Some of the RX features are also found in the GM and GE pianos, but it varies by model. The GM-10K is the only Kawai grand made in Indonesia. It has Kawai's standard ABS action, no agraffes or duplex scaling, standard keytops, and a regular fallboard. The model GM-12, made in Japan, has the regular Millennium III action (without hammer-shank stabilizers), no agraffes or duplex scaling, standard keytops, and a slow-close fallboard. The GE models, also made in Japan, have the regular Millennium III action, agraffes, duplex scaling, Neotex keytops, and a slow-close fallboard.

Kawai's quality control is excellent, especially in its Japanese-made pianos. Major problems are rare, and other than normal maintenance, after-sale service is usually limited to fixing the occasional minor buzz or squeak. Kawai's warranty service is also excellent, and the warranty is transferable to future owners within the warranty period (a benefit that is not common these days). The tone of most Kawai pianos, in my opinion, is not as ideal for classical music as some more expensive instruments, but when expertly voiced, it is not far off, and in any case is quite versatile musically. In part because the touch is so good, Kawai grands are often sought by classical pianists as a less-expensive alternative to a Steinway or other high-end piano. Kawai dealers tend to be a little more aggressive about discounting than their competition (Yamaha). There is also a thriving market for used Kawais. (If you're considering buying a used Kawai, please read "Should I Buy a Used 'Gray Market' Yamaha or Kawai Piano?" on pages 176–177 of The Piano Book, or the shorter version in "Buying a Used or Restored Piano" in this publication.)

Kawai has invented an Acoustic Piano Recording System (PR-1) that allows one to create a CD of a piano performance right from the piano. It contains two specially designed microphones that attach easily to the piano, and a CD read/write player with built-in reverb and EQ that connects to any sound system. The system retails for $1,595.

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 200 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. Although few U.S. technicians are familiar with Shigeru Kawai pianos, those who are tend to rank them among the world's finest instruments. In addition, Shigeru Kawais have been chosen by the top prize-winners of a number of prestigious piano competitions.

Warranty: Kawai and Shigeru Kawai—10 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.

KEMBLE

Kemble & Company Ltd.
Mount Avenue
Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK1 1JE
United Kingdom
+44-1908-371771
+44-1908-270448 (fax)
brian.kemble@gmx.yamaha.com.
www.kemble-pianos.co.uk

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. The following description of the Kemble line, and the Kemble model and price information in the Model & Pricing Guide, are repeated from the Fall 2009 issue of Piano Buyer.

 

SPRING 2010 -- page 187

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