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Pianos

Ronnie Dungan
Pianos

The real deal

Digital pianos may have stolen a huge chunk of their market, but many pianists believe you just can't replicate the feel of the traditional models

Although new models are less frequent than in other sectors, there is still plenty of choice when it comes to buying a new acoustic piano.

The basic technology remains the same, but manufacturing is improving and lowering the price for pianos of a very playable standard so there’s plenty to keep an eye on. MI Pro takes a look…

Given that the design of the piano was pretty much perfected some time ago, you shouldn’t expect anything too revolutionary on the new product front. The most eye opening thing is likely to be the retail price.
 
Nope, the innovation is for the digital boys. But the acoustic piano does make improvements in the standard of manufacture and decent instruments can be found even if you haven’t got the budget of Liberace.
 
Yamaha’s CFX concert grand piano was unveiled in 2010 and  has already appeared in some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls and has been selected by the winners of many international competitions including Yulianna Avdeeva who chose the CFX for her winning performance at the 2010 International Chopin Competition.

This year saw the introduction of the new 6'1-inch C3XA and 6'11-inch C6XA grand pianos.

The new models have many enhanced elements with improvements to the soundboard, ribs and braces – the three components most critical to sound quality – resulting in a richer variety of soundswhilst delivering deeper, more sustained resonance.

The performance of the soundboard has been improved by refining the crown and redesigning and strengthening the ribs. The braces have been better integrated with the soundboard and ribs, ensuring a better relationship between the materials and the overall instrument, designed to deliver an improved, solid and sustained sound.

Leanne Hassan, Yamaha’s marketing manager said: “We are delighted to be introducing these two new models which follow in the footsteps of our pioneering CFX Concert Grand. They are more affordable but still maintain Yamaha’s no-compromise approach, making them ideally suited to institutional users, music conservatoires and venues.”

Intermusic has a number of piano brands including those of C.Bechstein and Chinese manufacturer Pearl River.
 
Made in Europe the Bechstein brands include C.Bechstein, Academy Bechstein, Zimmermann and W.Hoffmann. The Pearl River operation boasts the largest factory in the world, producing 100,000 pianos every year, selling to more than 25 per cent of the Chinese population. Yamaha and Steinway have manufacturing agreements with the firm.

Pearl River piano brands include Bentley, Steinbach, Waldstein, Ritmuller and the latest, Kayserburg.

“With the strong product line up available to us and the determination of our experienced and dedicated expanding dealer network we are optimistic for the future,” said the firm’s director, Steve Hammett.
 
“We have famous and established brands as consumers and dealers become more focused.  Intermusic’s longstanding philosophy that dealers have to be profitable continues to encourage dealers to focus on our piano brands.”
New products include the European-made W.Hoffmann V.175 grand piano at around £19,350 built in the Bechstein Europe factory in the Czech Republic.

Just launched is the Bentley 121 upright  at £2,999. From the Pearl River factory, the range starts with the 108cm modern through the 115cm traditional upright, culminating in the new 121 Traditional.  The 148cm grand piano retailing at £6,999 completes the range.
 
Who says piano design doesn’t move with the times? Also new from Bechstein is a ‘silent’ piano system called Vario HDS.

 Available on upright and grand pianos and only factory installed by C.Bechstein technicians. Upright version retail for around £3,799, with Grand at £6,120 including installation.

A touch screen control panel slides out from under the keyboard turning on automatically.  The only wires visible are the headphones.
 
 A high definition optical sensor technology gives maximum dynamic response and avoids mechanical wear to the piano.

Additional voices such as strings, cathedral organ, harpsichord, electric piano are available.  There is also a recording facility and PC connectivity.
 
This coming autumn will see the release of a new line of Reid’s instruments that will be manufactured utilising the Seiler designed, 116 and 132 strung backs.  
Reid’s believes its range of pianos will give dealers the opportunity to stock affordable pianos, for students that have progressed with their playing and are seeking to upgrade to a high specification instrument.
 
A problem with many budget priced pianos that originate from China is that they have rather low keyboards too low for many of today’s rather tall teenagers. The Schaefer 112 M piano has a key bed height set at 62cm; which provides ample leg room for a good six footer. The instrument can be retailed at £1,995 with good margin.

Last year saw the introduction of the Reid Sohn 126cm Upright Piano. The instrument has been designed to incorporate a traditional ‘German Piano Tone’. It can be supplied with an ebony, walnut or mahogany gloss cabinet, or walnut satin.  RRP is around £4,080.

London’s Piano Warehouse is the trade distributor for Weber and Steinmayer pianos.

This month, the Weber W112S, the silent version of the Weber model W112 comes on line, available in black polish at an RRP of £3,745 it has a range of features  which the firm says is unavailable on any other entry level silent piano. The standard version of the W112 is now also available in white polish with an RRP of £2,655.

Sales of the Steinmayer brand continue to grow despite the current climate. Whilst the middle price bracket seems to have been most badly affected, sales of entry level pianos have been exceptionally buoyant, says the firm, with the best selling and award winning S108 (£2,090) continuing to exceed all expectations.
 
“This would seem to confirm that people are still buying but are definitely trading down,” said the firm’s Howard Martyn.

Steinway is offering a limited edition Imagine Series piano modelled after the white Steinway grand that John Lennon presented to Yoko Ono on her birthday in 1971. Each piano incorporates Lennon’s signature, music, and a medallion indicating its uniqueness.

The music desk of each piano incorporates one of four different John Lennon original drawings – Come Together, obviously named after the opening track on Abbey Road; Grand Piano captures the song writing process; Freda People and Self Portrait, perhaps John Lennon’s most famous drawing. Possibly his only one, in fact.

The soundboard of every Imagine piano has a full colour decal, also based on a drawing from John Lennon.
 
A portion of the proceeds from every piano sold will also be donated to The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.

Barnes & Mullins doesn’t sell pianos but it does have some useful looking accessories, such as its range of piano stools.
 
The A15 single stool is adjustable and the duet model features a music compartment, with both stools available in a black, high gloss finish.  
Retail prices  for the stools are: £59.95 for the A16 and £99.95 for the A15.

W.Hoffmann V.175 grand piano – £19,350
Built in the C.Bechstein Europe factory with “German know-how” of piano production and highly trained professionals. It weighs in at 362kg and comes in a black polish finish.

Schaefer Budget Line Chinese Piano – £1,995
The Schaefer 112 M piano overcomes the problem common to many Chinese made models of low-keyboards, with a key bed height set at  62cm, providing plenty of leg room.

Bentley 121 upright – £2,999
The Bentley range starts with the 108cm model up to the 115cm traditional upright, culminating in the highly accomplished new 121 Traditional.  The 148cm grand piano retailing at only £6,999 completes the range.

Reid Sohn Samick 126 – £4,080
The Reid Sohn 126cm Upright has been designed to incorporate a traditional ‘German Piano Tone’.  It is available with an ebony, walnut or mahogany gloss cabinet, or walnut satin finish.

Weber W112S – £3,745
A silent version of the Weber model W112, available in black polish with a range of features unavailable on any other entry level silent piano, according to the manufacturer. The standard version of the W112 is now also available in white polish with an RRP of £2,655.

Yamaha C3XA & C6XA – £24,199 - £31,699
The soundboard, ribs and braces – the three components most critical to sound quality – have been significantly improved, resulting in a richer variety of sounds and expression whilst delivering deeper, more sustained resonance. The sound is also enhanced by a new type of music wire in the new XA models.

Steinmayer S108 – £2.090
The S108 (108 cm high) has a warm even tone and a light easy touch. Represents very good value for money and is available in black or mahogany polyester.

Steinway Imagine John Lennon – £TBC
One for the die-hard Lennon/Beatles fan. Who also has a huge wallet. Custom built at the New York and Hamburg factories, the Imagine Series is only available from a Steinway Dealer. Comes in white (obviously) and features a number of John Lennon style drawings and imagery. It is available in a number of sizes: 170cm; 180cm; 188cm; 211cm and 274cm.  

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Tags: Yamaha, barnes & mullins, steinway, weber, samick, steinmayer, acoustic pianos, reid sohn, bentley pianos, schaefer, w. hoffmann

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