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New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
#1175272 04/06/09 01:28 AM
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Hi everyone,

I'm in the process of screwing up my courage to make the leap from my upright to a small grand. I'm looking at pianos in the under $25K range, and my short list of new grands would probably be the following: Estonia 165, Petrof IV, Bohemia 170 and Vogel 177. (I have to admit that of these I've only played the Bohemia, but I will be playing the others soon and expect, from all that I've read, to generally have a favorable impression).

The other possibility I'm considering is a used/rebuilt older piano... One dealer/re-builder has a used Mason & Hamlin A from the '50s (Aolian era) that I would not consider as-is, though it's sustain seems terrific and it looks to be in good shape. But the dealer has told me that with a deposit on the piano they will do a couple thousand dollars worth of work - replacing hammers and shanks, cleaning the strings and plate, etc, and going through the action to rebalance it, and (I need to verify this) they will refund my whole deposit at the end if I'm not happy with the final product. They're asking about 20K for the end result.

So, on the one hand, the idea of the M&H is very compelling - the name, the reputation, and the fact that I very much like the M&Hs I've played. But I would have to wait several months to see/hear the end result which is the only way I could make any real choice. And I would have to bring in an independent tech (before the work? after the work? both?) to help me evaluate.

Or... there are these new pianos, ready to roll, complete with warrantees...

Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated...

Also: I've been told that I probably cannot afford a fully rebuilt M&H A in my price range, though maybe a Knabe? And the only full rebuilds I've seen so far anyway have been Steinways - either beyond my price range or they just didn't sound/feel great to me.

Thanks so much in advance for your help!

-mo



Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
mo689 #1175276 04/06/09 01:49 AM
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It is impossible for anyone else to say what your comfort level with a used piano might be. However, you should try as many new pianos within your price range as you can to see what they are like before committing yourself one way or another. The experience will be good for you, no matter what you finally decide.


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Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
mo689 #1175279 04/06/09 02:03 AM
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Country Pianos has several restored M&H's here.

When buying a restored piano, you're essentially paying for the restoration. It's a good idea to learn precisely what will be changed and what will not be - and why.

You might want to phone Country Piano and learn what was done to the ones which they have for sale.

I'm sceptical about leaving the original strings in a 50-year-old piano. If the replies don't include info re the action, you might want to start a new thread on that subject. Same advice re the hammers. IMO replacing them with Renners would not be a great idea. If you pursue the M&H, you might want to talk to the rebuilder re using Ronsen hammers, which are likely to more closely approximate the originals.

In general it's a good idea to buy a completed restoration. A prepurchase inspection by an experienced tech who has no affiliation with the seller is the best used piano money that you can spend.

In any case, you're just starting your auditioning and, as BDB alluded to above, there's a wide variety of tonal palettes available in the Bay Area. It's very much a buyer's market at the moment, so no need to rush.

We love piano search stories.





Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
FogVilleLad #1175301 04/06/09 03:36 AM
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A new Mason & Hamlin A is really not that much more $ than the reconditioned 1950's M&H A you're considering. Most in considering a M&H A will compare a "new" one vrs. a rebuilt (pre30's)pre-Aeolian one.Too much dinero for a reconditioned 50's A especially if you gotta wait for this non spec piano.I've noticed prices are higher in the bay area in general.You would be better off with any of the other "new" piano options you mentioned if considering this M&H.
Of course,a restored vintage M&H or Steinway would be the ultimate but what do I know! grin

P.S. Ronsen Wurtzen felt hammers as Fogville mentioned are a great choice as for hammers in replicating that vintage traditional M&H sound though voiced Renner Premium Blues can be nice also."Whatever floats your boat"That is the present hammer on the new M&H. Good luck! wink

Last edited by pianobroker; 04/06/09 03:37 AM.

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Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
pianobroker #1175357 04/06/09 06:27 AM
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There are a lot of threads that at least mention the issues involved in buying a so-called "core" piano before it has been restored. Most importantly, it is impossible to know what the piano will be like after it has been restored, and in the meantime you could have been shopping for other pianos. There must be already completed restorations in your area you could try. In any event, it sounds like you are beginning the exciting search process; before you decide on any piano, you should try all the pianos you can find. You might fall in love with the Estonia (lots of people on the Piano Forum do), or find a new Mason at a price you can afford, both of which might well be better options than the pre-rebuilt Mason A you describe.

Anyway, have fun!

Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
Rank Piano Amateur #1175365 04/06/09 06:46 AM
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Although I love MH pianos, I would not want to speculate how this particular MH would turn out after it was worked on. Let them work on it first and then decide! They are probably not going to be able to sell it as is.

I have never understood the concept of give me your money, but I will return it. Why is that then a deposit? ????

I would think that if you as well as I, like a MH sound, that you should watch the ads for slightly used A's or already restored. Have you checked PW ads? Craigslist? contacted local techs? Pianomart?

For instance there is a Faust-Harrison 'restored' 03 A (1959) on sale for $17,500 on Pianomart.

There's an A a couple of years old in NH for $23,000 on PW.

Of those others you have mentioned, I have only tried the Estonia and Bohemia. Friend has a Vogel and might be trading that in after couple of years. Petrof uprights were overly bright, so I did no check out their grands.

Have you also looked into Yamaha's and Kawaii's. They might be in your price range.


"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."
Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
lilylady #1175459 04/06/09 09:56 AM
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The new 5'6" Estonia is really hard to beat in that price range.
However, a Mason & Hamlin A from the 50s has the potential to be quite wonderful. At a minimum, a piano like this should be completely restrung and should get a new pinblock as well. Additionally, new hammers and shanks, and all of the appropriate felts in the action redone, in addition to complete regulation and voicing. Of course, this is a kind of minimum type job for a piano like this, and it assumes all of the things that are left original are in good to excellent shape ( a big assumption). If the people doing the work are excellent, you should get a very predictable result, however, you better hope you agree with their taste. Try several of their other instruments to get a feel for what you might end up with. And communication is key. The difference in sound between highly thought of hammers from companies such as Renner or Ronson is dramatic.
If you really like the idea of this M&H, and you can get them to do the work with a fully refundable deposit, and you have heard several other pianos from this firm with similar work done that were fantastic, it might be worth waiting for.
Of course, if in your search, you find something ready now that you absolutely love and is in your price range, more likely than not, that would end it.




Keith D Kerman
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Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
lilylady #1175467 04/06/09 10:02 AM
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Hi mo689,

Don't count new M&Hs out,... If you shop around I'm sure that you can find a brand new A within your budget,... maybe one that's been in the showroom for a couple of years or so,...

If you can find one in your area,... another American piano within your budget that you may want to check out is Charles Walter,...

Have fun shopping,... and don't be shy to bargain smile

Good luck,

Robert


Mason & Hamlin - A - 92514
Roland A-90 EX
"When you fall down,... pick up something!"
Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
Robert H #1175473 04/06/09 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Robert H
Hi mo689,

Don't count new M&Hs out,... If you shop around I'm sure that you can find a brand new A within your budget,... maybe one that's been in the showroom for a couple of years or so,...


I don't know how much bigger a discount stores are giving because of the recession or even if the discount on Masons has increased, but with a Fine MSRP of 50K a selling price of 25K would be 50% off which seems unlikely to me. I would be a little wary of a piano that hasn't sold for a few years, but you never know.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 04/06/09 10:14 AM.
Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
pianoloverus #1175859 04/06/09 10:45 PM
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FWIW, my reading of Larry Fine's book left me with the impression that M&H is best either new, or rebuilt vintage pre-~1932. He says they remained good 1932-early 1960s, then they really went south. But he likes the Burgetts and what they have done in recent years. So do I. I bought new a couple of years ago.


** Bob ** M&H AA 92809 **
Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
pianoloverus #1175860 04/06/09 10:47 PM
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Thanks for all your thoughts and feedback, everyone. Especially the reminder to take my time. As the "search engine" gets rev'd up I sometime forget that it's worth it to slow down and breath and trust that things will work out. I've decided to go ahead and put a deposit down on the M&H - I'm told, and we'll sign a contract, that it's fully refundable should I decide the piano's not for me. And I'm also continuing to talk with the tech about what work the piano can really use within a certain budget. We have agreed to try the Ronson hammers - thanks for that tip. It doesn't seem I have much to lose, and I'm certainly excited that I may have a very nice instrument at the end of it all. In the meantime, as a few of you said, I'll continue looking and learning and maybe something else even better will show up.

Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
M&HAAdriver #1175974 04/07/09 06:56 AM
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Look at L190s from Estonia. They are comparable in warm tones and superb deep bass with a resonanting liquid treble. Compares easily to others I've played. You won't be disappointed.

Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
Ianopi #1176153 04/07/09 01:47 PM
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mo, per Keith Kerman's suggestion, please talk to the rebuilder re strings and pinblock. (Keith's shop is both retail and rebuilds.)

Glad you're going to try the Ronsens. They should be lighter and more resilient than the Renners which are so often used these days. This should result in a tone which is true to the original.

If you continue to interact with the rebuilder, you may feel increasing pressure to complete the transaction. Please think thru what you're willing to invest in an M&H - and use the prices at Country Piano and the info re what their rebuilds include as benchmarks.

It's a buyer's market.




Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
FogVilleLad #1176154 04/07/09 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by FogVilleLad
mo,... and use the prices at Country Piano and the info re what their rebuilds include as benchmarks.


Benchmarks for inexpensive rebuilds or quality rebuilds?? Most of the top rebuilders at least in NYC are far more expensive.

Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
pianoloverus #1177160 04/09/09 01:32 AM
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I just want to say that this forum is great - I feel a lot of gratitude for the thoughts and advice I've received - thank you.

I went back to the rebuilder/dealer today and addressed some of the suggestions that have come up here... We ended up agreeing to go with the Ronson hammers, and I'm nervously optimistic. I am generally partial to a warm, round, singing tone, but I also like the clear, very present, "shimmer" that I've heard in the mid-upper treble of the M&Hs and I'm nervous that that might disappear with the Ronsons. Any thoughts about that?

We've also agreed that they will do the work on the action (the new hammers, shanks and flanges, key bushing, regulation, touch adjustment....) and then we will reevaluate whether to simply clean up the strings, soundboard, plate, etc. or to, perhaps, re-string the piano, which would cost me another $3500 to $5000 on top of the $20k depending on what else is included (dampers, etc). (They feel the pinblock is in good shape, and supposedly the piano has spent the majority of it's life in California, which is a good thing). I have some question about the price - it feels on the high end to me, and yet if a really fine instrument that I love is the result, that may not be an issue. In the meantime I have the Estonias, Petrof, Schimmel, and Vogel to look at next week as well as two rebuilt Steinways - an M and an L - that may just fall within my price range. Hoping to find a rebuilt M&H A out there as well - I have yet to play one. It's all fun, and exciting, and nerve racking!

Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
mo689 #1177169 04/09/09 02:00 AM
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I think that is very expensive for a used Mason & Hamlin A around here.


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Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
mo689 #1177171 04/09/09 02:05 AM
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The Ronsens should favor nuance over power. Cold pressed hammers are stable, once voiced. You can get better info re this by posting on the Tuner-Tech's forum. M&H's are powerhouse pianos, so there's no danger of this piano becoming a wall flower.

Re the price, you're getting up to the level at which you can buy a completed restoration which probably will already include restringing. This is an Aeloian era piano. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the Golden Era pianos on Country Piano's site have higher status. Re BDB's post above, everything seems on the high side. John Pels is a teacher who also rebuilds pianos, both for himself and others. You might want to PM him re the price for restringing. Even $3,500 seems high to me. John P. will probably know the wholesale price for strings.

Our climate in the Bay Area is relatively benign, so it's possible that the pinblock is still in good shape.

Please take a pause which refreshes. Call pianobroker and see what he's got in stock. He's mostly Steinway, but does do M&H. His posts are remarkably forthright. His contact info is
_________________________
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If that doesn't work, then consider getting a plane ticket from one of the cheapo ticket sites, flying back East and auditioning the pianos at Country Piano.

Rebuilders should have extra hammers. Tell them to pop a few Ronsens on one.

It's a buyer's market and you're in a position to buy.

If you really like one, you can get it shipped via Keyboard Carriage to a local dealer who'll arrange final delivery to your home.

Please don't rush. You're considering buying an item which by its nature is variable.





Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
FogVilleLad #1177182 04/09/09 03:35 AM
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$3500 is more than fair as for addressing the complete top end of a Mason & Hamlin grand with or without pinblock replacement. The actual restringing of the piano is only a part of addressing the top end. Actually if one is going to upgrade the top end of a quality piano like a M&H,one is gonna at minimum refinish the soundboard, address or shim any cracks,maybe recap and repin the bridges,install new agraffes,replace the pinblock,reguild the harp,refelt the harp preparing the harp for restringing,chip and perform numerous pitchraises and tunings just to somewhat stabilize the stretching strings.Refinish the damper heads along with changing the damper felt. Actually M&H is more labour intensive to restring in that thay have individual brass half rounds compared to Steinway with the sectional duplex scale bars. Actually $3500 is a bargain grin
What is not a bargain is the out the door price $ of the piano considering what they are actually doing in upgrading the piano from it's present state. If you aren't changing the wippens,it is assumed you are not changing the backchecks or let off buttons or the damper action or any other action related parts other than the hammer,shank.flanges.Now if they are not changing the pinblock and not doing the refinish you're really not doing too much for that 25K. Actually changing the pinblock on the Aeolian Masons,Knabes,Chickerings etc. is probably a good idea in that the shortcoming in the pinblocks of that era was in the workmanship as for fit rather than a detrimental climatic issue.Actually my rebuilder could change the hammer,shank,flanges,rebush the keys and regulate the stack to the piano in one day if the urgency was there.
A complete M&H A restoration less a new soundboard,bridges ribs could be had, no problem from any firm in the country for your newly proposed pricepoint.

As for your pending arrangement with the dealer,it's really just a good faith noncommital ? on behalf of both parties so why even bother with any formalities. As long as either party can recind at any time without notice theres nothing binding. A good faith deposit shows your seriousness in your pursuit but it's a win win for you.You can't breach a contract when theres no contract to breach.
I might inquire as for whether the tech/rebuilder is versed with Ronsen hammers in that if one isn't you risk positive results in that the voicing is only as good as the voicer who has hands on experience with Ronsen. hammers. You got to juice them! Wurtzen felt?,Bacon felt?,maple or sapele molding or ? wink

Last edited by pianobroker; 04/09/09 04:04 AM.

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Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
pianobroker #1177308 04/09/09 10:41 AM
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Hi mo689,

I just noticed that you're in San Francisco,... you may want to visit with Glenn Woodruff at JB Piano in San Rafael, CA,... not too far north accross the Golden Gate Bridge,... Check out what he has and tell Glenn your budget,... I'm sure that he'll do his best to help you out.

If you're a bit more adventurous,... check out www.mgpianos.com
MG Pianos was an M&H dealer in Florida,... they went out of business about a year ago. The site still shows a new mahogany Monticello M&H A available for under $25K (If I remembered correctly this piano was manufactured in 2003/2004). If it is still available,... of course you need to be very careful and do everything you can to check out this piano,... but who knows,... it might be the one for you,...

Good luck,

Robert


Mason & Hamlin - A - 92514
Roland A-90 EX
"When you fall down,... pick up something!"
Re: New grands vs. used Mason & Hamlin?
pianobroker #1177309 04/09/09 10:45 AM
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Thanks again for the very helpful info and suggestions.

To be clear: unless I misunderstood, the quote was about $3200 just for re-stringing. The $5000 would include re-stringing plus dampers plus perhaps some other things we didn't get into specifically. I did not get the sense we were talking about "addressing the complete top end". As you are, I'm wondering about $25k for a refurbished as opposed to rebuilt piano. Although the other thought I have is that rather than 80 or 90 yrs. old this piano is closer to 50 and perhaps doesn't require the sort of overhaul that a "golden era" piano might(?).

The other question that keeps coming up for me is, what is the actually quality difference between the "golden era" M&Hs and the Aolian era considered to be? Larry Fine simply says something about the Aolian's being of somewhat less quality but still good (something to that effect). Maybe I should do a separate post to that effect?

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