Pickleball Gear

GAMMA Obsidian - pickleball paddle review

Author profile image
Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Aug 20, 2023

The GAMMA Obsidian pickleball paddle on a blue background

After featuring mostly beginner paddles in the past, GAMMA has come out with a performance-focused Obsidian model that I was lucky enough to try out recently.

I'm excited to share my honest opinion on how it compares to other carbon fiber paddles and whether it's worth the relatively high price tag.

My verdict3.5star iconWhile it looks nice and feels great in your hand, the GAMMA Obsidian didn't perform nearly as well as I'd expected. An oddly small sweet spot and average-at-best power level make it hard for me to recommend it over similarly-priced options like the Legacy Pro, Vatic Pro PRISM Flash, or my favorite raw carbon fiber line, the CRBN-1X Power Series.

Buy or pass?

Buy if:

  • You love the design.

    I scored plenty of compliments on how it looked during my play test.

  • You want a lighter carbon fiber paddle.

    This feels much lighter than the CRBN-1X, despite weighing in just ~0.2 oz less.

  • You hit two-handers.

    The 5.75" handle length is great for two-handed shots.

Pass if:

  • You like to play a power game.

    This paddle feels flat and weak, especially at the net.

  • You need a large sweet spot.

    I found many dead zones around the edges and throat.

  • You want elite carbon fiber spin.

    It can't compete with the CRBN-1X in power or spin production.

Paddle weight

7.7 oz

Paddle length

16.37”

Paddle width

7.37"

Handle length

5.75"

Today's best deals

Pickleball Central logo

Review summary

Maybe I expected too much after pulling it out of the box, but I was disappointed with the Obsidian after a few rounds of playtesting. It's hard to explain, but overall it felt like my game was weaker and less competitive. The paddle was just too soft.

Lots of online reviews claim it's a great blend of power and control, but I don't really agree. It does perform pretty well in fast exchanges because of the lightweight feel, but many shots felt flat.

Check out my initial thoughts here:

Loading...

It didn't feel very stable, with plenty of dead zones making it hard to consistently hit advanced, competitive shots. I wouldn't want to take it into a tournament—at least not when the CRBN-1X Power Series performs much better in almost every category.

Still, I will give it credit for the sleek design, premium grip, and lightweight feel. You could certainly do worse—but I can't recommend it over some competitors.

Pros:

Thumb up icon
  • Not head heavy like the JOOLA Hyperion. Light and maneuverable

  • The premium grip feels great in your hand and holds up in hot conditions

  • Can generate sufficient spin for beginners or intermediates

Cons:

Thumb up icon
  • Doesn’t generate enough power or spin to play an aggressive, advanced game

  • The control is good, but not better than other carbon fiber paddles I’ve tested

  • The elongated shape doesn’t actually give you a bigger sweet spot

Features

The Obsidian is one of GAMMA's most expensive paddles, and I was excited to get my hands on it. I'd never played with their other beginner options but had consistently seen positive reviews online.

GAMMA claims to have added some advanced technology to this one, and the carbon fiber face promised some serious spin and control. Let's take a look at some of the most prominent features.

Raw carbon fiber face

Generally, I love playing with raw carbon fiber paddles. They can generate enough spin for me to play an aggressive game, while still maintaining plenty of control.

While I get that feeling from the Obsidian to an extent, there's just something lacking. It almost feels like a first-gen paddle that still needs some tweaking.

Brandon Mackie showing off the GAMMA Obsidian

After playing a lot recently with the CRBN-1X, I was disappointed by this paddle. It only gives a taste of what carbon fiber paddles can do, and yet it still comes in at a relatively expensive price point.

Still, if you're used to playing with fiberglass—or maybe even wooden paddles (yikes!)—it'll feel like a serious improvement when it comes to spin and control.

Elongated shape

One of the first things I noticed about the GAMMA Obsidian is the shape. It's elongated, at nearly 17”, and has a long handle. While I don't personally play two-handed shots, this paddle would create a big advantage for people who do.

I assumed the large face would also mean a huge sweet spot by reducing mishits and making quick rallies easy to pull off. However, I actually found it a lot smaller than expected, with a really 'flat' feeling if you hit it around the edge.

I'm used to the foam-injected paddles from CRBN and JOOLA, and you could really feel the difference with the Obsidian.

Tapered edge

The paddle has a unique design with a tapered edge that GAMMA claim reduces drag and produces faster swing speed. When I took it out on the court, it did feel very maneuverable, but I'm not sure if that's down to the edge or weight.

Holding both the Obsidian and the CRBN at the same time feels like a much greater weight difference. GAMMA did well in building a lightweight feel. If that's due to the tapered edge, it's doing a good job.

Brandon Mackie showing off the GAMMA Obsidian

However, my worry is that the taper is part of why the edges feel so dead and why the sweet spot is smaller than I expected. If that's true, it's not a worthwhile trade-off, since beginners (and even intermediates) will have a tough time avoiding mishits with this paddle.

Performance

6/10

Power

8/10

Control

7/10

Spin

7/10

Forgiveness

7/10

Weighting

9/10

Grip

8/10

Durability

8/10

Aerodynamics

Power: 6/10

There's no getting around it—this paddle wasn't powerful enough.

GAMMA admit their 16 mm core paddle (the one I tested) is better for control than power. So, the 13 mm model may be worth another test. But this didn't come anywhere near the CRBN-2X paddle, which I gave a 9/10 because I could play a confident game.

Especially at the net, I had trouble putting away points and just felt a little more vulnerable against advanced players. I tend toward an aggressive playstyle, so this one didn't suit my game.

Control: 8/10

This paddle performed best when it comes to control. My 3rd shot drops were precise, and I could take a lot of speed off the ball when needed. It didn't have that uncontrollable pop that some beginner paddles have, meaning I could keep the ball low.

That said, I could also hit those drops with the CRBN-1X and 2X, meaning the solid control from this paddle doesn't make up for its other shortcomings.

Spin: 7/10

The spin was fine. It'll seem like a huge upgrade if you're coming from a beginner paddle like the PCKL Launch Series or SLK NEO 2.0. However, I know from experience that raw carbon fiber faces can—and should—generate much more.

The face feels smoother than the CRBN. While that doesn't always mean a low spin rate, it did for the Obsidian. For a paddle that claims to generate "unbelievable spin", it was a little underwhelming.

Forgiveness: 7/10

There are two sides to this rating. The paddle was forgiving in that I could control my shots pretty well when I hit the sweet spot, but actually hitting that sweet spot was a challenge.

A couple of times, it felt like playing with a wooden paddle because of the dead feeling. I know beginners will have trouble avoiding mishits because of this.

This issue made it difficult to play confidently and detracted from my game, as I started getting frustrated.

Weighting: 7/10

There's an interesting conflict going on in this paddle. It's lightweight and maneuverable, just like GAMMA claims, but I'm unsure if that's the most effective way to maximize the carbon face.

I actually think it needs to be a bit heavier to add power and lean into what the raw carbon is best at. It's trying to be the best of both worlds and not quite succeeding.

Grip: 9/10

I was really impressed with the grip, which isn't a surprise given GAMMA's history with premium overgrips. It held up very well in two hours of 105ºF Phoenix heat, maintaining the tacky feeling and comfort.

One thing I'll mention is the color. White isn't necessarily the best choice for a grip, given how dirty they can get. It looks great at first, but I doubt that'll last long.

Durability: 8/10

In terms of overall durability, I'm confident the GAMMA Obsidian will last. It's made using premium materials, has a quality edge guard, and the face wasn't scratching even after continuous play.

Aerodynamics: 8/10

Whether it was down to tapered edges or something else, I was happy with how this paddle whipped through the air. No, it doesn't stand out like the Selkirk Power Air Invikta’s unique throat design, but the Obsidian is decently aerodynamic.

Is this paddle right 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 the GAMMA Obsidian makes 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

Pricing

The 16 mm and 13 mm GAMMA Obsidian models are both $159.99, meaning they aren't entry-level paddles.

Value for money

With pickleball paddle technology advancing so much over the last few years, it's hard to justify this price for what you're getting.

This'll be fine for some people, but there are so many other paddles with better performance for a similar cost—or even cheaper. For instance, the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash costs only $139.99 and is arguably a better paddle.

If you're an intermediate player wanting a carbon fiber paddle, I recommend investing a little more and getting one from the CRBN Power Series. These are currently my top pick for intermediates who play a power and spin game.

The GAMMA Obsidian pickleball paddle resting against a net

Bottom line

The GAMMA Obsidian is well made, has a stylish design, and feels great in your hand, but doesn't quite meet my expectations.

It doesn't lean into the great things raw carbon faces can do, and I didn't feel confident with it on the court. My game was limited, and I had a hard time finding the sweet spot consistently.

While it was quick in kitchen exchanges, the lack of power was noticeable—especially when I tried to play aggressively.

It all comes down to the competition with this paddle. It would seem reasonable if there weren't better options for around the same price. But right now, I can't recommend it over the Legacy Pro, Vatic Pro, or CRBN Power Series.

Today's best deals

This article contains affiliate links from which we receive a small commission from sales of certain items. As a brand associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you!

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!