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Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? #2796661
12/30/18 02:57 AM
12/30/18 02:57 AM
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Houston, TX
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rhawke Offline OP
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In my search for my first grand piano, I have come across a 1989 Baldwin Model L. The dealer is telling me that the piano is a one-owner piano that has been played by a hobby pianist. He is offering it for around $8,800 with a 1 year dealer warranty and said it has been on the floor for a while because of the cosmetic damages around the brown wood case. The dealer claims it is the best value i will ever find for this price if I don't mind the cosmetic issues.

I played it and it sounded quite pleasant, a little bit brighter than the sound I was looking for, but with my budget I can't be too picky (to give you an idea of my sound preference, I would take a Bosendorfer over a Steinway any day). My alternative is a Ritmuller GH170R which will cost around $5,000 more which I prefer a bit better in sound right now I think (but am not 100 % sure). One of the problems is that they are at different dealers and in completely different room acoustics which makes it hard to truly compare and while the Ritmuller definitely has a warmer sound, I'm not sure it is exactly what I was looking for either.

Regarding resale value, the Ritmuller dealer is assuring me that the Ritmuller will increase in value and the Baldwin continue to decrease and of course the dealer that has the used Baldwin is telling me that an American made piano will never decline as much in value as a Chinese piano would, even a Ritmuller.

Besides the sound difference, I believe that the Baldwin Model L had a heavier action compared to the Ritmuller. Is this just for this model or did these Baldwins have heavier actions in general? I had a hard time playing fast thrills compared to the Ritmuller. But the dealer told me this is only because I'm not used to a grand piano yet and that having a heavier action will actually improve my playing in the long run.

I believe I read somewhere that Baldwin quality over the years had fluctuated and that some years were better than others. Is 1988/1989 one of the "good" years?

I took some pictures below and would welcome any opinions. If the feedback here is positive I will go ahead and pay the money to hire an independent piano tech to perform an evaluation/appraisal before making a final decision.

Google Photos Folder:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/BUPdx2EwSAGYaP447

Lots on my mind, I will appreciate any input!

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Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2796663
12/30/18 03:37 AM
12/30/18 03:37 AM
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If the case damage is what's showing the photos, it could probably be cleaned up by someone who does furniture repair. If that's all that's keeping this piano from selling, then I'm surprised that the dealer hasn't had it cleaned up.

I don't know where you're located, but in my neck of the woods $8800 wouldn't be a bad price for an L in good shape, especially from a dealer, but not great either (especially with cosmetic issues). I'm concerned with the action issues you noted. Relative to the other piano I can't say, but a Baldwin shouldn't have a particularly heavy action. It may need some attention.

A Baldwin L can be a very nice piano.

Some say that the 1980s vintage Baldwins had increased QA problems. Have it inspected before you purchase, like you should any second-hand piano. The technician you hire to do the inspection can probably give you a better idea about the value in your market area.

It sounds like the dealer is blowing some sunshine at you to encourage you to buy ("great value," heavy action will improve your playing, etc).



"If it sounds good, it is good." - Duke Ellington
P E R F O R M A N C E over p r o v e n a n c e

Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2796669
12/30/18 04:59 AM
12/30/18 04:59 AM
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rhawke dealer quote- "I'm not used to a grand piano yet and that having a heavier action will actually improve my playing in the long run."

There are many ethical dealers out there, several who generously post here on PW. Unfortunately there are also many unscrupulous ones who make statements like the one above and others like: voicing after you get the piano home will be able to make it sound any way you want, or the piano is brand new and will wear in and sound will be much better in your living room than the showroom, or your piano is an investment that will appreciate in the future. The list goes on and on. Run don't walk from dealers who make statements like these.

Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2796755
12/30/18 01:08 PM
12/30/18 01:08 PM
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Houston, TX
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rhawke Offline OP
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@SanFrancisco. Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, I have heard exactly the voicing comment from the second major dealer in Houston. I wish I could run to other dealers but that would mean a 3-4 hour drive to another major city in Texas. So I'll have to live with them and just make my decision without listening to their sales talk ... thanks to this forum, I feel much better about that than a week ago.

Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797400
01/01/19 10:10 AM
01/01/19 10:10 AM
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Rockville, MD
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Happy New Year

Regarding the OP's questions:
  • Regarding resale value, the Ritmuller dealer is assuring me that the Ritmuller will increase in value and the Baldwin continue to decrease and of course the dealer that has the used Baldwin is telling me that an American made piano will never decline as much in value as a Chinese piano would, even a Ritmuller.
  • ---Pianos, with the possible exceptions of ones owned by celebrities, e.g., Liberace, are wasting assets. They decline in value. As to American piano values declining less than Chinese pianos, I think it would depend on the brand specifics.
  • "I played it and it sounded quite pleasant, a little bit brighter than the sound I was looking for..." + "Besides the sound difference, I believe that the Baldwin Model L had a heavier action compared to the Ritmuller..."
  • ---At the school where I teach we have a number of little used Baldwin L pianos from 1982. When I say little, I mean... little. There is barely even minimal grooving in the hammers. Regarding the heaviness of the action - if you are used to playing on a worn upright, or an electronic keyboard, playing a less worn piano -- with a heavier action -- will feel heavier, be it a grand, or an upright. As to the heaviness, it is my personal experience that Baldwin and Steinway pianos from the 80's had heavier feeling actions than Bosendorfers of that period. Though there is much dispute about touchweight, I believe that action weights have been getting lighter in recent years, so the Ritmuller, if it's modeled on current German pianos (except Steinway) would feel lighter. As a final comment on the Baldwin - I can't speak to 1989, just 1982, but what I can say is that the Baldwin L, like the SF-10 and SD-10 is a robustly made instrument, built to last. Given the usage scenario you describe, an 80's L should last you for many years.
  • I have not played the Ritmuller, but I did go to their website. I'm impressed by what I read of the build quality and materials used. The Chinese manufacturers have hired many highly qualified industry professionals as consultants - several of whom post regularly on PW - and there is every possibility that the Ritmuller could be a bargain at its price point. I suspect the action would weigh out lighter than the Baldwin, the sound would be different. And, it would be a NEW piano with the manufacturer's warranty in place.
  • "...picky (to give you an idea of my sound preference, I would take a Bosendorfer over a Steinway any day). .."
  • ---Well, this is interesting. Of all the American pianos, it was Baldwin that sounded most like a Steinway. Given what I read about the Ritmuller, it seems they, as other Chinese manufacturers, are modeling their sound on European preferences (with the exception of Boston - Steinway). The Ritmuller might be the better choice for you on this criterion.

If you like the Baldwin, hire an independent tech to evaluate it in its current condition. Ask about voicing. Make sure he measures touch weight for you. Though imperfect, it's better than "it feels heavy" when making a purchase decision.

After that, it's a matter of your taste and your budget. Oh, one more thing. given a clean bill of health on the Baldwin, I'd offer $7500. It will cost you something to have the cosmetics fixed; the piano HAS sat n the sales floor for some time. I suspect there's still some profit in it for the dealer at that price point. Can't hurt to ask.

Good luck with your purchase.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
Educated Amateur Tuner/Technician
Rockville, MD USA
www.AndrewKraus.com
www.YouTube.com/RockvillePianoGuy
Twitter at @IAmAPianist

1929 Steinert 6'10" (Close copy of New York S&S "B")
Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: Sanfrancisco] #2797448
01/01/19 12:58 PM
01/01/19 12:58 PM
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New York City
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Originally Posted by Sanfrancisco
rhawke dealer quote- "I'm not used to a grand piano yet and that having a heavier action will actually improve my playing in the long run."

There are many ethical dealers out there, several who generously post here on PW. Unfortunately there are also many unscrupulous ones who make statements like the one above and others like: voicing after you get the piano home will be able to make it sound any way you want, or the piano is brand new and will wear in and sound will be much better in your living room than the showroom, or your piano is an investment that will appreciate in the future. The list goes on and on. Run don't walk from dealers who make statements like these.
The statements you added are valid examples of false dealer claims but the one you quoted could definitely be true(unless the Baldwin's action is particularly heavy) especially the part about not being used to a grand piano's action.

Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797464
01/01/19 01:39 PM
01/01/19 01:39 PM
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Western New York State, USA
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When I was shopping, I noticed the Baldwins in particular seemed like they had heavy dampers; I found a greater change in perceived touch weight with the damper pedal down over when it was up. That difference was not as noticeable with the other makers. After I bought my Baldwin M, I quickly learned to half pedal if I wanted fast but still clean runs and trills.


Peter
1949 Baldwin M
currently working on Brahms op. 10 Ballades, f-minor sonata and 2nd concerto
Mendelssohn Songs Without Words and E minor Prelude and Fugue
whatever strikes my fancy today.
Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797480
01/01/19 02:22 PM
01/01/19 02:22 PM
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Columbus, GA
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Keep looking. The 80's Baldwins had an action that was made in Mexico. Not saying that it couldn't have been good but this particular iteration of the Baldwin action was very poorly constructed and does not hold up well in hard use. The parts were made by machines purchased from the then going bankrupt Pratt Read factory in Connecticut. The tooling had been compromised by a flood in the factory prior to selling it to Baldwin. I personally went there when I worked for Baldwin and reported on the dramatic inconsistencies that I found. Manufacturing in Conway and Truman, Arkansas was commonly shut down due to the inability of the actions coming out of the Pratt Win factory in Juarez. This was not the fault of the Mexican workers but the fault of the tooling and poor conditions at the factory with no control over the humidity and lack of concern for the orientation of the grain. As a result holding tolerances was impossible.

In very light use, it may be ok but not suitable for a serious pianist who is planning to put a bunch of miles on it. If you put a new action in it, it might hold up well if there are no belly work issues with the soundboard and pin block. Price it as though it needs $8000 worth of action work.


Sally Phillips
Owner/ Technician
Piano Perfect, LLC
Steinway & Sons Pianos
Columbus, GA
New Steinway, Boston and Essex pianos
www.steinwaypiano.com
Acoustic Piano Technical Consultant - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
http://www.pianobuyer.com/current-issue/07a-should-i-have-my-piano-rebuilt.html
Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797510
01/01/19 03:52 PM
01/01/19 03:52 PM
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I have nothing to add regarding the condition of the piano since I've never played a Baldwin in my life, nor actually seen one in the flesh, and Sally Phillips has said all that can be said about Baldwins from that era....

But regarding the dealer telling you that a heavier action will improve your playing - that's actually a pretty vague statement. I prefer pianos with a lighter action, and some of the finest Steinway concert grands I have played, including most recently some brand new Hamburg ones in London, have what many would consider a light action. Heavy or sluggish feeling actions are usually indicative of a problem, which could be anything from bad regulation to bad workmanship to bad parts, humidity problems, etc etc etc, and dealers will sometimes just say something to get the piano sold, which is an observation not a criticism. I've had tuners and dealers say to me in the past "this piano will make all other pianos feel easier", but actually all it does is give you fatigue and strain injury. From how you describe the action it sounds like you don't enjoy playing it. Don't spend 8800 dollars on a piano that you don't like.

Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797538
01/01/19 05:27 PM
01/01/19 05:27 PM
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Rockville, MD
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Ah, to be wrong, in public, on January 1st. Sigh.
Based on Ms. Phillips' expert comments, sure looks like the Baldwin is a non-starter.
Perhaps we were just lucky at our school to get early 80's instruments that have lasted as long as ours without significant issues.
Forum readers - any experience with recent Ritmuller instruments?
Any recordings of the sound of the instruments?


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
Educated Amateur Tuner/Technician
Rockville, MD USA
www.AndrewKraus.com
www.YouTube.com/RockvillePianoGuy
Twitter at @IAmAPianist

1929 Steinert 6'10" (Close copy of New York S&S "B")
Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797546
01/01/19 05:55 PM
01/01/19 05:55 PM
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Ritmuller I think is quite good. I've played a couple of uprights, they weren't stellar but they were also priced accordingly. I'd personally be tempted to shop around and see what else is available. What kind of price does the Kawai GL50 come in at over there in the USA? I thought it was a very good piano when I played one in Vienna.

The Pearl River factory does produce some nice pianos now. In the past the ones I have tried have needed a lot of preparation work, regulation, voicing, sorting out things in the pedals etc, but when they're serviced properly they can sound very nice. I played one with the Bentley name on it about 3 years ago and it was regulated beautifully.

What I can't tell you is how long they last under strenuous practice conditions, but perhaps there are people on this forum who can tell you.

Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797669
01/02/19 03:39 AM
01/02/19 03:39 AM
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In 2008, the last year Baldwin produced the Artist grands, Larry Fine's "The Piano Book" put Baldwin in a category labeled "High Performance Pianos," and describes the pianos in that category as "built to a standard that favors high-performance design, features, materials and workmanship." Fine documents a quality problem in the 1980s, but doesn't condemn the brand.

Reasonable people acknowledge the QA problem, but this carte blanch, wholesale condemnation of Baldwins only comes from one source. And it doesn't seem to square with reality. Owners of these pianos have defended them. Former Baldwin dealers have defended them. Baldwin built and sold thousands of pianos in this era, and I don't hear any other former Baldwin employee bashing them.

I'm not going to twist the OP's arm to buy the Baldwin, but if he's interested in it, he should simply have it inspected, like one should do with any second hand piano. Better the advice of a tech who's actually inspected the piano in question, than the advice of someone who summarily rejects every Baldwin produced after 1980. That's irrational. Let a tech determine hands-on how much action work is needed (if any).

If the OP bought the the Baldwin, and were even to invest the dramatic $8000 in action work, he'd still save more than $50,000 over the cheapest Steinway, and nearly $80,000 over a similarly sized Steinway. Fine said that this grouping were "wonderful instruments, and some of the best values in the piano world," and they still are!

It's been said that Steinway dealers don't like to compete with used Steinways. I suspect that they don't want to lose sales to second hand Baldwins either. The fact of the matter is that a lightly used Baldwin Artist grand--or one that's been well cared for--represents a phenomenal value now, just like in 2008.

The Baldwin L is a very nice piano. If a given specimen is defect free, and in good shape, no one should be discouraged from purchasing it simply because of the year it was built.


"If it sounds good, it is good." - Duke Ellington
P E R F O R M A N C E over p r o v e n a n c e

Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: Retsacnal] #2797721
01/02/19 08:39 AM
01/02/19 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
In 2008, the last year Baldwin produced the Artist grands, Larry Fine's "The Piano Book" put Baldwin in a category labeled "High Performance Pianos," and describes the pianos in that category as "built to a standard that favors high-performance design, features, materials and workmanship." Fine documents a quality problem in the 1980s, but doesn't condemn the brand.

Reasonable people acknowledge the QA problem, but this carte blanch, wholesale condemnation of Baldwins only comes from one source. And it doesn't seem to square with reality. Owners of these pianos have defended them. Former Baldwin dealers have defended them. Baldwin built and sold thousands of pianos in this era, and I don't hear any other former Baldwin employee bashing them.

I'm not going to twist the OP's arm to buy the Baldwin, but if he's interested in it, he should simply have it inspected, like one should do with any second hand piano. Better the advice of a tech who's actually inspected the piano in question, than the advice of someone who summarily rejects every Baldwin produced after 1980. That's irrational. Let a tech determine hands-on how much action work is needed (if any).

If the OP bought the the Baldwin, and were even to invest the dramatic $8000 in action work, he'd still save more than $50,000 over the cheapest Steinway, and nearly $80,000 over a similarly sized Steinway. Fine said that this grouping were "wonderful instruments, and some of the best values in the piano world," and they still are!

It's been said that Steinway dealers don't like to compete with used Steinways. I suspect that they don't want to lose sales to second hand Baldwins either. The fact of the matter is that a lightly used Baldwin Artist grand--or one that's been well cared for--represents a phenomenal value now, just like in 2008.

The Baldwin L is a very nice piano. If a given specimen is defect free, and in good shape, no one should be discouraged from purchasing it simply because of the year it was built.



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Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797748
01/02/19 09:49 AM
01/02/19 09:49 AM
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Columbus, GA
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The section that you quoted from Piano Buyer was written long after other management took over and quality issues were addressed. I have often spoken about the issues with the 80's Baldwin product. I have opinions about other brands as well but do not voice them because I have never been an employee nor do I have first hand information about their production. In the case of Baldwin, I was there in their factories and traveled among the dealers on their behalf. I saw first hand the issues, having been sent to the factory to identify the problems.


Sally Phillips
Owner/ Technician
Piano Perfect, LLC
Steinway & Sons Pianos
Columbus, GA
New Steinway, Boston and Essex pianos
www.steinwaypiano.com
Acoustic Piano Technical Consultant - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
http://www.pianobuyer.com/current-issue/07a-should-i-have-my-piano-rebuilt.html
Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797767
01/02/19 11:11 AM
01/02/19 11:11 AM
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Urbandale, Iowa
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Originally Posted by rhawke

Regarding resale value, the Ritmuller dealer is assuring me that the Ritmuller will increase in value and the Baldwin continue to decrease and of course the dealer that has the used Baldwin is telling me that an American made piano will never decline as much in value as a Chinese piano would, even a Ritmuller.

This is absolutely BS. No piano increases in value in the short term. Pianos are like cars, the moment a new piano is sold it loses significant proportion of its value. If pianos increased in value dealers wouldn't sell them until they could realize that increase (sell at the higher price). A used piano will generally hold its value better.

Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797773
01/02/19 11:32 AM
01/02/19 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by rhawke
Unfortunately, I have heard exactly the voicing comment from the second major dealer in Houston.


Amen. So have I.

I tried a piano recently and point-blank asked the dealer (who is also a technician) if it was "concert ready."

He said "yes."

I then painstakingly walked him through the inconsistencies in the regulation, how thin the upper register was, how "twangy" several notes were, etc.

Of course, his response was effectively "Just buy it and we can voice it in your home." Yeah, like twangy strings and a lousy upper register are just an acoustics problem unique to his floor . . .

(A quick tip to all dealers reading this: If a potential buyer is playing Rachmaninoff on your pianos, he's probably not a total ignoramus.)

It's gotten to the point that I'm about ready to just exclusively shop from private sellers. No sales tax, and no sales shenanigans. I've found some outstanding pianos on a particular website (which I won't mention because I'm not here to advertise for anyone). I even flew to another state to try one and had it professionally inspected. I ultimately chose to not buy it for purely subjective reasons, but it was objectively an outstanding piano for an outstanding price.

Anyway, I can certainly relate to your piano shopping woes.

Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797838
01/02/19 02:10 PM
01/02/19 02:10 PM
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Houston, TX
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rhawke Offline OP
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Wow thank you so much for all these thoughtful answers. I did not expect that much detail! I'm was already leaning towards the Ritmuller even before reading some of the quality issue posts. I think if I had full confidence in the Ritmuller dealer, I might have already taken the plunge and made them a firm offer on one. But the instruments there don't appear prepped properly and when I pointed that out I got exactly the same answer as Piano90X. "Voicing and tuning in your home will fix all of these issues".

Another sales consultant at the same dealer was being honest and told me "We have around 100 pianos here, we don't prep and tune the pianos all the time, that would drive up the cost too much and everybody wants a low price. Most people that come here still buy the pianos and don't hear anything wrong with them even when they are a bit out of tune or not voiced consistently. Tell us if you really like a particular piano and we can have it tuned for you before you buy it"

When I asked why more than half of the pianos in the "used piano room" were out of tune, she straight up told me that they turn off the heat at night. The main problem with that is that I can't stand to play an out of tune piano for even 2 minutes. How am I supposed to find a potentially good sounding used piano if it is out of tune? I don't have the experience to be able to tell ... "oh if this one were in tune, it would be perfect". Out of tune everything just sounds horrible to me.

Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: S. Phillips] #2797847
01/02/19 02:32 PM
01/02/19 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by S. Phillips
The section that you quoted from Piano Buyer was written long after other management took over and quality issues were addressed. I have often spoken about the issues with the 80's Baldwin product. I have opinions about other brands as well but do not voice them because I have never been an employee nor do I have first hand information about their production. In the case of Baldwin, I was there in their factories and traveled among the dealers on their behalf. I saw first hand the issues, having been sent to the factory to identify the problems.


He's no longer active here but noted piano designer Del Fandrich, also a Baldwin ex-employee, also commented on the quality problems with the Mexican built actions. Sally is not alone.


I have a used Baldwin on my "moving up to a grand one day" list. I wouldn't necessarily dismiss the Baldwin out of hand but would consider investing in an inspection.

I have few doubts about Ritmullers being excellent for the money. I DO have my doubts about the Ritmuller dealer and his statements about future value.

If you're used to a digital. Most acoustic pianos will feel heavy. My Pramberger certainly did. Now 5 years later, I don't notice it. I don't know if it played in, I adapted or a combination of both but as an anecdotal point, there it is.

Kurt


**********************************************************************************************************
Co-owner (by marriage) and part time customer service rep at an electronic musical equipment repair shop.
Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797860
01/02/19 03:32 PM
01/02/19 03:32 PM
Joined: Apr 2016
Posts: 239
Oregon USA
jarobi Offline
Full Member
jarobi  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Apr 2016
Posts: 239
Oregon USA
Why not try making an offer on the Ritmuller contingent on your approval after it is properly prepped in the store. The dealer will have incentive to tune and prep the piano and you will get a true picture of what you're buying. If they won't do that, I'd move on.

Last edited by jarobi; 01/02/19 03:34 PM.
Re: Used 1989 Baldwin Model L (6'3") - "good" year? [Re: rhawke] #2797866
01/02/19 03:59 PM
01/02/19 03:59 PM
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 4,755
Georgia, USA
terminaldegree Offline
4000 Post Club Member
terminaldegree  Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2006
Posts: 4,755
Georgia, USA
Wow, rhawke, that sounds frustrating. When I’ve been seriously shopping, I have been fortunate enough to have (at the very least) recently tuned pianos to play. I always made a habit of calling ahead a few days before visiting, to make an appointment to see a specific piano(s). The store contacts I made usually took the hint, making sure things were ready to show. I might have lower expectations for a private seller, but your situation turns that on its head!


Pianist, teacher, apprentice technician, internet addict.
Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
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