The Definitive Piano Buying Guide
Kimball, a name with a long history in the piano world (see The Piano Book for details), is now being produced by Kimball Piano USA, Inc., which acquired the rights to the Kimball name in 2005. Kimball International, which previously owned the Kimball brand and produced Kimball pianos from 1959 to 1996, was primarily a furniture maker that mass-produced a very average piano.
In contrast, Kimball is now controlled by a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) who has returned Kimball to its historical roots in Chicago and says he is placing the company's focus on the musical instrument and on technical details of American piano design and construction. The result of this focus is two new collections of Kimball pianos: Classic and Artist.
The Kimball Classic Collection consists of the 5' 1" model K1 and 6' 2" model K3 grands. Parts and components for these models are being sourced primarily from China and Europe. They include a rim made of maple and oak (grands); full-length back posts (vertical); bridges planed and notched by hand in the traditional manner; a wet-sand cast plate; Herrburger Brooks keys, action, and hammers; Röslau strings; Delignit pinblock; and a solid spruce soundboard.
The Kimball Artist Collection includes the 5' 8" model A2 grand and the 49" model A49 vertical. The company says that the Artist Collection embodies its commitment to producing high-quality performance pianos by paying great attention to the design of the scale, soundboard, and action, and to proper execution and attention to details. High-end components, primarily from Germany, include a rim of European beech (grand), Renner action (grand), Strunz premium solid spruce soundboard and ribs, Delignit pinblock, Röslau strings, Klinke agraffes, and Abel hammers. The vertical has full-length spruce back posts and a Herrburger Brooks action; cabinets are from China.
In the U.S., Kimball is doing final assembly and detailing of the instruments, with a major focus on proper action, hammer, and key installation to ensure superb playability. At its facility in Chicago, Kimball now has a showroom where, by appointment, both individual customers and dealers are welcome to see and play the new pianos.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
Pianos made by: Yantai Kingsburg Piano Co., Ltd., Yantai, Shandong Province, China
Yantai Kingsburg, formerly known as Yantai Longfeng, was established in 1988, and at various times made pianos under the Steigerman and Perzina brand names. It is located in a temperate area of northern China that, the company says, is ideal for piano making because of its moderate humidity level.
All Kingsburg pianos have been designed by well-known piano designer Klaus Fenner, and scales are currently undergoing adjustment by Italian piano builder Luigi Borgato. Components are sourced from around the world: from Germany, Röslau piano wire, Abel hammers, and Dehonit pinblocks; from the Czech Republic, Detoa actions; and from Japan, tuning pins and mineral (ivory-like) keytops. All pianos now feature keys of real ebony wood and come with a slow-close fallboard. Interesting design features include longer keys on upright models for more grand-like performance, brass-bar duplex scale, and the company's exclusive Tri Board solid spruce soundboard, which, in the taller vertical models, is unattached to the piano back at the bottom, for better bass tone and improved tuning stability.
At present, the Kingsburg line comprises larger uprights and two sizes of grand, with plans to possibly expand into the market for home console pianos. Custom styles and finishes are also available.
A key focus of Yantai Kingsburg is that the final factory preparation of the pianos be done in such a manner that the dealer can deliver the instrument to the customer's home with very little additional work being required. To that end, the U.S. distributor's Japanese affiliate sends highly trained technicians to the factory to fully tune, voice, and regulate each Kingsburg piano to their high standards before it is crated for shipment.
Warranty: 12 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
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