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Surprise Knabe WMG 610
#2985180 05/28/20 09:02 PM
Joined: Apr 2018
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I've been looking for a 6' piano for a while and thought I'd narrowed it down to a Yamaha C3 or a Kawai RX3. One of the things I really want is good bass, which my 5' Kawai GL10 lacks. After trying several 6 foot Cs and CXs, I found I preferred the Kawai GX/RX line more, so was set on looking for a good used one. My last stop was the local Mason & Hamlin dealer to see how the new Masons sound, and how the WNG actions feel. They had a Model A, and boy, what a nice piano. The action really is accurate and wonderful. The bass on that thing is also much stronger than the larger Yamahas and Kawais I had tried. But, used As with the WNG action are hard to find, and new ones are over $50k. My wife would divorce me before the day was out if I spent that much on a piano. So, I moved on to see what else they had.

Sitting in the used piano room was a 1992 Wm Knabe, 5'9" for $8,900. Given the year, I figured it had to be an Asian made stencil piano, so I wasn't expecting much. Even so, I was curious how it would sound. Turns out, it sounds pretty amazing. The bass is just as strong as the Mason Model A, and the action is pretty good. I noticed the letoff was pretty wide, so with a good regulation, I bet it will play quite well. Overall it had a bright sound like the Mason. With voicing, or even different hammers, I'm sure I could get the tone dialed in to what I like (I prefer the darker tone like Shigeru Kawais have).

Looking online and on PW, there is very little info about a 1990s Knabe. As far as I can tell, the WMG line is their middle tier piano, so probably along the lines of a C3 or RX3. From what I can gather, this was nearing the end of the period Knabe was owned by M&H, and soon to be acquired by Samick. It also seems like this piano may have been made in Samick's Indonesian factory.

Although the names "Samick" and "Indonesia" don't inspire much confidence, based on what I've read on PW, I also believe that in the end it's how the piano sounds and plays to you, rather than the name on the fallboard or the technical specs that matter. Had I done a blind test today, sound-wise I think this piano would have ranked higher than the Yamahas and Kawais I tested, and maybe even higher than the Shigeru SK2s and SK3s I tried today (blasphemy I know, as a huge Kawai afficionado).

If anyone has observations or knowledge about this era of Knabe's, please share. In the past few days I've tried 6 foot Estonias, Yamaha Cs and CXs, Shimmels, W. Shimmels, Mason & Hamlins, and Shigeru Kawais. That a 28 year old Korean made Knabe stands out in this group surprises me as much as it probably does you. I hope to go back to the store and try it again tomorrow. Below is the only YouTube recording I could find of a WMG610. It gives some idea of the richness of the bass on this piano.

Thanks!


Last edited by Emery Wang; 05/28/20 09:09 PM.

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Re: Surprise Knabe WMG 610
Emery Wang #2985598 05/29/20 10:15 PM
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Alright, so for those following along at home, I called the Knabe (Samick) factory today, and they didn't have any info on this piano. Seems Samick acquired things in the mid 1990s, so they couldn't tell me who was making Knabes in 1992. A Knabe dealer thought maybe Baldwin was building them as a stencil brand during that time, and maybe Young Chang was in it as well.

I also went back and tried the piano again. It didn't sound as good this time. The bass is strong, but the rest of it sounds a little thin. I guess I didn't notice it yesterday as I was focused on how the bass sounded on various pianos. A Kawai RX1 sitting nearby sounded much more even and tight compared to the Knabe. So, the search continues...


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Re: Surprise Knabe WMG 610
Emery Wang #2985835 05/30/20 01:49 PM
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I've honestly never seen a Knabe from the early 1990's. The brand was passed around a few times, and I'd be curious of what it actually is. Knabe was part of the sale of Mason & Hamlin to the Burgett family in the early 1990's. Pierce Atlas suggests that Young Chang's production of Knabe pianos didn't begin until 1996 (in partnership with Burgetts), and to my knowledge, that is the first time Knabe pianos were built in Asia.

The Young Chang era Knabe's weren't bad, but I really haven't seen many. I know they were positioned as one of their higher lines at the time. Samick acquired Knabe from YC when they went through reorganization in the early 2000's and then quickly started making their own Knabes. Again, positioned as their highest line, they had the "Artist Series" well before the lower line Knabes.

All of the YC and Samick-made Knabes were built in Korea until at least the mid-2000's. Lower line Samick grands were first to come out of Indonesia, and then eventually the higher line Knabe's were also made there, but I believe this is after 2009. I don't have perfect dates, but we were a Knabe dealer during that transition. The early versions from Indonesia did not have as great of cabinet work as the Korean production and did require more prep, but they were certainly solid in the areas we felt that mattered. When the lower line Knabe's were introduced to the line, we pursued some different brands for our showroom lineup. Today, the production in Indonesia is really quite good, understanding there are different quality levels of production.

So there is a timeline of Knabe for the last ~25 years, but not for 1992. Again, I'm curious as to what you played, the design, and the identifying serial that is often helpful in determining factory origins.


Sam Bennett
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Re: Surprise Knabe WMG 610
Emery Wang #2985840 05/30/20 02:22 PM
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What is the serial number? I think that in 1992, Knabe was part of Mason & Hamlin/Sohmer. There were a few Knabes that were finished after they came out of the Aeolian American company when they were closed, but I do not think that they would have had polyester finishes or WMG model designations. So the date sounds fishy. That does not mean there is anything wrong with the piano.


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Re: Surprise Knabe WMG 610
Emery Wang #2985842 05/30/20 02:25 PM
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The recording that you shared has a sound I associate with a not so great laminated sound board combined with overly heavy hammers without much flexibility or density variance. Kind of hollow and woofy ( sorry, don't mean to get overly technical smile ) to my ear.

I am not a big fan of early 90s Korean pianos. The actions don't play very well and they are noisy. Better Chinese pianos from even 10 years ago have far superior designs and sometimes surprisingly decent hammers. They often let you know that they were felt by a German ( little joke there )

With all that, it is entirely dependent on the specific piano. If you really like the sound and feel of the Knabe, and it is in good and reliable condition, and priced right, it might be a fine piano for you.

Not sure if my post helped or confused but those are my initial thoughts.


Keith D Kerman
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