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Silver Content in Flutes - the myth!

by Administrator 3. July 2012 15:20

IT is widely believed that the best flutes have as many components made of silver as possible. In broad terms this is correct. However consider the following using Yamaha as an example:

Yamaha make a popular step up flute with a solid headjoint (YFL311) and the model above (with solid tube) is the YFL411. Inevitably it is more expensive than the YFL311. They also make a model YFL514 which has the same silver content as the YFL311, but is more expensive than the YFL411. How does that work then?

Clearly Yamaha think that the YFL514 will out perform the YFL411 or they wouldn’t be able to charge more for it. Equally clear is the fact that silver content isn’t the final arbiter of performance or the YFL514 would be hopelessly outclassed by the high volume of silver in the YFL411.

There are also some highly respected flutes (Miyazawa PB102 and Altus 807) comparable in price with the YFL514, but which only have a solid lip plate – hardly any silver at all and yet very high performance. How does this make any sense when, if you look at any manufacturers catalogue, it seems that pretty much the only thing that changes as you spend more money is silver content?

Answer: Design. Silver only offers a significant performance enhancement when added in conjunction with sophisticated design changes. If you have a flute that is badly designed and constructed, but made entirely out of silver it will still be awful. If you take professional flute designs and put them into a flute made out of silverplated nickel (like most student flutes), then you would still have a responsive, lively and capable instrument. 

So, in theory the more expensive flutes have more precious metal content and more hand crafting and sophisticated design elements.