Pianos made by: Samick Musical Instrument Mfg. Co. Ltd., Inchon, South Korea; and Bogor, West Java, Indonesia
Founded in Baltimore in 1837 by Wilhelm (William) Knabe, a German immigrant, Wm. Knabe & Co. established itself in the 19th and early 20th centuries as one of the finest piano makers in America. Over the years, Knabe pianos have left an important mark on the music field, including over 40 years as the official piano of the Metropolitan Opera, sponsoring Tchaikovsky’s appearance at the opening of Carnegie Hall, and their places inside the White House and Graceland. Today, Knabe is the official piano of the American Ballet Theatre at the Met. 2012 marks the company’s 175th anniversary.
As part of the consolidation of the American piano industry in the early 20th century, Knabe eventually became part of the Aeolian family of brands. Following Aeolian’s demise in 1985, the Knabe name became part of Mason & Hamlin, which was purchased out of bankruptcy in 1996 by the owners of PianoDisc. For a time, a line of Knabe pianos was made for PianoDisc by Young Chang in Korea and China. When the line was discontinued, Samick acquired the Wm. Knabe & Co. name. (Note: “Knabe” is pronounced using the hard K sound followed by “nobby.”)
SMC (Samick’s U.S. distribution subsidiary) began by using the Wm. Knabe name on some of the pianos formerly sold as the World Piano premium line of Samick instruments. In 2002, SMC developed the Concert Artist series for the Knabe name. Highlighting this series are the 5' 8" and 6' 4" grand models, which have been redesigned, based on the original 19th- and early 20th-century Knabe scale designs and cabinet styles in use when the company was based in Baltimore. Features include sand-cast plates, lacquer semigloss wood finishes, Renner actions on larger grands, German hammers, and rims of maple and oak. The company has added 5' 3", 7' 6", and 9' 2" models for the American market. The verticals feature unique cabinet designs with bird’s-eye maple and mahogany inlays, rosewood key inserts, and tone escapement. The 52" upright includes a full sostenuto, hand-activated mute rail, and agraffes throughout the bass section of the piano.
For two years, SMC completed assembly of Concert Artist grands at its Tennessee facility, with strung backs made in Indonesia or Korea. Now, most Knabe pianos are made in their entirety in Indonesia but are still uncrated in the U.S., where they are inspected, tuned, regulated, and voiced before being shipped to dealers.
In 2011, SMC unveiled two additional product lines within the Knabe family: the Academy and Baltimore series. The Academy series has many of the same features and specifications as the popular, upper-end, Kohler & Campbell Millennium brand, also made by Samick: a maple or beech inner rim (grands); a premium soundboard of solid white spruce; German hammers; a Samick Premium Action; satin lacquer semigloss wood finishes; and a Samick-made hornbeam action rail (larger verticals). (See Samick for more about Kohler & Campbell.) The Academy series also boasts two institutional studio uprights, the WMV245 and WMV247, both with full-length music racks, the WMV247 also with agraffes through the bass section.
The Baltimore series offers a more modestly priced alternative to the institutional Academy series or upper-end Concert Artist series. This line features an all-spruce “surface tension” (veneered) soundboard. The grands provide a full sostenuto pedal, slow-close fallboard, fully adjustable music desk and rack, multiple finishes in both satin ebony and wood tones, and, recently, a new designer grand with accents of Bubinga or African Pommele. The verticals showcase a wide range of sizes and cabinet styles, including wood tones in French cherry, traditional mahogany, and Renaissance walnut.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.