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#3070615 01/17/21 07:14 PM
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One among a few options for a new piano for me is a used M&H grand purchased and "fixed" (I am explicitly avoiding the restored, rebuilt etc terms which mean different, very specific things to different people and result in long digressions). Why? I like the sound of M&H very much, but there is no way I can afford a new one, or one already "fixed".

Ideally, I will find one with a good soundboard. Depending on conditions I could have the strings (and at that point perhaps the pinblock and maybe the bridges) replaced. I would almost certainly have the action remade from new WNG parts. I have already spoken with a couple of technicians about it. To "ease" my expenditure, I hope to get the piano first, play "as is" for a while, and then get it improved with time (and savings accumulation). This is just context, and hopefully not subject to discussion.

I have instead many other questions, related to the pianos themselves.

I am looking at available instruments for sale in my area, and for budget and room size I'm restricting the search to models A and AA (most likely of the Golden Era). I have seen a number of these for sale at a price I could afford (they usually disappear pretty quickly). I do know that there are a few different "versions", sometimes referred to with a number such as A4, AA1 etc. However I could not find any information about these variations. Does anybody know anything about these options?

The size difference between the A and AA is small. My preferred volume level is very low. My preferred quality level is very high. Suggestions on which model would be a best fit after the "fix" mentioned above?

Moreover, the current AA is 6'4" and there are a number of AA (of unspecified age, but not modern, based on look and price) which are 6'2". In fact, historic advertising booklets from
https://antiquepianoshop.com/online-museum/mason-hamlin/ show a size of around 6'2". Does anybody know when the "switch" happened and have any opinion about this difference in size?

Last, but not least, all the ex-reproducing M&H with Ampico (often removed) that I have seen for sale were RAA of 6'2". Assuming that is not just a coincidence, does it mean that the historic ones were all of that size as the advertising mentioned above suggests? Does anybody have any opinion about using one of these formerly player-pianos instead of a regular one for my purpose? I've heard contrasting opinions ranging from avoid them like the plague to they are just the same instrument.

PS: yes, I know, condition trumps everything, so I will do an inspection when I find a candidate, and talk with my technician (which I am doing and will do more). On the other hand, I also appreciate the collective wisdom of this forum: people replying to this thread may have seen more Golden Era M&H than my two technicians combined. M&H are indeed available here, but not in huge numbers such as the more requested and more traded Steinway and Asian brands

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I think on an old piano the pinblock is almost always replaced and the bridges recapped when the strings are replaced because the piano will have to be restrung a second time if the when the pinblock and bridge work are done. IOW you should try to do those together to avoid extra charges in the future. I think you should try to find a previously rebuilt but not refinished M&H because you never can be certain that you will like the sound when the piano is restrung.

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The 6'-4" AA is the recent redesign by the current owners of Mason & Hamlin. Before that it was 6'-2". The AA was not made from about 1950 until the current model came out relatively recently, within the past 25 years.

The Ampico player spoolbox was in a drawer below the keybed, and did not require longer keys like the DuoArt mechanism used on Steinways, so the playing characteristics are not impaired. I have what was an RT, 5'-4", which I remodeled with new legs because I thought the player legs and skirt made it look chunky.

You cannot count on the characteristics that someone tells you about a piano being that which you will find in the pianos that are available for sale. Your chances are better the newer the piano is, but still, you have to go and look. Not only that, but the characteristics may change even if you do the minimum amount of work on a piano: regulation, tuning, and voicing, especially with pianos of the vintage you are considering. For that matter, the characteristics of a new piano will change with use, depending on the use and maintenance that it receives.


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Originally Posted by Del Vento
The size difference between the A and AA is small. My preferred volume level is very low. My preferred quality level is very high. Suggestions on which model would be a best fit after the "fix" mentioned above?
Six inches is not generally considered a small change in size for a grand. The quality will depend on the condition of the particular used pianos you find and when it was built. The Boston era Masons are considered best but the condition matters a lot also. The sound volume of the larger Mason is not necessarily louder(many say it's easier to play softer on larger pianos) and again depends on the piano's condition and the results of whatever work is done.

I have a 15 year old Mason BB which I have recently been forced to quiet down because of my neighbor's complaints. My tech installed acoustic foam underneath the soundboard that definitely quieted the piano and IMO has not affected the tone negatively. But it's possible that someone else might not agree on the last part. There are many other less extreme ways of quieting down a piano.

Bottom line: I think one cannot say which piano will meet your criteria better since it depends on the condition of the piano and extent and quality of any work you have done. Everything else being equal the AA has potential to be a better piano because of its size, but everything else will not be equal.

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Thanks guys for these useful infos.

So nobody know everything about the various "submodels"? Just yesterday I've seen a couple of pictures of an AA with the AA-X name stamped on it (on the back left of the frame, it just said AA above the serial number).

Also, regarding the restringing, if it is as extreme as said, nobody knows how their old piano needing restringing will sound? Of course there will be unknowns, but the overall sound characteristics should stay, or not?


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