: March 22, 2004
: Sweetheart "Professional Model"
: Wooden; conical bore
Whistle head and body made of Northern birch laminate (trademarked "Dymondwood"), with cork-lined joint. Fipple made of Delrin (note: current whistles are being made with Delrin fipples, but ultimately they will be made with "Dymondwood" fipples). This whistle is also available in rosewood or blackwood at a higher price.
$135 US for the "Dymondwood" model reviewed. $195 US for rosewood. $225 US for blackwood. An additional head that allows the whistle to be converted to a D fife is available for $50 ("Dymondwood" only).
: Sweetheart Flute Company, 32 South Maple Street, Enfield, CT 06082, U.S.A. Phone: (860) 749-4494. Website: http://www.sweetheartflute.com
. Email: email@example.com
: I started looking seriously at the Sweetheart "Professional Model" whistle in December of 2003. I had ordered a Sweetheart rosewood piccolo for my husband as a Christmas present that year and noticed the whistle in the accompanying catalog. I had seen mention of it here at Chiff & Fipple before this, but hadn't really given it much thought. Impressed with the quality of the piccolo, however, I decided to take a closer look at the whistle. It occured to me that it might be the perfect whistle for my role as a Morris musician, i.e., one that had the look of natural wood, but that didn't need to be babied, and that had the volume to stand up to sticks, bells, and the occasional melodeon player! I had originally intended to order the whistle in January, but various personal expenses forced me to wait until my tax refund came in in early March. Fortuitously, the whistle arrived on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2004. I have since played it daily -- around the house, out of doors, for my regular "Irish" whistle practice, and at Morris practice.
Initial Impressions: Appearance, "feel" and other considerations
. I have to say, I was both surprised and pleased when I first took this whistle out of the box. I don't know about you, but when I think "laminate," I tend to think "not REALLY wood" (I guess because I have years of cheap countertops and furniture in my mind). That is NOT a problem with this whistle. Frankly, it's lovely. Looking at it and holding it, you'd never guess it isn't natural, un-laminated hardwood. Mine has very strong, distinctive figuring, not unlike kingwood, though the base color tends more toward a golden shade, whereas kingwood tends to be more ruddy. It's prettier than it looks on the website (not surprising, as web photography often doesn't capture subtleties of coloring well). The surface is highly polished...I initially assumed it was lacquered, but evidently the lovely finish is simply the result of polishing the Dymondwood.
The overall shape of the whistle is much more streamlined and considerably less "recorder-like" than the older Sweethearts. The wall of the whistle is thicker than that of most hardwood whistles, giving it a nice "solid" feel. Even so, it's relatively light in weight. I don't have a scale to measure the weight exactly, but I can tell you it's similar in weight to my Susato Kildare (possibly just a tad bit heavier on the head end, but no more than a hair).
The smooth mouthpiece and well-sanded finger holes make this a very comfortable whistle to play, even when you're doing nothing but playing "Lollipop Man" over and over for an hour (which I did last week at Morris practice).
The only negative (and it's a minor one) I can think of in this category is there was a VERY slight chemical odor for a couple of days after I took this whistle out of the box. Once it had been out in the fresh air for a few days, however, that odor dissipated, and now it just has a nice "woody" smell. I'm fairly sensitive to odors, and didn't find this at all bothersome even on the first day...more "something to note" rather than anything else...and it's completely gone now, so I can't consider it much of a negative at all.
: Moderate to low. It isn't like a Hoover or an Elf Song, in that you just want to whisper into it, but it doesn't need to be pushed either. I'd put it on a par, once again, with a Susato or a Dixon in this category. Do note that it IS possible to under- or over-blow it (more on this in a bit).
: Low. If you're used to leaning into a Busman or Overton, you're going to want to back off on this baby. That may feel awkward at first, but bear in mind that it doesn't NEED you to lean into it...it produces plenty of volume and a good tone on a fairly moderate stream of air. People who are used to playing Generations, Feadogs, Oaks and the like will probably find that this whistle fits their style very well.
: People who dislike the tendency of relatively-low-air- requirement whistles to squeak or to pop up to the next octave at the drop of a hat will find this whistle particularly to their liking. It's dead solid, and quite forgiving. The one caveat, as I mentioned above, is that it IS possible to over- or under-blow it. If you under-blow, or run out of air too soon, you will go flat, especially on the bell note. Likewise, if you start out too aggressively, you will go sharp...again, especially on the bell note. For some it may take a bit of concentration at first to get things "just right." I found that it suited my playing style from day one (I actually deliberately played with under- and over-blowing to see what would happen), but don't be discouraged if you have to practice with it a bit to bring it into good tune.
: This is one area in which this whistle REALLY shines. The balance between octaves is just about perfect. A little focus of the breath and up it goes, with no shrillness whatsoever. While I'm sure there is some volume difference between the first and second register, it's not significant, at least from the player's point of view. And, as advertised, you CAN play up into the third octave without shattering your eardrums. With all that, the bell note is strong and dead solid, even in windy conditions. If you regularly play out of doors, this may just be your dream whistle.
: Let me just say, this is probably NOT the whistle to play when the baby is sleeping. Volume-wise, it's easily the equivalent of a Susato. Maybe better, because the full tone really seems to carry well. I'd give this one top marks for sessions and busking. I can't wait to take it to our May Day "dance out," where I'll be playing with all kinds of instruments...it's going to make the Susato players reach for their wallets, that's for sure! (the Susato Kildare being a favorite of Morris musicians, even though the plastic look drives Elizabethan purists crazy).
: What can I say? It hasn't clogged on me yet, no matter how long I've played it.
Fingering for C nat.
The most accurate fingering for C natural seems to be OXX OOO. OXX XOX is close but not quite...workable for quick transitions, if you need it.
Tone and Timbre; or "how does it sound?"
: No complaints here! This whistle has a full, round, clear, singing tone. So far, everyone I've played it for has exclaimed over its "pretty voice." Low chiff, nicely complex, and no...it DOESN'T sound like a recorder.
Care and feeding
: This whistle requires very little "special maintenance." It does not need to be oiled. It does like to be warmed up thoroughly before playing (I warm mine in my hands for several minutes, then blow gently into it for several more before starting my warm-ups). Tuning seems best with the tuning slide pulled out about 1/8". Because it does have a cork joint, it's best to store the head and the body separately...something you'll want to keep in mind if buying a case for it (get one with two compartments). I don't think I'd want to keep it in a hot car (I wouldn't do that with any of my whistles, actually!), but it seems every bit as sturdy as your average metal-and-plastic whistle.
: No complaints here either. My order was processed promptly and the whistle delivered promptly and in good condition. Further, Ralph Sweet very kindly called me when there was an issue with my credit card (I'd made a mistake entering my address), and gave me a lot of good input via email. I had the same experience when I ordered the piccolo in December. I'd order from this company again without hesitation.
: I am very pleased with my Sweetheart "Professional Model" penny whistle, and would recommend it very highly. I think it will especially appeal to those players who want a wooden whistle but are worried about the care required by natural hardwoods, those who regularly play out of doors or at RenFaires, session players, and those who are ready to make a "step up" from the middle range whistles. Two thumbs up!