Richmond Piano was where I purchased.
Probably visited all local stores (5 total) three times each, having a variety of salesperson and test drive experiences. Some bad, some okay, some very nice.
Had a nice phone discussion with Kathy Harl when I first started. Braving the Northern Virginia and Maryland traffic was just not what I wanted to do for my skill level and needs. Maybe the next purchase!
Even considered the internet option (ebay, BHA, PSS). Just too much risk in the end and not the deal I was looking for... But all internet parties I contacted were helpful and appeared honest. I think one can buy an internet piano, but it is mostly the lower tier pianos where that makes sense for now.
Pianos I didn't try but would have liked to:
Mason and Hamlin (new)
Pianos I liked but just could not see spending for my skill level and having two rowdy boys in the house:
Pianos I considered at one time or another:
Kawai RX and GE series
Young Chang (when I first started)
Things that were turn me away from doing business (I obviously had potential to buy at any local store):
- Salespeople that didn't know the industry. (No, Never heard of X? How bout Steinway? Heard of that one?)
- Salespeople that couldn't say anything nice about anything not on their floor. (My recommendation is to always stay positive and encourage the buyer to do research themselves to find out any negatives.)
- Salespeople that continued to call but wouldn't provide a reasonable starting price point. (If it's obvious I'm doing my homework, you should treat me accordingly. I'm not interested in paying MSRP unless it's not ever in stock... never found that an issue with pianos)
- Out of tune pianos.
- The shadow... can I just test drive today?
I started with a flexible budget and was honest with all salespeople that I was aiming for value as one of my factors. If I can get a good deal on something based on my research, my budget will flex. So I was estimating somewhere between $8K and $20K.
I also considered used, but my search usually ended up in finding poorly cared for or pounded daily pianos.
What swayed me to the Vogel? Well, my first play on them wasn't anything impressive at all actually. And I didn't like the bird on the fallboard (how picky is that?). But that's why you have to go back 2 or 3 times to play pianos.
The second round of playing Boston and Kawai was not so impressive. Yamaha never really impressed. Had high hopes for Petrof but was disappointed.
What was the Vogel difference?
1 - Quality/Consistency of Workmanship - I find a German (ok, made in Poland) design and quality to be superior. Kawai was pretty good on this factor.
2 - Tone - Found the few Vogels I played to be just the right balance of warmth and brightness.
3 - Size - a 5'11" is what I was looking for size wise (you do need to aim for 6ft or larger)
to be continued...