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BECHSTEIN, C.

Including W. Hoffmann

Bechstein USA
301 Upland Road
Williamsport, Pennsylvania 17701
570-337-8113
Glenn@BechsteinUSA.com
www.bechstein.de


Pianos made by: C. Bechstein Pianoforte Fabrik GmbH, Berlin and Seifhennersdorf, Germany; and C. Bechstein Europe Ltd. (former Bohemia Piano Ltd.), Hradec Králové, Czech Republic

Bechstein was founded in 1853 by Carl Bechstein, a young German piano maker who, in the exploding world of piano technology of his day, had visions of building an instrument that the tradition-bound piano-making shops of Berlin were not interested in. Through fine workmanship and the endorsement of famous pianists, Bechstein soon became one of the leading piano makers in Europe, producing over 5,000 pianos annually by 1900. The two World Wars and the Depression virtually destroyed the company, but it was successfully rebuilt. In 1963 it was acquired by Baldwin, and in 1986 Baldwin sold it to Karl Schulze, a leading West German piano retailer and master piano technician, who undertook a complete technical and financial reorganization of the company. In the early 1990s, Bechstein acquired the names and factories of Euterpe, W. Hoffmann, and Zimmermann. Pianos with these names are currently being sold in Europe, but only W. Hoffmann is sold in North America. In 2006 Bechstein purchased a controlling interest in the Czech piano maker Bohemia, and integrated it into a new entity called C. Bechstein Europe Ltd.

Bechstein says that all Bechstein-branded pianos are manufactured in Seifhennersdorf, Germany, and that W. Hoffmann pianos are made in the Czech Republic. Bechstein recently announced a technical-cooperation agreement with the Chinese piano maker Hailun, and it is widely believed in the industry that major components for some Bechstein and/or W. Hoffmann models are made outside Europe. With few exceptions, Bechstein prefers not to divulge where the components for its instruments are made, a policy that frustrates some industry observers who seek transparency. However, the company says that, whatever the origin, all parts are inspected and made to conform to its rigid standards; in my experience, all models, including the less expensive ones, continue to receive praise for their high quality.

Bechstein-branded pianos use Abel or Renner hammers, solid European spruce soundboards, beech or beech and mahogany for grand rims and some structural parts, and maple pinblocks. Three pedals are standard on all pianos, the grands with sostenuto and the verticals with practice pedal (sostenuto optional). Over the past decade, all Bechstein grands have been redesigned with a capo bar (eliminating the agraffes in the treble), higher tension scale, and front and rear duplex scales for better tonal projection and tonal color. Also, unlike older Bechsteins, which had an open pinblock design, in the redesigned grands the plate covers the pinblock area. For better tuning control, the higher-level pianos are without tuning-pin bushings.

Bechstein pianos are available in two levels of quality. The regular verticals and partially redesigned versions of the old grand models now comprise a lower-priced “B” series, and say only “Bechstein” on the fallboard. They were previously named the Academy series. The 51½" Concert 8 (one of my all-time favorite verticals), several smaller verticals, and the fully redesigned grands (models D, C, B, M/P, and L), are the higher-priced line and say “C. Bechstein” on the fallboard. The company says that both lines are made in Germany, though for cost-effectiveness some parts and components may originate in the Czech Republic.

The differences between the B series and C. Bechstein lines appear to be primarily in tonal philosophy and cabinetry. C. Bechstein grands were designed with a higher tension scale for better projection, and with various components that the company believed would result in the greatest usable palette of tonal color: tapered soundboard, vertically laminated bridges, hornbeam hammer shanks, solid keybed, thicker rim, and hammers with walnut moldings and AAA felt. The grand soundboard is installed after the inner and outer rims are joined. The ribs are tapered after being glued to the soundboard, and the heavy-duty rim posts are dovetailed and embedded in the rim.

The less-expensive, traditional, B-series grands have an untapered soundboard, solid beech bridge with beech cap, maple hammer shanks, expansion-type keybed, and hammers with mahogany moldings and AA felt. The same quality wood and strings are used in both. The rim parts are joined, and the soundboard and ribs installed, in a more efficient, less time-consuming manner than with the C. Bechstein models. C. Bechstein keys still use leather key bushings, whereas the B-series keys use the more conventional cloth bushings. Bone keytops are an option on the C. Bechstein pianos, and genuine ebony sharps are used on both series.

The company uses its own Silver Line action in the Bechstein series and, in the C. Bechstein series, its Gold Line action, which is made to slightly stricter tolerances. As part of its global strategy, the company uses multiple suppliers for nearly all parts; parts for the Gold Line action come from Renner in Germany, while Silver Line parts are sourced from several countries, including China. Both actions appear to be well made, and both are of the Renner design, with the smooth, responsive touch characteristic of that design. Of course, the parts from Renner are more time-tested than the others.

The C. Bechstein cabinetry is much sleeker and more sophisticated than the plain B series, though both cabinets are finished to the same standard. The C. Bechstein plates receive the royal hand-rubbed finish; the other plates are just spray-finished in the conventional manner.

When the two lines are compared side by side, there are differences in their finished quality and performance level. Although the B-series pianos are, generally speaking, very good instruments with a slightly warmer default tone quality, the C. Bechstein models clearly outperform this less expensive line, and are free of the small tonal inconsistencies and minor flaws we have observed in the B series. It’s possible that the comparative shortcomings of the B-series instruments could be remedied by further technical work, but it’s apparent that they are not prepped at the factory to the same standard as the C. Bechstein pianos.

C. Bechstein grands are impeccably made in Europe and are “orchestrally” voiced, a concept that the company says is related to the change of timbre at different velocities of touch. According to Bechstein, customers who do not explore this feature of tonal design often prematurely assume that the piano is voiced too bright for the American musical taste. (However, several of my colleagues had high praise for the wide dynamic range, tonal color, and responsive action of the redesigned 7' 8" model C grand.) The company maintains that since voicing is a matter of overall piano design, their pianos are voiced at the factory to their tonal standard and should not be significantly altered. Some customers may still prefer the slightly warmer sound of the B-series grands, which are also about half the price of the C. Bechstein models.

Bechstein engineers oversee production of the Bechstein-designed W. Hoffmann line of pianos in the company’s Czech facility. This is a mid-priced line intended to compete with other mid-priced pianos from Eastern Europe and Japan. Currently it consists of grands and verticals in three series. The Tradition- and Professional-series instruments are entirely made in the Czech Republic. The Professional series has a higher level of design and components, and more customized musical preparation by the company’s most experienced craftspeople. The Vision-series pianos are assembled in the Czech Republic, but their strung backs (the instruments’ structural and acoustical parts) are imported from China.

Bechstein also sells the Zimmermann brand, designed by Bechstein and manufactured in China. It is not currently available in North America.

Bechstein has a silent-piano option, called Vario, that can be built into any of its instruments. This option allows you to mute the acoustic piano and turn on a digitized sound of a C. Bechstein concert grand, which can be listened to through headphones for silent play. Optical key and pedal sensors transmit MIDI information for the control of music software. The Vario system adds about $6,600 to the price of a vertical piano, and about $11,500 to the price of a grand.

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



Acoustic Piano: Model & Pricing Guide

* See the Introduction for an explanation of pricing.

Models beginning with "B" say only "Bechstein" on the fallboard; others say "C. Bechstein."
Model Feet Inches Description MSRP* SMP*
Bechstein Verticals
B112 Modern 44 Polished Ebony 23,848
B112 Modern 44 Polished White 26,620
B112 Chrome Art 44 Polished Ebony 26,560
B112 Chrome Art 44 Polished White 29,120
B116 Accent 45.5 Polished Ebony 26,180
B116 Accent 45.5 Polished White 28,910
B116 Compact 45.5 Polished Ebony 26,180
B116 Compact 45.5 Polished White 28,910
B116 Compact 45.5 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 31,198
B120 Select 47.5 Polished Ebony 27,754
B120 Select 47.5 Polished White 30,526
B124 Imposant 49 Polished Ebony 28,448
B124 Imposant 49 Polished White 30,274
B124 Style 49.5 Polished Ebony 29,624
B124 Style 49.5 Polished White 32,354
B124 Style 49.5 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry 34,642
Bechstein, C. Verticals
Millenium 116K 46 Polished Ebony 30,926
Millenium 116K 46 Polished White 35,168
Classic 118 46.5 Polished Ebony 32,836
Classic 118 46.5 Polished White 37,100
Classic 118 46.5 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 37,100
Contour 118 46.5 Polished Ebony 32,836
Contour 118 46.5 Polished White 37,100
Contour 118 46.5 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 37,100
Classic 124 49 Polished Ebony 42,412
Classic 124 49 Polished White 47,726
Classic 124 49 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 47,726
Elegance 124 49 Polished Ebony 42,412
Elegance 124 49 Polished White 47,726
Elegance 124 49 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry
Concert 8 51.5 Polished Ebony 70,070
Concert 8 51.5 Polished White 78,574
Concert 8 51.5 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry
Concert 8 51.5 Satin and Polished Burl Walnut/Vavona
Hoffmann, W. Professional Series Verticals
P114 45 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 19,626
P114 45 Polished White w/Chrome Hardware 21,532
P120 47.2 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 20,686
P120 47.2 Polished White w/Chrome Hardware 22,592
P126 49.6 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 22,806
Hoffmann, W. Tradition Series Verticals
T122 48 Polished Ebony 18,472
T122 48 Satin Mahogany/Walnut 21,350
T122 48 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 22,232
T122 48 Polished White 21,350
T128 50.4 Polished Ebony 20,236
T128 50.4 Satin Mahogany/Walnut 22,462
T128 50.4 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 22,904
T128 50.4 Polished White 22,462
Hoffmann, W. Vision Series Verticals
V112 44.5 Polished Ebony 14,042
V112 44.5 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 16,246
V112 44.5 Polished White 15,806
V120 47.6 Polished Ebony 15,364
V120 47.6 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 17,590
V120 47.6 Polished White 17,150
V120 47.6 Chippendale Polished Mahogany/Walnut/White 20,260
V120 47.6 Rococo Satin White 21,320
V120 47.6 Rococo Satin White w/Gold Trim 21,556
V126 49.6 Polished Ebony 16,918
V126 49.6 Polished White 20,472
V131 51.8 Polished Ebony 19,354
Bechstein Grands
B160 5 3 Polished Ebony 66,332
B160 5 3 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 83,972
B160 5 3 Polished White 79,708
B175 5 9 Polished Ebony 71,644
B175 5 9 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany 89,704
B175 5 9 Polished White 85,462
B190 6 3 Polished Ebony 76,958
B190 6 3 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 97,138
B190 6 3 Polished White 92,896
B208 6 8 Polished Ebony 84,182
B208 6 8 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 102,472
B208 6 8 Polished White 98,210
B228 7 5 Polished Ebony 95,458
B228 7 5 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 119,462
B228 7 5 Polished White 110,978
Bechstein, C. Grands
L167 5 6 Polished Ebony 119,546
L167 5 6 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry 142,100
L167 5 6 Polished White 142,100
M/P192 6 4 Polished Ebony 139,538
M/P192 6 4 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry 162,070
M/P192 6 4 Polished White 162,070
B212 6 11 Polished Ebony 172,508
B212 6 11 Polished White 197,372
C234 7 7 Polished Ebony 210,328
C234 7 7 Polished White 249,242
D282 9 2 Polished Ebony 268,372
D282 9 2 Polished White 317,260
Hoffmann, W. Professional Series Grands
P162 5 4 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 54,424
P188 6 2 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 61,648
P206 6 9 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 68,894
Hoffmann, W. Tradition Series Grands
T161 5 3 Polished Ebony 44,092
T161 5 3 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 53,606
T161 5 3 Polished White 51,400
T177 5 10 Polished Ebony 48,964
T177 5 10 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 58,478
T177 5 10 Polished White 56,272
T186 6 1 Polished Ebony 53,836
T186 6 1 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 63,350
T186 6 1 Polished White 61,144
Hoffmann, W. Vision Series Grands
V158 5 2 Polished Ebony 33,236
V158 5 2 Polished Mahogany/Walnut/White 40,984
V175 5 9 Polished Ebony 38,002
V175 5 9 Polished Walnut/Mahogany/White 45,416
V183 6 Polished Ebony 42,770
V183 6 Polished Walnut/Mahogany/White 49,846