Pianos made by: Designed by Steinway & Sons, made in Japan and Indonesia at Kawai Musical Instrument Mfg. Co., Ltd., and Samick Musical Instrument Mfg. Co. Ltd.
In 1992 Steinway launched its Boston line of pianos, designed and engineered in New York by Steinway & Sons and built by Kawai in Japan. Steinway’s stated purpose in creating this line was to offer a quality, mid-priced piano containing many Steinway-like design features and patents for those customers “who were not yet ready for a Steinway.” In choosing to have a piano of its own design made in Japan, Steinway sought to take advantage of the efficient high-technology manufacturing methods of the Japanese while utilizing its own New York–based engineering team to make a more musical piano than is usually available from that part of the world.
In 2009, Steinway launched the Performance Edition of the Boston piano with enhancements to the instruments’ design and specifications, including a grand inner rim of maple for increased structural integrity and improved tone, the patented Octagrip® pinblock for smoother tuning and more consistent torque, and improvements to hardware and keytop material, among other things. Performance Edition models have model numbers ending in PE. In 2016, the company introduced Performance Edition II grands (PE-II), containing further improvements, including sapele pommele veneer on the inside rim of all ebony grands, improved finishes, a new plate color, and other cosmetic changes; and a lower-tension scale, resulting in a very clear bass, better treble sustain, and more transparency in the tenor range.
Sold exclusively through select Steinway dealers, Boston pianos are currently available in four sizes of vertical and five sizes of grand. The grands, and vertical models 118E, 126E, and 132E, are made in Japan; vertical models 118S and 120S are made in Indonesia.
Boston pianos are used by a number of prestigious music schools and festivals, including Aspen, Bowdoin, Brevard, Ravinia, and Tanglewood.
The most obvious visible feature of the Boston grand piano’s design (and one of the biggest differences from Kawai and other Japanese pianos) is its wide tail. Steinway says this allows the bridges to be positioned closer to the more lively central part of the soundboard, smoothing out the break between bass and treble. This, plus a thinner, tapered, solid-spruce soundboard and other scaling differences, may give the Boston grands a longer sustain though less initial power. The wide-tail design may also endow some of the grands with the soundboard size normally associated with a slightly larger piano. The verticals are said to have a greater overstringing angle, for the same purpose. Over the last few years, the Boston verticals have been redesigned for greater tuning stability and musical refinement.
A number of features in the Boston piano are similar to those in the Steinway, including the above-mentioned maple inner rim, vertically laminated bridges for better tonal transmission, duplex scaling for additional tonal color, rosette-shaped hammer flanges to preserve hammer spacing, and radial rim bracing for greater structural stability. The Boston grand action uses similar action geometry to Steinway, and is said to incorporate some of the latest refinements of the Steinway action. Cabinet detailing on the Boston grands is similar to that on the classic Steinway. Boston hammers are designed by Steinway and made in Japan. Steinway has provided special instruction to the Japanese and Indonesian factory voicers to achieve a touch and tone unique to Boston. All Boston grand models come with a sostenuto pedal; all verticals have a practice (mute) pedal, except for the model UP-118S PE, which has a bass sustain.
Boston grands also have certain things in common with Kawai GX-series grands: tuning pins, grand leg and lyre assemblies, radial rim bracing, sostenuto pedal, and the level of quality control in their manufacture. While the same workers build the two brands in the same factories, Steinway has implemented strict requirements for the Boston touch and tone. One important way they differ is that Steinway has chosen not to use the carbon-fiber–reinforced ABS Styran plastic that Kawai uses for most of its action parts. Instead, Boston uses only traditional maple and hornbeam action parts. Although similarly priced at the wholesale level, Kawai pianos tend to be a little less expensive to the retail customer than comparably sized Bostons due to the larger discounts typically given by Kawai dealers.
Steinway guarantees full trade-in value for a Boston piano at any time a purchaser wishes to upgrade to a Steinway grand.
Piano technicians are favorably inclined toward Boston pianos. Some find them to have a little better sustain and more tonal color than Kawais, while being otherwise similar in quality. When comparing the two brands, I would advise making a choice based primarily on one’s own musical perceptions of tone and touch, as well as the trade-up guarantee, if applicable.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
Acoustic Piano: Model & Pricing Guide
* See the Introduction for an explanation of pricing.
Boston MSRP is the price at the New York retail store.
|UP-118E PE||46||Satin and Polished Ebony||12,800||12,800|
|UP-118E PE||46||Polished Mahogany||14,700||14,700|
|UP-118E PE||46||Satin and Polished Walnut||14,700||14,700|
|UP-120S PE-II||47||Polished Ebony||8,900||8,900|
|UP-120S PE-II||47||Satin Walnut||10,400||10,400|
|UP-126E PE||50||Polished Ebony||15,100||15,100|
|UP-126E PE||50||Polished Mahogany||17,700||17,700|
|UP-132E PE||52||Polished Ebony||16,900||16,900|
|GP-156 PE-II||5||1||Satin and Polished Ebony||23,400||23,400|
|GP-163 PE-II||5||4||Satin and Polished Ebony||28,300||28,300|
|GP-163 PE-II||5||4||Satin and Polished Mahogany||31,200||31,200|
|GP-163 PE-II||5||4||Satin and Polished Walnut||31,500||31,500|
|GP-163 PE-II||5||4||Polished White||34,900||34,900|
|GP-178 PE-II||5||10||Satin and Polished Ebony||33,200||33,200|
|GP-178 PE-II||5||10||Satin and Polished Mahogany||35,700||35,700|
|GP-178 PE-II||5||10||Satin and Polished Walnut||36,300||36,300|
|GP-193 PE-II||6||4||Satin and Polished Ebony||43,100||43,100|
|GP-215 PE-II||7||1||Polished Ebony||56,200||56,200|