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"Gray Market" Yamaha Pianos
#653698 04/29/08 09:28 PM
Joined: Apr 2008
Posts: 8
K
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I have been a full time tuner technician and rebuilder since 1974. Formerly a Steinway Hall (NYC) staff technician and hold various other credentials. I also have extensive experience in reconditioning/rebuilding Yamaha pianos all models up to and including C7 and concert grands. Many of these were "Gray Market" pianos. In my experience, I have never seen anything near the "horror stories" circulating that these "Gray Market" pianos are subject to severe defects due to the climate/environment in the (average?) American home. The idea that Yamaha pianos that were sold in Japan, were never intended to be sent to the US market (or are there other locations as well, may I add?) because they will suffer significant structural problems, seems a bit hard to believe! I have seen some of the worst climatic/environment conditions imaginable. That would be the Northeast US N.Y. / Long Island / New England area. Severe dryness in winter (due to the constant heating in the home during below freezing weather and non air conditioned homes during very humid summers). How can one believe that Yamaha "specifically seasons and prepares" their pianos destined to wind up in such environments as entirely effective and practical? Whatever they may do, or do not do to certain pianos for specific "target regions" of the world, sounds more like a very slanted argument to me. To only purchase Yamaha pianos from "Factory franchised" dealerships (i.e. Yamaha America corp.) used Yamaha pianos that are "Yamaha ordained" through only their corporate source, is quite suspicious. I am no novice at this kind of "slippery slope" sales politics. It's no surprise that the prices are much higher to go that route. Am I missing something, or is this in effect saying, if you don't buy (used) Yamaha pianos through us "The Bogeyman will get you"? Please, I would like to hear responses and/or rebuttals from experienced full time professional techs and rebuilders and completely INDEPENDENT ones at that!


KC
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Re: "Gray Market" Yamaha Pianos
#653699 04/30/08 06:30 AM
Joined: Mar 2008
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Hello,
For what I've seen the main problem is that those pianos are not intended to live eternally !

The soundbaord always loose its shape under the 5th octave region ( the plate brace) , while it is not the main problem, I've find their tone goes less than impressive after 20 years.

Some accepteables models in the U1 UX series with serial above 4500000 , but , as they come here after being repaired (in China, mostly, for us) they look new but have a very poor tone balance and liitle sound deepness.

The U3 model seem to age faster than the U1.

I did not see particular horror due to climate, but one vertical had the board cracked (I may say explosed) after a 415 440 pitch raise.

I was said the board ribbing method is objectionneable (moisture+ heat), but I have no real verified data on that.

I generally find those pianos pleasant at first, but, as some musicians told me, they get boring and all sounding the same, somewhat easily.

The worst is the people that sell those reshaped instruments dating from 1960 1970 and present them as "new" (even the pedals are new !)
In that case I will tend to thrown away the babe with the bath's water , for simplification reasons. But I have repaired, sold, and helped people to buy such pianos (the older one being 1974) .

Every one in the trade here have a finger or an arm in that story, so you will rarely hear them talking about.
The gain is far better than selling new Yamahas, but the price for an interesting second hand is in my view too high. the lowest priced ones are total PSO (shining)!


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
Re: "Gray Market" Yamaha Pianos
#653700 04/30/08 06:42 AM
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Known problems are the pin block and bass strings contaminated with oil vapor, (cooking) or may be only the wood too soft, not holding pitch correctly despite new tuning pins.

And a plain uninteresting tone out of the 3 medium octaves.

The grands may be more interesting and holding longer. Worth new strings and action rebuilding up to the 60's models may be ? (I am fair!).
Models for USA or Europe differ, but I believe that there is only a "seaosoning" done, meanig the place where they are befor sending have 3 different moisture levels , dry, humid or neutral.

The factory workers say they have yet to deal with humidity level contrasts at the factory level (depending the seasons).
I guess they want to avoid that the instrument arrive too badly mistuned, or with the regulmation screwe, once at their final destination.


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
Re: "Gray Market" Yamaha Pianos
#653701 04/30/08 03:25 PM
Joined: Jun 2005
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KC, maybe in humid Fl. you don't see the problem, but in dry Calif. central valley, I've seen quite a few in my 30 yrs of pianos. Drying out to the point of loose hammers, rattles, unspaced keys and a few times split sound boards. The tone of some of these pianos lacks a fullness that is difficult to describe. No, I don't think it is a Yamaha corporate tactic for more sales and the unscruplulous sales people who represent these pianos as 'new' are not only hurting Yamaha Corp. but the whole profession as well. my 2 cents.


Modesto, Calif.

..."pret' near, but not plum"
Re: "Gray Market" Yamaha Pianos
KC pianocraft #3011866 08/09/20 09:55 AM
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I'm a technician, completely unaffiliated with Yamaha. I've come across lots of grey market Yamahas in my work (as well as lots of regular ones obviously). I also own one, a grey market U1. It's in my living room. My mom owns a U3. Here are some general issues I've noticed. They might not all apply to each individual piano, but they're more likely on the grey market ones.

1. The piano looks older than it actually is. The wood inside has the older dark look that you see in pianos from the 1930s, but not so much the 1980s. The parts and felt may look older/darker too. This is often my first clue that a piano is grey market.
2. More soundboard cracks. (My mom's has probably 10-20 small cracks, mine less.) This will partially depend on location. It's not so bad here on Washington, but a technician who recently moved from here to Arizona told me the soundboards there are practically going to pieces.
3. Noticeably looser tuning pins. Usually not slipping, but still uncomfortably easy to turn.
4. Weaker tone. I notice it most in the middle. It's not as...full...and the sustain seems too short. (Could this be related to the soundboard cracks?)
5. Hammers are significantly worn and aggressively reshaped. There's less felt there.
6. Typically the piano doesn't have the original hard top bench. Not that it matters, but it's a red flag if you're looking to buy a piano and hoping to avoid grey market ones.

In my mind there are three factors that logically account for what I see:

The first two are the climate and frequency of use. Imagine an experiment: take two identical pianos. Put one in somebody's living room in California. Put the other in a university practice room in Hawaii or Japan or somewhere with comparably high humidity. Wait 30 years, then put the pianos side by side again. What differences do you expect to see?

The third factor is Yamaha's explanation about seasoning their pianos for different markets. Presumably this means that on pianos intended for Japan, Yamaha cures the wood to a slightly higher level of internal humidity before cutting it. Which is something they could easily do. Yes, I know the common rebuttal to this is that the US has dry and wet places like Arizona and Florida, but that doesn't prevent Yamaha from seasoning their wood differently for the general/average market. This would at least partially explain the soundboard cracks and loose pins.


Anthony Willey, RPT
PianoMeter
Willey Piano Tuning
Re: "Gray Market" Yamaha Pianos
KC pianocraft #3011923 08/09/20 12:43 PM
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The only difference when new is the US market Yamahas are imported by the licensed distributor (a subsidiary) as they only offer warranty on officially imported instruments. Environmental affects on a 30 year old piano might make it seem different to one that spent that same time in North America.

Think about it, can they custom make instruments for all the different markets around the world?

I spent 40 years working on computer systems in manufacturing, import, distribution and sales for major Japanese companies like Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Sanyo, Bridgestone tires, and Yamaha. True, vehicles are subject to local regulations but musical instruments are not.

White market/Grey market, it's all about the warranty. (and perception)


-Bill L. - former tuner-technician

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