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);
Zimmermann instruments are designed by C. Bechstein and built by selected partners in China under the supervision and guidance of C. Bechstein.
Bechstein was founded in 1853 by Carl Bechstein, a young German piano maker. In the exploding world of piano technology of his day, Bechstein 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, C. 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, C. Bechstein acquired the names and factories of Euterpe, W. Hoffmann, and Zimmermann. Currently, pianos of the brands C. Bechstein, W. Hoffmann, and Zimmermann are being sold worldwide, while the brand Euterpe, while still owned by C. Bechstein, is inactive. In 2006 C. 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. The company has developed “centers of competence” among its factories in Germany and the Czech Republic, each specializing in some part of the manufacturing process. For that reason, as well as for cost-effectiveness, some components of C. Bechstein-branded pianos may originate in the Czech Republic. W. Hoffmann pianos are made in the Czech Republic, with components sourced with premium suppliers worldwide. The company states that, whatever the origin, all parts are inspected and made to conform to its rigid standards, and that it has invested great effort in research and development and quality control for its materials and parts, including long-term testing in varying climates. In our 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.
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 our 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 higher-priced line is further subdivided into “Concert” and “Residence,” the former intended primarily for professional use, the latter styled and voiced for home use.
The differences between the Academy series and the Concert and Residence series appear primarily in tonal philosophy and cabinetry. The Concert-series 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. Installation of the grand soundboard occurs 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, more 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 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 both series feature genuine ebony sharps.
The cabinetry of the C. Bechstein Concert and Residence models is much sleeker and more sophisticated than the plainer Academy series, though both cabinets are finished to the same standard.
In our experience, 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 fine instruments with a slightly warmer default tone quality, the higher-priced models clearly outperform this less expensive line. It seems to us that the Academy series instruments are not prepped at the factory to quite the same standard as the higher-priced pianos. However, it’s possible that the differences between the two lines could be reduced by further technical work.
Bechstein Concert series grands are impeccably made in Germany and “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 our 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 C. Bechstein Concert series models.
Bechstein engineers oversee production of the C. Bechstein-designed W. Hoffmann line of pianos in the company’s Czech facility. The mid-priced W. Hoffmann line is 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 C. Bechstein engineers to incorporate European quality standards, and manufactured by selected partners in China. Quality control and technical training are performed there by C. Bechstein technicians from the factory in Germany. The vertical and grand models are intended to offer reliable quality at very affordable prices.
C. Bechstein has a new silent-piano option, called Vario, that can be built into any of its instruments, as well as into pianos of other brands. 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 $6,000 to the price of a vertical piano, and about $11,000 to the price of a grand.
Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
See the Introduction to Brand Profiles, Models, and Prices for an explanation of pricing.
Model & Pricing Guide