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#2673154 - 09/06/17 09:41 AM 1989 S400B, is it still worth it?  
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 107
tirta Offline
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tirta  Offline
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Indonesia
Hi Guys,

I get an offer of 1989 yamaha s400b for around usd14K.

I have not seen the piano since it is out of town,
but I am going to this weekend with my technician.

If the piano is still in ok condition and I like it,
is it a good price?

Is it ok to buy the piano since it is quite old (28 years)?
Is it true that japanese piano has life expectancy around 50 years?
Do I need to expect to do a lot of repair or changing the piano parts after 50 years?
Please advise

Thanks,
Tirta.

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#2673157 - 09/06/17 09:51 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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ando Offline
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ando  Offline
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Melbourne, Australia
Only your technician can really tell you if it's worth the money - based on the condition of the piano. Certainly the Yamaha S series pianos are beautiful when they are in good condition and well regulated. The price would depend on local factors too - how much pianos generally cost in your part of the world. That would be a reasonable price in Australia.

Good luck, hope it all turns out well. smile

#2673162 - 09/06/17 10:24 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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PianoWorksATL Offline
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It's not old if the condition is good, so that is your primary concern. Considering what Yamaha C3's from about the same age go for, the price is enticing. It's always harder to see the potential of a piano in a private sale.

If you are already a Yamaha fan and the technician suggests that everything is in good condition, it might be worth speculating on even if it doesn't play to its potential. If you've not already played enough Yamaha's to know if they are your flavor, then you'd really have to like it as it is presented.


Sam Bennett
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#2673167 - 09/06/17 10:46 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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BenjaminR Offline
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I will comment on the piano itself.

We just completed the restoration of a Yamaha S400 for a local high school here in our area. It was one of the nicest sounding Yamaha grands we have had in our shop. The tone was clear, but not quite as bright/harsh as some of the other Yamaha pianos from similar years I have played.

Definitely have your technician go over it thoroughly.


Benjamin Rogers
Media Director
Chupp's Piano Service, Inc. - Piano Restorations, Kawai Dealer
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#2673195 - 09/06/17 12:08 PM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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Keith D Kerman Offline
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I agree with Sam. If the condition is excellent, it is potentially a very fine piano and frankly a bargain at 14k when one considers what C3s go for. We have one from 1987 in a gorgeous Walnut that we will sell for 25k without problem and whoever buys it will be getting a great value.


Keith D Kerman
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#2673260 - 09/06/17 02:45 PM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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Robert 45 Online content
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Robert 45  Online Content
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I would say that the life expectancy of any piano is determined by many factors including its quality, its use and history of maintenance and particularly in Indonesia, its protection from the devastating effects of a humid, tropical climate.

The Yamaha S series grand pianos are truly beautiful pianos and the price seems attractive. Taking your technician with you to see the piano is most wise as only a full, independent technical assessment of the piano can be trusted when it comes to pricing.

Along with the other respondents, I wish you all the best with this piano. Finding a lovely piano can bring so much happiness into our lives.

Good luck!

Robert.

#2673355 - 09/06/17 09:52 PM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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Pianolance Offline
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S series Yamaha's are hand built in the same factory as their 9' concert grands. They are not mass produced the way the C series were. They are definitely a cut above. If I could find a good S for a good price I would not hesitate. I played an S many years ago and I still remember it as one of the best pianos I have ever played. One thing that struck me was the control I had, or maybe how extremely responsive the piano was to my every finger movement. It also sounded beautiful. Best of luck on your trip.

Also, it's worth mentioning that you should try to negotiate the price. i recently purchased a Mason and Hamlin that the person was asking $7500 for $2000. Sometimes there is substantial room for negotiation, sometimes not so much but you never know until you try. Personally, I'd offer $7500 and see if they flinch. If it's a dealer the price probably won't be as negotiable, but maybe a thousand or so. Hey, beef up your negotiating skills by watching a few episodes of Pawn Stars before your trip. LOL!


Knabe 5'2" Louis XV Walnut circa 1927
Very part time piano broker.
#2673488 - 09/07/17 08:21 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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tirta Offline
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tirta  Offline
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Indonesia
thanks Guys for all the advices and kind words.
I hope the piano is still in good condition, too.
Well, I will find out about it this weekend.


@BenjaminR
can you elaborate a bit about the s400 restoration?
what year is the piano?
and which piano parts needed to be restored?


One thing that I keep hearing about s400b is that it sounds nicer/mellower/less harsh compared to other yamaha pianos.
IIRC I have read about this mellower yamaha mentioned by Larry Fine in the older edition of Piano Book.
Is this statement correct for most s400b? or only selected few?

Is it also mellower compared to recent CX series? or more or less the same?

#2673499 - 09/07/17 08:56 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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terminaldegree Offline
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Originally Posted by tirta

Is it also mellower compared to recent CX series? or more or less the same?


Generally speaking, no, the S pianos I've played (S400, S600, S4, S6, etc.) are not mellower than the default CX series pianos. However, condition, use, and maintenance play a big part in that with a used piano like this. Hopefully, this one hasn't been subjected to harsh institutional use or suffered from effects of excessive humidity. Price seems quite low, so you should probably have it carefully checked over prior to sale.


Pianist, teacher, apprentice technician, internet addict.
Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
#2673501 - 09/07/17 08:57 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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BenjaminR Offline
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BenjaminR  Offline
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Goshen, Indiana
Originally Posted by tirta
thanks Guys for all the advices and kind words.
I hope the piano is still in good condition, too.
Well, I will find out about it this weekend.


@BenjaminR
can you elaborate a bit about the s400 restoration?
what year is the piano?
and which piano parts needed to be restored?


One thing that I keep hearing about s400b is that it sounds nicer/mellower/less harsh compared to other yamaha pianos.
IIRC I have read about this mellower yamaha mentioned by Larry Fine in the older edition of Piano Book.
Is this statement correct for most s400b? or only selected few?

Is it also mellower compared to recent CX series? or more or less the same?


This piano was in a school, so it required some much more extensive repair than 'normal.' The choir room it was located in had some of the worst humidity swings in the entire building. The soundboard was extensively cracked and the hammers were worn down to the underfelt. Because they were not too concerned about the cosmetics of this piano, we ended up rebuilding the action with new parts, completing regulation and voicing work, restringing the piano, rebuilding the lyre, repairing and sealing the soundboard, etc.

I am assuming that the piano you are looking at, has not been put through heavy institutional use? If not, I am guessing it will not need nearly as much work as the one we recently worked on did.


Benjamin Rogers
Media Director
Chupp's Piano Service, Inc. - Piano Restorations, Kawai Dealer
www.ChuppsPianos.com
#2673577 - 09/07/17 01:42 PM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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Ed Foote Offline
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Ed Foote  Offline
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Tennessee
My experience with the S400B we have at Vanderbilt is that the action is perhaps more closely balanced than production line pianos, but essentially, the action is a Yamaha action and will play no faster or softer than any of their others. The hammers may have more of a voicer's time in them, to take full advantage of a more carefully crafted soundboard, and the scale/board relationship is impressive. The one thing I have yet to understand is why our piano was so sluggish that it was donated to us. It was sluggish because the sole plates at the key's balance hole were 7 mm thick, ruining any chance of a quicksilver, sensitive, touch. Somebody missed their mark on that one critical dimension and the whole piano felt like lead.

I reduced the sole thickness to 4 mm, and it played like it was designed to . Profound change when I did only that, and since then, I have replaced the 30 year old shanks with WNG, and installed Weickert hammers from Ronsen, leaving us with a great piano in the Jazz studies room. If the board is ok, that price is Ok. That assumes no fatal flaws elsewhere.
Regards,

Last edited by Ed Foote; 09/07/17 01:43 PM.
#2673670 - 09/08/17 12:48 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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tirta Offline
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tirta  Offline
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Indonesia
@EdFoote
Thanks Ed for sharing the experience.
I am not very clear with the sole plates at the key's balance hole.
Is it on the bottom part of the key at the balance rail hole?
Do you have picture of it?
And this makes the action fells heavy and sluggish?

@BenjaminR
The seller say that she is the first owner of the piano so I guess no institutional use.

@terminaldegree
so the new CX sounds mellower compared to the S series ?

#2673697 - 09/08/17 05:21 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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Ed Foote Offline
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Ed Foote  Offline
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Tennessee
The sole plate, also called the key "shoe" by some of the older factory guys, is the part of the key that the balance rail pin goes through, on the bottom of the key. If there is more than 4 mm of wood wrapped around the balance rail pin, the key will not rotate properly. to reduce the wood, there is a tool made to cut wood out of the inside of the key so that there are only 4 mm between the top of the hole and the bottom of the key. It is necessary for touch.
Regards,

#2673780 - 09/08/17 11:28 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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tirta Offline
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tirta  Offline
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Indonesia
Hi Ed,

thanks for the explanation.

after googling, I find this picture of the balance key hole on the bottom part of the key.
[Linked Image]
is that hole the sole plate?

#2673875 - 09/08/17 09:34 PM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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Ed Foote Offline
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Ed Foote  Offline
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Tennessee
yes, and those have been repaired to address a fore and aft looseness called "pulley keys". The hole the you see must not pass through more than 4 mm of wood, and to dimension it, you have to have the tool made to go in from the top of the key, through the balance rail bushings.

#2674309 - 09/10/17 04:38 PM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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ashertob Offline
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For what it's worth, I just bought a 1985 s400b for 16k, and I think it was a great price -- definitely the best in my price range, of all the pianos I saw during my shopping period, hands down.

Of course everything depends on the condition of the instrument in question (not the age), but at 31 years old, my piano is absolutely one of the most fun to play I've ever known. My tech was really impressed with the price, too -- so if you can get on for 14k, and it doesn't need repairs, it sounds like a good deal to me.

Ideally, of course, my piano could use a new set of strings -- 31 yrs is a long time. I'll replace them when i've got a pile of money sitting around....but even with the original strings it's really a pleasure.

Last edited by ashertob; 09/10/17 04:56 PM.
#2674478 - 09/11/17 12:38 PM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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tirta Offline
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tirta  Offline
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Indonesia
Hi Guys,

I have played the piano yesterday,
the piano seems in ok condition, but the action is very heavy.
this is the heaviest yamaha that I ever played.
Is it possible to make the action as light as the new cx series?

Ed, is the heaviness is caused by the sole plate thickness that you mentioned?

And I find some notes in the bass section decays very fast even after the sustain pedal depressed.
what is the cause of this? is the hammer not aligned properly? or the string is bad?

overall it still sounds good especially in loud and very loud passages, it sounds very clear and rounded, compared to my gh1.

Seller said everything is still original condition and no changed parts, but she never done any regulation or voicing ever,
only tuning every 4-6 months for 28 years.
she fells that the piano still sounds as good as when it was new.

I do not agree, I feel the piano needs some needling since it is brighter than I used to.
And the action feels rather uneven, but I guess I have to test it again after the action made lighter, if it can.

Also I notice there are some fuzzy shades and small cracks on the surface finish of the bottom part of the legs and lyre,
so I asked the seller and she said the piano was in minor flood with water height around 20cm since the local dam was broken last year,
but only happened once.
I have checked all the 3 pedals, and all seems to work.
Do I need to concern about the effect of the flood on the piano legs and lyre?
Is this expensive to repair?

Yesterday my tech did not come, I went alone, but I have re-read "the piano book" chapter about checking the used piano,
so I have checked:
-the strings: no broken strings and no new ones, some rust but not too bad.
-the bridges: no crack that I can see.
-structural integrity: looks good
-soundboard and ribs: no crack
-the hammers: no big grooves only small ones and the shape is still good (have not been reshaped)
-dampers: still work as intended
-the action: seller does not believe anyone who is not a tech to open her piano,
so I have to inspect it again with my tech to see the action and the inside parts.

The piano is located very near to the beach, so the humidity is very high.
And it has been like that for 29 years, so is there something else that I need to inspect more thoroughly?

So to sum it up:
positive points:
- cheap price, seller seems open to more negotiation since she wants to move to another country
and there is no other buyer interested currently.
- the piano seems ok but need regulation and voicing.
- maintenance seems ok, the piano finish is still good (except cracks at the bottom of the legs and lyre), and tuning every 4-5 months.

negative points:
- it has been in minor flood
- the action is too heavy so I can not play fast and it is rather uneven for and hard to draw its sound.
or maybe I have not get used to it?

however last summer I went to Bangkok, and tried some grands there: Fazioli, Petrof, Sauter, Schimmel and Shigeru EX,
and I feel that none of them is too heavy.
I really like Fazioli and Sauter the most but I can live with any of them.

I might come again with my tech next week. I don't know, I am still thinking about it.
I have mixed feeling about this piano.
It is about 5 hours drive, but I still feel that I enjoy playing the new cx series more compared to this one,
somehow this s400b does not really speak to me.

#2674486 - 09/11/17 01:00 PM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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ashertob Offline
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If it were me, I wouldn't buy a piano that has been exposed to any kind of flood....especially if it's not speaking to you particularly. My impression from spending a lot of time reading the expert opinions and talking to techs is that everything depends on the individual piano. Even if the s400bs are pretty much exactly the same out of the factory (which they're not, apparently), everything depends upon the kind of life that an instrument has led. An s400b can be really be "one of the best pianos in the world" (as the guys at yamaha corporation insist) but not every s400b in existence necessarily is.

#2674578 - 09/11/17 07:37 PM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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JohnSprung Online content
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Near the beach for 29 years, rust, minor flood, heavy action -- the red flags just keep coming. Tell your tech before the inspection that he/she will be maintaining this piano for years to come.... ;-)


-- J.S.

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#2674585 - 09/11/17 08:12 PM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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terminaldegree Offline
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Run away. You don't like this piano. You just like the price.


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#2674698 - 09/12/17 09:48 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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JohnSprung Online content
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I actually had a piano once that spent 20 years in a beach house. This might be a rebuildable core, but the strings are toast from the salt air and rust. $14k is way too much. Maybe $500.


-- J.S.

[Linked Image] [Linked Image]

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690
#2674891 - 09/13/17 01:30 AM Re: 1989 S400B, is it still worth it? [Re: tirta]  
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tirta Offline
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tirta  Offline
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Indonesia
actually the string rust is not that bad,
however after doing some more thinking and reading the flooded piano thread,
it seems there is too much risk involved here,
so I decide not to buy it.

terminaldegree is correct I only like the price. laugh
thanks for making me realize that.


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