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Where do you rate particular whistles
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Author:  fatmac [ Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:58 am ]
Post subject:  Where do you rate particular whistles

I have an assortment of whistles now, after playing for a few months, & was wondering where people would rate their better quality whistles.

By that I mean hand made whistles, rather than mass produced.
(For mass produced, I like my Tony Dixon whistles.)

These are mine, I would class them as intermediate whistles, more than good enough for a step up without breaking the bank.

Shearwater low 'F' (aluminium) => seems to be a pretty good whistle, especially at the price, quite easy to play both octaves.

Howard low 'D' (coated brass) => good whistle, fairly easy to play both octaves, not too loud.

Thunderbird 'A' (aluminium) => good whistle, fairly easy to get both octaves.

With an MK Kelpie low 'F' anodised aluminium to come, (within the next few days).

I'd be interested in opinions on the MK Kelpie if you own one.

Author:  Sedi [ Wed Aug 28, 2019 1:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

I have the Kelpie low D and it's great. Responsive, great tuning, takes not much air and I love the pouch that it comes in. Only downside is the slightly slippery coating but I simply hold it a bit more horizontally than other low Ds.

Author:  busterbill [ Mon Sep 02, 2019 11:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

I see you've gotten many views and few responses. It might be because the word "rate" implies a value judgement that many of us try to avoid, especially in a small world full of living whistle makers. A question like, what is your favorite whistle and why might also have a similar response, even though it doesn't ask for a specific rating. Maybe a question like, what whistles do you like in the key of (insert key here) may or not get more responses? But it does seem this group tends more towards sharing than comparing.

Good luck in your quest for information. I find this site has been invaluable in the education it has given me.

Author:  fatmac [ Mon Sep 02, 2019 12:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

Yeah, perhaps I worded it badly, never mind, my opinion of mine are here for anyone thinking of getting a better quality whistle. :)

Author:  pancelticpiper [ Mon Sep 02, 2019 5:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

fatmac wrote:

1) Where do you rate particular whistles.

2) I was wondering where people would rate their better quality whistles.

Ah, I see the original post has qualified the question asked in the thread title.

fatmac wrote:

hand-made whistles...mass-produced whistles...

As previous threads have shown, it's difficult to define these terms in a universally accepted way.

That being the case, I will address the question raised in the thread title.

I've been playing whistles 40 years, and I have a clear idea of how I want my whistles to play.

The following are all quite superb whistles, that I would put up against any whistles at any price. These are among the finest whistles for their key I've ever played: amazing sweet easy high notes, quick response, full low notes, great tuning.

1) c1980 Feadog D
2) Generation Bb head, modified by Jerry Freeman, on an A body that I made
3) c1980 Generation C
4) Generation Bb head, modified by myself, on a Generation Bb body
5) Colin Goldie Low D
6) Colin Goldie Low C
7) Alba Bass A

The next group aren't quite as good, but still excellent.

8 ) c1980 Feadog D head on a Generation Eb body
9) Waltons C head on a C# body that I made

The next group are Burkes. They all play like Burkes, with stiff high notes, large air consumption, and fat booming low notes.

10, 11, 12) Burke mezzo G, Burke low F, Burke low Eb

Here are all these things being played

Author:  fatmac [ Tue Sep 03, 2019 2:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

Now that's the sort of thing I was hoping to get in this thread - not only for me, but for anyone wanting to upgrade.

Thanks for taking the time to post, Richard. :thumbsup:

Author:  Sedi [ Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

Hm, a rating of all my whistles -- tough nuggies. For now I'll just rate the High Ds and post about the low whistles later on.
It might almost be easier to name the really bad whistles as most whistles I have, play great but there are a bunch I play more than others:
Top of the line, price-wise and quality-wise are my two Carbonys:
Carbony "quiet" model: narrow bore, tapered, plays very much like a trad-style whistle, perfectly in-tune cross-fingered C nat with oxxooo. Nice, slightly chiffy sound, tunable. Takes very little air. Top-notch whistle, well worth the price.
Carbony "leading tone" model: according to Rob Gandara (whom I met at a German music festival) it is the "session" model just with an extra hole. Differences to the "quiet" model: less chiffy, takes more air and is louder, especially at the end of the 2nd octave. Highly responsive whistle, a crann in the 1st octave sounds slightly snappier as on the quiet model. Notes can bend more due to the larger air-volume.
Generation red top: yes, you gotta buy a bunch but IMO the reason is not sloppy quality control but the molds for the injection molding wearing out. The newest Generations I bought were much better. Some Generations have nicks and dings in the same places on the head when you compare them -- those are from a worn-out mold and they suck big time. But when finding a perfect one -- it is pure magic. Well worth spending the money to buy a bunch over the years. My red top has just the right amount of chiff, that sweet 2nd octave yet strong bottom end. One of my favourites.
Of the cheap whistles another favourite is the Waltons "mellow D" -- plays like my good Generation but slightly louder. The bore is a bit larger but it still plays very much like a traditional style whistle.
Beware of the standard model or the "little black whistle" -- they suck. But maybe it is as with the Generations and you just have to find the right one. So strangely enough -- one of my best and one of my worst whistles (little black whistle) come from the same company.
A highly underrated brand IMO (they seem to have had some issues in the past) is TWZ (the German "tin-whistle-zentrum". I have all three of their standard models -- the "pure brass", "Al Jo" and "XL1" (which is the session model). The "pure brass" is one of my absolute favourites (in fact it would be my favourite if not for the bitter brass taste after you play it a while -- maybe I should somehow seal it). It takes so little air that you just need to breath at the beginning of a 30 min practice session :D . And it has a rather chiffy sound, almost like a Clarke original but without the air-requirements. The volume-balance between the octaves is perfect and it still has a strong low end. Also tunable. Just an awesome whistle. The "Al Jo" model has all of that but is slightly louder, less chiffy and made from nickel silver. The XL1 is also nice but the bore is a bit large so tuning between octaves is not as good as on the other models. IMO it scratches the limit of bore/length ratio.
Chuck Tilbury whistles: Really great, hand made from polished aluminium tube, tunable, great tuning between the octaves, chiffy and loud but not too loud. According to the maker it is modelled after an O'Riordan model. For the price I highly recommend them.
A few more of mine:
Feádog: The "pro" is great but the standard model also nice with a bit more chiff. Doesn't have the magic of my Generation red-top though.
Clare: also good but I like it a bit less than the other "traditional" brands.
Oak: the "secret tip" -- has the same heavy barrel of the Feádog Pro but costs less. Very nice whistle (it is my "kitchen" whistle used while waiting for the coffee). Less chiff than a Generation or Feádog.
Dixon: I have a lot, I seldom play them, they are good but a bit bland IMO. Take more air than other makes and are louder. The "heavy brass" model is great (but as the name suggests heavy -- too heavy for my taste to play for extended periods) but the head moves too easily on the tuning slide. The DX001 has a great sound but the plastic feels cheap and gets "sticky" rather quickly. My favourite of the high D Dixons is the nickel "trad" model. Tunable and stable, easy to play but for daily practice, too loud at the end of the 2nd octave for my taste -- certainly nice for a mid-size session though, if your Generation is not heard well enough. They are a good mid-range brand but not much (if at all) better than a good Generation or Feádog. Good for beginners though as they don't require the refined breath control of some of the other brands and the tuning "out of the box" is better.
Shaw: the "improved" Clarke original, takes huge amounts of air. Quality is much better with a nickel silver body and the seam in the back is not as noticable. For the purist who wants the very traditional sound. I hardly play it because of the air-consumption.
Parks "ghost whistle": Looks strange but is actually the best plastic whistle (not counting the Carbonys which I wouldn't call plastic whistles) I own -- loud but not too loud, perfect backpressure for my playing style. Snappy ornaments are a breeze. Handmade but not tunable. I'd love to try one of the other Parks but they are much more expensive than the "Ghost". The plastic also feels much nicer than that of a Dixon DX001 -- not sticky, the tube is thicker and feels much sturdier.
Another great plastic model apart from the Ghost is the Qwistle V.2. Tunable with a rather clear sound, great responsiveness, snappy ornaments, moderate to low air consumption. It has a strange "twist" however and that is one of the reasons I don't play it as often as I would like -- the cross-fingering for a well in tune C nat is oxoooo. Too much of a hassle to switch between fingerings therefore it gets rarely played. But if you can get used to the tuning, which does also have its advatanges, it is a great whistle. The material is 3D-printed Nylon which feels very nice and smooth. According to the maker it is also used for recreations of antique recorders. And it is slightly poruos so can absorb moisture to an extent. Doesn't clog therefore. But Donald WG Lindsay is taking a sabbatical from whistle-making anyway so I don't know if it is available at the moment.
Shearwater soprano D narrow bore. Very stable whistle, easy to play, a bit rough around the edges. I'd rate a Chuck Tilbury higher and it is not much more expensive but the craftsmanship is definitely two steps up. Still a great workhorse that simply performs without much fuzz.
Susato Oriole: very similar sound to the Dixon heavy brass model. Stiff and loud 2nd octave but good quality for a plastic whistle, definitely higher quality plastic than a Dixon DX001 but the Ghost far outplays both brands if you want plastic whistles.
Susato "Dublin" model: I have the one with the white plastic and it is not really good. It produces a buzzing, plasticky sound. Tuning is great though but the sound puts me off -- I almost never play it.
Cheapo "Thomann" whistle, also sold under "woodi" or "recorder workshop" brand. The worst piece of sh*t whistle I ever played. Not even worth the 5 bucks they charge for it. Money better spend on a Sweetone. Yes, it can produce a proper sound in competent hands (look for the review by Martial Benoit) but it is simply not worth playing.
Some others:
Thunderbird "mezzo" D -- monster of a whistle but great quality. Needs air-plugs for daily practice. The C is rather nice and much better balanced though. Still loud but manageable.
Sweetone: nice sound but I hate the seam in the back, so I don't play them.
Honorable mentions: A Gold Leaf whistle from Canadian whistle maker Ianick Leroux. I think it was from the first batch he ever made so it has some minor issues. Tuning could be better but I can play it with other without noticing that it is slightly out of tune on some notes. The great thing is the carbon tube and the clog resistance. Also the balance between the octave considering volume. It is in fact one of the best of my whistles in that aspect. The 2nd octave does not get that much louder than the first. And it is completely clog-resistant when I play it. He has since changed the design and I haven't tried any of the new ones. Thinking about joining the waiting list though. I think he is up to something here and they can only get better the more experience he has. They are already pretty good.

One might wonder why my Killarney is missing from the list. Reason is, I don't really like it. I have a love-hate relationship with that particular model. I like the sweet 2nd octace but the 1st one is simply weak on mine -- all my cheapos have a stronger bottom end. It just sounds fuzzy, unfocussed and airy on the 1st octave. Maybe I got a "monday model", I don't know. But it does not get played much. I might give them another chance however and buy the nickel model and hope that mine was just not as good as the others being sold. I see them recommended all the time but IMO a Chuck Tilbury at about the same price (without shipping and taxes of course) is a much better deal.

Author:  pancelticpiper [ Wed Sep 04, 2019 4:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

Very interesting Sedi, how we are in line with some of our opinions but opposite on some others.

Yes Susatos have a strange plasticky something that I find annoying. But to me they get better as they get bigger, and Susato Low D's are very nice, and the Susato Low C that I used to own was wonderful.

About where we differ most, I've seen the Carbony booth at numerous festivals, and I've tried many of their products. I have long experience with a large number of makers of most of the instrument-genres that Carbony makes, and my take on Carbony is that none of their instruments rise to the normal expected quality of instruments in each of those instrument-genres. Seems to me that Carbony has gone for breadth rather than depth in their instrument-making efforts.

About Killarneys, I have two Killarneys made a few years apart. The older one plays much better than the newer one, in my opinion, but they're both very good whistles. To me Sindts and Killarneys come the closest to capturing that old-school Generation greatness.

Author:  fatmac [ Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

Great write up, Sedi, many thanks. :thumbsup:

I obviously don't have much experience of whistles, being a beginner, but...

I do feel differently about my Dixons, but I don't play out, so your thoughts are likely better than mine. :wink:

I also found the plastic 'various name' whistles OK, so they are most likely aimed at the beginner to whistles - certainly the price is attractive. :D

My Generations, Feadog, Waltons, Clarkes, all seem to play better after a few months of blowing various whistles, so my first opinions of them have changed a bit too. :lol:

Author:  JackJ [ Wed Sep 04, 2019 8:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

Tops among my two dozen or so whistles, mostly high D, is my one Carbony. It's the "leading tone" model, but I requested the middle of the road version, so it's neither the "quiet" nor the "session" variant. I'm not going to try to describe the tone, but I prefer its sound to any other whistle I've tried. It's also very well behaved, in terms of playing consistently across the two octaves, though the high B still takes more push, and is thus louder, than I'd prefer. It also lends itself to crisp (by my still soggy standards, anyway) ornamentation. And yes, it's very expensive as whistles go, but like Sedi, I find mine worth the price. (In fact, I'm planning on getting a Carbony in both A and G over the next few months. I've tried both, briefly, and they easily surpass the other whistles I've tried in those keys.)

But my next two favorites are cheap. My Dixon DX001 is fantastic. This is their most basic, polymer, non-tunable whistle. I also really like my Dixon Trad and DX005, but not quite as much. The DX001 is just so easy to play, and has an easier high B than the Carbony. It's on the quiet side, which I like, and the tone is very nice, but just a bit less pleasing to my ear than the Carbony.

And in third place is the Clarke Sweetone. Tone-wise it's the least interesting of the three, but like the Dixon, it just plays really well across the two octaves. The seam down the back bothered me for a while, but I don't notice it anymore. I really didn't like the garish paint and silly graphic on the first one I bought, but I now have the "Celtic" model which doesn't have that same cheap vibe.

Honorable mentions to my Freeman Blackbird, Chris Wall, Susato Kildare, and Potter. All very nice, and I could live with any of those as my only whistle if pressed.

I'm still trying to like my Killarneys (one each in D and C, both brass). Their sound is really distinctive, and pleasing--something closer to pipes in tone than my other whistles. But the second octave, particularly on the D, plays flat for me. If I spent more time with it I'm sure I could achieve better intonation, but it's a struggle.

Author:  Sedi [ Wed Sep 04, 2019 5:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

my take on Carbony is that none of their instruments rise to the normal expected quality of instruments in each of those instrument-genres

Can you explain what you don't like about them, Richard? Especially since I think we both have very similar taste in whistles and how we want them to perform.
I only tried the whistles, since I don't play any of the other instruments they sell.

Author:  Tor [ Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

I have a collection of whistles, but for high D I really only need my Freeman Bluebird 2012 model. On the other hand just about anyone else playing whistle can play better than me on whatever whistle they try.

Author:  psoutowood [ Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

Since we are working from our own definition of "best", I'll put my lineup in the mix, from high to low.

Generation F - Basically a kid's toy. Screechy, finicky, useful only for annoying family and dogs.

Killarney Eb - Very pure in sound, takes almost no air. Because of the air requirement there is the constant challenge not to overblow and ruin the sweet clean sound. Without any chiff or airiness in the sound, this whistle sounds really screechy to me. Maybe this is a good one for recording sessions? In a live session it would disappear at the low end and the high end would sound like someone beeping buttons on a cash register. I never play this.

Overton/Goldie D - What a sweetheart of a whistle! Though just a half step below the Killarney it sounds like a much bigger and lower whistle, with just enough airiness to give it backbone. This one can take all sorts of blowing volume and still perform. Somewhat quiet on the bottom few notes but such a solid performer, and it does everything you ask of it. Sometimes you get what you pay for and this is just in a separate league from cheaper whistles.

Dixon Pro D - Now that I have the Overton D, this one has a screechy edge that I dislike. It's louder on the low end but that sharp edge makes it sound annoying. Not as forgiving in changes in air volume.

Feadog D brass - One of my first and favorite whistles. Better, I think than the Dixon Pro which was five times more expensive. Tunable, clear, responsive, I gave it away to a friend to get him started on whistles. Not in the same realm as the Overton D but a darn fine instrument.

Chieftan Thunderbird C - This whistle can knock it out of the park. Loud, bright, responsive, and can take big shifts in air volume. Like the Overton it can be played loud or quiet with a large dynamic range. The Killarney, with such low air requirements, has a really small dynamic range. So if you want to sound haunting and airy, then strong and bright a few seconds later, this is the whistle. The Killarney can pretty much do one tone quality only. Not a knock on it, but you'd better like that one tone quality because you can't change it by how you play.

Generation C - Like its smaller cousin above, this sounds like a toy. I'll bet with some tweaking and reengineering this could be a pretty good whistle. For people who want to build and modify whistles this is a good place to start. I want to play whistles so this sits in a drawer and is brought out to fiddle on for a few seconds. Then it goes away.

Chieftan Thunderbird Bb - In comparison with the C it's much quieter and more airy. I love this whistle for slow airs. I don't know if there is such a difference between Thunderbirds in keys but this is a sibling to the C but not a twin.

Shearwater Bb - Don't have this one any more but I have to respect it. Unbelievably quiet, airy, and evenly tuned through both octaves. It took a TON of air and sounded like a sigh through crushed velvet. It would be amazing for studio work but didn't meet my needs.

Susato A - Sold this one as well. Kind of reminded me of a Ford Taurus - dependable and forgettable. It had an unrefined plastic brightness to the tone and the top octave seemed twice as loud. Once it had enough air it went fine but didn't have as much dynamic range as the Goldies. And it looked like a clarinet.

Goldie A - My favorite whistle. Some of that is the key, which is high enough to be heard through anything and low enough to have some real character and body. It's fantastically dynamic, can play with the slightest breath and punch through background noise if it needs to. This is like five whistles in one and if I could only have one whistle the rest of my life this would be it.'s so prone to clogging that it needs a couple drops of sodium lauryl sulfate down the mouthpiece every second or third session. Small price to pay, I think.

Kerry Optima F - I really love this whistle. Airy, big round sound, responsive but not edgy. It takes a ton of air and can be pushed to do a lot. Imagine a Crown Victoria--big, powerful, and can haul a$$ when a cop is driving it. Sure, it's not a McLaren but isn't meant to be. And the dished holes make it easier to go fast and not improperly seal a hole. I wish more makers would do this, especially on low whistles.

Goldie F - Again, this whistle is just in a different category. It takes much less air than the Optima but can seem to do more. It's more responsive on ornamentation, more balanced in volume and tuning between octaves, and just sounds like a finer more upright instrument than most. It represents, sorry for the pun, the Goldie Standard.

Kerry Optima D - This one's a bit more wobbly than the Optima F at low range. I know this is a hard thing to get right on low whistles but the bottom few notes just disappear in airy mudiness. It takes big lungs, and be prepared for a sound like a ghost blowing across the moors. Lovely but not always what you're after.

Overton D - I heard someone call the Overton sound a cosmic drainpipe and I understand that with this whistle. It's got a kaleidoscope of overtones and richness throughout both octaves and can be quite clear and nimble for such a low whistle. Good luck reaching and covering the holes if you have small hands, but figure out your hand position and piper's grip and you'll be rewarded big time!

There you have it, my own take on what I like. Again, some people might want bluebird chirpiness or haunting airiness. Coming from a background of saxophone and bagpipes I like to use my lungs so want whistles that you can really work out. Now get out there and play!

- Peter

Author:  fatmac [ Thu Sep 05, 2019 11:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

Generation F - Basically a kid's toy. Screechy, finicky, useful only for annoying family and dogs.

I used to think much the same - until I got the measure of mine - now it's good to leave out for a quick burst of a tune, (if my others are away in the drawer), & it's so small, it's almost hidden by your hands, the 'G', on the other hand, I find a little cramped. :D

Author:  ytliek [ Fri Sep 06, 2019 8:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Where do you rate particular whistles

Have all good whistles from low end to high end. I prefer wood whistles. Currently enjoying a Gary Humphrey - Stealth III Trad high D in silver. I rate it excellent.

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