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How good can OEM pianos get?
#2132567 08/13/13 11:29 PM
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Let me put this hypothetical scenario to you.

Christian Bluthner visits Ningbo, China, and proposes to Hailun Chen that the former's company build the premium line of Bluthner pianos to be sold to the domestic Chinese market. Herr Bluthner explains to Mr. Chen, "Now Hailun, these will be the exact same piano models that we build in Germany. The design, touch, tone, quality of materials, fit and finish, and longevity of the pianos made in Ningbo will be just as good as the ones made in Leipzig. Some of our quality control staff from Germany will be working with your staff to ensure that Bluthner quality standards are maintained. Can we do business according to those terms?"

Mr. Chen can reply in one of two different ways:

Answer #1 - "Sure, Chris, no problem. These Chinese-built Bluthners will be more expensive to build than the other OEM pianos we are currently making, but we at Hailun can build a piano to the design and quality standards of Bluthner or anybody else for that matter. Let's work up a rough draft of the contract, then let's do lunch."

Answer #2 - "Chris, we can do business, but not according to those terms. We'd love to build a piano just as good as the ones that Bluthner makes, but we don't have that capability - at least not yet. Our workers don't have the necessary training and experience for such a task. Not all of the parts and raw materials of Bluthner-level quality standards can be obtained from Asian suppliers. Our factory is not configured to build limited-quantity, high-quality pianos requiring high levels of time-intensive hand preparation. What we can do for you is build our basic Hailun piano, make a few minor changes, slap the Bluthner name on the fallboard, and voila! - a Bluthner piano made in China. If you're interested in such an arrangement, let's work up a rough draft of the contract, then let's do lunch."

My question is - which of the above answers will be the real-world answer that Herr Bluthner will get from Mr. Chen? Or will the real-world answer be something in between?

Please don't get bogged down in the specific brands mentioned. The performance-grade manufacturer in this scenario can be Bluthner, Steingraeber, Steinway, Fazioli, Bosendorfer, Sauter, whomever. The OEM can be Hailun, Pearl River, Parsons, Samick, Young Chang, whomever.

My question can be rephrased as follows: Can an OEM build a piano to the exact same design and quality standards that the customer wishes, or is he limited to making "stencil brand" near-duplicates of his own models? Or is the real-world answer something in between?

I look forward to reading your posts.


Last edited by Almaviva; 08/14/13 09:03 AM. Reason: spelling
Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Almaviva #2132608 08/14/13 02:17 AM
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Dear Sir,

I don't know who you are or what your agenda is by using the Blüthner name in this way. I would hope the administrators of this site would try and determine if you are a dealer or other piano industry professional. I think your stated rephrasing would have served your stated purpose without planting the seed of an unfounded rumor.

As an industry professional with 35 years of experience let me share what I have learned on this subject. If Brand A gave materials to Brand X to build a piano the result would be a brand x piano.

I would also like to share this link which I feel is a service for those here looking for the truth in origin of any prospective purchase claiming a German pedigree.

http://www.pianos.de/en/bvk_certificate/index.php?id=2

Last edited by Alex Hernandez; 08/14/13 02:20 AM.



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Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Almaviva #2132618 08/14/13 02:43 AM
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Geez, settle down, Alex! There was nothing offensive toward Bluthner in the OP. There's no reason to be so defensive. It was a pure hypothetical. Several other brands were mentioned and none were particularly targeted.

I found it to be an interesting question and I'll be interested to hear what others have to say about it.

Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Almaviva #2132621 08/14/13 03:15 AM
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Isn't the question in the OP being answered by the changes that piano manufacturers are making guided by American and European designers. For example, Young Chang new models designed by Del Fandrich?

Yamaha say it took 19 years to develop the new CF series. These things take time so #2, roughly speaking.

Last edited by Withindale; 08/14/13 05:41 AM.

Ian Russell
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Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Almaviva #2132653 08/14/13 05:16 AM
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Didn't Ibach build pianos in Korea that were identical to the German ones? In all honesty I can't see a premium European or American builder moving production for the Chinese market. in the case of Bluthner, their factory means too much to them to do that.

What I could see in the future is Hailun building his own premium piano when the time is right. Brodmann has already produced an artist series grand with the rim and frame being the same as the p.e models but with different actions and soundboards. I believe they cost the same as the equivalent yamaha C series model, and apparently they are finished in Germany or Austria.


Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Alex Hernandez #2132683 08/14/13 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Alex Hernandez
Dear Sir,

I don't know who you are or what your agenda is by using the Blüthner name in this way. I would hope the administrators of this site would try and determine if you are a dealer or other piano industry professional. I think your stated rephrasing would have served your stated purpose without planting the seed of an unfounded rumor.

As an industry professional with 35 years of experience let me share what I have learned on this subject. If Brand A gave materials to Brand X to build a piano the result would be a brand x piano.

I would also like to share this link which I feel is a service for those here looking for the truth in origin of any prospective purchase claiming a German pedigree.

http://www.pianos.de/en/bvk_certificate/index.php?id=2


Shucks...somebody took a shot through the chicken house and one of the chickens cackled loudly.

I'm always just a tad suspicious at such an immediate and vehement denial.

Oh well, nothing to see here, move along now...


TNCR. Over 20 years. Over 2,000,000 posts. And a new site...

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Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Withindale #2132693 08/14/13 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Withindale
Isn't the question in the OP being answered by the changes that piano manufacturers are making guided by American and European designers. For example, Young Chang new models designed by Del Fandrich?

There is no easy or simple answer to any of this. Nothing is all that clear cut.

Can a company like Hailun build a piano like one of those mentioned in the OP? Yes, given enough time and a sufficient commitment of money. Would it be wise for them to do so? Probably not. Which begs the question, “Why not?” Most of the so-called “modern performance-grade” pianos are not modern at all and at least some of them are unnecessarily complex for their level of performance. Hence the closing performance gap between them and the more mass-produced instruments built by manufacturers whose heavy investments in automated and semi-automated machinery are paying off in pianos that play quite nicely for very modest sums of money. To be sure, a performance gap still does exist but it is a much smaller one than existed 20 to 40 years ago.

Most, if not all of the mass-produced pianos of today had their start as “performance-grade” instruments some decades—centuries?— back. Their designs and sometimes the antique machinery used to make them were shipped en masse from closed or nearly closed factories in America or Europe to some Asian country where—after some translation—they were put into production as pseudo-clones of their original glory complete with photocopied artwork and long defunct family histories.

It has only been fairly recently that people with any real piano design knowledge and skills have been brought in to try to make some sense of it all. And what has been going on these past few years has been the optimization of those old designs to accommodate the modern reality of mass-production techniques and modern materials at least some of which would have been discarded as scrap by the original builders but which is now used as a matter of necessity since all the “good stuff” is mostly long gone. The trick has been to figure out how to work with the declining quality of materials and the rapidly developing numerical- and computer-controlled equipment that is replacing the work of those skilled artisans and sometimes doing their tasks better and more precisely than they ever dreamed possible. The result is a whole new concept of piano building technology.

So, while it might be possible for Mr Chen’s factory to someday build a high-end piano in the manner of some traditional Germany (or wherever) factory it would not be wise of him to attempt doing so. In my opinion, at least, it would be much wiser to start from scratch and design a new instrument that is conceived to take full advantage of the skills and technologies that already exist in a manufacturing company such as Hailun.

And were I one of those high-end builders of a traditional piano I’d be some concerned of the prospect. Just the thought of some new very high performance instrument coming on the market, optimized to be built on the modern manufacturing equipment—again, this equipment is already in place in the modern Asian factory—to a quality standard at least as good as that possible using traditional techniques and performing at least as well as anything available from either Europe or America and selling for half to two-thirds the price would keep me awake at night. The whole industry is poised, I think, on the edge of the next big step in the ongoing evolution of the piano. It remains to be seen whether anyone has the vision and courage to take that step.

ddf


Delwin D Fandrich
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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: How good can OEM pianos get?
Del #2132702 08/14/13 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Del

Originally Posted by Withindale
Isn't the question in the OP being answered by the changes that piano manufacturers are making guided by American and European designers. For example, Young Chang new models designed by Del Fandrich?

... So, while it might be possible for Mr Chen’s factory to someday build a high-end piano in the manner of some traditional Germany (or wherever) factory it would not be wise of him to attempt doing so. In my opinion, at least, it would be much wiser to start from scratch and design a new instrument that is conceived to take full advantage of the skills and technologies that already exist in a manufacturing company such as Hailun....

Precisely.


Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Almaviva #2132716 08/14/13 08:52 AM
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Can a performance grade piano be built in a Chinese factory? Performance grade as defined in the current issue of PB rankings?

Yes.

Why?

Because it's already been done.

Never sold to the public, the piano was a one-off, done by the best workers employed by the Chinese factory. People who test drove the piano could not tell the difference between it and its siblings.

For various reasons, including some Del mentioned, it was decided not to put the piano into even limited Chinese production.

So...can it be done? Yes.

Will it be done? At least on a decent scale? That's a topic for debate.


TNCR. Over 20 years. Over 2,000,000 posts. And a new site...

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Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Alex Hernandez #2132717 08/14/13 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Alex Hernandez
Dear Sir,

I don't know who you are or what your agenda is by using the Blüthner name in this way. I would hope the administrators of this site would try and determine if you are a dealer or other piano industry professional. I think your stated rephrasing would have served your stated purpose without planting the seed of an unfounded rumor.


Dear Mr. Hernandez (or can I call you Alex?),

Calm yourself, sir. I meant no offense. It was a hypothetical scenario. The top-tier piano CEO in this scenario could have been August Bluthner, Ulrich Sauter, Udo Steingraeber, AnneKatrin Forster, Paolo Fazioli, Dana Messina of Steinway - makes no difference. The OEM CEO could have been Hailun Chen, Tong Zhi Cheng of Pearl River, Baik Lee of Samick - makes no difference. I stated as much in the thread.

By the way, I am NOT affiliated with the piano industry in any way. I am simply a piano player and enthusiast.

Last edited by Almaviva; 08/14/13 10:45 AM. Reason: spelling, rephrasing
Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Almaviva #2132730 08/14/13 09:35 AM
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From my completely non-expert view of the piano industry:

I would say that any manufacturing company of any kind has to be very careful in thinking that they can transfer competitive successes from operations based in one country directly to a totally different company with ease. The success of a company such as a high end piano manufacturer depends on the sum of all of its parts and how they interact with each other (sales, marketing, production, logistics etc.) Change one and it has huge implications for the rest of the company which would have to be thought through and managed very carefully.

Specialist piano building in Germany has such a long tradition that the expert knowledge and craftsmanship can't simply be transported across the world to another location with ease. If it were that easy, there wouldn't be any manufacturing industries of any form in Germany anymore.

The bigger question is perhaps whether a European/US piano maker would ever want to make such a change? To save money? Sure, but whatever way you look at it, they will devalue their brand. I would feel like a sucker paying the same price for a piano previously made in Germany as I would the 'same' piano made in China (if this were even possible) - because I would know that production costs are cheaper and I would expect part of the benefit to be passed on to the end customer.

So is there any evidence to suggest that the consumers in the very high end piano market in question are so price-sensitive that a decrease in price would create a big enough increase in sales? My gut feeling is probably not. Would a traditional low-volume, high-quality manufacturer want to voluntarily devalue their premium brand in this way to attract customers in different market segments? Doubtful. That's why we have Boston, Essex and others on the market.

Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Almaviva #2132732 08/14/13 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Almaviva
By the way, I am NOT affiliated with the piano industry in any way. I am simply a piano player and enthusiast.

And a good researcher!


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Almaviva #2132744 08/14/13 10:05 AM
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What I find surprising about the above thread is the assumption that the owner of any company, if asked a question like the one in the OP, would give any answer other than Answer #1 or some variant thereof. My view on this would be the same whether the products are cars, refrigerators, or pianos, and whether the country is China, Indonesia, or whatever. You get the idea. Of course, Answer #1 may be a truthful response; all I am saying is that there will be no way of knowing in advance of the project getting under way absent personal knowledge about the person providing the answer.


Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Minnesota Marty #2132770 08/14/13 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
Originally Posted by Almaviva
By the way, I am NOT affiliated with the piano industry in any way. I am simply a piano player and enthusiast.

And a good researcher!


LOL. Thanks, Marty. smile

Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Almaviva #2132778 08/14/13 11:09 AM
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Short Answer: They can get as good as a Brodmann (until now at least).


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Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Del #2132822 08/14/13 12:37 PM
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Hello Mr Del. Fandrich,

We are very fortunate to have your insights here.

you wrote>>And what has been going on these past few years has been the optimization of those old designs to accommodate the modern reality of mass-production techniques and modern materials at least some of which would have been discarded as scrap by the original builders but which is now used as a matter of necessity since all the “good stuff” is mostly long gone. The trick has been to figure out how to work with the declining quality of materials

Can you please be more specific about the declining quality of materials? Is this just soundboard wood? What else?

If the "good stuff" is mostly gone, this would affect all makers. Or are we in a state where some makers will still pay the price for available, highest desirability grade of wood?

I understand "The whole industry is poised, I think, on the edge of the next big step in the ongoing evolution of the piano." Actually, it seems from my not so good vantage point that the Germans are on the forefront of the avant-garde designs, carbon soundboards, etc. Some advances will stick I think, but it seems many do not.

Thanks-

Originally Posted by Del

Originally Posted by Withindale
Isn't the question in the OP being answered by the changes that piano manufacturers are making guided by American and European designers. For example, Young Chang new models designed by Del Fandrich?

There is no easy or simple answer to any of this. Nothing is all that clear cut.

Can a company like Hailun build a piano like one of those mentioned in the OP? Yes, given enough time and a sufficient commitment of money. Would it be wise for them to do so? Probably not. Which begs the question, “Why not?” Most of the so-called “modern performance-grade” pianos are not modern at all and at least some of them are unnecessarily complex for their level of performance. Hence the closing performance gap between them and the more mass-produced instruments built by manufacturers whose heavy investments in automated and semi-automated machinery are paying off in pianos that play quite nicely for very modest sums of money. To be sure, a performance gap still does exist but it is a much smaller one than existed 20 to 40 years ago.

Most, if not all of the mass-produced pianos of today had their start as “performance-grade” instruments some decades—centuries?— back. Their designs and sometimes the antique machinery used to make them were shipped en masse from closed or nearly closed factories in America or Europe to some Asian country where—after some translation—they were put into production as pseudo-clones of their original glory complete with photocopied artwork and long defunct family histories.

It has only been fairly recently that people with any real piano design knowledge and skills have been brought in to try to make some sense of it all. And what has been going on these past few years has been the optimization of those old designs to accommodate the modern reality of mass-production techniques and modern materials at least some of which would have been discarded as scrap by the original builders but which is now used as a matter of necessity since all the “good stuff” is mostly long gone. The trick has been to figure out how to work with the declining quality of materials and the rapidly developing numerical- and computer-controlled equipment that is replacing the work of those skilled artisans and sometimes doing their tasks better and more precisely than they ever dreamed possible. The result is a whole new concept of piano building technology.

So, while it might be possible for Mr Chen’s factory to someday build a high-end piano in the manner of some traditional Germany (or wherever) factory it would not be wise of him to attempt doing so. In my opinion, at least, it would be much wiser to start from scratch and design a new instrument that is conceived to take full advantage of the skills and technologies that already exist in a manufacturing company such as Hailun.

And were I one of those high-end builders of a traditional piano I’d be some concerned of the prospect. Just the thought of some new very high performance instrument coming on the market, optimized to be built on the modern manufacturing equipment—again, this equipment is already in place in the modern Asian factory—to a quality standard at least as good as that possible using traditional techniques and performing at least as well as anything available from either Europe or America and selling for half to two-thirds the price would keep me awake at night. The whole industry is poised, I think, on the edge of the next big step in the ongoing evolution of the piano. It remains to be seen whether anyone has the vision and courage to take that step.

ddf


phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Toccata (G minor) BWV 915
(and trying not to forget the other stuff I know)
Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Nick Mauel #2132827 08/14/13 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Mauel
Short Answer: They can get as good as a Brodmann (until now at least).


Careful, Nick. We might have to start calling you "Norbert Junior"! wink

Last edited by Almaviva; 08/14/13 01:18 PM. Reason: punctuation
Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Jolly #2132832 08/14/13 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Jolly
Can a performance grade piano be built in a Chinese factory? Performance grade as defined in the current issue of PB rankings?
Yes.
Why?

Because it's already been done.

Never sold to the public, the piano was a one-off, done by the best workers employed by the Chinese factory. People who test drove the piano could not tell the difference between it and its siblings.


Interesting, Jolly. Which Chinese piano factory made this one-off piano, and when? Did they design this piano from scratch, or was it a copy of a well-known top-tier model like the Bluthner 1, Steinway D, Fazioli 278, etc?

Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Almaviva #2132838 08/14/13 01:54 PM
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Folks,

Reckless rumor mongering is not something that should go by unaddressed regardless of one's good intentions. Nice to meet you OP.

I would encourage any person posing a hypothetical to be responsible in their examples.

We do make a Chinese piano, it's called an Irmler. Though Irmler pianos shipped to the States contain sufficient parts and finishing to be shipped as German made we don't trade on that and maintain total transparency regarding its Chinese origins.

Jolly,

I think it's hilarious that somebody would call me a chicken while using an alias.
Other then that I always enjoy your contributions and I hope all is well with you.


Last edited by Alex Hernandez; 08/14/13 01:58 PM.



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Re: How good can OEM pianos get?
Alex Hernandez #2132841 08/14/13 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Alex Hernandez
Folks,

Reckless rumor mongering is not something that should go by unaddressed regardless of one's good intentions. Nice to meet you OP.

I would encourage any person posing a hypothetical to be responsible in their examples.

We do make a Chinese piano, it's called an Irmler. Though Irmler pianos shipped to the States contain sufficient parts and finishing to be shipped as German made we don't trade on that and maintain total transparency regarding its Chinese origins.

Jolly,

I think it's hilarious that somebody would call me a chicken while using an alias.
Other then that I always enjoy your contributions and I hope all is well with you.



It wasn't rumour-mongering. It was a hypothetical. You have failed to detect the difference. The only thing you have done is suggest to us that there is a rumour out there and you have enlarged it through your defensive response.

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