Tortex vs Ultex Plectrum Comparison

Tortex vs Ultex Plectrum Comparison

Tortex and ultex are two of the most popular varieties of guitar picks. The differences between ultex and tortex are significant, and this guide will help you to decide which type best suits you.

Guitarists often focus on the most obvious equipment they use when trying to improve their playing. Strings, pickups, and of course, the guitar itself are usually the first things we think about upgrading or changing.

In many cases, our choice of plectrum can hold us back. This essential yet minuscule accessory is the thing that comes into contact with our strings – and, therefore, should be considered carefully.

Ultex and tortex are two of the best-known varieties of guitar and bass picks, and in this article, we’ll dissect their differences, strengths, and weaknesses.

Ultex vs. Tortex Picks

Different Pick Materials Explained

Before we get into the specifics of tortex and ultex plectrums, you might be wondering whether the materials and design of a pick really matter that much.

Many musicians underestimate the impact the different plectrums can have on every aspect of their playing.

The differences between ultex and tortex are significant, and after reading this guide, you’ll have an idea of which type best suits the tone and playing style that you’re aiming for.

What are Torex and Ultex Plectrums?

Most guitarists and bassists have come across plectrums made by the world-renowned manufacturer, Jim Dunlop. This brand is responsible for popularizing ultex and tortex picks.

Dunlop is arguably the most prolific producer of picks in the world, with tortex and ultex varieties ranking amongst their best sellers.

Tortex and ultex are made from different materials, which impact their durability, feel, and texture. These differences cause varying sounds when you use them to strum chords or notes on a stringed instrument.

Materials & Feel

Dunlop’s Tortex guitar plectrums are made from a material known as Delrin, a form of resin that the brand chose to use instead of tortoiseshell. American chemical giant DuPont manufactures the resin material.

Ultex, on the other hand, is made from polyetherimide plastic. This synthetic material is very easy to produce and is renowned for its excellent durability, which is why Dunlop uses it for many guitar and bass picks.

The feel of these two plectrum types is quite similar when you compare them at identical thicknesses. However, ultex is a little harder, noticeable when playing with considerable velocity.

Ultex picks feel slightly smoother when they come into contact with the strings, perhaps because the material is a little more malleable. This makes them great for fast, technical picking or strumming techniques.

Ultex picks are unlikely to break, even when used extensively. This is down to their strong plastic composition, which is why they’re so popular amongst metal guitarists.

Overall, the physical attributes of tortex and ultex picks are quite evenly matched, with the former feeling slightly sharper and the latter a little smoother against the strings of a guitar or bass.


The effect that different plectrums have on the tone of an instrument isn’t often given much thought. We tend to focus on the feel of the plectrum, which is largely determined by its gauge.

In reality, picks can have a dramatic influence on the way a guitar sounds. Tortex and ultex plectrums have distinctive tonal characteristics that need to be compared before you decide which best suits your style of playing.

Firstly, tortex picks tend to sound cleaner than their ultex counterparts. By cleaner, I mean that the notes are more defined, and when the strings are struck, the sound kicks in straight away with no delay.

Ultex plectrums are significantly noisier. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as some styles benefit from a little noise.

If you use a lot of distortion or overdrive, then the noise that ultex picks produce will probably add to the overall feel of your tone. However, if you’re looking for a clean, defined sound, I’d recommend opting for a tortex pick.

In terms of color, ultex plectrums often sound brighter than tortex picks. The attack is a little sharper, whereas tortex has a smoother sound at the moment when the plectrum strikes a note.

Indeed, the thickness of the plectrums also plays a significant role in determining how they sound. I’ll discuss this in more detail in a later section.


The dynamics of tortex and ultex plectrums are slightly different. Tortex picks are a little quieter in general than ultex picks, which is related to the hardness of the materials.

If you play the same chord sequence on an electric guitar, strumming with a similar velocity, you’ll notice that ultex plectrums evoke slightly more volume from the instrument.

This makes ultex picks a good choice for guitarists who want to maximize the volume of their rig. If you’re more interested in creating varied dynamics through your playing, Tortex plectrums are a great choice.

Other Things to Consider

When you compare Jim Dunlop’s selections of tortex and ultex picks, it’s clear that they focus more heavily on producing the tortex variety. There are many different sizes and shapes available in the tortex range.

You can get tortex plectrums in all the most popular shapes and sizes, and therefore there’s more chance of finding one perfectly suited to your requirements.

Ultex plectrums are more limited and are available in three different shapes. They’re also more limited in terms of the gauges that Dunlop offers these plectrums in.

The three shapes that are available if you want to use ultex picks are:

  • Regular
  • Triangular
  • Jazz

Tortex picks, on the other hand, are available in just about every size and shape that a plectrum can be.

The gauge and shape of the plectrums impact the way they feel and the sound they produce. The comparisons made in this article are based on ultex and tortex picks that are as close to identical in shape and gauge as possible.

Obviously, if you choose the thinnest gauge tortex plectrum available and compare it to a thick ultex plectrum, the differences are going to be much more significant.

That’s why it’s a good idea to test multiple pick gauges and shapes to determine which is most comfortable for you and produces the sound you desire.

Tortex vs. Ultex Picks – Price

Tortex and ultex picks are similarly priced, with ultex slightly more expensive. This is likely because Dunlop produces more tortex plectrums, and the material is more readily available.

For a standard ultex plectrum, you can expect to pay somewhere in the region of $10, while a tortex pick will likely cost a dollar or two less.

It’s usually more cost-effective to buy a set of plectrums at once, and this will prevent you from needing to buy another if you misplace or break one.

Ultex vs. Tortex Plectrums – Final Verdict

Overall, ultex and tortex plectrums are very evenly matched in most areas. Tortex picks have a less intense sound and feel a little softer when they are used to strum a note on a guitar.

Ultex picks are prone to producing a little more noise, but this noise is usually musical rather than undesirable. They are great for energetic styles of guitar or bass and are slightly louder than their tortex equivalents.

If you’re still undecided on which type of plectrum best suits your style, I’d recommend getting a multipack if possible and testing them for yourself.

The feel of the plectrum is the main thing to pay attention to, as this will impact the rhythm and groove of your strumming hand.

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