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My new piano! The 1981 Kawai US50
#2256985 04/05/14 12:59 AM
Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 19
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After searching for about a month, and doing considerable research on these forums, I found my new piano last weekend, and it was delivered yesterday. I'm thrilled! For about 10 years I've endured a digital, Roland FP-1. Good for practice, but not terribly satisfying. Finally, I'll have access to a real instrument with a beautiful sound. To boot, this thing is a beast of an upright, a haus, a boss, and totally gangster with its shiny black and gold. Heck yes!

This is my 1981 Kawai US50 (52"). It's been in Colorado where I reside since its original purchase, and it's in incredible condition. I can hardly believe that it's 33 years old! Below are photos.

I'm also linking to a sound sample (https://soundcloud.com/verdence/slightly-better-kawai-us50). Please go easy on my recording and performance. I'm rusty smile Doesn't do the piano justice at all, but gives you a sense. I'll update this link later on if I can produce a better recording. Most of the bassiness is lost for some reason and there's some muffling.

I've included some more details about why I chose to buy the piano, what I paid, etc., mostly for the benefit of potential future buyers of the US50 and similar Kawai pianos.

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Larger images available here:
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/galleries/2256982.html#Post2256982


Considerations

I don't have space for a grand, and I was limited to $6500. Admittedly, this didn't leave a lot of options. I knew that I wanted a "professional upright" and that, at my budget, I'd have to buy used. This left me considering the Yamaha U1 and U3, Kawai K3 and better, the Charles Walter, and perhaps the Petrof, should I be lucky enough to find one. I originally went to Craigslist, but even across a month of searches, only a couple of pianos that fit my criteria showed up.

On a whim, I decided to check out one of the local piano stores. They had a pretty good selection of used instruments, and I tried almost all of them. To my ears, most of them had terrible sound. I tried a few new pianos in my price range, such as the Kawai K3. Not terribly impressed.

The moment I sat down at the US50, I knew I'd be making an offer. It had incredible sound, with a rich, punchy bass and a chime-like upper register. I thought that the action was better than average, certainly not perfect, but something that allowed me enough dynamic range and a comfortable feel. Next to this piano were two brand-new 52" uprights: a Schimmel and a Kawai K8. I played the new ones and though nice, they certainly weren't qualitatively better. Experiencing the US50 alongside with these new, high-end uprights pretty much sealed the deal.

Here are some other reasons why I really liked the piano:
  • The large music desk. This is awesome.
  • A locking lid, which is good for keeping the little kiddos at bay if needed.
  • A silent mode pedal, which slides a felt curtain between the hammers and strings. Very useful for practicing at night if anyone's sensitive smile
  • Mahogany, underfelted hammers.


A Drawback

The only problem I discovered was a small crack in the soundboard. Basically, there was a 2mm separation at the far bass-edge of the soundboard. But the crack was nowhere near the ribs, it wasn't affecting the sound, and, let's be honest, this is a 33-year-old piano. Cracks happen.

A technician friend assured me that it wasn't a problem. This article and video further reassured me:
http://antiquepianoshop.com/sell-yo...no-has-a-cracked-soundboard-is-it-ruined

Finally, I spoke with the dealer and their tech, and they both indicated that any problems resulting from the crack would be covered by their warranty. I still felt good about the piano and still wanted it.

The Deal

I ended up negotiating a deal of $4500. This included tax and delivery, voicing, regulation, cleaning, and tuning prior to delivery, another tuning sometime in the months after the move, and a 1-year warranty on any parts and labor. Perhaps not a screamin' deal, but a fair one IMO, with some good peace of mind built in.

After making the purchase, I got to spend a couple of hours with the store's tech while he regulated the action, and I learned a ton!

The tech mentioned that he doesn't see very many US50s but that they did sell one a couple of years ago to a piano teacher and that it had a truly lovely tone. Honestly, I feel like this model might be some kind of diamond in the rough.

Info and Links

There is precious little information on the Internet about the Kawai US50. I Googled my heart out and didn't find much. Most of the links are to folks trying to sell one, these mostly containing bullet points but nothing of substance.

For those who may be contemplating this piano in the future, here are the best posts I could find:

http://www.epinions.com/review/Kawai_K80_Artist_Studio_Upright/content_86592687748
http://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.music.makers.piano/fT5H1F3D3R0
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubb...1/topic/019653/Number/0/site_id/1#import
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1467200.html
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1930619.html

You can also find quite a few YouTube videos of US50s being demoed for sale. I found these to be somewhat informative but YMMV.

In any case, happy to field any questions as best as I can, especially as time goes by.

Last edited by JazzyJamKyle; 04/05/14 02:23 AM.
Re: My new piano! The 1981 Kawai US50
JazzyJamMan #2257017 04/05/14 03:36 AM
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Looks to be a fine piano, Kyle. Congratulations and enjoy!

Re: My new piano! The 1981 Kawai US50
JazzyJamMan #2257141 04/05/14 12:00 PM
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I really like it and it does have a nice sound to it, although I am not sure the recording quite does it justice.

The size seems just ideal. I was looking at Kawai K3s and K5s for awhile. So I think you made a fine choice. The price seems quite good, too. Congrats and enjoy!


Kawai KG-5. Korg SP-250. Software pianos: Garritan CFX, Ivory II, Ivory Am D, Ravenscroft, Galaxy Vintage D, Alicia's Keys, et al.
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Re: My new piano! The 1981 Kawai US50
JazzyJamMan #2257147 04/05/14 12:15 PM
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Looks good and sounds good!!

Of course, another fine tuning after it acclimatizes to your home will make it sound even better!

Congratulations!

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: My new piano! The 1981 Kawai US50
JazzyJamMan #2257238 04/05/14 03:34 PM
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Sweet deal, that's a magnificent looking upright!


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