BECHSTEIN, C.

Including W. Hoffmann and Zimmermann

C. Bechstein Pianoforte AG
Kantstrasse 17 – im stilwerk
Berlin, 10623
Germany
Contact: Mr. Ralf Dewor CSO
+49 159 0454 8356

Pianos made by: C. Bechstein Pianoforte AG, Berlin, Germany.

Factories: C. Bechstein Pianoforte Manufaktur GmbH, Seifhennersdorf, Germany (C. Bechstein); C. Bechstein Europe s.r.o. (former Bohemia Piano Ltd.), Hradec Králové, Czech Republic (W. Hoffmann); and Ningbo Hailun Musical Instruments Co. Ltd., Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China (Zimmermann)

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 and Zimmermann are 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, A, 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 Academy 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, Academy 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 Academy 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 Academy 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 Academy 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 Academy series. It’s possible that the comparative shortcomings of the Academy 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 Germany 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 Academy 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 Asia.

Bechstein also sells the Zimmermann brand, designed by Bechstein engineers to incorporate European quality standards, 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. The two vertical and three grand models are intended to offer reliable quality at very affordable prices.

Bechstein has a new 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 an extensively sampled 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). Warning: Accuracy of SMP uncertain; see here.

Model Feet Inches Description MSRP* SMP*
Bechstein, C. Verticals
Millenium 116K 46 Polished Ebony 30,900 30,305
Millenium 116K 46 Polished White 33,900 33,418
Classic 118 46.5 Polished Ebony 32,900 31,861
Classic 118 46.5 Polished White 34,900 34,712
Classic 118 46.5 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 36,900 36,531
Contour 118 46.5 Polished Ebony 33,900 33,418
Contour 118 46.5 Polished White 36,900 36,531
Contour 118 46.5 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 37,900 37,798
Classic 124 49 Polished Ebony 38,900 38,087
Classic 124 49 Polished White 42,900 41,200
Classic 124 49 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 43,900 42,757
Elegance 124 49 Polished Ebony 39,900 39,644
Elegance 124 49 Polished White 43,900 42,757
Elegance 124 49 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 44,900 44,313
Concert 8 51.5 Polished Ebony 70,900 67,457
Concert 8 51.5 Polished White 73,900 68,969
Concert 8 51.5 Polished Walnut/Mahogany 76,900 70,481
Concert 8 51.5 Polished Burl Walnut 79,900 73,505
Concert 8 51.5 Polished Cherry w/Inlays 82,900 82,089
Bechstein, C. Academy Series Verticals
A114 Modern 44 Polished Ebony 25,900 25,750
A114 Modern 44 Polished White 28,900 28,652
A114 Chrome Art 44 Polished Ebony 27,900 27,201
A114 Chrome Art 44 Polished White 29,900 29,628
A114 Compact 45.5 Polished Ebony 26,900 25,750
A114 Compact 45.5 Polished White 28,900 28,652
A116 Compact 45.5 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany/Cherry 30,900 30,103
A124 Imposant 49 Polished Ebony 28,900 28,217
A124 Imposant 49 Polished White 31,900 31,119
A124 Style 49.5 Polished Ebony 29,900 29,668
A124 Style 49.5 Polished White 33,900 32,569
A124 Style 49.5 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry 34,900 34,020
Hoffmann, W. Vision Series Verticals
V112 44.5 Polished Ebony 12,500 12,142
V112 44.5 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 15,900 15,044
V112 44.5 Polished White 14,900 13,593
V112 44.5 Chippendale Polished Maogany 16,500 16,205
V112 44.5 Chippendale Polished Walnut 16,500 16,205
V120 47.6 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 16,500 16,044
V120 47.6 Polished Ebony 13,500 12,868
V120 47.6 Polished White 15,500 15,044
V120 47.6 Chippendale Polished Mahogany 17,900 17,656
V120 47.6 Chippendale Polished Walnut 17,900 17,656
V120 47.6 Rococo Satin White 19,900 18,381
V120 47.6 Rococo Satin White w/Gold Painting 19,900 18,381
V126 49.6 Polished Ebony 14,900 14,319
V126 49.6 Polished White 17,900 16,495
V131 51.8 Polished Ebony 16,900 15,770
Hoffmann, W. Tradition Series Verticals
T122 48 Polished Ebony 16,900 16,044
T122 48 Satin Mahogany/Walnut 19,900 19,672
T122 48 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 19,900 19,672
T122 48 Polished White 18,900 18,221
T128 50.4 Polished Ebony 17,900 17,495
T128 50.4 Satin Mahogany/Walnut 21,900 21,123
T128 50.4 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 21,900 21,123
T128 50.4 Polished White 20,900 19,672
Hoffmann, W. Professional Series Verticals
P114 45 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 17,900 17,495
P114 45 Polished White w/Chrome Hardware 19,900 19,672
P120 47.2 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 18,900 18,801
P120 47.2 Polished White w/Chrome Hardware 20,900 20,793
P126 49.6 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 20,500 20,397
Zimmermann Verticals
S 2 47.6 Polished Ebony 8,590 8,440
S 6 49.6 Polished Ebony 9,590 9,166
Bechstein, C. Grands
L167 5 6 Polished Ebony 125,900 110,841
L167 5 6 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry 143,900 125,961
L167 5 6 Polished White 131,900 115,377
A192 6 4 Polished Ebony 148,900 130,498
A192 6 4 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry 166,900 145,618
A192 6 4 Polished White 156,900 138,058
B212 6 11 Polished Ebony 170,900 150,154
B212 6 11 Polished White 178,900 157,714
C234 7 7 Polished Ebony 199,900 167,094
C234 7 7 Polished White 219,900 175,551
D282 9 2 Polished Ebony 269,900 216,426
D282 9 2 Polished White 285,900 227,702
Bechstein, C. Academy Series Grands
A160 5 3 Polished Ebony 65,900 62,434
A160 5 3 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 75,900 73,330
A160 5 3 Polished White 72,900 69,104
A175 5 9 Polished Ebony 69,900 67,104
A175 5 9 Satin and Polished Walnut/Mahogany 79,900 77,999
A175 5 9 Polished White 76,900 73,773
A190 6 3 Polished Ebony 73,900 71,773
A190 6 3 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 83,900 82,669
A190 6 3 Polished White 79,900 76,443
A208 6 8 Polished Ebony 81,900 77,999
A208 6 8 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 91,900 91,564
A208 6 8 Polished White 88,900 84,669
A228 7 5 Polished Ebony 93,900 89,338
A228 7 5 Satin and Polished Mahogany/Walnut 103,900 103,617
A228 7 5 Polished White 99,900 95,564
Hoffmann, W. Vision Series Grands
V158 5 2 Polished White 33,900 33,149
V158 5 2 Polished Ebony 29,900 29,247
V158 5 2 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 34,900 33,600
V175 5 9 Polished White 36,900 36,325
V175 5 9 Polished Ebony 32,900 32,423
V175 5 9 Polished Walnut/Mahogany 37,900 36,776
V183 9 0 Polished White 39,900 39,227
V183 6 0 Polished Ebony 35,900 35,325
V183 6 0 Polished Walnut/Mahogany 40,900 39,678
Hoffmann, W. Tradition Series Grands
T161 5 3 Polished Ebony 41,900 41,885
T161 5 3 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 47,900 46,870
T161 5 3 Polished White 46,900 46,313
T177 5 10 Polished Ebony 47,900 45,313
T177 5 10 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 52,900 49,983
T177 5 10 Polished White 51,900 49,426
T186 6 1 Polished Ebony 52,900 51,539
T186 6 1 Polished Mahogany/Walnut 57,900 56,209
T186 6 1 Polished White 56,900 55,652
Hoffmann, W. Professional Series Grands
P162 5 4 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 52,900 50,916
P188 6 2 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 57,900 55,586
P206 6 9 Polished Ebony w/Chrome Hardware 64,900 61,812
Zimmermann Grands
Z 160 5 3 Polished Ebony 20,900 20,397
Z 175 5 9 Polished Ebony 22,900 22,848
Z 185 6 1 Polished Ebony 24,900 24,299

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