A few months back I ordered some picks from a company in Cleveland that I’d found on Instagram. In their blurb they talked about how the picks incorporated diamond nanotechnology, and their vacuum coating. They also offered a solid diamond plectrum for $7,500, which looks utterly incredible, but as I am a musician and therefore very poor I elected to order their more conventional 351 shape in two finishes.
This began a truly enjoyable, eye-opening discourse between me and Jerry, owner of Rock Hard Picks. Far from being a one-man show with a hammer die, Jerry has a PhD in Physics and operates GVA Aerospace, a company that makes all kinds of very serious machinery, including night-vision equipment. A genuine bloke by all accounts, he informed me that the products I’d initially ordered weren’t available, but that he would send extra bits and send my original order when it was done. This was serendipitous in the extreme, as it turned out that Rock Hard were in the process of changing their bevels, and as a result, I got to experience the picks before, during and after the change was completed.
The plectrum you see described here today is the Plasma, the second-fanciest one after the solid diamond. Made from 0.73mm steel, it’s then given its 0.03mm coating using vacuum depositing, which is the same carbon nano-coating applied to the night-vision gear to make it impossibly tough. The whole idea behind these picks is to make them fade-free, and in truth, I’d find it almost impossible to refute that. The number of small, glancing strikes and broad strums that make up guitar playing seem incredibly unlikely to wear down what is essentially a diamond-coated surface, and as Rock Hard give each plectrum slanted bevels depending on your hand orientation, this is made even less likely.
Now obviously, many of you will be thinking I will never do this steel is string death and lunacy but let me tell you, one of the best things about picks this hard is that you start to realise exactly how hard you play. Thicker plectrums made from Acrylic, UHMWPE, PEEK etc tend to be profusely beveled, their huge thickness meaning that the actual strikes taking place don’t necessarily give you explicit feedback as to what you’re doing. This is not the case with steel, where each and every micron of physical effort comes back to you immediately, and having experienced this sensation, it truly helped me to understand the other picks I have on a deeper level.
Tonally speaking, this isn’t what you’re picturing when it comes to traditional steel picks. The coating, thickness and bevels result in a much warmer sound than I’ve experienced from any other metal plectrum to date, with firm, focused power across the spectrum. The tone typically favours high end of the bass and the treble frequencies, with a chunk of low mids in there. Naturally, the material coughs out some unique elements, with a definite scraping sensation as you go into the lower strings. This does add engagement, and as you press on, it becomes less pronounced, like ghost-buffing on an acrylic plectrum. Rock Hard have also managed to fashion a grip that feels a lot like sandpaper without the hand-destroying factor, and I love that.
If you can overcome the inherent fear factor of playing with a metal pick, what you’re left with in the Plasma is a permanently strong, tonally uncompromising tool that can devastate most genres with ease. It wouldn’t be my first choice for acoustic work, but as it seems truly unlikely that such a thing was considered during its development, it’s almost a given. Clear, precise, perfectly crafted and utterly eternal, this is a must-try for any electric player. Shred irresponsibly!
- 0.76mm thick
- Steel with a carbon nano-coating
- Made in Cleveland, USA
- A stiff 8.5/10
- Price Per Unit: $19.95
- An electric wizard