Alba "Vibe" tunable Low D whistle

Maker - Alba Whistles (Stacey O'Gorman)

Material - Aluminum

Dimensions: Length - 22 3/8ths" (with head pushed all the way in)
                         Distance between 1st and 3rd bottom holes - 3"
Distance between 1st and 2nd bottom holes - 1 15/16ths"
                         Diameter of 2nd hole from bottom - 3/8ths"
                         Bore - 7/8ths"

Weight - 7.5 oz

Price at time of review - 102 GBP direct from Maker.

I purchased both this Alba "Vibe" model low D as well as one of their standard design low D's (to be reviewed soon) 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 Alba "Vibe" features a windway and blade design similar if not the same as MK whistles and the Chieftain V3 line of whistles. This design, alongside the basic silver of the aluminum, helps give the Vibe a somewhat modern/urban feel and look. Of more 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.) This particular whistle features a dark red and mustard yellow marble swirl. The mouth piece is nicely rounded and comfortable on the mouth, although the finger hole edges are slightly on the sharp side. All and all this whistle looks and feels well and professionally built, with clean lines and a smoothed/rounded bottom edge. 

Tone: The description of the "Vibe" series of low whistles on the
Alba Whistles website reads (and I quote): "This is a very Uilleann pipey sounding and is not in any way a replacement for our Standard Low D but more to complement it, it has a differant sound to the Standard Low D more Vibrato hence Vibe." I am not quite sure how a whistle would have more vibrato, as this is usually created by the player and not the whistle itself, but this whistle certainly does have a more turbulent tone than their standard model. However I feel this has more to do with the high amount of air or breath present rather than any inherent complexity in the tone. This whistle does seem to add credence to my theory that this specific design of window and blade does produce whistles with a higher amount of breath in the tone. While I have stated in the past that I personally do not prefer whistles with allot of breath/air in the tone, it is certainly hard to fault a whistle for this when it seems that's what it was intended/built to sound like. The low fundamental D note is full and resonant, and any weakness in the low E is neatly camouflaged by the overall breathiness present in the tone. This whistle has a fairly high amount of chiff, although, and I hate to beat a dead horse here, this could also be due to the high amount of breath/air in the tone.

Volume: I would describe the volume of this whistle as being moderate to quiet in comparison to other Low D's I have played. Probably not good for louder sessions.

Backpressure/air requirement: This whistle has a moderate to high amount of backpressure, with a moderate to low air requirement. The amount of backpressure in the first octave really allows you to push without having to worry too much about the notes breaking into the second octave. Conversely though, you really have to make sure you push (and sustain) a good amount of breath pressure to keep the second octave notes from falling back into the first. This is not really a problem per say with the exception of the high B note, which requires that you push it to the point where the note tends to go fairly sharp.

Responsiveness:  I would say that this whistle is moderately responsive, no problems with executing any ornaments, but not noticebly snappy or quick either. Whistles with breathy tones can often have a tendancy to make ornaments sound mushy, but that wasn't really an issue with this whistle.

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 is tunable, and has a ring engraved on the tenon of the body to show the best place to set the head for tuning purposes. However I found that the head had to be pulled out a bit farther in order to bring it in to tune. Overall the whistle was fairly well in tune, with all notes being within five cents of true with the following exceptions; The second octave D was 20 cents sharp, the second octave E was 10 cents sharp, and the second octave B was 10-20 cents sharp depending on how hard you blew (which tends to be allot in order to keep it from dropping back into the first octave.)  The C natural is spot on with the OXXOOO fingering.

Sound clip: The Foggy Dew

Summary: Again, while I don't personally prefer low whistles with allot of breath/air in the tone, I do feel that this is a nicely crafted low whistle that plays well and sounds as advertised. It also doesn't hurt that it is reasonably priced. Four holes.