July 14, 2020

Review – Jim Dunlop Tosin Abasi Signature Primetone

All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

– George Orwell

Seemingly incapable of writing pieces that aren’t both technically crushing and melodically astute, Tosin Abasi has carved out a significant niche in the modern era of the guitar. More of a composer than just a shredder, and now with his own line of ultra-modern instruments, it’s almost inevitable that he would get into bed with Dunlop for a signature edition, joining the ranks of other modern-minded players like John Petrucci and Andy James. I first got my hands on the Abasi Signature Primetone a couple of months back, and now that I’ve had time to reflect on it properly, let’s talk about this slim, green plectrum.

The Rules
Before we swim into the deep waters of this review, let’s remind ourselves of the Signature Pick rules. These tools are designed for a single player – there’s no guarantee that if you like Animals As Leaders that you’ll enjoy using any of their equipment (although the backline is quite saucy). Ergo, this is Abasi’s jam – if you don’t get on with it, there are much and many options!

Physical Education
Anyone familiar with either the Jazz XL or the Primetone Series will recognize this pick’s defining aspects immediately. The Abasi has exactly the same footprint as the traditional XL, but doesn’t behave anything like it. Firstly, it’s Ultex rather than Nylon, and while Dunlop definitely do offer the XL in Ultex, this one is 0.73mm, making it half the thickness of its yellow counterpart. In addition to going on a major diet, the Abasi also has hand-finished bevels on the tip (slanted in this case for right-handed players), in keeping with the rest of the Primetone series. The front and rear also sports the risen ‘target’ grip sections and the legend ‘ANIMALS AS LEADERS’ around the centre.

Shout At The Bevel
Putting aside the signature aspect, I found this a very frustrating experience. Certain materials need to be of a particular thickness to work, and for Ultex, I would put that measure, in my estimation, around 1.5mm, maybe 1mm at a push. At 0.73mm, it’s not beefy enough to get the most out of the material, and stacked against its Nylon grandaddy, it sounds a little flimsy. This is partly down to the tip – Dunlop have applied the same sloped bevelling here as they do on the thicker Primetones, of which I am a big fan, but the fact that the Abasi is so thin already means that the striking part is significantly reduced, resulting in a bit of a hollow tone. When the tool you’re working with is measured in millimetres and tenths of millimetres, taking 0.1mm out of a 0.73mm pick is pretty substantial – like going from a Yellow Tortex to an Orange one.

Big End
As he’s predominantly an 8-string player, I got my A-standard baritone out (strung 14-72) to see if, like on the bass, a thinner pick here might make more sense. Stacked against the Red Nylon XL, the Abasi had a brighter top end, but the notes lacked substance compared to the conventional XL. I didn’t have a problem with grip, layout or the finish – it’s injection molded and fairly consistent as all the Dunlop kit is – it was the feel that was disappointing. Watching the band, neither Abasi or Javier Reyes are hack ‘n slash players, and I can understand why a light, manouverable pick like this would appeal to guitarists who need to get everything right because there’s no vocals out front. If all you want is a fast, unobtrusive plectrum that doesn’t force itself on you too much, this is acceptable, but it doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking over the Nylon XL, and is less brutal than the conventional Yellow Ultex, which is a fair bit cheaper.

Hey Hey
Like his contemporary Roopam Garg, Abasi is one of the few players that I’m consistently enthralled by. I can watch his band with only the loosest grasp of what’s happening on the guitars, which is quite exciting. I found his pick to be the opposite of his playing – flat, unremarkable, and a bit irritating. All that being said, he clearly makes it work, but think twice before you get in there – the Primetone series has a lot more to offer than this. A shame.

Vitals:

  • 0.73mm thick
  • Ultex
  • Made in USA
  • A flicky 5/10
  • Price Per Unit: approx. £10 for 3.
  • A mild turkey

www.jimdunlop.com