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Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
#3024005 09/11/20 01:05 PM
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Hi all,

I’m new to PianoWorld and this is my first post.

I currently have a small Grotrian upright, which I love, but I now have space for a grand (~6’) and want to upgrade.

A Grotrian grand is unfortunately above my budget. So, after doing some research online and visiting different shops, I’ve narrowed down my choices to 3 pianos: a Shigeru Kawai SK-2 (5’11”), an Estonia L190 (6’3”), and an August Förster 190 (6’4”). I think I can get them new or lightly used (less than 5 years) and similarly priced. I know that these models have been discussed in this forum before but since I have some specific questions, I’ve decided to write this and ask for advice from the community.

The Förster I tried has a very responsive/light action and an impressive sound projection. The bass is powerful and clear, and the treble is typically European: silvery and bright (perhaps a bit too much for my personal taste).

The Kawai also has a very smooth action, albeit distinct from the Förster. The tone, however, is completely different. The Kawai is incredibly mellow and sweet and very even throughout the keyboard. In contrast, the Förster has very distinctive registers, which I actually appreciate.

One of my concerns with the Kawai is that the bass and partly the lower tenor section sound rather muffled/opaque. While the Förster has a growling bass, the Kawai has a soft and arguably more elegant bass but somewhat lacking in character/presence. Has anyone else noticed this? I’ve listened to several videos online (SK-2, SK-3, etc.) and I’ve generally noticed this trend. Is this inherent to the construction of these pianos or could it be voiced differently to bring out the bass a bit more? One of the SK-2s I tried (different stores) had a fuller bass.

One of the virtues of the Kawai is that, even when I tried, I couldn’t get an ugly sound out of it. When playing ff or fff, the tone is still very pleasing. On the other hand, when playing ff or fff, the Förster could sound a bit aggressive. I wonder if it also has to do the acoustics of that specific room.

Regarding the Estonia, I’ve tried two (different stores). One was really lovely, with a singing tone and good bass. Sort of between the Förster and the Kawai, but definitely European-sounding. That one has been sold, unfortunately. The other one, however, was good but just not at all exciting. It felt merely “acceptable”. Well balanced in all aspects but just unremarkable, sort of boring actually. Have others had this experience? Are Estonias that variable in sound/touch, depending on the prep work? How much work is needed after getting them out of the box? In any case, I’ll try more Estonias to get a better idea.

Finally, would it be a good idea to change the voicing on the Förster to make the treble less bright? I’m worried about losing that characteristic European crystalline sound.

Any feedback/comments would be really helpful.

Thank you.

Last edited by PianoTi; 09/11/20 01:09 PM.
Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024017 09/11/20 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoTi
Hi all,

I’m new to PianoWorld and this is my first post.

I currently have a small Grotrian upright, which I love, but I now have space for a grand (~6’) and want to upgrade.

A Grotrian grand is unfortunately above my budget. So, after doing some research online and visiting different shops, I’ve narrowed down my choices to 3 pianos: a Shigeru Kawai SK-2 (5’11”), an Estonia L190 (6’3”), and an August Förster 190 (6’4”). I think I can get them new or lightly used (less than 5 years) and similarly priced. I know that these models have been discussed in this forum before but since I have some specific questions, I’ve decided to write this and ask for advice from the community.

The Förster I tried has a very responsive/light action and an impressive sound projection. The bass is powerful and clear, and the treble is typically European: silvery and bright (perhaps a bit too much for my personal taste).

The Kawai also has a very smooth action, albeit distinct from the Förster. The tone, however, is completely different. The Kawai is incredibly mellow and sweet and very even throughout the keyboard. In contrast, the Förster has very distinctive registers, which I actually appreciate.

One of my concerns with the Kawai is that the bass and partly the lower tenor section sound rather muffled/opaque. While the Förster has a growling bass, the Kawai has a soft and arguably more elegant bass but somewhat lacking in character/presence. Has anyone else noticed this? I’ve listened to several videos online (SK-2, SK-3, etc.) and I’ve generally noticed this trend. Is this inherent to the construction of these pianos or could it be voiced differently to bring out the bass a bit more? One of the SK-2s I tried (different stores) had a fuller bass.

One of the virtues of the Kawai is that, even when I tried, I couldn’t get an ugly sound out of it. When playing ff or fff, the tone is still very pleasing. On the other hand, when playing ff or fff, the Förster could sound a bit aggressive. I wonder if it also has to do the acoustics of that specific room.

Regarding the Estonia, I’ve tried two (different stores). One was really lovely, with a singing tone and good bass. Sort of between the Förster and the Kawai, but definitely European-sounding. That one has been sold, unfortunately. The other one, however, was good but just not at all exciting. It felt merely “acceptable”. Well balanced in all aspects but just unremarkable, sort of boring actually. Have others had this experience? Are Estonias that variable in sound/touch, depending on the prep work? How much work is needed after getting them out of the box? In any case, I’ll try more Estonias to get a better idea.

Finally, would it be a good idea to change the voicing on the Förster to make the treble less bright? I’m worried about losing that characteristic European crystalline sound.

Any feedback/comments would be really helpful.

Thank you.
Those are all great pianos. Can't advise you which to go with because I think they are all fantastic pianos. I tried an Estonia 190 in Sarasota and I thought it had a wonderful lush tone. It left quite the impression on me. The SK2 is a smaller piano so perhaps the lack of bass can be explained by that, but as you can see sometimes that can be room dependent to an extent. Keep trying the 3 pianos and eventually you will make the right choice. Good luck and enjoy!

Last edited by Jethro; 09/11/20 01:21 PM.

Working on:

Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Preludio: Bach/Rachmaninoff E Major Sonata for Violin
Chopin: G Minor Ballade


Shigeru Kawai SK2
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Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
Jethro #3024020 09/11/20 01:24 PM
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Thanks for the feedback, Jethro. I also tried an SK3 (6'2"). I found the bass to be a bit fuller but equally "muted".

Last edited by PianoTi; 09/11/20 01:25 PM.
Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024021 09/11/20 01:25 PM
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PianoTi:

If you have read through many threads on PW, you will be aware that one of difficulties/challenges of buying a piano of any particular brand is that the tonal characteristics can vary even among the same models of the same brand to the degree that, based on one sample, a consumer may say "I don't like that brand at all" or "I really like brand X." It boils down, then, to finding the one piano that you like, and that you like as it is, not as you hope it will become with voicing. The degree of dealer prep contributes largely to the final result although it is acknowledged that some brands "need" less prep than others. Two brand X pianos, side by side in the same showroom may sound quite different not only because of the amount of prep each has had, but also because of how long they have been in the showroom and how much time each has had to adapt to the showroom environment.

You should also be aware, as far as the Förster (or any other piano) is concerned, that voicing can modify the tone to some degree, but any piano as it is played will become brighter as the hammers harden. So, "voicing down" the Förster may produce a "less bright" tone, but, with playing, that tone will eventually become brighter.

While videos may be helpful in an initial assessment of the tone of a piano, there are so many variables (quality and positioning of mics, acoustics of the recording venue, post-recording processing, if any, etc.), that eventually videos are an unreliable source of the tonal character of any piano and of course they give no indication of the feel of the action of an instrument.

I would say that the choice of a piano should be based on the feel and tone of the individual instrument (rather than choosing a particular brand), and, all things considered, choice is not always easy.

Take all this with a grain (or two) of salt; I'm no expert.

Regards,


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Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024029 09/11/20 01:33 PM
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Thanks, BruceD. I completely agree. Acoustics, voicing, age, individual pianos, etc., are all important factors.
Your point about judging a piano based on what's in front of me versus what could potentially be done with it is well taken. I'll keep trying more pianos until I find the "one".

Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024033 09/11/20 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoTi
Thanks for the feedback, Jethro. I also tried an SK3 (6'2"). I found the bass to be a bit fuller but equally "muted".
Maybe by "muted" you mean mellower and that is often said to be a signature sound to a Kawai. My music teacher prefers brighter sounding pianos and if she had a choice she would prefer Yamaha if comparing the two. She said mistakes are more noticeable on a brighter piano but in her opinion I think she said she can bring out the melody better on a Yamaha. She told me that the director of my school prefers mellower sounding pianos so she might prefer the Kawai sound or a darker sounding piano. So it's all dependent upon personal choice. Play your music on these pianos and see which you prefer. Also I agree with what Bruce states that there are a lot of factors that make pianos sound the way they do and many can be voiced to your liking to some extent.

Last edited by Jethro; 09/11/20 01:42 PM.

Working on:

Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Preludio: Bach/Rachmaninoff E Major Sonata for Violin
Chopin: G Minor Ballade


Shigeru Kawai SK2
Kawai VPC-1
Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024037 09/11/20 01:54 PM
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I haven’t read all the comments, but a few thoughts. If a piano is underwhelming, as you described the available Estonia, eliminate it. That’s not a great place to start. Re. The bright treble of the AF, remember that your approach to the key is not one size fits all. Switching pianos requires adapting. Spend time with it and see if you can find a better approach for that instrument. I bet you can, but it isn’t a matter of minutes. If the tone is just not to your liking,best to keep looking, as I can tell you from experience that it is not pleasant to chase a sound that doesn’t lie within a given instrument.

Your budget allows quite a variety of good options. Keep exploring until you are satisfied. Enjoy!

Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024039 09/11/20 01:59 PM
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The prep work required for Estonia pianos ranges from moderate/simple to considerable. However, once prepped, we find a remarkable level of consistency in their performance. Variability increases somewhat as the models get larger (L210 & L225), but in addition to prep, factors like room position and acoustics can certainly affect your audition.

Voicing individual registers like the treble on the August Förster should be relatively easy. If the dealer can demonstrate this in the showroom, know that final voicing in the room will give the best results (as with any grand). If you wanted an extreme change in the voice, this might not be the best fit, but a moderate change is very achievable with most grands in the high treble.

Many pianos that are noted for their bright or crystalline sound can be maintained at a more medium voice, but may require a little more frequent light voicing to maintain it where you like it.

Brightening the bass on the SK2 is also reasonable, knowing that more high partials will be introduced to the bass sound. It may give you what you are looking for, or it may lose the "elegant" sound. Is there a reason you are looking at the smaller SK2 vs. the more size comparable SK3 or SK5 - vs. the 6'3" Estonia and 6'4" August Förster?

In simple terms, voicing down or less percussive is easier to accomplish incrementally. Voicing up or more percussive (because of the steps involved) is done in larger increments or jumps...then voiced down incrementally to the desired effect.


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Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
dhull100 #3024041 09/11/20 02:14 PM
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Thanks, dhull100.
At the end of the day, I'm a realist. The idea of sitting at a piano and everything being just perfect is, in my experience, extremely rare; even for high-end pianos. I've only had such an experience twice in my life. With a Steingraeber and with a Fazioli. Both of which I couldn't afford.
At my price range, there are compromises and I agree that I need to interact with the piano for a while to figure out what needs to change.
I'm willing to adapt my playing slightly but, in my view, the piano needs to feel right. Ideally, I'd want a piano that could be a natural extension of my voice/thoughts and not a piano that will be my master and force me to change my playing dramatically.
But overall I agree with you. It's a balancing act, for sure.

Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoWorksATL #3024046 09/11/20 02:27 PM
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Thank you very much, PianoWorksATL. This is really helpful information! It might be worth bringing up these issues about voicing with the dealers directly. If they can demonstrate that they can modify the registers to my personal taste, that'd be ideal.

I suspect that the underwhelming Estonia that I played didn't have enough prep or simply wasn't right for me. I'll definitely be trying other Estonia pianos to see if I can find a better one. I hope I will.

I focused on the SK2 because of my budget. I won't be able to afford a new SK3 or SK5, based on the asking prices that I've encountered. Otherwise, I agree that the SK3 would be a better comparison.

Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024061 09/11/20 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoTi
Thank you very much, PianoWorksATL. This is really helpful information! It might be worth bringing up these issues about voicing with the dealers directly. If they can demonstrate that they can modify the registers to my personal taste, that'd be ideal.
I agree. I think most dealers will try to be accommodating as long as your request isn't too extreme(which it isn't).

Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024082 09/11/20 05:20 PM
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Not sure if you've shopped online, but Pianomart has two Shigerus, one SK2 one SK7. Not sure where you live but you might get lucky and be in the right area to try one. They're both 2006, so possibly older than you want but the sk7 says lightly used by one local owner.


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Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
MarkL #3024087 09/11/20 05:35 PM
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Thanks, MarkL. I've seen those. They're in Indiana (SK2) and in Washington (SK7). I live in California. I'm tempted to drive up to see the SK7 but it's a long ride and a 7' is a bit too big for my place (length-wise and sound-wise).

Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024092 09/11/20 06:10 PM
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When I bought my August Förster 210 a couple of years ago, I played about 25 instruments before I made my decision. I found the Kawais I played too uniform in tone throughout the keyboard; I didn't feel like they would give me the range of expression I was looking for. I also played many Steinway Bs (none in good enough shape to compete and all priced at least $10K over what they were worth). Yamahas left me cold, as did Schimmels. I like a couple of Blüthners I played, they were capable of great expression, but they were just too mellow and "pretty" for my liking. There was a Mason & Hamlin AA I liked quite a bit, also. I played two great Estonias, and they were at the top of my list for a while.

Then I played the Förster, and for me it blew everything else away. The action was super smooth, and I could play from ppp to fff without any strain. I was especially impressed by being able to play bass octaves ppp. The treble is indeed clear and bright, almost to a fault, but it allowed me to bring out internal voices easily in the 4th, 5th and 6th octaves, and the incredible sustain of the Förster meant the 7th and 8th octaves stood out boldly over thick, Romantic accompaniment and didn't just quickly fade to nothing behind a curtain of bass. As to playing fff, yes it is super bold, but for me that is what fff should be. It should be a little shocking and edgy. Ultimately the Förster allowed my to do everything I wanted to do, while constantly challenging me to refine my playing. It gave me a lot of room to grow as a pianist.

Ultimately choosing a piano is VERY personal, and all I can do is tell you my personal experience. The very things I don't like about Kawais, say, are the very things others love. Fortunately we still have a broad range of modern instruments to choose from, so enjoy your search!


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Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
AaronSF #3024097 09/11/20 06:44 PM
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Thanks a lot for sharing, AaronSF. It's inspiring to hear how much you love your piano.

Your description perfectly aligns with my (short) experience. The Förster I played on had a very fluid action and the capacity to easily explore the dynamic range was indeed terrific. From ppp to fff, across the keyboard; amazingly responsive. It's really a performance-grade instrument.
To me, the only drawbacks are the overly bright treble and the somewhat "aggressive" tone when playing ff/fff. If that could be voiced down just a bit, it would be ideal for me.

Sound-wise, I keep going back and forth between the Kawai and the Förster. I enjoy the sweet tone of the Kawai but dislike the complete evenness across the registers and find the soft-spoken bass a bit disappointing. I'll ask the dealer if this can be modified.

The two pianos sound so different but both have great attributes and seem to do better in different types of repertoire. I mainly play classical music. Mostly Beethoven, Bach, Schubert and Chopin. The latter on the Förster was an absolute delight to play. And Bach on the Kawai sounded particularly beautiful; no pedal needed.

I'll try a new Estonia tomorrow. Let's see...

Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024102 09/11/20 07:25 PM
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The Japanese pianos are designed to be smooth over the breaks and have a more consistent tone throughout the register than most European pianos, and a lot of European pianos are designed with a different coloration in each part of the register, and that's an aesthetic that goes way back into the 18th Century. Even in the 19th Century you could find certain instruments had different kind of hammer coverings on one register than they would on the other and it helped with clarity of voicing for the pianist. Not everybody liked it of course, and all pianos regardless of country of origin have a much more cohesive tone within themselves than pianos from 150 years ago. The bright treble works in a larger room. I've never enjoyed an overly-bright treble personally, but it's a thing and some people like it a lot.

So what I'm saying is, Kawai's beauty is in its consistency of tone throughout the compass, and Förster's is in its variation of tone throughout the registers. Blüthner and Bösendorfer have that variation of tone too, but some players find they don't have the bite that they want. I prefer not to have too much attack in the initial tone so I'm very at home on Bösendorfer and Blüthner, but honestly, I love all good pianos and appreciate them all for what they have to offer. I love the fact that I have to play differently on different makes as they inspire different things from their tone. I would actually like to hear even more variation in tone between the different makes as there was 100 years ago, but piano makers might find if they veer too far off the current normal then they might have trouble selling.

Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
Joseph Fleetwood #3024110 09/11/20 08:23 PM
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Yes, Japanese and European pianos tend to have different approaches to sound. To me, it's not a matter of right or wrong; they're just distinct.

However, I mainly play the music of European composers who used instruments (more) similar to Förster, etc. One could argue that their pieces partly reflect that sound aesthetic.

Still, the Kawai is a lovely instrument and I find it hard to dislike its tone; it's kind of hypnotic, in a good way.

I agree that we should celebrate diversity in approach to sound. It's great to have more options since taste is very personal.

Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024112 09/11/20 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoTi
I agree that we should celebrate diversity in approach to sound. It's great to have more options since taste is very personal.

This. A thousand times, this.
Enjoy your shopping journey!


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Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024195 09/12/20 08:19 AM
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As PianoWorksATL said, it is very possible to "clear up" the bass (and keep it that way with regular tech visits) of the piano with the sound you seem to be hipnotized by. Or perhaps "mellow up" the treble in the fancier (?) piano with a less "even" and sometimes more "agressive" sound (but not as beautiful as the first one? you were not clear about it).

Well, ask yourself about where your heart wants to be for long periods of music making, many years ahead. Reviews and advices won't be beside you when you sit down to play and enjoy it. The heart is rarely mistaken, even when it makes its mistakes (we always feel that we did the right thing, then).

Besides, you still have the Estonias to try, isn't it? Don't rush.

My 2 cents. smile


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Re: Advice on Estonia 190, Shigeru Kawai SK2, August Förster 190
PianoTi #3024274 09/12/20 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by PianoTi
...
Sound-wise, I keep going back and forth between the Kawai and the Förster. I enjoy the sweet tone of the Kawai but dislike the complete evenness across the registers and find the soft-spoken bass a bit disappointing. I'll ask the dealer if this can be modified.

The two pianos sound so different but both have great attributes and seem to do better in different types of repertoire. I mainly play classical music. Mostly Beethoven, Bach, Schubert and Chopin. The latter on the Förster was an absolute delight to play. And Bach on the Kawai sounded particularly beautiful; no pedal needed.

I'll try a new Estonia tomorrow. Let's see...

Since you play Schubert, and August Förster is one of the grands you are considering, I would be interested in know if the treble in the AF you played sounded much different than what you hear in this video of the Schubert Piano Sonata No.5 in A-Flat Major, D.557 - I. Allegro moderato


It is being played on an August Förster 190. I have played it myself and I found it to have a mesmerizing sound. This piano had a particular ability to play soft and loud. This instrument was the best I have tried that was < 200 cm.

I have played SK2, SK3+ as well as the Estonia 190 and AF 190. To my personal taste the AF 190 was a clear winner, but they are all great instruments. For me the Kawai is 2nd of the three, but very different. I find that the August Förster also works well with jazz. I agree that the SK3 or maybe even the SK5 would be a better comparison with the two other models you have under consideration. The Sauter Delta might also be of interest to you.

Last edited by Skjalg; 09/12/20 11:44 AM.
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Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads



 
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