Kawai's quality control is excellent, especially in its Japanese-made pianos. Major problems are rare, and other than normal maintenance, after-sale service is usually limited to fixing the occasional minor buzz or squeak. Kawai's warranty service is also excellent, and the warranty is transferable to future owners within the warranty period (a benefit that is not common these days). The tone of most Kawai pianos, in my opinion, is not as ideal for classical music as some more expensive instruments, but when expertly voiced, it is not far off, and in any case is quite versatile musically. In part because the touch is so good, Kawai grands are often sought by classical pianists as a less-expensive alternative to a Steinway or other high-end piano. Kawai dealers tend to be a little more aggressive about discounting than their competition (Yamaha). There is also a thriving market for used Kawais. (If you're considering buying a used Kawai, please read "Should I Buy a Used 'Gray Market' Yamaha or Kawai Piano?" on pages 176-177 of The Piano Book, or the shorter version in "Buying a Used or Restored Piano" in this publication.)

Kawai has invented an Acoustic Piano Recording System (PR-1) that allows one to create a CD of a piano performance right from the piano. It contains two specially designed microphones that attach easily to the piano, and a CD read/write player with built-in reverb and EQ that connects to any sound system. The system retails for $1,595.

The Shigeru Kawai line of grands represents Kawai's ultimate effort to produce a world-class piano. Named after Kawai's former chairman (and son of company founder Koichi Kawai), the limited-edition Shigeru Kawai grands are made at the separate facility where Kawai's EX concert grands are made.

Although based on the Kawai RX designs, the Shigeru Kawai models are "hand made" in the extreme. Very high-grade soundboard spruce is air-dried for multiple years, then planed by hand by a worker who knocks on the wood and listens for the optimum tonal response. Ribs are also hand-planed for correct stiffness. String bearing is set in the traditional manner by planing the bridges by hand instead of having pre-cut bridges pinned by machine. Bass strings are wound by hand instead of by machine. Hammers are hand-pressed without heat for a wider voicing range, and the hammer weights are carefully controlled for even touch. Hammer shanks are thinned along the bottom so that their stiffness is matched to the hammer mass. These procedures represent a level of detail relatively few manufacturers indulge in.

Each buyer of a Shigeru Kawai piano receives a visit within the first year by a Kawai master technician from the factory in Japan. These are the same factory technicians who do the final installation of actions in pianos, as well as the final voicing and regulation. According to those who have watched them work, these Japanese master technicians are amazingly skilled. Although few U.S. technicians are familiar with Shigeru Kawai pianos, those who are tend to rank them among the world's finest instruments. In addition, Shigeru Kawais have been chosen by the top prize-winners of a number of prestigious piano competitions.

Warranty: Kawai and Shigeru Kawai--10 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.

KEMBLE

Kemble & Company Ltd.
Mount Avenue
Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK1 1JE
United Kingdom
+44-1908-371771
+44-1908-270448 (fax)
brian.kemble@gmx.yamaha.com
www.kemble-pianos.co.uk

The Kemble family has been manufacturing pianos since 1911. In 1985 Kemble started making pianos for Yamaha for the European market, and in 1988 Yamaha bought a majority interest in the company and expanded and modernized the factory. Kemble is England's only, and Western Europe's largest, piano manufacturer. [As this book goes to press, Yamaha has just announced the closing of the Kemble factory. In the future, Kemble pianos will be made at one of Yamaha's facilities in Asia.]

 

FALL 2009 -- page 163

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