Tag Archives: Monster

A.I.M: Darts Manufacturers Championship 2018, Unicorn retain their dominance.

A.I.M have been closely observing darts for close to a decade. Whether it’s for coaching players, designing/testing products or advising clients, the progression of everything darts is important to us. Who add value to their players? Which have the best signing success? Who is on the up? Who has past their peak?

Unicorn Logo

Despite staying relatively quiet, Team Unicorn has retained its dominance in overall success.

Along the way, we produced a simple league table for comparing the success of darts manufacturers. We use PDC ranking events as a base. Then we add selected major events from the BDO. The players who reach the last 8 of Pro Tour events receive 1 point, semi-finalists 3, Runner Up 5 and the Winner receive 10. These points are doubled for majors and multiplied by 2.5 for the world championships. To ensure maximum openness we use ranking events only. Here is the 2018 Constructors Table:

outline and tungsten

  1. Unicorn (381) 
  2. XQ Max (205)
  3. Red Dragon (199.5)
  4. Winmau (172.5)
  5. Target (161.5)
  6. Bulls (120.5)
  7. Cosmo (48)
  8. One80 (45)
  9. Harrows (13)
  10. Bit of Bully (9.5)

When it comes to signing players, the biggest, and longest established, companies attempt to combine a handful of legendary names with a few of current champions and a smattering of players they believe may move up a level. Recently more female players, players from mainland Europe or Asia, and more youth development have been added. Newer or smaller companies try to spot undiscovered or undervalued talent or back players with a legacy that may sparkle again. This has worked well for Powercore ( Ryan Searle) & Bit of Bully (Ryan Joyce) and Evo-Darts (Gabriel Clemens) for example.

Despite the attention given to other companies in recent years, Unicorn has again managed to produce a squad of players that perform in every type of event and combines dominant champions with other talented winners. Their 2nd group seem to step up regularly and when required. XQ Max has again relied totally on MVG for their points but his prolific form ensures this remains a successful strategy.

Red Dragon Logo
RD excelling in the constructor’s championship. 

Red Dragon has continued their upward momentum and is neck and neck with XQ Max in the PDC table ahead of them when the BDO events are included. The progress of Gerwen price has added another elite level player to Team RD who look more balanced. Their long term support of players is also looking productive. Both Jamie Lewis and Johnny Clayton seem to have benefited from the supportive, family atmosphere that RD create.

Target Dart Logo

Target’s massive investment, in players, designs and marketing, had been paying great dividends. This may have plateaued in 2018. Their old guard are heading into retirements and some of their other top stars had slow years. Rob Cross, Chizzy, Alan Norris and others did not produce their best last years and as such Target slipped into a distant fifth place. Winmau also underperformed for such a famed brand and will need to rework their line up in the coming years or so. They have great ambassadors, who are still playing well, but only Gurney is consistently gaining them high levels of attention.

Eric Wins 3 in a row

The 1st player to win the three in a row. Bristow has been joined by Duzza, another Harrows player.

Harrows, darting royalty to many, made a low key return to the success on the PDC side in 2018. Josh Payne claimed a Pro Tour title and is generally progressing very typically for a Harrow’s player. Three-time Lakeside Champ Glen Durrant will ensure this name is seen across the codes in 2019.

All in all, it was a ‘steady as you go’ year across the PDC ranking events. Red Dragon performed well and look to be on the up. Unicorn’s long practised strategy again proved correct and most of the other big names dipped a little. The rise of  One80 (in the BDO) & the Independents is good to see and may well continue through to 2019. A.I.M will repeat the exercise and see which Team’s signings, and development, progress the most. 

outline

Red Dragon Punching Above Their Weight? Constructors Championship ’16 Update 1

 RD excelling in the constructors championship?

RD excelling in the constructors championship?

For the initial season, of the AIM constructors championship, teams, companies and players have had a few of each type of event before the initial table. Thus with almost a third of the season gone, 15 PDC Pro/Euro Tour Events complete, and the season’s first TV major complete here is a first look at the table:

Current League Table (May 5th 2016).

£=Points (PDC Ranking Qtr final onwards)

1 – XQ Max – 207.75

2- Red Dragon – 116

3 – Unicorn – 110.25

4 – Target – 105.75

5 – Winmau – 53.25

6 – Monster – 23.25

7 – Bulls – 17

8 – Harrows – 12.25

How points are scored:  https://aimadjuster.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/darts-a-constructors-championship/

XQ Max Lead the Pack.

The Green Machine. Helping XQ reach a large market?

The Green Machine. Helping XQ reach a large market?

The small be very well-formed Dutch company are flying in 2016. With the almost unstoppable MVG leading the way. Only failing to score once as a group and Benito VDP providing some of the strongest opposition to MVG mean that XQ are proving that quality over quantity can be a very successful strategy. Wins in all ranking formats and VVV chipping in on quieter weekends has meant huge exposure for the recently formed successor to Masterdarts. In addition the habit of their players all having individual/XQ set means they lead the way in the accessories area as well. Adding Andy Hamilton to the stable should prove worth a watch. Andy can produce superb stuff when he feels believed in, will it happen again here?

Red Dragon Excelling!

Young Nathan Aspinall playing the role of David to James Wade's Goliath in 2015

Young Nathan Aspinall playing the role of David to James Wade’s Goliath in 2015.

Although RD could be described as Winmau’s little brother, it still must be remembered that compared to some of the other names they are relatively small, budget and marketing are restricted and retail presence is purely online. Thus to be above both Target and Unicorn as well as big brother Winmau is a remarkable effort. The combination of a select group of quality players who have been with them a while, Wright & Thornton being the best examples, together with a policy of giving players an opportunity to come through is working very well. Gerwen Price, Daryl Gurney, Andy Gilding and have come through the system. It appears that RD’s second front is coming through!

What’s Up with Target & Winmau

Target Dart Logo

With the League being based purely on PDC ranking events all is not lost for two of the biggest names in darts. Yet in the case of Target it appears to be a poor return on a huge investment. Innovative darts and complimentary accessories, together with some of the greatest players, should be a sure recipe for dominance or at minimum competing at the very top. 4th position in both Dart & Accessories tables is simply not good enough. All style and no substance? Unbalanced team? The majors should assist them in climbing the table, but rankings do not last forever.

The Bronzed Adonis. Still Flying the flag for Winmau

The Bronzed Adonis. Still Flying the flag for Winmau

The situation looks even worse for Winmau, perhaps the oldest and most respected name in darts, are simply having a poor spell. Some of their established stars have endured tough times. There are some signs of recovery, Whitlock & Webster are beginning to return to some sort of form and may well haul Winmau further up the table. It should also be remembered that Winmau are more closely associated with the BDO, where they have the reigning world champion and have recently signed up the superb Jeff Smith. Can they really afford to stand still in regard to the PDC arena? The impression of a stable of former champions and ageing stars in harder to shake off.

Best of The Rest?

Jelle K

Both Monster and Bulls have made decent starts to the season thanks to their stars. Monster are heavily dependant on Jelle Klaasen (As are L style in the Accessories table). Bulls are quietly producing an excellent stable of, mainly European, players. Mensur is obvioulsy the main source of points but others such as Max Hopp & Dave Pallet are chipping in and have strong futures ahead. A special mention to Elven Darts. As an independent handmade producer, of bespoke darts, it is superb to see them register. The return of Harrows to the frontline, of the PDC, is to be warmly welcomed. A name of real pedigree with a small stable of quality players covering all darting areas. Their policy of selecting small numbers and backing them well may pay off with young Josh Payne.

Finally V180 deserve great credit, not only do they make the chart, they would feature a great deal higher if introducing great players gained points! With Chizzy, Bunting, Norris and more being given chances in the recent past.

Dave Chisnall

Set Up / Accessories

Its bad news for those trying to make an impact with accessory systems. So far only Jelle Klaasen making a real impact whilst using L Style flight and stem set ups. Cosmo seem to be slipping backwards with their players struggling and non of the top section adopting their products.

Cosmo Logo

It would be interesting to see whether this is due to players sponsors not allowing the combination or genuine preference for other types. Some manufacturers are missing a trick by not providing branded accessories or producing ones to their players needs. Unicorn still seem to ensure that almost every sponsored player uses either personalised unicorn products or their branded items, target similarly. Red Dragon & others may be missing out a little here.

Unicorn Logo

As the second section of the season continues with more European Tour events, and Pro Tour weekends, coming together with The World Matchplay amongst others. Will XQ continue their excellent season. Can Red Dragon stay ahead of their rivals and will Target & Winmau get back in the race?

 

 

 

Darts, The Technology Game? Part II

In the first part of , The Technology Game? we looked at the recent explosion in technology innovations and advances that have been introduced over the last decade or so. Here in Part II  we will look at Flights, Stems, Points and more. The main areas covered in Part 1 included; Premium marketing, barrel design and grip variations. All have been given a high profile in the last 5-10 years. The jury was still out on the success or necessity of these idea’s and whether they truly have added to the improvement of players at either amateur or professional level.

There are two other area in which  R & D and sales and marketing  booms have taken place:

Accessories: Flights, Stems and more.

a new breed? One of a number of interlocking flight and stem systems available.

a new breed? One of a number of interlocking flight and stem systems available.

From dart’s earliest commercial days, the variations in the additions to the barrel have been as numerous and interesting as to the barrels themselves. Flight materials changed from feather to imitation feather, then plastic, rip stop material and then thinner and thinner polymer types. The shape varied enormously over the years, with the what is now referred to a the standard shape as well as pear shapes, kite shapes and variations up the theme. In recent years designs such as fantail, V wing, tomahawk, slim, DSX and numerous others have been introduced. In the case of stems/shafts the variations have also been coming thick and fast since the 1970’s. From the initial wooden canes, lightweight plastics, steel, aluminium, titanium, one piece or separate items, side loading (Slik Stix) and now, coming full circle with, the current combination flight & stem sets, made from plastic/polymers by manufacturers such as Cosmo or L Style, offering a fixed single unit. At the same time length of stem and the correct combinations have moved back and forth quite considerably.

An L Style Flight & Stem Combo
Again the idea of premium products that will add to your game and provide a glamorous look has been deployed by the manufacturers. Whilst a basic flight stem and fixing set can still be bought for less than £1 where as a combination of the latest Target Pixel Stems & Phil Taylor Flights will cost around £15, alternatively the one piece systems offered, by various manufacturers, cost between £8 and £15 per set up.

Taylor 9Five Gen 2. Too much tech?

Taylor 9Five Gen 2. Too much tech?

All of these changes and developments have,  claimed either logical or scientific, reasons they will improve upon the existing templates. Amongth these are; faster speed through the air, more aerodynamic profiles, less weight, better balance, additional grip and a host of other claims. many have been used and endorsed by professional players and have gone on to win titles or great matches. World Championships have been won with standard flights, smaller standard flights, pear-shaped flights and others. stem length has varied a little and fixings of flight to stem have also varied. But is this through real improvement or simply great players being able to use differing equipment with which they felt comfortable at any one time?

If we again look at the top twenty players we will see how this has panned out of the last twenty years or so, again we shall also look at the next generation of players and see if changes are imminent? In terms of flight shape, the standard shape is used by almost all of the top twenty PDC players. The size and shape varies a little but are described as standard. Taylor uses a unusual very slim “lightning bolt” design. Brendon Dolan will be associated with Kite shaped as he hit his double start 9 darter with them and Barney changes often! The slight size variation is claimed to either assist in the flight, improve visibility, and reduce deflections.

The current & double world champion uses a simple no nonsense set up.

The current & double world champion uses a simple no nonsense set up.

In terms of stem set up the evidence is simple overwhelming. Phil uses some of the innovative design, metallic stems but almost every other player in the top twent uses a nylon/plastic/ carbon fibre stem, most use a stem ring of some description and a majority seem are between 35 and 44mm in length. These can be bought for less than £2 per set up even for branded items, generic versions can be bought for pennies.

Classic but still hugely popular.

Classic but still hugely popular.

When we tested these combinations and asked many top players most players agreed that weight and simplicity to change easily were the reasons they believed the simple set ups were best. For the average player or beginner cost is also a large factor.

The above is not to say that success cannot be achieved with other designs and set ups. Dolan used a simple kite flight and lengthy aluminium stem for his 9 darter, Steve Beaton has used Standards, Oversized Pear Flights and both short and longer stems, usually aluminium to huge success over a 30 year career. It does suggest that, with the odd exception, simplicity is the key here and that over design or elaboration is unnecessary.

Points

Smoothing out junction between barrel and stem as well as griping both board and finger, a true innovation?

Smoothing out junction between barrel and stem as well as griping both board and finger, a true innovation?

Although a rather vital element, of the dart, for many years points were pretty much left alone. Slight changes in colour or size seemed almost accidental. The North Americans favoured a longer point many player customised their own points. However it was pretty ad hoc and unsystematic. The last few years however have seen some dramatic changes. Grooved or diamond cut points, for either increased board grip or finger placement, have made a large impact. Knurled points with a section to rest the finger against  prove popular and more recently the “Storm” point innovation, this makes the barrel and point almost seemless. many advantages are claimed by designers and makers of these points and there seems to be merit in them. Storm points reduce damage to flight set up and may be a factor in the simplicity trend? Grip on points has seemed to reduce fall outs, (except on bad Unicorn days!) Many top players use one innovation or more. The many different combination of possible grip and point shape allow a high level of personalisation to an area previously not explored or marketed.

Two commercial bonus spring to mind, though there are more, firstly the increased roughness of many points may increase the wear and tear on boards and results in lower expectations for durability and more regular purchase, also points of various types can be easily fitted to many other darts, not brand specific, again allowing limitless experimentation with and customization of equipment. In short, point development, and technology, may be one area in which genuine improvement and innovation have been brought to modern darts.

Being certain that your fingers are accurately placed can certainly add to the repitition of your throw.

Being certain that your fingers are accurately placed can certainly add to the repitition of your throw.

Technology Game?

It is hard to fully assess the impact of technology and innovation over recent years. Firstly many of the innovations are not really new, they are re packaged or cosmetic developments based on previous items. Secondly the facts that a very small number of modifications have been accepted, by an even smaller number of the top players, at the top end of the game suggests that they do not feel anything is added to their performance. This however may be misleading as most have not grown up with the newer idea’s and may have been conditioned to be afraid of change or suspicious of tech. Yet it still appears to be the case with the best teenage players?

On the plus side, the huge volume of choice available to the average player is great for the game, conversations about new ideas , designs and equipment are always held amongst players, of all levels, and nearly everyone is willing to give things a try. The research and development undertaken by manufacturers after a slice of the market improves choice of kit and maker. Quality overall is probably improved by modern methods, and thus some of the premium accessory items can last a very long time.

However for those starting out the best advise may still be to try as many sets as you can manage to get a rough idea of the weight and style you like.  Then find a dart shop with try and buy facilities. Once you think you have found a set you like, match them up with relatively cheap flights, stems, springs etc that you can keep replacing or even varying for very little cost. Make use of buy,swap, sell web sites or Facebook groups, these can allow you to test darts and accessories without losing all your initial costs. Keep checking in with AIM for our players guide to selecting darts!

In our experience it is the player and their efforts, that make the difference, not the tech. Within the last five years a number of players over the age of 30 have come through the ranking to occupy high position or do well in TV events.

One of these used a dart that is over 25 years old. Not just the design but the actual set! A medium length nylon stem and stem ring is combined with an everyday pattern dimplex flight. This dart and set up reached the big 5 major PDC events and at times averaged well in excess of 100 whilst, both Pro Tour and in majors, 15+ consequetive legs were won against the worlds best including MVG!

The Asp. Grandad knows best?

The Asp. Grandad knows best?

In addition last years runner up in the world youth championships, Nathan Aspinall, uses darts that, either came from or, were inspired by his Grandad.

 

Darts, The Technology Game? Part 1

The Tech Explosion.
As with many sports, darts has been inundated with “technological” advances over recent years. Due to the large audience, increased exposure and huge participant numbers, manufacturers have been seeking to develop products that will tempt the ordinary player and, perhaps, give professional players that extra % that will make all the difference.
One of the great advantages of darts, as a participant sport, is its relatively inexpensive nature. A decent board, other items needed, in order to play the game can be obtained and installed for less £100 or even less than £50 with the help of Ebay or swap & sell sites.
Surges in popularity of Golf & Tennis, among others, also lead to technological leaps, both for amateurs and at the professional level. Yet in these sports the advances can be clearly demonstrated, explained and sometimes obviously visible. Sweet spots, head size, string power or spin generation, length of shot, reduction of mis-hits etc.
The biggest change in darts was the use of denser metals, such as tungsten, in order to make darts thinner at the preferred weights. Tennis and golf have had their equivalents with changes in shaft and frame material respectively. Again in such sports these changes lead to measurable increasing in power, durability, flexibility etc.
A few years ago however darts manufacturers began to introduce other changes. With these came increased costs and what could be termed premium level darts and accessories. Along with the design “innovations” came new cosmetics and terminology in order to persuade players that these items could really make a difference to them. At the highest level players were tinkering, with the help of manufacturers, almost constantly to create the impression of an evolving process, thus meaning new generations of players, or classic, darts and the creation of a market that now sees many amateur players changing darts annually or even more often! It seems that a combination of sport tech and mobile phone / football shirt fashion have entered into the game.

 Do darts Innovations Work?

There are three main area’s where advances are claimed. Barrel design, and manufacture, accessories that complete the dart, often known as the “Set Up” and more recently the third area, point design and manufacture.

The Start of The Technology Game in Modern Darts?

The Start of The Technology Game in Modern Darts?

 

The recent increase in these areas of innovation can probably be traced back to Unicorn’s, and Phil Taylor’s, development of development of the Sigma dart. Much fanfare was brought to the creation of this ( Phase 4?) dart. Could “The Power” be made even better? Rocket scientists were apparently involved, later known as UniBoffins! and “dart & accessories designed to be as one” from point to flight became a watchword.

These darts were then packaged in premium cases and sold with serial numbers and assured weights, laser etched on the barrels, and quality guaranties etc. These were short-lived in terms of Phil’s use and , due to his struggles, The Phase 5 was swiftly introduced. Yet the die was cast and the annual launch, technology heavy and premium looking package, formula now became the norm.

Slick marketing, space age tech and premium sets. The new way?

Slick marketing, space age tech and premium sets. The new way?

Hidden in this tale, however, is a possibility that manufacturers would not like to dwell on. Namely, that the advances are myths and depend totally upon the player. “The Power” could not get on with the newly created darts, something had to be done, so some old tech, the “John Lowe”barrel,  was swiftly adapted into the Phil Taylor Phase 5. Even the one piece side loading stem was very similar to those used by Lowe and others in the 1980’s. Taylor went from strength to strength, different editions of the Phase 5 were launched, colour hjgcoordinated and coated for fashion preference and the day was saved, The Phase 5 is now known as the most successful dart ever made.

Despite being based on very old tech. The Phase 5 follows the same formula and triumphs.

Despite being based on very old tech. The Phase 5 follows the same formula and triumphs.

Barrels & Grip

If barrel technology was moving the game forward at rapid speed, or had changed anything significant, the current crop of the games elite would be using different equipment, or much improved versions, than those of 10 or 20 years ago. If we allow the argument that those players had grown up with the older equipment, and struggled to change, then surely the younger generation coming through would be using newer  kit or dramatic variations of the older styles.

Yet a good look at the rankings may show us a different story. The top twenty PDC players include players whose age range is from mid fifty’s to early twenties. They are a mix of players, some who have grown up with darts early TV age and those who will have been heavily influenced by the more modern Sky/PDC game. They also differ in speed, style, rythym just as much as previous generations.

Of the current top twenty. Eleven use a  straight or tapered barrel with a cut grip. These are either simple ring cut, combination cut or a “purist style” cut. Phil is currently the only player in the top 20 using a classic Lowe/Sigma barrel and similar set up. Of the other eight players, two use knurled grip barrels, variations of these have been around for decades. Too more use very smooth barrels of slightly different types. Although Stephen Bunting is trying various new grips, his most successful darts were very light, simple and smooth. Jelle Klassen and Simon Whitlock are using an interesting looking barrels, yet upon close inspection they have much in common with other tapered nose barrelled with ring cuts placed where they like them and a scallop or similar toward the rear of the dart. Even the weight used by players is not changing greatly. Phil’s 26g is still at the high end, Bunting at the lower end with 12-17g. The vast majority seem to sit between 20 & 22g. Not much has changed here (for example John Lowe prefered 21.5g) in over over thirty years. It does seem however that lighter darts have the slight upper hand. Priestley, Hankey and Bunting have won world titles using 17g or less. The 21g or less professional group seems to be gaining momentum.

 

Ultimate Retro? Dolans history making darts. Simple, tungsten, ring grip darts.

Ultimate Retro? Dolans history making darts. Simple, tungsten, ring grip darts.

What of the younger generation of players, perhaps less set in their ways or more open to the newer styles? Micheal Smith uses a very simple ring cut barrel with soft snub nose, Dave Pallet uses Adrian Lewis  type darts made either by Unicorn or Bulls. It is a tapered nose edition with ring step cuts all the way down. Keegan Brown uses a Unicorn dart that uses simple cut sections and smooth blanks. It looks like cross between Barney, Bob Anderson and some One80 barrels.

Bully Boys darts are again simple, ring grip darts,slightly snubbed nose. No Whistles or bells.

Bully Boys darts are again simple, ring grip darts,slightly snubbed nose. No Whistles or bells.

The newer grips that are being developed, produced and marketed include nano grip, pixel grip, micro grip, diamond grip and more. None of these have yet made the grade in terms of a player coming through having adopted one of these from early in their career or changed to one and transformed their performance. Although a special mention should go to Red Dragon/Winmau here. Around 2010/11 they introduced the diamond fusion grip. Selected designs of premium darts were made with an encrusted diamond grip on sections of the barrels.

Diamond Grips for Diamond White?

Diamond Grips for Diamond White?

After trying various darts and set ups, during a “fitting session” Ian Diamond White was suggested to try the 22g edition. They were very familiar to him in shape, style weight & balance, the additional grip and security, of the diamond idea, seemed to really fit with Ian and over the next couple of years his career did indeed go to the next level. The problem is, this process had already started, Ian had qualified for the G Slam and Worlds in the previous few months and was already on a steep upward curve. It is very difficult to be sure how much the grip chance added to that. However I do believe it provided a confidence in his eqipement, and in turn his game, that helped him improve quicker and maintain his highest standard for longer periods. It is interesting that they have now introduced this into more models, in the Winmau Range, and Peter Wright’s Euro 11 dart. This is very similar to MVG’s dart. The combination of the two could be very interesting.

In some ways grip fashion is moving backwards, there is a renewed appetite for older style copper tungsten, and other mixed material, darts. This seems to be due to the fact that the metal, combined with use , sweat etc., seems to produce a natural grip not dependent on the added factors. Could this be due to added or surface grip wearing and being less consistent over time?

As can be seen the jury is still out on “technological advances” in the barrel and grip areas. Yet the development, presentation and marketing of these premium products goes from strength to strength. Makers such as Cosmo package their darts more like jewellery than sports items with Target’s recent £300 Elysian darts illustrating the extreme end of such a market.

Ultimate in Premium product marketing. Target's £300 darts!

Ultimate in Premium product marketing. Target’s £300 darts!

What about “set ups” can technology and innovation help the pro’s or the rest of us when it comes to flights, stems and other accessories?

Point, Barrel, Stem & Flight all as one. Fact or fiction?

Point, Barrel, Stem & Flight all as one. Fact or fiction?

The answer here may be even clearer……..

See Part II