Sometimes, you need a loud tin whistle. Whether it’s a big, noisy session, an outdoor gig, or a busking session, sometimes the volume of a normal tin whistle just doesn’t cut it. That’s where these whistles come in. They’ve been designed to give you some extra oomph and help you cut through the noise. You’ll go from barely being able to hear yourself to being heard loud and clear from far away. Just remember: with great volume comes great responsibility!
Here are three great loud tin whistles, in roughly descending order of loudness.
Summary: Possibly the loudest whistle on the market, with a strong lower octave
Best for: Busking, playing outdoors, and any time you need max volume
With a wide bore and big holes, the Chieftain Thunderbird is a LOUD tin whistle. Seriously, if you’re playing this indoors frequently you may need hearing protection. While the second octave certainly carries, what’s remarkable is the volume in the lower octave. It’s nice and strong, and relatively hard to accidentally blow into the second by mistake.
This makes the Thunderbird the perfect tin whistle for any scenario where you need a loud lower octave. The copy on Chieftain’s website touts it as “the perfect busker’s whistle,” and it certainly fits the bill. The tone is more complex than the other two whistles on this list, with plenty of “chiff.”
Unlike most whistles, the Chieftain Thunderbird is made entirely out of machined aluminum, with no plastic parts. It feels very substantial, but it not as heavy as the Dixon solid brass reviewed below. It will stand up to almost any elements and be fine and can withstand some dings and drops. The one kryptonite this whistle has is salt water; it will corrode if you drop it in the ocean! Keep it off the beach, though, and it’s just about indestructible.
The all-metal construction does mean that the tuning is fairly susceptible to changes in temperature. In colder weather, it will sound flat until it’s warmed up. This isn’t an issue if you’re playing solo, or have a few minutes to warm it up to pitch before a performance. However, it’s one of the reasons why I highly recommend getting the version with a tuning slide, rather than the fixed-pitch version.
- Very loud
- Sturdy aluminum construction
- Takes a lot of air, especially in the second octave
- Needs to be warmed up in cold weather
Summary: A loud and proud whistle with a pure tone
Best For: Anyone who likes a pure sound and lots of volume, especially Ren Fair players
Susato whistles are made by the Kelischek Workshop for Historical Instruments. They also make a wide variety of medieval, renaissance, and Baroque instruments, including recorders and tabor pipes. Their whistles have ended up with the same pure, recorder-like tone as some of their other offerings. This gives them a unique signature sound, which many players like.
They’re also quite a loud tin whistle thanks to their wider bore. Susato whistles are very popular among those who play at Renaissance fairs and other events where the brown plastic version can pass as wood. They aren’t quite as loud as the Chieftain whistles, but their pure sound really carries, especially outdoors.
Like the Chieftain, the Susato Kildare takes a lot more air than a standard whistle. The upper reaches of the second octave aren’t as tough to hit as the Chieftain, but it still takes some getting used to. Susato does make a smaller-bored version of the Kildare, the “V-series.” It has a similar sound and takes less breath, but also puts out less volume.
Susato whistles are made entire out of ABS plastic, which makes them light but durable. They won’t have the same issues with tuning in colder weather as the Chieftain whistle. However, being made of plastic, heat is a concern. Don’t leave this is a hot car or similar environment; it will warp! Otherwise, it’s very durable, and unlike many metal whistles won’t corrode or tarnish.
- Pure tone
- Impeccable tuning
- Will warp in heat
- Some players may not like the recorder-like tone
Dixon DX204 Brass
Summary: An easier-to-handle whistle that still gives plenty of volume
Best for: Sessions and other environments where you don’t need to blow people away
Sometimes, you just need a little extra volume. The Dixon solid brass DX204 is a great whistle for when you don’t need a cannon, but do need a boost. It is louder than average, but still very easily playable, even for a beginner.
One of the chief problems with the two other whistles on this list is their air requirements. Both take a remarkable amount of breath, especially in the upper reaches of the second octave. This Dixon DX204 whistle, by contrast, sips air. It’s a nice change from the free-blowing nature of the other two, and great for anyone without lungs of steel.
When the description says “solid brass,” it’s not lying. The Dixon DX204 is probably the heaviest tin whistle I’ve had in my hands. It weighs in at around 140 grams or 5 ounces, and feels like a self-defense weapon. It takes a little getting used to when you start playing, and may feel awkward for some.
The plastic head slides very easily on the tuning slide, and can be replaced if it gets damaged. Tuning and intonation are very good, and the tuning slide gives a good range of pitch to play with. The holes aren’t as large as the other two whistles, but still on the larger, side. This helps push the volume on the DX204 above your standard Generation or Walton’s tin whistle.
You’ll be heard if you play the DX204 in a smaller or moderate-sized session, although it may get drowned out if you have to compete with a few accordions, pipes, and concertinas. It also carries nicely outdoors.
- Takes much less air than other two
- Sturdy construction
- Not as loud as the other two, especially in lower octave
- Heavy build may feel odd to hold