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Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
#2313565 08/09/14 08:20 PM
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I'm looking to upgrade to a better piano - something around 7 feet long. I've pretty well dismissed Steinway and the German Bs due to their cost.

From what I have read, the M & H and Shigeru are fine pianos.
Would anyone be able to tell me how these 2 pianos differ in terms of tone/timbre/color, projection, and feel?

Thanks.

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2313572 08/09/14 08:49 PM
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I have played six or seven M&Hs and about the same number of Shigeru Kawais. They are both truly outstanding pianos and I can't help but think you would be thrilled with either one of them.

If you believe the marketing (and I do in this case), Kawai does a lot of hand-crafting on their Shigeru's in an effort to bring them up to concert-grade quality. I don't know the model number of the equivalent M&H but I suspect they also go to great lengths as well to ensure the highest quality in their 7' pianos.

My subjective views on tone and feel:

I think the Shigeru has a more cantabile (singing) tone and it excels in the higher registers. The M&H has a more "American" sound, with greater depth and complexity to the tone (similar to Steinways), particularly in the mid-range.

The Shigeru has a light and very responsive touch. The M&H, it seems to me, is a tad heavier. And the black keys on the M&H are square-ish. But the M&H's are also exceedingly pleasant to play.

Really, you can't go wrong with either brand. But you should definitely play both and compare them yourself. And take my comments with a grain of salt, because I'm a fairly new (3 years) piano player.

PS. Oh, welcome to PianoWorld!

You should do a SEARCH on Shigeru and on M&H and do some background reading about the pianos. They have been discussed a lot on this forum and you can glean a lot of information by reading.

Last edited by AZ_Astro; 08/09/14 08:52 PM.

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Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2313752 08/10/14 09:02 AM
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I know shigeru kawai pianos very well. The concert grand is one of the finest available, definitely tier one material, although I prefer Steinway.

The smaller grands - up to the SK7 are all excellent but to me, for my money and taste, they don't match those from Steinway, Bluthner, Fazioli, Bechstein or Bosendorfer.

In the UK at least, they don't sell for anything close to the money that the other four makes I mentioned sell for, so you'd be getting an exceptional piano at a sensible price with shigeru.

Mason and Hamlin are a quality match for Steinway et al, and I have found that 95 percent of the time the top level of pianos gives me so much more in terms of colour and control but it is the thin end of the wedge - what kind of pianist you are will determine whether or not you'll need that extra that a tier one gives. Many players simply don't go there and that's fine.

The 5 percent of the time that top level pianos are matched by lower tier instruments? Well as it happens I have played on some pianos that should be fairly standard that have punched well above their weight. I've come across the odd Yamaha C3 that has been so beautiful you'd think it was a fully hand built artisan model, and two kawai 7'6 pianos that were as good as any Steinway - one was a 1970 model and the other was a new RX7 so magic things can happen! Yet most of the standard Yamaha or Kawai pianos I've played have merely been very good rather than earth moving.

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
Joseph Fleetwood #2313835 08/10/14 01:57 PM
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Welcome to Piano World Mike52,
If you are in the US, there is also the advantage, should you buy a new Shigeru Kawai piano, of having a Japanese Master Piano Artisan from Kawai come to your house to spend about a day tuning, regulating and voicing your new piano.

Kind regards,

Robert.

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2313840 08/10/14 02:07 PM
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@Mike, you have dismissed the Steinway and German B's due to their cost, but were you actually interested in them because of their sound / touch?
To name two German B's: Blüthner and Bechstein, they have a very different sound then a Steinway. Bösendorfer is Austrian but I suppose you can dismiss it as well based on it's pricetag.

So, how did you come to M&H and Shigeru Kawai? Don't get me wrong, those are very very good pianos, but what are you looking for?

In my humble opinion it would be better to find out what you like and then find something matching to your taste..

And, are you only looking for new instruments or is used also an option?

Furthermore, it's quite hard to judge a model, let alone a brand. Every single piano is different. This is for instance why Steinway lets you select a piano at their factory (if you want to).

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2313854 08/10/14 02:46 PM
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That's a good point wimpiano makes. It's kind of what I was saying when I said every so often you find a Yamaha C3 which behaves as if it was competing in tier one.

If you're going to look at shigeru you might want to try Yamaha S series, and in that price range you also have sauter, schimmel, seiler, Haessler, w.Hoffman professional, Estonia, petrof, and used pianos from Bechstein, Bluthner, Bosendorfer, possibly Steinway, and of course you could get yourself a very fine rebuilt piano from a top maker that will possibly out perform any new piano on the market.

However, if you've been through all this and you're choosing between these two makes, I would say it's down to individual instruments - which of them speaks to you more?

If you still can't decide and you like them both equally, my gut says go for the Mason - it's a tier one for a start and on purely monetary terms it will hold its value better.

Seriously though you have to pick the instrument that you like the best. Both are good.

I came pretty close to buying a shigeru sk6 but I had a unique opportunity that I couldn't resist. Had that event not happened I would have the kawai and I'd be happy with it (but not as happy as I am with what I got haha!)

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2313865 08/10/14 03:33 PM
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In the same general range (I think) are the Charles Walter small grands.

I haven't played one, but I hear good things about them.

Might also be worth consideration.


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Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
Joseph Fleetwood #2313872 08/10/14 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by joe80

If you still can't decide and you like them both equally, my gut says go for the Mason - it's a tier one for a start and on purely monetary terms it will hold its value better.
Both Mason and Shigeru are tier two in the Fine rankings.

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2313879 08/10/14 04:00 PM
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Oh really? I don't keep up with fine but I'm surprised at that rating given the Masons I have seen. Have they always been regarded as tier 2?

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2313883 08/10/14 04:14 PM
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As Larry Fine has said repeatedly his tier "ratings/rankings" are not really either but more of a map based on the manufacturers own suggested pricing. Everyone here on PW has to stop using them as real rankings that you might find in a consumer testing magazine or based on opinions. Larry is doing that type of thing now in his staff picks.


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Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2313887 08/10/14 04:19 PM
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The Shigerus I've played have a more refined tone and touch than the Masons, but so much is up to personal preference. They're both very good.

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
Glenn Treibitz #2313913 08/10/14 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Glenn Treibitz
As Larry Fine has said repeatedly his tier "ratings/rankings" are not really either but more of a map based on the manufacturers own suggested pricing. Everyone here on PW has to stop using them as real rankings that you might find in a consumer testing magazine or based on opinions. Larry is doing that type of thing now in his staff picks.


Agreed, there is too much emphasis placed on the rankings.


Shigeru Kawai SK-7
Mason and Hamlin BB
Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
Glenn Treibitz #2313916 08/10/14 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Glenn Treibitz
As Larry Fine has said repeatedly his tier "ratings/rankings" are not really either but more of a map based on the manufacturers own suggested pricing. Everyone here on PW has to stop using them as real rankings that you might find in a consumer testing magazine or based on opinions. Larry is doing that type of thing now in his staff picks.
But he also says that the pricing is "often associated with quality" although the association is "from perfectly consistent". I'm not sure if he means the buyer does the associating or he's talking about the inherent quality of the piano.

It's also interesting that the ratings of ten or fifteen years ago, when they were, as far as I know, closer to real ratings and Fine sometimes even attempted to rate the pianos in several categories, are extremely similar to the latest ratings, at least for the top two or three levels.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/10/14 05:41 PM.
Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2313966 08/10/14 08:49 PM
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I wish to thank all of you for your input.

I currently own an RX3 with which I am quite happy. The touch is very even and responsive. In general, I like the tone, but to me it lacks that extra "éclat" that I was used to hearing on a good Steinway.

I like the colorful Steinway sound, as compared to the European. In terms of my price point, I think M & H or Shigeru may be the way to go.

I've read that M & H have an American sound (which I understand as the N.Y. Steinway sound). Can anyone confirm this?

I also read that M & H pianos can be overly aggressive in their sound. Is that true?

How would you characterize the Shigeru sound (American, European, Japanese à la Yamaha or in between)?

BTW, does one have to wait long to obtain a Shigeru, given that Kawai makes so few of them per year?


Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2313970 08/10/14 09:06 PM
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Someone mentioned that the Mason-Hamlin is a Tier 2 piano. If you check the ratings from Piano Buyer's Guide, so is NY Steinway. I think the Tier 1 pianos are just a few of the top European brands including the German Steinways, but it really seems to me to boil down to the individual pianos. I have tried some Tier 1 pianos that couldn't hold a candle to my Mason-Hamlin BB. The only Shigura I could ever try was not in tune (I just posted about this the other day) so I couldn't give an opinion. From what I have read here over the last few years, they both should be fine pianos. It just depends on what you prefer when you try them. Good luck!

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2314063 08/11/14 04:21 AM
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Shigeru has a beautiful sound, very clear. It's more like a refined RX than it is a Steinway, however.

Any piano can be aggressive if voiced badly. There is a forum member who has just had a mason delivered to Brazil I think - perhaps you could ask for a recording to be posted.

Also don't rule out a used or rebuilt Steinway. If it's the American sound you want, you may also find a Baldwin - and in fact even a Boston performance edition can have (can have, not always has) something of that spirit about it.

Boston is made in the kawai factory but it's a different design, the grands I mean, and although it shares some kawai hardware it's quite a different sounding piano.

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2314064 08/11/14 04:22 AM
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No, one doesn't have to wait long for a shigeru - most shigeru dealers are able to get any model fairly quickly.

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
Joseph Fleetwood #2314298 08/11/14 07:49 PM
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If you live in an area where there are top class rebuilders, I would go and play some of their pianos. I would buy a rebuilt from the rebuilder near my house over a new one anyway day - lower price and everything on his rebuilt pianos are fixed up to higher standards than a comparable new piano. Dedicating over 50 years to learning and perfecting one's trade can accomplish that. And he is not the only one. Just ask around.


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Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
ColinD #2314312 08/11/14 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by mike52
I wish to thank all of you for your input.

I currently own an RX3 with which I am quite happy. The touch is very even and responsive. In general, I like the tone, but to me it lacks that extra "éclat" that I was used to hearing on a good Steinway.

I like the colorful Steinway sound, as compared to the European. In terms of my price point, I think M & H or Shigeru may be the way to go.

I've read that M & H have an American sound (which I understand as the N.Y. Steinway sound). Can anyone confirm this?

I also read that M & H pianos can be overly aggressive in their sound. Is that true?

How would you characterize the Shigeru sound (American, European, Japanese à la Yamaha or in between)?

BTW, does one have to wait long to obtain a Shigeru, given that Kawai makes so few of them per year?



I don't think either the Shigeru or the Mason sound like Steinway-- they are all quite different.

Re: Mason & Hamlin vs. Shigeru
sophial #2314341 08/11/14 11:25 PM
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Sophial:

I quite agree with you when you say that the Shigeru doesn't sound like a Steinway. It has a very nice tone that is quite its own.

Where the Mason is concerned, it's a different matter. Since the pianos being made today with the name Mason and Hamlin on their fallboards sound nothing whatever like the vintage Boston or even the Rochester Masons, to attempt to describe them it might be necessary to say that they have some Steinway characteristics, at least in the brute force dept. I believe that the firm, esp. Bruce Clark, are very proud of their terrific volume, winner and still champion of the "my dad can beat-up your dad" competition.

Perhaps thugs passing the factory precincts are consulted for the final tonal regulation. Pianists, artistic or no, are NOT in the picture.

Karl Watson,
Staten Island, NY

Last edited by Karl Watson; 08/11/14 11:26 PM.
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