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Used Steinway - should I get one? #2850677
05/21/19 09:49 AM
05/21/19 09:49 AM
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lbuizza Offline OP
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Hi,

Firstly I am new to PianoWorld (what a great place!) so apologies if I have put this in the wrong forum etc - I will learn!

I am what I would call a 'very keen' amateur (ie diploma level and up - sorry for blowing my own trumpet but I think it's important info), and I am looking to finally upgrade my lovely Yamaha upright that has been with me since I started playing. In my apartment I have space for a ~190cm piano without making any major furniture rearrangements which I would want to avoid, and I have a budget of about £40k (around 50k dollars in American). I know these questions are entirely subjective but I wanted to see what the pianist community out there thinks about this.

I very much enjoy playing Steinways, even if the ones that I have played have all tended to be less than 10 years old, so it is probably the brand I would want to go for. What is stopping me is the price - I would only be able to afford a used/restored one and this is what the majority of my questions are about.

1. Should I be looking at Steinway at all? I am viewing this as a once in a lifetime purchase, and although my judgement might be clouded by the brand whenever I play a good one to my ears they are unbeatable. However I could save myself a lot of trouble and buy something like a Shigeru/Yamaha, pay less and probably be very happy with my purchase especially given I will never be a professional musician (even if I have ambitions to go to music school in later life). I am viewing this as a purchase made with my heart over my head but both are giving me conflicting opinions - any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Need to try a Bosendorfer, tried the Academy Bechsteins and I didn't like the touch, and then right after I tried some C. Bechsteins and the leap in quality was huge and made me not like the Academy ones even more. Then I went to Steinway Hall and left wishing I could double my budget...

2. Restored/used pianos. Realistically given I will keep this piano for at least 10-20 years if not much longer, will a restored ~100 year old piano last in terms of producing a nice sound, keeping in tune etc.? At the moment I have been trying to look at just modern ones although these are very hard to come by.

3. Model A vs O - especially in the bass, do the 8 extra cm make such a large difference? I am 90% sure I would be very happy with an O, however I do not want that doubt to remain in my head. I know this is extremely subjective however I have only played about two of each model in my life. I went to Steinway Hall and I loved the O, although I cannot remember the difference between the A and O in terms of sound - all I remember is that both of the A's had too light a touch for me.

4. With my budget can I expect to find something good? I don't want to buy a used piano only to be wanting to do all of this again in a couple of years time. What is a realistic price for a Model O/A which is less than 20 years old? I have found one O which has apparently barely been played from 2008 for around £45k, although I have not yet been able to try that particular one.

5. Does anyone know of any good places in the UK where I can find either a piano matching this description or someone who can help me find exactly what I would like/does anyone here know of any private sellers who have something like the above?

Many thanks for your help in advance, I am looking to buy this by around September (although the sooner the better!) so I have time to have fun and find exactly what I want.

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Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850683
05/21/19 10:01 AM
05/21/19 10:01 AM
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Oh and another thing - not that I would ever want to but if I did have to one day sell it could I expect to get back near what I paid for it (I know it will be less but how much)? Bearing in mind it will be very well kept...

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850696
05/21/19 10:33 AM
05/21/19 10:33 AM
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I would advise you to contact Jeffery Shackell in Witney. Email jeffrey.shackell@gmail.com He specialises in restoring Steinways.

My only connections with Jeffrey are: many years' ago, looking at his stock of (mainly) Steinways (didn't buy one) and, remembering how he treated me, approaching him a few years back to sell my Kawai RX2. He did the latter job splendidly.

He's fair and honest.

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850700
05/21/19 10:51 AM
05/21/19 10:51 AM
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Pianos are a personal thing! Taste vary both when it comes to tone/timbre, and when it comes to action. Furthermore, each and every piano is a living thing and a unique individual... Two pianos of the same type from the same manufacturer will not be totally alike. So my best advice is to see what your budget is, try out lots of different grands, and buy the piano you like the most within that budget.

That said, I think it could be a mistake to limit yourself to one specific brand, unless you are very very committed to that brand. Personally I have not been floored by Steinway grands... as I said it's personal. Speaking of grand pianos in the same price range I have become more convinced by Steingraeber and Fazioli, for example.

But I have played grands from many different manufacturers that all had their unique strengths. Rebuilt antique German grands, Bösendorfer's, Grotrian, some Bluthner's, even some cheap Chinese grands that were voiced and regulated to perfection by the dealer... I've come across pianos which I really liked from all of these. And I've tried grands from the same manufacturers that I didn't like at all. Assuming a set budget, it may very well be that a Steinway grand is what will make you most happy. But it can also be that your perfect grand is actually an old rebuilt Ibach piano which is waiting for you at a show room you have yet to visit.

Good luck!

Last edited by oivavoi; 05/21/19 10:52 AM.
Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: sandalholme] #2850706
05/21/19 11:04 AM
05/21/19 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by sandalholme
I would advise you to contact Jeffery Shackell in Witney. Email jeffrey.shackell@gmail.com He specialises in restoring Steinways.


Great advice! It's people like these who I would like to try and meet...

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850709
05/21/19 11:14 AM
05/21/19 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by oivavoi
Two pianos of the same type from the same manufacturer will not be totally alike. So my best advice is to see what your budget is, try out lots of different grands, and buy the piano you like the most within that budget.



Totally agree with this, I will be ramping up the rate at which I try them to try and better understand exactly what I want. Even if I do end up going for a Steinway, it is still very good to know that I got the best piano for me and not just the best Steinway/other brand...

Originally Posted by oivavoi
P
But I have played grands from many different manufacturers that all had their unique strengths. Rebuilt antique German grands, Bösendorfer's, Grotrian, some Bluthner's,
Good luck!


I don't have too much experience playing restored pianos, so it would be good to find a dealer that specialises in these and try them out...

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850714
05/21/19 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by lbuizza


4. With my budget can I expect to find something good? I don't want to buy a used piano only to be wanting to do all of this again in a couple of years time. What is a realistic price for a Model O/A which is less than 20 years old? I have found one O which has apparently barely been played from 2008 for around £45k, although I have not yet been able to try that particular one.


Out of curiosity, i checked some used Steinway grand in local area, Find a 2002 L model for 32K USD and a 1995 Model B for 44K USD. I know this will not be the same in London. But is this price close to people paying for these model? considering they play well and no need major repair.

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850729
05/21/19 12:17 PM
05/21/19 12:17 PM
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Hi Ibuzzia

I agree very much with oivavoi in that it could be a mistake to limit yourself to one specific brand. With regards to Bechstein, I also find that there is a significant step up from C. Bechstein (Academy) and the W Hoffman lines to C.Bechstein Concert, but so is the price. (W Hoffmann line, by the way, traces back to the Bohemia brand, which started making pianos in the Czech Republic back in 1871. After the revolution in 1989, the Bohemia factory was bought out from state ownership and then established as a private company. In 2007 the factory was bought by C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik AG Berlin. Today, the factory produces pianos and grand pianos under the trade name W Hoffmann.)

My personal experience with restored grand pianos is that while the sound for some of them may be nice, I find they are much less pleasing to play than a new or quite new piano. Generally, from around 20 restored I played, they appear in a nice shape, but if you inspect closely you can almost always find something, use of a plastic part instead of brass, too short legs, too small wheels, a part that is not adjusted properly... Enough so, that I personally would not go down that road. Others have been pleased though, so maybe I have just been too picky.

In the 35k-45k £ range and sizes you are looking at, you have quite a selection of pianos to choose between. I do not remember the exact prices, but you could look at:
August Förster 190 (194cm) is around 40k £
Sauter Delta (185cm) is around 40k £
Grotrian-Steinweg 192 is around 45k £.
Phoenix 170 is around 45k £

Since you live in London it would be a shame not to visit Phoenix at Hurstwood Farm. I played a Phoenix 170 in London back in February 2018 and was quite impressed. Next time I plan a trip to the Farm.

My personal preference in the price and size range is the August Förster 190, but it will depend on the individual piano of course. In London they are sold by Peregrines-Pianos I believe.

Best of luck!

_Skjalg

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850732
05/21/19 12:22 PM
05/21/19 12:22 PM
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Over the years I've played some really wonderful piano that were NOT Steinways. My favorites among those were a Shigeru-Kawai SK-7 in a concert hall in Shanghai and two Fazioli - one a F-278 concert grand at a piano shop in Raleigh, NC, and the other a F-228 at a piano shop in Munster in Germany.

I've also played some great Steinways - A, A-III (no longer available but absolutely stellar when you find a good one, B, C and D.

There are differences (still) between NY and Hamburg. I choose not to engage in the religious war over which is better in this comment. I've played great instruments from both factories, some "meh" ones, and the occasional clunker.

Regarding your "A" vs., "O" question - I have yet to play a good O as good as a good A. I suspect, though I cannot prove this, that the A, B, C and D instruments were designed for professional use, the L, O, and M for what is called the "prosumer" market these days. So, if you can swing the money for an A, and you can find a good one, go for it! At your price point, if you're very lucky, you might even stumble on a "B".


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

1929 Steinert 6'10" (Close copy of New York S&S "B")
Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850744
05/21/19 12:52 PM
05/21/19 12:52 PM
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I think that you should start by going to piano dealers and trying a bunch of pianos, new and used. You need to develop your taste, and see what is available. That will answer a lot of your questions much better than we can answer them.


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Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: Skjalg] #2850750
05/21/19 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Skjalg
Hi Ibuzzia

I agree very much with oivavoi in that it could be a mistake to limit yourself to one specific brand.
(...)

My personal experience with restored grand pianos is that while the sound for some of them may be nice, I find they are much less pleasing to play than a new or quite new piano. Generally, from around 20 restored I played, they appear in a nice shape, but if you inspect closely you can almost always find something, use of a plastic part instead of brass, too short legs, too small wheels, a part that is not adjusted properly... Enough so, that I personally would not go down that road. Others have been pleased though, so maybe I have just been too picky.


Apologies for de-routing the thread, but shortly: I see we're from the same country, Skjalg. If you are based in Oslo, you could take a trip to Aspheim and check out their Ibach grand, which was completely rebuilt at the Schimmel factory in Poland (I played it some days ago and was mightily impressed, that's why it was Ibach which fell into my head). Probably not the same razor-sharp precision as in the newer grands, but I personally preferred the feel I got from playing that piano to the feel I got from playing most of the newer grands they had there, including the Shigerus etc. As I said, pianos are a personal thing!

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: oivavoi] #2850754
05/21/19 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by oivavoi

Apologies for de-routing the thread, but shortly: I see we're from the same country, Skjalg. If you are based in Oslo, you could take a trip to Aspheim and check out their Ibach grand, which was completely rebuilt at the Schimmel factory in Poland (I played it some days ago and was mightily impressed, that's why it was Ibach which fell into my head). Probably not the same razor-sharp precision as in the newer grands, but I personally preferred the feel I got from playing that piano to the feel I got from playing most of the newer grands they had there, including the Shigerus etc. As I said, pianos are a personal thing!


I have played the Ibach they have there several times, and I assumed that was what you had in your mind when you mentioned Ibach. It is the best sounding of the restored grand pianos they had in stock (C. Bechstein, Blüthner) by a good margin. It had a signature sound that I also enjoyed, but I prefer the total experience of the SK-3 or the Schimmel C 189 (in the same shop) more. It was, in fact, the first Ibach that I had played, and it is sad that they no longer make pianos. Yes, the taste is personal, and that is why everyone buying a piano ought to try as many as possible. I have certainly tried my share, and would not mind the one of each approach ;-)

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850762
05/21/19 02:01 PM
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Thanks all for your insights! Very interesting stuff. Just wanted to clarify about rigidity of brand. I have played a range of brands and enjoyed for totally different reasons Kawai (both Shigeru and not) (the academy I play at has plenty of SK-5s which are great however I find them less special than other brands), Bechstein, Yamaha and Steinway - not any others since I started looking for a piano and concentrating on how much I liked the piano whilst playing (so I won’t compare to others I have played).

Until now I enjoyed the 3/4 Steinways that I tried the most, however I am very aware that this was probably luck and given they were showroom models at Steinway hall in London they were well prepped, and I am also aware that I need to play more pianos, old, new and antique to ensure I know what I want.

I think the more important questions for me are from 2 onwards - ie. is a restored piano likely to last me without needing major work, do 8/10cm make that much difference considering the piano will be voiced to my (carpeted) room and that I like a mellow tone and where to look?

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850766
05/21/19 02:18 PM
05/21/19 02:18 PM
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You have a very nice Budget, There is many nice piano's available in that price range. Go play as many as you can and try not to put to much emphasis on the brand.

Maybe try a Schimmel?

Last edited by Learux; 05/21/19 02:19 PM.

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Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850779
05/21/19 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by lbuizza

3. Model A vs O - especially in the bass, do the 8 extra cm make such a large difference? I am 90% sure I would be very happy with an O, however I do not want that doubt to remain in my head. I know this is extremely subjective however I have only played about two of each model in my life. I went to Steinway Hall and I loved the O, although I cannot remember the difference between the A and O in terms of sound - all I remember is that both of the A's had too light a touch for me.

The difference between an A and an O is 8 cm as you point out (188cm for the A versus the O is 180cm). To me, that makes a huge difference in the sound. I much prefer the A over the O. Generally the bigger the better if you have space and the money. Having said that, pianos do tend to sound different once you get them home. If I had to choose between 2 pianos (A and O for example), the touch would be even more important than the sound (size). The best is to make a complete table of criteria that are important to you. For each category or subcategory, you could assign a range. It can include anything from specific things like pedal shape, pedal height from floor, pedal release noise, logo, price, max age, sound, touch, service history, where the piano is made, size of the manufacture... Each will have a minimum and maximum acceptable value to you. This way you can measure how well you like one model over the other, and why. If you have decided on Steinway, be sure to note down what you like and do not like with each you play, and note down the serial number for reference. Play the same instrument several times, because sometimes they alter the voicing between visits or move pianos around. I have experienced this several times.

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850784
05/21/19 03:17 PM
05/21/19 03:17 PM
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You asked about rebuilt pianos. There are many high quality rebuilders in the USA, but I'm not sure about the UK. As I understand it European rebuilders seem less inclined to replace the sound board. Thus your inquiry about how long a rebuilt piano will last depends on swings of humidity (very common in northern USA, don't know about the UK) and quality of the rebuilder. In the USA I wouldn't be interested in a rebuilt older piano that didn't have a new sound board, but swings in humidity between summer and winter are extreme where I live. These swings in humidity tend have an impact on the fibers of the wood and over time will cause the wood to lose its internal structure and cause the crown of the sound board to collapse. As I understand it the difference in humidity in the UK is not as significant between winter and summer, but there is still some. Search this forum and you'll find lots of information about replacing sound boards. If you can find a ten year old instrument that you like you'll get the lower price due to depreciation, but will still get a relatively young instrument that can last 30 - 50 years without sound board replacement.

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850807
05/21/19 04:08 PM
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I would reccommend going to Robert's Pianos in Oxford. I went there for fun once to drool over the pianos.

They have a frequently changing varied stock of fully rebuilt pianos often with effectively the same Renner action you'll get in a new Steinway. You may fall in love with a Schiedmayer or a Lipp instead!

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850837
05/21/19 05:23 PM
05/21/19 05:23 PM
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At your budget you have a wealth of pianos and piano stores in London to choose from. Here's a list of London piano stores that I found in 2 minutes on the internet:

London Piano Stores

Since I own and love my August Förster, I would encourage you to try them out before making your final decision. They are available in London at Peregrin's Pianos. Given your budget, you should be able to purchase a new August Förster 190. Försters are really a great deal for the money. You could also check out the Schimmels at the same shop.

As I'm sure you realize, Steinways come at a premium for the name alone. Even among rebuilt pianos, Steinway can demand another $10,000 over other brands. Even so, you probably will be able to find a rebuilt or refurbished A or O in your budget.

But as others have encouraged, play a range of brands before deciding. Being in Europe you have good access to C. Bechstein, Bösendorfer, Blüthner, Ibach, Grotrian-Steinweg, Steingraeber, etc. Play them all, as well as the Shigeru Kawais and Yamaha S3X. I'd also suggest playing an Estonia, but I don't believe they have a distributor in England.


August Förster 215
Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850843
05/21/19 05:49 PM
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I have actually seen/contacted Roberts pianos, they were extremely nice to me and their videos on YouTube are great for someone like me who is interested in the more technical aspects/is looking to buy a used piano - although I haven’t yet been able to pay them a visit - it is on my to do list.

As for the other advice - thanks to everyone again, it is extremely helpful to have multiple opinions. The general theme here is that I can’t try too many pianos, and I will make an effort to try as many as I can ‘strictly’ in the interests of market research.

Re: Used Steinway - should I get one? [Re: lbuizza] #2850847
05/21/19 06:07 PM
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For some people, it really does have to be a Steinway and nothing else will do. There are others who are more flexible about the brand. There are some who will only play a Kawai.

Sticking with Steinways for now, there are several options open to you, especially if you have £40k available to spend. You're in the price range of a younger piano that has been reconditioned, maybe a new tuning plank and top action, with the original soundboard and bridge work. The UK's climate is quite good at preserving pianos so there are often nice examples of Steinways from c.1970 to 1990 in good condition, and they can be a good choice for domestic work not being so strident as a new one.

The other thing you can do is shop for an older one and have it fully rebuilt - which may or may not include a new soundboard. Of course there's a risk there, you might not like the finished piano, so I'll throw in with here the option of buying a rebuilt one from 100 years ago. If the tuning plank is replaced, the frame is in good condition, and the soundboard is in good condition having been replaced or having simply lasted well over the years (the second scenario is so rare as to be virtually unheard of even in our climate, soundboards on 100 year old pianos often need replaced), and the action is in good condition then the piano should last you well.

The thing is with buying a Steinway, try to avoid one that has come out of an institution - a school, a music college, a university, unless it has had all the work that needs done on it carried out.

If you have the option of buying a new Steinway, maybe you should go down that route if you really want to. I'm of the opinion that Steinway Hamburg makes some of the finest pianos in the world, along with a handful of other makers, and the pianos in that league are all roughly the same price. I don't find them to be overpriced but I do find them to be incredibly expensive. The price is the price, on all of these brands now. Don't buy one as an investment though, buy it because you want the instrument.

As for other brands. Well, none of them are going to give you the sound of a Hamburg Steinway. That's only because they're not Hamburg Steinways. They might be equally beautiful pianos however!

In London you have available to you in the lower price range Yamaha, of course. I think the Yamaha C6X is incredible, and well worth consideration. So is the Shigeru Kawai, any model. Everyone else has made some great suggestions, so I don't have more to add except this:

The difference between the Model O and the Model A isn't so much a difference in *size* of tone, or that one has a better bass than the other, it's that they are two very different characters. The Model O has a kind of tighter sound, and the Model A has a more open sound. I can't explain it any other way than that, and someone else may even say the opposite but be hearing the same thing as I am, because we are talking about something very subjective. I *love* the Model A. Of the smaller Steinways it is my favourite. I prefer a good Model A to a Model B, and I think it is one of their most successful designs. The Model B gained so much traction because NY didn't make it for a long time, so in America it was the Model B that became the more serious studio piano for musicians and institutions, but over here the Model A was always very popular. Now America has the Model A, but the B is still more popular than the A there.

Honestly, if the piano is a good piano, A or O doesn't make a difference in anything more than preference of sound.

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