We had a customer today exactly between these 2 pianos - however my lips remain sealed...
I think Norbert is referring to me as the *unnamed* customer that was deciding between these two brands/models (appreciate the anonymity Norbert!).
I can give you my perspective on our decision-making process, and hopefully it'll help you in yours. Some background first:
- I don't play piano.... at all. This is for my daughter (and eventually sons), who seems to be outgrowing our current Casio electric. At least that's what her instructor told me.
- In automobile parlance, we're "Honda/Acura" (and maybe soon "Hyundai") people. Nothing fancy, but we seek good value, and a respectable nameplate.
- We need a small/medium grand (grand vs upright is admittedly aesthetics).
So being a non-player, I went about my search on a more technical basis, looking at 'value for money'. I did tour the local shops and looked at the standards -- Steinway/Boston/Essex, and Yamaha/Kawai. I think I figured out the top European models were out of my price range early on (unless I found a good deal on Craigslist). I stumbled upon Heritage almost by chance, looking for local piano shops with different brands. As luck would have it, Norbert carried a couple of brands that interested me, so it was worth the trip out to the suburbs.
I have to say at this point that Norbert is a heck of a character. He's very different from other piano salespeople I've encountered. Most cultivate a helpful, but reserved and inoffensive personna (almost like going to a high-end department store). Not saying Norbert is *offensive*, but he was very blunt, verbose, and highly knowledgeable -- really refreshing. I'm sure some people might find it a bit off-putting (i.e. those that like high-end department stores), but I personally enjoyed his passion and, quite frankly, he and I were on the same wavelength as to getting good value. His wife Lina was also very lovely and was kind enough to distract my kids while Norbert discussed pianos and final terms. Overall, I enjoyed the buying experience more than I realistically would have expected. Norbert, charasmatic as he is, could very well have been snowing me (I don't think he was), but I came out of the transaction feeling good about it. The sign of a very good salesman and/or an honest man -- I think he's both.
Back to pianos, we did narrow it down to the Ritmuller 160 and the Brodmann 162. Generally, I think the Rit160 is cheaper by a few thousand, whereas the Brod162 is relatively closer in price to the Rit170.
Both pianos are very nice. They're both very warm/musical to my untrained ears, and it was very surprising how much I enjoyed the sound, particularly compared to a used Yamaha that he had in the store (which I gently accused him of - and he vehemently denies - detuning to make the other pianos sound better, haha!).
Looking at specs (I thought Ritmuller was better at spelling out what was actually inside, whereas Brodmann just name-dropped on a few of the major components), it's kind of a pick-'em. I relied on this and other forums for more knowledeable people than I to assess, so that probably gave me the favourable impression of these two makes.
Ultimately, I decided on the Brodmann for the following reasons:
- A friend of mine that works in the local classical music scene, whom I asked about these brands, noted that a noted local pianist, or someone in his clan, had bought a Brodmann. I figure classical pianists have a king's palatte and a pauper's wallet, so they're going to spend as little as possible but still demand an enjoyable sound. +1 for Brodmann.
- My daughter didn't like the feel of the Ritmuller keys -- specifically the ebony sharps (!). Go figure, she doesn't like the nice stuff. I would've forced this down her throat if this was the only issue. Really, though, it's just because she's used to a plastic keyboard. I know she would've appreciated the higher quality *in time*.
- Thankfully, my daughter also had an actual piano-related preference for the Brodmann. She found the Bass Clef (?) on the Ritmuller too soft/light.
- My friend did note that the Brodmann sound seemed fuller, whereas the Ritmuller, while nice, was a bit more clipped. When I sat and listened, I *think* I noticed that. What I did notice, though, was that the Rit seemed a bit more muted.
- Little things, like the Brodmann had wider castor wheels. I think the Rit170 had double wheels, which are supposed to be better?
- Thinking about it a bit more broadly (and maybe it's a bit of self-justification), the two pianos are "Chinese pianos", whatever that term connotes. However, I looked at the Ritmuller as a Chinese piano that imported a lot of European talent/parts to create a really nice piano at a fantastic price. In the end, though, it is still a Chinese piano from a Chinese company. The Brodmann is effectively the same, but is a European company that manufactures its pianos in China for cost-savings -- just like Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway/Essex, etc. I know it seems like hair-splitting and it really is two-sides of the same coin, but qualitatively this may make a difference in how much resale value the Brodmann will retain over the long-term (particularly when Brodmann comes out with its European-built pianos, hopefully elevating the brand beyond a 'value-brand').
- Not much for glitz, but the Brodmann logo on the side was kind of a nice touch. It also suggests to me that they're unashamed of their name and in fact expect people to be proud of showing off what they're playing.
- I know we're taking a bit of a risk on a relatively new nameplate (goes against my more tried-and-true nature), but I had to rely on the online reviews, background of Brodmann executives (I assume ex-Bosendorfer staff would rather poke their own eyes out rather than have their names attached to a crappy piano; also their expertise must have filtered down into the Brodmanns), and use of major parts that have some history to them.
Price-wise, either of these two are really great value on an overall basis. I managed to justify the differential between the Ritmuller and Brodmann for the reasons above, but truthfully I don't think we'd be selling ourselves too short if we went with the Ritmuller. Norbert and I managed to come to a very *fair* price for the Brodmann, certainly per Larry Fine's suggestions. From web archives of the old MSRP, though, I wish I bought it a few years earlier! I mean, I know that there are healthy markups and negotiating room inherently built-into the MSRPs, but a 50% increase in MSRP from 3-4 years ago for essentially the same piano?!? Damn....
There it is, for better or worse. Hopefully I've made some sense for someone. I'll try to remember to post a follow-up when we get the piano in January (finishing renovations, and I'm waiting for a new one), once my daughter's piano teacher and another piano teacher friend have a chance to test drive it.