Pickleball Gear

Best pickleball paddles for control in 2024 - top 5 compared

Author profile image
Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Dec 1, 2023

The best pickleball paddles for control: the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power, the JOOLA Perseus, and the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash

Looking to improve your touch shots in your pickleball game? If you want to focus on hitting better dinks, drops, or resets, you need the right paddle.

While many paddles are built for power and spin, some are designed specifically for your control game. In this article, I'll share the best pickleball paddles for control in 2024—paddles that I think will help you win more games.

Best paddles at a glance

Best overall

Photo of the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power pickleball paddle

Our Rating:

1. Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power

Gearbox have seriously upped their game here, adding power and spin to an outstanding control paddle.

Read my full review

Runner-up

Photo of the JOOLA Perseus pickleball paddle

Our Rating:

2. JOOLA Perseus

The hottest paddle launch of 2023—a premium control paddle used by the GOAT himself, Ben Johns.

Best cheap

Photo of the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash pickleball paddle

Our Rating:

3. Vatic Pro PRISM Flash

The Vatic Pro PRISM Flash genuinely competes with paddles twice the price, and it's one of the best control paddles available at any price point.
Get $10 off with PICKLEHEADS

Best for spin

Photo of the Vatic Pro Flash pickleball paddle

Our Rating:

4. Vatic Pro Flash

The Vatic Pro Flash is the PRISM's non-thermoformed cousin. It still offers a ton of control, but is more forgiving, more powerful, and generates even better spin.
Get $10 off with PICKLEHEADS

Also great

Photo of the Volair Mach 1 pickleball paddle

Our Rating:

5. Volair Mach 1

The Volair Mach 1 deserves an honorable mention because it's light and fast. Plus, it has good accuracy on dinks, blocks, and resets.

Save 10% with PICKLEHEADS

Which paddle is best for you?

Before buying a paddle, it’s important to make sure it fits your game. That's why I created a 30-second quiz that recommends the best paddles for your play style and budget.

Give it a try and see if any of these control paddles make the list:

Find the perfect paddle

Find the perfect paddle

I've personally tested over 80 paddles. Take the quiz to see which ones fit your game best.

Take Paddle Fitting Quiz

The best pickleball paddle for control in 2024

Why should you trust Pickleheads? I spend hours testing every product I recommend. Only the very best make it onto my lists, so you can be sure you're buying the best. Learn more about how I test and review products.

Best overall

1. Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power

Loading...

Gearbox's signature control, now charged with power and spin
8/10

Power

10/10

Control

10/10

Spin

9/10

Forgiveness

Buy if:

  • You want ultimate control:

    on challenging resets, this might be the best paddle I've ever played with.

  • You want a control paddle that doesn't skimp on power:

    as the name suggests, this paddle has plenty of power to match its control.

  • You like spin:

    I've always found Gearbox paddles great for spin, and gave this one 10/10.

Pass if:

  • You're on a budget:

    the Vatic Pro Flash ($139.99) and PRISM Flash ($99.99) are much more affordable.

  • You're looking for a lighter paddle:

    at 8.5 oz, this one is a touch head-heavy. The Perseus may be a better choice for you.

Pickleball Central

Pickleball Central

Paddle weight

8.5 oz

Paddle length

16 ⅝"

Paddle width

7 ⅜"

Handle length

5 ⅝"

Gearbox paddles are known for their great control, and the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power is the best of theirs I've played with yet. Even third-shot drops feel easy with this paddle (if you can ever call a third-shot drop easy).
I've always found Gearbox paddles lacking in power, but this one finally gave me the power I need to play a complete game.
Who it suits
This paddle is great for intermediate to advanced players who value control and like to play a technical game. It has plenty of power and spin too but control is its strength.
Features
Gearbox don't use the same honeycomb cores that most other paddle makers do. Instead, they use their own "solid span technology", which involves long rectangular tubes in the core.
These tubes are meant to act as a gearbox, transferring the paddle's energy to the ball and making your shots go where you want them. From my testing, this is definitely the case.
This paddle also has a power band that suspends the core from the perimeter of the paddle and gives the face a trampoline effect. This adds to the solid, controlled feel while boosting the power.
It sounds like marketing jargon to me, but it must work because the CX14E Ultimate Power has more power than any Gearbox paddle I've played with before.
Design and feel
Gearbox paddles have a unique core that gives them a different feel from other paddles. Some people love it, while some can't stand it. I admit that I've been skeptical before, but this paddle changed that for me. This is the first one that feels natural straight out of the box.
This paddle looks sleek and premium with its minimalist black design. It also feels premium, and the materials used are clearly high quality.
Performance
Despite having 'power' in the name, this paddle is all about control. I could manage in long dink rallies and accurately hit touch shots, like resets and third-shot drops.
When comparing it to the earlier CX14E model, I can tell that Gearbox upped the power on this paddle for a more rounded performance. The length of the paddle makes it easier to generate torque, and the "power band" technology definitely works.
Spin is very good too, especially on hard topspin serves and drives. The face has a new texture face coat which does what it's supposed to.
Value for money
At $250, this paddle isn't cheap, but I'd say it's worth the investment if you're looking for awesome control and have the budget. To learn more, check out my Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power pickleball paddle review.
star icon
My verdict
I'd say this is the best paddle Gearbox have ever made. If you've tried a Gearbox before and didn't like the feel, give this one a try. It has 10/10 control with enough power and spin to play a complete, high-level game.

Today’s best deals

Pickleball Central logo
Runner up

2. JOOLA Perseus

Loading...

A hard-hitting paddle with surprisingly good control
8/10

Power

10/10

Control

8/10

Spin

8/10

Forgiveness

Buy if:

  • You want a thermoformed paddle with control:

    this has the best control of any thermoformed paddle I've tested.

  • You like a lightweight paddle for fast kitchen exchanges:

    the Perseus weighs 7.8-8 oz, and feels light in the hand.

  • You need power too:

    this paddle can hit hard serves and drives.

Pass if:

  • You like to play with a lot of spin:

    try my top pick, the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power (10/10 for spin).

  • Your pickleball skill rating is less than 4.0:

    this paddle will be too unforgiving for you, so try the Vatic Pro Flash instead.

  • You prefer a heavier paddle:

    as this one is lightweight, consider the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power instead.

Paddle weight

7.8-8 oz

Paddle length

16 ½"

Paddle width

7 ½"

Handle length

5 ½"

The Perseus has the best control of any thermoformed paddle I've played with so far. I could dink, drop, and reset with ease and accuracy. It's super-quick in the hands too, which I liked for hands battles up at the kitchen.
Who it suits
Any advancing intermediate to advanced player who values control will get the most out of this paddle. If you're a beginner, though, you'll find the sweet spot frustratingly small.
Features
This paddle benefits from thermoformed, made with carbon fiber that runs through the handle for extra strength and stability. This 'unibody' design gives it a stiff feel, with added power.
It also has foam injected around the whole edge of the paddle face. This tech worked great in the JOOLA Hyperion to extend its sweet spot and add stability, but unfortunately, I found it didn't work as well in the Perseus.
Design and feel
JOOLA make great-looking paddles, and this one is no different. The Ben Johns signature design looks great and the paddle feels premium right out of the box.
This one feels very light in the hands. Many players, including Ben Johns himself, add lead tape to bring up the weight a little. The grip feels super comfortable and helps to wick sweat away from the palms, giving you even more control of the paddle.
Performance
When I started testing this paddle, I had a few flyers which made me question its performance. However, after a couple of games, I got used to it and realized this paddle is a control freak. I was hitting my dinks, resets, and drops with confidence.
When it comes to spin, the new surface that JOOLA added (the "charged surface technology") seems to have made it less grippy than the Hyperion. It's not terrible, but it's nowhere near the spin I can get on the Vatic Pro Flash, for example.
This isn't a power paddle, but I was happy with how much I could generate on my serves and drives.
Value for money
This is another $250 paddle, and considering it has a distinct feel and a small sweet spot, I'd advise you to test it before buying. Once you get a feel for it, this is a high-end paddle that'll give you exceptional control. The more advanced you are, the more you'll get out of this paddle.
To learn more, check out my JOOLA Perseus pickleball paddle review.
star icon
My verdict
The JOOLA Perseus offers high-level players 10/10 control. It has plenty of power too, and just enough spin for a rounded game. It's Ben Johns' paddle-of-choice in 2023, and though it takes some getting used to, I think a lot of 4.0 or above players are going to like it.

Today’s best deals

Best cheap

3. Vatic Pro PRISM Flash

Loading...

Top-quality control and materials from an affordable, raw carbon paddle
8/10

Power

10/10

Control

9/10

Spin

9/10

Forgiveness

Buy if:

  • You don't want to spend over $100:

    this is a premium raw carbon fiber paddle for under $100.

  • You need help with control:

    this paddle gives you forgiveness as you progress in your drop and dink game.

  • You want an "all-rounder":

    this paddle has plenty of spin and power to match its awesome control.

Pass if:

  • You want a thermoformed paddle:

    if so, try the next on my list, the Vatic Pro Flash.

  • You prefer a light and nimble paddle:

    this one can feel a little head-heavy at times, so try the Perseus instead.

  • You're prone to mishits:

    the inconsistent sweet spot may frustrate you, so give the Vatic Pro Flash a try.

Vatic Pro

Vatic Pro

Get $10 off with PICKLEHEADS

Paddle weight

7.7-7.9 oz (14 mm paddle) / 7.9-8.2 oz (16 mm paddle)

Paddle length

16 ⅓"

Paddle width

7 ⅔"

Handle length

5 ⅓"

I picked this paddle as my best value control-focused paddle for obvious reasons—it's an elite control paddle for under $100. This is the best paddle I've played with at that price by far. In fact, it's one of the best control paddles I've ever tested.
Who it suits
This paddle is suitable for any player above beginner level who wants to focus on their control game and touch shots. New beginners will find it too unforgiving, and power players will find it lacking drive.
Features
Rather than thermoforming this paddle (as nearly all top paddle manufacturers do), Vatic Pro use "cold molding". Some players find thermoformed paddles too poppy and powerful, with not enough feel for a touch game, so they'll like this paddle.
As part of the inner framework, this paddle has foam added to the edge walls to soften the feel of the paddle and again increase the sweet spot. It also has carbon fiber running into the handle to complete the "unibody" design.
The face is made with raw carbon fiber, which has a built-in texture that I know from experience won't rub off over time. This grips the ball for extra control and spin.
Design and feel
Straight out of the box, this feels like a premium paddle. In the hand, it's well-weighted and stable, with just a touch of head heaviness that will slow it down a little. However, the extra foam in the edges gives it a plush feel that I really noticed in my touch game.
Performance
The PRISM Flash's control is impressive. My serves and drives landed just where I wanted them, and I could outlast opponents in long dink rallies. I've also found that my control got better over several sessions as I got more used to the paddle.
It feels sturdy and responsive in my hand. The paddle has good (not great) power, which is probably helped by the 'unibody' construction. Spin is surprisingly good, way above what I'd expect from a control paddle at $100.
The biggest difference between the PRISM and paddles twice the price is the sweet spot—not the size, but the consistency. I had more mishits than usual, especially around the throat and edges. If mishits are a concern for you, I'd recommend paying the extra for the Vatic Pro Flash.
Value for money
This paddle is a genuine bargain. Vatic Pro are somehow producing elite-level paddles for half the cost of their competitors, and there's no catch as far as I can tell.
star icon
My verdict
For most early intermediate players, it's not power but control that helps win games. That's why the PRISM Flash shines—it's a phenomenal control paddle that almost any rising player can afford. It's simply one of my favorite control paddles you can find at any price.

Today’s best deals

Vatic Pro logo
Get $10 off with PICKLEHEADS
Best for spin

4. Vatic Pro Flash

Loading...

A soft, control-focused paddle that generates surprisingly good spin
7.5/10

Power

8/10

Control

9/10

Spin

10/10

Forgiveness

Buy if:

  • You're advancing to the intermediate level:

    with its mix of power, spin, and control, this is the perfect step-up paddle.

  • You love spin:

    this paddle has all the spin an intermediate player needs, which is surprising given the price point.

  • You want a premium paddle without the premium price tag:

    this one comes in at $140, which I think is a bargain.

Pass if:

  • You need power to match the control:

    the power is a little lacking, so check out the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power instead.

  • You're not a fan of the thermoformed feel:

    you'll prefer the other offering from Vatic Pro, the PRISM Flash.

  • You suffer from arm injuries or fatigue:

    I had to swing hard to generate enough power. Try the JOOLA Perseus for more power.

Vatic Pro

Vatic Pro

Get $10 off with PICKLEHEADS

Paddle weight

7.8-8 oz (14 mm) / 8-8.2 oz (16 mm)

Paddle length

16 ⅓"

Paddle width

7.7"

Handle length

5 ⅓"

I picked this paddle for three reasons. Firstly, I like the soft, plush feel that helped me get great control. Second is the spin, which I was pleasantly surprised by. Then there's the price tag—over $100 less than paddles with similar performance.
Who it suits
This paddle is ideal for new intermediate players, all the way up to those about to graduate to the advanced level. This paddle lets you keep working on your control while introducing spin to your game.
The power levels and pop won't overwhelm you, which is a good thing for 3.0-4.0 players.
Features
Like the previous Vatic Pro on this list, the Flash is made from raw carbon fiber. However, this one is thermoformed, which means all the paddle elements are assembled before being placed in a hot press molding machine.
In the machine, heat and pressure combine to create a solid "unibody" structure. This adds strength without increasing the weight, and creates a more stable paddle with a larger sweet spot and more "pop".
Design and feel
Vatic Pro don't make their paddles fancy—they use a simple, minimalistic black design. They look sleek and functional, which is exactly how they feel.
This paddle is light in the hand and reactive. Despite being thermoformed, it feels soft and not too poppy. That said, I have to swing harder to generate power, which may tire you out over marathon sessions.
Performance
When it comes to control, the Flash performs really well. I'm giving it 8/10 in this department. While the PRISM Flash might be better for control, this is the softest thermoformed paddle I've ever played with.
Whether I'm hitting a simple dink or a more advanced topspin drop, I'm happy with the accuracy I get here. On third-shot drops, I feel more confident with this paddle than I usually do.
I'm really surprised by the spin I can generate with this paddle. Although it has the same face material as the PRISM Flash (raw Toray T700 carbon fiber), it somehow generates more spin. This is probably a result of the extra stability and firmness from the thermoforming process.
This paddle is also super forgiving, making it ideal for those stepping up from beginner to intermediate level.
Value for money
The Flash is one of the best value paddles on the market today, rivaled only by its cousin, the PRISM at $99.
To learn more, check out my Vatic Pro Flash pickleball paddle review.
star icon
My verdict
This paddle is my top pick for intermediate players in 2023. That's because it has great control, but also enough power and spin to play a complete game. At $140, it's one of the best deals in all of pickleball.

Today’s best deals

Also great

5. Volair Mach 1

Loading...

A top control paddle that's light and quick in the hands
8/10

Power

10/10

Control

9/10

Spin

9/10

Forgiveness

Buy if:

  • You're a control player who likes to play an aggressive game:

    pro player Julian Arnold helped design the 16 mm version to power his game.

  • You suffer from stress injuries or fatigue:

    this paddle is light and easy on the arms.

  • You like to customize weight with lead tape:

    at 7.5-7.9 oz, this one gives you plenty of room to experiment.

Pass if:

  • You like a heavier paddle:

    you might prefer the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power, which weighs 8.5 oz.

  • You like a lot of pop from your paddle face:

    this one's on the soft side, so try the Vatic Pro Flash for more pop.

  • You don't want to spend over $150:

    the Vatic Flash and PRISM Flash are excellent, cheaper alternatives.

Volair

Volair

Save 10% with PICKLEHEADS

Paddle weight

7.5 oz (14 mm paddle) / 7.9 oz (16 mm paddle)

Paddle length

16 ½"

Paddle width

7 ½"

Handle length

5 ½"

I couldn't leave the Volair Mach 1 off this list—one of the best 4.5 players in Phoenix I play with, Mike Brady, plays almost exclusively with it. Mike and I reviewed this paddle together, and we agree it's one of the best control paddles under the $200 price point.
With a weight of 7.5-7.9 oz (depending on the chosen thickness), it's a really unique paddle.
Who it suits
The Mach 1 was designed by Julian Arnold, one of the fastest and most aggressive pickleball players on the pro scene. If you're a hard-hitting player who also values control, this is worth considering.
Features
The Volair Mach 1 features a premium raw carbon fiber face with the texture built in for better grip and spin. It has an elongated shape and is super lightweight. I know it's thermoformed, but other than that, Volair don't like to give too much away about their paddles.
Design and feel
I like the design of Volair paddles. Plus, the fact that they come in a neat box with lots of extras (cover, eraser, grip, and grip band) is a nice touch.
Being thermoformed, this paddle does feel stiff. However, once I got used to it, I saw it as an excellent all-rounder with a skew towards control.
Performance
I'm calling this an all-court paddle, offering a great blend of control, spin, and power. It's a little stiff to begin with, but once you dial it in, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how it complements your touch game.
It's accurate on dinks and drop shots. Since it's lightweight and control-oriented, I find I can keep drives and drops low rather than having them fly off.
The spin is powerful, as you'd expect from the raw carbon face, and the power is surprisingly good from a light paddle.
Value for money
At $180, this paddle is reasonably priced considering it's a top performance paddle designed by one of the world's best in pickleball.
To learn more, check out my Volair Mach 1 pickleball paddle review.
star icon
My verdict
Julian Arnold is one of my favorite players on tour, and I love his aggressive, yet precise game. After testing the Volair Mach 1, I can see why he designed it for his game. It's accurate, quick in hands battles, and has plenty of power and spin to play an advanced game. Bonus points for the intermediate-friendly price point.

Today’s best deals

Volair logo

Save 10% with PICKLEHEADS

My criteria for choosing the best control pickleball paddle

I've tested over 30 paddles this year and written extensive notes as I played with each one. For this article, I considered which ones impressed me the most when it came to control.

With lots of great paddles, it was a challenge to pick just five. I took into account their overall performance and suitability for players with different pickleball skill ratings, as well as the following:

  • Features: new tech is constantly coming out and I'm always interested to see what it can do for the game.
  • Design and feel: looks aren't so important, so I went for the paddles that felt most comfortable and natural in my hand.
  • Performance: my testing was mainly for control, but I also wanted to ensure they delivered a rounded game.
  • Value for money: paddles these days can be very overpriced, so I tried to include options to suit every budget.
Brandon Mackie holding the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash pickleball paddle
Brandon Mackie holding the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash pickleball paddle

Why control matters

Pickleball comes down to three main skills: power, spin, and control. I'd argue that control is the most important of the three.

Especially as you start playing against advanced players, you need to use touch shots to set up your power shots and putaways. Good players can usually block hard drives. Without a good drop shot, you'll have a hard time getting to the kitchen (which is where the biggest advantage is).

How pickleball paddles help with control

Control paddles are designed specially to give you the best possible feel and accuracy on your shots. Rather than boosting power, control paddles complement your fitness game. They take pace off the ball and make it easier to hit the touch shots that so many beginner players struggle with.

You'll find the ball popping up less with control paddles, which makes dinks, drops, and resets much easier.

What is a sweet spot?

The sweet spot is the area on the paddle face where you can make the most effective contact with the ball. This is the area where the ball will come off the paddle with optimal accuracy and power.

A larger sweet spot means you'll have fewer frustrating mishits. Beginner paddles have extra large sweet spots to make it easier for new players, but they sacrifice other performance areas as a result.

As you start to use more advanced paddles, the sweet spot usually gets smaller. However, by then, you'll find yourself hitting more consistently in the center.

Bottom line

That just about wraps up my deep dive into the top five best control paddles. The CX14E Ultimate Power is my overall winner as Gearbox have somehow managed to add elite power and spin to an ultra-responsive control paddle.

To recap, here are my top five again:

  1. Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power - Best overall
  2. JOOLA Perseus - Runner-up
  3. Vatic Pro PRISM Flash - Best cheap
  4. Vatic Pro Flash - Best for spin
  5. Volair Mach 1 - Also great

FAQs

About the author
Brandon Mackie
Brandon is an avid writer and co-founder of Pickleheads™. Once a competitive tennis player, Brandon can now be found these days honing his dinks on pickleball courts near Phoenix, Arizona.
Share this article

Join the fastest growing pickleball community

...

members

Join a community of pickleball players and find new friends to play with.

...

games

Browse games and open play sessions anywhere you go.

...

locations

Find every place to play pickleball in your local area.

...

cities

Available now in the US and Canada. More countries coming soon!