Published: December 31, 2002

Ohmagawd

Omega Drone Reeds
Ross Bagpipe Reeds Pty. Ltd.

Reviewed by Peter Aumonier

Omega Drone Reeds are the latest synthetic drone reeds to hit the market. Developed by Ross Bagpipe Reeds Pty. Ltd., makers of the world’s first synthetic drone reeds and the Ross Canister Pipe Bag system, Omega reeds once again demonstrate the innovative skills of partners Geoff Ross and Robert Crozier.

Since I have not changed a drone reed in six years, the thought of testing something new was both interesting and a nuisance. When I do make reed changes, it is usually a six-week project to play them in and make continued minor adjustments to find the balance I’m looking for.

The Omega drone reeds are extremely well crafted, and this is obvious as soon as you open the box. The reed body is strong, consisting of hard plastic and metal caps at the front and back. The tongue is carbon fibre. A rubber plug, similar to the original Ross reeds developed in the mid 1980s, is inserted at the front of the reed.

I tested these reeds in my 1908 Henderson drones as well as my son’s 2001 McCallum drones. They worked right out of the box, although they were far too loud in both pipes, particularly my Hendersons – at first. However, the reeds come with very detailed instructions on how to make adjustments to strength, volume and pitch.

The basic concept of the Omega reed is that, unlike traditional reeds, the tongue is not curved in any way. Instead, the body of the reed is curved and the tongue vibrates off that. Essentially, alterations to the sound of the reed are done by bending the body of the reed instead of the tongue.

The adjustments are done with the aid of a small key that is provided and is used to adjust grub screws on the reed. A tuning clip, which performs the function of a traditional bridle, is also adjusted with the key and grub screws. Additionally, the rubber plug can be moved in and out of the front of the reed for alterations to pitch and volume.

These reeds were incredibly steady right from the start. There was never any hint that the reeds would move out of line or out of tune. There were a great deal of harmonics coming off of them as well, but there was an annoying metallic sound that was evident, particularly in my Hendersons that I could not eliminate.

I also found the rubber plug extremely difficult to insert back into the reed after it had been pulled out. Given the fashion in which the rest of the reed is made, I would have thought that the plug could employ a screw type system as well.

There is no doubt that once the Omega reeds are set up, they are stable, consistent and reliable. Patience is necessary (don’t all reeds require that?) during the set up stage, especially because alterations involve the use of the key on the grub screws that can be time consuming.

I was able to produce a very good, full and rich bass drone sound. The tenors, while stable, did have the metallic overtone referenced above. Perhaps with more time I could eliminate that but I’m not sure.

The Omega Drone Reeds offer another great choice for pipers when it comes to reed selection. They are more expensive than other products on the market, retailing at $165 Canadian.

Pete Aumonier lives in Oakville, Ontario. A native of Victoria, British Columbia, he has won many solo piping prizes, particularly in piobaireachd, and is known for the quality and steadiness of his bagpipe. He is a vice president with a leading insurance company in Toronto.

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