STEINGRAEBER & SÖHNE
Bayreuth is famous the world over for its annual summer Wagner festival. But tucked away in the old part of town is a second center of Bayreuth musical excellence and one of the piano world's best-kept secrets: Steingraeber & Söhne. Founded in Bayreuth in 1852, and in its present factory since 1872, Steingraeber is one of the smaller piano manufacturers in the world, producing fewer than 80 grands and 60 verticals per year for the top end of the market. It is owned and operated by sixth-generation family member Udo Steingraeber, who still makes pianos using the traditional methods of his forebears.
Steingraeber makes three sizes of vertical piano: 48", 51", and 54". An interesting option on the vertical pianos is their "twist and change" panels: two-sided top and bottom panels, one side finished in polished ebony, the other in a two-toned combination of a wood veneer and ebony. The panels can be reversed as desired by the piano owner to match room décor, or just for a change of scenery.
The company also makes four sizes of grand piano — 5' 7", 7', 7' 7", and 8' 11". The 5' 7" model A-170 grand (formerly model 168) has an unusually wide tail, allowing for a larger soundboard area and longer bass strings than are customary for an instrument of its size. The 7' model C-212, known as the Chamber Concert Grand, and redesigned this year from the model 205, was intended to embody the tone quality of the Steingraeber Liszt grand piano of circa 1873, but with more volume to the bass register. The 8' 11" model E-272 concert grand was introduced in 2002 for Steingraeber's 150th anniversary. Unique features include a drilled capo bar for more sustain in the treble, unusually shaped rim bracing, and a smaller soundboard resonating area in the treble to better match string length. In 2007 Steingraeber introduced a new 7' 7" D-232 concert grand to provide an additional smaller, concert-size instrument. Its design features many of the innovations of the E-272. I recently experienced the new 7' 7" grand, and it is phenomenal!
Steingraeber pianos have a unique sound, with an extensive tonal palette derived from a mixture of clarity and warmth.
Steingraeber is known for its many innovative technical improvements to the piano. One new one is a cylindrical, revolving knuckle (grand piano action part). It acts like a normal knuckle until the hammer reaches the let-off position. After that point, in soft playing, the knuckle revolves, reducing friction and making pianissimo playing easier, smoother, and more accurate. Another innovation is a new action for upright pianos. This SFM action, as it is called, contains no jack spring, instead using magnets to return the jack more quickly under the hammer butt for faster repetition. It is available in all three models of vertical piano. Steingraeber also specializes in so-called ecological or biological finishes, available as an option on most models. This involves the use of only organic materials in the piano, such as natural paints and glues in the case, and white keytops made from cattle bone.
In addition to its regular line of pianos, Steingraeber makes a piano that can be used by physically handicapped players who lack the use of their legs for pedaling. A wireless (bluetooth) pedal actuator in the form of a denture is actuated by biting on the denture.
The Steingraeber engineering department has designed and manufactured prototypes of new piano models for a number of other European piano manufacturers. These designs are not the same as Steingraeber's own current models.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
Steingraeber Phoenix System Pianos
Pianos made by: Steingraeber & Söhne, Bayreuth, Germany
Steingraeber's most innovative technical improvement is the Steingraeber Phoenix system, introduced in 2008. Phoenix, initially developed by U.K. engineer Richard Dains and further developed by Steingraeber and used under license, is a system of tonal transmission that includes a soundboard made of a sheet of carbon fiber, and bridge agraffes that hold the strings to the bridge without compressing the soundboard. With the soundboard free of compression, and given the low-density, low-mass nature of the carbon fiber and its resistance to absorbing energy, a great amount of sound energy is conserved — so much that pianos outfitted with this system sound in certain respects like much larger instruments, with both increased sustain and greater volume of sound. A side benefit of the carbon fiber soundboard is that it is resistant to humidity changes, so the piano needs tuning much less often.