As will be explained below, most major manufacturer make reliable sticks. The best cues, many advanced players will tell you, are made-to-order by private cuemakers, if you've got the cash to fork over. But you can find a good stick in any of the top brands.
Among all the manufacturers, of which a more extensive list is provided below, About.com's pool experts warn against Meucci and highlight these:
Things to Consider
The most important consideration in choosing a stick is how it feels ''for you''. Avoid buying from any store that won't let you try the cue out first. You should hold it in your hand, roll it around (more on that below) and shoot around a bit. What some say about brand, joint, material, weight or other features should never weigh as much as your personal experience and a given feature's compatibility with your style of play.
If you're not already familiar with the anatomy of a cue, check out this diagram first.
* '''Price''': Expect to spend more than $100 for a first stick, more than $200 for a better if still bare all-around cue, and up to $400 for a high quality product. Custom sticks run higher than that. Leaps in value are unbound from respective jumps in price after about $1500.
* '''Pieces''': House sticks -- the cues stocked at pool bars -- are often one-piece versions. The type you'll want to buy for personal use comes in two pieces, shaft and butt, joined by a joint. Multi-piece cues exist, too, but they're increasingly rare and used, when at all, for specialty shots.
''Note: The tip pictured (above left) is a screw-in replacement, which is generally not recommended by pros. It's included here to illustrate the look of a cue tip.''
* '''Weight''' -- A cue weighs between 18 and 21 ounces. Lighter cues are proving more helpful than heavier ones, but, as always, moderation is the key: Choose a stick with just enough heft and a balanced amount of zip, leaning a little more toward zip.
** Advanced players will often buy a heavier cue just for breaks.
* '''Length''' -- Cues are 57 or 58 inches in length. Get a different size only if you're really tall or really short.
* '''Material''' -- Shafts are usually made of wood, sometimes covered in fiberglass or metal (graphite mostly). Fiberglass and graphite laminated sticks, which tend to be more affordable, are engineered for better balance and durability. But wood, without the synthetic covering, is the traditional selection due to its unbeatable feel and integrity, and most experts will guide you to an all-wood stick.
** Some types of wood are notably inferior to graphite and fiberglass, namely woods like ramin, which has a yellowish brown color and several coats of finish.
* '''Brand''': In pool, you simply don't go for generic. Cuemaking, as these multiple considerations should have demonstrated by now, is a sensitive, finely tuned craft. Go with manufacturers who are around because they've done things right (see Top Picks).
** The other option is private cuemakers, who undoubtedly build the best, custom-done sticks. But expect to pay a hefty sum for the quality.
* '''Taper''': Pro or European are your options on the manner in which a stick thickens from the tip to the butt. A European taper is more conical than the more common and evenly distributed pro taper.
* '''Decoration: '''How pretty your stick looks won't alter the technical capacity of the cue. It sure doesn't hurt your confidence, though.
** Cheap decorations are superficial and will wear away with time. Good ones are inlayed in the wood.
* '''Wrap''': Experts complain about new-fangled wraps that are made of nylon and other such fancy materials. A good cue, in the traditional sense, has an Irish linen wrap as its grip (see picture, right).
* '''Joints''': The joint unites the shaft and butt of the cue, usually in some variation of one screwing into the other. Most of the time the actual connections are metal, though sometimes plastic, and it's the outer components of the joint -- made of plastic, metal (aluminum or steel) or wood -- and the type of connection you'll have to debate over.
* '''Deflection''': This is the amount a ball skews from where an (accurate) player is trying to hit it while attempting an "English" or side stroke, which is hitting the ball left or right of center. A well-built cue (read: a stiffer, balanced cue) will decrease deflection through the construction of the tip and top half of the shaft. But less deflection produces more spin on the ball and less control, so it's a trade-off. Other sites give better explanations of deflection and how to curb it (so to speak), including this review.
* '''Vibrate''': A good cue doesn't vibrate. Vibration is a good way to determine a well-made cue, it should be rigid in all ways. Strike the shaft with your hand and see if it acts like a bat or a tuning fork.
* '''Straight and Clean''': Roll a cue on the table. If it wobbles, it isn't straight. You can also pick it up and look at it from the bottom. It's outline should be tapered but straight. Then feel it for any imperfections. It should feel smooth in all places, even by the joint.
* '''Balance''': The best cue balances its weight so that it's neither top- nor bottom-heavy. Hold a cue parallel to the floor with one hand and gauge its center, what is called its balance point. A good cue's balance point is in the central range of the stick.