THE BOUTIQUE PICK ROUNDUP PART III: the FINAL Chapter (?)

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Huggy B, Mar 9, 2017.

  1. Huggy B

    Huggy B Ha! You can't hit me.

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    Yes my friends it's another installment of one man's adventures through the world of overpriced plectrums. For this chapter of the trilogy I'm going to review a couple picks, show you a couple of my homemade adventures and misadventures, plus I will finish up with my choices of some of the best picks and their best attributes, so here goes.

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    Winspear picks - I finally received my order a few days ago and ran these picks through the paces. These are definitely a hard rock pick as they did not sound that unique on the clean channel but really excelled in overdrive. Of all the boutique picks I have tried these had the most bottom end by far, the highs and upper mids were not that pronounced but the bass and lower mids were really strong and powerful. The tips are very pointy and that rarely works for me, I prefer the smoother stroke of a round or medium tip, but the “chunk” tone of them made me want to make them work for me. Unfortunately I don't think they will because of the tip and the texture of the grip, basically they seem like they're made from plastic kitchen cutting board material so they have a kind of soapy feeling to them and kept slipping from my fingers. Tone wise, these things are off the charts, a serious punchy bottom and a great rock sound but I can't seem to hold onto them very well. (*Plus, I've got right hand arthritis issues, the reason I play thicker picks.)

    Dunlop prime tones - The biggest pick manufacturer on the planet enters in their version to the "boutique" market with these hand burnished picks at a fraction of the price the rest. It's basically Ultex with speed bevels, the tips are pretty nice, the tone is a little brighter than the Dunlop jazztones I had used from them for years but played a little nicer. They are not going into my special pick collection but you get three for the average price of one high-end pick and they sound and play a bit better than the jazz III or most of the standard inexpensive picks I've tried.

    Homemade ugly monster pick - well I stumbled upon a piece of unobtainium (UHMWPE) and tried my hand at becoming a plectrier (maker of picks) and it was clear immediately that I truly suck at it and don't know WTF I am doing:oops:. But I got through it anyway and the results are: as big as the thing is (1/4 inch thick) it DOES NOT have a huge amount of bottom end, it's actually kind of mid range nasally sounding although it's fast as a demon. The material also has a kind of soapy feeling to it, like the ones made by Winspear, I think the plastics are related. It is very comfortable to play a thick pick like this and the transition only takes a couple days to get used to if you're moving up from thin picks, but I actually feel a slight loss of articulation once you get past 3 mm thickness. There are videos of players using ultra thick plectrums doing speed runs, I'm pretty sure they can do the same thing with small picks too. The dealbreaker for me is that sometimes I play something fast off the high E string and my pick will hit the top (it happens), having an HB I can play it acoustically so I hear that little slight tap. When using a big fat pick its more of a loud knock than little slight tap so I decided not to go big, at least not on my 10 top.

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    Why I don't buy a blue-chip or red bear - Ain't nothing like the real thing baby, I've had these pre-70s Turtle for decades, they sound great but they are very thin. The small round one is the darkest sounding pick I own and can make my HB II sound like a big jazz box, it's actually two thin picks that I laminated together but after years of use and reshaping its getting a little small and I may have to laminate my last two triangles. Blue-chip, Red Bear, JB, are known for coming as close to that tone as any manufacture has, but I made a rule not to spend more than $10 on a pick, and I have these, so I just can't bring myself to order the high dollar stuff.


    ***THE FINAL COUNTDOWN - HUGGY'S TOP PICKS........of picks.***


    (*soundtrack included/optional)



    PLAYABILITY/SPEED:

    V pick diamond - This is the fastest pick I have come across and I also feel that acrylic is just about the fastest material for picks. Most of the product coming from this manufacturer is almost as easy to play with a glassy stroke over the strings that is built for speed. I have grown to dislike acrylic tone as it is a little too bright for my tastes but I keep some around for crisp chording, and they play like butter.

    Chicken pick - This was a frustration for me, I really like the bevel, speed, and playability of this pick but it lacked the midrange and bottom tone that I need to be one with the instrument. Very speedy, articulate, and well designed,……. Just too bright sounding.

    Winspear - Although I don't get along with pointy tips and it slips out of my fingers like a bar of soap, the edge is slicker than eel snot and it strokes quickly across the strings.

    TONE:

    Dragon heart - Slightly brighter than turtle or the Dunlop Jazz tones I have used for years but I must admit, to my ears these were far and away the best tone of all the picks I reviewed. A clear, even, "in your face" tone that sounded great in either channel, jazz clean or heavily saturated distortion. Less pick noise and chirp than acrylic and no strange overtones, a very pure sound.

    Winspear - For thick overdriven hard rocking sounds this is the pick to look into, especially if you'd like that deep grinding metal tone. Nothing spectacular in the clean channel, but for a deep chunky rock sound these ones stand out.

    Dunlop Jazztones - OK OK I know they are not "boutique", but I have to be honest with you, they sound better than a lot of the boutique picks I’ve tried, too bad they're kind of sluggish across the strings. I keep one around for comparison purposes only.

    COMFORT:

    V pick - Just about any pick I've tried from them plays like butter and stays between your fingers. I'm not big on the tone and they don't wear very well, but when they’re new they are about the easiest pick to hold.

    Gravity - (same reason as above)

    Chicken picks - Well designed, felt good in my hand.

    COST:

    Dunlop prime tones - It’s about eight bucks for a pack of three, a notch above the cheap stuff, not as nice as the real high-end, it'll work.

    V picks - Most of their basic product line is four dollars each, peanuts in boutique plectrum perspective.

    Blue-chip - They say they last forever, well there you go………………….. although I won't be around long enough to test that claim.




    There it is folks, it's been an adventure, thankfully not overly expensive, and best of all I've got in a lot of practice testing out all these items. My right hand technique has gotten better and I've been able to practice a lot of jazz runs up and down the neck, so that's a good thing. On the other hand, I will admit that even though I have elevated my game when it comes to plectrums, I am still left wanting more. Faster/easier runs up and down neck, a more perfect tone, a pick that feels like part of my fingers, the pick of……… Destiny.

    ……. And no, not that stupid thing that Jack Black uses.

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    *For now* my “go to” is……………….(drum roll)………………..Dragon Heart, I just can't seem to put the stupid thing down. I don't like the design, it’s not the fastest pick around, hard to hold (I had to modify mine to make it useful), it's even a little small for me, can't use the round tip because of that, but the clarity of tone really connects me to what I'm playing. The sound it produces keeps me going back to that pick, I don’t know if it’s the material or the bevel, but I really like it. They’re a one-man operation, only has one or two pick designs, and I have never liked asymmetrical Swiss Army knife guitar picks, but if they put out some more standard pick shapes and designs (teardrop, jazz III, round triangle, pointed triangle) they would make some big noise in the guitar pick market. This is a bold statement, but if they did, I would consider them the PRS of plectrums, I like the tone that much.

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    In closing I’ll say this, I think I’ve hit the wall, I don’t know if I’ll ever take the $30-$75 plunge for a BC or RB, and there’s even more over-the-top obscenely expensive stuff out there like Riki Le Plectrier.
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    ….but I think I’ve created a new acronym, PAS,…….so that’s kinda cool.:D



     
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  2. Big Eric Bee

    Big Eric Bee New Member

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    Nice review. Can't say for certain Blue Chip will last forever, but my oldest is at least 5 years old and has no appreciable wear.

    As to BC and Red Bear vs the real thing - well, I haven't really touched my TS picks since changing over to those two. Every once in a while will try them again. And go right back to the BC or even Red Bear.
     
  3. alantig

    alantig Santana-free since '63!

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    Nice review. Just picked up a V-Pick Mummy to try the ghost edge. Seems it's the pick Mark Lucas uses - he's the guy who does the reviews for nstuffmusic.com.

    But if you want killer tone...

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    Vintage?

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  4. Michael_DK

    Michael_DK New Member

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    Thanks for the update!

    Now I need to try out those dragon ones, those blue chip ones, and possibly Winspear picks...

    You've touched upon it for some of the picks, but I'd be interested in hearing how each of these wear over time (I guess Big Eric answered regarding the blue chip ones).
     
  5. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    Nice write up, T. I've enjoyed, and laughed, at all of these! Even learned a thing, or three.
     
  6. vchizzle

    vchizzle Birdman.

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    Love the grip of the mummy, not sure the ghost rim is for me though.
     
  7. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    I hope my Blue Chips last forever, because I am planning on immortality.

    Not because of the picks, of course.

    I'm merely living for the day the accordion returns to popularity.

    Hey, never say never.
     
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  8. Big Eric Bee

    Big Eric Bee New Member

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    Definitely will never say never. More than a little of the music I play will have accordion. Am fortunate enough to have 3 friends who are exceptional accordion players.
     
  9. Huggy B

    Huggy B Ha! You can't hit me.

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    You can start a death metal polka band.
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  10. vchizzle

    vchizzle Birdman.

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    I bought a blue chip large jazz 60 from geese. This is probably my favorite pick overall that I've tried in terms of tone and the way it feels against the strings. I rehearsed with this and a few V-picks. I did have issues with the blue chip starting to slip out of my fingers. I had similar issues with some V-picks. Found a couple V's that I like, though I feel I'm detecting a bit of wear on them already. That kinda sucks on acrylic picks as it almost feels like a snag on the plain strings. I was set to order a few Gravity picks since they're more customizable with holes/engraving, etc...but I assume they may wear in a similar manner. I don't know, maybe I'll order some anyway. I wanted to try their Gold series too. I'm actually getting slightly annoyed now as I find something I don't like about picks(that I like certain aspects of). To the point where I'll likely stick with my old green tortex for most uses.
     
  11. owickerman

    owickerman New Member

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    If you go to Reunion Island, there is a museum named Kelonia ( http://museesreunion.re/kelonia).
    It was a turtle farm and has been transformed into a turtle shelter.
    They have stock turtle shell and make various things out of it, including picks. They sell it with a certificate explaining that it's old stock from before the law forbidding to kill turtles.
    So, there is a way to get back some turtle shell picks ;)
     
  12. vchizzle

    vchizzle Birdman.

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    That's pretty cool that they have a conservatory type thing going on now. A turtle haven so to speak. I like it.
     
  13. owickerman

    owickerman New Member

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    I visited it when I lived there and I learned a lot on the chelonians ^^
    The only missing thing is info about A'Tuin and Astrochelonians in general...
    Ok, I'm already out :p
     
  14. Huggy B

    Huggy B Ha! You can't hit me.

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    I know exactly how you feel, one of the reasons that I keep around a Dunlop jazz tones 208 and TS for reference, haven't found a boutique pick to top those tones. Playability?, Acrylic is fast as a demon but the tone lacks mids and they don't wear very well, after the edge starts going it's like playing with a spatula. I haven't got my hands on a red bear yet and maybe in time I will because from most of the sound samples I've found online they've sounded pretty good, granted they are just vids and probably not the greatest sound quality to judge from, I don't know what their playability is like. BC and Dragon heart both play very well over the strings and have a similar very clear tone, slightly brighter than TS, so similar that I had to research it. It turns out they use very similar materials. It makes me wonder about the huge price disparity, I think I might research that too.

    But yes, I know exactly how you feel, you learn how much better things can be over a regular old celluloid Fender pick, but you just end up wanting more. It can be a bit of a rabbit hole.
     
  15. vchizzle

    vchizzle Birdman.

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    Well I put an email in to blue chip and they said they will put grip holes in picks if you ask. Just need to put it in the comment box.
     
  16. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    I'm already in one.
     
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  17. Big Eric Bee

    Big Eric Bee New Member

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    No photo yet, but another one to toss out. Just received a pick from http://www.manouchepicks.com/ It's thinner than their regular models (Perry model to be exact). Only received it this afternoon, so no testing yet. Appears to be a very high quality celluloid. Well polished and shaped. Fast indication is it's my new favorite. However, will tell tonight at an acoustic jam session. Can't wait to try it out.
     
  18. Big Eric Bee

    Big Eric Bee New Member

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    Update - okay. I now have a new favorite pick. From what I can tell these are early style celluloid (i.e. not as stable as the modern stuff). Really like the tone. 5th Fret Productions carries some of the models. Really glides off the string well and I like the inherent tone. They're even more expensive than Blue Chip, but personally for a handmade pick, it's probably worth it. Oh, and it worked quite well in the jam session (all acoustic). Other players had no problem hearing me.
     

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