Yamaha’s SILENT Brass series of products is a set of trumpet, french horn, and trombone mutes that when used properly allow the performer to listen to themselves while practice at full volume but muting the sound to everyone else in the room. Some people swear by them, others not so much. I’ve been playing around with the trumpet version of the Yamaha SILENT Brass system for a few weeks now and I have to say there are some very good qualities and a few that kind of bug me. Read on to find out what those pros and cons are.
The Yamaha SILENT Brass system comes in two main pieces. The mute piece of the system is black plastic and seals into the trumpet bell nice and snug. It’s very lightweight, and adds very little to the overall weight of the instrument when in place. On the end of the mute is a standard headphone jack which connects with a wire (included) to a beltpack receiver (known as the Personal Studio) that serves as a kind of an audio mixer with reverb effects. When it’s turned on the audio can be switched to one of two different reverb levels. The first being a plain, fairly dead room and the second giving the reverb effect of playing in a large performance hall. From the belt pack a user can connect a pair of headphones and optionally add a secondary input into the mix such as the audio from an MP3 player or other device allowing them to practice while listening to the accompaniment for their performance.
First Impressions About The SILENT Brass System
I’ll admit, when I first took the SILENT Brass out and assembled it I was a little concerned. The included earbuds looked to be rather cheaply made and the light weight of the mute unit made me concerned at first that if it fell out of the bell it was easily going to break. I’m happy to say that both of those fears were unfounded (at least so far). While the earbuds are obviously middle to low end they still do a good job and I honestly couldn’t tell much of a difference between them and my more expensive set at home. As for the durability of the mute it has never budged while inserted into the trumpet, and I have come to realize that what I at first thought of as weak construction in the mute is actually very well designed.
The mute part of the setup in and of itself is quite a little miracle of acoustic science. I was very impressed with the amount of reduction in sound that it provides, even when I intentionally was playing as loud as possible. I even hooked up a decibel meter to check. Without the mute I was producing around 90db while the same passage only showed around 70db with the mute in at the same distance.
How Does The SILENT Brass Sound?
The acoustic reproduction of the trumpet’s unmuted sound through the earbuds was actually quite impressive. I was fully expecting to hear distortion of one kind or another when I was playing but honestly I felt it was quite accurate with one minor issue. I noticed that for me when playing with the mute and going for a third space C it sounded noticeably flat for me, but any note below that point seemed to show no distortion. It may very well be that I was the cause of the intonation issue (although I did my best to test this on several occasions) but it occured to me that maybe it was simply an acoustic issue that one would expect when putting any mute in the bell of a brass instrument. After noticing this though I did a little research and found that other people have noticed the same thing in various ranges on the instrument but honestly I don’t see how it would be acoustically possible to totally fix this due to the very nature of the acoustics of a muted trumpet or other brass instrument.
In general though the pitch issues are the only real negative that I have noticed while practicing and using the SILENT Brass mute the last two weeks. I could see myself giving it a try in an educational setting as well, not just to allow me to knock down the volume of a practicing brass player but also potentially by hooking it up through the audio ports on the computer to make recordings or practice with SmartMusic (although the pitch issues might make that one problematic).
Conclusions About The Yamaha SILENT Brass System
Overall the Yamaha SILENT Brass mute system turned out to be a very solid, useful tool, especially for those of us living in close proximity to many other people. While not perfect it definitely has some major benefits over other methods of volume reduction. If one can put aside or ignore the high and low range intonation issues then a SILENT Brass unit could be a very useful tool for any aspiring musician honing their craft in amongst a crowded society. If you think it could be of use to you I would definitely take one out for a spin and see for yourself. If nothing else your roommate will probably thank you for it.
Note: Yamaha Corp. provided the trumpet version of the SILENT Brass review unit that was used during testing.