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#2023819 - 01/30/13 04:14 AM why there's huge price gap between different piano brands?
jian1zh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/13
Posts: 23
I mean sure, it depends on the quality of the materials, better hammer, better spruce boards, better strings means more expensive piano, but why on earth the difference between a cheap piano and an expensive is so huge? well over 10 thousands?!

Don't shovel in cars as example becoz for cars, the material and technological difference is actually quite huge, such as plasma induced cylinder coating, direct injection fuel system really justify the cost difference, but why piano, an century old instrument without any major improvements through last several decades. Isn't it just woods and more woods but why price difference is sooo huge? Brand hype, sales strategy?

BTW, why would piano sales person stress more on *hand-made* is really beyond me. As an engineer, I actually would pretty much prefer machine-built over anything hand-made. There's NO way you could build better equipment with hand, by giving same amount of attention, a well designed machine-built stuff is always, always winning over samething made by hands.

Why piano buliding stuck with wood is again puzzling me. Wood is quite an inferior material comparing to even plastics. IMHO, piano is better built from carbon-fibre, except soundboard, as carbon-fibre is very resistant to temperature, moisture and stress.


Edited by jian1zh (01/30/13 04:15 AM)

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#2023828 - 01/30/13 04:45 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
backto_study_piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/10
Posts: 405
Loc: Australia
The price of all consumer goods is dependent on demand. If people will pay the money they're asking, the price will remain.
_________________________
Alan from Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert - she's 7'4" long and ebony) & 2 Allen Organs [long story - the first is for sale] - MDS312 and CF-15.

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#2023836 - 01/30/13 05:13 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
KarelG Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/18/11
Posts: 145
Loc: Czech Republic
Hi,
I'm not sure the piano development stopped hundred years ago. Why would then some makers put completely new lines for sale? Speaking from CR, that means Petrof new line of Bora/Breeze/Storm/Passat/Monsoon. Bohemia Piano also redesigned their line. Look at Schimmel/DE corporate video and you'll see they are stressing quite a lot importance of further developments. Also have a look what Estonia did in recent twenty years or so. On the other hand for example August Forster looks like company without a big R&D department. Their pianos are really nice, but w/o modern stuff like duplexes and such but still well, they are able to sell... so w.r.t R&D this really depends. I commenting only piano makers which I know better than just maker name...
_________________________
November 2011: piano entered into my life.

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#2023845 - 01/30/13 05:38 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
backto_study_piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/10
Posts: 405
Loc: Australia
I'm not sure about duplex being modern - Wikipedia says "...duplex scaling, invented by Theodore Steinway in 1872...".

More recently, some manufacturers have incorporated "tunable duplex", whereas some manufacturers don't have it at all.
_________________________
Alan from Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert - she's 7'4" long and ebony) & 2 Allen Organs [long story - the first is for sale] - MDS312 and CF-15.

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#2023912 - 01/30/13 08:40 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
SteveM732 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 25
Loc: Beaverton, OR, USA
Parts and labor. The labor rates of the country of manufacture makes a big difference in price. The origin of parts in the piano and optional features like fake ivory keys and fancy finishes can also make a big difference in the price. Then there is a premium for name brand recognition. And no, wood is not just wood and you will pay a lot for quality woods seasoned properly.

Recently someone on this forum had a less expensive piano delivered with broken tuning pins where as a more expensive piano would have spend more labor intensive time being tested and checked out in the factory and at the dealership and probably would have used higher quality (more expensive) tuning pins in the first place.

They do make pianos out of plastic on highly automated productions lines, they are called "digital" pianos. They are pumped full of technological improvements and are superior in every way. Oh, except they have no heart or soul and Beethoven can't feel a darn thing when he lays his head on them.
_________________________
-Steve
1969 Yamaha U3

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#2023923 - 01/30/13 09:09 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7239
Loc: Rochester MN
The word which seems to have been lost in this discussion is quality. It is a very complex concept. If the concept of quality is not understood, then any resultant product will suffice for any application.

Consider also, craftsmanship. It certainly is not a concept which translates to production lines or robotics. That is mere repetition.

Finally, there is an almost mystical concept. It is musicality.

Combining all of the concepts into a single term, we arrive at artistry.

Therein lies the price differential.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2023937 - 01/30/13 09:40 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: Minnesota Marty]
Steve Jackson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/07
Posts: 648
Loc: Toronto
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
The word which seems to have been lost in this discussion is quality. It is a very complex concept. If the concept of quality is not understood, then any resultant product will suffice for any application.

Consider also, craftsmanship. It certainly is not a concept which translates to production lines or robotics. That is mere repetition.

Finally, there is an almost mystical concept. It is musicality.

Combining all of the concepts into a single term, we arrive at artistry.

Therein lies the price differential.


Well said!

To speak to the OP, the development of pianos runs parallel to
the industrial age. The piano is the showcase of mechanical
production, and all manufacturers rely on machines.

However,as Marty says, getting the music into the piano takes
artisans. As far as tolerances, if you have ever taken apart
a late 1800's Steinway upright, you would know that no mechanized production could fit that together. Mechanized production means reducing the production to its bare assemblies
and designing these assemblies so the machines can pop them
out. In hand fitting, intuitive decisions based on experience
may alter some of the tone producing parts and adjustments to
get top performance.

The last 10% of performance can take 90% of the time of production.

Take care,

Steve
_________________________
Vintage Piano sales and restoration in Toronto
Exclusive Live Performance Player Systems Dealer

http://stevejacksonpianos.com

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#2023946 - 01/30/13 09:54 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
Steven Y. A. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/13
Posts: 291
Loc: Toronto
Labours..German workers earn about $20 per hour, well Chinese earn about $2. And there are 2 method of making pianos: the traditional way takes 6 months the other less than few days.



Handmade...all modern piano manufacturing involes some machineary, more or less. All cabinents are produced by CNC i believe. but from my knowledge:

- some aspect cannot be handled by machines YET for example gluing bridge to the soundboard. and to install the strings. its way too sensitive for machines to handle yet.

- some aspect can NEVER handled by machines, ie: voicing and final touch.

as for different material. I believe wood required for cabient is close as critical as the soundboard. they can be as cheap as ikea bed frame, in most cases, a special laminate.

as soundboard. my friend in material science already discuss the possibility of using poly material as the acoustical quality in theory is superior to wood.

I believe Steingraeber Phoenix is the model using carbon soundboard.

in terms of mass production: yes things have already been changed: thats why some traditional prestious manufacturers like PLEYEL struggles: crushed by mass produced product like Pearl River. FOr the cost of a pearl river piano they couldnt even buy the materials in france.

in the end you judge by ears fingers and eyes. you choose with your preferrence and budget.

here is a youtube video for your interest.
SChimmel production tour.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em3oOJLTMks
_________________________
PLEYEL P124

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#2023955 - 01/30/13 10:05 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1717
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
If you can't hear and feel the difference between a great, expensive piano and one that is less expensive, count yourself lucky and buy the latter.

It all comes down to sound and touch. Very little else matters. (In my experience, quality of craftsmanship correlates pretty well with sound and touch, but if you disagree you might add that as the third factor.)
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#2023986 - 01/30/13 11:20 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
I can't tell if the OP is serious or just trolling.. I mean really..

Why does a t-shirt sell for $2 at walmart but can sell for $50 at designer stores? It's everything, labor market differences, quality differences, brand perception, etc. etc. etc. It's called a market and supply/demand. If you think you can make a better steinway for a fraction of the cost, I suggest you do so. I'll be in line to buy one of your pianos as will I'm sure many people.

Comparing pianos to cars is an apples to oranges comparison. Cars are practically a commodity, whereas pianos are luxury items. Also, the difference between an expensive car and cheap car are comparatively not that large, especially for the price. Direct injection vs. port injection adds to the cost, but you see how even cheap cars come now with direct injection.

Personally, I don't find pianos to be all that expensive, relatively speaking. Of course I'd like to pay less (as would everyone), but that's not reality. I bought a ~$3k sectional which is relatively simple in relation to the used Yamaha U1 I purchased for about the same price. Sure new the U1 is about $7k, but the work involved to make a U1 is much more complicated than a sectional w/ "just" some fabric/wood/cushioning. :p


Edited by PianoWarrior (01/30/13 11:21 AM)

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#2024004 - 01/30/13 11:46 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
Sand Tiger Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 995
Loc: Southern California
Parts, labor, reputation, marketing. Prices fascinate me. Often times the exact same product sells for divergent prices depending on venue. Beer in a supermarket might be $6 for a six-pack. At a sports stadium it might be $10 for one beer or 60x as much money, same product. Go to a department store, and take a dress shirt, change the label and nothing else, and it might mean a tripling in price at the same venue.

Luxury items such as pianos are priced mostly on perception. It is the same with most other luxury items, from watches to purses, to ski equipment to bicycles. I had this same conversation with someone about bicycles. The other person could not understand why anyone would spend 10x or 50x as much on a bike as someone else.

I talked about something much more down to earth, shoes. Most mass produced shoes or sneakers stocked in any store, cost $2 to $5 in materials, maybe another $2 to $5 in labor. A generic store brand pair of sneakers might list for $25. Slap a mid-level name label on it and the price goes up to $50. Sign up a big-name sports star to endorse it, and the price might be $300.

There is a veneer of technological differences (especially for stuff like golf clubs or ski equipment), or for some high end items: handmade vs. machine made, or made in Germany or USA vs. made in Mexico or China, but the big differences tend to be caused by marketing, and the differences in public perception superior marketing causes. It is not all that different with pianos. For pianos, marketing, reputation, strength of dealer network are huge factors.
_________________________
my piano uploads

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#2024009 - 01/30/13 11:58 AM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19230
Loc: New York City
Like most items, from t shirts to cars, for pianos there is not in most people's opinion a direct proportion between the quality of the item and its price. One cannot expect a seven foot piano costing 75K to be "five times as as good"(however one wants to interpret that)as a seven foot piano costing 15K. That is why Larry Fine(hoping I'm remembering his comment correctly), when asked by clients if some very expensive piano is a "good value for the money" usually says no. Of course, he doesn't mean the piano isn't a great piano. He's just echoing the idea I expressed in the first sentence.

In NYC I can by a loaf of bread for $3 and I can buy one for $10. Is the $10 loaf a good value?

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#2024013 - 01/30/13 12:00 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19230
Loc: New York City
Like most items, from t shirts to cars, for pianos there is not in most people's opinion a direct proportion between the quality of the item and its price. One cannot expect a seven foot piano costing 75K to be "five times as as good"(however one wants to interpret that)as a seven foot piano costing 15K. That is why Larry Fine(hoping I'm remembering his comment correctly), when asked by clients if some very expensive piano is a "good value for the money" usually says no. Of course, he doesn't mean the piano isn't a great piano. He's just echoing the idea I expressed in the first sentence.

In NYC I can by a loaf of bread for $3 and I can buy one for $10. Is the $10 loaf a good value? I don't know, but the $6 hamburger deluxe at the corner diner is just as good as the one at many other restaurants where the price is twice that amount.

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#2024040 - 01/30/13 12:52 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: backto_study_piano]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5185
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: backto_study_piano
I'm not sure about duplex being modern - Wikipedia says "...duplex scaling, invented by Theodore Steinway in 1872...".

More recently, some manufacturers have incorporated "tunable duplex", whereas some manufacturers don't have it at all.

You're right, the "duplex" is not a modern "feature" of the piano. All pianos from at least the early 1800s on have incorporated one or more duplex string segments. At issue is whether or not those duplex string segments are tuned. If an attempt has been made to make the length of a duplex string segment some specific partial of the fundamental speaking length it is more properly known as an aliquot duplex or a tuned duplex string segment. In some cases, as you have pointed out, a piano might have one or more tunable duplex string segments.

The tuned, or tunable, duplex can be used either at the front of the speaking string—i.e., between the V-bar and the counterbearing bar—or at the back of the speaking string between the bridge and the back string rest. Or both.

In spite of the many grandiose claims made for the back tuned duplex there is little or no actual evidence that it provides any real acoustical benefit to the piano. There is evidence that when the tuned, or aliquot, front duplex is working as it is supposedly intended to work it changes both the rate of decay and the length of decay. The rate of decay increases meaning that, after the initial percussive attack, the volume of the note(s) drops off more rapidly and the length of what we call sustain decreases. Whether or not this is an advantage is for the pianist to decide. Most of my customers over the years ultimately decided it was not.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2024061 - 01/30/13 01:32 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: Steven Y. A.]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5185
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Steven Y. A.
Labours..German workers earn about $20 per hour, well Chinese earn about $2. And there are 2 method of making pianos: the traditional way takes 6 months the other less than few days.

You make some good points, but…

Hourly labor costs certainly account for some price disparity but it doesn’t explain everything. To take two extremes: if a high-production grand requires, say 200 hours of labor at $5/hour (the days of $2/hour labor are long gone for the piano industry) the cost of labor will be $1,000. Let’s say a low-production piano of the same type and size takes 400 hours of labor at $20/hour; the cost of labor will be $8,000. That’s a big difference but it doesn’t account for one piano selling for $12,000 and the other for $100,000.



Quote:
Handmade...all modern piano manufacturing involes some machineary, more or less. All cabinents are produced by CNC i believe. but from my knowledge:

- some aspect cannot be handled by machines YET for example gluing bridge to the soundboard. and to install the strings. its way too sensitive for machines to handle yet.

Bridges and ribs are often glued to soundboards in large, semi-automated presses. Bridge drilling, notching and pinning can be done at least as well by machine as by hand.

At least one company uses machines for just about all stringing operations.



Quote:
- some aspect can NEVER handled by machines, ie: voicing and final touch.

Mostly true. At least so far.



Quote:
as for different material. I believe wood required for cabient is close as critical as the soundboard. they can be as cheap as ikea bed frame, in most cases, a special laminate.[/i]

Most cabinet parts are now made of some kind of man-made materials such as MDF. Even in the high-end European pianos.

Many so-called “entry-level” pianos use reasonably high-end spruce in their soundboards. The difference in the cost of materials between adequate-grade spruce and high-end spruce is not all that great.



Quote:
as soundboard. my friend in material science already discuss the possibility of using poly material as the acoustical quality in theory is superior to wood.

I believe Steingraeber Phoenix is the model using carbon soundboard.

I have seen carbon fiber soundboard panels in several Steingraeber pianos.



Quote:
in terms of mass production: yes things have already been changed: thats why some traditional prestious manufacturers like PLEYEL struggles: crushed by mass produced product like Pearl River. FOr the cost of a pearl river piano they couldnt even buy the materials in france.

in the end you judge by ears fingers and eyes. you choose with your preferrence and budget.

This is pretty much it. Things have changed in mass production. The build quality has steadily improved over the years. The difference in build quality between the mass-produced grands of the 1960s and 1970s and those being built today is dramatic. As is their acoustical performance.

When I started out in this business the differences in aesthetics, detailing and performance between entry-level grands and the best of the high-end grands was significant. It was easily seen and heard by even beginning pianists.

Today that gap has narrowed considerably. To be sure there is still a difference in how well detailed a high-end grand will be relative to its entry-level counterpart but that difference is not as obvious. Nor is the difference in action performance or acoustic performance as great. Indeed, a well-prepped entry-level grand can come quite close to equaling some of those high-end grands. There may still be a difference but it is not nearly so great as it once was.

I have no idea where this will end but I can assure you that the manufacturers of those so-called entry-level pianos are not sitting around waiting for their competition to bury them; they are all considering their next moves and how they can narrow what aesthetic and performance gaps might yet remain.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2024074 - 01/30/13 02:10 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
ju5t1n-h Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/13/12
Posts: 179
Loc: Vancouver, British Columbia
There's tons of things difference in between piano brands - patents between soundboards, differences of action, hammers, felt used, keys, size in piano, strings

and a carbon fibre acoustic piano? that wouldn't work..
_________________________
Essex EUP-123S


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#2024076 - 01/30/13 02:14 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: ju5t1n-h]
TigerRad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/25/11
Posts: 32
Loc: Columbia, SC
Originally Posted By: ju5t1n-h


and a carbon fibre acoustic piano? that wouldn't work..



I'm pretty sure the golf club and tennis racket people said the same thing...
_________________________
Yamaha CLP-240....and looking

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#2024095 - 01/30/13 02:56 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: Sand Tiger]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5185
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Sand Tiger
Parts, labor, reputation, marketing. Prices fascinate me. Often times the exact same product sells for divergent prices depending on venue. Beer in a supermarket might be $6 for a six-pack. At a sports stadium it might be $10 for one beer or 60x as much money, same product. Go to a department store, and take a dress shirt, change the label and nothing else, and it might mean a tripling in price at the same venue.

Luxury items such as pianos are priced mostly on perception. It is the same with most other luxury items, from watches to purses, to ski equipment to bicycles. I had this same conversation with someone about bicycles. The other person could not understand why anyone would spend 10x or 50x as much on a bike as someone else.

I talked about something much more down to earth, shoes. Most mass produced shoes or sneakers stocked in any store, cost $2 to $5 in materials, maybe another $2 to $5 in labor. A generic store brand pair of sneakers might list for $25. Slap a mid-level name label on it and the price goes up to $50. Sign up a big-name sports star to endorse it, and the price might be $300.

There is a veneer of technological differences (especially for stuff like golf clubs or ski equipment), or for some high end items: handmade vs. machine made, or made in Germany or USA vs. made in Mexico or China, but the big differences tend to be caused by marketing, and the differences in public perception superior marketing causes. It is not all that different with pianos. For pianos, marketing, reputation, strength of dealer network are huge factors.

If you've not already read it you'll find the book, The Language of Things -- Understanding the World of Desirable Objects by Deyan Sudjic (2009, WW Norton & Company, New York, NY.) interesting.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2024116 - 01/30/13 03:33 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
SteveM732 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 25
Loc: Beaverton, OR, USA
One aesthetic gap for me is seeing "Young-Chang" or similar on the fallboard. They could do like Toyota did with the Lexus name, but you'd still have a gap. Maybe not an aesthetic or performance gap, but a gap of knowing your piano was stamped out in an automated factory using space-age materials. I think I'll call it the "humanity gap".

When a piano is reduced to the science of banging out scientifically perfect notes for the lowest price possible it will be on the far side of the humanity gap from me.
_________________________
-Steve
1969 Yamaha U3

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#2024144 - 01/30/13 04:15 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: SteveM732]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5185
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: SteveM732
One aesthetic gap for me is seeing "Young-Chang" or similar on the fallboard. They could do like Toyota did with the Lexus name, but you'd still have a gap. Maybe not an aesthetic or performance gap, but a gap of knowing your piano was stamped out in an automated factory using space-age materials. I think I'll call it the "humanity gap".

When a piano is reduced to the science of banging out scientifically perfect notes for the lowest price possible it will be on the far side of the humanity gap from me.

So you don't like your Yamaha (which was built in one of the most automated piano assembly plants on earth).

Nor would you like the über-exclusive Steingraebers fitted with carbon fiber soundboards.

Most manufacturers of inexpensive pianos go out of their way to use—and market—traditional materials. You'll find more exotic materials in high-end, expensive pianos.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2024146 - 01/30/13 04:20 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4855
In the end, an object is worth as much as someone is prepared to pay for it. And this applies just as much to pianos as it does to those hideous auctions of some so-called 'celebrity's' wardrobe or knick-knacks.

Which pianist's eyes wouldn't drool at the name of an ancient and venerable Austro-German name on the fallboard? grin I know mine would, and I'm not a sentimental person (except when my eyes water when Mimi expires in La bohème - but that's another story wink ). And I'd then play that particular piano with a certain expectation, almost willing it to be met......

If one didn't know the real brand of well-built piano (say its original name was painted over and replaced with a famous Austro-German brand), but it was perfectly regulated and tuned, and voiced to sound 'European', even though it's made in Indonesia, would one not still enthuse about its 'soul' (as someone said earlier) and then, when informed that it was actually a mass-produced cheap piano made in South-East Asia, change one's mind suddenly?

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#2024160 - 01/30/13 04:46 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14120
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Quote:
If one didn't know the real brand of well-built piano (say its original name was painted over and replaced with a famous Austro-German brand), but it was perfectly regulated and tuned, and voiced to sound 'European', even though it's made in Indonesia, would one not still enthuse about its 'soul' (as someone said earlier) and then, when informed that it was actually a mass-produced cheap piano made in South-East Asia, change one's mind suddenly?


Good point.

However, not all pianos made in South-East Asoa are any longer "mass-produced" or "cheap"

There's a new species emerging that once again is raising the bar and changing the equation by considerable margin.

Last week's NAMM anybody?

Norbert


Edited by Norbert (01/30/13 04:47 PM)
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#2024170 - 01/30/13 05:05 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
My immediate reaction on skimming through this thread is that it is substantially over analysed.

Most products with substantial similarity vary in price because of perceived value. Luxury biscuits and cheap biscuits cost much the same to make but sell for significant price differentials. Branding and marketing are big factors. These factors influence consumer perception of value.

Quality, currency, warranty, materials are all relevant too of course.
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#2024172 - 01/30/13 05:10 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: Del]
SteveM732 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 25
Loc: Beaverton, OR, USA
Originally Posted By: Del
So you don't like your Yamaha (which was built in one of the most automated piano assembly plants on earth).

I have no illusions about my U3, but I did not do a good job of conveying my mental image. I wasn't suggesting that 1969's assembly methods and materials are unsatisfactory to me, I was trying to convey the idea that there is some value to me in having a piano made of wood that was touched at least a few times by human hands during manufacture, even if the resulting instrument is more expensive or less than perfect because of it.

I spend my days with computers, in a world made of plastic, and every item made as cheaply as possible; when I come home and sit at my piano I want a break from that.
_________________________
-Steve
1969 Yamaha U3

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#2024181 - 01/30/13 05:32 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7148
Loc: torrance, CA
Originally Posted By: jian1zh

Don't shovel in cars as example


grin

I wouldn't think of it. I hate those car analogies. I just quoted you because I enjoyed your shovel metaphor.

Designer eyewear is a better way to go. Prices on the corrective lenses that help you see better exist within a narrow range. Prices on the frames that supposedly help you look better ex ist across the whole banwidth of human foolishness. A lot of high-end piano purchases are intended to make one look bertter.

I won't break any new ground by suggesting that it's basically supply and demand. The first response from Back to Study Piano laid that out. But to develop it a little further.........

Piano makers in the market have different stories to sell. Some stories stretch across decades, even centuries. The makers will bill you for that. Other makers have stories that are quite short and have unappealing plot twists. Those makers will use an appealing price to compensate for their shortcomings in story-telling.

Let's say you're a limited production boutique Euro maker with a ton of history. You make 500 pianos annually. Your task is to find 500 people world-wide who will buy your story. That's not a tough task with the right marketing approach. Limited production will keep the slim order book in good shape, keep your smalll staff of core workers motivated, and allow you to participate in the lifestyle that your predecessors set. You may be into your own story enough to be meticulous in preserving it and even bold enough to attempt to raise the bar yet higher. Or you may be lazy and simply trade off reputation while letting things slide.. Either way, you only need those 500 cognoscenti who believe that it's the superior sound that beckons their superior ears (and not the pressure of their wallet's thickness on their superior buttocks.) grin

Alternatively, let's say you're an emerging Chinese maker whose task it is to get his own people to believe that his products are something quite different from the bitter fruits of the People's Revolution. You really need and want to make it elsewhere (the West) to show the folks back home that you can play ball on the world stage. You offer enticing prices, reasonably good materials, and ever-improving quality of labor. Hey, maybe one day you'll have your own story, but in the meantime, you'll take what you can get (incrementally).

Obviously, these are extremes, and any resemblance to reality is accidental. In the middle you have an annoying company with a true global vision (Yamaha) that has the wherewithal to offer good product in all price ranges from the $500 digital to the Bosie Imperial. Then you have Steinway with its strategy of monopolizing the concert stages and music schools to force you to see the light.

There are a lot of other stories out there of course, but many of them are frankly quite boring and the pianos that present them orally quite nondescript. But despite the breadth of the muddled middle, the piano market is defined by extremes, as you've noticed.
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#2024222 - 01/30/13 06:46 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...Branding and marketing are big factors. These factors influence consumer perception of value. Quality, currency, warranty, materials are all relevant too of course..."

Concisely and well stated. 'Marketing' and 'branding' are such short words, but think of the effort over many years that a house such as Steinway has put into these ephemerals--- and, has cashed in.

'Warranty service' and 'aftermarket,' including dealer networks, and building a company's reputation for doing right by their customers... easy to say, but not every company gets there. To me, Kawai would be a good example of a company which has built this kind of reputation. Consumer confidence is worth money.

And, speaking of the innards having changed, Kawai's forward-looking use of new action materials which out-perform wood is one example of how it's really not true that the product has remained the same for the last century. Elephant-sparing non-ivory keytops is another especially grateful example. WNG's radically new action parts is another good example. Steingraber has already been mentioned; laminate soundboards have not, but they're with us. Modern finishes and glues alone represent tremendous technical advances. So the OP's premise is quite faulty, though the question is understandable, given the products' similar appearance.
_________________________
Clef


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#2024261 - 01/30/13 08:14 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
Keith D Kerman Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 3304
Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
Objectively, the biggest difference in cost is labor. It is not so simple as one piano taking 150 man hours and another taking 600 man hours. Every extra hour taken in production costs much more than the $30 it took to pay for the extra hour of labor. There is a domino effect. You can't make as many pianos so materials cost more per unit. You can't sell as many pianos so you have to make a higher margin on each individual unit. You have to charge more to your retailer so your retailer buys less of your product. The retailer has to charge the public more so the public buys less of your product. And so on and so on. It is basic business.

Of course, sales and marketing contribute enormously to differences in pricing. Why should pianos be any different than anything else? A company may make the exact same pain reliever and put it in 2 different packages, and one sells for 3 times the price of the other. Exactly the same thing. Maybe even the one that sells for 3 times the price is dramatically more popular because of an effective advertising campaign.

With pianos, much of the labor expense is purely cosmetic. Closely examine the fit and finish on a Fazioli or Bosendorfer, then do the same with a Steinway or Mason & Hamlin. Different universes. It takes a ton of extra time to get that perfectly flat, even finish. On the other hand, some of the fit and finish make for a big difference in the performance. A perfect bridge notching vs a nearly perfect bridge notching can be the difference between a note that sings and a note that chokes. The untrained eye might not even be able to see the difference.

The differences between a mediocre piano, a good piano and a great piano, performance wise, are not huge. Maybe one sings just a little better. Maybe one feels just a bit more intuitive to play, and just a bit easier to control. Maybe one has just a bit more dynamic range etc etc It can't be quantified. But those tiny differences can often be where one finds the most enjoyment in a piano. They are accumulative. So, a tiny bit better is a tiny bit better over and over again every hour you play, over the course of decades. And as you improve as a musician, whether as a beginner or as a concert pianist, and everything in between, those tiny differences become more and more noticeable.

While there is no denying the extra expense of fit and finish and materials, as I have preached here for going on a decade now, a more expensive piano does not necessarily equate to better performance. There are extremely expensive, hand crafted pianos with impressive lineage, stunning fit and finish, and glorious materials that have design issues that make them far inferior performance wise to some moderately priced pianos with adequate fit, finish and materials, but superior design. The more expensive piano may last longer, but then you just end up with long lasting poor performance.

Anyways, I guess I felt like rambling a bit.........


_________________________
Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales of vintage and pre-owned Steinway and Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Charles R. Walter, Brodmann, Feurich
www.pianocraft.net
http://www.youtube.com/user/pianocraftchannel/videos

keith@pianocraft.net 888-840-5460

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#2024306 - 01/30/13 10:10 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1295
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: jian1zh
BTW, why would piano sales person stress more on *hand-made* is really beyond me. As an engineer, I actually would pretty much prefer machine-built over anything hand-made. There's NO way you could build better equipment with hand, by giving same amount of attention, a well designed machine-built stuff is always, always winning over samething made by hands.

Why piano buliding stuck with wood is again puzzling me. Wood is quite an inferior material comparing to even plastics. IMHO, piano is better built from carbon-fibre, except soundboard, as carbon-fibre is very resistant to temperature, moisture and stress.


Spoken of like a true engineer that doesn't get it. I interact with a lot of folk who think that piano assembly is a matter of specification. Get the specs right and piano will be right. Simply execute the design as precisely and accurately as possible and you're good. (No, precision and accuracy are not the same thing). Actually, there are a number of middle-of-the-road piano manufacturers that seem to believe that it is a matter of executing specifications. That may be why they are middle-of-the-road.

The thing is that it is not about specification but performance. In order to achieve a particular performance standard, it is necessary to "tweak" in order to achieve the performance result that will otherwise necessarily vary from one unit to the next if everything in uniformly "cookie-cuttered" due to the variation in materials.
Accurate specifications can be very helpful to get things in the zone, but the final step is nothing more than educated, trained tweakage.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. It has occasionally been my lot to be taken out to an island to tune a piano in a twin-engine boat. The pilot has both engines set for the same rpm using twin tachometers. But I know they - in fact - aren't at exactly the rpm because I can hear their sound "beating" with each other. They aren't in tune, and it annoys me. The true accuracy in that case would come not from paying slavish attention to the whiz-bang tachometers, but simply listening. The same thing goes for twin-prop airplanes, as well.

Now, certainly conventional production procedures that achieve high levels of accuracy are much better than sloppy, random procedures that put out product that is all over the map instead of in the zone. But taking a piano that is in the zone and putting it on the bullseye is currently something that can't even be imagined for a mechanized production process.

Neither is this to say that piano sales people don't use misleading or inaccurate hyperbole when marketing their wares, either.
_________________________
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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#2024312 - 01/30/13 10:17 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
Ori Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 1703
Loc: Stamford CT, New York City .
Originally Posted By: jian1zh
I mean sure, it depends on the quality of the materials, better hammer, better spruce boards, better strings means more expensive piano, but why on earth the difference between a cheap piano and an expensive is so huge? well over 10 thousands?!

Don't shovel in cars as example becoz for cars, the material and technological difference is actually quite huge, such as plasma induced cylinder coating, direct injection fuel system really justify the cost difference, but why piano, an century old instrument without any major improvements through last several decades. Isn't it just woods and more woods but why price difference is sooo huge? Brand hype, sales strategy?

BTW, why would piano sales person stress more on *hand-made* is really beyond me. As an engineer, I actually would pretty much prefer machine-built over anything hand-made. There's NO way you could build better equipment with hand, by giving same amount of attention, a well designed machine-built stuff is always, always winning over samething made by hands.

Why piano buliding stuck with wood is again puzzling me. Wood is quite an inferior material comparing to even plastics. IMHO, piano is better built from carbon-fibre, except soundboard, as carbon-fibre is very resistant to temperature, moisture and stress.


jian1zh,

Some pianos take much, much longer to make than others.
They have designs that require higher level of parts and materials and specific work methods to execute.


If you don't know the difference between pianos, I suggest visiting your friendly neighborhood piano dealer...especially one that carries pianos of varied levels at the showroom... and ask what the differences are.

You may be surprised to learn that the differences between pianos may be just as great as the differences between cars.
_________________________
Ori Bukai - Owner/Founder of Allegro Pianos - New York City and Stamford CT showrooms.

Authorized dealer representing:

Bluthner, Bosendorfer, Steingraeber, Estonia, August Forster, Haessler, Kawai.

Restored Steinway pianos.

www.allegropianos.com

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#2024327 - 01/30/13 10:57 PM Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? [Re: jian1zh]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1896
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
If you think about how readily the human ear can recognize differences between the voice qualities of each person they know-consider that these differences in vibratory spectrum energy distributed in each voice is very tiny-you will get some idea of how subtle the musical engineering of instruments is.

Not all the physics of pianos nor the musical intelligibility of humans is understood in a way accessible to piano engineers. Things such as finite element modeling are only as good as the assumptions about how all the elements interrelate. Thus makers are loath to throw out what they know works now for something that might work. The OP is correct that wood and felt has a host of challenges to manufacture something as complex, precise and durable as piano should be.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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