Kemble makes verticals from 43" to 52" and a 5' 8" grand. The quality of the materials used in the Kemble is at least comparable to that in the Yamaha pianos Kemble makes, and sometimes higher. The soundboard of the Kemble is of German spruce, which the company says gives it more of a European tone. The cabinets tend to be much fancier than Yamaha's, with some very interesting and beautiful designer models and finishes. For example, the 48" Shaker-inspired designer upright, Vermont, was designed by the famous British designers Conran and Partners. The Empire and Prestige models have beautiful inlaid panels of mahogany curl and burr yew, respectively. There are also a 45" model, Classic-T, available in black and chrome or in a delicious chocolate color called Mocha Oak; a 49" Conservatoire upright with softline design (rounded edges and profile) and brass inlay; and a limited-edition (250) Mozart model celebrating the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth. A new 52" model K132SN with sostenuto pedal was introduced in 2007. The 48" K121CL is also available with the new SG silent system from Yamaha which has 19 different voices, and can record and play back through the built-in digital piano. In 2009 Kemble issued a special-edition Chopin model to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth. This 48" vertical featured hand-spun bass strings by Bösendorfer, higher-specification hammers and soundboard, and aesthetic features such as marquetry inlays and solid brass accents.

The 5' 8" model KC173 grand is essentially like the Yamaha model C2 grand, with design differences such as plate color and music-desk shape. It is also voiced to Kemble's specs, sounding to me more "European," i.e., a bass with less-pronounced high overtones.

Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.


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.

The Kimball Classic Collection consists of the 5' 1" model K1 and 6' 2" model K3 grands, and the 44" model K44 vertical. The K44 is an American furniture console with hand-rubbed lacquer finish in cherry or oak. Parts and components for these models are being sourced primarily from China and Europe. They include a rim made of maple and oak (grands); full-length back posts (vertical); bridges planed and notched by hand in the traditional manner; a wet-sand cast plate; Langer keys, action, and hammers; Röslau strings; Delignit pinblock; and a solid spruce soundboard.

The Kimball Artist Collection includes the 5' 8" model A2 grand and the 49" model A49 vertical. The company says that the Artist Collection embodies its commitment to producing high-quality performance pianos by paying great attention to the design of the scale, soundboard, and action, and to proper execution and attention to details. High-end components, primarily from Germany, include a rim of European beech (grand), Renner action (grand), Strunz premium solid spruce soundboard and ribs, Delignit pinblock, Röslau strings, Klinke agraffes, and Abel hammers. The vertical has full-length spruce back posts and a Langer action; cabinets are from China.

In the U.S., Kimball is doing final assembly and detailing of the instruments, with a major focus on proper action, hammer, and key installation to ensure superb playability. At its factory in Chicago, Kimball now has a showroom where, by appointment, both individual customers and dealers are welcome to see and play the new pianos.

Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.


SPRING 2010 -- page 188

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