Review: Yamaha’s SLG200N Silent Guitar is a Surprisingly Natural-Sounding, Nylon-String Guitar Designed for Home or Travel
by Adam Perlmutter
Yamaha’s new SLG200N is called a Silent Guitar for good reason. Played unplugged it’s got a hushed tone that would not be heard over a conversation at moderate volume. But, thanks to its redesigned electronics system, when auditioned with headphones, it sounds lush and reverberant, as if heard in a concert hall. The SLG200N is a member of the third generation of Yamaha’s Silent Guitar, series, and it’s a total boon for guitarists living in close quarters and prone to late-night inspiration, or travelers unwilling to bring along their fine concert instrument.
The SLG200N comes in a long and narrow gig bag that looks more like it holds sporting equipment than a guitar. (It’s designed to fit into an airplane’s overhead compartment.) The treble-side frame is permanently affixed to the body. A bass-side frame attaches to the guitar in seconds via a pair of screws. The completed instrument wouldn’t look out of place in a gallery of contemporary sculptures.
It initially feels foreign to hold the SLG200N, which is as thin as a typical electric solid-body guitar. But despite the amount of negative space between the body and the frame, the instrument weighs 4.5 pounds, in the range of conventional classical guitars. And its full-size, 650mm scale-length neck removes any sense of awkwardness from handling the instrument.
Given its novel construction, it would not be appropriate to judge the SLG200N by the usual standards of craftsmanship, but the guitar feels solid and well-constructed. The fretwork and nut and saddle slots are all perfectly articulated, and the gloss finish on the mahogany body and leg rest—available in Translucent Black, Tobacco Brown Sunburst, and Natural Satin—is uniformly applied. There’s nothing fragile or delicate about the instrument, and it is a relief not to have to worry about babying it, like you would a French-polished classical guitar.
The SLG200N plays agreeably well. Its slender neck and low action will appeal to contemporary players who venture outside of the classical repertoire, especially those coming to the nylon-string from the electric; though traditional players might not like this feel. However, the SLG200N’s dual-action truss rod—a feature most classical guitars lack—allows for more control of the setup.
It’s a boon for guitarists living in close quarters and prone to late-night inspiration, or those unwilling to travel with a fine concert instrument.
Highly Realistic Sounds
At the heart of the SLG200N is Yamaha’s Studio Response Technology pickup and preamp system, which models the sound of a concert nylon-string recorded with high-quality microphones in a professional recording studio. The system includes the usual tone controls, plus a blend knob for adjusting the ratio of sound coming from the under-saddle pickup versus the preamp’s modeled sounds; another knob lets you graduate between different digital reverb and chorus effects.
There’s also an auxiliary control, along with an eighth-inch input for plugging in an MP3 player or another peripheral, and a Fender Stratocaster-style quarter-inch output, for playing through an amp. Though it’s powered by two AA batteries, the preamp also includes an AC-adapter jack.
Yamaha included earphones with the SLG200N, which has an eighth-inch headphone output. But I used Grado PS500 headphones, my go-to tool for transcribing music, to test the guitar’s sound. Straight away, I was struck by the range of gorgeous sonorities. With the dial turned all the way to the miked position, the instrument sounds convincingly like a good classical guitar recorded in a studio. Turning the dial all the way to the pickup setting yields a warm tone with a pronounced attack. The reverbs sound rich and organic, as does the chorus.
Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amplifier via the guitar’s quarter-inch output, the SLG200N has a natural, full-bodied sound. A classical recitalist probably wouldn’t use the guitar in a concert hall, but the instrument would make an excellent choice for, say, a live performance with a modern jazz group. It would also be a smart tool for recording directly into a digital audio workstation.
With such uncannily lifelike sounds, Yamaha has definitely taken things to the next level in this new generation of Silent Guitars.