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Seabrz Offline OP
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Hello,

I am looking for advice. My 10 year old daughter has been taking lessons once a week for four year. He playing has progressed to a point that her teacher advised I ditch the Yamaha digital (YDP-223) for an acoustic. Due to the layout of our house, we really only can accommodate an upright. For the last month or so, I have been scouring piano shops and on line marketplaces for something suitable. My budget is around $5000.

I believe I have found the right piano - a 2001 Charles Walter 1520. It is from a “retired dealer” who still dabbles in the business.

In doing research beforehand, especially on the Larry Fine website, it shows these pianos in the upper tier of verticals - just below Steinway and others with great pedigree, but much higher than Yamaha and Kawai uprights that are readily available in my area.

Looking at forum posts, few, if any, have anything bad to say, and they seem to hold their own in comparison with Yamaha, Kawai, and Boston.

My question is that most of these reviews are 10 years old, if not older. Very little current info available. Have competitors to Walter improved so much that the older comparisons have lost significance? Or has Walter just established its place in the baffling world of pianos, so these comparisons are moot?

The piano I am about the buy is a 2001, with very little use, so I’m told. It was tuned and regulated by the dealer’s technician, the cabinetry is a 8/10, and includes a dampp chaser system.

Price is $3500, delivered 160 miles to our home?

Opinions, please???

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If I understand your post correctly, you've not actually seen the piano first hand and you are relying on the "opinions" of others regarding it's current condition. I also realize that 160 miles is a long way to drive.

However, current condition is everything no matter how good the piano might have been when new 21 years ago.

Have you seen close up photos of the case and inner workings of the piano?

Cabinetry rated as 8/10 doesn't necessarily tell me that the piano has been lightly used.

Would it be possible for the dealer to send you a video of a competent pianist playing the instrument? Also - have you considered hiring an independent technicain to objectively evaluate the piano for you?

$3,500 (including shipping) may very well be an acceptable asking price if the instrument is in excellent condition.


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Originally Posted by Seabrz
Her playing has progressed to a point that her teacher advised I ditch the Yamaha digital (YDP-223) for an acoustic.
Opinions, please???
The teacher is only one opinion. You can search the forums for the many discussions of how necessary an acoustic is for learning. Also your daughter has played four years, she should have a major role in deciding what you buy, try to give her a chance to play as many pianos as possible before you make a choice. Your digital came out 20 years ago and has a mid level action, so there are many improved options and other brands besides Yamaha to choose from. I'm not trying to talk you out of an acoustic, but if space and money are an issue, you have a lot of great digital options for much less money than $3500. And you won't have ongoing expenses like tuning and maintaining the humidity in your house. As a few examples have your daughter try a Yamaha P515, Kawai MP7, or a Roland FP60 or FP90 and see if she likes them. There are many others but those mostly fall in the $1500-2000 range, have actions that are probably as functional as a 20 year old CW console, and are slabs so they take up less room than a console upright and are easy to move. I happen to love CW pianos, so no shade on the brand.


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I had a chance to play a Walter upright a couple years ago. It lived up to the hype. TBH, I wish I had bought it (but I was looking for a cheap upright to experiment on).

3k seems to be the sweet spot for Walters. At least in my area. The one I looked at was a little less, but it was a wood grained cabinet and I suspect not as popular as black.


Be sure to have it inspected by a 3rd party tech who represents you. If this retired dabbler is legit, he won't mind.


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Though it may be in great condition it is still a console - a tad on the small size at 43". A larger studio or upright would tend to have better tone in the bass and tenor.

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Thank you all for your knowledgeable input. This retired dealer has an excellent reputation. I do have a technician who has talked to the dealer’s technician. The piano in question has been thoroughly inspected, cleaned, tuned and regulated. The dealer’s technician did play the piano for me, and it sounds fine.

During inspection, he gauged the Walter’s history primary by assessing hammer wear, which was negligible. He said it appeared well maintained.

In contrast, the dealer has has a mid ‘90s for 2500, delivered, that has been refurbished by his tech. He replaced 10 hammers due to broken springs, so he’s not pulling any punches. The premium that I’m paying reflects the difference between the two, I’m told, and the dampp chaser. The humidity control system is a real plus, as I live my the sea in southern Maine, so foggy and damp in the summer, dry as a bone in winter due to heating.

I understand that “touch” is a variable only assessed by playing, which is impossible due to the distance. She also would be comparing it to her teachers Steinway grand, so most everything else would be a lesser instrument. I’m just trying to get her closer to that standard, given space (and $) stand in the way.

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Seabrz

I can appreciate the situation that you are in, and applaud that you are trying to find your daughter the best piano you can find that fits your price snd space. Normally, most here would recommend playing the piano personally, but that is reasonable in this case.

In my opinion, Charles Walter is respected as a small-volume family-owned manufacturer. I have personally not played one, but others in this forum have been pleased. If I were in your situation, I would buy this piano for my daughter and hope she enjoys it for many years.


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Sounds like you have solved the problem by moving to an acoustic that will, at a minimum, be quite adequate. Maybe better.

Your daughter will learn a lot from the new instrument. If you find yourself needing better in a few years, you will be a more educated consumer.

Not every day you get all that for $3,500.

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The YDP-223 is a good but now very old/dated digital from the early 2000s. Technology has progressed quite a bit, and DPs have a lot of consumable moving parts that not many people think about (felt foam strips for sound and action damping, grease/live, rubber contact strips for the electronic sensors).

It's probably not a bad idea to get something better for an active student.

And while a modern digital is much, much better today in 2022, they're still not acoustic pianos. If you can afford it, I think a quality upright is a good investment in your daughter's education. 👍


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Damp chaser is removable, correct?

Wouldn’t you be able to move it over to a new piano? (In the future)

Charles Walter 1520 switch over to let’s say Yamaha Upright?

Well maybe not, I don’t know much about piano humidity systems.

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I would say...

If you like it then go for it!
If later you need to upgrade once again, then it’s OK!
You got a good deal that lasted you a few years. And damp chaser to switch over. (if it can)

I hope you get a great piano in the end... 🙂

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I think Walter has done some clever engineering to extend the soundboard through the base of he piano, to get the equivalent of a couple more inches (yes/no?).


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Now that was the type of comment I was looking for, Probably Blue. You infer that Yamaha uprights and are more desirable. Why? From what I’ve read in the Piano Book, the Walter rates better than either the U1 or U3, and is highly dependent on place and date of manufacturing. I’ve also read that Yamahas are bright and loud, which is the flavor of the day in uprights.

As this is something that was pointed out as something that my daughter will live with for a while, personal opinions of those note knowledgeable than I is valued.

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I've played a few Charles Walter uprights. One was recently, and I remember the touch being extremely springy. Like when you let go of a key, it felt spring-loaded and would bounce back abruptly. I suspect they designed it to get a "fast action" on an upright, but I didn't like the touch at all. If that piano is similar, I don't know if a child would have trouble adjusting to other pianos. Just my personal opinion; I know others have praised these pianos.

The price sounds like an excellent deal, though.


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Originally Posted by Seabrz
Now that was the type of comment I was looking for, Probably Blue. You infer that Yamaha uprights and are more desirable. Why? From what I’ve read in the Piano Book, the Walter rates better than either the U1 or U3, and is highly dependent on place and date of manufacturing. I’ve also read that Yamahas are bright and loud, which is the flavor of the day in uprights.

As this is something that was pointed out as something that my daughter will live with for a while, personal opinions of those note knowledgeable than I is valued.
Just saying the first thing that came to my mind. Just a brand name that comes to mind. (Lol.)

U1 is a entry level upright is that right?

I personally did not like the U1 I played at a dealer.

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I think there are a few different issues at play in some of the responses.

1. ‘Console.’ For most pianos that are described as consoles, they are felt to be compromised relative to a standard upright. However, per PianoBuyer it seems that the Charles Walter standard vertical piano and ‘console’ piano are the same piano, just in different cabinets (and for the same finish, the console pianos seem to be more expensive than the standard verticals, given fancier cabinetry). So I think that the usual skepticism that comes with the ‘console’ label is probably misplaced with Charles Walter consoles. I will admit that when you first posted this, I was put off by the console label and had to read up about Charles Walter pianos before feeling that this wasn’t really a negative thing, in this context.

2. Charles Walter doesn’t make a high volume of pianos. They aren’t available to play in every area, so many of us have not had actual experience playing them.

3. ‘Play before you buy.’ A lot of us here feel pretty strongly that being able to play a piano before you buy it is important, because pianos can vary a lot in terms of touch and tone, and what may be one person’s cup of tea may not appeal to someone else. So all the research in the world is not going to give you a great sense of how you (or your daughter) will respond to the piano. Now what does this mean for you? If you are in an area where your daughter can actually go out and play some upright pianos, it may be a better decision for you to get a lightly used Yamaha U1 or Kawai K300 that is in good condition and that she likes playing, because you are always taking some kind of risk in buying a piano that you’ve not played, even if an independent person with a lot of knowledge of pianos tells you that it’s a fantastic instrument that they’d love to own. With Kawai and Yamaha, you also have the benefit of good brand name recognition, so if you ever decide you want to sell the piano (either to buy a different piano or to just get rid of it), it may be easier to sell a Kawai/Yamaha than a Charles Walter. However, if the piano landscape in your local area is pretty limited and travel just isn’t feasible, then this piano sounds like a reasonable option. This is also a piano forum, so many of us have strong opinions about what we like and don’t like, and for us, the risk of not liking the touch and tone of a piano is too much to contemplate buying a piano without having played it first. But I know that when I was a kid, my parents bought me a Yamaha console (a true starter piano), and while it wasn’t the greatest piano in the world, I was very happy to have it, it got me through quite a few years of lessons and practice, and I wasn’t wringing my hands over the instrument’s compromises/deficiencies. I think there is every chance the Charles Walter will be a very satisfactory practice instrument for your daughter. But I’m not sure that you can conclude it would be a better practice instrument than a Yamaha U1 or U3 or a Kawai K 300/K500. So if you are buying it with the hope that it will be a good practice instrument, I think it likely will be. Is it truly better (for her) than more common options? Maybe. Maybe not. So the wisdom of the purchase depends to some extent on your expectations. If it is in the condition the seller describes, it will almost certainly be better than her current DP.

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Charles Walter has used at least three different actions in their uprights. They vary in feel.


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Originally Posted by probably blue
I would say...

If you like it then go for it!
If later you need to upgrade once again, then it’s OK!
You got a good deal that lasted you a few years. And damp chaser to switch over. (if it can)
Buying a new piano in "a few years" is not usually a good idea because of the financial loss involved. There is no guarantee that one can ever sell a used piano unless one is giving it away for very little. Even if the damp chaser can be switched over, there is considerable cost for the installation of the damp chaser.

I think it's best to have the CW inspected and not just go by a conversation between the OP's tech and the owner's tech. The only exception might be if the OP's tech personally knows the owner's tech and trust them.

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Originally Posted by probably blue
U1 is a entry level upright is that right?

I personally did not like the U1 I played at a dealer.

Not top of the Yamaha line, but better than entry level Yamaha uprights. According to Larry Fine, the U1 represents "the standard against which every 48″ vertical is inevitably compared."


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Originally Posted by Seabrz
In doing research beforehand, especially on the Larry Fine website, it shows these pianos in the upper tier of verticals - just below Steinway and others with great pedigree, but much higher than Yamaha and Kawai uprights that are readily available in my area.
This is not true. The CW verticals are ranked in the same category as Yamaha and Kawai verticals in the most recent PB rankings.


Originally Posted by Seabrz
Thank you all for your knowledgeable input. This retired dealer has an excellent reputation. I do have a technician who has talked to the dealer’s technician. The piano in question has been thoroughly inspected, cleaned, tuned and regulated. The dealer’s technician did play the piano for me, and it sounds fine.
"Thoroughly inspected" only implies that there are no major problems assuming the owner's tech is being honest. As far as regulation goes, there are all degrees of regulation that could involve from one hour to a full day's work or even more. I'm pretty sure any regulation done was on the low side because it would be too costly to sell the piano at the price quoted if the most complete regulation was done. This does not mean the CW is definitely not in quite good regulation.

None of the above means that the CW might not be a very good piano at a good price. But I do think it means the OP should have the piano inspected and probably not just base a decision on a conversation between the owner's tech and the OP's tech. The exception might be if the OP's tech personally knows and trusts the owner's tech.

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