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Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance

Posted By: Brent B

Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/14/09 02:00 PM

This post is actualy in response to the thread "Help Buying a Boston GP-178." I didn't want to hijack that thread just to vent my frustration so I started a new one.

It's just unfortunate that so many Steinway/Boston dealers have to put down Kawai. Kawai manufactures the piano for cryin' out loud--have some respect.

I can't imagine that the Steinway/Boston company itself is telling dealers to say these things and I'm sure they would not condone such behavior. OR......maybe they do.......many of their dealers seem to be spewing the same anti-brand B propaganda.

Sure there are differences between Boston and Kawai, and maybe Boston is a slightly better piano (I really don't know--haven't spent much time with a Boston), but dealers need to explain the REAL differences between the products. Saying that Kawai is just cheap "plastic" is not only inaccurate, it's IGNORANT.

Sure, they'll draw in quite a few uneducated buyers with their nonsense, but they will also turn away many educated buyers. The first piano dealer I went to when I started my search several weeks ago was a Steinway/Boston/Essex dealer. I played the Boston and Essex (and Steinway for fun, of course), both very nice pianos, and then asked him if he carried Kawai. He then proceded to give me his Kawai is "cheap plastic" routine and that no serious pianist should ever consider a piano that uses such parts. That was the moment I knew I would not buy a piano from this man. If I know for a fact he is completely uninformed about competing brands, how can I trust that he is honest about the quality of the brands he carries?

I just think a piano dealer should have a little more class than a used car salesman.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying these things because I own a Kawai--I DON'T. Kawai is a front-runner in my search so far, but this is not just me trying to justify a purchase that I've already made
Posted By: Joanne Zhang

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 02:19 PM

I actually met 2 dealers- one of them (which I have not talked about on PW) annoyed me very much. She lectured on and on about how Kawai is very cheap because it is made of plastic, which will not produce a warm and full sound. She then compared it to a Boston, which she said is made of wood and is thicker, which will produce a full sound. Then she moved on and talked about how Yamaha is very loud and annoying, even though I currently own a Yamaha U1.
However it is funny that after this Steinway, Boston, and Essex liquidation, they will move on to a Yamaha sale- and I wonder what she will have to say then.
So anyways, these dealers will definitely try to say horrible things about other pianos, such as Kawai, and I think it is very annoying.
Posted By: Hop

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 02:26 PM

Especially annoying since the "plastic" makes the millenium 3 action one of the nicest I have ever played on any instrument.

I get similarly annoyed when European piano bigots trash Asian products. While there are certainly some Asian products that I don't like, I can't understand why they don't just look at each individual piano and assess it for what it is worth. That's what I did, and I got a a great product at a much more reasonable price.

Hop

Hailun HG 178
Posted By: JoeDaBassPlayer

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 03:35 PM

I have a 30 year old Kawai with plastic parts in the action. The entire action is almost perfectly consistent and straight.

First, one needs to realize the plastic parts are structural components of the action. They are not parts that affect the tonality of the instrument.

Second, plastic is more stable than wood and stronger. It can also be made more precise.


Posted By: Rich Galassini

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 04:18 PM

Lets face it. The OEM relationship that exists in manufacturing the Boston also places another layer of cost between the consumer and the instrument. This normally translates into a higher end cost. If a salesperson is feeling somewhat insecure about the value of their product or cannot say enough good things about it, the only thing left is to tear down the other choices.

It doesn't surprise me that these things are being said. It just wonder how many times it is actually effective.

Full Disclosure = I sell none of the brands discussed in this thread.
Posted By: SeilerFan

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 04:28 PM

Thankfully, quite a few piano buyers are also discerning players and can thus judge for themselves. The M3 is an excellent action with great response.
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 04:42 PM

Quote
That was the moment I knew I would not buy a piano from this man. If I know for a fact he is completely uninformed about competing brands, how can I trust that he is honest about the quality of the brands he carries?


dopiano,

Did you say this to the dealer? If not, perhaps you should have. First, it might have made you feel better! Secondly, dealers need to know that the trashing BS routine has made an enemy whose word of mouth will now work against them.

When I was looking for a minivan 15 years ago I tried a Toyota and then I tried a Ford. The Ford dealer spent most of his time trashing the Toyota. When he told me that the Toyota was smaller inside I just let him have it. I read the spec sheets back to him to show him just what an ignorant git I thought he was. Then I left. I felt really good after that. grin


Now, on the other hand, this quote from Hop bothers me a bit:

Quote
I get similarly annoyed when European piano bigots trash Asian products.


I can understand disliking a sneering snobbish attitude in anyone, but there are reasons why one might think that top shelf European brands might be better than their more mass produced Asian brethren from Yamaha and Kawai. I trust that you are not implying that anyone who thinks a Bosendorfer or a C. Bechstein is generally better made than an RX Kawai costing 1/6 as much is by definition a European piano bigot.
Posted By: birchy

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 05:01 PM

Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
If a salesperson is feeling somewhat insecure about the value of their product or cannot say enough good things about it, the only thing left is to tear down the other choices.


It's like asking a girl to marry you by listing all the things that you find wrong with her friends...

Posted By: Hop

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 05:27 PM

Originally Posted by Piano*Dad



Now, on the other hand, this quote from Hop bothers me a bit:

Quote
I get similarly annoyed when European piano bigots trash Asian products.


I can understand disliking a sneering snobbish attitude in anyone, but there are reasons why one might think that top shelf European brands might be better than their more mass produced Asian brethren from Yamaha and Kawai. I trust that you are not implying that anyone who thinks a Bosendorfer or a C. Bechstein is generally better made than an RX Kawai costing 1/6 as much is by definition a European piano bigot. [/quote]

Piano Dad,


No question about it, these fined European instruments are just that. What I am suggesting is that there are other pianos in the world that are good or better also. I'm Ok with knocking any aspect of a piano's performance, if its factual. What I have problems with is knocking an entire line of pianos because of longitude or lattidtue.

Hop
Posted By: Horowitzian

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 05:29 PM

As far as these forums go, I think Steinway comes in for that far more than any other brand. Heck, I was attacked just yesterday for expressing my opinion that a good Steinway well prepped is unbeatable. smokin
Posted By: AJB

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 05:44 PM

Yes, but Horowitzian, you are a bit over sensitive about S&S. Brand loyalty does that to people ;-)

Boston gets knocked (allegedly over priced), Kawai gets knocked (ridiculous plastic argument), Yamaha gets knocked (too bright or maybe grey), Bosie gets knocked (too much bling), Schimmel gets knocked (in European equivalent of Chapter 11), anything Chinese gets knocked (for being made by people who have been civilized about 3000 years longer than Americans), M&H gets knocked (for having some of those awful Chinese parts), Grotrian for being a bit plucky sounding, Steingraeber and Sohn for being hard to spell, and so on......

It is all hot air and anyone who hangs around the piano biz for a while soon learns to ignore it.

Sleazy and rather stupid salesmen knock competitors as a matter of course. It is probably in the genes and for most people just marks them out as emanating from the shallow end of the gene pool.

But is all good entertainment I suppose!

Kind regards

Adrian
Posted By: Brent B

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 05:45 PM

Originally Posted by Piano*Dad

......Did you say this to the dealer? If not, perhaps you should have. First, it might have made you feel better!


No, I didn't call him out on it. It may have made me feel better at the moment, but ultimately I'm just as happy not buying a piano from him.

Perhaps when he calls me to follow up (which he will, for sure) I will tell him that I've decided to go with either PLASTIC or ASIAN (hmmmm, sounds like my bachelor party grin.......jk--didn't have that much fun!)

Posted By: Seneca

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 05:50 PM

Salespeople using FUD tactics are tiresome. Whether they work for a Steinway dealer or for anybody else. I wonder if they have the nerve to call Steingraeber's experiment with a carbon fibre soundboard a 'plastic soundboard'?

OTOH, I had an interesting conversation with the piano technician who was out to tune our piano last week about the Millenium Three action. Innately conservative guy, he gave it very high 'objective' marks while expressing some 'subjective' reservations. Incredibly even, stable and consistent, was his verdict, but he said he still likes working with wood. That sounded reasonable and balanced, the opposite of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
Posted By: sophial

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 06:07 PM

I have found this kind of behavior to cross all brand lines and dealers-- it's endemic to the industry. Bosie dealers trashing Steinways, Estonia dealers trashing Yamaha, etc etc. It was major turn off in the piano shopping/testing experience and not confined to any one brand or dealer. I've since learned to take it all with a big grain of salt and look at as added entertainment value, a la AJB's comment.
Posted By: Larry Larson

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 06:38 PM

You are so right, Dopiano. This kind of stuff drives me crazy. And I agree with what other in this thread said about dealers trashing other brands. Back when I was shopping, it was the Steinway dealer who did it the most. They told me that a certain other piano company had "gone out of business". Now I was no piano expert at the time, (or now, for that matter!) but I had done a lot of research about that certain other piano company, and I knew for sure that what they said was untrue. I don't know which is worse, that they knew the truth and decided to lie to promote Steinway, or that they were ignorant of something that could have so easily be researched. Either way, I wanted nothing to do with that dealer. As far as the "cheap plastic parts" issue; I'm old enough to remember when if something was made of plastic it was considered junk, just like "Made in Japan" meant junk. Now there are too many people like me who have driven their Hondas over 220,000 miles for that kind of ignorance to endure. How long will the Kawai actions will have to last, trouble-free, before this nonsense about plastic actions stops. Will JoeDaBassPlayer's 30 years be long enough to change the groundless ignorance? As my daddy used to say, "We shall see..." Larry
Posted By: Robert 45

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 06:49 PM

These anecdotal accounts of Steinway and Boston dealers "dissing" Kawai pianos because of "cheap plastic" parts is ironic. Boston pianos are made by Kawai in the same factory and on the same assembly lines and to attack Kawai would seem like shooting yourself in the foot.

The ABS Styran compound is used in action parts where a strong, inert material works best as it is impervious to the effects of humidity and temperature swings. Hammer heads and hammer shanks are still made of wood as that is where the resilience of wood is required.

The material per se of the action, whether wood or ABS Styran has nothing to do with the tonal quality of the instrument. It is the efficiency and responsiveness of this mechanical system which is crucial to good sound and touch.

I have played a number of recent Kawai RX models and the sensitivity and responsiveness of the action made the piano like a dream to play.

Kind regards,
Robert.
Posted By: bitWrangler

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 06:53 PM

Originally Posted by Seneca
OTOH, I had an interesting conversation with the piano technician who was out to tune our piano last week about the Millenium Three action. Innately conservative guy, he gave it very high 'objective' marks while expressing some 'subjective' reservations. Incredibly even, stable and consistent, was his verdict, but he said he still likes working with wood. That sounded reasonable and balanced, the opposite of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.


But is it really reasonable and balanced? He mentions specific positives but "he still likes working with wood". What are we to take from that? Isn't a baseless statement like that the U, uncertainty? "Yeah the Millenium action is great, but ....". Now if he's talking purely from a tech's perspective that with wood you have a bit more leeway and it's easier to manipulate/generate parts on the fly if need be, then fine. But unless you're paraphrasing, his statement as is doesn't sound all that reasonable to me.
Posted By: Horowitzian

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 07:31 PM

Originally Posted by AJB
Yes, but Horowitzian, you are a bit over sensitive about S&S. Brand loyalty does that to people ;-)

[...]


True dat. smile It didn't help that the individual who did it seems to just have a problem with me in general. However, the general perception I have seen is that anyone who really likes the Steinway piano like myself is all too often written off as ignorant. I have never seen anyone who really likes another top-tier brand come in for the same garbage. Just sayin'. smile

Really, though, I think a lot of the criticism of the Steinway brand is unfounded, as long as we are talking about new pianos. We all know about the QC issues of the CBS era and the teflon parts fiasco. The newer instruments seem carefully made to my eyes. Finish, not so much since rubbed lacquer is very susceptible to damage by rubs and scratches. But I love the look. cool
Posted By: Bob Snyder

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 08:29 PM

A couple of quick points: First, Steinway does not in any way encourage our retail salespeople to put down Kawai pianos - or any other brand. We simply do not do it. My question to you all is this: do you feel similarly indignant when someone puts down the Steinway brand? Or the Boston? Or Essex?

Second, compared to Kawai the Boston piano does NOT have an "additional layer" of price, as Rich claims. Kawai dealers purchase pianos from Kawai America - who represents a "layer" between the manufacturer, and the dealer. Our dealings are not with Kawai America. So while the "layer" may have a different name, it is not an additional one.

Lastly, and very much on the record: Steinway & Sons (and I know this is true of my friends and fellow industry colleagues at Yamaha, Kawai, Bosendorfer, Mason Hamlin, et all) is very anxious to do what we can to get more people interested in learning to make their own music on a piano. None of us have yet met the elderly person who proclaims "I am so glad that I never did learn to play the piano!" - - but almost every day we meet people who regret not taking advantage of the opportunity when they had it.

Our preference would be to use our energies to promote the joy of making music, rather than to defend attacks against us - or to damage a fellow piano manufacturer. We're simply too small of an industry to use our resources that way.

Thank you.
Posted By: Rich Galassini

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 08:46 PM

Bob,

Thank you for that post. It was well said.
Posted By: Horowitzian

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 08:49 PM

Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
Bob,

Thank you for that post. It was well said.


+1 thumb
Posted By: John Pels

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 09:20 PM

Bitwrangler, getting back to the tech's statement about a preference for wood. Composites (plastic) are marvelous for many things. In the piano industry however they have been implemented from time to time with uneven results. Many parts work for years and then crumble, like the elbows on many spinets. The teflon bushings for Steinway action parts are another prime example. If the proper composite is specified it could very well last a long time. Hopefully the supplier that is molding the plastic is using a medium with some longevity. Wood on the other hand is a known quantity. I have worked on enough pianos that are 80 years old whose wooden action parts are perfectly serviceable with the replacement of felt.

I don't believe that using plastic is a selling feature, nor is it necessarily a liability. On grands, they are regarded as replacement parts in a normal rebuild, hence really a throwaway item. On uprights however, the repacement of action parts and the labor to do so might exceed the value of the instrument some years down the road.

I think that the tech has the same skepticism that I have, and a lot of the issue will come down to the proper specification of the composite part as delivered to any given company.

I just went through a failure mode of an air hose recently. I bought a few air hoses over 30 years ago, your basic "rubber" air hose. I still have them and use them regularly. Two years ago I bought two new "rubber" air hoses. Both of the new hoses are cracked and rotted and won't hold air. I have to assume that the rubber specified in manufacture was not the correct spec for any kind of longevity, or the correct rubber was not used in manufacture though specified. I guess that I will buy some more "Goodyear" hoses rather than "Empire" hoses.
Posted By: Seneca

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 09:29 PM

Bitwrangler--

I was giving a summary of a longer conversation about plastic actions. I don't have a transcript.

Actually, he did specifically mention that with wood you can generate parts of the fly and have a little more leeway, but he also said that if you have the parts kit you wouldn't the ability to fix pieces of wood doesn't matter, and that the leeway 'advantage' is offset by the advantage of the more precise tolerances with ABS.

He really didn't have a strong point of view or bias, other than the self-description as 'old-fashioned.' We were just kicking the topic around because he'd said something nice about the Renner action in my piano and so I asked him what he thought of the plastic actions.
Posted By: bitWrangler

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/14/09 09:55 PM

Jon and Seneca, thanks for your replies. I am aware of some of the issues with older plastic parts and with the reasons for why some techs still, from a practical standpoint, prefer wood over plastics/composites (almost all thanks to this forum! smile ). I was really just literally asking if Seneca's tech really said exactly what Seneca stated, because if he did, then it seemed to me to be similar to the FUD mentioned in this thread. However, now that Seneca has clarified, I see that his techs statements seem, as Seneca stated, reasonable and balanced.

And speaking of FUD, while Steinway may not officially endorse the utilization of FUD by it's dealers, there can be no doubt that at least some of their dealers use this approach. And in a fashion that seems relatively consistent. In my own personal shopping experience a year or so ago the comments made by a certain Steinway Hall dealer directly (or near directly) mimic'ed the same things that folks mention that they had heard from Steinway dealers regarding competitive brands and non factory rebuilds. And while I'm sure there are other dealers representing other brands that likely do the same, in my own personal experience, most of the other dealers tended to prop up their brands vs knock down competitors (e.g. "I see you're looking at the Schimmel NWS over there, you have good taste as that's the best piano in the world!" smile )
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 12:19 AM

Bob,

I don't think I can recall much bashing of Boston or Essex. Many people have noted that they believe that these two brands sell at a small premium above (what they consider to be) comparable makes that are not associated with Steinway. Frankly, I don't consider that kind of comment to be bashing, certainly not of the plastic variety.

Steinway itself probably receives more negative commentary of the bashing variety than do its less expensive siblings.
Posted By: koiloco

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 02:48 AM

Originally Posted by Bob Snyder
A couple of quick points: First, Steinway does not in any way encourage our retail salespeople to put down Kawai pianos - or any other brand. We simply do not do it. My question to you all is this: do you feel similarly indignant when someone puts down the Steinway brand? Or the Boston? Or Essex?

Second, compared to Kawai the Boston piano does NOT have an "additional layer" of price, as Rich claims. Kawai dealers purchase pianos from Kawai America - who represents a "layer" between the manufacturer, and the dealer. Our dealings are not with Kawai America. So while the "layer" may have a different name, it is not an additional one.

Lastly, and very much on the record: Steinway & Sons (and I know this is true of my friends and fellow industry colleagues at Yamaha, Kawai, Bosendorfer, Mason Hamlin, et all) is very anxious to do what we can to get more people interested in learning to make their own music on a piano. None of us have yet met the elderly person who proclaims "I am so glad that I never did learn to play the piano!" - - but almost every day we meet people who regret not taking advantage of the opportunity when they had it.

Our preference would be to use our energies to promote the joy of making music, rather than to defend attacks against us - or to damage a fellow piano manufacturer. We're simply too small of an industry to use our resources that way.

Thank you.


Well said !

But certainly, Steinway prices and brand recognition have allowed your company the profit margin to be able to promote the joy of making music in a very positive way.

Keep up the good work
Posted By: koiloco

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 02:50 AM

to the OP.

I happen to know quite a few people with "plastic" in them and they are very lovely smile
Posted By: charleslang

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 03:10 AM

If those new plastic composite WN%G actions gain some acceptance then there will be two major makers not using wood. Maybe that will reduce the talk about 'cheap plastic'.

I love the millenium actions on Kawais. They seem light, stiff (in the sense of communicating your hand motion directly to the hammer), fast, and consistent. Everything you want in an action. Haven't had a chance to try the WN&G actions yet.
Posted By: beethoven986

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 04:17 AM

It's funny that you happen to mention this... rumor has it that, in one certain piano manufacturing company, it is believed that Steingraebers "are for clients who want pianos built by the Flintstones".

I was advised by my source to not disclose the company's name due to the risk of litigation. However, if you have a suspicion, you're probably right.

Posted By: Muget

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 04:25 AM

I just want to say that my Kawai RX3 is the BEST piano I have ever had and I have had many. Never a Steinway but a Mason, Chichering, Baldwin (old upright) and a Yamaha. The voice in my Kawai is unsurpassed and it is a treat to hear it every time. If there is plastic in the parts, I would never know it from its clear, full, lyrical and appealing sound. The action is very supple. I can control the sound. I recommend it, for sure.

Mere
Posted By: Horowitzian

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 04:27 AM

Originally Posted by beethoven986
It's funny that you happen to mention this... rumor has it that, in one certain piano manufacturing company, it is believed that Steingraebers "are for clients who want pianos built by the Flintstones".

I was advised by my source to not disclose the company's name due to the risk of litigation. However, if you have a suspicion, you're probably right.



Now if anything that has ever been said against a piano maker has been utterly absurd, it's gotta be that. No idea who would be foolish enough to say something like that though...
Posted By: beethoven986

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 04:28 AM

I often express very, very harsh criticism of Steinway, but that really has more to do with the company's current philosophy and business practices than the sound and performance qualities of its instruments. If Steinway would use its prestige and become a leader in design again, I'd be a lot happier.
Posted By: beethoven986

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 04:43 AM

But do you actively discourage it? It's something I've noticed at more than one Steinway dealership.

And then there's this, too:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/09/arts/music-piano-versus-piano.html

Posted By: sophial

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 05:14 AM

Originally Posted by beethoven986
It's funny that you happen to mention this... rumor has it that, in one certain piano manufacturing company, it is believed that Steingraebers "are for clients who want pianos built by the Flintstones".

I was advised by my source to not disclose the company's name due to the risk of litigation. However, if you have a suspicion, you're probably right.



This kind of innuendo and rumor-mongering is a cheap shot.
Posted By: beethoven986

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 05:42 AM

Originally Posted by John Pels
Composites (plastic) are marvelous for many things. In the piano industry however they have been implemented from time to time with uneven results.


Are you talking about "plastic composites" or are you saying that composites are the same as plastic? If you're saying the latter, that's not really the whole story.

A composite is made from at least two materials with different chemical or physical properties, which remain separate in the finished product. One or more materials act as a reinforcing phase (fibers, sheets, chips) embedded in a matrix phase. Either phase can be a metal, ceramic, or polymer, but some materials, of course, don't work well together. Wood, plywood, asphalt, and concrete are all examples of composites.

On to pianos... cheap pianos several decades ago (someone who knows what and when can share that info) used plastic in piano actions. Needless to say, our understanding of plastics has improved significantly over the past half century.

Kawai... I'm not sure of the dates, but Kawai started making actions out of ABS Styran sometime before I was born. This is plastic, of course. It is strong and is inherently more stable than wood. Fast forward to not too long ago, Kawai developed the Millenium III action, which is ABS-carbon, which is a composite material (carbon fiber embedded in an ABS plastic matrix). It is stronger and lighter than wood or ABS by itself, and is dimensionally more stable than wood. Assuming the action is made correctly, the materials should last at least 100 years.

The WNG action parts are glass fibers embedded in nylon. These parts are supplied to rebuilders of grand pianos, but Mason & Hamlin also offers them as an upgrade on its pianos.

In their defense, most piano dealers, I assume, don't know the difference, so they are more misinformed than anything else. However, there really is no excuse for dealers to be misinformed in the first place.



Originally Posted by John Pels
I think that the tech has the same skepticism that I have, and a lot of the issue will come down to the proper specification of the composite part as delivered to any given company.


Yes, of course, but that goes for any material.

Posted By: beethoven986

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 06:03 AM

No it isn't. You were wondering if Steinway (or anyone else, for that matter) would have the "nerve" to essentially criticize Steingraeber for its carbon fiber soundboard.

All I happened to do is essentially answer your question (you're welcome). I acknowledged that it was a rumor, so this is totally fair. Are there any implications? Sure, but they're not stated, and these comments could have come from any person at any company.

Either way, it's damn funny... everyone else I've shared this with (aka some of my friends at Steingraeber) has gotten a kick out of it.

Posted By: Oblacone

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 08:00 AM

Well, i guess that if Kawai has cheap plastic parts in it, then thats some pretty good plastic parts, I have tried the RX 3 and it was excellent! Also, the Kawai action is astonishing! .. however in the other thread when it said about yamaha being all hard rock o.O yeah I'd like to hear some heavy metal with a yamaha grand in it XD all the guys with long black hair, dark make up and piercing. Amongst them, sits a yamaha hard rocker on the grand :P

but like Birchy said,
Originally Posted by birchy
Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
If a salesperson is feeling somewhat insecure about the value of their product or cannot say enough good things about it, the only thing left is to tear down the other choices.


It's like asking a girl to marry you by listing all the things that you find wrong with her friends...


So if you live Boston style, you won't live a happy life...
Posted By: Dave Ferris

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 08:13 AM

.
Posted By: beethoven986

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 08:25 AM

Yeah, I agree. I mean, if the Flintstones made pianos out of carbon fiber, just imagine where we'd be today!
Posted By: John Pels

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 01:59 PM

beethoven986, since you indicate that you just received your bachelors degree, your frame of reference vis a vis plastics is limited. I got your degrees 30 years ago. This is the reason for my skepticism. The example that I gave of the rubber hoses is just the kind of thing that gives one pause. I would also assume that in the last 35 years we would have likely exhausted the possibilities of making (quality) rubber hoses, and yet, the fact that I can buy one that only lasts a year or so indicates that there has been a disconnect somewhere along the line. The question has never been can one make quality parts from plastic and plastic composites, but whether it actually will have the longevity of the part (wood) that it has replaced. We live by and large in a throw-away society. The key to maintaining the longevity in pianos to which we have become accustomed will be determined by the correct specification and implementation of plastics in manufacture. Like I said, I regard the plastics in their action as neither a plus nor minus. From a manufacturing perspective, I would imagine that it is much more cost effective to cast plastic and plastic composite parts than essentially stamping or machining wooden parts and then having to glue all of those parts together. If the yield is function and longevity, I am all for it. As to maintaining dimensional stability, I have yet to find any wippens that have changed shape over the years. I rebuilt a C Baldwin like yours a couple of years ago and though it was nearly 100 years old, they were still all straight and true. My SD Baldwin that was submerged in hurricane Katrina still has dimensionally stable wooden action parts. The action centers leave a little bit to be desired however, and that felt has seen better days.
Posted By: apple*

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 03:32 PM

a trash talking salesman is the worst
Posted By: Marty Flinn

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/15/09 05:45 PM

Jennifer and I have toured factories and been product trained by factory personel by: Steinway, Yamaha, Kawai, Mason & Hamlin, Estonia, Petrof, Kimball, Baldwin, Bosendorfer, Samick (under several brand names), Wurlitzer, Aeolian (under several brand names), and more. Not once in any factory training was it ever suggested to present competitive product in a negative light; let alone bash it. Every generic sales training program I have attended (dozens) has stressed not to engage in negative selling.

Some have asked why manufacturers encourage it? Often the manfacturers/distributors only contact with the retail sales force is through a Rep visit. During those visits it is rare for them to listen in a witness a sales presentation. They are typically in a training or business detail mode. It is up to the dealer principal and/or their manager designate to monitor and control what is said to customers on the sales floor. It is true that in some rare sales organizations unprofessional behavior is institutionalized from the top down.

Negative selling and competitive product bashing comes from weak, lazy, and untrained salespeople and sometimes from their leadership. It also can be sustained by shoppers who ask, "How does Yamaha compare to Kawai?", "How does Petrof stack up against Schimmel?", "What do you think about plastic parts?", etc.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/16/09 01:33 PM

Originally Posted by Horowitzian
As far as these forums go, I think Steinway comes in for that far more than any other brand. Heck, I was attacked just yesterday for expressing my opinion that a good Steinway well prepped is unbeatable. smokin


But you left out the key part about saying there was "no debate in your opinion" that Steinway is unbeaable. That's the specific part I objected to. How can a reasonable person say there is no debate when obviously there is both for PW members in the Fine Supplement?
Posted By: Marty in Minnesota

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/17/09 03:13 AM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Horowitzian
As far as these forums go, I think Steinway comes in for that far more than any other brand. Heck, I was attacked just yesterday for expressing my opinion that a good Steinway well prepped is unbeatable. smokin


But you left out the key part about saying there was "no debate in your opinion" that Steinway is unbeaable. That's the specific part I objected to. How can a reasonable person say there is no debate when obviously there is both for PW members in the Fine Supplement?


Because, Mr. PLU, it was an opinion.

An opinion can be discussed, but, an opinion is the judgement of any given individual. I find Horowitzian to be a very "reasonable person." He has his opinions, as does Fine, and so do all the readers of PW.

To counter any given opinion as unreasonable is truly absurd.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/17/09 11:51 AM

Originally Posted by Marty in Minnesota

An opinion can be discussed, but, an opinion is the judgement of any given individual. I find Horowitzian to be a very "reasonable person." He has his opinions, as does Fine, and so do all the readers of PW.

To counter any given opinion as unreasonable is truly absurd. [/b]


Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin were completel hacks. Steinway, Steingraeber, Fazioli, Bluthner, and Boesendorfer grands will disintegrate within three years and only have 87 notes to save money. The Mason spider is a real spider from South America. This is my opinion and IMO it's not debatable. wink
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/17/09 12:08 PM

Quote
To counter any given opinion as unreasonable is truly absurd.


Really? Besides PL's sample 'opinions,' which are absurd by construction, there is a big difference between, say, the assertion "I think chocolate tastes better than vanilla," and a statement like "I think Steinway's build quality is lower than Boesendorfer's."

The first is a pure matter of taste (literally). We may push and probe to understand the judgment but we cannot dispute it rationally. The second is a complex assertion that is potentially built on a series of implicit assumptions about facts coupled with judgments about how those facts fit together. How can you say that after pushing and probing an opinion one could never conclude that it was unreasonable. If a person sticks to their opinion after others have uncovered contrary facts that even the original opinion-holder cannot dispute, then that person has departed the world of reason for something else resembling faith in the blue fairy.

Having said that, I think Horowitzian (who is reasonable, of course!) was expressing something akin to the vanilla-chocolate example and not the Steinway-Boesendorfer example. But if posters simply want to exchange taste preferences that are not debatable we've entered the world of stultifying boredom, not to mention correctness. And don't you dare challenge MY tastes to find out what (if anything) is informing them. :-)
Posted By: JoeDaBassPlayer

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/17/09 02:48 PM

I am glad there are a variety of good instruments to satisfy our different tastes. For me, Steinway is my standard, not because it is the best but what I am used to hearing. It is sort of like the Stratocaster in between sounds we hear all the time in rock music. or the Telecaster bridge pickup sound used in Country and pop.

However, it is silly to criticize a piano or other instrument due to the use of more stable structural parts. The parts may be plastic but how many pianos have plastic (urethane) finishes on them? For me, it is just used car salesmen tactics to get the commission.
Posted By: sotto voce

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/17/09 03:33 PM

I'm not sure about pianos made by the Flintstones, but the ones they played don't look so bad:

[Linked Image]

Okay, the upright gets some points off for the lack of pedals—clearly not a Tier One instrument. But this Stoneway grand that Fred is playing has a technical innovation: hammers that strike from above the strings!

[Linked Image]

Even Hoagy Carmichael had a Stoneway at his disposal for his guest appearance:

[Linked Image]

I am surprised at the modern notation on Fred's music stand. Weren't they still using neumes back then? It's all on one staff, too, but piano must have been a lot harder back when we had only four fingers on each hand!

Steven
Posted By: Paul in FWB

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/17/09 03:43 PM

My aunt gave me the 1900 Steinway Model A-II on which she taught me. I had it rebuilt by a quality RPT and enjoyed playing it for 26 years. It had a beautiful, rich singing tone. Playing it was like invoking a living presence. Unfortunately, I had to sell it this summer during difficult financial times. With a portion of the proceeds, I am buying a replacement piano. I knew, going in, that I would never own so magnificent an instrument. That said, I was tremendously impressed with the M3 action on the Kawai. On my Steinway, I'd never been able to produce such a delicate pianissimo. If "plastic" parts deliver this kind of control, bring them on! I'll miss my big beauty, but I find that I'm positively giddy as I await the delivery of my Kawai upright.
Posted By: Brent B

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/17/09 04:17 PM

Originally Posted by sotto voce

Even Hoagy Carmichael had a Stoneway at his disposal for his guest appearance:

[Linked Image]



Hoagy Carmichael must have been very talented given his ability to play a backwards piano
Posted By: plobotta

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/18/09 08:45 PM

Originally Posted by Brent B

It's just unfortunate that so many Steinway/Boston dealers have to put down Kawai.

Sure there are differences between Boston and Kawai, and maybe Boston is a slightly better piano (I really don't know--haven't spent much time with a Boston), but dealers need to explain the REAL differences between the products. Saying that Kawai is just cheap "plastic" is not only inaccurate, it's IGNORANT.


I find this interesting: during my visit to the local importer of Steinway, Boston and Essex, the dealer let me try a lot of different pianos and explained the differences I felt in terms of how the pianos were made and "regulated"; then he showed me the "mechanics" of 5 different pianos, from 5 different makes (Steinway, Boston, Yamaha, Essex and Kawai), and kept as last one the Kawai, showing me the "plastic" parts as an absurdity.
At that moment I actually had a bad impression of that Kawai, probably because I am a bit distorted towards classic materials and surely because that dealer seemed to know what he was saying, had spent the morning explaining me many things about the pianos I played and looked really disgusted by the choice of Kawai. In his opinion that was a way to reduce costs, but in a way that deteriorates the sound.

I had the impression he was honest, probably he said so for lack of culture. Maybe Kawai should explain his dealers the real effectiveness of its actions? It sounds absurd, but...maybe they didn't make it.
Posted By: Brent B

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/18/09 09:00 PM

So after playing the Kawai........do you agree with the dealer that the "plastic" parts "deteriorate" the sound? Or did you find yourself secretely liking the Kawai and wondering exactly what he was talking about?
Posted By: AJF

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/18/09 09:45 PM

I find it absurd when people say that Kawai's use of 'plastic' is a cost cutting measure considering that they spent millions and millions of dollars testing and developing this technology. All I know (being a professional pianist who owns a Shigeru Kawai) is that Kawai's Millenium III action for my tastes is the very best action I have ever played on. So whether or not it's a cost cutting measure doesn't matter. What matters is how fantastically this action plays.
Posted By: Seeker

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/18/09 09:48 PM

Regarding the "cheap plastic", actually, it's an expensive and proprietary "plastic" called ABS-Carbon. Can't comment on the ignorance claim.

According to the Kawai website, "a new composite material created by the infusion of carbon into our existing ABS Styran. ABS-Carbon is incredibly sturdy and rigid, which allowed Kawai to make the action parts lighter without sacrificing strength. The lighter design makes the Millennium III Action tremendously fast and effortless for the player. The repetition and responsiveness are superb..".

Further, "Every detail of the action was exhaustively analyzed to meet the stringent demands of the skilled pianist. One prime example of this effort was the addition of microscopic surface texture on the jack at the point where it meets the hammer. The result of this subtle but important change is a dramatic increase in control during pianissimo playing".

I cannot tell you if the Millenium III actions in the Kawai are exactly the same as the ones in the Shigeru-Kawai, but what I can tell you is that playing an SK-7 on stage in Shanghai, China was not only musically satisfying, it was a sensually satisfying experience as well. I could, as the advertising copy says, play extremely softly in a controlled way on that piano. The action could also play as quickly as I could whether the passage work was scalar, arpeggiated, or single note repetitions.

And I had absolutely no idea when I was playing that there was any plastic in the action at all. There was no perceptible difference in feel. Rather, what I felt was a perfectly regulated, fast repeating, action.

To the person who suggested that the (Kawai?) dealers be able to state the benefits of the Millenium-III, all they have to do is go to this link: http://www.kawaius.com/main_links/abs/abs_1.html

There can be found 4 hyperlinks: one to the Millenium-III grand action, one to the Millenium-III upright action, one to "The Truth About ABS", and finally one called "brochure" which links to a 4 page glossy color brochure in PDF format.

Bottom line: if you like the sound and feel of the Kawai, if the action is at least equal to your ability to play it, I would not be put off by the use of ABS-Carbon in the action. Over time we may find that actions built using that material last longer and ultimately out-perform wooden ones. Heck - they used to make airplanes out of wood and cloth, then metal. Now we've got stealth fighter planes built primarily out of carbon fiber materials.

Just some thoughts...
Posted By: Horowitzian

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/18/09 09:50 PM

Originally Posted by sotto voce
I'm not sure about pianos made by the Flintstones, but the ones they played don't look so bad:

[Linked Image]

Okay, the upright gets some points off for the lack of pedals—clearly not a Tier One instrument. But this Stoneway grand that Fred is playing has a technical innovation: hammers that strike from above the strings!

[Linked Image]

[...]


Of course, the chromatic scale had obviously not been invented yet! grin
Posted By: M.O.P.

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/18/09 09:55 PM

I can't speak for what Kawai does in other countries, but here in the United States, they do have an intensive course generally held on an annual basis that is open to Kawai dealers and their sales personnel. It is 3 days of total immersion in Kawai from the philosophy and history of the company to learning (hands on) the mechanical/technical side of the acoustic pianos, as well as all about the digitals. Yes, there is testing - both written and verbal - and its not easy. Any Kawai dealer/sales person who attends the course comes away with a thorough understanding of the product line and the company, and is more than able to present any of the instruments to a potential customer in a positive fashion. It sounds from your post that the sales person wasn't interested in selling you the Kawai, and he obviously doesn't have the facts of their construction. Did you play the Kawai?

Posted By: J Cortese

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/18/09 11:23 PM

What a pity that some manufacturers say things like that. If guitars had been treated the same way as pianos are, Les Paul would have been tarred and feathered, and would the world ever have missed out.

I have no idea whether any of these innovations and tweaks are any good, but I sure hope people continue to try. I'd LOVE to sit down at a good grand with a proper spruce soundboard, and then compare it with a soundboard made of carbon fiber. How wonderful that people are trying these new things. If innovation hadn't been important to musicians and instrument manufacturers, the piano itself wouldn't even exist!
Posted By: Hop

Re: Kawai is "cheap plastic" ignorance - 08/24/09 07:49 PM

Originally Posted by Bob Snyder
Our preference would be to use our energies to promote the joy of making music, rather than to defend attacks against us - or to damage a fellow piano manufacturer. We're simply too small of an industry to use our resources that way.


In this regard, allow me to present kudos for the Steinway Library of Piano Music, particularly the Piano Stylings of the Great Standards. This truly does expand the joy of making music.

Hop
Posted By: Inlanding

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/24/09 08:58 PM

Originally Posted by J Cortese
What a pity that some manufacturers say things like that. If guitars had been treated the same way as pianos are, Les Paul would have been tarred and feathered, and would the world ever have missed out.

I have no idea whether any of these innovations and tweaks are any good, but I sure hope people continue to try. I'd LOVE to sit down at a good grand with a proper spruce soundboard, and then compare it with a soundboard made of carbon fiber. How wonderful that people are trying these new things. If innovation hadn't been important to musicians and instrument manufacturers, the piano itself wouldn't even exist!


Too bad a poorly trained salesperson without regard to their industry made such a statement about another manufacturer.

This is true...There is a clear difference in sound from my brothers Martin D-28 he purchased in 1971 and a carbon-fibre backed Ovation at nearly the same price-point. Some folks like the sound of carbon. I like the sound of his Martin. With a blind fold on, I can clearly hear the difference.

Same can be said of my 1917 O. When the humidity starts to drop a bit, this piano takes on this incredible tonality. Whether it is the most excellent sound board, the well-voiced hammers, or the superbly regulated action, it is truly mesmerizing to play. In fact, it sounds so good to me that I get distracted by it when practicing/playing, whether it is to obtain the softest pianissimo or most percussive fortissimo, it is a joy to play. It's dynamics, tone, tactile responsiveness are simply incredible!

Carbon fibre action parts on newer pianos I am sure will have their place, and I will go play a Kawai configured that way just to see/feel what it's like.

One could say with some conviction and that it'd be a mild understatement that I am slightly biased towards this vintage beauty, but I am not adverse to the possibilily a carbon-fibre sound board and carbon-fibre action parts have their place.

I look forward to playing a modern Kawai.

Glen
Posted By: J Cortese

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/24/09 11:06 PM

Originally Posted by Inlanding
Too bad a poorly trained salesperson without regard to their industry made such a statement about another manufacturer.


Important distinction, thanks.
Posted By: Seeker

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/25/09 01:20 AM

Originally Posted by Inlanding

=========SNIP===============
Same can be said of my 1917 O. When the humidity starts to drop a bit, this piano takes on this incredible tonality. Whether it is the most excellent sound board, the well-voiced hammers, or the superbly regulated action, it is truly mesmerizing to play. In fact, it sounds so good to me that I get distracted by it when practicing/playing, whether it is to obtain the softest pianissimo or most percussive fortissimo, it is a joy to play. It's dynamics, tone, tactile responsiveness are simply incredible!

Carbon fibre action parts on newer pianos I am sure will have their place, and I will go play a Kawai configured that way just to see/feel what it's like.
=================SNIP==================
I look forward to playing a modern Kawai.
Glen


Glen - odds are, you will love the Kawai, and if not a vanilla Kawai, a Shigeru-Kawai. I played a number of pianos on a tour recently, a Yamaha cIII-s, 2 Hamburg Steinway D's, an aged Kawai concert grand, and a Shigeru-Kawai SK-7.

All the pianos with the exception of the older Kawai concert grand (it had many years of deferred maintenance to be done and absolutely zero after-touch), all the pianos were a joy to play. Each brand was different, and the experience of playing a particular piano and the sound that came from it, were influenced greatly by the basic sound and feel of the type of instrument, just like your Steinway O.

The two pianos I have played in my life that were the most controllable, most luxurious feeling, were the SK-7 previously mentioned and a Fazioli F212. A new Yamaha C7 from the Yamaha C&A reserve, with some extra prep from a Yamaha School House trained tech in Frederick, MD, follows as a close 2nd. None of those pianos sounded like a Steinway, they had their own distinctive sounds.

Do get out and play some of the competition. I love the Steinway sound, myself, but it's nice that there are other pianos today, really of equal caliber (my opinion, please don't shoot me dear readers), that we can play and enjoy.
Posted By: Inlanding

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/25/09 06:17 AM

Hi Andrew,
I have yet to play any piano that comes close in terms of tactile responsiveness, dynamics, exhuberance, richness, and clarity of my 1917 O, save perhaps a few D model Steinways very well maintained, and one Mason Hamlin. Yes, that O is a reference point - I am spoiled and have become accustomed to the atmosphere it generates when played.

However, that is not to say I don't enjoy playing my girlfriend's substantive Bluthner. It's just a different animal, and if they were side-by-side in my house, the Bluthner would remain idle. The Conservatory performance Yamahas I've been fortunate to play simply lacked a richness, while the action was just fine. Dare I say they were lacking a "soul"? I just did not get that connected feeling from the physical component of playing the notes to the sound that hits my ear.

Regardless of the manufacturer of the instrument and they year it was produced, playing a piano is an experience.

The enjoyment obtained from playing a piano is multi-faceted and on so many levels.

It seems it is the overall "experience" of playing the instrument is what leaves an indellible impression on the player and is what separates one instrument from another, don't you think? Whether a piano has carbon fiber action parts and a synthetic sound board might be irrelevant for some, but for others it is relevant.

I am looking forward to getting in front of one of those Kawais this weekend, if not sooner, to check out the "relevance" factor {;>)

Regardless...I like to play and I like to listen to others playing.

Thanks for your enouragement!

Glen
Posted By: Barb860

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/25/09 07:16 PM

Originally Posted by Brent B
This post is actualy in response to the thread "Help Buying a Boston GP-178." I didn't want to hijack that thread just to vent my frustration so I started a new one.

It's just unfortunate that so many Steinway/Boston dealers have to put down Kawai. Kawai manufactures the piano for cryin' out loud--have some respect.

I can't imagine that the Steinway/Boston company itself is telling dealers to say these things and I'm sure they would not condone such behavior. OR......maybe they do.......many of their dealers seem to be spewing the same anti-brand B propaganda.

Sure there are differences between Boston and Kawai, and maybe Boston is a slightly better piano (I really don't know--haven't spent much time with a Boston), but dealers need to explain the REAL differences between the products. Saying that Kawai is just cheap "plastic" is not only inaccurate, it's IGNORANT.

Sure, they'll draw in quite a few uneducated buyers with their nonsense, but they will also turn away many educated buyers. The first piano dealer I went to when I started my search several weeks ago was a Steinway/Boston/Essex dealer. I played the Boston and Essex (and Steinway for fun, of course), both very nice pianos, and then asked him if he carried Kawai. He then proceded to give me his Kawai is "cheap plastic" routine and that no serious pianist should ever consider a piano that uses such parts. That was the moment I knew I would not buy a piano from this man. If I know for a fact he is completely uninformed about competing brands, how can I trust that he is honest about the quality of the brands he carries?

I just think a piano dealer should have a little more class than a used car salesman.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying these things because I own a Kawai--I DON'T. Kawai is a front-runner in my search so far, but this is not just me trying to justify a purchase that I've already made


A Steinway dealer recently told me that Boston pianos are far superior to Kawai's because, and only because, of the Kawai plastic parts. I was told that the plastic parts will break over time. Personally, I enjoy playing an upright Kawai more than its comparable Boston. Kawai has a nicer tone, IMO.
Posted By: Marty in Minnesota

Re: Calling Kawai "cheap plastic" is ignorance - 08/26/09 12:24 AM

Hi Barb,

I found this a very interesting statement:

Quote
I was told that the plastic parts will break over time.


Wood parts will bread over time, also. That doesn't mean that they are superior or inferior. It is nothing more than salesman babble to get a commission.

Both pianos have their merits and it is up to each purchaser to make a decision. The bottom line is that one isn't "better than the other." It is just that they are different instruments which appeal to different ears and hands.
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