Alba non-tunable Low D whistle

Maker - Alba Whistles (Stacey O'Gorman)

Material - Aluminum

Dimensions: Length - 22 3/4ths"
                         Distance between 1st and 3rd bottom holes - 3"
Distance between 1st and 2nd bottom holes - 1 7/8ths"
                         Diameter of 2nd hole from bottom - 7/16ths"
                         Bore - 14/16ths"

Weight - 6.5 oz

Price at time of review - 105 GBP direct from Maker

I purchased both this Alba low D as well as one of their "vibe" design low D's at the same time via their internet site. While I did receive an automated response email after I ordered, and while I did receive the whistles within the specified time period, I never received a response to any of my subsequent emails inquiries. This included two or three emails via the address that was included with the confirmation email, as well as two more emails I submitted using the form available on the Alba website. I have had a few people say that they thought that Stacey O'Gorman might have been having computer issues at that time (although I have also spoken to someone who had an identical experience to mine as well), but I bring it up only because it was different than the usual, more personable experience of buying direct from a whistle maker. Alba whistles are made in Scotland, as indicated by the apropos name "Alba", which is the Scots Gaelic word for Scotland.


Appearance: The basic Alba design consists of an aluminum tube with another, shorter piece of aluminum tube with a slightly larger circumference fitted over the end. This piece, along with the plug, form the mouthpiece, window and the windway, rather than having them built into the whistle body itself. This is a common design often seen with homemade pvc whistles. This whistle also has somewhat of a home made feel to it as well, not just because of the mouthpiece design, but also because there are visible tool marks where the mouthpiece cap was fitted on to the body, the windway notch is uneven/ragged, and the finger holes and end of whistle were left sharp and not rounded off. The mouthpiece itself is tapered and is the only part of the whistle that was smoothed/rounded off, making it very comfortable on/in the mouth. Of note visually is the stylized Alba logo tastefully stamped under the windway and colored in blue (which somehow puts me in mind of the blue woad the picts of Scotland used to adorn themselves with), as well as the marbled "albanite" fipple plug. These multi-colored fipple plugs seem to be somewhat of a Alba trademark (some of which also feature graphics), and vary from whistle to whistle (unfortunately one cannot request a specific design when ordering.)

The best feature of this whistle is it's tone. It is smooth, mellow and warm on top of an acceptable layer/amount of breathiness. The low fundamental is nicely full, and the second note, or lower octave E, is not overly weak as compared to many other aluminum Low D's.

Volume: I would describe the volume of this whistle as being moderate in comparison to other Low D's I have played. Probably not good for louder sessions.  It is fairly well balanced between octaves, and it's mellow tone and backpressure keep it from being screechy in the high second octave. 

Backpressure/air requirement: This whistle has a slightly more than moderate amount of backpressure, with a moderate to low air requirement. The lower notes do not break easily, and you don't have to push to hard to stay in the second octave either.

Responsiveness:  I would say that this whistle, while not completely sluggish, is slightly on the slow side when it comes to responsiveness, and is certainly not as "snappy" as I prefer.  However, I will say that it does play very easily, the transition between octaves is smooth and the whistle is forgiving and does not "squawk" easily, if at all. 

Clogging: I did not experience any major clogging issues with this whistle, possibly a benefit of the curved windway. However, given that it is an aluminum whistle, I would recommend warming it up before playing. 

Tuning: This whistle had some tuning issues, as both the low fundamental and octave "D" note were 20 cents sharp. And as somewhat typical with straight bore aluminum whistles, everything from the F# on up in the second octave hung around five cents flat. The C# was also between 5-10 cents flat, but the C natural was spot on with the OXXOOO fingering.

Sound clip: 

Summary: I really like the sound of this whistle, it actually sounds almost identical to one of my favorite Low D's, the Kerry songbird (which features the same mouthpiece construction). This whistles
ease of play made me think it might make a good beginners whistle as it is very forgiving and sounds good to boot. But tuning issues, slightly poor responsiveness and a lack of "finished" appearance and feel leave a few things to be desired for me. Three holes.