Sweetheart "Resonance" Blackwood Low D whistle

Maker - Sweetheart Flute Co. (Ralph and Walt Sweet) www.sweetheartflute.com

Material - Blackwood

Dimensions: Length - 23 1/8th"
                         Distance between 1st and 3rd bottom holes - 2 3/4ths"

                         Diameter of 2nd hole from bottom - 3/8ths"
                         Bore - 5/8ths"

Weight - 8 oz

Price at time of review - $525.00 US direct from Maker

I purchased this whistle off ebay from North Art Heritage Music, in BC Canada. While I always wanted to try a wooden low whistle, I had avoided Sweetheart low D's in the past as I always thought that they looked more like recorders than whistles. But when I saw how nice this Blackwood version looked, I had to give it a go. As you will read below, my dealings with this whistle also brought me into contact with Ralph Sweet of the Sweetheart whistle Company, who seems to be a great guy and went way out of his way to be helpful and answer my questions. 


Appearance: The teardrop, or pear shape of where the head joint attaches to the body of this whistle, along with the window and fipple/mouthpiece construction and conical body design, all add up to make this whistle look a bit more like a recorder than a whistle. However, once you look past that blasphemy, or, ah, issue, this whistle looks and feels nice and professionally constructed. The Resonance Low D also comes in a "Laminated wood" version which is considerably less expensive, but I loved the look of the Blackwood, which appears solid black from a distance, but reveals rich brown wood grain upon closer inspection. The only issue I had visually was that a few of the tone holes seemed a little rough around the edges.  The mouth piece is a bit larger than most other low whistles, and while it wasn't overly uncomfortable, it did feel a bit awkward and strange at first. The tone holes are allot smaller than on other low whistles, and the bottom three holes are allot closer together. The first and fourth holes are also offset, making this one of the only low whistles that I would say could easily be played with ones fingertips instead of the pipersgrip. (However, this feature did cause another issue, see below)

Tone: This whistle definitely has a very beautiful, rich, pure, warm and woody tone with very little breathiness. It does border on a very flute like tone, yet it manages to still sound like a low whistle (and not like a recorder either thankfully, which tend to sound a bit more nasally) with a very small amount of chiff. I can certainly understand why they choose to call this whistle the "Resonance", as the low fundamental D note really, well, resonates. I was all ready to be completely in love with this whistle until I stumbled across what I felt was a large issue. The low E note is incredibly weak and airy sounding, and breaks very easily to boot. Surrounded by beautiful, rich and resonant notes, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Now I know that the low E note is almost always the weakest  note on any whistle regardless of maker, but this seemed a bit more extreme to me than usual, so I shot off an email to the Sweets to see if maybe there was something wrong with my particular whistle. I received a very detailed, courteous and helpful response almost immiediatly from Ralph Sweet. He explained that they wanted to make a low whistle that could be played with the fingertips, not the pipersgrip, so they moved the bottom hole up and closer to the others, which forced them to make it smaller as well
. (indeed, this whistle has the smallest bottom hole I have seen on a low whistle) The trade off for this is a weaker and quieter E note. They felt that the trade off was worth it, and well, I have to be honest and say that I don't. I suggested that they consider making a "long reach" version with a larger bottom hole, and they shocked me by saying that not only did they think that was a good idea, as there are certainly allot of low whistle players out there who use the pipersgrip exclusively, but they also asked if I would be willing to try out a proto type when it was ready. Of course I said does a bear...? well you know.

Volume: I would describe the volume of this whistle as being medium/moderate in comparison to other Low D's I have played.  It is well balanced between octaves, and all the notes, with the exception of the aforementioned E, can actually be blown softly for a quieter sound, as well as harder for a louder, resonant sound. One might be able to get away with playing this in a quiet/smaller session environment.

Backpressure/air requirement: This whistle has moderate backpressure, and seems to have a relatively low air/breath requirement.

Responsiveness: This whistle is very responsive in the respect that you get a clean tone the instant you blow, and transitions between notes are very clean and fast. Ornaments are fine, but not overly crisp or snappy.

Clogging: This whistle clogs if you look at it sideways. I couldn't get through a whole tune without having to stop and clear it out at least once. I would definitely use duponol on this whistle, which isn't surprising considering duponol was originally made for (gasp) wooden recorders.

Tuning: I can't decide if this whistle was meant to be tunable or not, I'm thinking it wasn't, although you may be able to do small adjustments by moving the joint.  Thankfully, you don't really need to, as most of the whistle is pretty much in tune. Exceptions include the low A note, which was slightly sharp, and surprisingly the low D fundamental, which was 10 cents flat.  C natural is close enough using OXXXOOO fingering.

Sound clip: Amhran na Tra Baine

Summary: It's hard to be fair when one feels so let down by just one aspect of a whistle. But it's otherwise such a beautiful sounding and playing instrument that the low E issue is all the more glaring for it. However, I will certainly admit that for someone looking to play the low D while avoiding the pipersgrip, this is the whistle for you. It would actually make a great beginners low whistle as well if it were not for the price tag. I do want to reiterate that despite this one issue, this is a very nice low whistle.
Four holes. I certainly look forward to the chance to try the Sweets new version, and will certainly post what I think here. If it comes out how I think it will, as the Sweets are obviously very experienced craftsman, it will be a definite keeper.