I get asked that question surprisingly often in relation to the “high end” paddles, and while it is ultimately a question that you have to answer for yourself, I’ve come up with some ideas that might help you make up your mind.
Paddles seem to fall into two groups — a given paddle is either a precision paddle, or it is not. By “precision” I mean:
1) the degree of genuine engineering that has gone into the design– in a well- engineered paddle, a lot of thought and analysis has gone into the technical factors of lever length and thickness, contact shape and materials, fingerpiece spacing, and means of adjustment; and
2) the accuracy with which the design is executed, e.g. the precision of the machining, the materials used, and the finish (by finish in this context I don’t mean chrome versus brass, but the degree of wear on moving parts, susceptibility to or protection from oxidation, and “quality control” during the manufacturing process).
The effects of precision design and manufacture are seen the the ease of adjustment and operation. You don’t need a precision paddle if you operate at speeds of 20-30wpm or less, but a sloppy or difficult paddle may all by itself keep you from developing the skills to go faster. If you find it difficult and time-consuming to adjust the paddle to your liking, or if you have to readjust it frequently, then you aren’t using a precision paddle and you are probably “holding back” on your sending to accommodate the shortcomings of the paddle.
Up to a point, the code is in the operator, not the instrument. In the best of all worlds, every virtuoso violinist will have a Strad. But a virtuoso can make beautiful music with a K-Mart violin, and if you give a Strad to a beginner it will sound like somebody scratching a piece of cat gut with a horse’s tail. Give a professional-grade code operator a cheap paddle and he will send great code with it, if somewhat slower than his normal operating speed and probably with a bit of grumbling about the sloppiness of the paddle. Give a Profi II to a beginner and he probably won’t notice the difference (although the precise feel is distinctly impressive and sells a lot of Profis for us). But it WILL be a lifetime investment and will never hold him back from achieving his maximum potential.
The Schurr Profi II is actually in the middle of the price range for precision paddles– you don’t need to spend that much to get a precision paddle, but you can also spend a lot more.
The price watershed for precision paddles is right around $200, which I regard as the point at which all of the engineering and manufacturing problems have been solved. Beyond that you are indeed paying for sizzle rather than steak– the manufacturere’s reputation, the appearance, the materials used, and it gets pretty personal. To give a practical example, I regard to “quality” of the GHD paddles to be every bit as good as the Profi II, but I use the more expensive Profi because I have a personal preference for brass.
If I can get away with mixing in one more metaphor here, keys and paddles are tools. Like wordworking tools, you can buy cheap ones, and buy them again after one job or ten jobs, or you can pay more for a tool that will last a lifetime.
I hope that sums it up for you, and would only add that we’ve been selling Profis for ten years now, and have never heard a user express anything resembling
“buyer’s remorse.” The general concensus of opinion is that you get what you pay for, even if you don’t quite know what it is [g]. Good question– thanks for asking! –N1FN