Room acoustics have a tremendous effect on piano tone, so you'll want to note the extent to which the acoustics of the dealer's showroom differ from those of your home, and make allowance for it. Hard surfaces, such as bare walls, tile, and glass will make the tone brighter. Absorbent surfaces—upholstered furniture, heavy drapes, plush carpeting—will make it mellower. Once the piano is in the home, a technician may be able to make adjustments to the tone, but to avoid unpleasant surprises, it's best to buy a piano whose tone is already close to what you want. Adjusting the room acoustics through the strategic use of wall hangings, scatter rugs, and furniture can also help. See the article "Ten Ways to Voice a Room," elsewhere in this issue.
The majority of pianos never generate a warranty claim. That said, few people would sleep well worrying about potential problems arising in such a major purchase. Key warranty issues are: what is covered, for how long, and who stands behind the warranty. The overwhelming majority of new-piano warranties cover the cost of parts and labor necessary to correct any defect in materials or workmanship. The warrantor (usually the manufacturer or distributor) also generally reserves the right to replace the piano should it choose to in lieu of repair. The warrantee (the customer) generally makes warranty claims to the dealer who, upon approval of the warrantor, makes the necessary repairs or replaces the instrument, as applicable. If the dealer is out of business, or if the customer has moved, warranty claims are made to the new local dealer of that brand, if any, or directly to the warrantor.
Warranties are in effect from the date of purchase and generally run between five and fifteen years, depending on the manufacturer. Note that there is little correlation between the length of warranty and the quality of the piano, as decisions on warranty terms are often made based on marketing factors. For example, a new manufacturer might well offer a longer warranty to help bolster sales.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act mandates that warranties be either full or limited. In the piano industry, the only significant difference is that full warranties remain in effect for the entire stated term, regardless of piano ownership, whereas limited warranties cover only the original purchaser. If you plan on possibly selling or trading up within a few years, a full warranty offers protection to the new owner, increasing the piano's value to them, and may justify a little higher selling price or trade-in value.
The Definitive Piano Buying Guide for
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