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Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos...

Posted By: Axtremus

Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/06/05 06:39 PM

Figure it's time to pull most of the "piano impressions" I've posted in the past with the various updates into its own summary thread. So here it is.

Note: Please understand that what's written below is very subjective, and is often times no more that a matter of personal preference.

The Fantasy List:

Fazioli F-228: Closest to my version of the "ideal piano" for any piano 228 cm (7 ft. 6 in.) or shorter. But it is out of my price range. Played three of these to date, all marvelous. The F-228 has got everything in its tonal pallete: super-wide dynamic range, refinement, sophistication, clarity, elegance, warmth when soft, brilliance when loud, lots of power, lots of subtlety, and seemingly infinite depth. Price issue aside, it would be my "perfect piano" if it would have just a little more "boom" in the bottom most five or six bass notes. (Surprisingly, I like the F-228 much, much better than its immediate siblings, the F-278 and the F-212.) Extremely responsive touch and action -- the whole piano seems to respond directly to my thoughts and intentions rather than indirectly to my fingers. Extremely inspiring and a great pleasure to play. [Separate post on the side-by-side comparison of a Fazioli F-279 concert grand and a rebuilt Hamburg Steinway D -- LINK HERE .]

Steinway D: All of them too big and too pricey for me. There are many Steinway D's, new and old, that I do NOT like, but I found an old black Hamburg D that I like a lot. Very refined, warm, rounded tone with lots of subtlety and no sacrifice in clarity. One just has to love a 9-footer when it gets down to the lower bass. The D's bass is deep and powerful in a restrained yet majestic way. Also very inspiring to play. [Also posted a side-by-side comparison of a NY Steinway D and a Hamburg Steinway D in a concert hall .]

Baldwin SD-10: Found a used one made in the mid-1990's that I like a lot. Very "intuitive" instrument to play on. Slightly brighter than the Hamburd D mentioned above, but have all the other good stuff like power, clarity, subtlety, depth, etc. It was as if I could hear my thoughts being conveyed through every note without much effort. Surprisingly, its price is rather reasonable (as in within my budget at the time), but I just don't have the space to fit a 9-foot piano. I can squeeze it in physically, but I don't think the room accoustics could do justive to a 9-footer like this.

Bosendorfer 7 ft. 6 in.: This would be my fantasy "secondary piano" if I have the space and the money. (Yeah, right, fat chance! laugh ) Lots of complexity and subtlety. But low power. It's too mellow for my taste to be my primary piano. But there are pieces that would sound uniquely great on a Bosendorfer that wouldn't sound as good on anything else, and it'll make a good contrast to (or escape from) my "primary piano."

(more on next post)
Posted By: Axtremus

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/06/05 06:40 PM

Note: Please understand that what's written below is very subjective, and is often times no more that a matter of personal preference.

The Practical List:

Steinway: Pretty much played every production model of NY Steinways there is. Most of them are quite good and not much need to be said because, well, it's Steinway. It's ubiquitous and many people are already familiar with Steinways. I am a "big piano" person, so as good as the Steinways are, starting from Model S, I kept finding that I wanted something more -- until I get to Model B. More Steinway B in the next post.

Mason and Hamlin: Played the new A's and BB's. Very powerful. Very responsive action. Model A, as powerful as it is, didn't quite make it pass my "big piano" preference tonally (the bass just wan't quite there). The BB is a different story. More on the BB in the next post. (Also see this post where I describe my impressions on playing six M&H pianos back-to-back in the M&H factory on May 10, 2004, which includes their model AA prototype.)

Yamaha: Played multiple samples of new C1, C2, C3, C5, C6, C7, S6, and an old CF. Everything starting from the C3 is quite respectable. The old CF (reworked with German hammers and action) is too big at 9 ft. The other C-series pianos are too bright for my taste, but all have good touch/action. I had only one serious session with the S6. The S6 sounded really interesting, certainly much more refined than the C5, C6, C7 pianos. Loved the C7's bass. I have subsequently found two more C7's to play. One a concert rental instrument prepared to the tilt, the other fresh out of the crate with one tuning (or so I was told). Both excellent. The concert instrument was especially outstanding -- solid tone, tight bass, good depth, good definition. The C7 has become a personal favorite because of these two C7s.

K.Kawai and Shigeru Kawai: Played some GE's, RX-1, RX-2, RX-3, RX-5, SK-3, SK-5, SK-6, RX-A. Everything starting from RX-2 is quite respectable. Not as bright as the Yamaha C-series, I find the new Kawai's tone much to my liking. The Kawai action is no sloth either. The Shigeru SK's are tonally much more refined than the RX's. Again, my preference for the "big piano tone," especially in the bass, steered me away from the RX-3/SK-3 and smaller pianos. SK-5 and SK-6 are quiet close for me, but I have a slight preference for SK-6 over SK-5. More on the big Shigerus and the new "Millenium III" carbon composite action in the next post.

Grotrian: Played the 192 model. Basic tone is on the bright side, I think. Got lots of power under the hood, very even up and down the scale, big dynamic range, and seems to project well. The tone felt very opaque and very solid, as if every note has the potential to throw a very sure, very firm, very powerful punch. Keys Not sure if it's factory spec. (perobably something that can be changed easily by a tech), but I thought the keys were shallower than most other pianos (bottom out quicker than other pianos).

Pleyel: Played the ~170 cm and ~190 cm models. Good piano overall, very appealing tone, just a little too mellow for my taste. Not quite enough "power" for what I want to do. The pianos seem to have shaken a little to much when I "banged" on them. I am probably too much of a brute for the Pleyels. But I think the tamer, mellower Chopin pieces sound great on those Pleyels.

C.Bechstein: Played a couple of 6 ft+ models. Pretty good pianos. Pleasing tone that's neither too bright nor too mellow. But not something that really grabbed me. Plus, I also found the C.Bechstein pedals hard to control (probably need more time to get used to it). Similar feeling of "shallower keys" as with the Grotrian, but the a lesser degree.

Estonia: Played the 168 and the 190 models. Much prefer the 190 to the 168. For the 190, good touch/action. Not enough "power" for my preference. Plus, with the older models, I thought the bass was insufficient, and I seemed to be able to find little imperfections in the tiny little details that, while not really major issues in themselves, turned me away from them at the time. But the Estonias do appear to be very good pianos for their price range. Update on February 2005 : The new crop of Estonia 190's has significantly better bass response and better dynamic range. The whole piano also felt more responsive overall.

August Forester: Played the 170 and 190 model. Superb, buttery smooth touch/action that's amazingly controlable. Warm, mellow tone. But too mellow and too dark for my taste. Eventhough the tone is not what I want in my piano, I still found pleasure playing the August Foresters. Did I mention that superb, buttery smooth action? The feel underneath the fingers is hard to beat.

Baldwin SF-10: Tried quite a few of them (all pre-Gibson era). Found one I liked quite a bit, but it's one already sold to some one else. Good touch/action, everything felt solid. Firm, thick, powerful tone. Good consistency up and down the scale.

Schimmel and Vogel: Played quite a few Schimmels between 6 ft. and 7 ft. Rather impressed with a particular 7 ft Schimmel. But thought the Schimmels too bright, too rich in upper harmonics, and too much sympathetic vibration from those un-damperred upper strings for my taste. Felt very solid though. The Vogel has a big sound, even brighter than the Schimmels, but with a smaller dynamic range and lacked depth when compared to the Schimmel. Still, the Vogel felt solid and seems like a very good value for its price.

Petrof: Tried multiple samples of models II, III, and IV. They have the kind of unique sound that can cut through surrounding noise. While the sound was really good, something nags me about the Petrof -- I've played quite a few of them in three different dealers in my area over a few months, and except for those in Piano Mills (a dealer that closed its door at the end of 2003), every Petrof grand I've played have some minor little problems like a sticky key, or a high-treble note that just doesn't sound right... minor things like that. Otherwise, the pianos performed well. (Probably just the dealers not doing as much prep/maintenance as they should or they had bad bouts of HVAC problems just before my visits... what else is new? wink )

Schulze Pollmann: Tried a few samples in the lower 6 ft. range. Sounded a little too brittle for my taste. Would have loved a little more depth. Action also felt too light for my habit.

Charles R. Walter: Tried two Charles R. Walter grands. I found the keys too shallow and too light for my habit, and thought the dynamic range was not wide enough for what I want to do. Back in Fall 2003, one of the CRW's sustain pedal simply quit working in the middle of my test-drive ... not encouraging. The CRW being the only grand piano I played with a sustain pedal breaking in the middle, it left a poor impression on me. (You can probably blaim the dealer for not keeping their pianos in tip-top shape... again, what else is new? wink )

(more on next post)
Posted By: Axtremus

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/06/05 06:41 PM

Note: Please understand that what's written below is very subjective, and is often times no more that a matter of personal preference.

Mason and Hamlin BB:

Very powerful and its power is very apparent (very "in-your-face" kind of power), excellent sustain, responsive action. I like powerful pianos. I started out very much wanted to like this piano because I have read so many great things about it on the Piano Forum. It did not disappoint me. It's action is perhaps the one that gave me the cleanest thrills and repetitions among the short-listed pianos. (Its action is also the quietest upon key release.)

The power concentrates mostly in the broad mid-region of the keyboard. So it's very eash to punch out melodic lines with this piano for most traditional repertoire. The power level drops off and the two ends of the keyboard, the highest few keys sounded a bit planar and the lowest few keys sounded weak in comparison to the rest of the piano. Personally, I prefer a power-curve that is more flat across the whole pitch range, or at least more linear if not flat. Despite the very responsive action, the touch felt a little too heavy for my habit. Despite the heaver action, I also found it harder to control the very soft portion of the dynamic range compared to other pianos on the short-list. Tone wise, the BB is "solid." But I sensed a bit of nasal quality in the tone that I could not get over. I expected the tone to "open up" as the volume increases, but the BB's tone does not "open up" enough for my taste. The slight nasal quality remained even at high volume. The sustain pedal is also a little harder to control than what I am used to.

Also see this post where I describe my impressions on playing six M&H pianos back-to-back in the M&H factory on May 10, 2004.

Shigeru Kawai SK-6:

In Fall 2003, I found very little difference between an SK-5 and an SK-6 except at the lower bass registers where sheer size really counts. I just found myself responded slightly better to the SK-6. The tone was slightly rounder and warmer than the RX-5, and very refined over all. Good clarity. Good sustain. Very wide dynamic range. Good, responsive ABS action that veered slightly to the heavy side. Ornate piano legs. While the tone sounded rather refined, I thougt the raw power in the bass was sacrificed a bit to achieve that refinement.

I Played SK-3 and SK-6 again in Fall 2004 with the new "Millennium III" carbon composite action. The touch has become a bit lighter compared to the old ABS action. The higher treble has become more brilliant. I was told voicing was done by the Shigeru tech after installing the new carbon composite action. This time, I thought the deep bass in the SK-6 was rather glorious.

Overall, the Shigerus' warm, round tone does "open up" to brilliance as the volume increases; and the trajectory of the "openning up" is very natural and very predictable. I just happened to prefer a piano that "opens up" quicker and one that starts at a lower volume than the Shigerus I tested. Definitely a very nice piano to play.

The SK-6 was simply glorious when Rachmaninoff's C# minor Prelude (Op.3 #2) was thrown at it! The full, thick, lush, harmony just engulves you. Try it if you run into an SK-6. Scriabin's Op2#1 Etude and Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm" transcription also sounded great on the SK-6.

Steinway B:

I started out quite familiar with Steinway B and quite fond of it to boot. Kind of hard to discuss Steinway B in general since one Steinway B can sound very different than another. The variance in Steinway B is much bigger than many other pianos and it looks like it is Steinway's mode of operation to give every piano a unique voice; yet somehow there is this notion of a "Steinway sound," and it seems people can often discern which Steinway out of a bunch of Steinways has the most "Steinway" of "Steinway sound" (guess that's part of the Steinway magic). I must have played more than a dozen Steinway B's in the past couple of years.

There were three or four that I liked, two of which I found particularly inspiring on which to improvise. Of these two, the tone is rich, refined, assured, and stately. Touch weight seems just right for me. A great pleasure to play. There is no lack of power in any of these B's, though the power is more restrained when compared to the BB. No lack in dynamic range as well. More refined bass, but without having to drop as much power at the lower bass as the BB has. If I try really hard to find negatives in these spectacular B's, the best I could do was that the highest few notes sounded a little "dead," but only a little, and the middle-bass sounds a little muddy; and, as a matter of personal taste, I was hoping for a little more brilliance in the treble.

Note: Please understand that all the material above is very subjective, and is often times no more that a matter of personal preference.
Posted By: lieve

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/06/05 07:31 PM

I am glad that you have had courage for being 'subjectively ' on this forum. Nicely even if concerning the different marks your experiences to read. What be can a sound differently than a ' subjective experience '? Chopin kept it at Pleyel, Liszt loved more the bass tones the German pianos. Why all those different marks? Well, everyone his thing! Congratulations!
Posted By: ivorythumper

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/06/05 07:49 PM

what! no mention of my mother's beloved little wurlitzer spinet? you piano-bigot!!! :t:


Thanks, Ax -- very interesting and well framed perceptions!
Posted By: Norbert

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/06/05 08:17 PM

Posted By: MaryAnna

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/06/05 09:05 PM

Thanks for giving the rest of us a vicarious thrill! Playing all those pianos just sounds like sheer fun.

Mary Anna
Posted By: Axtremus

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/06/05 10:53 PM


I'm not familiar with the Wurlitzer spinet... but it it'd make you feel better, I can add the Baldwin Hamilton. I've recently run into one in a used piano store made circa 1979. Seems to hold a pretty good tune, has decent touch and tone, has a reasonable dynamic range, and I think it has the serious potential to make some deserving family really happy if they have some one taking lesson or playing the piano. laugh


I'm curious about those pianos too! wink


Yeap, it's a lot of fun alright. thumb
Posted By: Axtremus

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/06/05 10:55 PM

I am wondering if some one else might like to add their review of pianos. I ask only that:
  • (1) there be no "sales-spin," no "marketing-speak,"
  • (2) we stick to the musical aspects of the pianos, and
  • (3) your review must be based on your own first-hand experience with the pianos you write about.

I think the above is reasonable.

Please feel free to chime in. smile
Posted By: victor kam

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 12:29 AM

I wish there is a compilation of readers' opinion like what Ax has done here on various piano brands, models, size....... For example, a NY Steinway D, many would have played it, be nice to have all the different opinions (and similar ones too!). It would be awesome, if i am interested to know about a particular brand, size, i can easily access to the readers comments. Though all are very subjective, still better than nothing!
Posted By: RealPlayer

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 12:39 AM


I am in awe of your experience with different pianos. Is it that you are presently looking for a piano to buy?

When I was looking actively, I reacted to different pianos viscerally, without analyzing (as you do so well) the attributes of each that I liked or didn't like. I know I SHOULD be able to articulate such things.

You have tried many more kinds of pianos than I have. I prefer big pianos, too, but I cast not so wide a net, and tried mostly the major U.S. and European makes.

Biggest surprise for me: the Petrof II, almost every example of which was just gorgeous. Maybe they were all prepped to the nines, but they really impressed me.
Posted By: ivorythumper

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 12:40 AM

Originally posted by Axtremus:
I am wondering if some one else might like to add their review of pianos. I ask only that:
  • (1) there be no "sales-spin," no "marketing-speak,"
  • (2) we stick to the musical aspects of the pianos, and
  • (3) your review must be based on your own first-hand experience with the pianos you write about.

I think the above is reasonable.

Please feel free to chime in. smile
Ax: What do you think of asking Frank to set up a filing cabinet for user comments on various makes and models? Usual standards -- no flaming, no sales spin, first hand experience, registered users... maybe our own version of the 5 star rating system...

Is this too complicated? It seems like it would be a great resource for buyers checking out the market -- a lot of the Q&A is redundant and it might help. Watcha think?
Posted By: jag

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 01:01 AM


I would also like to encourage others to add their comments. This would really make this a Forum classic. My contribution comes from part of an old post I made back on July 2, 2004.

My Piano Impressions/Evaluations

First, a couple disclaimers.

1. These are my personal reactions and opinions. Other people will have different reactions and different opinions. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t like a piano that you loved and bought. Please don’t tell me I’m wrong. In matters of sound preference there is no right and wrong. It also doesn’t matter that you might find my final choice peculiar or downright stupid. What does matter is the availability of the collection of personal opinions offered in this forum that provide reference points for piano buyers as they search for their “right” piano.

2. During the year I’ve discovered the incredible importance of proper preparation in how a piano presents itself. In the beginning, unless I was able to play at least two examples of the same make and model, one well prepared and one poorly prepared, it was difficult for me to determine if my negative reaction to a particular make and model was due to the instrument or to the lack of proper preparation. As the year progressed, I got much better at sensing the underlying quality of an instrument. Because of this I often went back to instruments I rejected in the early stages of this search to confirm that I was responding to the instrument and not the preparation. Nevertheless, I don’t really know that I haven’t rejected the “perfect” instrument because I never played a well prepared model. This is one of the two major frustrations I encountered during my search. (The other was dealing with ignorant, pushy, or dishonest sales people. This is a whole different post.)

I find it very hard to accurately remember sound quality over long periods of time and found it useful to make notes of my impressions shortly after playing each piano. These notes form the basis of my piano impressions/evaluations below.

In alphabetical order:

August Forster 215: Early in my search I played a thirteen year old AF 215 in apparently very good condition. The seller is a piano rebuilder – although the Forster was in fine original condition. The AF 215 was in large, concrete-floored warehouse along with an early 20th century rebuilt Mason & Hamlin BB and some other rebuilt pianos. In that acoustic environment the Forster sounded somewhat similar to the M&H to me. The seller claimed the AF was a little "thin" in treble. I didn't hear it. I did notice that the sound seemed much more powerful when the seller played it and I stood facing the open top than when I played it. I couldn’t tell if this was a difference due to the piano’s characteristic projection or a difference in the players. In that acoustic environment it was difficult to accurately evaluate the pianos. I was unable to find another Forster to test.

Bosendorfer 200, 214, CS200, and CS214: I played several Bosendorfer 200’s and 214’s. These instruments are beautifully made and a pleasure to play. The actions are remarkable. Their sound is significantly different from the Steinway sound I have in my head as the “right” piano sound. Maybe for this reason I was not particularly affected by their sound. At the same time I played a variety of Yamaha grands (discussed below) and the Schimmel SP 182 and CC213. Going back and fourth several times between the Bosendorfers and the 7 foot Schimmel, I sometimes I liked the Bosendorfers more, sometimes they were about even, once I preferred the Schimmel. Another time I played the Bosendorfer CS 200 and CS 214 in comparison with the Schimmel SP 189 and CC213. I preferred the CS 200 to the CS 214. This may well be due to the particular examples I played – it is hard to know without a bigger sample. During this session I found it a tossup between the Bosendorfer CS 200 and the Schimmel CC213. I preferred the action of the Bosendorfer but preferred the tonal qualities of the Schimmel.

Bosendorfer 280: I found a used 280 at a dealer. I would never consider choosing such a large instrument for my home but played it as part of my piano education (and just for fun). I was really surprised that the sound did not overwhelm me. Maybe my expectations were too high going in, maybe the instrument was not well prepared or too old, or maybe my internal tone preferences are not compatible with the Bosendorfer sound. Interestingly I had the same “less than overwhelmed” response when I played some used Steinway D’s. In each case I found that the bass was better than the seven-foot models, but not that much better. In the instruments that I have played, I find that the bass difference between 6 foot and 7 foot models tends to be bigger than the difference between 7 foot models and concert grands. In listening to recordings of concert grands, I can clearly hear a much more authoritative bass, but this was not my experience in playing various concert grands. I don’t know if this is due to the particular pianos, due to the way I play the piano, due to the way in which concert grands project sound away from the piano, or due to the recording techniques. It is also impossible for me to accurately compare the concert grands I’ve heard in a concert setting with smaller pianos played in showrooms or living rooms.

Boston: GP 193 and GP 218: These two models seemed to be well balanced instruments, but neither had the kind of sound I was looking for.

Charles Walter CW 190: At one stage in my search I convinced myself that this might be the right piano for me. This was before I could find a CW190 to play. My research and evaluation of what I thought I wanted seemed to match well with all that I had learned about the piano. I wanted to like this piano even before I played one. During my search I managed to play three different CW190’s. I found the general sound quality to be very good. The Walter has very “American” sound – and I seem to prefer this. What I found missing was a sense of authority. The bass on each of the three was, to my ears, a little muddy and the treble, while beautiful in quality, lacked punch. The CW190 was one of my less expensive choices, but I decided that this was not the right instrument for me.

Estonia 190: I played several. They have a lovely sound and feel but did not have the dynamic range or strength of character I was looking for. Like the Charles Walter, this would have been one of my least expensive options. Unfortunately, their nature did not match my musical personality.

Fazioli F228: I never considered purchasing the instrument because it was far too expensive. Nevertheless, one dealer offered to let me play the instrument (I think he had hopes of “expanding” my price range). I played the instrument for only about 10 minutes as I didn’t think it fair to waste his time (I also didn’t want to encourage him). From this very short time, my impression was that the piano had an extraordinary action and evenness of tone but was so neutral in character that it did not seem to have any personality. The workmanship and attention to detail was amazing. The quality of sound didn't grab me.

Kawai: RX2, RX3, RX6, RX7: The RX7 had an amazing bass, I could physically feel it. The treble was only OK. It clearly needed some serious voicing. The RX6 was similar in sound but somewhat less impressive. The action on both instruments felt funny and I didn't like it. I now believe that this was a matter of regulation, not an intrinsic property of the piano. I also played the RX2, and RX3. After several attempts I concluded that I would not be satisfied with any of these pianos.

Mason & Hamlin A: I managed to play several new and one rebuilt M&H A’s. They all had a very “American” sound and I liked them a lot. The missing factor for me was a deep resonant bass. At 5' 8" this piano is too small to give me sound I really want.

Mason & Hamlin BB: This, like the Charles Walter, was a piano I wanted to like based on my research prior to playing. From what I had read, it seemed to have all the attributes: an American sound, big bass and singing treble, top construction, and rave reviews. Certainly my experiences with the M&H A’s were encouraging. I managed to play five BB’s, two rebuilt and three new instruments. The first rebuilt BB was in a large, concrete-floored warehouse (along with the August Forster mentioned above). This BB certainly had a powerful voice. I couldn’t really evaluate the sound properly in that environment. I found the action difficult to manage. Of the three new BB’s, one was very rough sounding. The dealer claimed it would be prepared the next day. Unfortunately, I was on a business trip and couldn’t return. This BB also had a big sound. The bass was very strong (but not terribly clear) down to, but not including the bottom octave. I found the treble too piercing. All this might have been due to poor voicing and the rather small room it was in, but I preferred an old original Steinway B sitting next to it and an old rebuilt BB in the same room. I concluded that I wouldn’t be happy with any of these three pianos. I played two other well prepared BB’s and found them to have a big, thick sound, with the bass strong but not too clear and the treble OK but not great. The sound quality was good but not great. They did, however make the Charles Walters sitting next to them sound small and thin. The BB’s action was a little heavy and the pedals’ short stiff throw was unfamiliar. After five instruments, and given the relatively high cost of the instruments, I concluded that the M&H BB was not for me.

Pleyel P 190: I played several. I found them to have a very sweet treble and pretty good bass. The instruments I played had unusual veneer work (very well done). These instruments, like the Charles Walter and the Estonia, lacked the kind of authority I was looking for. All three are around 6’ 4”. The seven footers seem to be more to my liking.

Petrof III and II (6’ 4” and 7’ 9”): I managed to play several of the III’s and two of the II’s. The III’s were nice instruments, although not as refined as the Estonia, Walter, or Pleyels I played. They didn’t have the depth of sound I was looking for. Surprisingly I didn't find the II to have as much presence as I would have expected.

Pramberger JP-185 and JP-208: I was able to compare these two models with the Charles Walter CW 190, the Mason & Hamlin BB and Mason & Hamlin A and an older Steinway A. The Prambergers tone and touch were quite good but I found them less appealing than the other three pianos.

Schimmel GP 169, SP 182, SP 189, 208, CC 213: The Schimmel sound has changed. The older models were distinctive in sound and I found them quite attractive, if somewhat limited in tonal range. The newer models are, for me, really very special. The CC213 sounds something like an “Americanized” Bosendorfer. The sound is still very European in that it has a fundamental bass with a crystalline treble rather like the Estonia and Pleyel, but with much greater depth of sound. It seems to have less purity and more complexity than the Bosendorfer and more purity and less complexity than the Steinway. I much preferred the CC213 to the other Schimmels in its authority and depth of sound. I understand that a new version of the CC213 is arriving soon (or may have already arrived at some dealers). It is an instrument I wanted to play but could not find. I found the action on the Schimmels to be somewhat heavier than other instruments I played, but not as heavy as the M&H’s and Steinways.

Schulze Pollmann 190 and 197: I was able to find one example of each to play. They were beautifully made instruments, with very good sound – just not for me. I played them early in my search before I learned to separate piano and preparation. I suspect now that they needed proper preparation but have been unsuccessful in finding additional instruments to try.

Seiler 186 or 208 (not sure which one): I managed to find only one Seiler early in my search. My notes don’t indicate which model it was. The sound was very clean, bright, and somewhat thin. The piano had beautiful inlays and the workmanship was excellent. The sound just didn't really do it for me.

Shigeru Kawai SK3, SK5 and SK6: The SK5 was very powerful with a very clean bass and even treble. There was something about the tone quality that I didn’t care for but can’t easily verbalize. I also found an imbalance between treble and bass with a problem at tenor break. The action felt much better than the Kawai RX’s I played – this must be a regulation issue since the actions are essentially the same. I was able to compare an SK5 and SK6 with a Charles Walter CW 190 and found that the Shigeru’s were stronger and had more presence than the Charles Walter, but I preferred the basic tone quality of the Walter.

Steinway B: This is the instrument I initially thought I would buy. I’ve managed to play a bunch of New York B’s, both new and rebuilt and one older Hamburg B. The instruments vary incredibly in sound. I found the older B’s often have a soft, warm, but somewhat muddy bass, with good but not great treble ranges. The new B's I’ve played have ranged from terrible to barely acceptable, with streaky finishes, floppy, noisy actions, and undistinguished tone. I understand that these instruments are left largely unvoiced by the factory with the expectation that the dealers will voice them to the tastes of the buyer. However, the new B’s I found at dealers were so far from what I expected and so expensive that it seemed ludicrous for me to ask the dealer to prep the pianos to my taste. I couldn’t figure out how to determine if one of these instruments was right for me and after much effort abandoned my original plan to buy a Steinway B.

Steinway “Non B:’s”: I played several of the smaller Steinways. The sound was good but, for me, nothing special. At one dealer I was able to compare the sound of one older Steinway A with a Charles Walter CW 190. The Steinway A had much more presence than the Charles Walter and I liked the overall sound quality better as well, but the A was quite old and had mechanical issues. I also briefly played a number of Steinway D’s. None were new, most were in need of some work, but many did have a special quality that I link back to my childhood experiences. They didn’t blow me away and since I don’t like taking “sonic space” at dealers playing instruments that I’m really not considering, I spent very little time with the D’s.

Yamaha C5, C6, C7, and S4: I played a number of Yamaha grands and rather liked both the C6 and C7. Unfortunately, the sound quality is just not what I’m looking for. The S4 sounded to me like a somewhat more refined C series, but it was hard to tell in the small room where it was located.

Posted By: Casalborgone

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 01:06 AM

Ax has really set a high standard for reviewing pianos. I especially appreciate his intelligent, focused use of description of tonal qualities. He specifies his impressions of such characteristics of tone as clarity, strength in the bass, evenness across the range and dynamic expressiveness. With some models, Ax suggests music appropriate to their particular sound qualities. He describes their characteristics of touch, referring to too little weight and too little key dip as impressions he found undesireable. Finally, Ax comments on the quality of preparation of many instruments.

As Steve suggests, if this sort of thougtful and categorical information were compiled from many pianists' impressions, it could be very helpful in directing buyers towards pianos which might serve them well.

Ax's contributions soar above the simplistic, all-too-frequent, but not very useful sorts of comments on piano characteristics such as "too bright" or "I did not like the touch" that comprise so many of the posts here.

Bravo, Ax!
Posted By: CHAS

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 01:24 AM

Great reviews, thank you.

Now, is there someone that likes smaller sounding pianos who has the analytical abilities of Axtremus? If so, please start a similar thread.
Posted By: NighTrain

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 03:25 AM

great review Ax and Jag, i am in a hard decision between shigeru sk-6 and mason hamlin bb. i will buy either one of these two piano in a week or two. the dealer showroom in my hometown had a bb and sk-6 side by side, both brand new. the new sk-6 i tried is far superior to smaller shigeru (maybe the carbon composite action, or whatever). the bb i tried is a little bit out of tune and so to the shigeru because the sk-6 is just out of the box. the dealer will tune these two pianos around tomorrow so i could come and play around friday, and make my final decision. the sk-6 have deep bass, nice touch, very sweet tremble and of course, beautful look. the bb have big deep bass, very powerful for its size, nice touch and clear tremble (not quite sweet, just my opinion). i will come and play these two piano when it nicely tuned and buy either one of these two (of course, i need a good deal also). i will come back here after i played and seeking you guys opinions.
Posted By: Rich Galassini

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 08:40 AM

I just wanted to comment on how cool it is to have a thread like this. I know it takes time to organize your thoughts to post this, but if others would add to this, it would be great.

Thanks Ax for starting this thread.
Posted By: irving

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 10:45 AM


The level of thought and organization that you put into this (to say nothing of the amount of research that you must have done) is amazing. It represents the highest level of what this forum should be about and all of us are very grateful to you for it.

However, in spite of your repeated use of the word "subjective", the magnitude of what you've done lends such a high degree of authority to your impressions that some (many?) people are likely to be too intimidated to post impressions that might be different. This would be unfortunate, because a systematic review of the sort that you are trying to start here (with contributions from various people with various views) is such a terrific thing to be doing.

My suggestion, therefore, is that you describe (as succinctly as you can) the sort of player that you are and the sort of music that you play and also tell us what is of particular importance to you in the sound and touch of a piano. This might help us to understand the basis of some of your impressions and thereby make it easier for those who differ from you in these respects to offer impressions that might be different from yours.
Posted By: ossk8ter

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 11:32 AM

Let's not ask too much of Ax. He has done a wonderful thing with distilling his thoughts on various pianos. Ax gave a general description of his likes and dislikes. If anyone is scared to disagree with Ax, it isn't going to be solved by greater description. The intimidation comes from his awsome talent and his well crafted posts. Thanks Ax. Well done.
Posted By: taiwan_girl

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 11:49 AM

Axtremus and Jag,

Excellent posting. Thank you very much. We are fortunate for you to share your thoughts about the different pianos. As you mention, it is subjective, but is still a good summary of the different pianos out there. Thanks again.
Posted By: Stevester

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 12:20 PM

Axtremus and Jag,

Most excellent.

Thank you very much.
Posted By: TomFL

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 12:51 PM

Ax - wonderful post - great information. I can just see your fingers flying across those keys, with your whole body and soul enveloped in the music.

Thanks for your time and effort to put this together.
Posted By: Axtremus

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 07:12 PM

Thanks, jag, for your contribution. I hope we will get more. smile

Thanks to all for your kind words.

For those thinking about contributing, please don't feel pressured to write about ALL the pianos you have experience with in one go. It is understood that the subject matter is highly subjective and that we will not necessarily agree with each other on everything. You can always start with a few entries, then come back to edit/update and add more entries as you go.

I ask only that:
  • (1) there be no "sales-spin," no "marketing-speak,"
  • (2) we stick to the musical aspects of the pianos, and
  • (3) your review must be based on your own first-hand experiences with the pianos you write about.
Posted By: Norbert

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/07/05 11:45 PM

One thing I found interesting, Ax, is that you found the Schimmels "heavier" in touch than comparable Steinways [and Mason Hamlins]

I have actually heard often the opposite from cross shoppers.

In fact the Sauter touch is often described as "heavier", i.e. "meatier" still than comparable Schimmels.

And then again, we all like our "meat" a little different, right?

norbert laugh
Posted By: fingers

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/08/05 12:28 AM

Axtremus and Jag,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

Posted By: Axtremus

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/08/05 01:57 AM

Originally posted by Norbert:

One thing I found interesting, Ax, is that you found the Schimmels "heavier" in touch than comparable Steinways [and Mason Hamlins]
Not me. <strike>That's jag's finding.</strike>

[EDIT: Sorry, jag. I should have double checked your earlier post before responding to Norbert.]
Posted By: Norbert

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/08/05 02:05 AM


norbert shocked
Posted By: Keith D Kerman

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/08/05 02:10 AM


I enjoyed reading your reviews. I wish you had mentioned the specific music you were playing, and what worked the way you intended or better than you intended, and when you felt the piano limited what you were trying to do.
Maybe this is too specific for most, but for me, it is the most important thing.
Posted By: Axtremus

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/08/05 03:00 AM


Very good point! Musical context is very important. Will try to get to that level of specificity in the future. smile
Posted By: jag

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/08/05 01:00 PM

Axtremus & Norbert,

Not me either. I wrote "I found the action on the Schimmels to be somewhat heavier than other instruments I played, but not as heavy as the M&H’s and Steinways."

Incidently, I recall reading a very good and very long thread written by, I think, Dan M more than a year ago where he reviewed a lot of pianos during his piano search. He finally ended up with a Charles Walter 190. I seem to remember that he posted a link to this information rather than putting it directly in his post. If we could find it, it would make a nice addition to this thread. Dan's reactions to a lot of pianos were somewhat different from mine and also different from Axtremus' (Axtremusus?).

Posted By: Axtremus

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/08/05 07:46 PM

jag, I edited by post above, sorry about the mix-up.
RealPlayer wrote:

When I was looking actively, I reacted to different pianos viscerally, without analyzing ... the attributes of each that I liked or didn't like. I know I SHOULD be able to articulate such things.
Joe, you're a professional concert pianist, the real deal. You know what they say, Joe,

"Those who can, do.
Those who cannot, teach.
Those who can't even teach...
... write long posts on Piano Forum."
Let's try another call for more reviews. Anyone else who would like to contribute their review?

It is understood that the subject matter is highly subjective and that we will not necessarily agree with each other on everything. You can always start with just one or two entries, then come back to edit/update and add more entries as you go.

I ask only that:
  • (1) there be no "sales-spin," no "marketing-speak,"
  • (2) we stick to the musical aspects of the pianos, and
  • (3) your review must be based on your own first-hand experiences with the pianos you write about.

I look forward to reading your entries.
Posted By: RachFan

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/08/05 10:50 PM

Ax and Jag,

Great posts! I really enjoyed reading your findings. Jag, in your other travels have you tried yet a Baldwin SF10 (7')? If so, any impressions? Thanks.
Posted By: jag

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/09/05 02:22 AM


I've played only two Baldwin SF10's. Both were in pretty bad shape and I didn't feel it fair to include them in my post. I was impressed with a couple SF10's that I heard others play. These pianos had a full, attractive and quite distinctive sound, noticeably different from the Steinway sound. They seemed to be a little brighter than most of the Steinway B's I've played with a somewhat shorter sustain. The impression of shorter sustain I think came from a more rapid initial decay of the tones in the upper tenor and treble that then sustained at a lower level. This decay characteristic gave the pianos a greater clarity and slightly reduced singing quality when compared with the Steinway B's. However, it is hard to make an accurate evaluation/comparison since the acoustic environments were so different and I was not playing the pianos myself.

Posted By: Axtremus

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/12/05 01:15 PM


Hard to believe we're not getting more review entries beside jag's. eek

I've seen request for "small piano" oriented reviews.

I've seen request for SF-10 review from a Baldwin owner.

I've received request for Seiler 208 review from a Seiler owner.

I've seen request for review that more closely correlates specific musical passages to specific pianos' responses.

And we haven't even touched the upright pianos.

Well, don't just ask, and don't be shy.
Write your own, and help build up the database. smile
Posted By: Norbert

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/12/05 09:28 PM

I must say that the spice of the dice was to read about so many pianos from *non-owners*.

Especially when they were side-by-side.

Posted By: RachFan

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 02/12/05 09:30 PM

Ax and Jag,

Thanks again for your penetrating insights in comparing so may pianos, including the Baldwin SF-10. It's a treat to read them all!
Posted By: Piano_Brazil

Re: Let's Talk Pianos... Lots of Pianos... - 12/21/14 01:34 AM

Thanks for all the information shared here.
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