Since Mark Wygent introduced the first all-synthetic drone reeds back in the early-1990s, the market has become busy with varieties in all manner of shapes, sizes and prices. But, if Gold Medallist and ScottishPower Pipe-Major Chris Armstrong is right, his new X-TREME reeds will take things to a whole different level.
Armstrong launched the reeds exclusively with pipes|drums on July 21, 2014, after more than a year of research and development, culminating with him successfully using the Premium version of the reeds in his own instrument in several solo and band competitions in covert tests.
The reeds, which Armstrong said feature a “zing” from the tenors and a reliable and rich bass, are offered in two varieties, with the £85 X-TREME Premium model constructed of moisture resistant – or hydrophobic – material, and a £65 X-TREME Standard version for those less concerned with wetness issues.
Armstrong is making the reeds available at the outset exclusively from his online store at chrisarmstrong.co, but plans to add at least one major retailer in each piping-rich country “in the near future.” He will also introduce them at a recital at the Street Café at Piping Live! on August 13th at 11 am, where he and a ScottishPower quartet will play a several sets, with the reeds on sale to those sold by the tone.
“There are details about the design such a finer-pitched thread on the tuning screw that makes them more airtight and a finer level of precision in achieving the same height on the tuning pins than other brands on the market,” Armstrong said. “I wanted to create something that used a proper hydrophobic/moisture resistant material, and the reeds had to sound as good as or better than the reeds that I had been playing previously. In a nutshell, I had to be happy that what I have created would stand the test of me potentially playing on the stage at the Glenfiddich – and I am.”
He stressed that both versions of the reeds “give the same rich sound and are manufactured to the same levels of precision the only difference being the moisture resistance created by the hydrophobic material in the Premium sets. The material itself is more expensive and this is reflected in the price.”
Armstrong said that a few prominent solo pipers are using the reeds, but would not divulge their names. He added that several pipers with ScottishPower have the reeds in their pipes, but that he has no plans to require the entire band to use them.
pipes|drums connected with Chris Armstrong for a brief interview on the research and development of the reeds, and a video demonstration of the X-TREME Premium model in his own pipes: