The uprights are the very popular 48" model U1, the 48" model T121 in a less-expensive cabinet (otherwise the same), and the 52" model U3. Models U1 and U3 now sport a longer music desk--a very welcome addition. Model U3 joins model U5 (now available only as a Super U model--see below) in the use of a "floating" soundboard--the soundboard is not completely attached to the back at the top, allowing it to vibrate a little more freely to enhance tonal performance. A new Super U series of uprights (YUS1, YUS3, and YUS5) have different hammers and get additional tuning and voicing at the factory, including voicing by machine to create a more consistent, more mellow tone. Model YUS5 uses German Röslau music wire instead of Yamaha wire, also for a mellower tone. This top-of-the-line 52" upright also has agraffes, duplex scaling, and a sostenuto pedal (all other Yamaha verticals have a practice/mute pedal). The uprights are made in Japan.

Yamaha vertical pianos are very well made for a mass-produced piano. The taller uprights in particular are considered a "dream" to service by technicians, and are very much enjoyed by musicians. Sometimes the pianos can sound quite bright, though much less so now than in previous years. The current version of the model P22 school studio is said to have been redesigned to sound less bright and have an improved spectrum of tonal color. Double-striking of the hammer in the low tenor on a soft or incomplete stroke of the key is a problem occasionally mentioned in regard to Yamaha verticals by those who play with an especially soft touch. This tendency is a characteristic of the action design, the tradeoff being better-than-normal repetition for a vertical piano. It's possible that a technician can lessen this problem if necessary with careful adjustment, but at the risk of sacrificing some speed of repetition.

Yamaha grands come in four levels of sophistication and size. The Classic Collection consists of the 4' 11" model GB1K, the 5' 3" model GC1M, and the 5' 8 model GC2 (new this year). The GB1K has simplified case construction and cabinetry, no duplex scale, and the middle pedal operates a bass-sustain mechanism. It does have a soft-close fallboard. It is currently the only Yamaha grand sold in the U.S. that is made in Indonesia. The GC1M and GC2 have regular case construction, duplex scale, soft-close fallboards, and sostenuto pedal (the sostenuto was restored this year to the GC1, which was then renamed the GC1M), making them in most respects just like the models C1 and C2 (see below).

The Conservatory Collection consists of the 5' 3" model C1, the 5' 8" model C2, the 6' 1" model C3, and the 6' 7" model C5. The Conservatory Concert Collection comprises the 6' 11" model C6 and the 7' 6" model C7. Both collections have the advanced construction, scaling, and cabinetry mentioned above, including a true sostenuto pedal and a soft-close fallboard. Both now have vertically laminated bridges with maple or boxwood cap. The vertically laminated design is similar to that found in Steinways and other fine pianos, and is considered to give the bridges greater strength and resistance to cracking and better transmission of vibrational energy. The larger grands also have keytops of Ivorite(TM), Yamaha's ivory alternative.

Finally, the Handcrafted Concert Collection consists of the 9' model CFIIIS concert grand and the two S-series Yamahas: the 6' 3" model S4B and 6' 11" model S6B. The pianos in this collection are made in a separate factory to much higher standards and with some different materials. For example, they use maple and mahogany in the rim, which has recently been made more rigid for greater tonal power; higher-grade soundboard material; a treble "bell" (as in the larger Steinways) to enhance the treble tone; German strings, and recent hammer and scaling changes, for a more mellow tone; as well as the more advanced features of the other collections. The result is an instrument capable of greater dynamic range, tonal color, and sustain than the regular Yamahas. The CFIIIS concert grand made in this factory is endorsed and used by a number of notable musicians, including Michael Tilson Thomas, Chick Corea, and Elton John.

Other than the special grands just described, historically Yamaha grands have been a little on the percussive side and have been said not to "sing" as well as some more expensive pianos. The tone has been very clear and often bright, especially in the smaller grands, although the excessive brightness that once characterized Yamahas seems to be a thing of the past. The clarity and percussiveness are very attractive, but are sometimes said to be less well suited for classical music, which tends to require a singing tone and lush harmonic color. On the other hand, Yamaha is the piano of choice for jazz and popular music, which may value clarity and brightness more than the other qualities mentioned. More recently, however, Yamaha has been trying to move away from this image of a "bright" piano whose sound is limited to jazz. First with the larger grands, and more recently with the smaller ones, Yamaha has changed bridge construction and hammer density, and provided more custom voicing at the factory, to bring out a broader spectrum of tonal color in its pianos.

 

FALL 2009 -- page 185

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