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Estonia Pianos
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Joined: Jul 2001
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I realize these comparison videos online are pretty unfair, given different conditions, recording devices, rooms, prep, and who knows what else. But I thought this was an interesting "blind test" from a respected guy who is upfront about the caveats. Personally, and on one listening, I could tell my preferences but of course didn't know which piano was which at the time. (Caution: Robert gives away which piano is which in the text below, so best just to listen and not scroll down to see which is which).

https://livingpianos.com/steinway-vs-chinese-piano-can-you-hear-the-difference/


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I watched that. I have never been a fan of his recording techniques, especially given his vast knowledge in general. I thought both examples sounded pretty awful, unfortunately. But I know it's not the pianos themselves. (I listened on my own studio equipment in my own studio.) I wish I could be part of an in-person comparison!

I am looking forward to what people here think of it!


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Well, I guessed wrong, for what it's worth. Given that different recording equipment was used at different times in different rooms, was this a valid comparison? The other alternate, of course, is that I am not that discerning when it comes to distinguishing between a Steinway and a Hailun.

Again, for what it's worth, I thought that the piano in the second recording had a more uniform voice - or voicing at the hands of a technician. But, what do I know?

Regards,


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Ya, I was wrong about the pianos, too, but I COULD tell different rooms, different mics, different recording placement, vastly different recording qualities, and so on. I have been a fan of his long enough to have gone through several iterations of recording equipment and studios, so I was afraid that was going to be a factor. That also means he had different techs for each of the pianos, and so on. It doesn't help that I am generally not a fan of S&S nor Chinese pianos sounds in the first place.


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Estrin is a Hailun dealer! We don't know anything about the preparation of the Steinway. Since he's a Hailun dealer, I think it's naive to think Estrin chose a great example of a Steinway O to compare with the Hailun. Notice how he also says the Steinway was recorded with better equipment so that if one correctly chose the Steinway he's kind of making an excuse for the Hailun.

Of course, none of the above means the Hailun might not really compare very favorably to the Steinway or that some people might not prefer the Hailun if they personally tried the pianos. But I think this comparison test has to be taken with a big grain of salt.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Estrin is a Hailun dealer! We don't know anything about the preparation of the Steinway. Since he's a Hailun dealer, I think it's naive to think Estrin chose a great example of a Steinway O to compare with the Hailun. Notice how he also says the Steinway was recorded with better equipment so that if one correctly chose the Steinway he's kind of making an excuse for the Hailun.

Of course, none of the above means the Hailun might not really compare very favorably to the Steinway or that some people might not prefer the Hailun if they personally tried the pianos. But I think this comparison test has to be taken with a big grain of salt.

Don’t most online piano comparisons need to be taken with a grain of salt?


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
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I guessed correctly. Part of this is deciding on one criterion that will help make the cut.

There is a similar one out there on violins, done by the BBC around 1970. People often use that to abuse critics who think that expensive fiddles actually sound better. I found that the Strad and the Guarnerius were pretty easy to pick out of the lineup, and tell apart from each other.

The other two (a mediocre 19c French instrument and contemporary British violin by a forgotten maker) were obviously less good. The trick to sorting those out was remembering that French violins of that vintage were especially nasal. I played head games with myself and mixed up those two.

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I didn't know that he was a Hailun dealer at his new place. He has an ulterior motive to making this video in the first place: hoping the Hailun sounds more like what we expect a S&S to sound like to get more hype about Chinese pianos.


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I guessed correctly. Being a NY S&S owner, I wonder if I would get it wrong or not. I guess I recognized the sound right away. For me, the 1st recording sounded much richer and orchestral. That's what 1st drew me to the NY Steinway sound, so I picked up on the overtones immediately. The 2nd performance sounded very clean for the most part. There were noises that bothered me in that one, and the overtones in that recording seemed out of tune to my ears.

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I did listen to the piece. I didn't even try to decide wich one is wich. If you tell me it is the same piano both times i believe you. I can't hear any difference between them. Both sound great.

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The mediocre playing made them both sound pretty bad. Any particular instrument can sound or feel great or terrible. Some Steinways are real dogs. If sound was the only criteria, we would all have Japanese pianos because they sound great. But touch is equally if not more important.

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I can't help but think of what the French had to say, the year California wines shut them out of the competition. But, what do I know; I play a Japanese-made piano and think it's nice. Makes me get kind of shivery when I'm playing scales that take me down to those bottom notes. Gives me a little something to think of while my fingers are on autopilot, trying to see if I can hear the tenor break (I really can't).

Ulterior motives are a big problem with a comparison like this, though. Would you hire a tech to do an inspection for condition on a piano you were considering buying, knowing that he or she had an undisclosed financial interest in the sale? It would bother me. Being absolutely blatant about it does not help the demonstration enough.

I think that both marques have their own reputations, and that a comparison like this is unlikely to change much. But wait--- wasn't that the topic sentence?


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I guessed correctly. After hearing the first one I thought the second would have a thicker bass. The second had a louder bass, but when I heard the treble I was thinking the harp wasn't sand cast because it sounded more metallic.

And when he mentioned the Hailun was recorded with a large diaphragm condenser and the steinway with neumann mics( I suspect small diaphragm) it made sense why the Hailun had louder bass.

Just my opinion. Take with grain of salt.


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Originally Posted by oldMH
If sound was the only criteria, we would all have Japanese pianos because they sound great. But touch is equally if not more important.
My strong impression is that the top Kawai and Yamaha piano are known for their excellent actions.

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Originally Posted by oldMH
If sound was the only criteria, we would all have Japanese pianos....

Huh

Is That so


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I guessed correctly. Both pianos sounded nice, but the Steinway recording had more color and a deeper/richer tone. The question is how much effect the different recording equipment had on the results.

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There is a 50% chance of guessing correctly with a completely random guess.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
There is a 50% chance of guessing correctly with a completely random guess.
Ha, yep! My opinion is that the recordings were too poorly and done in such vastly different ways that no one can REALLY tell.


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The recordings were pretty decent considering that they weren't done in a high end studio, and Robert's performance may not have been on the level or Hororwitz, but the difference in the core of the tonal character of the 2 pianos was clear. Yes, so there was a 50/50 chance of being right, but for one intimately familiar with the NY Steinway sound (playing one every day), it was not a guess. The instant I heard the 2nd piano, all doubts went away. Maybe Robert's experiment tells us as much about our hearing as it demonstrates the differences between 2 pianos on opposite ends of the spectrum.

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It's pretty easy to tell the difference if you're familiar with the two brands. Hailuns have a quite distinct sound. Determining which has the better sound is of course a different question.

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