Spring 2014    Page 195

The Definitive Piano Buying Guide

Acoustic Pianos

Brand and Company Profiles

Steingraeber makes three sizes of vertical piano: 48", 51", and 54". An interesting option on the vertical models is their "twist and change" panels: two-sided top and bottom panels, one side finished in polished ebony, the other in a two-toned combination of a wood veneer and ebony. The panels can be reversed as desired by the piano owner to match room décor, or just for a change of scenery.

The company also makes five sizes of grand piano: 5' 7", 6' 3", 7', 7' 7", and 8' 11". The 5' 7" model A-170 grand has an unusually wide tail, allowing for a larger soundboard area and longer bass strings than are customary for an instrument of its size. The 7' model C-212, known as the Chamber Concert Grand, and recently redesigned from the model 205, was intended to embody the tone quality of the Steingraeber Liszt grand piano of circa 1873, but with more volume in the bass register. The 8' 11" model E-272 concert grand was introduced in 2002 for Steingraeber's 150th anniversary. Unique features include a drilled capo bar for more sustain in the treble, unusually shaped rim bracing, and a smaller soundboard resonating area in the treble to better match string length. In 2007, Steingraeber introduced the 7' 7" D-232 concert grand to provide an additional smaller, concert-size instrument. Its design includes many of the innovations of the E-272. New in 2012 is the 6' 3" model B-192, which follows the design enhancements of the D-232 and C-212 in a size more comfortable for homes and smaller concert halls.

Steingraeber pianos have a unique sound, with an extensive tonal palette derived from a mixture of clarity and warmth.

Steingraeber is known for its many innovative technical improvements to the piano, one of which is a new action for uprights, available in all three vertical-piano models. This SFM action, as it is called, contains no jack spring, instead using magnets to return the jack more quickly under the hammer butt for faster repetition. Another innovation, introduced in 2013, is the optional sordino pedal, which inserts a thin strip of felt between hammers and strings. Popular in early 19th-century grand pianos, the purpose of this feature is not, as in most modern pianos, to damp the sound almost completely, but rather to create a distant, ethereal sound, and thus to expand the instrument's expressive possibilities. On a Steingraeber piano, the sordino can either replace the sostenuto as the middle pedal or, be operated by a fourth pedal or a knee lever.Steingraeber also specializes in so-called ecological or biological finishes, available as an option on most models. This involves the use of only organic materials in the piano, such as natural paints and glues in the case, and white keytops made from cattle bone.

In addition to its regular line of pianos, Steingraeber makes a piano that can be used by physically handicapped players who lack the use of their legs for pedaling. A wireless (Bluetooth) pedal actuator is operated by biting on a special denture.

Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.

Steingraeber Phoenix System Pianos

Unique Pianos
Brian Gatchell
25 South Wickham Rd.
Melbourne, Florida 32904
888-725-6633
321-725-5690
brianatlantic@bellsouth.net
www.atlanticmusiccenter.com

Pianos made by: Steingraeber & Söhne, Bayreuth, Germany

Steingraeber's most innovative technical improvement is the Steingraeber Phoenix system, introduced in 2008. Phoenix, initially developed by U.K. engineer Richard Dains and further developed by Steingraeber and used under license, is a system of tonal transmission that includes a soundboard made of a sheet of carbon fiber, and bridge agraffes that hold the strings to the bridge without compressing the soundboard. With the soundboard free of compression, and given the low-density, low-mass nature of the carbon fiber and its resistance to absorbing energy, a great amount of sound energy is conserved — so much that pianos outfitted with this system sound in certain respects like much larger instruments, with both increased sustain and greater volume of sound. A side benefit of the carbon fiber soundboard is that it is resistant to humidity changes, so the piano needs tuning much less often.

The bridge agraffes are quite complex in construction and completely unlike the simple ones sometimes used, with mixed success, in unusual pianos of the past. They provide very efficient transmission of tonal energy from the string to the bridge, with little downward pressure on the soundboard. To minimize downbearing, the precise setting of downbearing is aided by vertical, adjustable hitch pins. One challenge to the development of the Phoenix system has been the much greater production of higher harmonics once the impediments to sound transmission are removed. These harmonics are moderated by voicing.

All Phoenix-system pianos are equipped with a revolutionary new soft pedal that operates both an una corda (shift) mechanism, and a mechanism that allows for hammer blow-distance reduction, for different types of volume-reduction effects.

Steingraeber is now making the Phoenix system available by special order in each of its grand piano models. Both the carbon fiber soundboard (without the bridge agraffes), and the new soft pedal, are also available as options on regular Steingraeber models.

More information about the Phoenix system can be found at www.hurstwoodfarmpianos.co.uk, as well as on the Steingraeber website.

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Spring 2014    Page 195

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