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silver plated versus solid silver

Flute History and Instrument Purchase

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kimflute26
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silver plated versus solid silver

Postby kimflute26 » Sat Dec 12, 2009 10:39 pm

Let's forget price for a moment. For the purposes of this question pretend that you can purchase two quality flutes such the Muramatsu EX and the Muramatsu DS for the SAME price. You might choose to purchase the DS because the solid silver never wears off like silver plating... but would the DS SOUND better as well?

In other words... I'm trying to figure out if the solid silver body really does make a difference in overall tone.

fluteguy18
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Postby fluteguy18 » Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:51 am

There are debates everywhere about this. The answer has usually been: not necessarily. The sound of a flute is mostly determined by the design and craftsmanship put into it. The headjoint is the biggest factor in terms of sound production. To the player, there may be a distinct difference between metal types, but to the audience, the sound difference is minimal at best. One big debate about plated vs. solid silver is a matter of determining which of the two has a sound closest to the old French flutes (Louis Lot flutes and the like). Some argue silver because they were all solid silver. Others argue nickel silver with sterling silver plate. Nickel silver is actually a type of bronze that has a high nickel and copper content. The old french flutes (while made of silver) had an extremely high amount of nickel and copper in their metal. (They weren't sterling silver).

There are several videos on YouTube about this. Galway has one, Nina Perlove has one...

You just have to choose for yourself. When I personally was debating between getting a solid silver Miyazawa or a Miyazawa with a plated body, I chose to go with the plated body. I used the same headjoint when trying out each. I liked the response of the plated better, and within my budget, I couldn't justify the expense of the solid silver because I didn't hear a big enough difference in sound. So instead I spent the extra money on upgrades (upgraded riser, extra keys, extended warranty, etc.).

The metal debate is endless. I've tried gold flutes that sounded like silver flutes, and vice versa. I have mixed and matched headjoints and you can bet that a good headjoint makes a difference. Even from one silver flute to another (and gold, and platinum) they all have a different sound. They are all unique. I tried a gold Brannen, and the sound was like chocolate on the ears. I tried a gold Straubinger, and it was like sunshine (radiant, resonant, and brilliant, but not bright and thin).

So my answer: no. The metal material does not necessarily make a difference in the sound. I do however have my doubts from time to time.

Another question is: does the metal make a difference in the WAY they play? (Response, Resistance, etc). I think they do make a difference in the WAY they play. It takes a bit more energy to play gold and platinum than it does silver.

kimflute26
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Postby kimflute26 » Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:52 am

An interesting debate indeed...

Soon I'm going to be testing a heavy wall 9K gold Muramatsu headjoint that I was told requires a lot of air. Should be worthwhile :).

lula
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Postby lula » Mon Dec 14, 2009 6:25 am

I just bought a solid sterling silver flute and I think it sounds much better than silver plated flutes. I think the overall tone quality is better and it sounds cleaner and more clear.
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fluttiegurl
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Postby fluttiegurl » Mon Dec 14, 2009 9:02 am

The hardest part when comparing flutes is to compare the exact same flute made from different metals, which is nearly impossible. Many people say they like solid silver better when, in truth, the plated flutes they have tried have simply not been of the same craftsmanship. The closest I have been able to replicate this is to try a Pearl 665 and a Pearl 765 with the same headjoint. It is not 100% accurate because there are always factors involved, but we could tell not difference when any of my students played these.

I have several students who play on silver plated flutes with excellent results. I often encourage them to buy hand cut headjoints to put on factory bodies. For most, this combination will last until college and will produce better results than the students who buy solid silver flutes from the same level. After that, handmade is the way to go if finances will allow.

I am very much with fluteguy18 on this one. In my opinion, the metal should make no difference as long as the flute is a quality instrument.

fluteguy18
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Postby fluteguy18 » Mon Dec 14, 2009 9:50 am

You should also take into account that many people perceive cost or metal material to equal a certain quality. This is not necessarily true. Some people have this mental impression that the more precious metals are in the flute (or the higher the price) the better it will sound.

Metal material does not indicate playability. You can bet that a silver plated Muramatsu will play circles around a solid silver "ebay/chinese import/junk" flute. I have also played flutes that cost 10 times the cost of mine (and mine wasn't cheap) and hated the way it played.

This mental predisposition often influences players into making a decision that is less than ideal. Don't get hung up on metal content but rather the way it plays.

Now, the following is just my personal opinion:

I personally feel that for MY playing, there is no difference between silver plate and solid silver. I DO feel that for MY playing that there is a difference between silver, gold, and platinum, but that these are just general differences that are also dependent on the instrument in question. I generally find that silver is lively and radiant in general. Headjoint cuts can change that though. I have played many a dark and rich solid silver flute. For me, gold generally has a rich texture and a warmth of sound that I can't achieve as easily on silver. I do know that for ME, gold can be pushed further without cracking and that my articulation is less clear. And platinum (FOR ME) generally has a sound that is very dense. My articulation (in general) tends to be clearer on platinum flutes.

My favorite combination thus far (regardless of maker, headjoint cut, and model) has been 10k gold (rose gold, but yellow too) with a platinum riser and silver keys. I haven't found a single flute with those specifications that didn't suit me well.

I am a firm believer that the WAY the metals play is different (most of the time, but there ARE exceptions). They do NOT necessarily SOUND different. Because of the different densities (and relative weights of the instruments) it takes different amounts of energy used in different ways to get them to play well.

These however are my opinion on MY playing. It may or may not apply to yours.

lula
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Postby lula » Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:04 pm

I still think that solid sterling silver flutes have a more clear and clean sound. When I switched from silver plated to solid sterling I could really tell a difference in the way the two flutes sounded. I am personally happier with my new solid sterling silver flute. :)
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fluteguy18
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Postby fluteguy18 » Mon Dec 14, 2009 6:51 pm

But what flute did you come from? Didn't you get the Yamaha Allegro model?

You should also take into account that fuzziness and clarity of sound is also heavily dependent on the quality of the padding on the flute. If there are no leaks (visible or microscopic) it has a higher chance of sounding clear and resonant. If it has leaks (visible or microscopic), it will sound fuzzy.

There are just too many factors to take into account before you can chalk up the difference to metal composition only. I'm sure you sound great on your new flute, but you can't say it's the silver all by itself. You are probably also playing on a flute that is better made, and has a better design too. That makes a huge difference.

lula
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Postby lula » Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:12 am

I had a Buffet silver plated flute but I had it checked out a week before I sold it and it didn't have any leaks so I don't know why it sounded so terrible. In the end my plated flute sounded like Darth Vader from Star Wars. :lol: I used the old flute for 5 years so maybe it was worn out. I guess a flute is different for everyone.
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wimm
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Postby wimm » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:34 am

I tried the Quantz 665, Elegante 785 and the Sankyo Etude a while ago. The 758 being solid silver sounded way superior to the other, plated flutes so decided to buy this flute. I am really really happy with this flute, it was a big difference, not only to my ears but also to others. Now, it could just be because the 785 is handmade and the others not but I believe it is a combination of metal AND craftmanship, whereby the latter will be the most important factor I admit, but I am convinced silver does make a difference...

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Phineas
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Postby Phineas » Wed Dec 16, 2009 6:09 am

These discussions bring up the same questions!

What is a good sound?

From my experience, the headjoint dictates whether a flute player will like or dislike the sound and playability of a flute. The material makes little difference. Solid silver vs Silver plated/Clad is a coolness thing.

I had a Buffet International Model, with a wood head joint. Even though my flute was metal, it sound more like a wood flute. A proven point that the design of the headjoint often over shadows the material of the body!

@wimm
You just proved my point! The 665 does not have the same headjoint as the 785.

Just my .02 USD

Phineas

fluteguy18
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Postby fluteguy18 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:05 am

Exactly Phineas. It was the difference in craftsmanship (and headjoint) that made the Pearl Elegante seem so much better.

And as a side note. There is a BIG difference between the Buffet silver plated flute you had, and the Yamaha you have now. Try comparing a new Yamaha 200/300 series (with the same mechanical specs... open holes and the like) against your 400 series. There really isn't that big of a difference.

kimflute26
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Postby kimflute26 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:52 am

Yes... with all due respect to lula, if you tried a silver plated Muramatsu EX it might give your current flute a run for its money. I've tried just about every flute imaginable during the 2 years that I've searched for a new professional instrument.... and a lot of my early assumptions having changed entirely (one of those being that solid silver always equals better sound).

I recently read that once Albert Cooper made a headjoint of a "new kind of material" that he allowed a bunch of flutists to try out. They guessed all sorts of things like 10% gold, 20% platinum... As it turned out, he had made it from a melted down kitchen saucepan. :)

In the end, the headjoint really does make the flute, as Phineas pointed out. After my long search I believe I may have finally found a beautiful combination that I'm going to purchase. The body of this flute is a plated Muramatsu EX.... but the headjoint is solid 9K gold. You wouldn't believe the power and beautiful sound I can get out of that flute (and the silver plated body really makes no difference... I believe the sound would be just about the same if I were to put the head on a solid Mura GX, for example). Just my two cents..

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pied_piper
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Postby pied_piper » Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:46 am

After my long search I believe I may have finally found a beautiful combination that I'm going to purchase. The body of this flute is a plated Muramatsu EX.... but the headjoint is solid 9K gold. You wouldn't believe the power and beautiful sound I can get out of that flute (and the silver plated body really makes no difference... I believe the sound would be just about the same if I were to put the head on a solid Mura GX, for example).
Pairing a gold headjoint with a sterling silver or silver plated body is indeed a very powerful and cost effective combination. I have a Williams 14K headjoint on a Muramatsu AD body and it is a great setup for me. I previously commented on this topic in another thread. See these postings:

http://www.fluteland.com/board/viewtopi ... 17&start=8
http://www.fluteland.com/board/viewtopi ... 7&start=11
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

lula
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Postby lula » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:49 pm

I have never heard of a Muramatsu flute before so I have no idea how these look or sound so your flute might be better than mine. :?
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