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Thread: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

  1. #1
    Registered User
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    Aug 2014
    Potsdam, NY / Burlington, VT

    Default Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    Hi friends,

    I had a rainy Saturday at home this weekend and I started wondering how much difference pick choices made in the sound that an audience member hears through a microphone. I decided to record the different picks while removing as many variables as possible: same instrument, same player, same tune, same hour, same tempo, same strings.

    After doing the recordings, it occurred to me that others might enjoy seeing for themselves what different picks sound like, especially blinded so you don't know what you're hearing. The first page has all the recordings presented with serial numbers but not IDs; the second page has the answer key.

    I've been playing mandolin about a year, so I'd ask you to be gentle in your comments on my performance, but the pick sounds are there. Mistakes are (obviously) mine.

    Picks tested:
    A: Dunlop Primetone Sculpted 3 mm
    B: Dunlop Nylon 1 mm
    C: Dunlop Ultex 1.14 mm
    D: Dunlop Ultex Jazz III 1.3 mm
    E: Dunlop 204 2.0 mm
    F: Dunlop Stubby Triangle 3.0 mm
    G: Dunlop Jazz III XL 1.3 mm
    H: Dunlop 1.5 mm
    I: Wedgie 1.0 mm
    J: Pickboy Nylon 1.00 mm
    K: Pickboy 1.50 mm
    L: Pickboy Edge Carbon Nylon 1.00 mm
    M: Pickboy Classic Rainbow 1.00 mm
    N: Pickboy Classic Luminous 1.00 mm
    O: Golden Gate mandolin 1.4 mm
    P: Gibson USA X-H 1.1 mm
    Q: Unknown (Saga?) “tortoiseshell” 1.4 mm
    R: Unknown (Saga?) “tortoiseshell” 1.3 mm
    S: Cool Heavy translucent yellow 1.0 mm
    T: Cool Heavy black 1.0 mm
    U: Cool Heavy white 1.0 mm
    V: Martin H 0.6 mm
    W: Wheatware H 1.5 mm
    X: Wheatware 2.0 mm
    Y: Stylus Pick
    Z: Fender Heavy 0.9 mm
    AA: Dunlop Jazz III black 1.3 mm
    BB: Dunlop Tortex 0.88 mm

    Have fun! If you've never done this sort of experiment, I'd encourage you to try it. The tone I hear when I'm playing turns out to be quite different from what the microphone (and thus the audience) hear.

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  3. #2
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Oct 2006
    Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    Well that is a pretty impressive study and a lot of work too! I started at the bottom and played about 5 secs of each sound clip. All the way to #1 I thought the Golden Gate was the best. But in the end I went back to it again and I can't say it was better after all. So I cannot declare a winner. I think the biggest influence is the picker -- not the pick!
    The playing was just fine -- sounded good.
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

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  5. #3

    Default Re: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    You have a lot more patience than I could ever find for such a set of trials. Well done for that.

    Which pick did you think came out sounding best?

  6. #4
    Destroyer of Mandolins
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    Mar 2007
    New Jersey

    Default Re: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    That's an impressive amount of work, congratulations. I see that you identified a chief problem, the player's own input, but I didn't see where you had addressed that in your test. Are you saying that you simply played the same tune over and over each time with another pick? If so, I'm sure you realize that the variables are still too numerous to mention. You're still lacking some device that could address pick angle, speed, depth, and of course, player fatigue. The results are very interesting and thank you for that, but I'm sure you realize that this is no more conclusive than any other anecdotal evidence.
    Dedicated Ovation player
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  7. #5
    Registered User
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    Aug 2014
    Potsdam, NY / Burlington, VT

    Default Re: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    Hi friends,

    Yes, Tim2723, I just played them over and over with different picks. As you'll see, I wrote "while removing as many variables as possible" rather than alleging a perfectly scientific test. I don't cite any conclusions, but I do think that providing sound samples for the listener to consider is more objective than forcing people to rely fully on verbal descriptions. A mechanical device that could address your concerns would be, arguably, less useful since it would be hard to make one that played actual music rather than simple repeated notes, and I would argue that the real-world experience of what the picks actually sounded like in the hands of a human player is more "accurate" or valuable in terms of judging playing sound than a mechanical picking machine would be.

    Yes, the variables you mentioned remain variable in this test. If it doesn't show you anything of value, no worries--pay no attention. I hear things in the sound samples that I think are caused by something other than the variables you mentioned. If you've got a device like the one you cited, I'd love to hear (about) it!

    Ron, my current favorite for the all-around combination of player comfort, speed, and tone is the Dunlop Primetone Sculpted 3mm, pick A / pick #5. It's not perfect, but it seems to be working pretty well for the kind of music I like to play.

    Bernie, I like the Golden Gate for chops and chordal work, but for picking tunes the rounded tip doesn't feel precise enough for me. It's on my list to sand down a Golden Gate to give it more of a point and see what that does for the sound, because I love their material.

  8. #6
    Registered User Ellen T's Avatar
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    Apr 2014
    St. Louis, Missouri

    Default Re: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    Hmm, an awful lot of what a person wants to hear depends on the type of music they play. A big fat pick played with a lot of power might sound wonderful to a bluegrasser, but not so good to someone who plays classical or jazz, or other softer music. You would have to use each pick with a sample of every possible type of music and playing style for a true sample, which would, of course, be insane. Cool start, though.
    "The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret" -- (Terry Pratchett, The Truth) R.I.P. and say "ook" to the Librarian for me.

  9. #7
    Mando-Afflicted lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Jan 2014
    So Cal
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    adkpiper: Thanks for all you did in this study. I like those "Cool" picks with the rubber grip-- 1.0 size. I enjoy the Wegen M100 but it is hard to grip for my old hands. I keep coming back to the Dunlop "Max-Grip" 1.0 which runs 88 cents at the hometown guitar store. It sounds bright and full, and when you relax your grip to play tremolo it doesn't slip out.
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  10. #8
    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
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    Dec 2004
    Long Island, NY, USA

    Default Re: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    I thought the Ultrex triangle sounded the best here. Would like to have heard that with a D'Andrea Pro Plec, or did I just miss it?
    Eastman 605, Strad-o-lin, and Kentucky 300e mandolins.

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    (Formerly known here as Santiago)

  11. #9

    Default Re: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    Great work,thanks!

  12. #10
    Registered User James Rankine's Avatar
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    May 2013
    Leeds UK

    Default Re: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    Impressive work - well done.
    Great to see a pick discussion thread that doesn't mention a Blue Chip.......Oh sorry!

  13. #11

    Default Re: Mandolin Pick Comparison - 28 picks under $3 each

    I have to say, I know/own most of these, and I think I hear a difference and or feel. Yet in the samples, other than one or two, and then only by contrast with the preceding sample, they pretty much sound identical to me over my computer speakers-rather telling.

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