Spring 2014    Page 189

The Definitive Piano Buying Guide

Acoustic Pianos

Brand and Company Profiles

Although in most respects the Samick and Kohler & Campbell pianos are similar in quality, so as not to compete with one another the grands are available in different sizes and have some different features. The two lines are primarily differentiated by the fact that Kohler & Campbell grands (except the smallest model) have solid spruce soundboards and individually hitched stringing (also known as single stringing), whereas the Samick grands have veneer-laminated soundboards and conventional loop stringing. A veneer-laminated soundboard (which Samick calls a "surface tension soundboard") is essentially a solid spruce soundboard surrounded by two very thin veneers. Samick pioneered the use of this soundboard with Klaus Fenner's technical advice in early 1980, and it is now used by others as well. Tonally, it behaves much more like a solid spruce soundboard than the old kind of laminated soundboard, which was essentially plywood. Like the old kind, however, it won't crack or lose its crown. The solid spruce soundboard may have a slight tonal advantage, but the laminated one will last longer, so take your pick. Likewise, single stringing is more elegant to those who know pianos, but otherwise offers little or no advantage over loop stringing. The two brands' vertical pianos are more alike: They have the same difference in soundboards as the grands, but are all loop-strung and come more or less in the same sizes.

Kohler & Campbell's upper-level Millennium pianos have higher-quality features than the regular series, now called New Yorker. The Millennium grands have a maple rim, premium Canadian Bolduc tapered solid spruce soundboard, Renner action and hammers, and satin wood finishes available in lacquer semigloss. The verticals have Renner parts on a Samick-made Pratt-Reed hornbeam action rail, Bolduc solid spruce soundboard, Renner hammers, lacquer semigloss wood finishes, and a sostenuto pedal on the 52" model. All Samick and New Yorker–series Kohler & Campbell pianos are made in Indonesia for the U.S. market. Smaller Millennium verticals and grands are made in Indonesia, larger ones in Korea. However, all Millennium-series pianos are shipped to the U.S. for inspection and tone and action regulation before being shipped to dealers.

[Note: Samick's Pratt-Reed Premium action should not be confused with the Pratt-Read action used in many American-made pianos in the mid to late 20th century and eventually acquired by Baldwin. Samick says its Pratt-Reed action is made in Korea and designed after the German Renner action.]

In the Kohler & Campbell price list, KC models are Indonesian-made, New Yorker–series verticals; KM are Indonesian-made Millennium-series verticals; KMV are Korean-made Millennium-series verticals; KCG and KIG are Indonesian-made New Yorker–series grands; KCM are Indonesian-made Millennium-series grands; and KFM are Korean-made Millennium-series grands.

Quality control in Samick's Korean and Indonesian factories has steadily improved, especially in the last few years, and the Indonesian product is said to be almost as good as the Korean. Many large-scale issues have been addressed and engineers are now working on smaller refinements. The company says that new CNC machinery installed in 2007 has revolutionized the consistency and accuracy of its manufacturing. Climate control in the tropically situated Indonesian factory, and issues of action geometry, are also among the areas that have recently seen improvement. Samick's upper-level pianos — Kohler & Campbell Millennium series, J.P. Pramberger, and Wm. Knabe — have met with a very positive response from technicians as to their musical design and performance, exceeding comparably priced pianos from Japan in those regards. Workmanship is good, although still not quite as consistent as in the Japanese pianos. Many of Samick's Indonesian pianos are priced similarly to low-cost pianos from China, and technicians often report finding the Samicks to be more consistent than some of the Chinese. With dealer prep, Samick-made pianos are a good value for most typical uses.

[Note: Samick-made pianos have an odd system of serial numbers consisting of a series of letters and numbers. The system appears to vary from factory to factory. Please contact SMC for information on the date of manufacture of a Samick-made piano.]

Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.

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Spring 2014    Page 189

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