopped using it for the winter, I would still hook it up and charge it overnight once/month, since you're supposed to charge it occasionally to keep the battery from completely depleting. Out of the blue, about 2 weeks ago (Early December 2012), I received a phone call from Curtis Toney, the Sales & Marketing Manager at Lobster Sports. He asked me how the replacement machine was working. I indicated that I didn't have a chance to use it much, but that it seemed to be working fine except for the charging light. He apologized for that and offered to send me one of the 1-amp fast chargers for free. It plugs into a different socket on the unit, has its own charging light, and only takes about 6-8 hours to fully charge the machine. I thought this was very nice of him. I wish he had checked with me sooner, but I still appreciate it very much. I received the charger a few days ago and tried it out. I plugged it in and the light was red at first. It switched to green in about 30 minutes, indicating that the machine was fully charged (Probably from the recent time I had charged it overnight). Another nice feature of this charger is that you can't accidentally overcharge the machine like you can with the original charger that comes with it. The fast charger is about $100, but is probably worth it if you want to protect the battery and recharge the machine more quickly. I really think this charger should come with the machine though. Anyway, it was a nice touch, and this does improve my impression of Lobster Sports. If anyone purchases one of these machines and has a problem they cannot get resolved, you might want to try and get in touch with Curtis, since I believe he would work hard to take care of any unhappy customers.
I also asked Curtis about the scratches on the control panel and the missing piece on the first unit, since that made me suspect that I had received a refurbished unit rather than a new one. He said that someone in the shipping department had removed the plastic covering over the control panel by mistake, which also left it exposed to being scratched. So this was a mistake on their end, but the first unit I received was still a new one even though it didn't work out of the box.
I will post more when the weather improves in the Spring and I get a chance to use the machine several more times. I have updated my rating to 3 stars. If my tests in the Spring go well, I may update it to 4 stars.
I hope my comments are helpful to anyone who is planning to purchase a tennis ball machine. If anyone wants to contact me directly, I can be reached at email@example.com.