The Shigeru Kawai line of grands represents Kawai's ultimate effort to produce a world-class piano. Named after Kawai's former chairman (and son of company founder Koichi Kawai), the limited-edition (fewer than 300 per year) Shigeru Kawai grands are made at the separate facility where Kawai's EX concert grands are built.
Although based on the Kawai RX designs, the Shigeru Kawai models are "hand made" in the extreme. Very high-grade soundboard spruce is air-dried for multiple years, then planed by hand by a worker who knocks on the wood and listens for the optimum tonal response. Ribs are also hand-planed for correct stiffness. String bearing is set in the traditional manner by planing the bridges by hand instead of having pre-cut bridges pinned by machine. Bass strings are wound by hand instead of by machine. Hammers are hand-pressed without heat for a wider voicing range, and the hammer weights are carefully controlled for even touch. Hammer shanks are thinned along the bottom so that their stiffness is matched to the hammer mass. These procedures represent a level of detail relatively few manufacturers indulge in.
Each buyer of a Shigeru Kawai piano receives a visit within the first year by a Kawai master technician from the factory in Japan. These are the same factory technicians who do the final installation of actions in pianos, as well as the final voicing and regulation. According to those who have watched them work, these Japanese master technicians are amazingly skilled. Because the Shigeru Kawai pianos have been on the market only ten years and in very limited quantities, many piano technicians have yet to service one. Those who have, however, tend to rank them among the world's finest instruments, and Shigeru Kawai pianos are often chosen by pianists participating in international piano competitions.
Warranty: Kawai and Shigeru Kawai — 10 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.
Yamaha Corporation of America
P.O. Box 6600
Buena Park, California 90622
Pianos no longer distributed in U.S.
The Kemble family has been manufacturing pianos since 1911. In 1985 Kemble started making pianos for Yamaha for the European market, and in 1988 Yamaha bought a majority interest in the company and expanded and modernized the factory. In 2009, Yamaha closed the Kemble factory and transferred manufacturing of Kemble pianos to Yamaha plants in Indonesia and Japan. Until its closing, Kemble was England's only, and Western Europe's largest, piano manufacturer. Kemble says that its pianos will continue to be made in the same models and designs, using the same components, and to the same quality standards, as before. However, they will no longer be marketed in North America. Kemble dealers in the U.S. will continue to sell off their remaining inventory, and Yamaha Japan will continue to stand behind the Kemble warranty. For a description of the Kemble line, and for Kemble model and price information, see the Fall 2009 or Spring 2010 issue of Piano Buyer.
Kimball Piano USA, Inc.
1819 North Major Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60639
Kimball, a name with a long history in the piano world (see The Piano Book for details), is now being produced by Kimball Piano USA, Inc., which acquired the rights to the Kimball name in 2005. Kimball International, which previously owned the Kimball brand and produced Kimball pianos from 1959 to 1996, was primarily a furniture maker that mass-produced a very average piano.
In contrast, Kimball is now controlled by a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) who has returned Kimball to its historical roots in Chicago and says he is placing the company's focus on the musical instrument and on technical details of American piano design and construction. The result of this focus is two new collections of Kimball pianos: Classic and Artist.