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.

Pick Quest, Part 2

Wegen and Red Bear Picks Reviewed

Picks are a simple, comparatively cheap, and surprisingly effective way to tweak one’s guitar tone, whether acoustic or electric. In Part 1, I compared several budget picks that meet my basic criteria — thick, triangular, and tortoise-inspired. In this post, I put a pair of “boutique” picks through their paces. Are they worth the additional cash?

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Pick Quest, Part 1

Picks from Dunlop, Clayton, and D’Andrea Reviewed

A prestigious MacArthur Genius Grant was awarded to a violin bow maker from Boston last year. It’s common knowledge that good violins are expensive, but some may be surprised to learn just how much professional violinists spend on their bow alone — anywhere from many hundreds to thousands of dollars. It stands to reason though; the bow is what draws sound from strings and wood, a crucial link in the connection between artist and instrument — not far off from the role played by the much humbler guitar pick. Funny then that many professional guitarists, by stark contrast to violinists, opt to draw sound from their strings with a $0.25 piece of plastic.

Over the past year or so I’ve been on something of a pick quest, exploring the range of both budget and boutique alternatives on the market. Picks are a simple, comparatively cheap, and surprisingly effective way to tweak one’s guitar tone, whether acoustic or electric.

Clockwise from upper left: Clayton Ultem, Dunlop Ultex, D’Andrea Pro Plec, Red Bear Tuff Tone, Wegen TF

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