Expensive Picks, Part 2: V-Picks

Sixteen Current V-Pick Models (clockwise from upper left): 1. Ruby Red Traditon Ultra Lite; 2. Tradition Lite Sapphire Blue; 3. Chicken Picker; 4. Euro; 5. Nite-Glow Medium Rounded; 6. Pearly Gates Medium Round; 7. Medium Rounded; 8. Dimension Buffed Smokey Mountain Series; 9. Ruby Red Medium Pointed; 10. Dimension Junior Buffed; 11. Pearly Gates Small Pointed; 12. Medium Pointed; 13. Small Pointed Lite; 14. Switchblade; 15. Stiletto, 16. Nexus Unbuffed.

Readers had a lot to say about a recent post on high-end guitar picks. I focused on some of those ultra-hard picks made from natural materials, such as stone, bone, wood, and horn, plus ones made from synthetics designed to mimic those materials, such as GraphTech’s Tusq series. I’d concluded that, while these picks cost a lot more than garden-variety plastic picks, they offer unique benefits, including stronger fundamentals, more low-end mass, and varying amounts of percussive treble “slice” that can help a guitar track stand out in a mix.

Anyway, several readers spoke highly of V-Picks, a small handmade pick company from Nashville run by Vinni and Nancy Smith. I bought a few, and was deeply impressed. So I got a bunch more and made the set of reference recordings included here. Have a listen!

Unlike the Pearse picks covered in the first “expensive picks” article, the variations among V-Picks has less to do with their materials (they’re all made from acrylics) than with their varied shapes. They’re thicker and denser than conventional picks, which once again translates into stronger fundamentals, fewer irritating “clacky” artifacts, and varying amounts of glassy treble percussion. I particularly love the rounded-style picks, which produce more pure tone and fewer noisy artifacts than any picks I’ve tried. They sound deep and fat without getting dull.

After some experimentation, you can guess how the varied shaped effect the tones of picked notes. The sharper the tips, the sharper and more trebly the attack. The smaller the total mass of the pick, the more restrained the lows. The fascinating Dimension series picks combine the fatness of the rounded picks with a edge of the pointier ones, with remarkably little midrange clatter. The Nexus, with its high-friction, unbuffed edges yields a similar effect. Meanwhile, pointy models like the Switchblade and Stiletto sound a bit thin and harsh as demoed here on my bright-toned, 000-sized  Lowden acoustic. But they might be perfect for shred players who want to recapture some of the edge sacrificed to the compression, low-mid wooliness, and treble loss imposed by high-gain amp settings.

Some V-Picks are extremely fat, such as the Insanity model, which measures 11.85mm thick (imagine a dozen or so standard medium gauged picks stacked atop each other). I didn’t try any of the super-fat models, but they might be useful for players battling arthritis, or any other issues that makes it difficult to maintain a small, tight grip.

The fat picks are the most expensive ones — the Insanity with set you back $34.99. But many models go for $3.99 each, including my my favorites, the medium rounded models. I bought myself a few dozen.

This time around, I recored only acoustic examples because I’m so lazy they reveal more about the picks’ character than electric guitar examples.

Ruby Red Tradition Ultra Lite

Tradition Lite Sapphire Blue

Chicken Picker

Euro

Nite-Glow Medium Round

Pearly Gates Medium Round

Medium Rounded

Dimension Buffed Smokey Mountain Series

Ruby Red Medium Pointed

Dimension Junior Buffed

Pearly Gates Small Pointed

Medium Pointed

Small Pointed Lite

Switchblade

Stiletto

Nexus Unbuffed

10 comments to Expensive Picks, Part 2: V-Picks

  • Dan

    This reminds me I need to go replace my v-pick which I lost in a recent move. It was one of the clear ones and I kept meaning to put some kind of bright little sticker on it so it wouldn’t get lost. I guess I should get a few, but the one I had seemed like it could withstand a lot of abuse. It’s nice to find a slightly more expensive pick that holds up well.

    • joe

      Well, some of the thinner V-Picks can be a bit brittle — I broke one myself. But the thicker ones seem pretty durable. I got a bunch of pink ones, for visibility’s sake. They also do glow-in-the-dark and other colors.

  • Sam Geese

    I’m glad you like ‘em.
    I still have the two I originally bought( I usually don’t lose my stuff i.e. picks lighters, cigarettes when I still smoked, etc.).
    I still wanna try the ones shaped like a standard Fender Heavy tortoise, though.

  • matcaster

    you should check red bear picks, they are truly amazing !

  • Have any thoughts on the Dulop Tortex Fin Picks?  I use the 1.44 mm (purple) one.

    I don’t know id I use them to their full potential, but I dig the curved “tooth” end.
    <a href="http://www.extramusical.com/catalog/images/4141.jpg" title="Jim Dunlop Tortex Fin Picks">Jim Dunlop Tortex Fin Picks</a>
     
     

  • I’ve purchased a few stone picks a long time ago, and over the years found them more and more compelling. Mine are fairly rounded and double as great fake slide, x-tech actuators. Like you state, the sound is so fat and clatter-free that going back to even a Fender heavy, seems clanky and tinny. I get slightly less articulation and accuracy from them, but the fatness and tone makes me slow down a bit to enjoy each note a bit more anyway. I’ll buy a few of the V-Picks to check them out! Sounds like maybe a great middle ground.

  • rickyredhead

    Dunlop, 1.0mm in black, crimp the pointed end to hold it better, and play with the textured backside, gets very nice and scratchy if you like it that way!

  • Oinkus

    Someone gave me a V pick to check out they are nice , I will try most anything. Record and listening is a good tool to use for comparison. Now the question is where did the invisible pick go ?

  • David W

    I got a boat-load of these for my birthday one year – my dad has always been really supportive of my music, and wanted me to try each and every one to find the perfect picks for me.
    These picks are amazing – I guess the sound samples speak for themselves – and most of them produce sounds unique to themselves. My favorite is definitely the Psycho model – it makes my guitar sound deep and…I dunno, alive? I’m not all that good with metaphors. Suffice to say, it gives it a much better sound both with strumming and picking. I haven’t noticed a huge difference between the polished edges and the unpolished edges except on electric guitar, btw.
    One thing to note about the Insanity and other similar blunt instruments; they give a great resonant sound, but I personally use them to practice lead, scales, etc. I had kind of hit a wall – I experienced a lot of trouble with my precision when using picks, and had a nasty habit of accidentally hitting the wrong string in the middle of a riff (with exactly the results you might expect). :shake: Practicing with big blunt suckers has really helped to tighten me up (you have to be reeeeeally precise when you use them for picking), so that when I switch back to my Psycho, I am sounding a lot better than I ever was before.
    Lastly, their website mentions that as the picks heat up, they get slightly tacky. This is not hype – I’m a sweaty guy (it’s 66 degrees in my office and my fingertips are sweating from typing right now) and picks tend to slip around in my fingertips. I rarely have any such problems with V-Picks (and coincidentally it’s only when I’m drinking…) :smirk:
    After using these things for the last couple of years, I won’t use anything else if I can avoid it. They’re not for everyone though – my friend Kelly uses Snarling Dog, and hates my picks with the fire of a thousand suns. To each their own though. Spend the money to buy three – a thin sharp one, a medium slightly dull one, and a thick stubby. You’ll have all the picks you need. Just…you know…don’t lose them. :cuss:

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