As discussed elsewhere in this publication, globalization and the computerization of manufacturing have, to some extent, blurred the distinction between performance- and consumer-grade pianos. Increasingly, makers of performance-grade instruments have been creating lower-cost brands by manufacturing instruments and components in countries with cheaper labor, while makers of consumer-grade pianos have been bringing to market higher-quality models by perfecting automation and sourcing parts worldwide. This has created difficulties in classifying brands by means of a two-grade system, both because some brands defy such classification, and because of the bottleneck that results from the attempt to rate too many brands relative to one another in a restricted space.
To alleviate this problem, I have spun off a third type of piano, called Professional Grade, intermediate between Performance and Consumer, consisting of some of the lower-level performance-grade brands and some of the upper-level consumer-grade ones. The pianos on the performance-grade side are lesser product lines from companies principally known for their higher-grade brands. They inherit some of the quality of their superior cousins, but otherwise are quite different. The instruments on the consumer-grade side are brands that in recent years have become so advanced in their designs, materials, and manufacturing technologies that they now rival some performance-grade pianos in musicality and quality control, and are sometimes recommended as a substitute for them, often at a lower price. Truthfully, a number of the consumer-grade brands could fit this description, but I've labeled here as professional grade only those that have received the greatest market acceptance as instruments suitable for professional use. I'm sure, in time, others will follow.
The chart for each grade is divided into two or more levels of quality; for consumer-grade pianos, each of these levels is further broken down into two subgroups. Within each group or subgroup, the brands are listed in alphabetical order. No judgment of these brands' relative quality should be inferred from this order.
Within each grade of piano, the distinctions between one group or subgroup and the next can be quite subtle, so don't get hung up on small differences. Furthermore, the preparation of the piano by the dealer can be far more important to the quality of the product you receive than some of the distinctions listed in the chart.
Prices shown for each group are the approximate lowest and highest typical selling prices of new pianos in the least expensive style and finish.