Red Bear Trading Tuff-Tone Classic H
|Red Bear Trading Tuff-Tone Picks
Summary:Made from an entirely new pick material, Tuff-Tone picks provide the same, high-quality sound you expect from Red Bear picks, but are much more durable than standard Tortis picks.
Pros: Get ‘em wet, put ‘em in your pocket with all your keys and change, put ‘em in the washer and dryer. They won’t break or warp.
Price: $10 direct from Red Bear Trading
Tone Bone Rating: 5.0 – The totally unique sound and feel of a Tuff-Tone pick makes it a winner in my book.
I love it when I get gear in the mail, and I especially love it when it’s a padded envelope from Red Bear Trading. I came home early from work yesterday afternoon to get ready to go to a gig in the early evening, and much to my extreme surprise and pleasure, a padded envelope from Red Bear Trading what waiting for me on the kitchen table. I immediately opened the envelope, poured out the contents into my hand and out dropped three pick packages: Two Tuff-Tone picks (a Tri-Tip and B-Style – both heavy gauge), and a super-super thick C Style Tortis measuring 4mm. I’ll be covering the Tortis in another review, so I’ll just mention it here.
I’ve been anticipating receiving these Tuff-Tone picks ever since I spoke to Dave Skowron – maker of Red Bear Picks – about them a few weeks ago, after I saw the announcement on his site. Rather than have me paraphrase the announcement, here’s an excerpt:
After a few years of research and development we have finally come up with a material which is an alternative to our standard pick material. The requirements we sought for this new line of picks were simple – deliver the same great tone and have the same comfortable feel as or regular picks while possessing unbeatable strength and warp-resistance. We feel that we have found that material. After months of beta-testing by some of the industry’s top players, we are ready to roll out the new line. The tone and feel have been confirmed in our tests. These picks are as good sounding as our standard line. They last and last, and are basically worry-free. In blind tests they were indiscernible from our standard line.
I have to disagree with Dave on the last line of the paragraph. To me at least, they aren’t indiscernible from the standard line. They’re similar in tonal response, in that they produce sound very quickly, but they are resoundingly not the same. I’ll get into more detail about this in just a bit. Where they are indiscernible is in their build quality. One of the things that has always impressed me about Red Bear picks is Dave’s attention to detail with respect to the build quality of his picks. To date, I have never received a single pick from Red Bear with any flaws. The bevels have always been perfect. Dave takes quality seriously, and all the picks I’ve had and evaluated have been flawless…
What about the sound?
In a word, awesome! But as I mentioned above, Tuff-Tones aren’t tonally indiscernible from the standard Tortis picks. Frankly, to me at least, they have a sound all their own. The material is much harder than Tortis, and to me sound just a bit brigher tonally. Or maybe I shouldn’t say brighter. The tone they produce is much more “chimey.” They produce the same rich tone you’d expect from standard Tortis, but I believe they bring out the high frequency tones much more than Tortis picks. If I were to make a comparison, tonally they sit right in the middle between a standard Tortis Heavy and a V-Picks heavy; the V-Picks heavy being the bright side.
But even then, these picks are tonally distinct, and no recording is going to capture the sound properly. I actually tried this morning, and it just didn’t work, probably due to my microphones, which double as stage mics, so the EQ tends to stay in the midrange. I could hear the differences in my amp, but just couldn’t capture the sound – sorry. You’ll have to buy a couple to see what I’m talking about. Which you should – these picks rock!
How they feel…
Make no bones about it; not only are they tonally distinct they have a totally unique feel. Unlike Tortis or V-Picks picks, these aren’t glossy at all. They have a flat finish, and a rougher, almost tackier feel. But they feel so good! When I first held one of the Tuff-Tones I got, I was a little doubtful about them because of how they felt. I was wondering if they’d be slower. I’ve been so used to playing gloss-finish picks, that these were like sandpaper by comparison (mind you, that’s just flowery language – they actually have a smooth finish). But all my concerns were laid to rest when I started to play. Like Tortis and V-Picks picks, they just glide across the strings. I really love how they feel!
Even at the heavy gauge, which is 1.7mm, these have got to be the most rigid picks I’ve ever played. I love that about these picks. They really don’t give, so they give you immediate tactile feedback while you’re playing.
Talk about being torn! I love these picks. I kind of lean towards brighter tone, and these totally give it to me. But I also love the super-rich tones of my Tortis picks, and the chimey tones that my V-Picks Snake gives me. I’m chuckling right now because I would have never thought I’d look at a pick as a tone-shaping device. Most people just use a single pick – I was the same until I discovered the virtues of using high-end picks. But the thing with high-end picks is that they each bring something different to the table with respect to tone and feel, helping you dial in just the right kind of tone for the song you’re playing. I now look at picks much like a painter looks at brushes. I now have yet another brush to add to my collection of tone “brushes.”
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