Staff Picks (Recommendations)


Due to the highly subjective nature of piano ratings, in “A Map of the Market for New Pianos”, we purposely avoided making too many judgments about the quality of the various brands. Instead, we provided, as a frame of reference, a summary of the way pianos are presented in the marketplace by manufacturers and dealers. However, we feel we owe some specific recommendations to the many readers who have requested them, in part to simplify the buying process for shoppers who lack the time, ability, or interest to intensively research and shop for a piano. To emphasize the subjective nature of these recommendations, we provide them in this list rather than through the Map. This way, too, we don’t have to pass judgment on each and every brand and model.

It’s important to understand that in any artistic field, “expert” recommendations are only partially recognitions of inherent quality; in other ways, they are simply personal preferences. Thus, while you can probably count on pianos recommended by us to be “good” instruments, it doesn’t follow from that that you will necessarily like them as much as we do. Our recommendations also say virtually nothing about brands and models that are not on the list. Either we haven’t had the opportunity to try them out (or, at least, not under favorable conditions), or they just didn’t stand out to us as being really special — but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them, or that you wouldn’t want to take one home with you.

This list focuses on home- and studio-size instruments and does not include concert grands. A work in progress, it is by no means comprehensive, and will likely grow and evolve with future issues of Piano Buyer.

Classics/Perennial Favorites are models with a long-standing reputation for performance and durability. They are generally top sellers from well-known manufacturers.

Musical Standouts represent pianos that play and sound great to us. Although the list understandably tends to favor larger instruments, we’ve also included several smaller models that are noteworthy for having great sound for their size.

Good Values are pianos whose performance per dollar, in our opinion, is particularly attractive.

Vertical piano sizes are shown in inches, grand piano sizes in feet and inches. Prices shown for acoustic pianos are the Suggested Maximum Prices (SMP) of the least expensive style and finish (significant discounts from these prices are likely — see Model & Pricing Guide). Prices shown for digitals and hybrids are the Estimated Prices of the least expensive finish (see Digital Piano Key to Specifications and Prices for explanation).




Brand/Model Classics⁄
Perennial Favorites
Musical Standouts Good Values Price ($) Comments
Verticals 43″–46″
Boston UP-118E PE (46″) X 13,500 Noticeably more refined tone and appearance than the school model 118S.
Essex EUP-111E (44″) X 7,500 “The little studio piano that could”
Perzina GP-112 Kompact (45″) X 8,000 Impressive low-bass performance from a small, inexpensive vertical.
Walter, Charles R. 1520/1500 (43″/45″) X X 18,390 Proof that a 43″ piano can be musical, and it’s made in the U.S.A.
Yamaha Silent Piano b2SC2 (45″) X 10,498 An affordable acoustic with the flexibility of a digital.
Verticals 48″–52″
Bechstein, C. Concert 8 (51.5″) X X 72,000 One of the all-time great upright pianos.
Grotrian Concerto G-132 (52″) X 51,670 A zero-compromise tall vertical.
Hailun HU5-P (50″) X 14,860 A “total package”—balanced tone, responsive action.
Kawai K300 (48″) X X 10,990
Kawai K500 (51″) X 13,990
Kayserburg KA6X (52″) X 15,357 Lovely, singing tone.
Kingsburg KG133 (52″) X 9,421 A well-balanced, powerful tall upright.
Knabe, Wm., WKV132MD (52″) X X 11,735
Pearl River EU122 (48″) X 7,672
Perzina GP-122 (48″) X X 9,090
Perzina GP-130 (51″) X 11,460 A vertical piano that can hold its own against some far more expensive peers.
Petrof P125F1 (49.25″) X 32,012
Ritmüller UHX-121 (48″) X X 10,587 One of our favorite vertical pianos at this price.
Schimmel K132 (52″) X 40,944
Schulze Pollmann SU122A (48″) X X 10,890 A warm, round tone quality and beautiful case finishes.
Yamaha U1 (48″) X X 11,399 The standard against which every 48″ vertical is inevitably compared.
Yamaha YUS5 (52″) X 20,598 Yamaha’s best vertical piano in the U.S. market.
Grands 4′ 10″–5′ 4″
Cunningham Studio Grand (5′ 4″) X X 23,890
Geyer, A. GG-150 (4′ 11″) X 9,590
Seiler, Johannes, GS-160 (5′ 3″) X X 22,409 Pleasantly mellow with an elegant look.
Story & Clark H60A (5′ 3″) X 17,495 When you take into account all the technology it comes with (player piano and MIDI record), this piano is a great value.
Weber W150 (4′ 11″) X X 12,580 Surprisingly musical and satisfying tone for such a short grand.
Grands 5′ 5″–5′ 11″
Baldwin BP178 (5′ 10″) X 29,990
Boston GP-178 PE-II (5′ 10″) X X 34,600 A satisfying and noticeable step up from their next smaller model.
Estonia L168 (5′ 6″) X X 42,200 Estonia grands are an excellent value among high-end pianos.
Hailun HG178 (5′ 10″) X 33,186
Kawai GX-2BLK (5′ 11″) X 38,590 A must-try for those shopping for a grand under 6′ long.
Mason & Hamlin A (5′ 8″) X 71,921
Perzina GBT-175 (5′ 10″) X 19,640 Nicely balanced scale. Some of the nicest wood-veneer case finishes we’ve seen at this price.
Pramberger PS-175 (5′ 9″) X 19,601
Steinway & Sons O (5′ 10.5″) X X 95,800
Grands 6’–6′ 10″
Baldwin BP190 (6′ 3″) X X 34,990
Bechstein, C. A-192 (6′ 4″) X 155,000 One of our favorite pianos in a size that fits home and studio settings.
Bösendorfer 200 (6′ 7″) X 156,998 A lovely and distinct old-world chamber instrument.
Brodmann PE187 (6′ 2″) X X 29,780 Design said to be based on that of a Steinway model A.
Estonia L190 (6′ 3″) X X 50,958 The tone has lyrical beauty and is without harshness.
Estonia L210 (6′ 10″) X X 63,214
Förster, August, 190 (6′ 4″) X 80,900
Grotrian G-192 (Cabinet) (6′ 3″) X 88,980 Uniquely diverse timbre. Subject of book Grand Obsession, by Perry Knize.
Haessler 186 (6′ 1″) X 88,411
Mason & Hamlin AA (6′ 4″) X 81,952
Seiler ED-186 (6′ 2″) X X 42,221 Clear treble tone and good sustain.
Steinway & Sons A (6′ 2″) X 110,500
Weber W185 (6′ 1″) X X 17,780 Satisfyingly beautiful tone at a good price.
Yamaha C3X (6′ 1″) X 52,298 A workhorse in countless teaching studios and institutional practice rooms.
Yamaha C5X (6′ 7″) X 58,098
Grands over 6′ 10″
Blüthner 2 (7′ 8″) X X 159,886
Bosendorfer 214VC (7′) X 166,998 Updated design combines improved projection with classic Bosendorfer sound.
Boston GP215 PE-II (7′ 1″) X 58,500
Fazioli F228 (7′ 6″) X X 182,700 Truly spectacular dynamic range.
Kawai, Shigeru, SK-6 (7′) X 86,700
Mason & Hamlin BB (7′) X X 92,861 Prodigious bass register sounds like that of a concert grand.
Sauter 220 “Omega” (7′ 3″) X 153,000 An incredibly capable tool for any serious pianist—and for fun, take a look under the lid.
Schimmel C213 (7′) X 71,332
Schimmel K219 (7′ 2″) X 103,246 A fantastic instrument from Schimmel’s newer Konzert series.
Wilh. Steinberg Signature S212 (6′ 11″) X 68,960
Steingraeber & Söhne C-212 (7′) X 168,790 Remarkable tonal subtlety.
Steinway & Sons B (6′ 10.5″) X X 124,900 Very popular model in college and conservatory teaching studios, and the standard against which other high-end grands are measured.
Yamaha C7X (7′ 6″) X 74,698 Very popular in recording studios; musically versatile in the hands of the right technician.
Yamaha CF6 (7′) X 123,398 A 7′ grand that can compete with the best in the world.
Blüthner e-Klavier PRO-88 EX X 3,087 An interestingly-styled slab with a unique piano sample.
Casio Privia PX-5S X 1,099 A professional instrument at a consumer price.
Casio Privia PX-3100 X 879 Great features, 700 voices, slim and lightweight, can even run on batteries.
Casio Privia PX-870 X 1,099 Impressive sound from a shallow cabinet.
Kawai ES920 X 1,799 A lightweight successor to the ES8 that sounds even better; performs better than many console-style digital pianos.
Kawai CN39 X 3,099 Updated display and samples are a noteworthy improvement over the previous model CN35.
Kawai CA99 X 6,299 Solid action performance, Soundboard Speaker System, and nice variety of piano samples.
Kawai VPC1 X 2,399 Not a digital per se, but rather a dedicated controller keyboard for software (virtual) pianos, with Kawai’s great RM3II action.
Kawai Novus NV10s X 14,499 Millennium III action and true damper-pedal simulation.
Roland FP-30X X 859 A fine example of high-end piano sound generation trickling down to an economy model.
Roland HP601 (DISC) X 2,299 A way-above-average starter instrument with Ivory Feel keyboard.
Yamaha P515 X X 1,600 A high-end action and high-quality headphone sound in a portable package.
Yamaha Clavinova CLP-745 X 3,700 Premium features like wooden keys and bi-amped speaker system in a midrange model
Yamaha Clavinova CVP-805 X X 7,800 A price/performance sweet spot in ensemble digital pianos.
Yamaha Arius YDP-184 X X 2,400 A direct descendant of the venerable YDP-223 from 2002. A perennial best-seller.
Yamaha AvantGrand N1X and N3X X 9,998 and 19,362 A game changer that redefined our expectations for the sound and feel of a non-acoustic piano.

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6 thoughts on “Staff Picks (Recommendations)

  1. For people who look at the above prices and sigh with a heavy heart, I would like to point out that used Baldwin Artist grands, particularly the R, L, and SF10, can be a fantastic deal if you find one with a good soundboard and no defects. (That would be most of them, actually). It would be well-worth the effort to find one and change out all the action parts with Renner (in the case of the R and L; the SF10 already has Renner parts), install new hammers, and completely rebalance the action. I have a 30-year-old L and just had this done with Renner Blue Point hammers, and it is absolutely glorious. With used Ls selling for $8-12K and the cost of a complete action rebuild costing between $6-7K, for between $14-17K you could have a classic mid-size American grand that will school the equivalent S&S A (add new bass strings and they will school most Bs) for a fraction of the cost. None of the pianos above in this price range (except perhaps the Weber, which I have not played), would even come close. And now that Gibson has destroyed the machinery and rim presses for these pianos, the possibility of bringing back these wonderful designs is gone, likely forever, so I predict that their values will go up as they become more scarce, making them a great investment, IMO.

  2. I work at the oldest music store in Texas est 1929. We have been Steinway, Mason and Hamlin, Yamaha Baldwin, Chickering and Kawai dealers among others. I have played thousands of pianos from every manufacturer since we also sell used. I also concur that the Shigeru’s by Kawai are superb instruments and can’t be beat for dynamic range and responsiveness. Tone of course is subjective.

  3. I had a 6′ Samick for close to 20 years. Generally, I was very pleased with its sound and keyboard action.

    My wife suggested that I buy a digital piano so that I could use earphones and not disturb her.

    I chose a Samick digital grand (to me… best buy for the money) and have had it about three years. I am very pleased with its performance and what styles/voices/choices it offers.

  4. I was very impressed when I tried a Shigaru Kawai. I own a modern Steinway ‘B’ and the Kawai is the only piano that I have encountered that comes anywhere near it. What they will be like as they age one cannot know, or course, or how well they will hold their value.

  5. My wife is a lifelong church pianist/organist. I recently bought her a Yamaha P-515, which is Yamaha’s latest in portable electric pianos. In the past she wouldn’t even touch an electric piano. But from all I read and saw this was an exceptional electric. She got it and she loves it. The keyboard is the same one used in the Clavinova line and it has the Bosendorfer and Yamaha grand pianos digitized in the system. You mate it with a small subwoofer (I used a Bose 50 watt) and it does sound phenomenal. (Does and excellent organ as well…) Has tons of features as well..

  6. i have played the geyer baby grand, so much depth and resonnance, responds to a soft touch but with a structured action that allows for nuance. Highly recommend this piano over other more pricey pianos.

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