Pianos made by: Thüringer Pianoforte GmbH, Eisenberg, Germany
This company, formerly known as Wilhelm Steinberg Pianofortefabrik, was formed by the merger of several East German piano companies following the reunification of Germany. These companies collectively trace their origins back to 1877. Steinberg also makes cabinets for other German piano makers, and makes several European piano brands under OEM agreement. The company also specializes in custom cabinets and finishes. Piano production is about 900 verticals and 50 grands per year.
Steinberg makes four models of vertical piano (46", 48", 48 1/2", and 51") and two sizes of grand (5' 8" and 6' 4") in its IQ series. These high-quality pianos have beech rims with spruce bracing (grands), solid Bavarian spruce soundboards, maple bridges with maple cap, Renner actions and hammers, and Kluge keys, and are entirely made in Germany.
The company says it plans to introduce two levels of less-expensive piano models. With the IQ as Level 1, the Level 2 pianos would be largely made in China from mostly German parts, then extensively refined and adjusted at the Wilh. Steinberg factory in Germany before being shipped to dealers. Level 3 pianos would be entirely made in China, though with many German parts.
Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
Bayreuth is famous the world over for its annual summer Wagner festival. But tucked away in the old part of town is a second center of Bayreuth musical excellence and one of the piano world's best-kept secrets: Steingraeber & Söhne. Founded in Bayreuth in 1852, and in its present factory since 1872, Steingraeber is one of the smaller piano manufacturers in the world, producing fewer than 80 grands and 60 verticals per year for the top end of the market. It is owned and operated by sixth-generation family member Udo Steingraeber, who still makes pianos using the traditional methods of his forebears.
Steingraeber makes three sizes of vertical piano: 48", 51", and 54". An interesting option on the vertical pianos is their "twist and change" panels: two-sided top and bottom panels, one side finished in polished ebony, the other in a two-toned combination of a wood veneer and ebony. The panels can be reversed as desired by the piano owner to match room décor, or just for a change of scenery.
The company also makes four sizes of grand piano—5' 7", 7', 7' 7", and 8' 11". The 5' 7" model A-170 grand (formerly model 168) has an unusually wide tail, allowing for a larger soundboard area and longer bass strings than are customary for an instrument of its size. The 7' model C-212, known as the Chamber Concert Grand, and redesigned this year from the model 205, was intended to embody the tone quality of the Steingraeber Liszt grand piano of circa 1873, but with more volume to the bass register. The 8' 11" model E-272 concert grand was introduced in 2002 for Steingraeber's 150th anniversary. Unique features include a drilled capo bar for more sustain in the treble, unusually shaped rim bracing, and a smaller soundboard resonating area in the treble to better match string length. In 2007 Steingraeber introduced a new 7' 7" D-232 concert grand to provide an additional smaller, concert-size instrument. Its design features many of the innovations of the E-272. I recently experienced the new 7' 7" grand, and it is phenomenal!
Steingraeber pianos have a unique sound, with an extensive tonal palette derived from a mixture of clarity and warmth.
Steingraeber is known for its many innovative technical improvements to the piano. One new one is a cylindrical, revolving knuckle (grand piano action part). It acts like a normal knuckle until the hammer reaches the let-off position. After that point, in soft playing, the knuckle revolves, reducing friction and making pianissimo playing easier, smoother, and more accurate. Another innovation is a new action for upright pianos. This SFM action, as it is called, contains no jack spring, instead using magnets to return the jack more quickly under the hammer butt for faster repetition. It is available in all three models of vertical piano. Steingraeber also specializes in so-called ecological or biological finishes, available as an option on most models. This involves the use of only organic materials in the piano, such as natural paints and glues in the case, and white keytops made from cattle bone.
In addition to its regular line of pianos, Steingraeber makes a piano that can be used by physically handicapped players who lack the use of their legs for pedaling. A wireless (bluetooth) pedal actuator in the form of a denture is actuated by biting on the denture.
The Steingraeber engineering department has designed and manufactured prototypes of new piano models for a number of other European piano manufacturers. These designs are not the same as Steingraeber's own current models.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
Pianos made by: Steingraeber & Söhne, Bayreuth, Germany
Steingraeber's most innovative technical improvement is the Steingraeber Phoenix system, introduced in 2008. Phoenix, initially developed by U.K. engineer Richard Dains and further developed by Steingraeber and used under license, is a system of tonal transmission that includes a soundboard made of a sheet of carbon fiber, and bridge agraffes that hold the strings to the bridge without compressing the soundboard. With the soundboard free of compression, and given the low-density, low-mass nature of the carbon fiber and its resistance to absorbing energy, a great amount of sound energy is conserved—so much that pianos outfitted with this system sound in certain respects like much larger instruments, with both increased sustain and greater volume of sound. A side benefit of the carbon fiber soundboard is that it is resistant to humidity changes, so the piano needs tuning much less often.
The bridge agraffes are quite complex in construction and completely unlike the simple ones sometimes used, with mixed success, in unusual pianos of the past. They provide very efficient transmission of tonal energy from the string to the bridge, with little downward pressure on the soundboard. To minimize downbearing, the precise setting of downbearing is aided by vertical, adjustable hitch pins. One challenge to the development of the Phoenix system has been the much greater production of higher harmonics once the impediments to sound transmission are removed. These harmonics are moderated by voicing.
All Phoenix-system pianos are equipped with a revolutionary new soft pedal that operates both an una corda (shift) mechanism, and a mechanism that allows for hammer blow-distance reduction, for different types of volume-reduction effects.
Steingraeber is now making the Phoenix system available by special order in each of its grand piano models. Both the carbon fiber soundboard (without the bridge agraffes), and the new soft pedal, are also available as options on regular Steingraeber models.
More information about the Phoenix system can be found at www.hurstwoodfarmpianos.co.uk, as well as on the Steingraeber website.
Steinway & Sons
One Steinway Place
Long Island City, New York 11105
Heinrich Engelhardt Steinweg, a cabinetmaker and piano maker from Seesen, Germany, emigrated with his family to the United States in 1850, and established Steinway & Sons in 1853. Within a relatively short time, the Steinways were granted patents that revolutionized the piano, and which were eventually adopted or imitated by other makers. Many of these patents concerned the quest for a stronger frame, a richer, more powerful sound, and a more sensitive action. By the 1880s, the Steinway piano was in most ways the modern piano we have today, and in the next generation the standards set by the founder were strictly adhered to. (The early history of Steinway & Sons is fascinating, and is intimately connected to the history of New York City and the piano industry in general. You can read a summary of it in The Piano Book; there are also several excellent books devoted to the subject.)
SPRING 2010 -- page 202
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Hybrid & Player Pianos
New-Piano Buyers’ Reference