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#4553 - 08/29/04 10:26 PM Dear Kawai experts
newbie2000 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/04
Posts: 49
Loc: Denver, CO
I've met what appears to be a very knowledgable (master piano tech) and forthright fellow who has a lot of experience buying, servicing and selling "gray market" Japanese pianos, both Yamahas and Kawais. But he only sells recently made pianos, no more than 10 years old and usually less than 5. He says the big problems come from older Japanese-market pianos, which have spent more time in humid climates.

He feels strongly that younger pianos pose very little if any danger to buyers, even in our really dry climate. Moreover, he recommends against climate control systems, such as the Dammp Chaser, saying that they over-humidify the piano and do so very unevenly, causing more harm than good.

He offers a full, no-questions-asked, 3-year warranty on all his gray market instruments.

This is all highly intriguing to me, since it would save me about $2k on the K-50 we're thinking about buying (his price is $4,600 for a 2002 model vs. $6,600 for a new one from the dealer) .

Piano techs and other experts, please feel free to chime in.

And one other thing. Have any significant improvements been made to the K-50 since 2002?

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#4554 - 08/29/04 10:42 PM Re: Dear Kawai experts
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
I have a technician friend in the Denver area who is a very accomplished technician and he tells me Dampp-Chaser systems do a great job there. If you want his phone number drop me a line.

Also out of the many years of Piano Technicians Guild Journals I have read, I don't recall ever seeing an article about the system being detrimental. This would certainly have been reported by now if it were indeed a problem.

My experience is that when there are detractors, their statements are usually made based on rumor, innuendo, or poor reasoning.

I would be very interested from your source to know by what mechanism a properly installed system can "over humidify" a piano.


Rick Clark
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

#4555 - 08/30/04 09:20 PM Re: Dear Kawai experts
KawaiDon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/02
Posts: 1318
Loc: Orange County, CA

Be careful. Remember that the warranty is only as good as the one backing it, and that this person is touting the "Full" warranty before selling it. There are very clear legal definitions for what a full warranty includes, so be careful here.

Before you buy, at least pay a visit to Joe Onofrio pianos and check the new Kawai pianos as well. A 10 year full (meaning parts and labor, transferrable) warranty from the manufacturer is a bit different than a 3 year warranty from an individual.

Good luck!

Don Mannino RPT
Kawai America
Don Mannino, MPA
Kawai America

#4556 - 08/31/04 11:48 PM Re: Dear Kawai experts
Jeremy Prior Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/24/04
Posts: 24
Loc: South West England
We really do get some superb advice here from people that seem to have more than just common sense.
When Rick Clark says "their statements are usually made based on rumor, innuendo, or poor reasoning." I find myself wishing I could have thought of an appropriate response like that to be able to politely and respectfully say that some people's biased advice is a pile of claptrap.

However my post here isn't so much in praise of others perfectly good advice as to just add my experience with Kawai in Europe whose response to my plight was not at all satisfactory. I have to say here though that as a Musician's instrument I liked the Kawai - It did have a very satisfactory sound and touch.

I had to tune and service a newish Kawai "Upright" (as we call the Spinet in the UK). It was a large kind of Studio model. The pianist who was a music student found the repetition speed was very poor.
I investigated all the possible causes looking at "bridle-tape" tension; friction on the leather surfaces of hammer butts; condition of graphite or teflon on the tops of the jacks; spring-strength in dampers; and finally I was even looking at hammer-shank rake-angle and then I noticed something strange, the hammers were not returning fast enough to get a high speed of repetition. I suspected tight flanges but on testing them they proved to be fine.

In fact when the hammers were actually touching the strings, the hammer-shank was beyond the vertical, so they were leaning forwards of the vertical!

I procured one spirit-level and found out that the piano was not on a level floor but was leaning backwards away from the player by about 2 degrees from the vertical which could affect the whole of the dynamic balance of the action.

I got the client to make some wooden caster blocks to shim the rear casters and get the piano standing absolutely vertical and then we tried the piano again but I'm sorry to say it didn't improve the situation. Finally I sent a FAX to Kawai's European operation which I think was in Germany or Belgium. They came back with a technical sheet and advised me that the piano when performing correctly was not designed for a repetition speed of faster than 6 notes per second playing with one finger of each hand alternately.

Well this, to me was totally unsatisfactory. A good player of even medium skill should be able to play a note at least 8 times a second using the standard taught technique of fingers 3-2-1 alternating or even thumb and third finger and it's possible for a top flight concert pianist to develop a technique of 9 or 10 strikes per second on a grand piano. We know that uprights are a little slower as their hammers are not working against gravity directly but have a certain amount of spring assistance but 6 notes a second is far too slow as a maximum speed design guideline and I was rather disappointed in Kawai's standards.

So in conclusion, sorry this was so long, I'd say try any piano whether Kawai or not, for repetition and give it a full road-test before you buy. Try to get a couple of hours playing all kinds of your own music in the showroom and shut out any self-consciousness about playing or displaying your skills in public. You have to be certain the machine is up to musical spec.

I wish it was more practical to have pianos on home approval like loudspeakers so you could check over a few weeks if it really did satisfy.
It's a purchase of no inconsiderable cost and likely to be a very long-lived mistake that haunts you for years if you get it wrong.

Despite all my efforts to discover the reason for this piano's poor speed, I never discovered just what adjustment, or assembly fault was the cause of this piano's trouble. Kawai would only look at it if the customer had it shipped to the European factory and paid the carriage both ways even when the piano was under warranty. I wasn't very impressed with that. And I doubt if a visit from the Sales Rep, when he was doing the UK would have found the trouble either.

I suspect the action standards were secured to the keybed in the wrong position making the beam-rail about an eighth of an inch too far towards the front of the keybed. This meant the rake-angle of all the hammers was wrong by just enough to make it slow to return - A complete rebuild of the action and re-finishing of the action was probably the only solution.

I don't believe the client ever had it done but they still live with a piano that doesn't perform up to proper specification and probably drives them mad.

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#4557 - 09/01/04 07:46 AM Re: Dear Kawai experts
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6195
(off topic, apology to newbie2000 for going off a tangent here.)
Jeremy Prior wrote: " They came back with a technical sheet and advised me that the piano when performing correctly was not designed for a repetition speed of faster than 6 notes per second playing with one finger of each hand alternately.

Well this, to me was totally unsatisfactory. ..."
I agree that it's unsatisfactory to cap the repetition spec. at 6 strikes per second.

Now I am curious: What model is it? Does the "6 strikes per second" design spec. apply to all Kawai pianos? All uprights? All uprights from a particular product line?

Would other brands/models selling at the same price point have similar performance limit?

Any one knows how many strikes per second you can get on, say, a Bechstein Concert 8, an M&H 50" upright, a Yamaha U-series, an upright with Fandrich's action, by their respective design specs??? It would be nice to get key repetition performance numbers for a few other brands/models to place the "6 strikes per second" number into perspective.

Seriously... now that I've seen "6 strikes per second" quoted for one piano, I am very curious to know what that number is for other pianos.

Any one?
www.PianoRecital.org -- my piano recordings

#4558 - 09/01/04 06:08 PM Re: Dear Kawai experts
JIMBOB Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/02
Posts: 1347
Loc: South Carolina
I would be surprised if a dampp chaser over humidified a piano. We are not talking about putting out a room filling cloud of moisture like is done with whole room humidifiers. The amount of moisture that is released is small and it is controlled by a humidistat that cycles . When moisture is needed the humidifier is turned on. When moisture needs to be removed, the de-humidifer is turned on. The system has proven to be an effective means to help control the r/h and temp in a piano and is endorsed by nearly ever major piano manufacturer. There are several hundred thousand installed worldwide. If they where not effective they would not be used. Of course if it is improperly installed it could cause damage. You will get far more damage to a piano when the owner puts a bowl of water on the plate or fills glass jars and put them in the piano. I have also seen whole room humidifiers placed under pianos . Talk about overhumidifying, they took the veneer right off the piano. I have seen pianos totally destroyed because of the lack of moisture. Case in point- A Steinway Grand located next to a wall heat duct with over 6 major sound board cracks. A D/C would have prevented much of this damage but unfortunately it is too late.
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Associate Member PTG
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