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The Definitive Piano Buying Guide for
including Ritmüller and Kayserburg
Pianos made by: Guangzhou Pearl River Piano Group Ltd., Guangzhou, China
Established in 1956 and celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Pearl River Piano Group has become the largest piano manufacturer in the world, with a production of over 125,000 pianos annually by more than 2,500 workers. The company builds pianos under the Pearl River, Ritmüller, and Kayserburg names, as well as under a few other names for OEM contracts with distributors such as Cristofori (with Jordan Kitt's Music) and Essex (with Steinway). (See separate listings under those names.) Pearl River is the best-selling piano brand in China, and is exported to more than 100 countries. After a successful IPO in 2012, the formerly government-owned company completed construction of a new, state-of-the-art, 1.2-million-sq.-ft. factory, to which it will transition over the next five years. The factory combines traditional craftsmanship with advanced CNC digital machinery, and complies with European high-level technology and process standards.
In recent years, Pearl River has revised and streamlined its model line with the assistance of European and American piano-design consultants. Many new models have been introduced, while older models have been reviewed and modified. Currently, Pearl River verticals begin with the 43" console model EU111 (new in 2015) in several traditional American furniture styles. They continue with a series of studio models, including the 45" model UP115M5 in a traditional institutional style (legs with toe blocks), and the 45" model UP115E in a school-friendly institutional style with special casters and a full-length music desk. Finally, there are the upright models, including the 46½" model EU118 (new in 2015), and the relatively new 48" model EU122 and 51½" model EU131 concert upright.
Pearl River grands come in six sizes, from 4' 11" to 9', and have been redesigned over the last two years to include features such as vertically laminated bridges with solid maple caps, lighter touchweights, German hammer felt, and new scale designs.
Pearl River also makes pianos under the Ritmüller name, a brand that originated in Germany in 1795. A European master piano designer was engaged in 2007 to design, from the ground up, a line of higher-end pianos that would be distinct from the Pearl River line. These instruments were introduced in North America in 2009 under the Ritmüller name. (In some parts of the world, these pianos are branded Kayserburg.)
Ritmüller pianos come in three distinct price categories: Premium, Performance, and Classic. The Premium models feature solid spruce soundboards, Renner hammers, hornbeam and maplewood actions, and real ebony sharps, among other higher-quality features. Piano Buyer's reviewers have auditioned several of the new grand models and have been very impressed. See reviews in the Fall 2009 issue of the grand models GH-160, 170, and 188; in the Fall 2010 issue of the GH-148R; and in the Fall 2011 issue of the GH-188R. In addition, the 48" model UH-121R vertical and the 4' 10" model GH-148R grand have been chosen as "Staff Picks." The Performance models, introduced in 2014, feature unique scales, offset backposts, ebony sharps, high-quality German Abel hammers, and a veneered and tapered all-spruce soundboard. The Classic series, introduced in 2011, is a line of lower-cost instruments currently comprising three vertical models. They feature a veneered all-spruce soundboard and German Röslau strings.
In 2013, Pearl River brought to North America the upper-level Kayserburg Artists series. These instruments are handmade by two dozen of Pearl River's most experienced craftsmen, personally managed by European piano experts, in what can be described only as a small "German" piano workshop inside a large Chinese piano factory. The Kayserburg Artists craftsmen have all completed a rigorous training that includes studying the world's finest pianos and working side by side with visiting European craftsmen. The Kayserburg Artists pianos contain such high-end features as soundboards of tight-grained, solid European spruce, Renner hammers, Laoureux (French) damper felt, German Röslau strings, vertically laminated maple bridges with rosewood cores and solid beech caps, German IvoryLeit natural keytops, and genuine ebony sharps.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
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