Within each grade of piano, the distinctions between one group or subgroup and the next can be quite subtle, so don't get hung up on small differences. Furthermore, the preparation of the piano by the dealer can be far more important to the quality of the product you receive than some of the distinctions listed in the chart.
Prices shown for each group are the approximate lowest and highest typical selling prices of new pianos in the least expensive style and finish.
Group 1 pianos, and most of those in "Group 2: High Quality," are for those buyers who want the best and can afford it. The companies that make them use the very best materials, and their manufacturing processes emphasize much hand labor and refinement of details. These companies' painstaking execution of advanced designs puts considerations of quality far ahead of cost and volume of production. These instruments are suitable for the most advanced and demanding professional and artistic uses.
It was easier to arrive at a consensus about Group 1 brands than about any other group in this rating system. So celebrated are the brands in this group that dealers eagerly nominated even their competitors for the list. These pianos have everything, and the attention to detail paid in their manufacture can only be called fanatical. (Note that pianos made by Steinway & Sons/Hamburg are not routinely available in North America; I include the brand here for informational purposes only.)
The pianos in Group 2 are also fabulous, but are in second place here either because their workmanship is not quite as refined as the first group, or because their musical designs are considered slightly less desirable, or perhaps because their names have not yet earned as much prestige value as those in Group 1. However, preferences among performance-grade pianos are greatly dependent on musical taste, and most of the brands in Group 2 have their devoted followings.
Most knowledgeable observers of the piano business would consider the list of brands in Group 2 to span quite a range of quality within the rarefied air of high-end pianos, and would insist that Group 2 be divided into two or more subgroups. The problem is that I found an utter lack of agreement among my many contacts as to which brands each subgroup should contain. Furthermore, the relative ranking of these brands is one of the most hotly debated topics among piano aficionados. Rather than arbitrarily impose my own preferences, I have chosen to leave the group undivided. Since this chart is primarily intended for newcomers to the piano market, any further division of this group would be academic.
FALL 2009 -- page 44
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Hybrid & Player Pianos