A word of caution here: I am by no means an expert. In fact, I am about the farthest this site has from one. That having been said...
I purchased a Vic Firth drum mute for my snare earlier this week so that I could practice on something other than a pad while my daughter is asleep. Last night I played for an hour in the room that shares a wall with her bedroom using the mute and she did not wake up.
The mute, in my inexpert opinion, has a little less rebound than the drum head, but not by so much as to piss me off. I found the difference in feel from the un-muted head to be far less dramatic than the difference in feel going from the drum to a practice pad. The sound is clearly not that of the un-muted drum, but it isn't irritating. My initial feeling was that I had more fun practicing on the Vic Firth muted drum to practicing the same things on my pad. The pad is still valuable, but its nice to have the option to play the actual drum without a lot of noise.
Like I said, I'm a noob, but I found the mute to be a good compromise. It beats not playing at all.