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HI there-

This is just one guy's subjective opinion & I don't mean to insult any particular brand of piano, but am I crazy? In my search for a 7 ft grand I've of course tried new pianos as well as used- but I'm noticing that on almost every new grand I play, I never seem to like it. Example- today I played a new Yamaha C6X. The bass seemed nasally & overall the piano didn't seem to have any character, at least to my ears. I was excited to try it out, because it has such high reviews, and I know that Yamahas have a reputation for being prepped really well at the factory, but it just didn't really do anything for me.

I've had similar situations with trying other new grands as well- like Mason & Hamlin BB (tried a couple of these), Steinway B, August Forster 215 (this one seemed to have a nicer tone than the others, but still didn't really grab me).

Given the expensive cost of new grand pianos, I am just scratching my head as to why I'm not more blown away by them. Given the choice between a new one and a 10, 20, or even 30 year old one that is in good shape, even if price is no issue, I almost feel like I'd choose the used one.

I read in the Larry Fine book that sometimes dealers don't spend enough time prepping & voicing pianos on the showroom floor- could this be the reason? I've also heard that pianos really need 10 - 15 years to "peak". Perhaps it is a combination of both?

Would love to get some feedback on this. Again, I don't mean to insult anyone if they are dealers of some of the brands I mentioned. These just happen to be some of the ones I've tried out. I'm just wondering if it's common to prefer the tone of a used piano that's perhaps 20 years old over a new one.

Thanks

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I can only speak about one particular used piano compared to the same make new. That's my own rebuilt Mason & Hamlin BB compared to new M & H. Granted, I did not get a chance to play a new BB. But I played the 9' CC which should have blown my socks off. Only it didn't. Neither did the AA do it for me. I'm not sure if it was a B or an A but the smaller piano with the bigger sound was a much better choice if buying new. Even though at that size, the sound did not feel really round and full. My own piano has a very full sound. It's warm, yet powerful. The base is glorious. Yet the piano is very balanced and the treble is not outdone. The dynamic range is huge. It really wraps its arms around you and draws you in. The new Masons didn't do anything like that. At least not for me. It could be the particular pianos. I only played and heard a small sample. So, I don't know if it is the age of the wood, or the time spent regulating and voicing the older piano or what. But, I like my old piano better than the new ones.

Last edited by dynamobt; 02/28/14 10:36 PM.

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I never heard of anyone saying a piano takes 10-15 years to peak. Maybe more like 2-3 depending on how much it's played and the quality of the tech working on it.

Most of the pianos you mentioned are high end so, at least in my experience, dealers do tend to prep them reasonably well. IMO after 20 years most pianos are not in as good condition as new pianos, but this depends on the quality of the work done on either the new piano or the older piano during its lifetime.Obviously an older piano that has been extremely well maintained could sound better than the samemake/model in a new piano that has not been well prepped.

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I could recommend one piano that would blow your mind 100% guaranteed.

But then we don't need any dead bodies around here....

Norbert wink


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Could it be that the main thing you are reacting to is that you are used to a slightly worn (loose) action, coupled with hardened hammers? If that's the case, almost any new piano will disappoint because the action will feel tighter (needing more effort to play), and the sound will feel comparatively dull and possibly lifeless - especially at softer dynamics. I have experienced what you are talking about and have narrowed it down to these two factors primarily. I think it's because I always played on older pianos with harder hammers. My playing is simply more attuned to that feel and sound. As PL said though, after a 2-3 years of solid playing, a piano should be hitting its peak. Of course, a good tech could loosen up the action (ease key bushings, lubricate this and that), and they could treat the hammers and it would probably play like you want. But a piano will usually head in that direction on its own, so paying for something that will happen in time might not be the best use of your money.

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I totally get what you're saying. Part of the appreciation with piano's for me is their character, which often times can be interpreted as flaws. Good flaws mind you. Flaws that add to the experience and aura of an instrument. Cars are like this for me. No matter how superlative their specs may be, I find it hard warming up to a lot of newer sports cars as they are overly buttery. They call it progress with all the NVH refinement. To me, it feels overly sterile. I like my sports cars to feel alive with character.

Perhaps that's what you're experiencing?

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Originally Posted by ando
Could it be that the main thing you are reacting to is ...


...Or it could be you are reacting to the fact that these pianos, all of them, are chasing a tonal aesthetic that does not resonate with what your ear wants to hear. In these production pianos, many of them geared specifically for the conservatory crowd, all kinds of critical tonal decisions have been made to chase a particular kind of power... a power which struggles, and in my opinion, fails to understand what Bel Canto means.

That's why we have a small select group of excellent rebuilder/tone designers creating their own individual aesthetic of sound in their rebuilds..keeping that sound alive for another generation.

Jim Ialeggio


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Phrygian,
I too find no new piano with the full complement of response quality that I prefer in a piano. That is why I only sell pianos that I have rebuilt and/or set up. That they also are more durable is of much added value.

That said, there are new pianos that when set up properly do work quite well-just not well enough in my experience.

Have you auditioned some rebuilders work?


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Originally Posted by Norbert
I could recommend one piano that would blow your mind 100% guaranteed.


HI Norbert! Now you got me curious- Which one?

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Dear Friends:

The sentiments expressed above are oh so unpopular and to be avoided. One just isn't allowed. Shhsh - don't go there.

However, Jim and Ed's responses give them greater dimension and unquestioned credibility.

I couldn't agree more with this line of thought, esp. the comparison of the vintage Mason tone with the coarse, "I'll kick your arse" sound of the pianos as built today. Where is the colour, the round beauty and softness, the deep authority, and why are we all soooooooo determined not to notice their absence ?

Karl Watson,
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Originally Posted by Norbert
I could recommend one piano that would blow your mind 100% guaranteed.

But then we don't need any dead bodies around here....

Norbert wink

Whose … wink

Good one! wink


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What pianos do you like? Knowing that would give us more an idea of what you are looking for, and why you don't like what you've played.


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+1. Be more specific what you are looking for

>The bass seemed nasally

This may be that the piano was not prepared properly, low quality strings, bad design, or you need to try bigger grands.

>overall the piano didn't seem to have any character, at least to my ears.

What character are you looking for?


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It can be a combination of things. Many of the New high end pianos are beautifully made and sometimes there are examples in the hire fleet that have been played for a few years that sound more beautiful than the brand new ones.

Jim makes a good point that many new instruments can't produce bel canto although I find bel canton in Fazioli bechstein Bluthner bosendorfer and Steinway, but not so much in the mid range Yamaha and kawai although they are decent pianos.

I have found, and may be wrong, that when a piano is built for power, tone quality suffers, but beautiful sound can mean a compromise on projection. It's rare that you'd need such an amount of projection anyway!


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Originally Posted by joe80
I have found, and may be wrong, that when a piano is built for power, tone quality suffers, but beautiful sound can mean a compromise on projection. It's rare that you'd need such an amount of projection anyway!


+1 Exactly the point.

You will not have it both ways. This is why the sounds characteristic of turn of the century (20th)and many manufacturers of that fine era went belly up. Their aesthetic was warmth for room sized venues...venues for families whose access to music was predominantly through parlor pianos and other chamber music produced by friends and family members,at home. These venues were much like the home rooms 99% of all pianos still occupy.

The emerging aesthetic of brash power, for reasons I do not understand, completely co-opted the market. Although...I guess, humans, even reasonable ones, when offered power, even though that power may be a temporary illusion, can't seem to resist the allure...power sells at least as well as sex.

There is a clear line to be drawn here. The line is that there is a distinction between a piano that is destined to be a concert instrument and one that is destined to simply grace a home based musical experience.

In a concert instrument, even for a small hall, the sound one is interested is the sound experienced at a distance from the piano. The space allows the sound to develop in a way that makes sense to the audience well removed from the actual instrument rather than the pianist sitting at the keyboard. In a piano used for concerts, and that can mean all sizes of 6ft and up pianos, the worst seat in the hall, in terms of the sensual experience of sound, is the seat the pianist occupies, right at the keyboard. Conversely, in a home instrument, the only aural experience that matters is the sound which is perceived at the keyboard...right up close to the piano, before the sound has a chance to develop and temper in a larger space.

These two scenarios present two seriously divergent ways to target where the sound is designed to be experienced...one well removed from the instrument, and the other right up at the keyboard. You will not have it both ways.

Because of the private nature of the home sound, in shaping the tone of a home piano, definitely in the bass, but throughout the full compass, I go through great pains to accentuate pitch rather than power. Why? Because seated at the keyboard, power over-and-above the power that a home piano generates without even trying, is completely superfluous to, unto a detraction from the private experience.

Accentuate that sense of pitch in a concert instrument, and the audience accustomed to being blown out the back wall by amplification, will experience the sound as weak and without focus.

Jim Ialeggio




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Maybe you just haven't played the right new piano for you. PM Norbert!

Kind regards,

Robert.

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From what I've read here on the forum over the years, new pianos typically require a "break-in" period/time in order to blossom or reach its full potential.

Of course, I wouldn't know about that... I have never been able to afford a brand new, brand name piano. smile

Rick


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The idea of breaking in a new piano is very controversial topic.

Some say that new pianos don't break in, it's simply the owner of the piano slowly becoming more infatuated with the sound they are used to hearing, and learning how to maximize the subtleties of the piano's advantages over time. This idea has some validity as it is proven also in psychology for your co worker at your office who might not seem attractive at first sight, that day after day of seeing each other, you will find them more and more attractive.

On the other end of the spectrum, the violinists, who can spend a significant sum of money on the best new violin, already knowing it will not play at its peak at first. They tend to focus on the soundboard "opening up" due to vibration caused from playing. The more the soundboard vibrates, the more it will resonate, up to a point. This process is said to take about one to two years. I have heard similar for pianos. But never 10 years to peak, that's ridiculous.

Also strings on a piano can break in. For the first few months or even more they are still stretching.

Playing in new hammers can also be part of braking in a new piano organically creating denser felt. On a NY Steinway hammer best results are artificial, induced by lacquer. If the tech is not superb, you will not have superb hammers. The Steinway B you have tried may not have been doped by a talented tech.

The action of a new piano could possibly be a bit tight. This would only take a few months of playing to get everything moving with the right amount of friction.

Back to soundboard vibration from playing and increased resonance, there is more scientific research that suggests that better sound from a soundboard results from the speed that sound is able to travel through it. The closer to the speed of sound, the better soundboard. These scientists claim that humidity cycling improves the sound speed traveling through the board. If you control the humidity of your house or piano you will not take advantage of this benefit. From what I gather, as wood dries, and saturates by seasonal humidity changes, this process crystallizes the sap and glue that is found in the soundboard. The sap, in particular, is a dampener which is the opposite of what you would want in a soundboard. So allowing your piano to humidity cycle over the seasons of the first 2 years would not be recommended by techs who are concerned over tuning stability, rather then humidity cycling the wood. I understand both views.


Personally I don't think you tried enough new pianos. 1 Steinway B is not enough to see if you like a new piano or used. Try 7 new B's and the one prepped properly, and to your taste will steal your heart, and you will whip out your wallet faster than I can say "Steinway".

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There is a very simple answer to your question:
They don't match your personal taste.

I don't buy the "o these rebuild piano's are a million miles better than anything you can buy today". No offense to the rebuilders, they do good jobs. But there are real gems of new piano's and yes, new piano's can sound very warm and very subtle..

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