Ningbo Hailun began making piano parts and components in 1986 under the Ningbo Piano Parts Factory name, and began assembling entire pianos in 1995. Its assembly facility converted to a full-scale piano manufacturing facility in 2000. Today, the Hailun factory has over 400,000 square feet of production capacity and 800 employees. A 200,000-square-foot expansion project is underway to accommodate distribution in the U.S. market. Additionally, a new cabinet factory is now complete and began production in 2008. In addition to making pianos under the Hailun name, the company also makes the Wendl & Lung brand (now changing to the Feurich brand — see Feurich). Hailun also makes pianos or components under contract for several other manufacturers and distributors.
Currently, the Hailun line consists of eight vertical sizes (mostly larger uprights) and six grand sizes. In 2010, the company introduced the 52" model HU7 (formerly called PE 33), with a duplex scale, agraffes, and a steel capo bar for, the company says, a "lush and powerful sound in the American tradition"; and a 51" model HU3 (formerly called K 5), "which reflects a brighter, more ‘European,' sound philosophy." Both have a middle pedal that operates a true sostenuto mechanism.
Hailun is in the process of introducing several new grand and vertical models it calls the Vienna Series. Available only through select Hailun dealers known as Hailun Vienna Merchants, these instruments are intended to address the need of customers for an exacting, quality instrument that "reflects the European tradition of piano building" at a more favorable price, and to "create a warm tonal experience in the tradition of the Viennese sound." To that end, the pianos use soundboard wood sourced from the North Austrian Alps, and the grands are designed with a wide tail, vertically laminated maple bridges, and a slightly firmer touch and faster action speed. The vertical has a duplex scale, agraffes, a full-perimeter plate, and an enhanced soundboard design. Each purchaser of a Vienna Series piano may, within 18 months of purchase, request that a special highly qualified technician, known as a Vienna Concert Technician, spend a full day of concert-level regulation and voicing on the piano at the customer's home.
During 2011, Hailun will be introducing a slow-close piano lid in all its grand piano models. Graphically named the Hailun Limb Protection System (HLPS), this is a version of the Safety-Ease retrofit system, described elsewhere in this publication, built into the piano at the factory. HLPS allows even a child to easily lift the otherwise heavy lid of a grand piano without danger, and prevents a falling lid from crashing down onto arms and hands. Hailun has exclusive rights to use this system in the manufacture of new pianos.
Hailun is a little different from most of the other Chinese companies selling pianos in the U.S.: Its founder and owner, Chen Hailun, is an entrepreneur in the Western style, and deeply involved in every aspect of the business. Originally a maker of molds for industrial use, Chen got into the piano business when piano manufacturers started to use his services to make piano parts. In 1998 he bought out the government's position in his company to better control quality and hiring decisions.
While modern manufacturing methods are fully utilized, the factory also uses a large amount of skilled manual labor. Chen seeks out the best workers by paying considerably higher wages than other piano makers in China, he says, and provides an in-depth training program for his workers, conducted by piano builders and technicians from the U.S. and Europe. He also assists in the training of future piano technicians through an association with a local university. His greatest aspiration, Chen says, is to make the best piano in Asia.
Over the years, much of Chen's technical efforts have gone into maximizing the precision and stability of the pianos and parts his company makes. This is evidenced by the substantial investment in computer-controlled machinery used for precision cutting; the design of keys, keybeds, and other parts to resist warping; and the fact that grand piano actions are actually interchangeable between instruments of the same model (this requires an unusually high level of precision). The pianos themselves exhibit good quality control and intelligence in design. In terms of materials, the company uses maple in grand piano rims, a feature indicative of higher quality and arguably necessary for the best sound. In 2011, the company began sourcing its own supply of the highest-quality Austrian spruce, and plans to make its own soundboards with this spruce for select piano models. Piano Buyer's reviewers have tried out several Hailun grands (see reviews in the Fall 2009 and Fall 2010 issues, and in the current issue) and have been impressed with their musicality.
To help it reach the highest quality standards, Hailun has also hired an impressive group of experts from Japan (Ema Shigeru), Europe (Stephen Paulello, Claire Trichet, Sibin Zlatkovic, Peter Veletzky), and the U.S. (Frank Emerson). In 2009, to oversee and assist with quality control, Hailun hired Rolf Ibach, owner of Rud. Ibach Sohn, one of the oldest and most reputable European piano companies, which closed its doors in 2008 after more than 200 years in business.
Hailun USA has initiated several support programs designed to increase the speed at which service requests are handled, and to measure customer satisfaction. It has also introduced the Hailun Dream Assurance Program, in which the company guarantees, subject to certain limitations, that the sound of any purchased Hailun piano will be to the customer's liking or, within 60 days of purchase, the company will exchange the piano for another of the same model.
Warranty: 15 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period; except for action parts, cast-iron plate, and metal case hardware, which are warranted for the lifetime of the original purchaser. See also the Dream Assurance Program, described above.