The tone of Mason & Hamlin pianos is typically American — lush, singing, and powerful, not unlike the Steinway in basic character, but with an even more powerful bass and a clearer treble. The designers have done a good job of making a recognizable Mason & Hamlin sound that is consistent throughout the model line. The 5' 8" model A has a particularly powerful bass for a piano of its size. The treble, notably weak in prior versions, has been beefed up, but the bass is still the showpiece of the piano. The new 5' 4" model B also has a large-sounding bass for its size. The "growling" power of the Mason & Hamlin bass is most apparent in the 7' model BB. The 6' 4" model AA is a little better balanced between bass and treble, one reason why it is a favorite of mine.
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.
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: 5 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.
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".
The Music Link
P.O. Box 57100
Hayward, California 94545
Although Palatino may be a relatively new name to the piano world, it is not a newcomer to the music business. For almost 20 years, parent company AXL has been manufacturing a full range of musical instruments under its own name and under a variety of other, recognizable brand names. The company has a highly automated factory, employing CNC routers from Japan and Germany, and importing high-quality materials and components for its pianos from around the world.
Palatino makes about 7,000 pianos annually in two categories: Classic and Professional. The Professional series includes the 50" vertical Messina model (PUP-126TU) and the 5' 9" grand Palermo model (PGD-59). The Classic series includes a number of models based on traditional designs. Features common to all Palatino pianos include solid spruce soundboard, high-quality Japanese hammers, hard rock maple bridges and pinblock, German Röslau strings, wet-sand-cast plate, Renner-style action, slow-close fallboard, solid brass hardware, and adjustable artist bench. In addition, Professional series pianos have higher-grade Canadian white solid spruce soundboards and German Abel hammers. Beginning in 2012, Palatino is offering a Renner action as an option in some models. The Renner vertical actions are assembled in Shanghai from German-made Renner parts under the supervision of Renner personnel.
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.