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Joined: May 2022
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Ek81 Offline OP
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Hi Braintrust smile

I just posted one message for help to choose a piano (which was absolutely helpful). I have narrowed down to a couple of pianos now. To come down to the finalist, I just have one more question to be answered. A sage looking shop assistant at the piano dealer told me, the following. Would you agree with this?

"Yamaha U1 and U3 X series from 1970-80's made in Hamamatsu Japan are far better pianos than comparable new Yamaha pianos. Quality of materials used and craftmanship are incomparable. If in good condition, they are better than the brand new U1 and U3 made in Japan, including YUS series. The piano industry is finding many problems with new Yamaha upright pianos in this range already (even though they were made in Japan). Pianos last 100 years, especially these pianos from the Golden Era from Hamamatsu, Don't worry about the age of the pianos."

Last edited by Ek81; 05/21/22 07:31 AM.
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No.
That's marketing garbage from a salesperson, who obviously sells against new Yamahas.

The "Golden Era" for most Japanese-built pianos is now (unless you're talking promotional products, which doesn't include the U1/U3).
A Yamaha from the 1970s or 1980s is anywhere between 33 and 52 years old. The best years for the performance potential of these pianos is behind them. That doesn't mean they're worthless, I'm just providing a counterpoint to the salesperson...

Wholesale prices of gray market import Yamaha pianos are based on two things: age and condition. I seriously doubt dealers are paying a premium for these pianos because they're from the 70s!


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This is general BS to sell you those pianos. There are pianos that are 100 years old but near all of them went through major part changes and reparation.


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I am curious thought, what exactly are the differences in these X versions?


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I'm not saying this as a "Yamaha Artist" but as a pianist:

Yamaha have made vast improvements in their piano design and building over the last fifty years. Even if you could time travel and find a new U3X, and compare it to a new YUS3 of today, you'd find the YUS3 superior.

No 30-50 year old piano is going to out-perform a new piano, assuming they've both been looked after by a good technician. Even if the design and build are identical, the passage of time does a lot to a piano, and it takes a lot of work from a technician to bring the older piano to its full potential. The only reason to buy a used piano is to save money.

The only exceptions to this are if you want a particular model or type of piano that is no longer in production. For example, the C. Bechstein designs and build from 1930 are entirely different to today, and so the instruments are not comparable in any way, and if you prefer the 1930s piano and would like to have it restored, that's a valid reason to buy used.

With Japanese pianos, in every case, the new instruments are better. Both Yamaha and Kawai have made huge strides in R and D over the last 50 years.


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I'll stir the pot. Over the years, we've sold a fair number of used, refurbished W and UX3 models, and when the condition was excellent, they did consistently out perform younger, but still excellent condition U3's. I do not go so far as to say they would out perform a brand new YUS3 or YUS5, and I certainly don't raise issues with Yamaha's current production of upper series upright pianos. There is a lot in that statement above to chew on.

In a more simple statement, a new or newer piano action has clear advantages over older ones. An older piano can be well maintained or even refurbished to give it a very good and controllable action, but it should be obvious that it has no advantage over a younger, well cared for piano action. 20 years ago, we sold many more of those models because they weren't as old as they are now and the variance was therefore less. As time passes, we have to be more picky and assume less.

I can say that the W or UX3 pianos that we've sold gave me significantly more musical satisfaction than the standard U-series from any age, even new. It's not unlike the added performance found in a YUS or SU series today.

The W and UX-series uprights had very different strung back construction. The "X" back or "star back" bracing was influenced by European makers. Specifically, I know that Grotrian used a similar back construction design in their top-of-line uprights. The W and UX-series were quite a bit more expensive when new than the standard Yamaha U-series models which suggests a significantly higher labor cost. I cannot speak accurately about any material differences, but I would expect it to be a bit of both. The difference is probably not unlike the difference between the YUS vs U, but it might have been a greater difference like between the SU and U.

For whichever reasons, both known and unknown, nicely refurbished examples of the UX3 (and to a lesser extent, the UX1) or W models do command a premium in the used market. I won't sew that up with romance or BS, but I won't dismiss the pianos that have shown themselves to be better than the more common models.


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Originally Posted by PianoWorksATL
I'll stir the pot. Over the years, we've sold a fair number of used, refurbished W and UX3 models, and when the condition was excellent, they did consistently out perform younger, but still excellent condition U3's. I do not go so far as to say they would out perform a brand new YUS3 or YUS5, and I certainly don't raise issues with Yamaha's current production of upper series upright pianos. There is a lot in that statement above to chew on.

In a more simple statement, a new or newer piano action has clear advantages over older ones. An older piano can be well maintained or even refurbished to give it a very good and controllable action, but it should be obvious that it has no advantage over a younger, well cared for piano action. 20 years ago, we sold many more of those models because they weren't as old as they are now and the variance was therefore less. As time passes, we have to be more picky and assume less.

I can say that the W or UX3 pianos that we've sold gave me significantly more musical satisfaction than the standard U-series from any age, even new. It's not unlike the added performance found in a YUS or SU series today.

The W and UX-series uprights had very different strung back construction. The "X" back or "star back" bracing was influenced by European makers. Specifically, I know that Grotrian used a similar back construction design in their top-of-line uprights. The W and UX-series were quite a bit more expensive when new than the standard Yamaha U-series models which suggests a significantly higher labor cost. I cannot speak accurately about any material differences, but I would expect it to be a bit of both. The difference is probably not unlike the difference between the YUS vs U, but it might have been a greater difference like between the SU and U.

For whichever reasons, both known and unknown, nicely refurbished examples of the UX3 (and to a lesser extent, the UX1) or W models do command a premium in the used market. I won't sew that up with romance or BS, but I won't dismiss the pianos that have shown themselves to be better than the more common models.

+1


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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
No.
That's marketing garbage from a salesperson, who obviously sells against new Yamahas.

The "Golden Era" for most Japanese-built pianos is now (unless you're talking promotional products, which doesn't include the U1/U3).
A Yamaha from the 1970s or 1980s is anywhere between 33 and 52 years old. The best years for the performance potential of these pianos is behind them. That doesn't mean they're worthless, I'm just providing a counterpoint to the salesperson...

Wholesale prices of gray market import Yamaha pianos are based on two things: age and condition. I seriously doubt dealers are paying a premium for these pianos because they're from the 70s!
Totally agree with the first part.

I agree that today could certainly be considered a Golden Era for Japanese grand pianos, but I disagree that it is a Golden Era for Japanese uprights. I do think the U-series is as good as ever and better than ever in some ways, but the upright production is mostly segmented with lower level models and made globally. I don't see the same focus on Japanese uprights, either production or development anywhere near what I see in their Japanese grands. I see focus on digitals and hybrids as competition for traditional uprights.

I certainly agree that the the older UX or W-series pianos are in the second half of their life by now and that other aspects of the improved build quality will not overcome the affects of age and use on the moving parts.

And for the last part, I can state that enough dealers will and do pay a premium for the older UX and W-series uprights even over some younger U-series equivalents. They are getting older and fewer make the cut, but that premium is real. There is no premium for older U-series, so I do agree with your statement about the value being about age and condition, so it would be fair to consider the UX-series and W-series as a premium series that was discontinued.

I was told by industry pros that were working in the industry at the time (late 1970's to late 1980's) that some of the premium models were too expensive to continue, that outside of Japan, the brand image of Yamaha & Kawai wasn't associated with premium, expensive pianos. Whether or not that is true, it does fit with the perception at that time and mirrors how Yamahas were sold in the US, at least.


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As far as I know the X series and other premium Yamaha models were never sold in Europe, and probably not in the USA either, so if you do want one you'll also need to be happy with a used piano that has been brought in from Japan.

The UX3 we had was a lovely piano and maybe superior to a current plain U3 (definitely not as good as the SE132 we played though) but not all old pianos are that good - you have to be a bit selective. And as has been said there has been continuous changes in the product lines over the years so current models will have many improvements, some of which were originally featured in the X or other premium models and which then trickled down to the standard ranges.


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