In 2004, Young Chang's Korean rival Samick acquired a controlling interest in the company and began to consolidate the two companies' administrative and distribution functions in North America. A few months later, however, the Korean Fair Trade Commission ruled that the purchase violated Korean anti-monopoly laws and ordered Samick to sell its interest. Naturally, Samick stopped making payments to creditors on Young Chang's behalf, forcing Young Chang into bankruptcy. For a couple of years, while these issues wound their way through the courts, there was a question of which of the two companies was entitled to distribute Young Chang pianos in North America, but the courts finally ruled that Young Chang was a separate entity entitled to distribute its own pianos.
Hyundai Development Company purchased Young Chang in 2006 and is in the process of reestablishing Young Chang's presence in North America. Hyundai Development is a Korean civil-engineering and construction company that helped create Hyundai Motor Company. The company says that Hyundai Development has brought the necessary capital for factory renovations and has instituted new quality-control systems on a par with those in automobile manufacturing. Young Chang also owns Kurzweil Music Systems, a manufacturer of professional keyboards and digital pianos.
In 1995 Young Chang employed the services of Joseph Pramberger, a highly respected piano-design engineer who had spent much of his professional career as an engineer and manufacturing executive at Steinway & Sons, to evaluate its piano designs and make improvements. Two lines of upgraded Young Chang pianos bearing the Pramberger name resulted from this process. After Mr. Pramberger died, in 2003, his estate terminated its relationship with Young Chang and signed up with Samick, which now uses the Pramberger name on a different piano design (see Samick).
For the past several years, the Young Chang piano line has comprised three levels of quality: Platinum Edition (models beginning with YP) and Professional Artist series (PG), both made in Korea; and Traditional or Gold series (T, AF, GS, or Y), made in China, which at one time bore the name Bergmann, a name no longer used. The Platinum Edition grands have maple rims and Renner actions, and higher-quality hammer felt, soundboard material, and veneers (on wood-veneer models). The other two series have lauan rims and Young Chang actions. Platinum Edition verticals use slightly better materials than the other verticals for the cabinets, hardware, music wire, and keys, though in general the differences are smaller than with the grands. The difference between the Professional Artist and Traditional series is probably more in design sophistication than material specifications, and perhaps in the somewhat better quality control of Korean manufacturing.
In 2009 Young Chang hired noted American piano designer Del Fandrich to undertake a redesign of the entire Young Chang piano line. Prototypes of the first few models were shown in early 2010. Highlights include all-new cast-iron plate designs, string scales, and soundboard, rib, and bridge systems, with special emphasis on improving freedom of soundboard motion around the bass bridge for better bass tonal response; and a revised hammer-making process, in which the hammers are cold-pressed with less felt compression, for greater resilience and improved tone, with less voicing required. The new designs will be phased in gradually throughout 2010 and 2011, starting with the Chinese-made models.
Following the demise of the Samsung-owned Weber Piano Company, Young Chang reacquired the Weber name and brought out a line of Weber pianos patterned after existing Young Chang pianos. The Weber Legend series (models beginning with WLE or WLG), now renamed Weber Traditional (W), was exactly the same as the Young Chang Traditional series. The Weber Sovereign series (WSE, WSF, WSG) was the same as the Young Chang Professional Artist series, and the Albert Weber series (AW) was the same as the Young Chang Platinum Edition. Of special note, however, is that Del Fandrich will also be redesigning the Weber piano line, and the Fandrich-redesigned Weber and Young Chang lines will distinctly differ from each other: the Weber line with a low-tension scale, and the greater warmth and romantic tonal characteristics that often accompany that type of scale; the Young Chang line with a higher-tension scale, and the greater brightness and stronger projection of a more modern sound.
Quality control in Young Chang's Korean factory has improved little by little over the years, and is now nearly as good as that in Japan. Most of the problems currently encountered are minor ones that can be cured by a good dealer make-ready and a little follow-up service, and the pianos hold up well in the field, even in institutions. At one time the tone of Young Chang pianos was bright and sterile, but Joseph Pramberger introduced some tonal color and sustain into the pianos he designed, and the prototypes by Del Fandrich suggest further advances in warmth and musicality. The Platinum Edition and Albert Weber pianos, in particular, have great musical potential and respond well to expert voicing. Pianos from the factory in China, like other pianos from that country, have been uneven in quality, but in recent years have greatly improved. Young Chang says that Hyundai Development has upgraded the factories in both countries, and that the pianos made at the Tianjin factory are now on a par with those made in Korea.