A MAP OF THE MARKET FOR NEW PIANOS

The chart and commentary that follow are intended to provide the newcomer to the piano market with a simple summary of how this market is organized. Although summarizing the market requires making a certain number of subjective judgments, this summary is intended less as a ranking of quality than as a description of how manufacturers and dealers position their products in the marketplace, which is largely along lines of price, country of origin, and reputation. While these factors are often associated with quality, that association is far from perfectly consistent.

Why don’t we strictly judge piano quality in Piano Buyer? During the last half of the 20th century, a great many pianos, especially low-end instruments manufactured in the U.S. and in developing countries, had significant defects that made separating good instruments from bad relatively easy. That is no longer the case. Due to globalization and the computerization of manufacturing, virtually all pianos now sold in the West are competently made and without major defects, and the differences between them are increasingly subtle and subjective. In addition, price is sometimes more a reflection of labor costs in the country of origin than of quality. While it’s still clear that high-end pianos are better than entry-level ones, comparisons of instruments that are closer in price are less conclusive, and much more subject to the whims of personal preference, how well the pianos have been prepared for sale, room acoustics, and so forth. Furthermore, even those responsible for the technical design of pianos often can’t agree on which features and specifications produce the best instruments! In such a context of extreme subjectivity, contradictory expert opinion, and a changing market, making too many judgments about piano quality tends to give a false impression of scientific objectivity, and inhibits shoppers from making their own judgments and possibly discovering something wonderful for themselves.

For these reasons, we have chosen to take a less active but, we think, more honest approach to giving piano-buying advice, by providing newcomers to the market with a simple frame of reference and a few personal recommendations (see our new “Staff Picks” section beginning on page 45), and otherwise letting them explore and discover for themselves what appeals to them.

PERFORMANCE-GRADE PIANOS
Highest Quality/Prestige
Verticals: $30,000–$60,000
Grands 5' to 7': $70,000–$140,000
Very High Quality
Verticals: $20,000–$40,000
Grands 5' to 7': $40,000–$100,000
High Quality
Verticals: $15,000–$30,000
Grands 5' to 7': $45,000–$90,000
C. Bechstein
Blüthner
Bösendorfer
Fazioli
Grotrian
Sauter
Steingraeber & Söhne
Steinway & Sons (Hamburg)
Bechstein (Academy/B)
Estonia
August Förster
Haessler
Shigeru Kawai
Mason & Hamlin
Schimmel (Konzert/Classic)
Seiler (Germany)
Steinway & Sons (New York)
Yamaha (CF)
Petrof
Schimmel (International)
Schulze Pollmann (Masterpiece)
Wilh. Steinberg (IQ)
Charles R. Walter

INTERMEDIATE-GRADE PIANOS
European Affiliated
Verticals: $8,000–$17,000
Grands 5' to 7': $20,000–$55,000
Deluxe Consumer (Japanese)
Verticals: $9,000–$17,000
Grands 5' to 7': $21,000–$55,000
Deluxe Consumer (Other Asian)
Verticals: $7,000–$14,000
Grands 5' to 7': $22,000–$40,000
Brodmann (AS)
W. Hoffmann
Irmler (Professional)
Schulze Pollmann (Studio)
Seiler (ED)
Wilh. Steinberg (AC)
Wilhelm Schimmel/Vogel
Boston (Japan)
Kawai (RX/GX) grands
Kawai verticals (Japan)
Yamaha (C/CX) grands
Yamaha verticals (Japan)
Kayserburg (Artist)
Wm. Knabe (Concert Artist)
Perzina verticals
J.P. Pramberger (Platinum)
Albert Weber

Note: Unless otherwise stated, brand names refer to both grand and vertical models.

The Definitive Piano Buying Guide for

Buying New, Used, and Restored Acoustic Pianos and Digital Pianos

Spring 2014    Page 42

Spring 2014    Page 42

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