The basic musical design of Mason & Hamlin pianos is very good, as is most of the workmanship. As with other American-made pianos, musical and cabinet detailing, such as factory voicing and regulation and plate and cabinet cosmetics, are reasonable but lag somewhat behind the company's European competitors in finesse. The company says it is standard procedure for final voicing and regulation to be finished off by thorough and competent dealer prep. Dealers report that, like those of its competitor, Steinway, pianos made by Mason & Hamlin require a substantial but not unreasonable amount of preparation by the dealer.
In recent years many companies have turned to China and other international sources for parts and materials, for several reasons: a domestic source is no longer available, to save money, to increase the security of supply, and, in some cases, to increase quality. Among makers of high-end pianos, Mason & Hamlin has been pioneering in this regard, though it is not the only company to do so. The company's worldwide sourcing of parts and materials, along with its investment in modernized equipment, has made the Mason & Hamlin a better instrument while keeping the piano's price at a reasonable level. It's a very good value among high-end instruments.
Warranty: 12 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period; except lifetime, nontransferable warranty on case and action parts.
MAY BERLIN — See Schimmel.
MILLER, HENRY F.
Henry F. Miller
236 West Portal Avenue #568
San Francisco, California 94127
Henry F. Miller was the name of an old American piano maker, established in 1863 near Boston, which eventually became part of the Aeolian Corporation, and was discontinued in 1985. The name is now owned by the Sherman Clay chain of piano stores and is used on a mid-priced line of pianos carried by these and other major piano retailers around the country. Current Henry F. Miller pianos are made by Pearl River in China. The product line consists of five vertical models from 44" to 52" and four grand models from 4' 10" to 6' 2".
Pianos made by: AXL Musical Instrument Co., Ltd. Corp., Shanghai, China
Although this company is new to the piano world, it is not new to music. For some time, AXL has been manufacturing a full range of musical instruments under its own name and under OEM agreements with other companies. The company says that its factory is very automated, employing CNC routers from Japan and Germany, and that it sources materials for its pianos from around the world.
Palatino makes about 7,000 pianos annually, in two categories: Classic and Professional. The Professional series consists of the 50" vertical model PUP-126TU and the 5' 9" grand model PGD-59; all other models are in the Classic series. Features common to all include solid spruce soundboard, maple grand rim, hard rock maple bridges and pinblock, Röslau strings, wet-sand-cast plate, Chinese-made Renner-style action, adjustable artist bench, slow-close fallboard, and solid brass hardware. In addition, the Professional series instruments have higher-grade Canadian white spruce soundboards and Abel hammers.
Based on personal observation and dealer reports, Palatino pianos appear to have good quality control and are prepared well at the factory before being shipped to dealers. Our own reviewer tested a couple of the grand models and found them to be very musical and a pleasure to play (see review in the Fall 2009 issue).
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.
Pianos made by: Guangzhou Pearl River Piano Group Ltd., Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China
Originally established in 1954 through the consolidation of several piano-making facilities, the Guangzhou Pearl River factory is now China's largest piano manufacturer and one of the largest in the world, with production of over 100,000 pianos annually by more than 4,000 workers. The government-owned company says the average length of service of its workers is 17 years. Pianos are made under the Pearl River and Ritmüller names, and under a few other names under OEM contracts with distributors, such as Henry F. Miller (with Sherman Clay) and Essex (with Steinway). (See separate listings under those names).