Need Advice on which Low D to buy

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scottie
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Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by scottie »

Have been checking out a few Low D units to buy. Any advice appreciated. Considering some inexpensive units. Let me know what you think. Since I want to be able to play along with backing tracks and a church band. I figure I may have to stick with a tunable but have heard the MK Kelpie and even the Optima non tunable are pretty good. My concerns are wind demand and hole spacing which I think are about the same on these. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you very much. Happy Thanksgiving to those in the U.S. and Happy Harvest Festival for all in the UK. Blessings to all.
1. Shearwater PVC tunable
2. Kerry Optima tunable
3.MK Kelpie (non tunable)
4. Shearwater Alloy tunable
5. Howard Classic Black (with classic M3 balanced mouthpiece)
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by Narzog »

Happy thanksgiving!

Air requirement is huge to me also. It just really bugs me when a whistle uses more air than it should. My Burke low F was the prime example of this. It had a good low end. but so does my MK low D. And that uses way less air than the burke F. Which is just unacceptable, seeing that the low D is even bigger. Because otherwise the Burke was amazing. But using way more air than needed really bugged me. I've heard a taller windway can make the low end stronger. But theres plenty of whistles with a good low and and good air use, so to me its not needed and just improves the whistle recipe for most players by being air efficient.

I have an MK pro low D. You may be able to find a used one, because they are quite popular. Incredible whistle. I'd like to try more low D's but because it's the closest to perfect of every whistle I own, its not worth my money to try others. I've also heard that some MK's vary, and are stronger or weaker in the low end than others. Mine at least, has a really strong low end, while not being hard to over blow. Its the perfect balance. No clogging. I'm not 100% sure if kelpie are the same but justn to tunable or if its actually slightly different. But I'd expect it to be very good.

Another to check out if Goldfinch. I've heard some really good things about them. They are definitely on the lower air requirement side I've heard.

Also check out Susato. People have complained that they can sound a bit "plasticy" or recorder like. But I've heard that the low D doesnt have this issue. I actually ordered a used low E I saw the other day, I can let you know how it sounds when it comes in. But theres many cases of people using Susatos in a professional setting, because they just do their job well. Great tuning and intonation, low air requirement, and good volume, while being tunable.

Make sure the optima isnt a squeaker if you can find someone who has one. I had a thunderbird F before and it was incredibly easy to get it to make bad squeaks. any imperfect fingering, cutting with the finger it didnt want you to, etc. Made it really easy to sound bad while playing. I have no idea if the optima gets this at all, but its the same maker so it could have the same design that causes that. But to me a con that my other whistles don't have (or have much less) that makes it harder to play with no notable benefit, is a deal breaker for me. If the optima doesnt have this issue it should be excellent.

These can vary heavily on tone. I generally go for playability over tone. But having a tone you like is always good. I've made some DIY whistles that just haev the most boring soulless sound ever. So every whistle I've bought regardless of what tone, sounded better and was acceptable to me haha. So keep in mind that Howard have a Howard sound (generally called "reedy"), shearwater I believe are clear and breathy, MK are robust and chiffy. Optima at least in videos seem to have a overtonish sound, similar to thunderbird and goldies.
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by Sedi »

I have the Shearwater low D - it's an 'air hog' as they say. I love the high D Shearwater though.
I got the Kelpie, too and it's lovely. Also has rather small holes. The V5 from kerrywhistles.com takes even slightly less air (but they are very similar in that regard) but the holes are bigger. There might have been a change of design though. The newer ones have a slightly different hole layout.
I had the Kerry Optima in F and the plastic head on mine cracked pretty quickly. Now I use the barrel with the head from a Qwistle.
I do like my Howard low D. The plastic of the mouthpiece seems of higher quality than on the Optima. The Howard has a slightly "hollow" sound quality because of the large bore. I love it but it's not for everyone.
Never tried the Shearwater in PVC.
Long story short - of the list I'd vote Kelpie.
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by Tremendouz »

I love how easy my plastic Dixon low D is to handle because of the narrow bore, lightness and relatively close finger spacing and small holes but it's definitely a squeaker.

The Goldfinch low D I have is rock solid but the finger spacing is a bit larger but nothing unmanageable. It needs a bit more push than the Dixon but it's still very easy blower.

My only gripe is that I have some troubles sealing the lowest 2 holes because my fingers are so narrow. Luckily with the Goldfinch this doesn't result in horrible squeaks but instead the notes just get muffled and off pitch so it's a bit more forgiving than the Dixon that squeaks if you're not very precise with the hole coverage.
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by fatmac »

Don't discount the Tony Dixon ABS low 'D', easy player, nice tone.

Howard low 'D', good, nice tone fairly easy player.
Chieftain low 'D', good tone, fairly easy player.

I have in low 'F' both Shearwater aluminium & MK Kelpie, both fairly easy players, (the Shearwater isn't loud).
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by Tremendouz »

By the way, I don't want to create a new thread for this nor derail this one too much but since the thread starter mentioned hole spacing, I wanted to talk a bit about hole size as well.

It seems that my upper limit for comfortable hole 5 coverage is around 12mm diameter but I have a feeling a lot of whistles have larger holes than that. Can anyone chime in about this?
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by Sedi »

Biggest hole on Howard and Kelpie: 11mm
V5, Thunderbird or V4: 13mm but I think the design has been changed. However - making the second hole from the bottom smaller increases the gap between the two lowest holes. So on the V5 (older design) the distance measured from the middle of the holes is 4 cm, on the Kelpie 4.4. On the Howard 4.2, Shearwater also 4.4 cm and largest hole 11mm.
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by Sedi »

Left to right: Shearwater, Kelpie, V5, Howard, Dixon plastic low D.
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by pancelticpiper »

scottie wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:15 pm Have been checking out a few Low Ds... I want to be able to play along with backing tracks and a church band.
I play Low D as my primary instrument, and when I had to give up flute (after 35 years of flute being my primary instrument) I went on a big Low D buying spree.

I bought or borrowed every Low D I could get my hands on, and put them through their paces. I tested tuning, air efficiency, ergonomics, voicing, everything except looks (which I don't care about).

I too have played a lot of Church music on whistle. For that, in my opinion, the #1 requirement is to play in tune!

Setting aside for a moment all other considerations, and also setting aside the fact that a player with Perfect Pitch can blow pretty much any whistle into tune, the best-tuned Low Ds I've tried are Colin Goldie, Ronaldo Reyburn, and Susato.

Every note from Bottom D to B in the 2nd octave are spot-on needle-straight-up.

Michael Burke and MK are very close but each of those has a little unique tuning quirk.
scottie wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:15 pm My concerns are wind demand...
That's one of the things I measured on every Low D I tried.

I found the most air-efficient Low Ds to be the Goldie and the MK.

The least efficient was the Burke (wider tubing, wider windway, etc.)
scottie wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:15 pm My concerns are hole spacing...
About that, if you compare a number of the best-playing Low Ds you'll observe that they're very much alike. In truth, there's only one way to skin the cat.

Image

(Top to Bottom: Susato, Dixon, 2 Reyburns, Burke, Optima, MK.)

Makers are faced with the immutable laws of acoustics, and the somewhat variable anatomy of the human hand. These two dictate quite different finger-hole spacings and the makers have to compromise; they've ended up compromising the same way. If you only let human anatomy be your guide you'll end up with poor voicing.

For me, ergonomics isn't only about hole spacing, it's also about the size of the tube.

The Burke, with a fatter tube than most, got tiring to play.

The all-plastic conical-bore Dixon is narrower than most and also very lightweight, making it the most ergonomic of any Low D I tried and a delight to hold and play.

In the end, there's no such thing as perfect Low D! Every Low D is a bundle of compromises.

For me the combination of perfect tuning, outstanding air-effiency, great voicing, good ergonomics, and attractive tone led me, after a decade of searching, to choose the Colin Goldie Low D as my instrument.

I also have Goldies in Low C and Mezzo F and they're fanastic too.
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by BigDavy »

As someone with thin fingers there are some whistles that I cannot effectively play in low D - the Overton style whistles and the Howard being the ones I have tried (funnily enough the Howard low C doesn't give me the same problems). Burke and MK whistles are the limit of playability for my fingers. The most comfortable low D whistles are the conical bore ones - Swayne, Bleazey and Dixon.

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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by trill »

On the subject of "favorite" Low-D:

For least-amount-of-air, my favorite is Reyburn. I call them "forever fipples" because you can "play forever" between breaths. See my review:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=93321&p=1117267&#p1117267 . I liked it so much I bought one.

On the subject of "hole spacing":

My impression is that most Low-D's have similar holes+ spacing. Yes, there are variations. But 3 stand out . . .

1) The Onyx by Walt Sweet has separate, rotatable barrel-sections for the upper+lower hands. This allows adjustment which eases finger+wrist+hand stress. Also, of the dozen Low D's I've played, the Onyx has the richest, most flute-like tone. The first octave absolutely purrs.

2) Carbony advertises a "close spacing" Low D with holes+spacing similar to a Low G. Claims to use a feature called "chimney extenders" to achieve the close holes. Very intriguing design innovation. Haven't played one yet, but the video reviews are all good.

3) Additionally, Reyburn offers a Low-D with the bottom hole situated for closure with your "pinky". Amazingly easy to get used to and improves the voice of E.

trill
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by Narzog »

trill wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 3:50 pm On the subject of "favorite" Low-D:

For least-amount-of-air, my favorite is Reyburn. I call them "forever fipples" because you can "play forever" between breaths. See my review:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=93321&p=1117267&#p1117267 . I liked it so much I bought one.
Reyburn low D is excellent. Its more "air efficient" than the MK, but ends up using around the same amount of air as my MK (if that makes any sense). Because you need to push a lot harder for the high notes, and I think it has a wider windway. but because it is so efficient it evens out, at least from my tests. I'm not sure if hes changed the design at all between now and 2013. If it ever took less push, that version would use even less air then an MK. I find it to be a bit of a squeaker, if you do anything it doesnt like it lets you know. but not to the level of some other whistles I've played, so its a very tolerable con, that I just think of as a way to help find errors in play. Unliek soem others I've played which wanted to squeak too much to be worth the effort lol. Whats sad is I got a Reyburn low F and its the opposite of the D, in that it uses a TON of air. It used noticeably more than the low D, because it has a tall inefficient windway and still takes a hard push. But luckily I was able to return it. For someone who is fine with big air use, it would still be very good. Probably has the strongest ow end of any low F on the market, which even beat my Burke, with perfect tunign and intonation.

Sadly a Reyburn low D is a bit out of the OP's budget. And then it would be a battle of if he should get a Reyburn, MK pro, or Goldie, which are all amazing and up there in price. Theres still other contenders besides those but if I had infinite budget those generally would be my top picks unless there was a very specific reason to get something else (like needing it to be quieter or conical).
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by Nanook69 »

i play for my own amazement so my opinion may not matter as much but I own 4 low d’s. My first was a susato and it did have a plasticy sound. My favorite is my mk pro it is tops in all categories. I also have a Burke that I do not play. Nothing wrong with it I just don’t care for the sound. My everyday, take with me and play when I can is my optima. I like the sound and most things about it. It’s my practice low d. I went to a music store in a neighboring state and tried different low priced low d’s and did not find one I liked better then my optima. I have not tried a kelpie but I would assume it would be very good also. Just my opinion.
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by PennyPenny »

I've got a handful of low D whistles (Howard, Kerry Optima, MK, and Humphrey) and of these, for me the absolute standout is the Humphrey Journeyman low D. Straight away i loved it but it took me a day or two to figure out why. It has everything i want: good volume, no clogging issues so far, and plays really easily in the higher notes. What struck me, though was that to me it feels the closest to playing a high whistle - only bigger. And for me, i think that's what i've been looking for all along. I don't know if that's the thing Gary had in mind when designing his low whistles, and i don't know if that's what other people want out of a low whistle. Like the MK feels nothing at all like a high whistle to me, it is clearly designed from the ground up to be particularly a Low Whistle. But the Humphrey feels to me like a great whistle that just happens to be big and low, and i love that about it.

Penny
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Re: Need Advice on which Low D to buy

Post by Tremendouz »

trill wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 3:50 pm
2) Carbony advertises a "close spacing" Low D with holes+spacing similar to a Low G. Claims to use a feature called "chimney extenders" to achieve the close holes. Very intriguing design innovation. Haven't played one yet, but the video reviews are all good.
The close finger spacing carbony is incredibly easy to play. The low D I received from a retailer had a bad tuning issue but the low C I replaced it with is great apart from xxx xxo being sharp only in the first octave.

It's quite an amazing feeling to play a low C that doesn't need the piper's grip. I still use it because it's more comfortable to me but it's by no means required.
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