Review – Suibhne Richlite Marlin
Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
– Henry David Thoreau
It’s not often that I have to be talked into trying picks out by anyone, but I’m always happy to put my hand up and declare when I’ve made a discovery off someone else’s input. In an instance that demonstrates exactly why the Plectroverse is so magical, I was in conversation with Chris from the excellent Dragon Picks when he asked if I had any plectrums made of Richlite. I said I did, and that I hadn’t spent much time with them because of my concerns about the relatively rapid wear common with wood. Chris assured me that this wasn’t something to worry about, and that I should give it another go. I returned to my Suibhne Guitars Richlite Marlin, and now we’re here, giving it a review.
Why was I so worried? Aesthetics. Mark Sweeney‘s Marlin shape is truly beautiful, with the kind of ergonomics that can only come from hand-shaping. The pick in question is so sleek and perfect-looking that I didn’t want to play it, and so it lay in my collection for months. Upon revisiting it, I couldn’t believe I’d been so hesitant. Richlite is a composite of approximately 65% paper and 35% phenolic resin, and is used for fingerboards, skate ramps, bar tops and lots of other things that don’t get treated especially well, so really, making picks out of it is ideal. Or it would be, if it wasn’t for the smell when cutting it. ‘Like pee on a fire’, as Chris delicately described it. Barbecued dog-hair scent aside, this is a 6mm pick that’s 26.8mm across and 32.7mm long, putting it 1.8mm longer than a 351.
That, however, is where the similarities to anything from Dunlop end. 6mm is entering the hefty zone, and while the Marlin may look daunting, it’s easily one of the most comfortable shapes I’ve ever played. The texture means that it’s at its most pronounced in the centre, gently sloping away towards the edges, with a curvaceous, hourglass-like shape along the sides. All this delicate bulging makes for a curiously familiar experience when you get your hands on it, to the extent that I’d consider this shape part of the curriculum for those who find anything thicker than 1mm to be frightening. The surface is perfectly cut, definitely black rather than brown, with striations towards the top on both faces appearing more like the wrinkles on a wise old face rather than tool marks.
Placed against an equally thick Kirinite plectrum from Plectrums Handcrafted, the Marlin was brighter, more open and more composed than its toughened Acrylic counterpart. It slides through the strings like a greased rat, and even with my dry hands, the grip was excellent. There’s an abundance of pop and push as well, and in a surprising move, there’s less string noise than with the Kirinite, or even the Acrylic that I measured it against. The best part of the Marlin is how well it handles both hard and soft styles, something that isn’t common among the heavier picks I own. The bass is clear and feels lifted, the highs are careful and precise, and the all-important mids are well-balanced.
Downsides? Well, it’s not cheap, coming in at the oddly precise $14.88 in Canadian goose dollars, but if you’re anywhere near this site that number won’t shock any part of you. This is, after all, a handmade plectrum from a material that seems genuinely unpleasant to work with, and given the wear resistance, tonal potency and unbelieveable look of the thing, it’s a steal. My only real complaint is that I slept on this material for so long. I’ve got Marlins in Kirinite in the same dimensions, and while they handle in a similar manner, the Richlite takes the cake. Humblingly excellent.
- 6mm thick
- Made In Nova Scotia, Canada
- A spanking 9/10
- Price Per Unit: $14.88 – this shape is also available in Acrylic, Polypropelene, Kirinite, Delrin, U-Glass, UHMWPE, Ultem, Tagua and Polycarbonate at different price points
- (insert Marlin pun indicating high quality)