In 2003, Yamaha introduced the revolutionary Silent Guitar for players seeking a super-quiet practice instrument that sounded like a nice acoustic when monitored through headphones. The model was also a boon for traveling performers seeking a super-portable and stage-worthy “acoustic” that could be plugged into house sound systems. This year, the new SLG200 series Silent Guitars offer a slimmer body, a sleeker neck profile, a removable all-wood upper bout, onboard effects (room reverb, hall reverb, and chorus), a tuner, and a Yamaha Studio Response Technology preamp that blends an undersaddle piezo pickup with a digital model of a miked, high-end Yamaha acoustic guitar.
For those unfamiliar with a Silent Guitar, there may be some curiosity—and even a bit of anxiety—regarding the feel of a quasi-acoustic guitar with most of its body missing. However, if you concentrate on what’s there, as opposed to what’s not there, the SLG200S’ mahogany bouts, neck, and rosewood fretboard feel quite nice. In fact, I found it easier to play right out of the case than a lot of electric guitars. The neck feels good whether fingerpicking or using a flatpick, the cutaway body makes access to the upper register a breeze, and there’s enough room near the nut for comfy, first-position cowboy chords.
The SLG200S is about as slim as a solidbody, it’s as quiet as a librarian when played acoustically, and it’s a beautiful beast when amplified. I tested it through a Rivera Sedona Lite 1x10 combo, a Fender Super Champ, and a PA consisting of a Soundcraft mixer and a Mackie speaker. I was floored by how naturally acoustic the SLG200S sounded with an equal blend of Mic and Pickup tones—although the high-end started to compress and the low midrange exhibited some “piezo quack” as I strummed more aggressively. [According to Yamaha, the nylon-string SGL200N allows players to “adopt a more aggressive style.”] I also had to be careful not to hit the bridge with the heel of my hand, or the undersaddle piezo would produce an audible “boom.” I quickly realized, however, this could be used creatively for percussive effects. Feedback at high volumes was not an issue.
In “silent” mode, I was knocked out at how well the instrument’s full, flexible tone transferred to earbuds. As my wife works early in the morning and goes to bed way before I do, household noise at night is always an issue, but I could plug in my iPhone to the Aux In of the SLG200S and play along with tunes for my next gig without disturbing her at all.
If you’re looking to jam with friends around a campfire, the SLG200S won’t do you a great deal of good—unless you’re carting around a battery-powered amp. But it’s brilliant for feedback-free acoustic tones onstage, home recording, practicing along with music tracks through headphones, and working on your chops whenever your environment calls for hushed rehearsals. Quiet is the new loud!
SLG200S Steel-String Silent Guitar
PRICE $629 street
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
NECK Mahogany, satin finish
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25" scale, 15¾" radius
FRETS 22 medium, nickel
TUNERS Yamaha chrome button
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario 80/20 Bronze, .012-.053
PREAMP/PICKUPS SRT Powered System blends internal mic model with undersaddle bridge piezo.
CONTROLS Power, Volume, Aux In Volume, Bass, Treble, Effects (Reverb 1, Reverb 2, Chorus), Chromatic Tuner, Blend (Pickup/Mic)
CONNECTIONS Headphones (mini), Aux in (mini), DC in (9-12V), ¼" out
EXTRAS Gig bag, headphones, two AA batteries
WEIGHT 4.2 lbs
KUDOS Excellent amplified sound. Real acoustic feel. Ultra convenient. Unique look.
CONCERNS Sensitive bridge pickup prone to “boom” when hit inadvertently.