Review – Ibanez BEL14ST10 Soft Elastomer
I really hate rubber ducks, actually.
– Florentijn Hofman
In keeping with the Ibanez tradition of naming products after wifi passwords, the BEL14ST10 Soft Elastomer is a strange, marvellous idea. Although I’ve covered rubberized picks here in the past – like the Wedgie – this is a different ballgame entirely, and something that I believe deserves more attention. With a startled strum of disbelief, let’s take a look at this pliable plectrum.
At 31.6mm x 26.5mm, this 1mm iteration of the Elastomer series has the high shoulders and slim taper of the Dunlop Sharp, a polarising model that brings infinite joy or perpetual misery to its wielder. Being essentially rubber causes any further comparisons to cease, and I will state with firm resolve that the BEL14ST10 is its own thing.
The trailer for this pick does indeed appear to be aimed squarely at the acoustic market. Low noise and what’s referred to as ‘more fingerling nuances’ are being touted as primary facets of this material, but there’s a whole host of aspects that make the Elastomer unusual.
Far from the dark, bouncy pork pie that is its triangular 2.2mm cousin, the 1mm Soft is bright to the point of springy. Compared to both a Dunlop 0.6mm nylon 351 and the Herco Holy Grail, the Soft is a slim, delicate flower, bereft of body, power and aggression. Even the Grail, a pick I normally use to coax treble out of acoustics, sounds like hand grenade compared to this willowy Japanese pick.
So it’s no good then? On the contrary – limited functionality doesn’t mean it’s useless. The Katori Silent, while a more extreme example, shows that genteel plectrums have a place – you just need to find it. Instead of delivering power and volume, the Soft has a subdued attack fronting chiming treble. Trying to capture a tiny, lo-fi guitar sound with conventional picks is a difficult task – the silly-thin nylon picks sounds ineffectual, and really thin Delrin can sound quite clumsy. The Soft slots neatly between these stools. Present but not shrill, bass-less but not pathetic.
It sounds like a weird pick, and that’s because it is. The Hard 2.2mm version in this series has bass written through it like a stick of rock, pumping out those muted Motown vibes with ease. This Soft 1mm version is more at home on a bedroom-recorded confessional – charming and earnest, leaving plenty of room for the keys. Is it great for everything? Absolutely not, but if you enjoy hammering minor 7ths on electric or strumming with zero bass or wrist fatigue, this is the pick for you. Slender.
- Made in Japan
- 1mm thick
- A slinky thinky rubbery gem