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STEINWAY & SONS

See also Boston and Essex.

Steinway & Sons
1133 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10036
646-356-3960
www.steinway.com


Heinrich Engelhardt Steinweg, a cabinetmaker and piano maker from Seesen, Germany, emigrated with his family to the United States in 1850, and established Steinway & Sons in 1853. Within a relatively short time, the Steinways were granted patents that revolutionized the piano, and which were eventually adopted or imitated by other makers. Many of these patents concerned the quest for a stronger frame, a richer, more powerful sound, and a more sensitive action. By the 1880s, the Steinway piano was in most ways the modern piano we have today, and in the next generation the standards set by the founder were strictly adhered to. (The early history of Steinway & Sons is fascinating, and is intimately connected to the history of New York City and the piano industry in general. You can read a summary of it in The Piano Book; there are also several excellent books devoted to the subject.)

In the 1960s the fourth generation of Steinways found themselves without any heirs willing or able to take over the business, and without enough capital to finance much-needed equipment modernization; eventually, in 1972, they sold their company to CBS. CBS left the musical instrument business in 1985, selling Steinway to an investment group. In 1995 the company was sold again, this time to Conn-Selmer, Inc., a major manufacturer of brass and woodwind instruments, and the combined company (called Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc.) was taken public on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2013, Paulson & Company, a private-equity firm led by Queens native John Paulson, purchased the public company and took it private once again. Paulson has said that he is committed to continuing the quality-first approach on which Steinway has built its reputation. Steinway also owns a branch factory in Hamburg, Germany, which serves the world market outside of the Americas, and two major suppliers: the Herman Kluge company, Europe’s largest maker of piano keys; and the O.S. Kelly company, the only remaining piano plate foundry in the U.S.

Steinway makes two types of vertical piano in three sizes: a 45" model 4510 studio, a 46½" model 1098 studio, and a 52" model K-52 upright. Models 4510 and 1098 are technically identical, with differences only in the cabinets: the former is in a period style for home use, the latter in an institutional cabinet for school use or less furniture-conscious home use. In all three models, the middle pedal operates a sostenuto mechanism. All Steinway verticals use a solid spruce soundboard, have no particleboard, and in many other ways are similar in design, materials, and quality of workmanship to Steinway grands. Actions are made by Renner. Model K-52 in ebony, and model 1098 in ebony, mahogany, and walnut, come with an adjustable artist bench, the others with a regular bench.

Technicians have always liked the performance of Steinway verticals, but used to complain that the studio models in particular were among the most difficult pianos to tune and would unexpectedly jump out of tune. In recent years, Steinway has made small design changes to alleviate this problem. The pianos are now mechanically more normal to tune and are stable, but an excess of false beats (tonal irregularities) still make the pianos at times difficult to tune.

Steinway makes six sizes of grand piano. All ebony, mahogany, and walnut grand models come with an adjustable artist bench, the others with a regular bench.

The 5' 1" model S is very good for a small grand, but has the usual limitations of any small piano and so is recommended only where space considerations are paramount. The 5' 7" model M is a full six inches longer, but costs little more than the S. Historically one of Steinway’s more popular models, it is found in living rooms across the country. Its medium size makes the tone in certain areas slightly less than perfect, but it’s an excellent home instrument.

The 5' 10½" model L has been replaced with the model O of the same size. Model O was first produced in 1902, but discontinued in 1924 in favor of the model L. Changes over time in both engineering and musical taste, as well as a desire to better synchronize the offerings of the New York factory with Hamburg (where the model O was never abandoned), seemed to dictate a return to the O. The main difference between the two models is in the shape of the tail — the L has a squared-off tail, the O a round tail — but this can also affect the soundboard and bridges and therefore the tone.

Reintroduction of the model O followed by one year the reintroduction of the legendary 6' 2" model A. First offered in 1878 and discontinued in New York in 1945, the model A revolutionized piano making by featuring, for the first time, the radial rim bracing and one-piece bent rim construction now used in all Steinway grands. Over the years the model A has gone through several makeovers, each of slightly different size and scaling. The version being reintroduced was made in New York from 1896 to 1914 and is the same size as the model A that has been made at the Hamburg factory for more than a century. Models O and A are suitable for larger living rooms, and for many school and teaching situations.

The 6' 10½" model B is the favorite of many piano technicians. It is the best choice for the serious pianist, recording or teaching studio, or small recital hall. Small design changes and other refinements to this model in recent years have brought a steady stream of accolades. The 8' 11¾" model D, the concert grand, is the flagship of the Steinway line and the piano of choice for the overwhelming majority of concert pianists. It’s too large for most places other than the concert stage.

Steinway uses excellent materials and construction techniques in the manufacture of its grands. The rims, both inner and outer, are made in one continuous bend from layers of maple, and the beams are of solid spruce. The keybed is of quartersawn spruce planks freely mortised together, and the keys are of Bavarian spruce. The pinblock consists of seven laminations of maple with successive grain orientations of 45 and 90 degrees. The soundboard is of solid Sitka spruce, the bridges are vertically laminated of maple with a solid maple cap, and all models have duplex scaling.

It is well known that Steinway’s principal competition comes from used and rebuilt Steinways, many of which come in exotic veneers or have elaborately carved or customized “art cases.” The company has responded by expanding its product line to include modern-day versions of these collector’s items. The Crown Jewel Collection consists of the regular models in natural (non-ebonized) wood veneers, many of them exotic. They are finished in a semigloss that Steinway calls Satin Lustre. In addition to satin and semigloss finishes, all regular Steinway grands are also now available in polyester high-polish ebony, lacquer high-polish ebony, and polyester high-polish white.

Limited Edition models, issued at irregular intervals, are reproductions of turn-of-the-century designs, or pianos with artistic elements that make them unique. A currently-available Limited Edition model, honoring the 70th anniversary of the birth of John Lennon, is the Imagine Series, a white piano that incorporates artwork by Lennon, along with other design elements.

During the early 1900s, ownership of art-case Steinways became a symbol of wealth and culture. Steinway has resumed this tradition by regularly commissioning noted furniture designers to create new art-case designs, usually around a theme. For example, in 1999 Frank Pollaro designed an art case called Rhapsody to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Gershwin. The piano featured a blue-dyed maple veneer adorned with more than 400 hand-cut mother-of-pearl stars and a gilded silver plate. In 2016, another Pollaro-designed art-case model, the Fibonacci, was sold, for a record-setting $2.4 million, as Steinway’s 600,000th piano. Each year sees new art-case pianos from Steinway, and they are truly stunning.

As another way of capitalizing on the popularity of older Steinways, the company also operates at its factory the world’s largest piano rebuilding facility for the restoration of older Steinways. The Piano Book contains a great deal of additional information on the purchase of older or restored Steinways. See also “Buying a Used or Restored Piano” in this publication.

The underlying excellence of the Steinway musical designs and the integrity of the construction process are the hallmarks of the Steinway piano. Steinway pianos at their best have the quintessential American piano sound: a powerful bass, a resonant midrange, and a singing treble with plenty of tonal color. Although other brands have some of these characteristics, it is perhaps the particular combination of harmonics that comprise the Steinway’s tonal coloration that, more than anything else, distinguishes it from other brands and gives it its richness, depth, and power. The construction process creates a very durable and rigid framework that also contributes to the power of its sound.

Musical and cabinet detailing, such as factory voicing and regulation, and plate and cabinet cosmetics, are reasonable, but have traditionally lagged somewhat behind the company’s European competitors in finesse. Over the last couple of years, however, the company has been making a determined effort to remedy this by paying close attention to many small details, and by applying lessons learned from its European operations. Examples include: rounding the edges and corners of satin ebony models so they will better hold the finish and not prematurely wear through; more careful woodworking on the bottom of the piano, and applying a clear coat of lacquer to the bottom instead of painting it to cover imperfections; protecting the case and plate during stringing and other manufacturing operations so they don’t have to be touched up, often imperfectly, later on; additional time spent playing-in pianos during manufacture in order to naturally harden the hammers so they don’t need quite so much chemical hardening and voicing in the field; and other improvements too numerous to mention here. (See discussion and photo essay on this subject in the Spring 2011 issue of Piano Buyer.)

Steinway pianos require more preparation by the dealer than most pianos in their class, but, as mentioned above, the factory preparation has greatly improved, so the work required by the dealer is no longer excessive. Still, some dealers are more conscientious than others, and I occasionally hear of piano buyers who “can’t find a good Steinway.” How much of this is due to inherent weaknesses in some pianos, how much to lack of dealer preparation, and how much to customer bias or groundless complaining is hard to tell. I suspect it is a little of each. Piano technicians who work on these pianos do sometimes remark that some seem to have more potential than others. Many dealers do just enough regulating and voicing to make the instruments acceptable to the average customer, but reserve the highest level of work for those situations where a fussy customer for one of the larger models is trying to decide between a few particular instruments. Most customers for a Steinway will probably find one they like on the sales floor. However, if you are a discriminating buyer who has had trouble finding a Steinway that suits your preferences, I recommend letting the salesperson know, as precisely as you can, what you’re looking for. Give the salesperson some time to have a few instruments prepared for you before making a decision. It may also help to tactfully let the salesperson know that you are aware that other options are available to you in the market for high-end pianos. By the way, customers seeking to purchase a model B or D Steinway who have not found the piano they are looking for at their local dealer can make arrangements with that dealer to visit the Steinway factory in New York, where a selection of the larger models is kept on hand for this purpose.

As mentioned earlier, Steinway owns a branch factory in Hamburg, Germany, established in 1880. The “fit and finish” (detailing) of the pianos at this factory is reputed to be better than at the one in New York, although pianists sometimes prefer the sound of the New York Steinway. Traditionally, the Hamburg factory has operated somewhat autonomously, but more recently the company has been synchronizing the two plants through technical exchanges, model changes, jointly built models, and materials that are shipped from New York to Hamburg. It’s possible to special-order a Hamburg Steinway through an American Steinway dealer; or an enterprising American customer could travel to Europe, buy one there, and have it shipped back home.

In 2008 Steinway underwent a change in management, the first in 23 years. For the first time, the company’s top executives were recruited from its European operations rather than from America. It is speculated that this may have signaled a subtle change of direction with regard to quality issues, and may be one of the reasons that European quality standards are appearing to be more strictly applied to the American-made instruments.

In 2016, in a major development for the company, Steinway unveiled its own electronic player-piano system, Spirio. For details, see Steinway Spirio in the chapter on electronic player-piano systems.

Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.



Acoustic Piano: Model & Pricing Guide

* See the Introduction for an explanation of pricing.

These are the prices at the Steinway retail store in New York City, often used as a benchmark for Steinway prices throughout the country. Model K-52 in ebony; model 1098 in ebony, mahogany, and walnut; and grand models in ebony, mahogany, and walnut include adjustable artist bench. Other models include regular wood bench. Wood-veneered models are in a semi-gloss finish called "satin lustre."

I frequently get requests for prices of pianos made in the Steinway branch factory in Hamburg, Germany. Officially, these pianos are not sold in North America, but it is possible to order one through an American Steinway dealer, or to go to Europe and purchase one there. Shown here at the end of the list is approximately how much it would cost to purchase a Hamburg Steinway in Europe and have it shipped to the United States. The list was derived by taking the published retail price in Europe, subtracting the value-added tax not applicable to foreign purchasers, converting to U.S. dollars (the rate used here is 1 Euro = $1.06, but is obviously subject to change), and adding approximate charges for duty, air freight, crating, insurance, brokerage fees, and delivery. Only prices for grands in polished ebony are shown here. Caution: This list is published for general informational purposes only. The price that Steinway would charge for a piano ordered through an American Steinway dealer may be different. (Also, the cost of a trip to Europe to purchase the piano is not included!)
Model Feet Inches Description MSRP* SMP*
Steinway & Sons Verticals
4510 45 Sheraton Satin Ebony 34,200 34,200
4510 45 Sheraton Mahogany 37,900 37,900
4510 45 Sheraton Walnut 38,400 38,400
1098 46.5 Satin Ebony 32,300 32,300
1098 46.5 Mahogany 35,900 35,900
1098 46.5 Walnut 36,400 36,400
K-52 52 Satin Ebony 37,600 37,600
K-52 52 Mahogany 42,400 42,400
K-52 52 Walnut 43,900 43,900
Steinway & Sons Grands
S 5 1 Satin Ebony 65,600 65,600
S 5 1 Polyester Polished Ebony 67,700 67,700
S 5 1 Polyester Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 69,500 69,500
S 5 1 Polyester Polished White 75,300 75,300
S 5 1 Mahogany 76,600 76,600
S 5 1 Walnut 77,400 77,400
S 5 1 Kewazinga Bubinga 81,800 81,800
S 5 1 East Indian Rosewood 92,500 92,500
S 5 1 Macassar Ebony 100,800 100,800
S 5 1 Figured Sapele 81,200 81,200
S 5 1 Dark Cherry 81,900 81,900
S 5 1 Santos Rosewood 91,900 91,900
S 5 1 African Pommele 95,200 95,200
M 5 7 Satin Ebony 69,700 69,700
M 5 7 Polyester Polished Ebony 72,100 72,100
M 5 7 Polyester Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 73,900 73,900
M 5 7 Polyester Polished Ebony w/Spirio 87,100 87,100
M 5 7 Polyester Polished White 81,500 81,500
M 5 7 Mahogany 83,100 83,100
M 5 7 Walnut 83,900 83,900
M 5 7 Kewazinga Bubinga 88,600 88,600
M 5 7 East Indian Rosewood 99,500 99,500
M 5 7 Macassar Ebony 108,700 108,700
M 5 7 Figured Sapele 89,500 89,500
M 5 7 Dark Cherry 90,100 90,100
M 5 7 Santos Rosewood 99,300 99,300
M 5 7 African Pommele 102,900 102,900
M 1014A 5 7 Chippendale Mahogany 100,200 100,200
M 1014A 5 7 Chippendale Walnut 102,200 102,200
M 501A 5 7 Louis XV Walnut 128,600 128,600
M 501A 5 7 Louis XV East Indian Rosewood 149,500 149,500
M 5 7 Pops Polished Ebony w/White Accessories 85,900 85,900
M 5 7 Pops Polished Ebony w/Color Accessories 86,500 86,500
M 5 7 John Lennon Imagine Polished White 112,900 112,900
M 5 7 Onyx Duet Polished Ebony 106,900 106,900
O 5 10.5 Satin Ebony 78,400 78,400
O 5 10.5 Polyester Polished Ebony 80,900 80,900
O 5 10.5 Polyester Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 82,700 82,700
O 5 10.5 Polyester Polished White 89,900 89,900
O 5 10.5 Mahogany 90,200 90,200
O 5 10.5 Walnut 91,100 91,100
O 5 10.5 Kewazinga Bubinga 95,700 95,700
O 5 10.5 East Indian Rosewood 108,100 108,100
O 5 10.5 Macassar Ebony 117,900 117,900
O 5 10.5 Figured Sapele 96,900 96,900
O 5 10.5 Dark Cherry 97,400 97,400
O 5 10.5 Santos Rosewood 107,400 107,400
O 5 10.5 African Pommele 111,900 111,900
O 5 10.5 Pops Polished Ebony w/White Accessories 93,200 93,200
O 5 10.5 Pops Polished Ebony w/Color Accessories 94,100 94,100
O 5 10.5 John Lennon Imagine Polished White 121,200 121,200
O 5 10.5 Onyx Duet Polished Ebony 112,100 112,100
A 6 2 Satin Ebony 89,700 89,700
A 6 2 Polyester Polished Ebony 92,500 92,500
A 6 2 Polyester Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 94,300 94,300
A 6 2 Polyester Polished White 103,400 103,400
A 6 2 Mahogany 101,600 101,600
A 6 2 Walnut 102,900 102,900
A 6 2 Kewazinga Bubinga 108,700 108,700
A 6 2 East Indian Rosewood 122,800 122,800
A 6 2 Macassar Ebony 134,100 134,100
A 6 2 Figured Sapele 109,100 109,100
A 6 2 Dark Cherry 110,700 110,700
A 6 2 Santos Rosewood 122,400 122,400
A 6 2 African Pommele 127,500 127,500
A 6 2 Pops Polished Ebony w/White Accessories 105,700 105,700
A 6 2 Pops Polished Ebony w/Color Accessories 106,500 106,500
A 6 2 John Lennon Imagine Polished White 136,100 136,100
A 6 2 Onyx Duet Polished Ebony 122,700 122,700
B 6 10.5 Satin Ebony 101,800 101,800
B 6 10.5 Polyester Polished Ebony 105,500 105,500
B 6 10.5 Polyester Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 109,300 109,300
B 6 10.5 Polyester Polished Ebony w/Spirio 120,500 120,500
B 6 10.5 Polyester Polished White 117,500 117,500
B 6 10.5 Mahogany 116,500 116,500
B 6 10.5 Walnut 117,800 117,800
B 6 10.5 Kewazinga Bubinga 123,900 123,900
B 6 10.5 East Indian Rosewood 140,900 140,900
B 6 10.5 Macassar Ebony 152,800 152,800
B 6 10.5 Figured Sapele 123,800 123,800
B 6 10.5 Dark Cherry 124,600 124,600
B 6 10.5 Santos Rosewood 137,800 137,800
B 6 10.5 African Pommele 143,900 143,900
B 6 10.5 Fibonacci 600K 575,000 575,000
B 6 10.5 Pops Polished Ebony w/White Accessories 119,900 119,900
B 6 10.5 Pops Polished Ebony w/Color Accessories 120,900 120,900
B 6 10.5 John Lennon Imagine Polished White 153,300 153,300
B 6 10.5 Onyx Duet Polished Ebony 136,100 136,100
D 8 11.8 Satin Ebony 164,100 152,800
D 8 11.8 Polyester Polished Ebony 165,300 157,600
D 8 11.8 Polyester Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 169,100 161,400
D 8 11.8 Polyester Polished White 182,200 173,400
D 8 11.8 Mahogany 191,900 185,000
D 8 11.8 Walnut 193,200 185,000
D 8 11.8 Kewazinga Bubinga 202,600 196,400
D 8 11.8 East Indian Rosewood 230,500 221,200
D 8 11.8 Macassar Ebony 249,100 242,200
D 8 11.8 Figured Sapele 195,500 189,600
D 8 11.8 Dark Cherry 198,700 191,600
D 8 11.8 Santos Rosewood 216,800 213,200
D 8 11.8 African Pommele 227,800 221,800
D 8 11.8 Pops Polished Ebony w/White Accessories 172,600 172,600
D 8 11.8 Pops Polished Ebony w/Color Accessories 173,700 173,700
D 8 11.8 John Lennon Imagine Polished White 211,800 211,800
Steinway & Sons (Hamburg) Grands
S-155 5 1 Polished Ebony 72,300 72,300
M-170 5 7 Polished Ebony 74,500 74,500
O-180 5 10.5 Polished Ebony 83,800 83,800
A-188 6 2 Polished Ebony 86,000 86,000
B-211 6 11 Polished Ebony 99,000 99,000
C-227 7 5.5 Polished Ebony 111,400 111,400
D-274 8 11.8 Polished Ebony 149,000 149,000