To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

Hi Sessioneers,

I hope that you’re doing well. After two dud whistles that I had growing up that turned me away from the instrument, I picked up an Oak about a year ago and have had a blast with it ever since. I also tweaked it to the point that I get a very even, well-tuned, and consistent tone throughout both octaves. It truly sounds great and plays very well. My question is whether I should even be considering something similar to a Killarney, or would that only be a marginal increase in playability, etc.? Has anyone made this particular jump and felt it was not necessary?

Thanks!

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Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

Not sure about Oak whistles, I’ve liked my Killarney though. Best whistle I’ve tried that’s currently available around or below that price range.

Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

I had the loan of an Oak whistle many years ago. From what I remember, it was a sweet sounding whistle, but I had to give it back after a couple of years (good luck to them getting rid of 2 years’ worth of my germs and saliva residue!). I have found, however, with many plastic-and-metal whistles (numerous Feadógs, Generations and even a relatively pricey Dixon) that the mouthpiece eventually develops cracks, causing air leakage. Such cracks can be repaired but tend to open up again (or be replaced by another crack somewhere else, depending on the strength of the adhesive). So, for me, an upgrade to the all-brass Killarney whistle was a good move.

Having said the above, I have an old Generation nickel C that was bought *second-hand* when I was a child (i.e. around 40 years ago - years before I took any interest in playing it) and the mouthpiece shows no signs of cracking. I suspect they were using a higher grade of plastic back then, but the fact that I have rarely played this whistle in sessions - and therefore never loosened the head to make it tunable - may also be a factor.

As to whether you *should* upgrade, if you are happy with your Oak and it shows no signs of cracking (one would expect them to be made better materials than their cheaper counterparts), then perhaps there is no need. A Killarney whistle, has, to my ear, a broadly similar kind of tone to Oak/Feadóg/Generation whistles, perhaps a little louder and up there with the Oak and the various ‘tweaked’ whistles in terms of precision of tuning and clean-ness of tone - and it feels like it’s going to last forever. It was well worth my £75, anyway.

Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

I think the question of whether or not a Killarney is an upgrade to an Oak is unanswerable for a number of reasons
1) Injection-moulded plastic whistle heads/tops vary from piece to piece causing dramatically different levels of performance. A group of whistles from the same batch can vary from unplayable to superb. So, you just might have an Oak that no Killarney, or Sindt, or any other whistle at any price can match.

2) Killarneys vary. I have two Killarney Ds bought a few years apart and they play quite differently. I have no way of knowing whether each of my whistles is typical of Killarneys of those time-periods, or if Killarneys have had that range of variation all along. The older one plays exactly how I prefer, in fact I had a Sindt D at the time and when I compared the two whistles I felt the Killarney was slightly better. The newer Killarney has a flatter 2nd octave, a dirtier tone, and requires more "push" for the high notes, none of which I like.

3) Each player has their own ideas about which instruments are better. With a given Oak and a given Killarney, if you handed them around for several players to compare you would probably get about as many that preferred one as preferred the other.

About injection-moulded whistle heads/tops cracking, I have a number of whistles that I got back in the late 1970s and early 1980s that are fine, only one developed a hairline crack. I "whipped" the socket, bound it with heavy thread, and soaked the thread binding with superglue, creating a rock-hard mass that can’t possibly crack.

Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

These are great responses - thank you kindly!

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Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

I had the same experience with Killarney. I bought one about five years ago and it was wonderful. Unfortunately I left it in a rental car in Ireland last year and bought another one and the newer one isn’t as good. It’s fine, but as Richard said there’s some unevenness in the higher octave. I have a couple of Oaks because they’re inexpensive and not a problem to lose, and they are perfectly fine. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of money on whistles thinking a more expensive whistle would make me sound better but this turned out not to be true at all. My advice is if you’re happy with the Oak you might as well stick with it unless your hobby is collecting instruments (as mine seems to be!)

Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

I grew up on feadogs in the 80,s with the wide bore and stuck with this kind of whistle for decades. At some point I got a better quality whistle, by Olivier Bouchard and I have 4 of his now. Other than those I’d recommend Burke whistles for purity of tone. I tried a Killarney but found it edgy and really not for me.
To be honest if you like what your playing that’s good enough! In fact that’s all of it really! A friend was envying me that I have a whistle I’m happy with ( 4 of them) as she has loads of whistle but is not really happy with any of them and she’s one of the best players around!
Reminds me . I’ll pop over now and tell her to get a whistle by Olivier…..I’d recommend anyone looking for “ the perfect whistle” a “Broderick “ quote 🙂

Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

"I grew up on Feadogs in the 80’s with the wide bore and stuck with this kind of whistle for decades.

…Burke whistles for purity of tone.

I tried a Killarney but found it edgy and really not for me."

I still play the Feadog I bought around 1980 and I’ve yet to play better whistle at any price.

Burkes aren’t for me, too stiff in the high notes and too large of air consumption. I know air consumption isn’t as much an issue with High whistles, but with Low D’s a Burke takes twice as much air for certain notes as a Goldie or MK. The Burke High D I used to have took as much air as some mezzo/alto whistles by other makers.

About the Killarney, yes the newer one I have is too edgy, but my older one is a very sweet player, the closest whistle I’ve found to my old Feadog.

Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

The only high Burke I’ve had was a D narrow bore, great little whistle , Ive had 3 low Gs of his, the Brass one was fantastic but the Aluminium one I have now is nearly as good and a lot lighter.
I sold the NB D because although it was a very pure sound I find the wooden headed whistle I have from Bouchard have more character, for want of a better word, richer, still very pure .
You “should” get one Richard! Fantastic whistles , brass with boxwood heads.

Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

Thanks again! One of the best things about this site is bouncing ideas off of others. I’ve given it some thought and I am planning on sticking with my hefty $11 investment - my wife is actually a fan of it (big consideration) and our two little guys are very good at exploiting the weaknesses and fragility of expensive things, if you catch my drift.

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Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

Will, I’ve yet to play a wooden whistle by anybody that I would play as a regular thing.

Yes Ronaldo Reyburn’s early Maple-head whistles have an amazing unique tone, very much like a NAF. But the high notes were just too stiff for me, not flexible/nimble enough.

Re: To upgrade or not to upgrade (Oak vs Killarney)

Made for trad. Worth a try. All I play ( apart from the Burke G) Anyhow 😎