Gear Review: All About Whistles

PLEASE NOTE: Most of the audio recordings of the whistles are missing.  I am aware of this problem and am in the midst of updating.  Thanks for your patience.

There are about as many different whistles available for purchase as there are styles of refereeing.  I thought it might help to review the numerous whistles I have so you can make a more informed decision about what type of whistle you want (and don’t end up spending a good chunk of your hard-earned fees on whistles).

Fox 40 Classic

For many referees, the Fox 40 Classic is the standard.  The Fox 40 company was started by a basketball referee in Canada who was dissatisfied with the quality of whistles on the market.  You might say he was sort of like the “Dyson of Whistles” in that he figured that there must be a better way to make a whistle.  He came up with a unique pea-less design that has gone largely unchanged to this day.  The primary advantage of pea-less whistles is that the pea doesn’t stick or get jammed.

In my experience, the Classic is a very reliable, predictable whistle.  Players recognize the tone instantly, and it can be blown very loudly when needed.  On the downside, the Classic – and pea-less whistles in general – are bit harder to get a “tweet” out of (that is, a short, quick burst), especially at a lower volume level.  When I’ve used the Classic in small-sided games, I’ve had players cover their ears more than once.  A traditional pea whistle might be a better choice for small sided games.

Fox 40 Pearl

Almost identical to the Fox 40 Classic, but with a lower tone, the Fox 40 Pearl is an ideal whistle for crowded parks.  The lower tone is easily distinguishable from whistles on nearby fields.  Like most referees, I prefer a more biting, high-pitched tone, but the Pearl is great when you need a differentiating tone.

Fox 40 Sonik Blast

You have to be careful with this beast.  The Fox 40 Sonik Blast is one LOUD whistle, and it is fairly easy to blow to boot.  It has a unique four-chamber design and features a piercing, high-pitched tone.  I keep this on my wrist lanyard as my backup.  For upper level games, I use this as my primary whistle.  If you like the Dolfin, you might find you prefer the Sonik Blast.  The combination of loud, shrill and easy to blow makes for one great whistle.

Acme Whistles

Acme, based in England, is one of the oldest whistle makers in the world.  Their pea-whistles were the world standard for many years, and, in fact, I still own a “vintage” model from the 1970s, when they were still made in England (the pea models are now made in Taiwan).  When Fox 40 came out with the pealess design, Acme was relegated to a seconday role in whistle production.  Now, Acme has a complete line of pea-based and pealess whistles, all of which are quite good.

Vintage Pea

For reference purposes, let’s look at the vintage Acme pea whistle.  For years, this whistle was the sound of soccer/football referees all over the world.  I still prefer to use this whistle for small-sided games.  It is easy to tweet, has a familiar sound, and players don’t cover their ears when I blow it.

Acme Tornado 2000

The first thing you notice is how large the Acme Tornado is.  If you need a bit more surface to grip, this whistle might be a good choice.  In terms of tone, it is very similar to a Molten Dolfin, being very high pitched and quite loud.  It is relatively easy to blow, although it can be a little hard to get a soft tweet from.

Acme Cyclone

This pealess whistle is similar in shape to the Tornado 2000, but the surface area on the Cyclone is a bit smaller than the T2000.  In terms of tone, the Cyclone is pitched a little higher than the T2000.

Acme Thunderer

Give a listen to this small metal pea whistle.  Not sure you’ll ever want to use this in a match, as it is pitched much lower than the other whistles, but at least you’ll know what one sounds like.

In Summary

All in all, I prefer the Fox 40 whistles to Acme.  They have a better “feel” in the mouth than the Acme whistles.  That being said, I have used the Cyclone in matches and have found it to be entirely reliable.  And, as I said earlier, the small Acme pea whistle in the black plastic variety is still a very good whistle for small-sided games.

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