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#2189250 - 11/27/13 02:26 PM "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway
Hamburg-D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
Hi everyone,
Yet another NY vs Hamburg Steinway review and I will attempt to make it as objective as possible!

I am by no means an expert but but here is my experience that allows me to write a review:

- Played about 10 Hamburg D's ranging from 2003 to 2013 range.
- Played about 10 NY D's ranging from 1992 - 2013 range.


First lets start with the superficial.

I won't go into the fact that the Hamburg is a shiny black vs the NY's common matte black finish (which I think is also available now in the shiny).

The fit and finish of the Hamburg is better. Things just seem to fit better. When taking out the front lip of the piano, the fit is very tight and firm and there are no visible gaps.
I think the quality of the NY fit and finish is absolutely superb! But the Hamburg just brings it to a whole new lever. That of a seriously O.C.D. builder.

There are a few things on the Hamburg that don't exist on the NY model that are really neat.

-The lid has a locking mechanism on the side of the piano
-On the NY there are long flathead screws under the "cheeks is it?" On the hamburg there is a lever that you twist, and once undone, the lever stays in the piano so you don't have 2 large screws laying around when you take out the action.
-There seem to be a better consistency in hammer shape on the Hamburg. They have a perfect tear drop shape them. On the NY I've seen some very oddly shaped hammers that resemble more of that of a tennis ball than a tear drop shaped hammer.
-The lid on the Hamburg has one brace in the middle. The NY has I think 3 or 4 which subjectively make it look unfinished.
-Obviously the arms of the piano (on either side of the keybed) on the Hamburg are round and the NY is sharp edged but WHO CARES??
-Included with the Hamburg D is a very nice little box arranged with a few things to justify the insane cost of the piano. A nice heavy locking key, a beautiful red velvet keytop cover, and a leather cleaning cloth.


Now lets get to some deeper stuff.

HAMMERS HAMMERS HAMMERS!

I think nomatter what I end up saying later on in this review, it all in the end lies in the hammer differences between Hamburg and NY.
Besides the fact that the shape of the NY hammers is inexcusable, lets talk a little about the compressed hammer found in the Hamburg and the non-compressed NY hammer.

For a piano to make a sound, the strings must be "struck". It's a piano - we are not plucking strings here smile
The striking object must have physical strength or else you may feel like a cotton ball is hitting the strings.

A simple analogy:
The hammers in the Hamburg is "born" strong.
The hammers in a NY are filled with steroids in order to be strong.

If you go to the NY selection room you may find that most pianos do not emit much sound. The piano sounds like the hammers are made of cotton balls.
The theory is that with years of laying, they will harden.
The issue is that those hammers are so severely SOFT, that it would literally take years of playing to get the piano to organically come alive.

I don't believe this ever happens. No one has the patience for that, and I guess if you did have the patience, and let the NY hammers organically compact due to playing the piano might sound really nice, but we will never know. Those pianos are unplayable unless you "juice" the hammers.

So the hammers on the NY will ultimately have to be "juiced". I believe it's some sort of lacquer that hardens the felt. It is artificial and synthetic hence my analogy to giving it steroids.


Once the hammers are juiced the piano comes alive immediately! Magic? Hardly!
The sound is very shallow and uninspiring. It's almost as if only the top of the hammer is hard now, and the rest still weak. So you get an initial "bite" out of each key that is difficult to control.


Just imagine if at the very tip of each hammer you put a small steel plate. Every note would be harsh nomatter how lightly you tried to play.

Ideally, I like a hammer that is soft on the tip and gradually gets harder towards the center. So when played softly you are brushing the strings with the soft tip of the hammer, but when applying more force you quickly move into the deeper (0.5mm) harder more compact area of the hammer.

This is kind of what the Hamburg hammer (I know, made by renner) feels like. It has intrinsic strength and you can needle the surface to achieve better dynamic range and multiple colours at different dynamic ranges.

I'm not a piano technician obviously, but i think if you inject the hammer with laquer from the inside there would be better result rather than putting it on the tip.


For those who will buy a new NY steinway, my advice is be very patient with the hammers. A NY steinway is not about any sort of instant gratification. Play those hammers in and go easy on the "soy sauce". The piano will come alive over time - A LONG TIME.
The tragedy is that you will never notice it. It's a like a child growing up. In 2 years you will have a fantastic sounding instrument but you won't ever say "wow" because you so slowly got there. The first 6 months should be unbearable because you won't get much sound from the piano.
If you choose to have the hammers lacquered for immediate gratification, you will get a very low quality artificial sound...

I had a 1998 C&A D for about a year, and the hammers on that piano were HARD because of being played. No lacquer. It had some serious dynamic range!!!

So in order to go ever further in the review I will compare the best NY D's I've had which was this C&A to my new Hamburg D.



The NY C&A D was incredible! It had tremendous dynamic range. You could make that piano whisper in way you can't even imagine.
A piano with good dynamic range reads your mind. You no longer play with your hands, but with your mind. When you "think" ppp, it plays pppppppp. When you think FFF it plays FFFFFFF and everything in between.
Your brain doesn't have to tell you fingers what to do, and the fingers must "attempt" to accomplish the task.

The Hamburg D's all posses this quality. Every single one I've played. The dynamic range is intrinsic to their corrector.

My specific Hamburg D has more easy to accomplish dynamic range the the C&A D which I didn't think would ever be possible smile


The Hamburg pianos have less overtones and more of a direct immediate sound. If you are playing debusy, ravel and things like that, the NY models may give you brushes that are just not available in the Hamburg cousins.

If you are playing classical music from bach up to Rachmaninoff but no later, the Hamburg sound is the same sound that some compositions were composed for, and therefore would sound more natural.

It's like playing a chopin nocturne on guitar. It still will be beautiful, but it was composed for a piano, for the timbre of a piano, not the plucking of guitar.

So in a much more subtle sense, the chopin ballade will sound better on a European piano than a NY because subconsciously, that composition was written on a piano with immediacy of clear, clean and precise sound rather than a rounder, less sharp full of overtones type of sound. Hope that makes sense and it's just a thought. I don't actually have experience playing a piano from 200 years ago in europe.



Braking the piano in:

When you buy a new NY model you will be asked by the dealer to allow the piano to break in and the hammers to get hard. As covered earlier, this is true but sometimes very misleading on how slowly the process is. They will tell you it will take 6 months. Plan on 2 years to reach the actual maximum potential.

The Hamburg piano is braking-in in a very accelerated fashion. Playing it for 8 hours yesterday the action is getting noticeably looser and notes that are lacking in power, I just hit them really hard about 10 times, and they quickly harden and come alive.

My hamburg D was getting better by the hour which brought a whole new meaning to the term "breaking-in". For the first time I'm seeing a piano changing along with the notes getting brighter, richer, more dynamic range, I'm also knocking the piano out of alignment with every blow. Notes are going out of tune fairly quickly and it's a success because the piano is changing to fit the environment and the abuse of its new owner.



Action:
This is impossible to explain, but I like the action of the Hamburg a little better although they feel fairly similar. It's difficult to judge action because so much of the "feel" is interpreted through the sound and separating the 2 is very difficult, at least for me.
But if I had to choose it would be the Hamburg (renner) action. Just like the piano build quality, it's just a notch above.



To finalize my review here is the main point and I'm sorry NY Steinway if you are reading but it's my responsibility as a member of society to inform future buyers:

If you are going to by a new NY steinway, don't! Buy a used one. Obviously if you were thinking a new Steinway, then go with about 1-2 year old Steinway and SELECT it. (You will increase you selection possibilities with going 10-2 years old)
If you are in the market for a B, then you must invest in travel and play at least 3-5 B's. Some of the B's may have been rushed and lacquered to death and they will lack dynamic range. The B's that were patient, will have better sound in my opinion. But either way, if you buy a new one, it'd be like buying a new ferrari that you cannot rev beyond 3000rpm for the 1st 20,000 miles which is pretty much the life of the car hahaha.
There is no point "selecting" a new NY Steinway. It'd be like selecting a sperm and an egg under a microscrope - you have NO idea what it will become.

If you absolutely need to be the first owner, get yourself a Hamburg and go select in Germany.

If you are strictly shopping used, I recommend trying out a hamburg and see if that european sound is more for your liking.
Reading on the internet you see alot about how Hamburgs are brighter which leads one to imagine a bright Yamaha upright sound. This is NOT the case.
It's an extremely clear and precise sound that is still complex with its beauty of its purity. It's not an obnoxious bright sound. It's rather extremely soothing, delicate, until of course you jam the notes hard and the thing is just a BEAST!!!!

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#2189263 - 11/27/13 03:01 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
kalee21 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 09/08/13
Posts: 75
Loc: London
I agree with your observations. I have found the inconsistencies of the NY instruments made the 'work load' of getting what I wanted annoying, with the exception of an outstanding NY C&A which was exceptionally prepared. The Europeans seem to take a very different approach and pride with their new instruments. Over here we very seldom encounter NY product. One of our major London concert halls, the Royal Festival Hall, use dual actions on their concert pianos to optimise the possible choices for the artist, does show what subtle options in hammer voicing are possible.
Congratulations.

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#2189284 - 11/27/13 04:05 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2061
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Noambenhamou,
Congratulations on finding "your" Steinway. I wish you all the best with it. You have bought one of the greatest pianos in the world. Which of course you realize.

Your review of the selection process is very valid and I do not mean to deprecate your experience. It is real and you have done a excellent job of recounting it for the benefit of the PW forum. And I thank you for sharing it with me.

Now, as a technician with extensive experience voicing the NY style hammer, and a published author about the subject-I would like to make readers aware that the NY hammer is not only made brighter by stiffening the felt with hardening solutions. It is also about shaping the weight down.

The dynamic response of any serviceable piano hammer is always enhanced by reducing the mass from about note 50 to 88. The tone brightens when a hammer is made lighter. The NY hammer is made too large and it is the tone regulation process that should include reducing the hammer mass to the appropriate range.

The physics of the hammer string interaction are best simplified by thinking of the hammer as a damper of sorts. In engineering parlance the hammer mass must be in the proper proportion to the frequency of the note it strikes. Fred Drasche, who was chief Tone Regulator at Steinway NY up to the 1970's said, "The hammer has to get away from the string", "The voicer puts the tone in the hammer with the shape".

Once the hammer weight issue has been properly dealt with the break-in period of NY hammer is a couple of years of serious playing. The benefit is that the tone quality becomes very wide, colorful and stable. The action overall will also be more stable in regulation. And the touch will be wonderfully responsive.

The amount of juice a NY hammer needs is not much and almost always in the note 60 to 88 range.
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#2189288 - 11/27/13 04:16 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
TomazP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/09
Posts: 102
Loc: Ucluelet, BC Canada
Exactly! Well said!

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#2189333 - 11/27/13 06:03 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Hamburg-D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
Thanks for the clarification Ed.
My opinion was composed of what it "felt" like as a consumer do deal with the NY hammers rather than a definite conclusion that would come from a reputable Steinway technician.

As promised, here is a recording of my playing excerpts from various pieces on the new piano. Best listen with headphones because the quality is not great due to me using a hand-held recorder. Sorry about the terrible trills, still getting used to this action compared with my Yamaha upright i've been playing for the past 9 months.

http://www.henselt.org/mp3/new_hamburg_d.mp3

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#2189450 - 11/27/13 11:33 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Sam Rose Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/11
Posts: 673
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou


As promised, here is a recording of my playing excerpts from various pieces on the new piano. Best listen with headphones because the quality is not great due to me using a hand-held recorder. Sorry about the terrible trills, still getting used to this action compared with my Yamaha upright i've been playing for the past 9 months.

http://www.henselt.org/mp3/new_hamburg_d.mp3



Even recorded through a handheld recorder and played through my laptop speakers, this piano sounds absolutely wonderful. I'm so insanely jealous right now. Play it in good health for many, many years laugh
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#2189461 - 11/28/13 12:18 AM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Noam:

Your observations are 100% correct and basically coincide with everything I have learned myself over the years.

Things that are worth mentioning:

German pianos [including several other European..] have 'by default' a much higher standard when leaving factory. This is based by the simple fact that there are so [relatively] many manufacturers crowded in fairly small territory.

Call it a "200 years old competition among the giants".

For example, when looking at Steinways in Hamburg, Grotrian-Steinweg is only about an hour's ride away, Bechsteins a couple of hours and so on.

Once you make your round including Bluthner, Steingraeber and all the others, you will quickly realize that all these pianos compete on virtually same quality level.

Similar like comparing BMW, Audis, Mercedes, Porsche..

Some of the observations you made like the cheek block screws are exaclty same on most of these pianos.

With very similar, often "identical" components including also actions, hammers, soundboards, finishing detail and so on.

The other point to remember is the excellence of German trained factory staff, especially the "Meisters" working at "Endkontrolle".

The final stage of inspection of every single piano approving a piano for shipping out.

Or "not"..

Don't expect much humor from the guys doing this - they're even eating in different lunch rooms.. mad

All in all a very well documented shopping trip!!

ENJOY YOUR PIANO!!

Now, who the heck was runner upper anyways?

Norbert wink


Edited by Norbert (11/28/13 12:28 AM)
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#2189481 - 11/28/13 02:03 AM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Norbert]
michaelha Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/05/13
Posts: 835
Originally Posted By: Norbert

The other point to remember is the excellence of German trained factory staff, especially the "Meisters" working at "Endkontrolle".

The final stage of inspection of every single piano approving a piano for shipping out.

Or "not"..

Don't expect much humor from the guys doing this - they're even eating in different lunch rooms.. mad


I've always wondered what happens when one of the QC guys send the piano back because it didn't pass their tests. I'm sure some just need some tweaks/adjustments here and there, but is there ever a case when something at its core is off (e.g. soundboard?) and the piano is basically scrapped for parts?

I'm no expert either, but I have spent quite a few hours at the Steinway dealer in SF and I also felt like many of them were pretty closed. Your explanation and everyone else's confirmation of the soft or oversized hammers seems to explain it. For some consumers this can be really confusing if the piano is not representing near it's full potential in the showroom and the "break-in" period takes 2 years.

So is this what they mean by Steinways requiring more "dealer prep?"
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#2189525 - 11/28/13 07:08 AM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1162
Loc: Tennessee
Greetings,
I have few customers that will play an unresponsive piano for two years, while waiting for it to develop the tone. The Steinway hammer is usually too soft at the core to produce the basic power we expect at FF. This is not a question of surface hardness, but of core hardness: not to so much a question of brilliance, but of fundamental and midrange spectra.

I prepare customers for a break-in period if they want factory hammers, because I haven't found any other way to get both the fullness of tone and malleable palette that makes the piano so attractive. However, a freshly hammered model M, in a carpeted living room, isn't going to speak with much authority without some dope. And, when one of my actions hits the stage, it better be on the verge of zingy if I don't want to hear faculty complaints. I wish it was otherwise, but these people butter my bread, and I haven't found any way of keeping it coming without lacquer. I use a combo of lacquer and acetone, and it is a thin combo.

The Steinway hammer has more felt on it that most, particularly if we look at the dimension of felt between the hammer's core and its strike point. There is a lot of felt there, and I think that contributes to acoustic power in ways that a lesser amount of denser felt might not. I haven't been able to get the sound I want out of those hammers without hardening up the cores, often for the entire set. When firmed up this way, farther down in the felt, the process of compaction closer the string contact area goes more quickly, and allows the hammer to begin speaking sooner.

I have watched this process occur in the practice rooms at school, where 50 hours a week of play is not uncommon. 100 hours is enough to hear a difference in any hammer, but the amount of lacquer I add determines the speed at which the voice appears. I have installed a set with no lacquer, at all. This was some years ago when the factory would send out unlacquered marshmallows called hammers as a matter of course. Those hammers never came up with much of a voice. They simply wore out in a dull haze, gradually turning to harshness.

I think the pianistic community has gradually begun to understand that the ability to change tone is more important than the ability to produce loudness. There is still a market for the glass piano sound, but more and more, (as with temperament awareness), the internet has brought new perspectives to musicians. We can hope that appreciation of a tonal palette will be given more emphasis as we techs find ways of producing power with a voice. I think voicing awareness among the techs is probably higher now than it has ever been, but we have a long way to go.
Regards,

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#2189550 - 11/28/13 09:09 AM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
wimpiano Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 1258
Loc: The Netherlands
Interesting thread.
I'm wondering whether Ed Mc Morrow and Ed Foote consider the different approach to hammers of Steinway New York to be more of a plus (more voicing options) or a challenge/lesser product..

After reading this thread I looked at pianobuyer and they do place the NY Steinways in a lower tier then the Hamburg Steinways.
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#2189558 - 11/28/13 09:27 AM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Ed Foote]
Steve Cohen Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10479
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
I think the pianistic community has gradually begun to understand that the ability to change tone is more important than the ability to produce loudness.


While I too see this slow evolution, unfortunately, way too much of the community still buys volume over tone.
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#2189588 - 11/28/13 10:42 AM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
PattyP Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/07/04
Posts: 612
Loc: Texas
Bravo!

Wonderful, Noam!

The piano is one of the most pleasing I've ever heard, and your playing is sublime. I hear now why you were so set on the Hamburg.

I just looked at your web site. You're only 31?! Yowsa! I do believe I could listen to you play all day.

Thank you for sharing. wow
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#2189591 - 11/28/13 10:47 AM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
PaintedPostDave Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/09/10
Posts: 542
Loc: Upstate New York
Noam,
As the others have said, lovely sound. What handheld did you use?
whome
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#2189597 - 11/28/13 11:03 AM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
KurtZ Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 894
Loc: The Heart of Screenland
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou


As promised, here is a recording of my playing excerpts from various pieces on the new piano. Best listen with headphones because the quality is not great due to me using a hand-held recorder. Sorry about the terrible trills, still getting used to this action compared with my Yamaha upright i've been playing for the past 9 months.

http://www.henselt.org/mp3/new_hamburg_d.mp3



Did I hear you say, maybe on the other thread, that this piano is in a 14x10 room?
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#2189629 - 11/28/13 12:10 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Steve Cohen]
terminaldegree Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 2676
Loc: western Wisconsin
Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
I think the pianistic community has gradually begun to understand that the ability to change tone is more important than the ability to produce loudness.


While I too see this slow evolution, unfortunately, way too much of the community still buys volume over tone.


For a piano in a concert hall, I want one that can do all of the above, thank you very much!

In a concert setting, I'd rather have a piano that is capable of producing too much volume and brightness (while still being malleable/controllable) rather than one incapable of brightness or tremendous power. Then it's up to my ears, technique, and imagination to make it work. There aren't many instruments that do all this well in my neck of the woods, unfortunately.
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#2189660 - 11/28/13 01:14 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
The piano sounds glorious.

I'll say it again: I am seriously, seriously envious.
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#2189689 - 11/28/13 02:45 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: KurtZ]
Hamburg-D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
Originally Posted By: KurtZ
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou


As promised, here is a recording of my playing excerpts from various pieces on the new piano. Best listen with headphones because the quality is not great due to me using a hand-held recorder. Sorry about the terrible trills, still getting used to this action compared with my Yamaha upright i've been playing for the past 9 months.

http://www.henselt.org/mp3/new_hamburg_d.mp3



Did I hear you say, maybe on the other thread, that this piano is in a 14x10 room?


No. On another thread you asked how I would feel about a piano like that being in a home rather than a concert hall and I said that there would be no problem putting a concert grand in a 10x14 room as long as its carpeted. People assume that 9 foot pianos are super loud and have no business being in a home. My piano teacher in high school lived in a small loft and had a 9 foot Baldwin, so from an early age I've seen this done so I have no issue with the thought if sticking a large piano in a small space. I think Horowitz also had his 9 foot Steinway in his small apartment.


Thanks for all the compliments on the sound. I really love it.

To answer the latest replies,
I think when buying a concert grand the focus should be power. If there is no power and the sound breaks up when played fff, then the piano fails its immediate purpose regardless if its going to one's home. The immediate purpose is to be able to fill a concert hall with sound.

The 2nd more important thing is quality of sound, beauty of sound, and dynamic range.

If you are buying a Steinway D you should expect everything all in one, have the cake and eat it too!!!

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#2189696 - 11/28/13 03:11 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Reno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/07/13
Posts: 141
So if the New York hammers are so soft that need to be juiced in order to bring them up to their full potential, Why New York doesnít make them harder? What is New York trying to achieve by producing soft hammers?

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#2189707 - 11/28/13 03:46 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Reno]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2061
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
The problem with NY Steinway hammers is not that they are too soft-it is that they require trimming and shaping to lighten them. They always have been made for the "shape-up, stiffen-up" tone-regulation protocol. If you just slap them on and dope them up until the tone is bright you will sacrifice all the tone color and dynamic range. Plus the touch will be slow from all the inertia.

The problem with making a set of piano hammers are several:

The forces used to bend the felt over the moulding and hold it fast to form a proper glue joint mean that the wood moulding must be strong enough to take this. This means the dimension of the moulding must be bigger and thus heavier than what is needed for the hammer to function properly in the piano.

The desirable non-linear spring characteristics of hammer felt must graduate across the compass in a non-linear distribution. Thus the felt density desired at note 55 is much less than at note 88, yet note 1 is much more like note 50 than 50 is like 88. It is impossible to make a sheet of hammer felt with an exponential distribution across the compass of the non-linear spring rate.

The result is that you can either make the felt dense enough to sound good at the upper treble and too bright in the lower half, or you can make a set that is great in the lower part and weak in the treble.

Also, the desirable final shape of the felt is much more pointed in the treble than the felt gluing process can reliably produce. So the final shape of the felt must be put in after the hammers are made.
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#2189724 - 11/28/13 04:22 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Reno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/07/13
Posts: 141
Ed, I need to get a PhD in piano making sciences to understand your post(I am just an amateur pianist). It sounded to me that NY hammers are not concert ready when they leave the factory. I donít understand why NY doesnít complete the job on hammers in the factory. Are they trying to cut cost?

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#2189734 - 11/28/13 04:47 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19342
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou
I think Horowitz also had his 9 foot Steinway in his small apartment.
Horowitz lived in an entire brownstone. I'd guess his living room was a bare minimum of 15' by 30' with 9 or 10 foot ceilings, but probably larger.

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#2189741 - 11/28/13 05:11 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
BDB Online   content
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Loc: Oakland
So much of things in life are a trade-off. If hammers are too hard, they bounce off the strings so quickly that there is very little energy transmitted to the strings. If they are too soft, they will damp the energy. It also depends on where they are soft and hard, just like a dead-blow hammer, which has a soft core and harder faces.

With pianos, the lowest note has a frequency of about 27.5 Hz., and a top note around 4186 Hz., a difference multiple of 152. So the lowest hammer should stay on the string 152 times as long as the highest hammer. It is very difficult to get that wide a difference in response from hammers made from the same piece of felt. In Hamburg, Steinway goes with hard felt which is aggressively softened. In New York, they go with soft felt which is hardened.

For some time, many manufacturers were using felt which was much too hard to get good tone, even after a lot of voicing. It may have been what was available, and Del has written that much of it came from the way that hammers were made. In any case, people get used to what is available, and tastes that may have been formed when they were young can last a lifetime.

One also learns and gets comfortable with only some of all the techniques that can be used to voice hammers. If they are comfortable with one method at one factory and comfortable with another at the other, I guess it works for them.

Finally, not everyone agrees with what a piano is supposed to sound like. Steinway has opted for variety.
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#2189749 - 11/28/13 05:47 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Hamburg-D Offline
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Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
I am very pleased to see this topic has turned into a very constructive, non judgmental view of the 2 schools of thought regarding hammers.

Special thanks to the few professionals that have shed some light in this topic regarding the difference, I think we can all see the valid differences between having hard hammers right out of the box, or soft hammers which would eventually be hardened.

I guess the argument towards the NY soft hammer would be like aged wine. Or as with epoxy glue, the 24 hour curing epoxy would eventually provide a much stronger bond than the 5 minute epoxy.

But I'm still left with a fundamental question of: does the wait and patience actually end up leading to a better product?

Suppose an owner of a brand new Steinway is extremely patient and does not allow for aggressive lacquering and plays in the piano for the first 2-3 years and allows the hammers to organically harden. Would that piano exhibit dynamic ranges, and choice of colours that would exceed it's German counterpart with compressed hammers right out of the box?

Having played many used steinways, and although it's difficult to say which have been artificially hardened by lacquering and which have organically been hardened by years of playing, I haven't seen a NY Steinway that ever made me feel like it'd be worth the wait. Best case scenario, with properly hardened hammers which must include years of playing in the hammers, the end result would be as good as a Hamburg Piano.

The reason why I gravitate towards Hamburg is for a few important (to me) reasons:
1) A Hamburg piano is easy to select when new because you have visibility of what it would sound like right out of the box. Sure it would become even better with age, but you have a very good idea of its intrinsic properties right out of the gate, and you can make a very good choice to see if those properties meet your subjective demands.

2) Having Hamburg (renner) hard hammers are easy to voice down. The word "easy" in a sense that it's not "time" based. If they are too hard, you needle them and you don't have to needle them slowly over the course of 2 years. You just do it.
With NY hammers, you need to be mindful of how much you apply of the lacquer and anticipation of how the hammers will harden over time by means of playing them in.

3) For the impatient souls out there, (and when you spend over 80k on a Steinway B, a normal person would see his 80k produce immediate results) we run a high risk of demanding from the technician to bring the voice up and up even with the technitian's suggestion that one must be patient. But in the end, the owner is the guy who writes the check and the technician would succumb to request of the owner needing immediate results of its newly acquired piano. The result would be surface hammer hardness resulting in a bright shallow, lack of color and dynamic range instrument.

If you go buy a sports car, it's alot easier to buy one if on the testdrive it produced its published horsepower figures. If for the first 2 years, the motor was de-tuned to 50% of the published and expected HP figures, it would lead to nothing but disappointments and lack of sales.

In my opinion the benifits of having hammers with a hard nature overcomes any benefits of having soft hammers that will have to be hardened later. Actually, I still can't think of a single benefit of having soft hammers. Hardening them is a hassle! Softening hard Renner hammer is easier and not "time" based!

Steinway - are you listening? You customers care!!! There is always room for improvement! And get your dealers to prep your pianos!!!! They are not doing it properly or at times at all, and your pianos sound like crap and give alot of people bad impressions!

The NY steinways come out of the factory needing ALOT regulation, voicing etc... and that's left to the dealer to finish. Steinway stores are always playing this little game "why finish the piano if it's just going to be used as furniture???" They'd rather increase the profit margin by not having to spend 20 hours on a tech to finish a beautiful instrument. WHAT A WASTE!!!!!

Ultimately this bites Steinway in the behind. Because when I go to my friend's parents mansion and they have a steinway as furniture and I play it, it's total crap because the dealer never finished it because it was obviously going to be used as furniture.

I don't think that's the point. If you are taking pride in having the best pianos in the world, don't leave 80% of your pianos out there just having potential to be good but are half finished. It's bad for reputation and you are seeing it now backfiring. If I was upper management at Steinway, heads would roll at every steinway store. I would want each Steinway piano to have a "soul" right in the showroom!

I think what they are not understanding is the power of music. You see, they are not selling musical instrument. They are selling passion and emotion, and those two things are priceless. If they continue selling pianos, and a name brand they will only get so far. Put a person infront of a Steinway that is concert prepped that is 20k over the budget of the prospective customer, and all they sudden they fall in love. The music the play never sounded so beautiful. All the sudden the idea of refinancing the house is no longer out of the question.





Edited by noambenhamou (11/28/13 06:00 PM)

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#2189772 - 11/28/13 06:54 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19342
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou
I am very pleased to see this topic has turned into a very constructive, non judgmental view of the 2 schools of thought regarding hammers.

Special thanks to the few professionals that have shed some light in this topic regarding the difference, I think we can all see the valid differences between having hard hammers right out of the box, or soft hammers which would eventually be hardened.

I guess the argument towards the NY soft hammer would be like aged wine. Or as with epoxy glue, the 24 hour curing epoxy would eventually provide a much stronger bond than the 5 minute epoxy.

But I'm still left with a fundamental question of: does the wait and patience actually end up leading to a better product?

Suppose an owner of a brand new Steinway is extremely patient and does not allow for aggressive lacquering and plays in the piano for the first 2-3 years and allows the hammers to organically harden. Would that piano exhibit dynamic ranges, and choice of colours that would exceed it's German counterpart with compressed hammers right out of the box?

Having played many used steinways, and although it's difficult to say which have been artificially hardened by lacquering and which have organically been hardened by years of playing, I haven't seen a NY Steinway that ever made me feel like it'd be worth the wait. Best case scenario, with properly hardened hammers which must include years of playing in the hammers, the end result would be as good as a Hamburg Piano.

The reason why I gravitate towards Hamburg is for a few important (to me) reasons:
1) A Hamburg piano is easy to select when new because you have visibility of what it would sound like right out of the box. Sure it would become even better with age, but you have a very good idea of its intrinsic properties right out of the gate, and you can make a very good choice to see if those properties meet your subjective demands.

2) Having Hamburg (renner) hard hammers are easy to voice down. The word "easy" in a sense that it's not "time" based. If they are too hard, you needle them and you don't have to needle them slowly over the course of 2 years. You just do it.
With NY hammers, you need to be mindful of how much you apply of the lacquer and anticipation of how the hammers will harden over time by means of playing them in.

3) For the impatient souls out there, (and when you spend over 80k on a Steinway B, a normal person would see his 80k produce immediate results) we run a high risk of demanding from the technician to bring the voice up and up even with the technitian's suggestion that one must be patient. But in the end, the owner is the guy who writes the check and the technician would succumb to request of the owner needing immediate results of its newly acquired piano. The result would be surface hammer hardness resulting in a bright shallow, lack of color and dynamic range instrument.

If you go buy a sports car, it's alot easier to buy one if on the testdrive it produced its published horsepower figures. If for the first 2 years, the motor was de-tuned to 50% of the published and expected HP figures, it would lead to nothing but disappointments and lack of sales.

In my opinion the benifits of having hammers with a hard nature overcomes any benefits of having soft hammers that will have to be hardened later. Actually, I still can't think of a single benefit of having soft hammers. Hardening them is a hassle! Softening hard Renner hammer is easier and not "time" based!

I happen to like Hamburg Steinways more than NY Steinways. But I think much of the above post is opinion or personal preference although you state it as fact.

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#2189784 - 11/28/13 07:40 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: pianoloverus]
Hamburg-D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou
I think Horowitz also had his 9 foot Steinway in his small apartment.
Horowitz lived in an entire brownstone. I'd guess his living room was a bare minimum of 15' by 30' with 9 or 10 foot ceilings, but probably larger.



That's your opinion. But you are stating it as a fact. You have a floor plan?

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#2189792 - 11/28/13 08:02 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7431
Loc: Rochester MN
PLU did not state his opinion as fact. "I happen to like" is his opinion and cannot be countered. You may disagree with his opinion, but that doesn't make it a "fact."

However, you are stating opinions as fact. Here is an example:

"They (NY-S&S) are not doing it properly or at times at all, and your pianos sound like crap and give alot [sic] of people bad impressions!"

If you know how crap sounds, please enlighten us. And do let us see your polling results on how many people have "bad impressions."

I tend to prefer the NY Steinways over the Hamburg versions. It is a fact that it is my preference.
_________________________
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It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2189795 - 11/28/13 08:06 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7431
Loc: Rochester MN
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou
I think Horowitz also had his 9 foot Steinway in his small apartment.
Horowitz lived in an entire brownstone. I'd guess his living room was a bare minimum of 15' by 30' with 9 or 10 foot ceilings, but probably larger.



That's your opinion. But you are stating it as a fact. You have a floor plan?

Horowitz' residence is a known fact. It is large and fairly easy to make a conjecture from similar residences. There are also photos available of Horowitz at his piano, in his home. You might enjoy doing some research.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2189798 - 11/28/13 08:10 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19342
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: noambenhamou
I think Horowitz also had his 9 foot Steinway in his small apartment.
Horowitz lived in an entire brownstone. I'd guess his living room was a bare minimum of 15' by 30' with 9 or 10 foot ceilings, but probably larger.



That's your opinion. But you are stating it as a fact. You have a floor plan?
I said "I'd guess" which is clearly not stating something as a fact.

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#2189801 - 11/28/13 08:11 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: Hamburg-D]
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
If enough people here would be experienced with the question of new Hamburg vs Astoria models, especially from the different perspectives or sides of the continent, much of this discussion would most likely not take place - at least not same way.

In Germany I once asked 3 Steinway dealers in three different cities if they would even take New York models in trade.

The answer was surprisingly quick and conclusive.

Wondering what the answer would be the other way around..

Perhaps time to do some traveling to find out what the answer is or perhaps could have been.

Nothing wrong hearing things and get an opinion from the "horse's mouth"

Good timing over there: Christmas markets already in full swing....



Norbert wink


Edited by Norbert (11/28/13 08:33 PM)
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#2189817 - 11/28/13 08:36 PM Re: "A Hamburg is a Hamburg" - Review NY vs. Hamburg Steinway [Re: pianoloverus]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2061
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Pianoloverus,
Noambenhamou was describing his experience and the opinions he has formed are a result of that. He makes that clear in almost all his posts. I have 40 years of professional experience in dealing with the issues he encountered. I can provide evidence that counter his conclusions. That said, he has every right as much as me to express conclusions. We the readers can judge how relevant they are to our needs.
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