For this review, we have chosen only the least expensive 42" to 44" pianos — those with a Suggested Maximum Price (SMP) less than $4,000. (The SMP is a benchmark price useful for comparing one model with another. It's not necessarily the price at which the piano will be sold.) Most of these instruments will actually sell at a "street price" of between $2,500 and $3,500. When used as a promotional "loss leader" to get people into the store, they may even be advertised for as little $1,995, a price at which the dealer makes virtually no profit, the hope being that, once you're in the store, you'll instead buy something more expensive. (To encourage you to do so, some dealers will actually make the sale model less attractive by not preparing it well for sale.)

Note that because these particular models are made as much to be advertised as to be sold, they are not necessarily representative of the best their manufacturers can make. Higher-priced models are available, from these and other manufacturers, that are also classified as "entry-level" but are of higher quality (with better components or musical designs, fancier furniture, etc.). We may review those at a later date.

Our reviewers, recruited from the Piano World online community, include both professional pianists and experienced amateurs. The brands tested were those available at dealerships in the areas where the reviewers resided or frequently traveled: New York City, Chicago, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Permission to audition the pianos was requested from the dealers, who were given the opportunity to prepare the pianos to show their best.

— Larry Fine

Our first reviewer, Mark Cannon, of New York City, tested three entry-level consoles: Kohler & Campbell KC-142; Hallet, Davis & Co. H-111; and Hardman, Peck & Co. R110S. All three bear the names of famous, old American piano companies, but are now made in China or Indonesia. Cannon writes:

My favorite by far was the 42" Kohler & Campbell KC-142. This reflects mostly my personal taste, but also perhaps its having been the best-prepped of the three. I loved the fine control of touch and dynamics. The abilities to get very soft, and to achieve fine gradations of volume through its entire dynamic range, were extraordinary for a vertical, and were aided by the great feel of the keys and the precise, clean responsiveness of the sustain pedal and dampers.

For the most part, the tone was quite lovely and rich. However, the upper treble sounded a little tinny, with quick decay, and I was unable to get enough volume from that section when I needed it. This limitation was frustrating in "big" passages, but with music requiring less volume, I could enjoy playing this piano for hours. The bass was a bit tubby, though not badly so, and the pitches of the lowest notes were quite clear down to D6 (the sixth note up from the bottom). The transition from tenor to bass was noticeable, as one would expect in a piano of this size, but was not distracting.

The action was responsive, with excellent note repetition, comparable to some grands. My perception was that the key dip was a bit shallow and the keys seemed to hit bottom too soon, but this negative was offset by the fact that the keys had just the right amount of resistance, giving the keyboard a substantial, "meaty" feel that contributed to the instrument's remarkable dynamic control.

The soft pedal worked by bringing the hammers closer to the strings, and was wonderful, giving a distinctly softer sound and further aiding the piano's great control of dynamics and tone. The middle pedal, which engages a "practice" mode, was likewise excellent, resulting in a very muted sound that still had fine dynamic control.

One practical limitation was that the keybed, on which the keyboard rests, seemed quite low; in fact, my knees came right up against it. I measured it at about 23 1/2".

The cabinet was in a continental style (no front legs), in a strikingly gorgeous, creamy ivory color. The fallboard was folding style, not "slow-close," but easy to manage. The music desk, which flips out from the inside of the fallboard, has a suede-like strip across its length, a nice touch that helps keep sheet music from slipping off. No bench was available for me to see, but I was told that the piano comes with a matching wood bench with music storage.