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RIP Jim Dunlop - King of the Picks

CryBabyDunlop EffectsDunlop ManufacturingDunlop PicksGuitar AccessoriesGuitar HeroesJimi HendrixMXRPicks and PlectrumsPitchUtilityWay Huge Effects+-
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Dunlop Manufacturing is one of the many, as well as one of the chief family businesses in the general guitar industry / sector - setting the pace and scope of what’s possibly with quality gear alongside outfits like Ernie Ball for over half a century (since 1965). And while Jim’s involvement of late has not been so prominent as in previous years, he has nonetheless left an indelible mark on the brands that he developed, innovated and evolved.


Dunlop probably means a great many different things to most people - the various pedals and devices stamped with the CryBaby, Jimi Hendrix, MXR and Way Huge brand markers. For me though the overwhelming legacy is in what started up this business - the making and innovation of guitar picks / plectrums. Jim oversaw the development of a variety of innovations including Tortex, Ultex, and crucially for me - the smaller Jazz III format.


When I got back into guitar a few years back - one of the first things I did was to buy an enormous selection pack of Dunlop picks to figure out which best suited me. I was pretty quick to pick out the Jazz III format as a favourite - and regularly use picks from amongst these top 10 favourite Dunlop picks of mine, roughly in order of preference:

  • Dunlop Ultex Jazz III 1.38mm (pale yellow) [Polyetherimide]
  • Dunlop John Petrucci Primetone Jazz III 1.38mm (oxblood red / grape) [Polyetherimide]
  • Dunlop John Petrucci Glow Pick 2.00mm [Polyetherimide]
  • Dunlop Primetone Jazz III 1.40mm (burnt orange) [Polycarbonate]
  • Dunlop John Petrucci Jazz III 1.50mm (black, polished tip) [Ultex / Polyetherimide]
  • Dunlop Primetone 305 small, pointed tip 3.00mm (black) [Polycarbonate]
  • Dunlop Ultex Jazz III 2.00mm (black) [Polyetherimide]
  • Dunlop Primetone 304 small, rounded tip 3.00mm (black) [Polycarbonate]
  • Dunlop Jazztone 205 small, pointed tip 2.00mm (black) [Polycarbonate]
  • Dumlop Stubby Jazz, pointed tip 3.00mm (purple) (Lexan / Polycarbonate)

For a long time the yellow Ultex was my pick of choice and still remains one of my all-time favourites - alongside the various John Petrucci varieties, while the vastly more expensive Hawk ToneBird 7 at 1.400mm gauge is my absolute overall favourite - but very pricey at £12 a pop.


In the pedal stakes - I have several branded Cry Baby / Dunlop ones in my collection - mini Volume and Wah Pedals as well as a Fixed Wah, also a Hendrix Octavio from the latest batch of those.


Quite unexpectedly - and even though I generally like MXR pedals the only one of those to date that I have is the diminutive Phase 95 Phaser. I like MXR and have had several on my wishlists over the years - but I keep going for other preferences in those categories from other brands which I guess I prefer more. Generally though there are only 3 proper all-round pedal brands which have you covered in most areas - and these are Boss, Electro-Harmonix and MXR (you could say also that EarthQuaker Devices and TC Electronic are now sneaking into consideration against those big 3). I always buy pedals on merit and on quite a steep scale of profiling / characteristics - and in truth I generally like pedals with a few more dials and switches - which is usually the opposite of what MXR is about - with is bestselling pedal likely the relatively simple compact Carbon Copy Analog Delay. MXR’s pedal legacy really is in the Hammond enclosure benchmark format which is now the mainstay of pedal-manufacture.


Until recently I always found the Way Huge enclosures somewhat oversized. While with their newer ’Smalls’ form-factor - those pedals are within my target area, but are generally again typically more simple and vanilla - where my preferences would be for a slightly smarter and differentiated feature set.


For both MXR and Way Huge, there is no doubting the high quality of those effects and for many players MXR is their key core pedal range - while of my currently 39-strong pedal-chain - the most frequent appearances are by Chase Bliss Audio (5), followed by Boss (3), Strymon (3) and TC Electronic (3). I can also have several Spaceman Effects (4) or ThorpyFX (c4) in the chain on occasion - but as things stand right now - the most common Dunlop product I am likely to be using is the one that can be found between my fingers.


There’s lots of other blog posts around giving further details to the lifetime and achievements of Jim Dunlop - and I encourage you to read those - the one on the official website is as good as any. My reminiscence is on a purely tangible basis - and most of your are already out their seeking and celebrating Jim’s work - no doubt as he would like it ...

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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