Weber & Co. was established in 1852 by Albert Weber, a German immigrant, and was one of the most prominent and highly respected American piano brands of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the consolidation of the American piano industry in the early 20th century, Weber became part of the Aeolian family of brands. Following Aeolian's demise in 1985, Young Chang acquired the Weber name.
In 1995, in response to rising Korean wages and to supply a growing Chinese domestic market, Young Chang built a 750,000-square-foot factory in Tianjin, China, and gradually began to move manufacturing operations there for some of its models. Today, the Tianjin facility produces Young Chang and Weber pianos, and components for the Albert Weber line, which is assembled in South Korea.
Hyundai Development Company, a Korean civil-engineering and construction firm, acquired Young Chang in 2006. The company says that Hyundai Development has brought the necessary capital for factory renovations and has instituted new advanced industrial quality-control systems.
In 2008 Young Chang hired noted American piano designer Delwin D. Fandrich to undertake a redesign of the entire Young Chang and Weber piano line. Highlights include extensively redesigned cast-iron plates, new string scales, and new rib designs. New directly-coupled bass bridges, along with unique "floating soundboard" configurations, improve soundboard mobility around the bass bridge for better bass tonal response. At the same time, a revised hammer-making process, in which the hammers are cold-pressed with less felt compression, provides for greater hammer resilience and improved tone, with less voicing required. Fandrich says that all of these features and processes contribute to his goal of building instruments with improved tonal balance and musicality, and provide opportunities to standardize manufacturing processes for better quality control. The new designs are being phased in gradually throughout 2011 and 2012.
Until recently, the Young Chang and Weber pianos lines, each with three levels of quality, were identical: The top level instruments were the Young Chang Platinum Edition (models beginning with YP) and the Albert Weber (AW), made in Korea; the mid-level lines were the Young Chang Professional Artist (PE, PF, PG) and the Weber Sovereign (WSE, WSF, WSG), also made in Korea; and the entry-level lines were the Young Chang Traditional/Gold (T, AF, GS), the Weber Legend (WLE, WLG), and, at one time, Bergmann, a name no longer used, all made in China.
Now, along with being redesigned by Mr. Fandrich, the multiple piano lines are being consolidated into just three lines: the Young Chang Y series (models beginning with Y) and Weber W series (W) are entry-level instruments made in China, and the Albert Weber (AW) is an upper-level line made in Korea. The Albert Weber grands have maple rims and Renner actions, and higher-quality hammer felt, soundboard material, and veneers (on wood-veneer models). The Y and W series grands have lauan rims and Young Chang actions. The Albert Weber 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. In addition, the Young Chang and Weber pianos will distinctly differ from each other: the Weber and Albert Weber lines with a low-tension scale and softer hammers, 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 firmer hammers, 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. The 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 Group 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.
Young Chang also owns Kurzweil Music Systems, a manufacturer of professional keyboards and home digital pianos, which it acquired in 1990.
Warranty: New Fandrich-designed models: Young Chang and Weber — 10 years, parts and labor, to the original purchaser; Albert Weber — 15 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners during the warranty period, plus a lifetime warranty on parts to the original owner. Older models: Young Chang Platinum Edition and Albert Weber — 15 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners. Young Chang Professional Artist series and Weber Sovereign series — 12 years, parts and labor, to original owner. Young Chang Gold/Traditional series and Weber Legend series — 10 years, parts and labor, to original owner. Parts are further warranted for the lifetime of original owner.