Dunlop Primetone Picks

Last year I posted about about my experience putting a range of low- and high-end picks through their paces. At the time, I commented about the dramatic price jump between manufactured picks and premium, handmade options. There just weren’t many choices in the consumer no-man’s land between $0.25 and $25.00. The folks at Dunlop Manufacturing have recently filled that void, and the results are impressive.

Dunlop’s Primetone picks retail at about $6 street for a 3-pack, or $2 a pick. They are made of Dunlop’s tried and true “Ultex” material; I’ve been a fan of the translucent, heavy triangular Ultex picks for a while now. So what exactly merits the price jump for the Primetones?

Dunlop cites the addition of “hand-burnished sculpted edges” — bevels designed to simulate the feel and speed of a well-worn plectrum; each bag of picks is initialed by the factory craftsman responsible for the burnishing. The Primetones are also significantly  thicker, available in 1.4mm and 1.5mm (standard Ultex picks max out at 1.14mm). This is good news for acoustic flatpickers, who rely on heavy plectrums to coax as much volume and punch as possible from their dreadnoughts. In addition to several different shapes, the Dunlop Primetones are available in two different material consistencies — a translucent, tortoise shell-esque red color with a raised logo for better grip (512P, left image), and a more smoothly polished opaque finish (513P, right image).

I ordered a package of triangular 1.5mm picks in each finish. The verdict? For flatpickers especially, the Primetones may be the best value-for-money on the market today. The 512P in particular held up nicely by comparison to premium-priced Wegen and Red Bear picks, offering crystal clear note articulation and plenty of volume on tap from my D-28. The raised grip and speed bevels made for a very comfortable playing experience. The 513P is a little mellower, trading some high end crispness for a more resounding bass thump — I found it particularly useful for jazz applications, when the treble from my humbucker-equipped Telecaster needs taming. I find myself increasingly defaulting to the Primetones as my go-to pick, and best of all I can lose one or two without tearing up at the replacement cost. Well done Dunlop.

Martin Tony Rice Monel Strings

Like most steel-string acoustic players, I don’t give a second thought to the fact that my instrument usually sports a set of bronze-wound strings. Indeed, the market doesn’t really offer alternatives, as pretty much all acoustic string makers focus on various formulations of bronze (though it should be noted that the core of most strings is, in fact, steel). The pleasant metallic ring of these strings is the sound we have come to associate with a toneful flattop.

Which is why I was surprised to learn some years ago that flatpicking legend Tony Rice actually prefers nickel-wound strings on his prewar D-28; bronze-wound strings ring too brightly on the famous dreadnought (a trait rarely attributed to rosewood guitars). Until recently, D’Aquisto manufactured Tony’s signature strings. I experimented with a set maybe six years ago, and while they didn’t sound bad, I wasn’t compelled to make a permanent switch from my usual preference for phosphor bronze.

Fast forward in time to 2013 — my D-28 and I are both a little older, and Martin has announced it is now offering Tony Rice signature strings. These new strings are made from Monel, a nickel alloy that Martin phased out in the 1970s (incidentally the same metal used in World War II dogtags). Eh, why not? Like picks, strings are a cheap and reversible way to experiment with your instrument’s tone.

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