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#3108160 04/20/21 03:00 AM
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Recently played a VC 280. Great piano! But what about the Imperial? Also read about the newer VC 214 which seems to get good reviews. But the previous 7 footer? (I think it was a “Conservatory” series?) Now we hear about a VC 230 coming to most markets. My question is:

Why all the changes? From the piano company most highly ranked and with such a deep history/tradition in the piano world?

I would think the 230 could/would cannibalize the Bose 225 model sales?

Why?

Last edited by wg73; 04/20/21 03:05 AM.
wg73 #3108171 04/20/21 04:08 AM
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Bosendorfer is famous for its unique sound caused by the thin resonating rim. The downside of this design is less power, as sound energy "escapes" the soundboard into the cabinet. The VC series are an attempt to compromise by making the rim somewhat thicker, leading to a somewhat more powerful and more conventional concert piano. The VCs are still noticeably less powerful than similar sized Yamahas. And the buyer will have to judge whether they have given up any of the unique Bosendorfer characteristics in thickening the rim.

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In general, bringing out new models is a great way to increase profits. People desire to own the latest and greatest.

wg73 #3108234 04/20/21 08:49 AM
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Frankly, the VC has been in the works for quite a long time, at least in the mind of Frederic Bräu, chief designer at Bösendorfer. The point of the VC is make the Bösendorfer piano (sound and touch) more accessible to those without the experience playing one, while preserving the Viennese tone. It was a wildly ambitious project, but the result has been incredibly successful.

I have yet to see a 230VC so I cannot comment on it, but I will say that my personal favorite model of Bösendorfer is the 225.

My 2 cents,


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Originally Posted by Sonepica
Bosendorfer is famous for its unique sound caused by the thin resonating rim. The downside of this design is less power, as sound energy "escapes" the soundboard into the cabinet. The VC series are an attempt to compromise by making the rim somewhat thicker, leading to a somewhat more powerful and more conventional concert piano. The VCs are still noticeably less powerful than similar sized Yamahas. And the buyer will have to judge whether they have given up any of the unique Bosendorfer characteristics in thickening the rim.

I think you better refer to Bösendorfer if the VC rims are thicker. All Bösendorfer rims are very unique in that they place a solid piece of spruce inside the rim using their special rim process. Go to their website and read about it, it’s fascinating. I’ve toured their Wiener Neustadt factory three times and watched them making the rims and they never mentioned the rims being thicker on VC models. They have mentioned other manufacturers only use veneers for their rims.

Last edited by Lakeviewsteve; 04/21/21 08:25 PM.

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Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
Originally Posted by Sonepica
Bosendorfer is famous for its unique sound caused by the thin resonating rim. The downside of this design is less power, as sound energy "escapes" the soundboard into the cabinet. The VC series are an attempt to compromise by making the rim somewhat thicker, leading to a somewhat more powerful and more conventional concert piano. The VCs are still noticeably less powerful than similar sized Yamahas. And the buyer will have to judge whether they have given up any of the unique Bosendorfer characteristics in thickening the rim.

I think you better refer to Bösendorfer if the VC rims are thicker. All Bösendorfer rims are very unique in that they place a solid piece of spruce inside the rim using their special rim process. Go to their website and read about it, it’s fascinating. I’ve toured their Wiener Neustadt factory three times and watched them making the rims and they never mentioned the rims being thicker on VC models. They have mentioned other manufacturers only use veneers for their rims.

This is hardly scientific, but the rim of the 214VC that I looked at *seemed* slightly thicker than the rim of the 225, though it still looked thinner than any non-Bosendorfer piano in the showroom. The tone still seemed very Bosendorfer-like, though, as I mentioned somewhere else, that particular piano was voiced a bit too brightly for my taste.

Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
Frankly, the VC has been in the works for quite a long time, at least in the mind of Frederic Bräu, chief designer at Bösendorfer. The point of the VC is make the Bösendorfer piano (sound and touch) more accessible to those without the experience playing one, while preserving the Viennese tone. It was a wildly ambitious project, but the result has been incredibly successful.

Would you be willing to elaborate on what you mean by "accessible"? I've heard a number of pianists whose opinions I respect (including Hugh Sung on your youtube channel) describe the 280VC as making it "easy" to get the musical expression you want - is this what you're referring to?

wg73 #3111208 04/27/21 04:53 PM
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I started composing this reply a few days ago when first posted but did not finish before going out of town this weekend....
Originally Posted by Sonepica
Bosendorfer is famous for its unique sound caused by the thin resonating rim. The downside of this design is less power, as sound energy "escapes" the soundboard into the cabinet. The VC series are an attempt to compromise by making the rim somewhat thicker, leading to a somewhat more powerful and more conventional concert piano. The VCs are still noticeably less powerful than similar sized Yamahas. And the buyer will have to judge whether they have given up any of the unique Bosendorfer characteristics in thickening the rim.
With respect, Sonepica, this is inaccurate and offers misleading conclusions. I originally wanted address my opinions of the OP's questions, but felt I could address your statements with a deeper explanation. I hope you find it interesting, just as I believe you are relaying your experiences honestly but perhaps with an incomplete explanation of the differences.

Originally Posted by Sonepica
Bosendorfer is famous for its unique sound caused by the thin resonating rim.
The outer rim on Bosendorfer is thinner than laminated hardwood rims that are ubiquitous in piano manufacturing, but the outer rim on a Bösendorfer is not structural in the way that it is on a laminated rim. The inner rim, however, is far thicker not only than the outer rim, but also far thicker then comparable sized laminated rims from other makes. Measuring the inner and outer rim together, the rim on the 214VC is 4.325". For comparison, the inner and outer rim of a Yamaha C6 (comp size) is 3". These measurements were taken at the middle of the curve.

Originally Posted by Sonepica
The VC series are an attempt to compromise by making the rim somewhat thicker, leading to a somewhat more powerful and more conventional concert piano.
Comparing the outer rim of the 214VC, the thickness is 0.825" vs. the thickness of the 225 (not a VC) at 0.75". The outer rim is 1/8" thicker. Comparing the inner and outer combined, the 214VC is 4.325" and the 225 is the same 4.325". So the ratio of inner to outer changed in the VC somewhat, but this leads us away from the idea that the VC is a thicker rim to increase power.

The real and complex aspect of the many changes to the VC vs. the other traditional Bösendorfer models is how the soundboard is connected to the rim, how the soundboard and rim are redesigned to increase dynamic agility in the VC vs. the building of resonance in the traditional models. Further design changes to the connection to the bellyrail are unique among modern pianos, particularly in the treble.

The further choice to employ duplex scaling in the VC models futher differentiates their inherently similar characteristics of build quality. We also see small changes to the action that tend to make the VC's measure a little lighter and a little shallower in some aspects of regulation. The result is the action "feels quicker" and that idea coincides well with the goal of a more dynamically agile piano.

What do I mean by dynamically agile? As far as I know, this is my own term, but I hope I can relay my meaning well. Most well made and well prepared pianos already are dynamically agile in that they very easily move from pp to ff. But ppp and fff are affected by the piano's own resonances. In the traditional Bösendorfer designs, the emphasis on cabinet resonance benefits the performer in several ways, but to reach fff required a crescendo. In the VC, the change in the soundboard connection, the "hoop" transition, as well as other aspects of design, increase this ability to reach fff without a crescendo. In laminated rims in other makers, the influence of case resonance on the overall dynamic range is less because the primary purpose of the rim is to be inert and isolate the soundboard. The affect of building resonance on the dynamic range in laminated rim pianos is not zero, but use of other materials instead of wood (like acrylic rims) have shown the material properties that consumers associate with wood are not essential for the rim to work efficiently. In a laminated rim, the use of resonant wood like spruce would be a drawback vs. the more important property, density. Again, this is overly generalizing the variety of laminated rim designs, but we have to start somewhere.

Certainly, Bösendorfer set out to make the 280VC better suited for enormous modern concert halls and large orchestras. I don't know if it was a stated goal, but it was often discussed as I followed the progress from the prototype to the final result. The 290 Imperial was designed and optimized for smaller halls, and with smaller orchestras. In many settings, it will continue to be the preferred, signature instrument, but for visiting performers, the extended compass (97 notes) was visually disorienting for enough performers making a "tour stop". It factored into the decision for some halls. With enough rehearsals, top pianists can adapt, but we know that confidence is also a factor for touring performers. If they feel more confident on the standard 88, it can certainly affect their performance. Therefore, the 280VC is more accessible in the criteria as well.

In our small sample size of the last several years, we see customers that are purchasing are selecting VC models in greater numbers. For those trying but not in the market, the responses we get are more evenly split. Time will tell.

Originally Posted by Sonepica
The VCs are still noticeably less powerful than similar sized Yamahas.
I appreciate that these were your observations. Certainly, I've known dealers to choose to "tame" and mellow a Bösendorfer to match customer expectations, or it may have just been the individual pianos. Yamaha offers so many models and dealer setup does tend to be on the brighter side as is so often the observation of customers reported here. It matches customer expectations, though it does not encapsulate their range.

Your observations do not match my own on the few occasions where I was able to play and observe the 214VC next to a Yamaha CF6. They were close rivals in power, both outstanding in objective measures of performance, and I confess I do prefer Bösendorfer's sound. In comparison to a C6 and even a C7 (excellent condition but not new) the 214VC has a considerable advantage in both top end power and overall range. Last year, we had opportunity to directly compare a couple of new 214VC's to a new Steinway B...again, the VC had more top-end power. I expect if we had a larger sample size of Steinways in that comparison, it would be more valuable, but I have only positive things to say about that particular example we had.

Rich may weigh in or choose to be diplomatic. wink


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Originally Posted by PianoWorksATL
Last year, we had opportunity to directly compare a couple of new 214VC's to a new Steinway B...again, the VC had more top-end power. I expect if we had a larger sample size of Steinways in that comparison, it would be more valuable, but I have only positive things to say about that particular example we had.

Sam, I remember you telling me this when I inquired about that new B you had.


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Originally Posted by PianoWorksATL
What do I mean by dynamically agile? As far as I know, this is my own term, but I hope I can relay my meaning well. Most well made and well prepared pianos already are dynamically agile in that they very easily move from pp to ff. But ppp and fff are affected by the piano's own resonances. In the traditional Bösendorfer designs, the emphasis on cabinet resonance benefits the performer in several ways, but to reach fff required a crescendo. In the VC, the change in the soundboard connection, the "hoop" transition, as well as other aspects of design, increase this ability to reach fff without a crescendo.

You are a drawing a blank on my mind with this one. Is this anecdotal evidence or something that has been measured and described in terms of physical quantities and direct comparisons with other pianos and their maximal achievable volume in dBA?

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It would be extremely challenging to create a test that would survive any scrutiny in a scientific way. My own anecdotal observations were discovered by accident because we frequently observe customers making side-by-side comparisons.

I first started thinking about the term, dynamically agile, when we were able to direct compare and record a Fazioli F278 and Bösendorfer 290 Imperial. Identical setup, pianist, etc. I set the recording levels to the Fazioli because it measured louder (peaks) during the tests and certainly matched our expectations. We recorded a couple of different pieces. What surprised me was that one of the pieces included several long crescendos. During the recording, they struck me as louder on the Imperial and looking at the recordings, confirmed that it was definitely higher dB in those sections than the Fazioli was.

It's certainly not scientific because a pianist will adjust and respond to the piano as they play it, but it was an unexpected result.

While we do not do full setups with the purpose of trying to measure, we frequently have clients that are directly comparing different brands by playing the same pieces on pianos, side by side. The observations suggest a good correlation, but scientifically, how do you isolate that variable among so many?

About 6 weeks ago, a customer was shopping with us and played a Yamaha C7 that was only a few feet away from a Bösendorfer 225, on the middle of a wall in the same orientation. He played quite a few pianos and selected the C7 for the combination of factors, including budget, however it wasn't his favorite. It was a good piano and a good compromise. He played a jazz standards, a variety of Classical, and some pop. Across the showroom, I was having a small meeting with our staff in an office with the door open while this was going on for about an hour. At one point, he went to the Bösendorfer 225 and played a piece with a couple of moderate crescendos right after playing the C7. It was enough louder that it stopped our meeting, we commented on it, and then closed the door so we could continue. That crescendo on the C7 didn't have the same effect. It didn't suddenly find another gear, nor did it seem to need it with all other types of playing. The 225 is beautiful, but doesn't immediately strike you as loud the way some pianos do, and ppp is consistently one of its strengths.

I'll use arbitrary numbers to illustrate a concept, not to define any kind of modeling:

If piano A has a max dynamic range of 100 for a struck chord and a case resonance benefit of 8%, then the peak value with resonance is 108. If piano B has a max dynamic range of 95 for a struck chord and a case resonance benefit of 15%, then the peak value with resonance is 109.25.

I do think the effect of resonance in laminated rims does vary, and I do think there is a give and take relationship between the available power with and without resonance.


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Interesting. So the shell adds to the sound but only if it is already vibrating-- which one not (or chord) alone cannot put into motion in time.

Peculiar theory, but a possible explanation for what is often said to be a 'harmonious' design.

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Hi Sam, thanks for the very informative posts. While many of such observations may be challenging to be scientifically tested, subjectively I do have similar experience, albeit certainly with a very low sample number. I didn't get to try much Bosendorfer in your shop, but I did some (all non-VC models) at Rich's shop a couple of years ago. By that time we already had our current Steinways, and I don't think any of Rich's Bosendorfers are incapable of producing the same loudness as our pianos. And I am pretty certain that our pianos are not "weaklings".

It is likely that pianists, more used to Steinways (and Yamahas?), may shun the Imperial due to the potentially confusing extra keys, and the different technique needed to control the dynamics. I know of at least one example: Taiwan's National Concert Hall retired its only Imperial a couple of years ago due to low usage by pianists, and one of my pianist friends who perform there relatively frequently lamented such decision (because he likes it a lot).


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Originally Posted by Davdoc
Hi Sam, thanks for the very informative posts..

2nd!


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Sam, that is really fascinating!


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Originally Posted by Maestro Lennie
Interesting. So the shell adds to the sound but only if it is already vibrating-- which one not (or chord) alone cannot put into motion in time.

Peculiar theory, but a possible explanation for what is often said to be a 'harmonious' design.

Probably not 'only' but 'also' contributing to the sound.

I still remember a demonstration of a huge gong (the one famous in the film world) although the big gold one you see being struck is just a fake cinema prop. That demonstration showed that the maximum volume from a single strike was quite limited but the gong could be 'wound up' with multiple soft strikes building the resonance until it reached ear damaging levels. How this transfers to pianos is another question but it does seem very likely that if you do have a large resonant mass it would be possible to build up the resonance in it - there again the internal damping in a piano rim is going to be much higher than in that gong so the limit of achievable resonance is going to be much lower.

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Sam,

I have to echo the same sentiments as others ... I thoroughly enjoyed your posts and learned a good deal! Thank you for taking the time to provide such a great education in detail.

For what it's worth, in my personal hunt, I tried quite a few pianos (various brands / sizes) and landed on a Bösendorfer 214VC. To my amateur ear, the other Bösendorfers I tried weren't quite as "clear" as the VC series, particularly the 214VC and especially in the treble. The VC options I tried felt more responsive or quicker to the touch and I love your comment of "dynamically agile" - that's exactly how it felt. At first, I questioned why Bösendorfer might make a change to their traditional offerings but needless to say, the changes knocked my socks off!

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Congratulations, WSherlock80!


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