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Dixon DX-Trad Review

(Review written January 2018)

For the last few years, I've been recommending Tony's DX-Trad to beginners who are looking for their first "upgrade". It's got a lot of features that make it especially suited to those who are still new to the instrument, while still being a top-notch whistle in its own right.
At a Glance
Whistle Reviewed
Dixon DX-Trad
Models Available
Tony Dixon makes a wide variety of styles and keys in nickel, brass and plastic
How Acquired
Purchased from Tony Dixon's website
The DX-Trad comes in nickel or brass with a plastic mouthpiece
Price at Time of Review (in US Dollars unless otherwise noted)
Available From
Tony Dixon Music Company
The DX-Trad is designed to fit in with the "traditional" whistle world: Plastic mouthpiece and a metal body. It'll fit right in sitting in with Generations, Oaks, Waltons, or other inexpensive whistles, and won't stand out the way a hardwood whistle might.

Here's the full whistle. The whistle is intended to pay homage to the traditional old school whistles, like Generation, and it succeeds. If you have a sharp eye, you might notice the mouthpiece is a little longer than usual--this is to incorporate the tuning element.

A shot of the mouthpiece. You can see Tony Dixon's logo. While the mouthpiece looks like molded plastic, it's very professionally finished and free from any flashing or other bits of plastic. There is a small molding line on the side of the mouthpiece, but it is polished down and I had to specifically look for it to know it was there. Unlike traditional inexpensive whistles, the fipple block looks like a separate piece. So, even though this whistle is paying homage to its roots, a lot more care as gone into its construction than simply molding a whistle head in a factory and slapping it on a body.

A shot of the bottom of the whistle, showing the last three holes and the tiny "D" key indicator at the foot.

Playing Characteristics
Sound clips of the whistle:
The Banshee
Video clips of the whistle:

Gallager's Frolics (recorded 2017)

The Banshee (recorded 2018)

Tone: This whistle has a nice, traditional sound. It's got good start-of-note chiff in that traditional Generation whistle style, without being too scratchy or raspy. The tone itself is relatively pure and sweet, without shrieking in the second octave.

Volume: Medium. The whistle is about as loud as other inexpensive whistles, like Generation, Waltons, etc. It would be drowned out at a very large session or noisy bar, but is perfect for smaller gatherings or solo play. The second octave isn't too loud, which makes it especially good for beginners. Many people new to the whistle can get timid and back off of that second octave if it's too brash.

Responsiveness: Perfect. This whistle is nimble, and takes ornaments as fast as I can throw them.

Tuning: This whistle is in tune all the way up the scale. The A note requires a little lighter touch, but not much. It can still be brought into tune without much effort. But since many musicians tune on A, you'll want to double check against other notes to make sure you didn't accidentally tune the rest of them flat.
Did I say tuning? That's right, this whistle is tunable. With most traditional whistles, such as Generation or Feadog, you have to break the glue seal on the head to get any movement for tuning. Breaking this glue seal can be a challenge, and you risk cracking your whistle head in the process.
The DX-Trad is made to be tunable right from the start. The spot where the whistle body enters the mouthpiece is a little longer than on inexpensive whistles, and this acts as your tuning slide. With the mouthpiece pushed all the way in, the whistle is 27 cents sharp, and all the way out, it's 98 cents flat. That's as wider range of tuning than I can get with many of my more expensive instruments. The mouthpiece fits firmly and doesn't move while playing, while still being very smooth and easy to adjust.

C-natural: OXXOOO makes a good C-natural, but it does require good breath control. It's a little unstable, with the needle on my tuner bouncing around. OXOXXX produces a much more stable C-natural.

Hole size and placement: The holes are almost evenly spaced along the whistle. Some whistles have the E and F holes a little close together, and that can sometimes make my fingers feel crowded. All my fingers are nicely spaced on this whistle, and they tend to naturally fall right where the holes are. The holes aren't too big or too small, and are very easy to cover.

Air volume requirements: Medium to low. I can play a long time on this whistle between breaths. This is another reason why I recommend the whistle for beginners, who may still be struggling with the breathing requirements of the instrument. If your first whistle was a Clarke classic, switching to a DX-Trad would feel miraculous.

Air pressure requirements: Medium to low, and the second octave doesn't require a lot of push. If you like to really lean into and wail on a whistle, the DX-Trad is not for you. But if you want fairly effortless octave jumps without having to think too much about it, this whistle is pretty perfect.

Clogging: I've never played this whistle for hours and hours at a session or a gig. But I have played it at home for up to an hour at a time, and it's never clogged on me. I've never given it the duponol treatment, and I probably won't ever have to.

Wind Resistance: Moderate. This is my travelling whistle. It stays in my car, and I take it everywhere. It stands up to the wind pretty well, but it can cut out if it's too gusty outside or the wind is blowing firmly.

The DX-Trad is very easy to play, and sweet sounding. It's got a little bit of that traditional "edge" to the chiff, without being too scratchy sounding. It's tunable, and it comes at an attractive price. The only that keeps me from playing one of these at sessions is the volume. I play in some loud and rowdy places, and I'm usually stuck between a banjo and a concertina. This whistle can't stand up to that. But this whistle has become my "wandering" whistle. I keep it in my car, and it's the one I play when I'm out and about. It's an amazing whistle for the price. Its wind resistance is only moderate, so for outdoor gigs, I might choose another whistle.

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