Hyundai Development Company purchased Young Chang in 2006 and is in the process of reestablishing Young Chang's presence in North America. Hyundai Development is a Korean civil-engineering and construction company that helped create Hyundai Motor Company. The company says that Hyundai Development has brought the necessary capital for factory renovations and has instituted new quality-control systems on a par with those in automobile manufacturing. Young Chang also owns Kurzweil Music Systems, a manufacturer of professional keyboards and digital pianos.

In 1995 Young Chang employed the services of Joseph Pramberger, a highly respected piano-design engineer who had spent much of his professional career as an engineer and manufacturing executive at Steinway & Sons, to evaluate its piano designs and make improvements. The pianos that resulted from this process were known as the Pramberger Signature Series. The company also produced a completely new line of premium pianos designed by Pramberger with maple inner rim (grands), upgraded hammers and soundboard material, Renner action parts (grands), and exotic veneers. These were called the Pramberger Platinum Series, and their fallboards read "Pramberger" instead of Young Chang.

After Mr. Pramberger died, in 2003, his estate terminated its relationship with Young Chang and signed up with Samick. Samick now uses the Pramberger name on a completely different piano design (see Samick). Young Chang owns and continues to use the original Pramberger designs. The Pramberger Signature Series is now called the Young Chang Professional Artist Series (PG), and the Pramberger Platinum Series is now called the Young Chang Platinum Edition (YP). The PG and YP lines are made in Korea. Pianos made in Young Chang's factory in Tianjin, China, are made to Young Chang's original specifications (known as the Gold or Traditional series) and are priced lower than the Korean-made pianos. For many years they bore the name Bergmann, a name Young Chang is now phasing out.

Following the demise of the Samsung-owned Weber Piano Company, Young Chang reacquired the Weber name and brought out a line of Weber pianos patterned after existing Young Chang pianos and the former Pramberger line. The Weber Legend series, made in the Tianjin factory, is like the Young Chang pianos manufactured there. The Sovereign series is similar to the Young Chang Professional Artist series, and the Albert Weber series is comparable to the Young Chang Platinum Edition.

To summarize the major technical differences between the three levels of Young Chang and Weber pianos: The Young Chang Platinum and Albert Weber grands have maple rims and Renner actions, and higher-quality hammer felt, soundboard material, and veneers (on wood-veneer models). The other levels of Young Chang and Weber grands have lauan rims and Young Chang actions. The difference between the Young Chang Professional and Weber Sovereign grands on the one hand, and Young Chang Traditional and Weber Legend grands on the other, is more in the sophistication of the instruments' designs than in the material specifications. With the verticals, the differences between the three lines are much smaller than with the grands, though the Young Chang Platinum and Albert Weber verticals do use slightly better materials than the others for the cabinets, hardware, music wire, and keys.

Quality control in Young Chang's Korean factory has improved little by little over the years, and is now nearly as good as that in Japan. Most of the problems are minor ones that can be cured by a good dealer make-ready and a little follow-up service, and the pianos hold up well in the field, even in institutions. The tone of Young Chang pianos used to be bright and sterile, but Joseph Pramberger changed that, introducing some tonal color and sustain into the pianos he designed. The medium-level pianos are still not exactly what I would call "warm," but with some voicing they can definitely be made reasonably musical. The Platinum Edition and Albert Weber pianos have greater musical potential and respond well to expert voicing. Pianos from the factory in China, like other pianos from that country, have been uneven in quality, but have greatly improved. Young Chang says that Hyundai Development has upgraded the factories in both countries and that the pianos made at the Tianjin factory are now on a par with those made in Korea.

Young Chang also makes Essex pianos under contract with Steinway for sale by Steinway dealers. (See Essex for more information.)

Warranty: Young Chang Platinum Edition--15 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners. Young Chang Professional Artist series--15 years, parts and labor, to original owner. Young Chang Gold/Traditional series--10 years, parts and labor, to original owner. Parts are further warranted for the lifetime of original owner.  ¤


FALL 2009 -- page 187

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