Let’s talk about vinyl. Every music professes some sort of admiration for it, whether it be out of begrudging reverence or genuine care, and its eternal position as the big dog in the musical storage universe is assured. Few musicians would look to actually play their instrument with it, but there’s no reason why vinyl can’t also be a plectrum.
That’s the case put forward by Nick at Gem Picks. I’ve had at least one of everything he makes off him since HR! began, and I’m thrilled to finally be giving the Emerald Triangle it’s own feature. Coming in at a universally-acceptable 0.73mm, it’s made from Poly Vinyl Chloride, just like your favourite physical copy of that band you really that you only listen to on mp3. All joking aside, it’s an interesting idea to use what music is traditionally recorded onto to make the music itself, so let’s see how it stacks up.
I know that these picks are die-cut, and that in a change to the normal HR! protocol they’re not carved from Ghandi’s skeleton or beamed in from the Negative Zone, but the point of this blog was never to be exclusively boutique. I’m chuffed to bits to see companies butting heads directly with the budget market, and as these cost $5.95 for four and come mounted in a very handsome package, they’re hardly bargain-bin material. Nick has made the finishing highly consistent, and all the picks I’ve received are of the same high quality.
Let’s talk about the material then. PVC isn’t going to last like stone, UHMWPE or PEEK, but you can buy 6 months’ worth of Gem’s for the equivalent money. PVC grips to my fingers like a less civilised Acrylic, immediately putting itself ahead of the equivalent Delrin plectrum. The Emerald also sports a foil graphic that acts as additional grip on one side, and though this does tarnish pretty swiftly with frequent use, there’s more than enough grip to keep your fingers throwing out the good stuff.
Being that it’s the same thickness as the immortal Dunlop 73, I decided to pit them against each other, and though I was expecting subtle differences, they were actually pretty glaring, especially in terms of operation. While you can likely mentally picture exactly what the Dunlop feels like, the broad tips of the Emerald made it a smoother, more effortless plectrum for single note work and alternate picking, and although it’s cut from a similar tone to the Great One, it’s got more body and a greater confidence to it. Let’s not forget – at the price point, it’s not unfeasible to compare these two directly, so for the Gem to be able to punch above the weight of such a widely-used plectrum without costing infinitely more is highly admirable.
I’d say that on electric especially, the Emerald has an awful lot going for it. On test day I’d been playing nothing under 5mm, and making a jump back to sub-1mm plectra was going to be an odd experience. Even so, there was an oddly Spanish feeling to it, and rather than chasing the POWER Dragon, the drop in thickness made me play differently and truly enjoy it. There’s a slightly cheeky quality to this green piece that makes it highly enjoyable, and I think that you’d be hard-pushed not to enjoy it. Plus, even if you don’t like the loosely-346 shape, the rest of the Gem range should cater for you easily. Also, if you play flatwounds on the bass, this is the plums. It’s a real struggle to find picks that don’t chirp like the dawn chorus, and the rounded, balanced nature of PVC means that I got a ripe old-school thud out of this. Think Quality Control-era Jurassic 5 lines and you’ll be in the right part of town.
The only real downsides here are that PVC isn’t the most ideal material if you’re a bit heavy handed, though you’ll likely be using something harder already if that’s the case. The edges do start off slightly hard, but this fine ridge disappears after a few hours of playing, and you can get on with hammering the tunes out. It’s worth noting that even with the edges raised, you’ll still get a better sound off this than its Tortex equivalent, and it’ll make you smile every time you pick it up.
If what you want is a cost-effective, good-looking pick that’ll deliver the goods for anything up to hard rock, try these. Gem are good people making great stuff, and though the grapevine has told me that there’s some higher-end models coming, their original line is something to be truly proud of. They also possess that most essential of plectrum characteristics – engagement. I enjoy using the Emerald the same way I enjoy playing bass, because it gives me a broad grin, and playing any instrument shouldn’t make you tense. Great value, great picks. Score!
- 0.73mm Thick
- Made in the United States
- A gleaming 8/10
- Price Per Unit: $5.95 for 4.
- Genuine contenders in the hot ‘n’ heavy budget race, made with real care.
Insta: @gem_picks Facebook: @gempicks