Fully charged, solid and sleek

Published: February 4, 2018
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Blair Digital Chanter
Murray Blair Pty Ltd.
Melbourne, Australia
AUD$849 – $982

Reviewed by Matt MacIsaac

Electronic bagpipes have been around at least since the 1970s, when the Bazpipe was introduced in Texas. Since then there have been many different iterations of the electronic bagpipe instrument, and the newest offering is from Murray Blair of Blair Bagpipes in Australia, who is well known for making tuners and producing recordings.

There has been no shortage of buzz and promotion of the Blair Digital Chanter since the company posted a cryptic photo on their Facebook page of what looked to be an engraved practice chanter back in April 2017. The photos that followed, with little accompanying info, would show glimpses of a digital screen, real holes, or engraved mounts. It was intriguing.

Fast forward to January 2018, and the review unit has finally arrived.

The carrying case is well made, with mesh pockets to hold the included micro-to-male braided USB cable and a separate threaded mouthpiece. It isn’t required for operation; making it detachable means the case is more compact. It also helps to hold the chanter steady while playing.

The build quality is solid and sleek. The ferrule and sole are both polished aluminum and give the instrument some heft, and a Victorian engraving option is also available for a premium. At around $1,000 all told, it isn’t cheap, but is certainly priced within the segment.

A 1/8″ audio out jack and micro USB port are on the left hand side, with the OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display on the back, which is conveniently placed to access while playing.

The display is bright and easy to read. One characteristic of the OLED screens now being used in high-end phones and TVs is the ability to reproduce very dark blacks, so you don’t really see the screen except for the lit characters.

The chanter has a built-in rechargeable battery, which should provide six hours of playing time before needing to be plugged in, depending on usage. In my experience, I got around 4.5 hours before it started to act up. The manual does explain that the sensors may malfunction on a low battery.

One thing I would like to see is an indication that the battery is fully charged. While the display does show an animated battery icon to indicate that the unit is charging, it doesn’t stop when the unit is fully charged. The manual stipulates three to four hours to charge it fully, but a visual indication would be helpful.

A most welcome feature of this digital bagpipe is the employment of physical holes, just like a real one, and hole spacing is about . . .


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  1. gordonmacrae

    Thanks for this review. Especially he heads up about on on switch. Would be awesome if it came with a set of MacIsaac Mitts and musical finesse. Mine is in the mail and can’t wait to give it a go.

  2. Lou Henningsen

    I’ve used three other brands of electronic chanters. One has an abnormal, off-balance feel with the battery/workings/speaker weight placed high in a stick. Another is a bit small with evenly-spaced holes and a feel that is too light to even sense. The German-made one that I have appears very similar to this new Blair model. The problem with that one is it needs to wired – to earphones, amp, computer, etc. There is no onboard speaker to produce it’s own sound without other devices. I tried a Bluetooth adapter to eliminate the need for a wire but did not like the sound delay between wiggling the fingers and hearing the resulting sound. The wire drapes across arms, hands, fingers in a distracting fashion. It appears this Blair model also requires an electronic tether. Any hope of a future installed speaker or wireless capability?

  3. fedgley@cogeco.ca

    Just received one of these chanters. Overall, I am very pleased with it. Drones seemed to need turning down quite a bit IMHO. I would agree that the battery symbol needs work. It shows a full battery even when it has only been charging for an hour, when written instructions indicate longer is needed. I played it for 20 or 30 minutes and the icon showed 1/2 the battery used up. I’m sure that if felt plugged in for three hours, that might not happen. Another thing to improve would be start / shutdown. Start-up is no problem as you just press the control wheel. But shutdown requires more than just pressing the “wheel.”….a bit of searching required. The sound, though is very good. The GHB sound like pipes and the smallpipes sound excellent.. However, the small pipes volume is louder than the GHB, and when onstage, switching back and forth, necessitates moving the volume control to get comparable levels. Even with the shortcomings, I am very happy with it …easy to play with great sound.

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February 24, 2018Boney Music Memorial Invitational Piping Competition & RecitalHalpern Centre, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia

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Pipers: Need to manipulate your pipe chanter reed? – use a pen knife or Xacto knife instead of sandpaper. You have much more control on the amount of cane you take off with a knife vs. sandpaper. And it is much better for the cane itself; other woodworkers call this technique “feathering.”
Donald MacPhee, reedmaker, Alexandria, Scotland