Including W. Hoffmann

Bechstein USA
301 Upland Road
Williamsport, Pennsylvania 17701

Pianos made by: C. Bechstein Pianoforte Fabrik GmbH, Berlin and Seifhennersdorf, Germany; and C. Bechstein Europe Ltd. (former Bohemia Piano Ltd.), Hradec Králové, Czech Republic

Bechstein was founded in 1853 by Carl Bechstein, a young German piano maker who, in the exploding world of piano technology of his day, had visions of building an instrument that the tradition-bound piano-making shops of Berlin were not interested in. Through fine workmanship and the endorsement of famous pianists, Bechstein soon became one of the leading piano makers in Europe, producing over 5,000 pianos annually by 1900. The two World Wars and the Depression virtually destroyed the company, but it was successfully rebuilt. In 1963 it was acquired by Baldwin, and in 1986 Baldwin sold it to Karl Schulze, a leading West German piano retailer and master piano technician, who undertook a complete technical and financial reorganization of the company. In the early 1990s, Bechstein acquired the names and factories of Euterpe, W. Hoffmann, and Zimmermann. Pianos with these names are currently being sold in Europe, but only W. Hoffmann is sold in North America. In 2006 Bechstein purchased a controlling interest in the Czech piano maker Bohemia, and integrated it into a new entity called C. Bechstein Europe Ltd.

Bechstein says that all C. Bechstein-branded pianos are manufactured in Seifhennersdorf, Germany, and that W. Hoffmann pianos are made in the Czech Republic. With few exceptions, Bechstein prefers not to divulge where the components for its instruments are made, a policy that frustrates some industry observers who seek transparency. However, the company says that, whatever the origin, all parts are inspected and made to conform to its rigid standards; in my experience, all models, including the less expensive ones, continue to receive praise for their high quality.

Bechstein now manufactures its own hammers for use in all C. Bechstein and W. Hoffmann pianos. Other features of C. Bechstein-branded pianos include solid European spruce soundboards, beech or beech and mahogany for grand rims and some structural parts, and maple pinblocks. Three pedals are standard on all pianos, the grands with sostenuto and the verticals with practice pedal (sostenuto optional). Over the past decade, all C. Bechstein grands have been redesigned with a capo bar (eliminating the agraffes in the treble), higher tension scale, and front and rear duplex scales for better tonal projection and tonal color. Also, unlike older C. Bechsteins, which had an open pinblock design, in the redesigned grands the plate covers the pinblock area. For better tuning control, the higher-level pianos are without tuning-pin bushings.

C. Bechstein pianos are available in two levels of quality. The regular verticals and partially redesigned versions of the old grand models now comprise a lower-priced Academy (A) series. They were previously branded Bechstein (B), instead of C. Bechstein, a distinction that has been eliminated. The 51½" Concert 8 (one of my all-time favorite verticals), several smaller verticals, and the fully redesigned grands (models D, C, B, M/P, and L), comprise the higher-priced line. The company says that both lines are made in Germany, though for cost-effectiveness some parts and components may originate in the Czech Republic.

The differences between the A series and the regular C Bechsteins appear to be primarily in tonal philosophy and cabinetry. Regular C. Bechstein grands were designed with a higher tension scale for better projection, and with various components that the company believed would result in the greatest usable palette of tonal color: tapered soundboard, vertically laminated bridges, hornbeam hammer shanks, solid keybed, thicker rim, and hammers with walnut moldings and AAA felt. The grand soundboard is installed after the inner and outer rims are joined. The ribs are tapered after being glued to the soundboard, and the heavy-duty rim posts are dovetailed and embedded in the rim.

The less-expensive, traditional, A-series grands have an untapered soundboard, solid beech bridge with beech cap, maple hammer shanks, expansion-type keybed, and hammers with mahogany moldings and AAA felt. The same quality wood and strings are used in both. The rim parts are joined, and the soundboard and ribs installed, in a more efficient, less time-consuming manner than with the regular, higher-priced models. The keys of the higher-priced line still use leather key bushings, whereas the A-series keys use the more conventional cloth bushings. Bone keytops are an option on the regular models, and genuine ebony sharps are used on both series.

The company uses its own Silver Line action in the A series and, in the regular series, its Gold Line action, which is made to slightly stricter tolerances. As part of its global strategy, the company uses multiple suppliers for nearly all parts; parts for the Gold Line action come from Renner in Germany, while Silver Line parts are sourced from several countries, including China. Both actions appear to be well made, and both are of the Renner design, with the smooth, responsive touch characteristic of that design.

The cabinetry of the regular C. Bechstein models is much sleeker and more sophisticated than the plain A series, though both cabinets are finished to the same standard. The regular plates receive the royal hand-rubbed finish; the other plates are just spray-finished in the conventional manner.

When the two lines are compared side by side, there are differences in their finished quality and performance level. Although the A-series pianos are, generally speaking, very good instruments with a slightly warmer default tone quality, the higher-priced models clearly outperform this less expensive line, and are free of the small tonal inconsistencies and minor flaws we have observed in the A series. It’s possible that the comparative shortcomings of the A-series instruments could be remedied by further technical work, but it’s apparent that they are not prepped at the factory to the same standard as the higher-priced pianos.

C. Bechstein grands are impeccably made in Europe and are “orchestrally” voiced, a concept that the company says is related to the change of timbre at different velocities of touch. According to Bechstein, customers who do not explore this feature of tonal design often prematurely assume that the piano is voiced too bright for the American musical taste. (However, several of my colleagues had high praise for the wide dynamic range, tonal color, and responsive action of the redesigned 7' 8" model C grand.) The company maintains that since voicing is a matter of overall piano design, their pianos are voiced at the factory to their tonal standard and should not be significantly altered. Some customers may still prefer the slightly warmer sound of the A-series grands, which are also about half the price of the regular C. Bechstein models.

Bechstein engineers oversee production of the Bechstein-designed W. Hoffmann line of pianos in the company’s Czech facility. This is a mid-priced line intended to compete with other mid-priced pianos from Eastern Europe and Japan. Currently it consists of grands and verticals in three series. The Tradition- and Professional-series instruments are entirely made in the Czech Republic. The Professional series has a higher level of design and components, and more customized musical preparation by the company’s most experienced craftspeople. The Vision-series pianos are assembled in the Czech Republic, but their strung backs (the instruments’ structural and acoustical parts) are imported from China.

Bechstein also sells the Zimmermann brand, designed by Bechstein and manufactured at the Hailun factory, in Ningbo, China. Quality control and technical training are performed there by Bechstein technicians from the factory in Germany. Zimmermann pianos are not currently available in North America.

Bechstein has a silent-piano option, called Vario, that can be built into any of its instruments. This option allows you to mute the acoustic piano and turn on a digitized sound of a C. Bechstein concert grand, which can be listened to through headphones for silent play. Optical key and pedal sensors transmit MIDI information for the control of music software. The Vario system adds about $6,600 to the price of a vertical piano, and about $11,500 to the price of a grand.

Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.

Acoustic Piano: Model & Pricing Guide

* See the Introduction for an explanation of pricing.

For Vario silent system, add $6,616 (SMP) (verticals) or $11,508 (SMP) (grands).

Model Feet Inches Description MSRP* SMP*
Bechstein, C. Verticals
Millenium 116K 46 Polished Ebony 30,120 30,120
Millenium 116K 46 Polished White 32,060 32,060
Classic 118 46.5 Polished Ebony 32,060 32,060
Classic 118 46.5 Polished White 34,000 34,000
Classic 118 46.5 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 35,960 35,960
Contour 118 46.5 Polished Ebony 32,060 32,060
Contour 118 46.5 Polished White 34,000 34,000
Contour 118 46.5 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 35,960 35,960
Classic 124 49 Polished Ebony 39,840 39,840
Classic 124 49 Polished White 41,780 41,780
Classic 124 49 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 43,720 43,720
Elegance 124 49 Polished Ebony 39,840 39,840
Elegance 124 49 Polished White 41,780 41,780
Elegance 124 49 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry    
Concert 8 51.5 Polished Ebony 68,980 68,980
Concert 8 51.5 Polished White 70,860 70,860
Concert 8 51.5 Polished Walnut/Mahogany    
Concert 8 51.5 Polished Burl Walnut    
Concert 8 51.5 Polished Cherry w/Inlays    
Bechstein, C. Academy Series Verticals
A114 Modern 44 Polished Ebony 24,280 23,848
A112 Modern 44 Polished White 26,220 26,220
A114 Chrome Art 44 Polished Ebony 26,220 26,220
A112 Chrome Art 44 Polished White 28,180 28,180
A114 Compact 45.5 Polished Ebony 26,220 26,180
A116 Compact 45.5 Polished White 28,180 28,180
A116 Compact 45.5 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 29,140 29,140
A124 Imposant 49 Polished Ebony 28,180 28,180
A124 Imposant 49 Polished White 30,120 30,120
A124 Style 49.5 Polished Ebony 28,180 28,180
A124 Style 49.5 Polished White 30,120 30,120
A124 Style 49.5 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry 32,060 32,060
Hoffmann, W. Vision Series Verticals
V112 44.5 Polished Ebony 12,220 12,220
V112 44.5 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 14,180 14,180
V112 44.5 Polished White 14,180 14,180
V112 44.5 Chippendale Polished Maogany 15,720 15,720
V112 44.5 Chippendale Polished Walnut 15,720 14,042
V120 47.6 Polished Ebony 14,180 14,180
V120 47.6 Polished White 16,120 16,120
V120 47.6 Chippendale Polished Mahogany 17,680 17,150
V120 47.6 Chippendale Polished Walnut 17,680 15,364
V120 47.6 Rococo Satin White 18,640 18,640
V120 47.6 Rococo Polished White 19,420 19,420
V126 49.6 Polished Ebony 16,120 16,120
V126 49.6 Polished White 17,860 17,860
V131 51.8 Polished Ebony 18,060 18,060
Hoffmann, W. Tradition Series Verticals
T122 48 Polished Ebony 16,700 16,700
T122 48 Satin Mahogany/Walnut 19,220 19,220
T122 48 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 19,220 19,220
T122 48 Polished White 18,640 18,640
T128 50.4 Polished Ebony 18,060 18,060
T128 50.4 Satin Mahogany/Walnut 21,180 21,180
T128 50.4 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 21,180 21,180
T128 50.4 Polished White 20,000 20,000
Hoffmann, W. Professional Series Verticals
P114 45 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 17,680 17,680
P114 45 Polished White w/Chrome Hardware 19,620 19,620
P120 47.2 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 18,840 18,840
P120 47.2 Polished White w/Chrome Hardware 20,780 20,780
P126 49.6 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 20,000 20,000
Bechstein, C. Grands
L167 5 6 Polished Ebony 126,040 120,446
L167 5 6 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry 144,920 142,100
L167 5 6 Polished White 131,700 131,700
M/P192 6 4 Polished Ebony 148,700 139,538
M/P192 6 4 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry 167,580 162,070
M/P192 6 4 Polished White 158,140 158,140
B212 6 11 Polished Ebony 171,360 171,360
B212 6 11 Polished White 180,800 180,800
C234 7 7 Polished Ebony 209,140 209,140
C234 7 7 Polished White 220,480 220,480
D282 9 2 Polished Ebony 272,240 268,372
D282 9 2 Polished White 287,340 287,340
Bechstein, C. Academy Series Grands
A160 5 3 Polished Ebony 65,620 65,620
A160 5 3 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 79,240 79,240
A160 5 3 Polished White 69,520 69,520
A175 5 9 Polished Ebony 69,520 69,520
A175 5 9 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany 83,120 83,120
A175 5 9 Polished White 75,340 75,340
A190 6 3 Polished Ebony 73,400 73,400
A190 6 3 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 87,020 87,020
A190 6 3 Polished White 79,240 79,240
A208 6 8 Polished Ebony 85,060 84,182
A208 6 8 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 104,520 102,472
A208 6 8 Polished White 90,900 90,900
A228 7 5 Polished Ebony 98,680 95,458
A228 7 5 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 118,120 118,120
A228 7 5 Polished White 104,520 104,520
Hoffmann, W. Vision Series Grands
V158 5 2 Polished Ebony 32,100 32,100
V158 5 2 Polished Mahogany/Walnut/White 35,980 35,980
V175 5 9 Polished Ebony 35,980 35,980
V175 5 9 Polished Walnut/Mahogany/White 39,880 39,880
V183 6 0 Polished Ebony 39,880 39,880
V183 6 0 Polished Walnut/Mahogany/White 43,760 43,760
Hoffmann, W. Tradition Series Grands
T161 5 3 Polished Ebony 41,820 41,820
T161 5 3 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 47,660 47,660
T161 5 3 Polished White 45,720 45,720
T177 5 10 Polished Ebony 47,660 47,660
T177 5 10 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 53,480 53,480
T177 5 10 Polished White 51,540 51,540
T186 6 1 Polished Ebony 53,480 53,480
T186 6 1 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 59,320 59,320
T186 6 1 Polished White 57,380 57,380
Hoffmann, W. Professional Series Grands
P162 5 4 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 52,980 52,980
P188 6 2 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 58,820 58,820
P206 6 9 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 66,600 66,600

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