Pianos made by: Dongbei Piano Company, Ltd., Yingkou, Liaoning Province, China
Nordiska was a 100-year-old Swedish piano manufacturer that sold its designs, equipment, and technology to the Chinese company Dongbei when it went out of business in 1988 (for more information, see Dongbei). Dongbei pianos were sold in the U.S. under the Nordiska brand name until 2007, when distribution was discontinued.
Pianos made by: AXL Musical Instrument Co., Ltd. Corp., Shanghai, China
Although this company is new to the piano world, it is not new to music. For some time, AXL has been manufacturing a full range of musical instruments under its own name and under OEM agreements with other companies. The company says that its factory is very automated, employing CNC routers from Japan and Germany, and that it sources materials for its pianos from around the world.
Palatino makes about 7,000 pianos annually, in three categories: Classic, Professional, and Concert. Among the verticals, most models are in the Classic series; the Professional series consists only of the 48 1/2" model PUP-123TU-A/AR and the 50" model PUP-126TU, and the Concert series the 52" model PUP-132TU. The Classic series grands are the 4' 6" and 5' models, the Professional series the 5' 9" model, and the Concert series the 6' 2" model and larger. Features common to all three include solid spruce soundboard, maple grand rim, hard rock maple bridges and pinblock, Röslau strings, wet-sand-cast plate, Chinese-made Renner-style action, adjustable artist bench, slow-close fallboard, and solid brass hardware. In addition, the Professional and Concert series have higher-grade Canadian white spruce soundboards, agraffes throughout the scale (in the Professional series model 123 uprights), and Abel hammers (Professional series) or Renner hammers (Concert series). A full German-made Renner action is an option in the 6' 2" Concert series grand.
Based on personal observation and dealer reports, Palatino pianos appear to have good quality control and are prepared well at the factory before being shipped to dealers. Our own reviewer tested a couple of the grand models and found them to be very musical and a pleasure to play (see review in the Fall 2009 issue).
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.
Pianos made by: Guangzhou Pearl River Piano Group Ltd., Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China
Originally established in 1954 through the consolidation of several piano-making facilities, the Guangzhou Pearl River factory is now China's largest piano manufacturer and one of the largest in the world, with production of over 100,000 pianos annually by more than 4,000 workers. The government-owned company says the average length of service of its workers is 17 years. Pianos are made under the Pearl River and Ritmüller names, and under a few other names under OEM contracts with distributors, such as Henry F. Miller (with Sherman Clay) and Essex (with Steinway). (See separate listings under those names).
Over the past couple of years, Pearl River has revised and streamlined its model lineup with the assistance of Lothar Thomma, a well-respected German scale designer. Some new models have been introduced, and older models have been reviewed and modified. Currently, Pearl River verticals begin with the 42 1/2" console model 108 in continental style (no legs) and a style with legs and toe blocks, and with the 43" model 110 in a variety of American furniture styles. They continue with a series of studio models, including the 45" model 115 in a traditional institutional style (legs with toe blocks), and the 45" model 115E in a school-friendly institutional style. Finally, there are the upright models, including the newly designed 48" model EU122 and the 51 1/2" model 130, both in institutional style. Three additional newly designed vertical models — T1 (46"), T2 (47 1/2"), and T3 (48") — are available only by special order.
Pearl River grands come in seven sizes, from 4' 7" to 9', including the three newly designed models GP160 (5' 3"), GP170 (5' 7"), and GP188A (6' 2"). In addition, there is the unusual 6' 6" model 198 in "butterfly" style, with a U-shaped body, a clear acrylic lid that hinges in the middle, and other modern design features.