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1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51058
10/25/07 02:56 PM
10/25/07 02:56 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 3
Cleveland
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richterscale Offline OP
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richterscale  Offline OP
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Cleveland
Hello everybody,

I'm new to this forum, and it seems to be full of very useful information and people with in-depth knowledge of pianos. I am a recently graduated student from conservatory, and I am looking to buy a Yamaha upright for my apartment. I am trying to decide between the following two options to fit my budget. I would appreciate any info, about which choice you would make, if you were me, and a little bit about why you say so. Any info is greatly appreciated! Thanks.

Option 1: Yamaha U3 Serial 3333000 series from 1980/81. Had one owner who never played it. Price: 4000

Option 2: Brand new U1 from NYC. Price: 6000.

What should I take into consideration? Is newer better? Are there design features that are better than a 1980 instrument? Is the advantage of a 52" better than a new 48"?

Unfortunately I have to buy a piano without hearing or playing it first. I don't have technical expertise into the construction of a piano but I have a discerning ear and would like to make the best possible choice.

Thanks to you
ZB

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Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51059
10/25/07 04:30 PM
10/25/07 04:30 PM
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,815
West Coast
Craigen Offline
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Craigen  Offline
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My vote is for the new U1.
The U3 is in fact 1981 vintage and not built for the U.S. market. 26 yo is long in the tooth for Asian pianos in general. 52" volume may not be the best choice for an apartment anyway.


Piano Technician, member Piano Technicians Guild.
Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51060
10/25/07 05:51 PM
10/25/07 05:51 PM
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,306
Timonium, MD
Christopher P. Smith Offline
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Christopher P. Smith  Offline
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Timonium, MD
just curious, why are you buying a U1 from NYC?


Representing Yamaha, Story and Clark, and other fine instruments
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Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51061
10/25/07 06:31 PM
10/25/07 06:31 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 1,239
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guest1013 Offline
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Do you have a preference between these from playing these models in conservatory? I agree with Craigen from the limited shopping around I have recently done. The U3 has great volume that might not be suited to small living spaces. You might search the other threads about pianos for apartment living for other suggestions.

Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51062
10/25/07 06:34 PM
10/25/07 06:34 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
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guest1013 Offline
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p.s. often used U3s offered for sale by dealers with warranties in that price range have been rebuilt, etc. That seems like a high price for a private sale especially if no work has been on it.

Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51063
10/25/07 07:03 PM
10/25/07 07:03 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 3
Cleveland
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richterscale Offline OP
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richterscale  Offline OP
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Joined: Oct 2007
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Cleveland
Thanks everybody, for the very helpful and kind advice. It seems that I will go ahead and buy the brand-new U1 from NYC. I do that simply because the price is lower than in my town, and I can have my piano teacher there choose one out for me and have it shipped. It's been amazing to me, how much all this helpful advice differs from what I hear from the dealers themselves.

Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51064
10/25/07 09:17 PM
10/25/07 09:17 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 4
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hisgirl Offline
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hisgirl  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2007
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I would suggest going to a local music store and listening to the difference in sound. I don't like the U1 sound at all. I have a U2 (made in 1970) and it is amazing--the sound makes me feel like I'm almost playing a grand. smile

Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51065
10/25/07 09:33 PM
10/25/07 09:33 PM
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,851
New Jersey
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Stevester Offline
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Stevester  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,851
New Jersey
The tranparency of the web stikes again.


"The true character of a man can be determined by witnessing what he does when no one is watching".

anon
Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51066
10/25/07 11:08 PM
10/25/07 11:08 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 3
Cleveland
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richterscale Offline OP
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richterscale  Offline OP
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Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 3
Cleveland
Actually I found that the sound of the piano varies greatly from instrument to instrument. I've played a U1 that I loved, and a U3 that I hated, and vice versa. My question had more to do with design differences between older and newer models, since some piano technicians told me that the Yamahas being built in Japan in the last three or so years are some of the best around.

Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51067
10/30/07 04:42 AM
10/30/07 04:42 AM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 305
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Prospero Offline
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Prospero  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 305
Quote
Originally posted by richterscale:
My question had more to do with design differences between older and newer models, since some piano technicians told me that the Yamahas being built in Japan in the last three or so years are some of the best around.
"...in the last three or so years..." Spoken like a true salesman! Sorry, but I do not buy it at all. It sounds exactly like the kind of generic line that salesmen are routinely taught in order to overcome objections and sell a higher-priced instrument. People who have been around the block a few times are skeptical of such lines, and for good reason.

It is true that manufacturers fiddle with largely meaningless changes from year to year, and remember that changes are not always for the better. A new year might mean that they will cheapen the piano to increase profit instead of improving it, though with Yamaha that is usually not the case. Yamaha has been successful and probably does not want to fiddle all that much with their formula for success. In my humble opinion there is no significant design difference between those two pianos--not one that will have a really big impact on touch and sound. Really 1980 is not very old for a piano, especially if it has hardly been used--and the line that it has hardly been used is much more believeable: probably most pianos sold in the United States are hardly used.

The fact that they want four grand indicates that they think the piano is in reasonably good condition--but it sounds like too high a price anyway, and I think they would take a figure lower than that. You should try to bargain them down. "I really want that big, beautiful U3 sound, but I would feel so much better about paying this amount instead..." You know how it works. Bargain. They expect it.

I am puzzled by many of the replies that you have been getting. The U3 is, in my opinion, clearly the better choice. You are getting four more inches of piano for two thousand dollars less. It has hardly been played. You went to conservatory so you know music and are very unlikely to have difficulty with too much sound volume from any upright. The larger instrument will give you better tone, better touch, better sound, better everything.

Furthermore, it has been my experience that used Yamaha uprights are often a fantastic buy. I once owned a U3. It was nineteen years old when I bought it, wonderfully broken in, super-easy to play, and thanks to its age I got it at a great price. (I would have it today except that I think my Steinway Model A grand is better.)

Remember that new and used piano buying is similar to new and used car buying: when you drive the car off the lot, it is suddenly worth a lot less. Ditto for new pianos. In general, you get much more for your money with a used piano. Pianos also depreciate much slower than cars do; and in particular there is often very little difference between an older piano that was hardly played and a brand new one.

You mentioned that you are going to buy the pianos without seeing them, but even then I do not think you should go for the new one. How a piano sounds the first time you play it on the floor is heavily dependent on how it has been regulated and tuned. If for some reason the U3 turns out to have a sound or touch you don't like, then hire a good technician to regulate and tune it well--that will make a huge difference in the sound and touch. A good piano tech can do more with a U3 than a U1 because it is so much more piano; he is starting with greater potential, a better base. Furthermore by getting the U3 you will have saved two grand (more than that if you bargain) and thus you will have far more than enough money to pay a good technician to bring it to its full potential. In fact you will still have four figures left over.

Incidentally I am assuming that the dealer will give you a warranty on either piano. You should ask about their return policy: since you are buying it without seeing it, you should ask if you can return it if you hate it--and this goes for either piano--and exactly how much of your purchase price you will get back.

In my humble opinion, this is a no-brainer: take the U3 but offer them less than four grand for it. Enjoy a better instrument and put the extra money in your own pocket instead of someone else's.

Of course some salesmen or dealers may fight like mad to get you to disbelieve this kind of advice, but there's my two cents anyway.

Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51068
10/30/07 04:49 AM
10/30/07 04:49 AM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 305
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Prospero Offline
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Prospero  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 305

Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51069
10/30/07 07:40 AM
10/30/07 07:40 AM
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 1,755
Durango Colorado
M
mdsdurango Offline
1000 Post Club Member
mdsdurango  Offline
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M

Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 1,755
Durango Colorado
If the piano is Gray, how do you know that it has had only one owner and has hardly been played?


WHAT???????
Yamaha S6, U5C, P120
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Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51070
10/30/07 08:49 AM
10/30/07 08:49 AM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 1,239
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guest1013 Offline
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Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 1,239
What mdsdurango is asking is what is puzzling to me about the choice. Assuming that the u3 is gray, how long was it in Japan? How long has the current owner had it? The first statement above makes it sound like the one owner has had it since 1981 but how is that possible if it is gray?
The U3 could be a bargain, but how long do you want to keep it? At what point would it need new strings or some other major maintenance? Certainly get a tech to check it out if you prefer the u3 sound and it could fit your budget better.

But wouldn't a new u1 last you 20 years longer than a 1981 u3? Wouldn't a new u1 have better resale value than a 1981 u3? It depends on your priorities and short and long term budget needs, just in my opinion of course! good luck.

Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51071
10/30/07 10:42 AM
10/30/07 10:42 AM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 659
Northeast
K
Kenny Blankenship Offline
500 Post Club Member
Kenny Blankenship  Offline
500 Post Club Member
K

Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 659
Northeast
U1 = You Won, buy it in Cleveland though


Kenny Blankenship
Selling anything anyone will buy as the "Walmartizisation of the industry continues. (Still making a fair living and still having clients like me)
Re: 1980 Yamaha U3 vs. New U1? Which should I buy? #51072
10/30/07 02:00 PM
10/30/07 02:00 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 305
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Prospero Offline
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Prospero  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2007
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Several posts have mentioned that the U1 is "not built for the U.S. market" or is a "gray market" piano. Just in case you are unaware what this means, let me give you some background:

Yamaha's toughest sales competition is probably their own used pianos. All the used Yamahas on the market make it more difficult for dealers to sell new Yamahas, because used Yamahas are a great value. A piano has a long lifetime--some pianos longer than others--and a quality piano like a Yamaha will depreciate slowly and perform admirably for years and years.

So on to the controversy. Or at least one version of the controversy: it is said that pianos Yamaha built before a certain year were for the Japanese market only and meant to function well in humidity levels found in Japan. It is said that such pianos potentially could develop serious problems, such as loose tuning pins or separating soundboards, if they are exposed to the humidity leves of the United States. Such pianos are called "gray market Yamahas."

At least that is the main story distilled from many different accounts that I have heard for decades. People argue over the details of exactly what "gray market" means. They argue that it was only pianos built in a certain factory, or with a certain process. Some say gray market Yamahas are really just used Yamahas that were bought new in Japan but were eventually shipped to the United States because for some reason used pianos hardly sell in Japan. Some people will talk your ears off about the finer points of the controversy. They will gleefully contradict almost any account, saying they know the real story, which is ... (fill in the blank). Mighty confusing.

All that confusion scares away many potential used Yamaha buyers, which is a great help to people who want to sell new Yamahas.

Some people obey the warnings and never purchase a "gray market" Yamaha. Other people go right ahead and buy them.

To be sure, the whole controversy sounds fishy. It is said that now Yamaha seasons all its pianos the same way, as piano manufacturers across the globe do; that humidity levels in much of North America are about the same as they are in Japan; and so forth.

You can certainly hear horror stories about gray market Yamahas if you look for them. Usually they recount problems that any upright can have and that a good technician can repair for a reasonable fee. A piano is a musical instrument made primarily of wood, and it requires monitoring and periodic adjustment to keep it performing at its highest potential. Gray market or not, you need a technician periodically if you want your piano to feel and sound its best.

My U3 was gray market. I owned it for many years, and I loved it. The Japanese household that purchased it new must have taken great care of it. The tuning pins never loosened. The soundboard stayed intact. Eventually I gave up my beloved gray market U3 to get a grand.

As far as I know, no independent research firm--one not funded by interested parties--has compiled statistics on the repair rates of gray market versus other Yamahas. That kind of information may not be available.

Not that you cannot find many salesmen ready to quote you horrifying figures. Quite seriously, I feel their pain and sympathize with their anger: the piano business in the USA is already very tough, and all those gray market Yamahas just make it tougher.

Personally I see no reason why gray market Yamahas should have any more repair problems than any other used Yamahas. (A very low rate of problems.) Besides, the vast majority of problems with any upright are perfectly fixable for a reasonable fee, especially for someone who saves thousands on the purchase price.

Perhaps by now the confusing controversy has worked its magic, and you are just going to feel much more comfortable with a brand new piano--even if it is dwarfed by the older one.

Often people love to have a brand new piano, even when they acknowledge that a used one gives them more for their money. They just buy new anyway. Hey, I have done that myself. It has its attractions.

I know someone who would rather buy the new car even though she knows that when she drives it off the lot it will be worth about the same as a used car she could have purchased for much less. She just feels very good about its newness.

Apparently she spends more time gazing at the car than at her financial records. I always tell her to calculate her net worth and contemplate its beauty. Then she will notice the ugliness of seeing it go down two thousand dollars for no good reason. She always laughs when I say that. (The salesmen laugh also, but for different reasons.)

In my opinion the U3 is the way to go, but of course a U1 is a good piano, too. smile


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