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Estonia Pianos
Estonia Pianos
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Joined: Dec 2020
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I've been listening to various Steinway clips on Youtube, and have been noticing a very large difference in tonal quality. I don't think it's as simple as just mellow vs bright voicing (although it could be). To me, some Steinways literally sound "metallic" and others sound "wooden."

Here's an example of what I'd call metallic:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq2H6yvBi0Q

Throughout, I am getting the impression that the soundboard is made of metal. I find the bass-heavy piece at 1:30 almost unlistenable - like a bunch of manhole covers banging against each other. (No offense to the artist, I'm sure everything sounds peachy keen to her)

But then there's this one that I call wooden:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBEKH2KhlAA

The demo piece starts at 1:55, and the tonal quality is completely different. The treble is harp-like, and then he shifts to the mid-range starting around 2:10. There is a plaintive "whining" quality to those notes, and I can really hear the sound echoing from the wood. I'm getting this sense that the soundboard is made of the finest smoked hickory (although that's obviously nonsense).

In my mind, both Steinways sound mellow, yet the second one is much more pleasant to my ear. So my questions are -

1) What factors would lead to the sound quality in the second instrument? Is it all in the hammers, or does the first one have soundboard issues, or something else?

2) How would you describe this difference? I could use some more proper terminology here. Later on down the road, if I decide to buy a Steinway and I ask for a "wooden" sounding one, I'm sure the dealer will show me very briskly to the door.

Thanks for any input!

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Keep in mind that young Mr. Shawcross (would someone, someday, please tie his flailing arms down while he is talking!) is recording (on what equipment?) in a piano showroom and being broadcast on YouTube. I don't know how much more removed from the original sound you may get from such a broadcast.

Miss Nissman, a "Steinway artist" makes comments about Steinway pianos that make it sound as if Steinway is the only instrument capable of the qualities she claims makes Steinway unique. The Steinway sound may be "unique" but other pianos are capable of the qualities that she attributes exclusively to Steinway. One would expect no less from a "Steinway artist."

Both videos were recorded in different venues and undoubtedly with difference equipment, so comparisons are difficult if not impossible.

Regards,

Last edited by BruceD; 12/21/20 05:18 PM.

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It is really an unfair comparison for a number of reasons. The first piano is a much much better instrument than the second and played at a professional level. It does sound like the hammers are quite played and mature but pretty typical of a piano that has been played a lot. Some of the music Nissman is playing demands more of an aggressive metallic sound, namely the third of the Danzas Argentinas by Ginastera, and the Steinway delivers what is asked of it. I suspect if she were to try and play this on the piano you are calling more "wooden" in the second video, that piano would have been overmatched by the demands of the pianist and the music. I think the piano sounds quite nice in the Chopin etude and in the beautiful Second Danzas Argentinas she played at the end.

The second pianist is an amateur playing music that doesn't ask much of the piano but certainly makes the piano sound as pretty as possible. The piano in the second video does not really have what I would call a Steinway sound. The hammers sound one dimensional to me with a kind of out of the box, hard sound that would become more apparent if the first pianist were playing.

With all that being said, I do think the piano in the second video sounds very pretty and is a good match for the player. And, if someone prefers a kind of hybrid sound and look in an American Steinway L, that might be a nice piano for them.

I would take the first piano all day long and it is not even remotely close IMO. I agree that the second piano has a wooden quality to the sound, but I would say not in a positive way. I really like a good Steinway L, but I prefer one that has a softer more American Steinway style hammer sound and one that has a range of color as it is played at different volumes, like the first piano smile


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One can never know what a piano really sounds in these recordings.Better to play them yourself. James is
certainly not the best person to demonstrate and review these pianos. His demonstrations at times can be entertaining though in a "casual way"

Last edited by Lady Bird; 12/21/20 09:06 PM. Reason: spelling
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I would describe the first piano as more focus on the attack, and the second more on the sustain and resonance. The second piano sings much better. It's not a typical steinway sound, but there is a lot of room for getting more out of that piano. If the top of the piano can sing like that, then there is a lot of room for growth in terms of what can be done with the voicing. The first piano is what it is. It's nice. It's a concert piano, and the other is tiny. So, the concert piano is naturally going to be a better instrument. But, I like the L. I think that has a lot of potential. Getting a piano to sing like that is not easy.

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I think the first one is a Steinway D? I think it sounds glorious.

The second one says it's a "golden era" L. It's the best golden era L I've ever heard. Most of them sound like an old, tired piano, like this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxLqz1Ec9Rg

If you like that "woody" sound, there are literally thousands of these "golden era" Steinways around in the US, for pretty reasonable prices.

The young performer above also plays on a golden era Steinert in her other videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3iKZvvWyj4). Frankly I like the Steinert better, and it's probably half the price of the old Steinways simply due to lack of name recognition.

Steinway does not equal Magic.

Last edited by redfish1901; 12/22/20 01:02 AM.
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Originally Posted by redfish1901
======SNIP====

The young performer above also plays on a golden era Steinert in her other videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3iKZvvWyj4). Frankly I like the Steinert better, and it's probably half the price of the old Steinways simply due to lack of name recognition.

Steinway does not equal Magic.
I agree about Steinert pianos. I've got a 1929 Steinert "Artist" Grand, which sounds and feels like a good S&S "B" of the same vintage. It has the original sound board.

I would argue (ooh, I shouldn't do that, so let's call it assert), that there IS magic in the Steinway scale designs with my personal favorites being the B, D and "Long A" and the "O" somewhat less. As I understand things, Steinert built pianos for Steinway at a time when Steinway was having trouble making enough instruments. Later Steinert built pianos under license, and eventually Steinway sued Steinert out of the piano building business for patent infringement(!) around 1932.

My piano is, to the best of my knowledge, scaled exactly the same as a "B" of that period. As to the action, the original was from WNG with bridle strap wippens (since replaced with more modern Renners). The most recent set of hammers is a set from Renner-USA for a Hamburg "B", and they fit perfectly.

So... from my working musician not in the top tier financially", the Steinert is a great find. The veneer and finish are not quite the equal of Steinway, but the "guts" -- action, soundboard and strings, dampers - ARE.

PM me if interested for video links to how that piano sounds. I will not abuse this forum by posting here without invitation.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
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I listened to the videos referenced here, and the biggest difference seems to be how they are voiced. It is like what my friend who carves violins says: The only cut you see is the last one. This is why I suggest that people shop for a good technician before shopping for a good piano.


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@BDB, Kara Comparetto has said in one of her comments that her pianos are maintained by her piano technician father. I think the sound of her pianos are pretty fair comparisons.

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Microphone type and make, its positioning, and room acoustics can adjust the color much more than piano itself.


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Being a rebuilder in central New Hampshire and Steinert being a Boston made piano, I see many in my travels and have rebuilt a number of them. They can vary, but for the most part are the most shameless copy of a Steinway that I have seen. As such, they can be a superb core for a rebuild at a very modest cost. If the rebuilder has the expertise and willingness to do an exhaustive rebuild using the finest available materials, a fine piano can be had.

I have listened to several of Kara Comparetto's videos. She is quite an impressive young musician. The last name kept bugging me, though. As it turns out, I have known her father Keith for a number of years as a fellow piano technician in New Hampshire, although I have not met his family. He must be a proud poppa.


fine grand piano custom rebuilding, piano technician and tuner

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