Among European piano manufacturers, Schimmel has been a pioneer in the use of computer-aided design and manufacturing. The company has used its Computer Assisted Piano Engineering (CAPE) software to research, design, and implement virtually every aspect of making a piano, from keyboard layout and action geometry to soundboard acoustics and scale design. According to Schimmel, the combination of CNC machinery and handcraftsmanship leads to better results than handwork alone. Schimmel also believes that precision is aided by controlling as much of the production process as possible. For that reason, Schimmel produces its own piano-cabinet components and its own keyboards, which it also supplies to other German piano makers.
Over the last few years, Schimmel has reorganized its model lineup into two categories: Schimmel Konzert (models beginning with K) and Schimmel Classic (models beginning with C). The Konzert series consists of some of the newer and larger vertical models, and the six most recently designed and advanced grand models. The company says that the purpose of the Konzert series was to expand the Schimmel line upward to a higher level of quality than it had previously attained, in order to compete with other brands of the highest quality. The Classic series consists of the rest of the verticals, the 6' model 182 grand, and the 6' 10" model 208 grand. This series represents models that have been tested over time and are solid, traditional, high-quality instruments, but without the latest refinements.
The Konzert series uprights — 48" model K122, 49" model K125, and 52" model K132 — are based on a more sophisticated philosophy of construction than the Classics. These models also incorporate triplex scaling and other advanced design features. Schimmel's philosophy for these uprights was to design them to be as much like the grands as possible. The treble scales, in fact, are exactly the same as in the Konzert grands.
The Konzert grands consist of two model groups. The Trilogy I group consists of the 7' 6", 8' 4", and 9' 2" semi-concert and concert grand models. In this group, all three models have the same keyboard and action as the concert grand. In the Trilogy II group, Schimmel has married the front-end (keyboard) of its 7' grand to two smaller models: 5' 7" and 6' 3". The smaller models have the same treble scale, keyboard, and action as the 7' grand, so all three have a similar sound and touch. On all Konzert grand models, the case sides are angled slightly to obtain a larger soundboard, and all have tunable front and rear duplex scales for greater tonal color, real ebony sharps, and mineral white keytops to mimic the feel of ivory, among other advanced features. The largest grands have reinforced keys for optimal energy transmission.
The 6' 3" model K189 and 7' model K213 are currently available in a Nikolaus W. Schimmel (NWS) model. Built to commemorate the retirement of the elder Nikolaus Schimmel, this model has many small technical and cosmetic refinements, uses top-quality soundboard material, and receives greater final preparation at the factory to create a really superior instrument.
Schimmel grand pianos have historically had a tone that was very bright and clear, but a bit thin and lacking in color in the treble. The grands were redesigned, in part, to add additional color to the tone, and the result is definitely more interesting than before. Sustain is also very good. The pianos are being delivered to U.S. dealers voiced less bright than previously, as this is what the American ear tends to prefer. As for the verticals, the smaller ones tend to have a very big bass for their size, with a tone that emphasizes the fundamental, giving the bass a warmer character. The 52" model K132, which features a grand-shaped soundboard, has a very big sound; listening to it, one might think one was in the presence of a grand.
In 2002, Schimmel acquired the PianoEurope factory in Kalisz, Poland, a piano restoration and manufacturing facility. Schimmel is using this factory to manufacture its Vogel brand, a moderately priced line named after the company's president. Schimmel says that although the skill level of the employees is high, lower wages and other lower costs result in a piano approximately 30 percent less costly than the Schimmel. Vogel grand pianos feature full Renner actions, with other parts mainly made by Schimmel in Braunschweig or by the Kalisz factory. The Vogel pianos, though designed by Schimmel, don't have all the refinements and advanced features of the latest Schimmel models. Nevertheless, the Vogels have received praise from many quarters for their high-quality workmanship and sound.
Schimmel now imports an entry-level series of pianos from China under the name May Berlin. The pianos are made by a selected, but unspecified, supplier. The company says it sends soundboard wood and hammer felt for grand pianos to the factory in China. When completed, the pianos are inspected in the factory by a top Schimmel technician who travels to China every few weeks.
Warranty: Schimmel, Vogel, May Berlin — 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.