Paddle Noise – Turn it down

There is a lot of noise around paddle noise lately. Reminds me of when I was a kid playing in bands and listening to a favorite Frank Zappa’s song, Joe’s garage. Despite our exceptional talents my fellow band members and I weren’t big with the neighbors.

Just like garage bands in the 80’s, pickleball noise is becoming an issue as courts move into high density communities. Neighbors are complaining and condo boards and councilors are listening, ultimately leading to court hours being reduced or eliminated permanently.

Somebody asked me last week how much quieter our paddles were due to the wood playing surface and polymer honeycomb core. I didn’t really have an answer, I knew they were quiet but how much? So I set up and did some testing.

Sound is a confusing thing to define and way beyond my ability to comprehend in detail but I was able with the help of a friend who spent 40 years in the recording business as a sound engineer, measure the sound levels of our paddles and provide some basic comparisons. 

We tested three of our paddles against a straight fairly stiff fiberglass paddle. All paddles tested had the same core material. Sound measurements were taken while bouncing the ball on the paddle as well as during simulated play. The readings below are from simulated play, however the differences as percentages were almost exactly the same for bouncing the ball on the paddle.

  • Fiberglass: 85db average
  • Retro 86T cherry/fiberglass: 78db average
  • Retro 85T Ash/fiberglass: 76db average
  • Heritage 75 carbon fiber/maple: 74db average

It is a small sample group for now but it does show the natural wood playing surface seems to have an effect on the amount of sound generated at ball strike.

There was also a very noticeable difference in the tone of the strike, which I am not sure how to quantify.

The straight fiberglass paddle had a very sharp and harsh sound which made it seem louder than it was. The cherry and ash wood/fiberglass faced paddles had a mid range tone, while the Heritage maple/carbon fiber paddle had a very “soft” sound.

(after testing the straight fiberglass and switching to the Heritage I actually had to look to see I had hit the ball).

The takeaway. Our paddles’ natural wood playing surface does seem to provide a reduction in noise generated at ball strike. Is it enough to quell complaints from neighbors, who knows, but it’s a start.

I am hoping to be able to add other paddle technologies to the list for additional comparisons and reference points for players.

Are there quieter paddles available? Could be, but with over 1200 paddles on the USAPA website, we can’t test them all.