PianoBuyer

STEINWAY & SONS

See also Boston and Essex. See also Steinway Spirio in player-piano section.

Steinway & Sons
One Steinway Place
Astoria, New York 11105
718-721-2600
www.steinway.com

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, a cabinetmaker and piano maker from Seesen, Germany, emigrated with his family to the United States in 1850, and established Steinway & Sons in 1853. Within a relatively short time, the Steinways were granted patents that revolutionized the piano, and which were eventually adopted or imitated by other makers. Many of these patents concerned the quest for a stronger frame, a richer, more powerful sound, and a more sensitive action. By the 1880s, the Steinway piano was in most ways the modern piano we have today, and in the next generation the standards set by the founder were strictly adhered to. (The early history of Steinway & Sons is fascinating, and is intimately connected to the history of New York City and the piano industry in general. You can read a summary of it in The Piano Book; there are also several excellent books devoted to the subject.)

My Perfect Piano

In the 1960s the fourth generation of Steinways found themselves without any heirs willing or able to take over the business, and without enough capital to finance much-needed equipment modernization; eventually, in 1972, they sold their company to CBS. CBS left the musical instrument business in 1985, selling Steinway to an investment group. In 1995 the company was sold again, this time to Conn-Selmer, Inc., a major manufacturer of brass and woodwind instruments, and the combined company (called Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc.) was taken public on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2013, Paulson & Company, a private-equity firm led by Queens native John Paulson, purchased the public company and took it private once again. Paulson has said that he is committed to continuing the quality-first approach on which Steinway has built its reputation. Steinway also owns a branch factory in Hamburg, Germany, which serves the world market outside of the Americas, and three major suppliers: the Herman Kluge company, Europe’s largest maker of piano keys; Renner, the world’s premier producer of piano actions and hammerheads; and the O.S. Kelly company, the only remaining piano plate foundry in the U.S.

Steinway makes one size of vertical piano: a 52″ model K-52 upright, in which the middle pedal operates a sostenuto mechanism. (Recently discontinued are the 45″ model 4510 and 46½” model 1098. These were technically identical, with differences only in the cabinets—the former in a period style for home use, the latter in an institutional cabinet for school use or less furniture-conscious home use.) All Steinway verticals use a solid spruce soundboard, have no particleboard, and in many other ways are similar in design, materials, and quality of workmanship to Steinway grands. Actions are made by Renner (owned by Steinway). Model K-52 in ebony comes with an adjustable artist bench, other finishes with a regular bench.

Technicians have always liked the performance of Steinway verticals, but used to complain that the studio models in particular were among the most difficult pianos to tune and would unexpectedly jump out of tune. In recent years, Steinway has made small design changes to alleviate this problem. The pianos are now mechanically more normal to tune and are stable, but an excess of false beats (tonal irregularities) still make the pianos at times difficult to tune.

Steinway makes six sizes of grand piano. All ebony, mahogany, and walnut grand models come with an adjustable artist bench, the others with a regular bench.

The 5′ 1″ model S is very good for a small grand, but has the usual limitations of any small piano and so is recommended only where space considerations are paramount. The 5′ 7″ model M is a full six inches longer, but costs little more than the S. Historically one of Steinway’s more popular models, it is found in living rooms across the country. Its medium size makes the tone in certain areas slightly less than perfect, but it’s an excellent home instrument.

The 5′ 10½” model L has been replaced with the model O of the same size. Model O was first produced in 1902, but discontinued in 1924 in favor of the model L. Changes over time in both engineering and musical taste, as well as a desire to better synchronize the offerings of the New York factory with Hamburg (where the model O was never abandoned), seemed to dictate a return to the O. The main difference between the two models is in the shape of the tail — the L has a squared-off tail, the O a round tail — but this can also affect the soundboard and bridges and therefore the tone.

Reintroduction of the model O followed by one year the reintroduction of the legendary 6′ 2″ model A. First offered in 1878 and discontinued in New York in 1945, the model A revolutionized piano making by featuring, for the first time, the radial rim bracing and one-piece bent rim construction now used in all Steinway grands. Over the years the model A has gone through several makeovers, each of slightly different size and scaling. The version being reintroduced was made in New York from 1896 to 1914 and is the same size as the model A that has been made at the Hamburg factory for more than a century. Models O and A are suitable for larger living rooms, and for many school and teaching situations.

The 6′ 10½” model B is the favorite of many piano technicians. It is the best choice for the serious pianist, recording or teaching studio, or small recital hall. Small design changes and other refinements to this model in recent years have brought a steady stream of accolades. The 8′ 11¾” model D, the concert grand, is the flagship of the Steinway line and the piano of choice for the overwhelming majority of concert pianists. It’s too large for most places other than the concert stage.

Steinway uses excellent materials and construction techniques in the manufacture of its grands. The rims, both inner and outer, are made in one continuous bend from layers of maple, and the beams are of solid spruce. The keybed is of quartersawn spruce planks freely mortised together, and the keys are of Bavarian spruce. The pinblock consists of seven laminations of maple with successive grain orientations of 45 and 90 degrees. The soundboard is of solid Sitka spruce, the bridges are vertically laminated of maple with a solid maple cap, and all models have duplex scaling.

It is well known that Steinway’s principal competition comes from used and rebuilt Steinways, many of which come in exotic veneers or have elaborately carved or customized “art cases.” The company has responded by expanding its product line to include modern-day versions of these collector’s items. The Crown Jewel Collection consists of the regular models in natural (non-ebonized) wood veneers, many of them exotic. They are finished in a semigloss that Steinway calls Satin Lustre. In addition to satin and semigloss finishes, all regular Steinway grands are also now available in polyester high-polish ebony, lacquer high-polish ebony, and polyester high-polish white.

Limited Edition models, issued at irregular intervals, are reproductions of turn-of-the-century designs, or pianos with artistic elements that make them unique. A currently-available Limited Edition model, honoring the 70th anniversary of the birth of John Lennon, is the Imagine Series, a white piano that incorporates artwork by Lennon, along with other design elements. A recent partnership with musician Lenny Kravitz resulted in the Kravitz Steinway Limited Edition. Just 10 of these exquisite instruments are to be produced.

During the early 1900s, ownership of art-case Steinways became a symbol of wealth and culture. Steinway has resumed this tradition by regularly commissioning noted furniture designers to create new art-case designs, usually around a theme. For example, in 1999 Frank Pollaro designed an art case called Rhapsody to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Gershwin. The piano featured a blue-dyed maple veneer adorned with more than 400 hand-cut mother-of-pearl stars and a gilded silver plate. In 2016, another Pollaro-designed art-case model, the Fibonacci, was sold, for a record-setting $2.4 million, as Steinway’s 600,000th piano. Each year sees new art-case pianos from Steinway, and they are truly stunning.

As another way of capitalizing on the popularity of older Steinways, the company also operates at its factory the world’s largest piano rebuilding facility for the restoration of older Steinways. The Piano Book contains a great deal of additional information on the purchase of older or restored Steinways. See also “Buying a Used or Restored Piano” in this publication.

The underlying excellence of the Steinway musical designs and the integrity of the construction process are the hallmarks of the Steinway piano. Steinway pianos at their best have the quintessential American piano sound: a powerful bass, a resonant midrange, and a singing treble with plenty of tonal color. Although other brands have some of these characteristics, it is perhaps the particular combination of harmonics that comprise the Steinway’s tonal coloration that, more than anything else, distinguishes it from other brands and gives it its richness, depth, and power. The construction process creates a very durable and rigid framework that also contributes to the power of its sound.

Musical and cabinet detailing, such as factory voicing and regulation, and plate and cabinet cosmetics, are reasonable, but have traditionally lagged somewhat behind the company’s European competitors in finesse. Over the last couple of years, however, the company has been making a determined effort to remedy this by paying close attention to many small details, and by applying lessons learned from its European operations. Examples include: rounding the edges and corners of satin ebony models so they will better hold the finish and not prematurely wear through; more careful woodworking on the bottom of the piano, and applying a clear coat of lacquer to the bottom instead of painting it to cover imperfections; protecting the case and plate during stringing and other manufacturing operations so they don’t have to be touched up, often imperfectly, later on; additional time spent playing-in pianos during manufacture in order to naturally harden the hammers so they don’t need quite so much chemical hardening and voicing in the field; and other improvements too numerous to mention here. (See discussion and photo essay on this subject in the Spring 2011 issue of Piano Buyer.)

Steinway pianos require more preparation by the dealer than most pianos in their class, but, as mentioned above, the factory preparation has greatly improved, so the work required by the dealer is no longer excessive. Still, some dealers are more conscientious than others, and I occasionally hear of piano buyers who “can’t find a good Steinway.” How much of this is due to inherent weaknesses in some pianos, how much to lack of dealer preparation, and how much to customer bias or groundless complaining is hard to tell. I suspect it is a little of each. Piano technicians who work on these pianos do sometimes remark that some seem to have more potential than others. Many dealers do just enough regulating and voicing to make the instruments acceptable to the average customer, but reserve the highest level of work for those situations where a fussy customer for one of the larger models is trying to decide between a few particular instruments. Most customers for a Steinway will probably find one they like on the sales floor. However, if you are a discriminating buyer who has had trouble finding a Steinway that suits your preferences, I recommend letting the salesperson know, as precisely as you can, what you’re looking for. Give the salesperson some time to have a few instruments prepared for you before making a decision. It may also help to tactfully let the salesperson know that you are aware that other options are available to you in the market for high-end pianos. By the way, customers seeking to purchase a model B or D Steinway who have not found the piano they are looking for at their local dealer can make arrangements with that dealer to visit the Steinway factory in New York, where a selection of the larger models is kept on hand for this purpose.

As mentioned earlier, Steinway owns a branch factory in Hamburg, Germany, established in 1880. The “fit and finish” (detailing) of the pianos at this factory is reputed to be better than at the one in New York, although pianists sometimes prefer the sound of the New York Steinway. Traditionally, the Hamburg factory has operated somewhat autonomously, but more recently the company has been synchronizing the two plants through technical exchanges, model changes, jointly built models, and materials that are shipped from New York to Hamburg. It’s possible to special-order a Hamburg Steinway through an American Steinway dealer; or an enterprising American customer could travel to Europe, buy one there, and have it shipped back home.

In 2008 Steinway underwent a change in management, the first in 23 years. For the first time, the company’s top executives were recruited from its European operations rather than from America. It is speculated that this may have signaled a subtle change of direction with regard to quality issues, and may be one of the reasons that European quality standards are appearing to be more strictly applied to the American-made instruments.

In 2016, in a major development for the company, Steinway unveiled its own electronic player-piano system, Spirio. For details, see Steinway Spirio in the chapter on electronic player-piano systems. In 2019, Steinway released the next generation of Spirio, called Spirio | r, which features full recording and editing capabilities.

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

Acoustic Piano: Model & Pricing Guide

* See the Introduction for an explanation of pricing.

The first two sets of prices are for models made in New York. The prices are those at the Steinway retail store in New York City, often used as a benchmark for Steinway prices throughout the country. Model K-52 in ebony and grand models in ebony, mahogany, and walnut include adjustable artist benches. Other models include regular wood bench. Wood-veneered models are in a semigloss finish called "satin lustre."

The last set of prices are for the models made in Steinway's branch factory in Hamburg, Germany. Officially, these pianos are not sold in North America, but it is possible to order one through an American Steinway dealer, or to go to Europe and purchase one there. This list shows approximately how much it would cost to purchase a Hamburg Steinway in Europe and have it shipped to the United States. The prices were derived by taking the published retail prices in Europe, subtracting the value-added tax not applicable to foreign purchasers, converting to U.S. dollars (the rate used here is 1 Euro = $1.20, but is obviously subject to change), and adding approximate charges for duty, air freight, crating, insurance, brokerage fees, and delivery. Only prices for grands in polished ebony are shown here. Caution: This list is published for general informational purposes only. The price that Steinway would charge for a piano ordered through an American Steinway dealer may be different

Model Feet Inches Description MSRP* SMP*
Steinway & Sons Verticals
K-52 52 Satin Ebony 42,000 42,000
K-52 52 Polished Ebony 48,000 48,000
K-52 52 Mahogany 47,300 47,300
K-52 52 Walnut 49,000 49,000
Steinway & Sons Grands
S 5 1 Satin and Polished Ebony 75,500 75,500
S 5 1 Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 77,500 77,500
S 5 1 Polished White 86,100 86,100
S 5 1 Polished Custom Color 94,800 94,800
S 5 1 Mahogany 92,300 92,300
S 5 1 Walnut 93,400 93,400
S 5 1 Amberwood 98,600 98,600
S 5 1 Applewood 98,600 98,600
S 5 1 Dark Cherry 98,600 98,600
S 5 1 Figured Sapele 98,600 98,600
S 5 1 Figured Sycamore 98,600 98,600
S 5 1 Kewazinga Bubinga 98,600 98,600
S 5 1 Padauk 110,200 110,200
S 5 1 Santos Rosewood 110,200 110,200
S 5 1 East Indian Rosewood 114,400 114,400
S 5 1 Koa 114,400 114,400
S 5 1 African Pommele 115,400 115,400
S 5 1 Macassar Ebony 125,900 125,900
S 5 1 Ziricote 131,000 131,000
M 5 7 Satin and Polished Ebony 81,300 81,300
M 5 7 Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 83,300 83,300
M 5 7 Polished White 91,900 91,900
M 5 7 Polished Custom Color 101,100 101,100
M 5 7 Polished Ebony w/White/Color Pops Accessories 97,300 97,300
M 5 7 Mahogany 98,300 98,300
M 5 7 Walnut 99,400 99,400
M 5 7 Amberwood 104,700 104,700
M 5 7 Applewood 104,700 104,700
M 5 7 Dark Cherry 104,700 104,700
M 5 7 Figured Sapele 104,700 104,700
M 5 7 Figured Sycamore 104,700 104,700
M 5 7 Kewazinga Bubinga 104,700 104,700
M 5 7 Padauk 116,300 116,300
M 5 7 Santos Rosewood 116,300 116,300
M 5 7 Onyx Duet Polished Ebony 119,400 119,400
M 5 7 East Indian Rosewood 120,700 120,700
M 5 7 Koa 120,700 120,700
M 5 7 African Pommele 121,700 121,700
M 5 7 John Lennon Imagine Polished White 125,700 125,700
M 5 7 Macassar Ebony 132,300 132,300
M 5 7 Ziricote 137,400 137,400
M 1014A 5 7 Chippendale Mahogany 113,100 113,100
M 1014A 5 7 Chippendale Walnut 114,200 114,200
M 501A 5 7 Louis XV Walnut 145,700 145,700
M 501A 5 7 Louis XV East Indian Rosewood 166,700 166,700
M Sketch 1111 5 7 The Teague Satin and Polished Ebony (Spirio only, included) 125,300 125,300
M Sketch 1111 5 7 The Teague Walnut (Spirio only, included) 135,600 135,600
O 5 10.5 Satin and Polished Ebony 90,300 90,300
O 5 10.5 Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 92,300 92,300
O 5 10.5 Polished White 100,800 100,800
O 5 10.5 Polished Custom Color 110,900 110,900
O 5 10.5 Polished Ebony w/White/Color Pops Accessories 106,000 106,000
O 5 10.5 Mahogany 107,100 107,100
O 5 10.5 Walnut 108,100 108,100
O 5 10.5 Amberwood 113,300 113,300
O 5 10.5 Applewood 113,300 113,300
O 5 10.5 Dark Cherry 113,300 113,300
O 5 10.5 Figured Sapele 113,300 113,300
O 5 10.5 Figured Sycamore 113,300 113,300
O 5 10.5 Kewazinga Bubinga 113,300 113,300
O 5 10.5 Padauk 124,900 124,900
O 5 10.5 Santos Rosewood 124,900 124,900
O 5 10.5 Onyx Duet Polished Ebony 129,100 129,100
O 5 10.5 East Indian Rosewood 129,100 129,100
O 5 10.5 Koa 129,100 129,100
O 5 10.5 African Pommele 130,100 130,100
O 5 10.5 John Lennon Imagine Polished White 135,400 135,400
O 5 10.5 Macassar Ebony 140,600 140,600
O 5 10.5 Ziricote 145,700 145,700
A 6 2 Satin and Polished Ebony 104,200 104,200
A 6 2 Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 106,200 106,200
A 6 2 Polished White 116,900 116,900
A 6 2 Polished Custom Color 128,600 128,600
A 6 2 Polished Ebony w/White/Color Pops Accessories 122,100 122,100
A 6 2 Mahogany 124,200 124,200
A 6 2 Walnut 125,200 125,200
A 6 2 Amberwood 131,600 131,600
A 6 2 Applewood 131,600 131,600
A 6 2 Dark Cherry 130,400 130,400
A 6 2 Figured Sapele 129,400 129,400
A 6 2 Figured Sycamore 131,600 131,600
A 6 2 Kewazinga Bubinga 131,600 131,600
A 6 2 Padauk 145,200 145,200
A 6 2 Santos Rosewood 145,200 145,200
A 6 2 Onyx Duet Polished Ebony 143,100 143,100
A 6 2 East Indian Rosewood 149,400 149,400
A 6 2 Koa 149,400 149,400
A 6 2 African Pommele 153,600 153,600
A 6 2 John Lennon Imagine Polished White 158,900 158,900
A 6 2 Macassar Ebony 163,100 163,100
A 6 2 Ziricote 169,000 169,000
B 6 10.5 Satin and Polished Ebony 117,800 117,800
B 6 10.5 Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 121,800 121,800
B 6 10.5 Polished White 131,400 131,400
B 6 10.5 Polished Custom Color 144,600 144,600
B 6 10.5 Polished Ebony w/White/Color Pops Accessories 135,600 135,600
B 6 10.5 Mahogany 137,800 137,800
B 6 10.5 Walnut 138,800 138,800
B 6 10.5 Amberwood 145,100 145,100
B 6 10.5 Applewood 145,100 145,100
B 6 10.5 Dark Cherry 144,000 144,000
B 6 10.5 Figured Sapele 143,000 143,000
B 6 10.5 Figured Sycamore 145,100 145,100
B 6 10.5 Kewazinga Bubinga 145,100 145,100
B 6 10.5 Padauk 158,800 158,800
B 6 10.5 Santos Rosewood 158,800 158,800
B 6 10.5 Onyx Duet Polished Ebony 156,600 156,600
B 6 10.5 East Indian Rosewood 162,900 162,900
B 6 10.5 Koa 162,900 162,900
B 6 10.5 African Pommele 167,100 167,100
B 6 10.5 John Lennon Imagine Polished White 167,300 167,300
B 6 10.5 Macassar Ebony 176,600 176,600
B 6 10.5 Ziricote 182,500 182,500
B 6 10.5 Astor Polished Ebony 127,800 127,800
B 6 10.5 Lenny Kravitz Macassar Ebony (Spirio | r only, included) 500,000 500,000
B 6 10.5 Black Diamond Ebony (Spirio | r only, included) 275,000 275,000
B 6 10.5 Black Diamond Macassar Ebony (Spirio | r only, included) 375,000 375,000
D 8 11.8 Satin and Polished Ebony 187,100 187,100
D 8 11.8 Polished Ebony w/Sterling Hardware 191,100 191,100
D 8 11.8 Polished White 206,300 206,300
D 8 11.8 Polished Custom Color 227,000 227,000
D 8 11.8 Polished Ebony w/White/Color Pops Accessories 208,300 208,300
D 8 11.8 Mahogany 218,900 218,900
D 8 11.8 Walnut 220,100 220,100
D 8 11.8 Amberwood 230,700 230,700
D 8 11.8 Applewood 230,700 230,700
D 8 11.8 Dark Cherry 227,500 227,500
D 8 11.8 Figured Sapele 224,300 224,300
D 8 11.8 Figured Sycamore 230,700 230,700
D 8 11.8 Kewazinga Bubinga 230,700 230,700
D 8 11.8 Padauk 247,600 247,600
D 8 11.8 Santos Rosewood 247,600 247,600
D 8 11.8 East Indian Rosewood 262,500 262,500
D 8 11.8 Koa 262,500 262,500
D 8 11.8 African Pommele 274,100 274,100
D 8 11.8 John Lennon Imagine Polished White 242,300 242,300
D 8 11.8 Macassar Ebony 283,700 283,700
D 8 11.8 Ziricote 293,400 293,400
D 8 11.8 Black Diamond Macassar Ebony (Spirio | r only, included) 585,000 585,000
Steinway & Sons (Hamburg) Grands
S-155 5 1 Polished Ebony 94,700 94,700
M-170 5 7 Polished Ebony 97,900 97,900
O-180 5 10.5 Polished Ebony 107,400 107,400
A-188 6 2 Polished Ebony 110,100 110,100
B-211 6 11 Polished Ebony 126,900 126,900
C-227 7 5.5 Polished Ebony 143,300 143,300
D-274 8 11.8 Polished Ebony 191,800 191,800

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