O'Brien Whistles



New O'Brien Whistle: the narrow-bore brass

[The Old Favourite] (MP3, jig)

[The Mason's Apron] (MP3, reel, session version)

[Over the Moor to Maggie] (MP3, reel)

[Sweeney's Dream] (MP3, reel)

[Aisling Gheal] (MP3, air)





This is my review of the O'Brien whistle. I was sent to review two bodies (one with a nice 3-piece construction that is VERY cool) and four headjoints...two with a very closed, narrow windway, and two with a higher, more open windway.

The worksmanship and design of these whistles is very good. They look very professional and are made of copper thickly plated with nickel. Three of the heads supplied for the review have Delrin blocks, the fourth has a metal block.

These are heavy whistles for their size but for all that are easy to handle and play. The nickel has a very nice brushed finish instead of a mirrored shine, so it isn't slippery if your hands are damp.

The blade is not sharp but rather square, similar to the Alba Q1, and like the Q1, this is a very quiet whistle. In fact, these are quieter than my Q1, and are the quietest whistles I've yet tried.

They are well in tune and play easily through both octaves. They use the (o x x | o o o) fingering for C-natural, and on the high C-sharp, they require the right hand ring finger be down (o o o | o o x).

The tone is somewhat pure on all the fipple models. With the more open voicing, they play similar to a Burke or a Hoover, and require some breath control.

With the closed fipple and tight voicing, this whistle becomes a different animal. Though still very quiet, the tone is very pure with a focused edge and a lot of harmonic content. Although the whistle uses very little air, it must be blown quite firmly with a well-supported airstream. You will find yourself wondering what to do with the air you have left over. The whistle is still nicely balanced and very soft through both octaves. Both backpressure and resistance are as high as I've experienced on whistle, but somewhat surprisingly, high A and B are both still easy to hit and well in balance, not shrill or popping out over the other notes. This is a whistle that will take extremely aggressive play and is enormously pitch-stable. I like this configuration so much I've already purchased from the maker the one that was sent me for review.

I don't know how much of a market there is for an extremely quiet whistle with a bit of a biting edge to the tone that you can just play the hell out of. If he could get the volume up, it would be a damn near perfect session whistle--as it is, it's perfect for a player who needs a soft whistle but doesn't want one that you just exhale gently into. Just to avoid misunderstandings, let me state it again: you have to blow hard, and yet it will use almost no air.

His open windway is a good, quiet whistle, but in my opinion, the high backpressure windway takes this whistle to a whole new level.

Ok, that said, here are some clips.

[The Monoghan Twig] (MP3, played on an O'Brian whistle with the closed windway and tight voicing.)

[River's Bend] (MP3, played on an O'Brian whistle with the open windway and open voicing)

[Manus Lunny's Terra Cotta Flowerpot] played with the new head offering more volume with the tight voicing