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Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? #2123260
07/26/13 11:11 AM
07/26/13 11:11 AM
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Now that I'm shopping for a piano for myself, one of the models I wanted to audition was the Charles Walter W-190, a 6'3" grand piano. However, unless I visit the Walter factory in Elkhart, Indiana, it looks like I will have to give up trying that model. I can find plenty of piano dealers that carry the Walter vertical models, but the only dealer in the eastern US that carried Walter grands was in Skokie, Illinois (Kurt Saphir Pianos) - and the only model that HE carried was the W-175, a 5'9" model. (Too small for me.)

I asked a number of retailers that carried the Walter verticals why they didn't carry the Walter grands, and they would only say that the pianos didn't sell. None of them had anything bad to say about the instruments, other than they didn't sell.

Thus I put this question to all of the members - pianists, teachers, retailers, marketers , manufacturers, whomever - Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell?


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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123280
07/26/13 11:41 AM
07/26/13 11:41 AM
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I'm going to venture that the Walters, which Del has said he designed to be controllable and musical don't sound as loud and bright for their length as the other pianos in the showroom. Having been in and around the home stereo, musical equipment and sound reinforcement businesses, I can assure the phenomena, "Loud sells" is recognized and well known. In any kind of audio listening tests, normalizing the volumes is first and foremost in getting accurate results. So the louder, brighter piano sells, the user gets it home, plays it for a week and then comes here to find out how to make it less bright and loud.

Kurt


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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123282
07/26/13 11:47 AM
07/26/13 11:47 AM
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I would suspect that so few of them are made that they are not common in stores. There is not enough exposure of them to the public to generate much demand.


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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123287
07/26/13 11:50 AM
07/26/13 11:50 AM
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I have a feeling he was trying to convey that it's the larger sizes that are hard to sell. I go through this myself a lot. I want to put out the big grands but they are hard to sell no matter what brand they are and the floor space can be better used with 3 or 4 smaller pianos.

Houses today have smaller rooms, people are downsizing like crazy and making due with less. I have a 6.5 ft grand in my living room but even that is too big for the shape of the room. Most people I see want something over 5.2 ft but under 6 feet. I sold maybe 3 last year that were over 6 feet. This also applies to uprights. 57 inches is standard width on a console or studio but go just 5 inches wider and they are tough to sell


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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123289
07/26/13 11:50 AM
07/26/13 11:50 AM
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Rio Grande Valley of Texas
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Originally Posted by Almaviva
...and they would only say that the pianos didn't sell. None of them had anything bad to say about the instruments, other than they didn't sell.


You can't sell a grand with a catalog sheet, so therefore, they don't sell any.

Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123293
07/26/13 11:53 AM
07/26/13 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Almaviva
I can find plenty of piano dealers that carry the Walter vertical models, but the only dealer in the eastern US that carried Walter grands was in Skokie, Illinois (Kurt Saphir Pianos) - and the only model that HE carried was the W-175, a 5'9" model.


Ruggero Pianos in Raleigh NC handles CW pianos. I don't know what they have in stock at this time, however. Call them.

Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123300
07/26/13 12:06 PM
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Honestly they are hard to get! I had a 175 and just sold that. In many cases the larger grands don't sell. PM me I may be getting a 6'4" in soon.



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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Piano*Dad] #2123308
07/26/13 12:36 PM
07/26/13 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad

Ruggero Pianos in Raleigh NC handles CW pianos. I don't know what they have in stock at this time, however. Call them.


Sorry, Dad, they carry only the uprights now. They used to sell the grands, but not anymore.

Thanks for helping, anyway.

Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123323
07/26/13 01:04 PM
07/26/13 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Almaviva
Now that I'm shopping for a piano for myself, one of the models I wanted to audition was the Charles Walter W-190, a 6'3" grand piano. However, unless I visit the Walter factory in Elkhart, Indiana, it looks like I will have to give up trying that model. I can find plenty of piano dealers that carry the Walter vertical models, but the only dealer in the eastern US that carried Walter grands was in Skokie, Illinois (Kurt Saphir Pianos) - and the only model that HE carried was the W-175, a 5'9" model. (Too small for me.)

I asked a number of retailers that carried the Walter verticals why they didn't carry the Walter grands, and they would only say that the pianos didn't sell. None of them had anything bad to say about the instruments, other than they didn't sell.

Thus I put this question to all of the members - pianists, teachers, retailers, marketers , manufacturers, whomever - Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell?

Good question—and I'll be interested in seeing what others have to say.

In part, I think, it is because the company never really marketed them. To my knowledge they never put together a brochure of any kind describing the features and selling points of the grands. And the only “features list” I've seen said almost nothing about the design, structural or performance strengths of the pianos. I've talked to more than one dealer who carried the verticals but not the grands and who had no idea of what the grands had to offer. All they knew was that there were only two sizes available and other manufacturers offered a “full line.” Oh, and their tone wasn't bright like Yamaha (or whatever...).

These pianos came along at a time when piano sales in general were in decline and competition was becoming increasingly aggressive. No piano will sell itself either to a dealer or to a prospective end user. Very few pianos are impulse purchases; people have to have reasons to make whatever buying decision they make. And the company did not seem to clearly articulate those reasons or promote them.

The Walter vertical established itself by offering something different and arguably better to the piano buyer; it had/has a different voice and a different look. It's strength was in the fact that it was not a cookie-cutter piano and the company had done a good job of maintaining those differences and articulating them. The grands were also designed to offer something different; a different level of performance and a different look. But too often they were voiced—frequently at the factory—to “sound like a Yamaha” or some such. Which, of course, defeated the whole acoustical balance of the instruments and worked against the very strengths that had made the company so successful with the verticals.

And this illustrates one of the problems with piano design—especially with grand pianos—that a manufacturer faces in terms of marketing vs. in-home performance. The Walter grands, both of them, but especially the 175, were designed to offer a somewhat warmer, more dynamic sound than was common during the 1990s and early 2000s. But, while this sound is desirable in a living room or music room, it does not hold up well in a large, open showroom where the emphasis is usually on power and “projection” (whatever that means).

Prospective purchasers frequently have to be educated to discern the differences between how a piano sounds in a showroom vs. how it will sound in the home. Many, if not most, dealers (or, more specifically, piano salespeople) can't be bothered to articulate these difference if, indeed, they actually understand them themselves. It is easier to simply demonstrate “power” and promote popular brand name appeal. And once the piano is delivered to the home it is easier to simply dump the problem in the lap of the technician to try to voice the piano down to match to room and make the customer happy.

I can't begin to count the number of times I have heard some variation of, “Oh, I just love my new BrandX piano but I can't stand how it sounds; it's just too bright!” We never hear, “I just love my new BrandX car but I can't stand how it drives.” People don't “just love” cars they can't stand to drive—it's just not logical—yet we regularly hear this from piano owners. And, yes, we can voice that piano that was designed to be bright down some but it's not going to be the same as selecting a piano that was designed to have warmer and more dynamic sound to begin with.

Anyway, those are some of the reasons why I think the Walter grands are not more readily available. It will be interesting to read what others have to say.

ddf


Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
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(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Nash. Piano Rescue] #2123324
07/26/13 01:16 PM
07/26/13 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Nash. Piano Rescue
I have a feeling he was trying to convey that it's the larger sizes that are hard to sell. I go through this myself a lot. I want to put out the big grands but they are hard to sell no matter what brand they are and the floor space can be better used with 3 or 4 smaller pianos.

Houses today have smaller rooms, people are downsizing like crazy and making due with less. I have a 6.5 ft grand in my living room but even that is too big for the shape of the room. Most people I see want something over 5.2 ft but under 6 feet. I sold maybe 3 last year that were over 6 feet. This also applies to uprights. 57 inches is standard width on a console or studio but go just 5 inches wider and they are tough to sell

And this should be one of the selling strengths of the Walter grands. The Walter 175 grand (5' 9") takes up about as much floor space as competitive 5' 4" to 5' 6" grands. And a lot less floor space than many 5' 7" grands. Yet I've talked to many dealers who were unaware of this. And if the dealers themselves don't know it you can be sure their salespeople don't know it either.

ddf


Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123353
07/26/13 02:10 PM
07/26/13 02:10 PM
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I went to a music store in Dayton and played a Walter grand. I think it was the larger version. From what I read on here, I really wanted to like it. The also had a Kawai RX-6. I don't really get why everyone says the Walters have a warm, mellow tone. I played the Kawai and Walter back to back, and the Walter was a lot brighter. Keep in mind, this is the only Walter grand I've played, so maybe this one was voiced up?

At any rate, I chose the Kawai, and even it is a little bright in my home. I'm having it voiced down at every tuning, but it's an ongoing process. Loud & bright seems to be the craze with modern pianos, and it's a shame. Maybe that's good for concert halls, but it sucks in a home. It's sort of like the HDTVs. In the showroom, they're all set to "torch mode" with the backlights cranked to the max. I guess that is what sells, but try watching it that way at home in a dim room. You have to turn the brightness waaaay down. It's too bad turning down brightness on a piano isn't so easy!


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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123406
07/26/13 04:16 PM
07/26/13 04:16 PM
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I think they are wonderful pianos.

But...unless you are a well-informed shopper, you're not paying that kind of money for an "unknown" piano.

Sad, because I think they are world class and worthy of world-wide export.


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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123414
07/26/13 04:37 PM
07/26/13 04:37 PM
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Quote
Houses today have smaller rooms, people are downsizing like crazy and making due with less. I have a 6.5 ft grand in my living room but even that is too big for the shape of the room. Most people I see want something over 5.2 ft but under 6 feet. I sold maybe 3 last year that were over 6 feet. This also applies to uprights. 57 inches is standard width on a console or studio but go just 5 inches wider and they are tough to sell


If that be the case, why aren't the used six-footers dirt cheap?


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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Radio.Octave] #2123422
07/26/13 05:02 PM
07/26/13 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
I went to a music store in Dayton and played a Walter grand. I think it was the larger version. From what I read on here, I really wanted to like it. The also had a Kawai RX-6. I don't really get why everyone says the Walters have a warm, mellow tone. I played the Kawai and Walter back to back, and the Walter was a lot brighter. Keep in mind, this is the only Walter grand I've played, so maybe this one was voiced up?

Yes, that would be voicing. And rather inappropriate voicing at that.

The problem is that the Walter grands were never supposed to be presented as “bright” or “powerful” pianos. They certainly do have good power but, as with all pianos that start life with a warmer, more dynamic tone, this becomes more evident when it is placed in an appropriate room.

If a designer wants a bright and powerful piano then he will—should—select the scale and soundboard parameters that will best give that voice and then fit the piano with appropriate hammers. This is the only way to end up with a bright and powerful piano that will still reasonably good timbral dynamics.

If you start with a piano that was designed to have a warmer and more dynamic tone to begin with and then try to “voice it up" about all you can do get where you think you want to be is to make the hammers artificially harder; usually by chemically hardening them. This will make the voice brighter but the resulting spring-like characteristic of on impact will be more linear and timbral dynamics will be lost. Chemical hardeners always affect the non-linear spring characteristic of wool hammers. Heavily voiced hammers—either up or down—are never as satisfactory as hammers that start out appropriate to the design.

If I was looking at this piano with a potential purchaser I would probably advise them to plan on replacing the hammers with something more suitable to the design and, once the new hammers were installed, to make sure that whoever did the voicing on the original hammers was never allowed to be in the same room without adult supervision.



Quote
At any rate, I chose the Kawai, and even it is a little bright in my home. I'm having it voiced down at every tuning, but it's an ongoing process. Loud & bright seems to be the craze with modern pianos, and it's a shame. Maybe that's good for concert halls, but it sucks in a home. It's sort of like the HDTVs. In the showroom, they're all set to "torch mode" with the backlights cranked to the max. I guess that is what sells, but try watching it that way at home in a dim room. You have to turn the brightness waaaay down. It's too bad turning down brightness on a piano isn't so easy!

And that is the problem with hammers that start out some on the hard side. Whether that hardness is added chemically or—as is the case with the hammers on your piano—they come from the press somewhat on the hard and dense side. While the latter is certainly easier to voice and will result is a better overall tone response they do require more frequent and more extensive voicing over time.

ddf


Delwin D Fandrich
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(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123437
07/26/13 05:16 PM
07/26/13 05:16 PM
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Most manufacturers know that the majority of their buyers right now - and future - will be orientals, especially Chinese.

Any make who wants to survive and prosper in this market, must take this into their consideration, at least to some extent.

Perhaps others can comment better if and to which degree CW has thought about this in their current marketing.

Norbert





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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Norbert] #2123440
07/26/13 05:33 PM
07/26/13 05:33 PM
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In 2012, China’s piano output reached 379,746 units, accounting for 76.9% of the global piano output; in 2010-2012, the piano import volume surpassed the export volume in China, helping China be a leading piano importer in the world.


See:

Global & China Piano Industry Report 2012-2013

schwammerl.

Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Norbert] #2123444
07/26/13 05:54 PM
07/26/13 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Norbert
...will be orientals, especially Chinese.


You might want to refer to them as Asians. Many find the label "orientals" to be offensive.

Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Del] #2123445
07/26/13 05:54 PM
07/26/13 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Del

I can't begin to count the number of times I have heard some variation of, “Oh, I just love my new BrandX piano but I can't stand how it sounds; it's just too bright!” We never hear, “I just love my new BrandX car but I can't stand how it drives.” People don't “just love” cars they can't stand to drive—it's just not logical—yet we regularly hear this from piano owners. And, yes, we can voice that piano that was designed to be bright down some but it's not going to be the same as selecting a piano that was designed to have warmer and more dynamic sound to begin with.

ddf

^this

It's not just grands that have this problem. My K3 doesn't need to be played all that hard in order to fill the entire house with sound. It's great when nobody's at home and I can play my heart out, but I'm always on edge playing it w/o the half blow or mute pedal on when others are watching TV or talking in another room. Softer ballad type pieces also don't lend well to a loud, bright piano tone. My parents also don't take kindly to anything I say that might insinuate that I'm unsatisfied with this piano, like a suggestion that the piano should be voiced down or that the piano is a tad too loud for the house (after they complain that it's too loud). That being said, I don't really know how much of it has to do with my technique, the length of the keys, the action/hammers, or the piano itself. The large open spaces in the house, combined with my parents' love for minimalist/arts and craftsy type furniture (idk what you call it-it's that basic, simplistic Ikea/Ethan Allen type stuff you see in upscale suburban homes on HGTV or whatever), definitely contribute to the problem.

In all honesty, the only times I've ever reached the limits of a small piano were when I was playing one in a large room. My school usually uses a Kawai studio or an ancient Estey console in the auditorium, and occasionally I've been asked to play backup for band/choir concerts. That's when a large piano, like the K3 or a large grand, would'be came in handy. But in an ordinary living room, they'd be just too dang loud for normal use. I'd gladly trade my K3 for a smaller, quieter upright or grand.



Originally Posted by Norbert
Most manufacturers know that the majority of their buyers right now - and future - will be orientals, especially Chinese.


Well, at least this cracker didn't call 'em Chinks or Chinamen :P





Last edited by SBP; 07/26/13 06:02 PM.

2012 Kawai K3
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Guapo Gabacho] #2123451
07/26/13 06:05 PM
07/26/13 06:05 PM
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Williamsburg, VA
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Originally Posted by Guapo Gabacho
Originally Posted by Norbert
...will be orientals, especially Chinese.


You might want to refer to them as Asians. Many find the label "orientals" to be offensive.


Quite true. But Norbert may have an excuse as a non-native English speaker. I suspect "oriental" has been used to describe "east" for a rather long time in Germany and other European locales. And PC hasn't fully descended on that continent. smile

Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123477
07/26/13 07:01 PM
07/26/13 07:01 PM
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I have relatives in the SF Bay Area who are Orientals/Asians. I I did not know they would be offended by the word "Oriental". I will ask.

On Charles Walter 190 and 175, whatever the mfr is doing, they need to know that prospective buyer like me will be cautious of buying their grand if they take this "laid-back" attitude. A manufacturer who does not expend some effort to educate the consumers in this internet age and does not seem to be working at selling a line of product makes consumer like me worry about the support behind the product. Will it be supported after purchase?

My family does not want to purchase a CW 190 in two months, only to have it discontinued and then not supported by CW. The "death" of a product, due to neglect by its manufacturer, can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This post is extremely timely because we were about to visit Carnes in San Jose to check out their CW grands; if there are any at all on the floor.

Last edited by CalifPianoUser2013; 07/26/13 07:35 PM.
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