South Ord: Tthey are cheap and easy to come by on many of the sights and even in some magazines. Two years ago I bought the 20 piece set, I believe the price on it has changed many times but I think I bought it for 39.99. I bought it because "more is better" NO WAY in the end the only things I ended up using from it were the Snake Rake, the Hook and the Diamond. The Case is really great and fit's in my lower ACU(Army Combat Uniform) calf pocket perfectly, it is one of the smallest cases out there that can fit many picks. The short South Ord hook is roughly $1.65 for the non re-enforced handle and you can get the plastic or foam handles. I love it even though as a noob I broke a few, but they were cheap, it's still in my case today for when I have a lock that is a little tight to turn and I don't want to damage my good hook. I also have the ball picks(full and half) fromt he SO set in my case for wafer and auto locks, they also make one of the few dimple lock pick sets and that's in there too. The case was given to my wife as her first case.
Sparrows: I won a sparrows set, the wizwazzle set which goes for $79.99 this was my first venture into quality picks. First things first sparrows does two things better than anyone out there IMO 1. There Tensions wrenches, 2. There Large case at 9.99 is the BEST case I have come accross so far. Though it's good to sew some slots in the fold out pockets. Every other large size case starts at 30 bucks and this zip around will fit in a cargo pocket with room to spare and has re-enforced(cardboard?) backing so it is harder to bend picks. There tension wrenches, though I have not used many of them I have dozens, are stronger than most others I have come accross and have varying thicknesses and are left long so you can cut them to where you need them. The thing that I do not like, again personal opinion, is all of there hook tips are ahorter long ways not heigth ways, than other brands, which have there uses dont' get me wrong, but I love a longer tip for certain locks like the 5200, so I used my southord untill I got my petersons. But there "bogatas", worm and best buster are amazing picks. All of there picks are made with high quality steel so much better than south ord, I've not even come close to bending a sparrows, except the city rake, which is a fragile pick IMO anyways and it was actually bent in the case from me moving stuff around. I also don't like the slide on sleeves that much, they like to slide off when pulling the tools out of the case. I've had these picks since January and have only used 3 or 4 of the tension wrenches and have at least tried most of the picks, amazing company much better than South Ord.
Petersons: Anyone whos picked a lock anywhere and said anything about it on a forum has heard of Petersons, they are the luxury of picks and they are made a lot better than most. At first I thought it was all hype I was cruizing through 5200s and medecos with South Ord how could Petersons be that much better... Yeah I learned, thanks for the pressure guys! First I bought the $20 pocket set with diamond and S rake. I don't like the diamond, it's to small, but has it's uses, the snake is amazing and the hook... Well it's my goto for everything now. The snap over case was given to my daughter as I have no use for snap cases. The pry bar is also an amazing tension wrench. Though the normal one that came with the set IMO was a flimsy POS. Today I recieved my tri fold petersons lether case... I don't like it vs the Sparrows case, It's a nice case but it cannot survive my pocket. I put some euro turners and bypass tools in it and folded it up, and those tools will bend and break if I store this in my pocket. It also does not fit near as many tools as the sparrows case and the velcro on it will wear out much faster than a zipper. This will specifically be a tool box/glove box case. I also have the plug spinner by Petersons and it is the only one I own but it seems to be the best due to it can fit in a case and they sell replacement parts for it if it breaks. I also own the I-Core set which includes three icore tension wrenches and the peterson Slender Gem and reach, amazing tools, the Euro turners I got today but work flawlessly when used as intended, as well as the D.A.M.E.s set which includes the American Bypass tool, which I'm told is not as good as the LockMasters one, but I haven't had much use with it yet.
So in conclusion:
South Ord: Pros: Cheap great for beginners, decent short hook, good medium case and great dimple lock pick set.
Cons: Cheap, tendancy to bend not a lot of feedback
Sparrows: Pros: Best case for the money, great tension wrenches, bogatas, and rakes in general.
Cons: Hooks could have a longer tip, slide on sleeves are the only option, no molded or re-enforced handle options
Petsrons: Pros: Best quality and feedback available Prybar is an amazing tension wrench. Many other great bypass tools and accesories
Cons, not to fond of the folding cases/no protection for tools when in pocket. Normal Tension wrench is very flimsy and weak.
From my point of view for a noob wanting to purchase there first set I would reccoment the Petersons shirt pocket set at $20 and make there own tension wrenchs:
I know money is always an issue, but unless you are making your own tools this is an expensive hobby at times and 20 bucks + shipping really isn't that much to get started and this set gives you all you need to get started, you could toss 6 bucks more and get the set with re-enforced handles as instead:
I really wish I had found a forum before I started picking and someone had pointed me in the right direction. Hope this helps some noob out there looking at buying there first set. Ask around, more is not better, only get what you need. And most of all the best pick out there is the one that opens the lock the most efficiently for you.
What you call intelligence, I call common sense.