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#2233082 - 02/17/14 10:51 AM Where Estonia Differs
JonathanNV Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 01/30/14
Posts: 20
Loc: Las Vegas
Given an Estonia piano is hand-crafted and its manufacture uses the finest German components, I am curious -- what is "it" physically that makes certain German brands (e.g., Bluthner, Grotian and Sauter) superior pianos?
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Jonathan
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Proud owner of an Estonia L168

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#2233096 - 02/17/14 11:22 AM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Quality - pure and simple.
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Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2233105 - 02/17/14 11:34 AM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
rlinkt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/12
Posts: 320
Loc: CA
I think its pointless to pursue a question like this. The general consensus seems to be that Estonias are very well made pianos. Very few people except designers like Del would know if the systematic claim about superiority is even true from a design / construction perspective. IMHO just play the two pianos and decide which one is better to you. And limit that judgment to just those two specific pianos that you compared.

I will tell you that having heard a Steingraeber and an Estonia next to each other recently, as lovely the Estonia was, there was some magic in that Steingraeber.


Edited by rlinkt (02/17/14 03:56 PM)

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#2233123 - 02/17/14 12:09 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
terminaldegree Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 2779
Loc: western Wisconsin
Originally Posted By: JonathanNV
Given an Estonia piano is hand-crafted and its manufacture uses the finest German components


The funny part about this is the advertising/marketing for nearly every piano sold in North America pushes the same line, from the cheapest to the most expensive.

The proof is in the finished performance. It's some combination of good design, good components, good quality control, and good finish prep work by a technician.

You have to compare it against other great european, asian, and american pianos to make an informed decision. Also compare it against pianos of similar price for perspective.
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#2233192 - 02/17/14 02:09 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
phantomFive Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1642
Loc: California
Piano Buyer Guide has a good discussion here.
Quote:
"Even those responsible for the technical design of pianos often can’t agree on which features and specifications produce the best instruments!"

The primary difference you will find between (for example) Steingraeber and Estonia is the design of the scale. Steingraeber has chosen to make the tone of each note as similar as possible, clear and ringing, like a bell. Estonia has made their pianos clear and crisp in the treble, but with a softer attack and more 'overtones' in the bass, to give it more 'color,' much like Steinway.

The sustain on all high-end pianos lasts longer than a cheap upright, but on Steingraeber lasts much longer, almost like an organ. Whether you like that is a matter of personal preference.

I've heard that Steingraeber keys have slightly lower inertia than Estonia, but haven't been able to verify that. All high-end pianos have very responsive touch.

Another important difference to notice is the dynamic range. Some high-end pianos have a larger dynamic range. C Bechstein pianos have a humongous dynamic range.

These are the kinds of differences in preference you can look for.
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#2233203 - 02/17/14 02:24 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
Norbert Offline
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Registered: 07/03/01
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Loc: Surrey, B.C.
We have both Sauter and Estonia grand pianos side by side on same showroom floor.

Price differences aside, from our observation about 70% prefer the tone of Estonia.

Still recall one particular customer who compared a 6' Bluthner to a 5'6 Estonia and decided for the latter.

Another involved Fazioli and C.Bechstein: things of course don't always go this way.

Discussion about 'quality' IMHO is meaningless unless it coincides with personal preference for a particular instrument.

From our experience Estonia has very special appeal, something that often took us by surprise but we noticed from first day we handled the make.

It's something that brought Estonia many fans - and enemies...

Norbert smile


Edited by Norbert (02/20/14 11:40 AM)
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#2233242 - 02/17/14 03:18 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
iLaw Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 267
Loc: Chicago
My own on-going piano search discussed here has led me to seven-footers by every manufacturer mentioned in this thread (and a few not mentioned yet), all of which use top-quality components. The components are important no doubt, but the art that turns those components into a great piano rather than merely a good one, I believe, is in equal parts the design choices made and the execution of those choices piano-to-piano. You're not going to find a great piano by reading spec sheets.

Larry.

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#2233243 - 02/17/14 03:19 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
joe80 Offline
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Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1340
Yeah this is such a difficult question, not least because Estonia is already an excellent hand-fit piano. I think it comes down to personal taste. Some people might not like Bechstein, Fazioli and Bluthner but may adore Estonia, Schimmel and Sauter, for instance. Which pianos are superior? Who knows?

I mean, there are some who prefer Yamaha C series grands to all other pianos, or Kawai RX, and that's fine too.

For me, what makes a piano a good piano is if it has the ability to open the door to the possibilities of your full potential as a pianist. This is after the notes, dynamics, pedalling, phrasing, rhythm, has been learned. This is even after the tone production and the cantilena have been achieved. I'm talking about the kind of thing that is only possible on the pianos that give you the most accurate picture of how you play.

As yet I don't know if Estonia would do that for me because I've only ever played one or two, and I find it difficult to remember exactly how I felt about them. I know they're very fine pianos, and a few friends of mine rate them very highly and I trust their opinion.

We're all used to pianos punching well above their weight in terms of price point these days, so if you're asking why Estonia cost significantly less than other pianos in the tier one group, I don't know. Perhaps it's to do with exchange rates, or perhaps it's to do with labour costs in Estonia, or they run a very efficient manufacturing process, or all of these things. Perhaps they choose dealers who can afford to sell them at a lower price, and don't fix their prices at an artificially high level? For instance, about ten years ago I knew the factory price of a tier one piano. The price was surprisingly low but when you considered the removal costs, the cost of preparation, and rather importantly, the cost of the showroom that was stocking this piano as well as the fact that there had to be a 'trade' price AND a 'retail' price, you start to see some things that are, well, it's amazing just how much is added on after the factory is paid.

I mean it's no wonder - if the factory price of a piano is £100, then the dealer would have to charge at least £200 so that he could pay the factory and buy another piano. But then, the dealer would have to pay the removal cost so that would have to be added on, and let's imagine that costs £25. Then the dealer has to make a projection of how many pianos he will sell that month, and factor in the cost of paying the staff. Imagine the staff are on £25 a week, and there are two members of staff in the showroom plus the dealer, so the dealer adds another £30 per piano just to cover the costs and he thinks he will sell three pianos that week. Now, the rent for the showroom, plus the heating, plus the lighting, cost £100 per week..... so the dealer adds £50 per piano.....

So we've gone from a factory price of £100 to a retail price of £355 before the dealer has paid himself, let's throw in another £50 here, and made a profit (which he should be entitled to) so profit needs to be, say £100. Then he needs to pay the tuner £5 per tuning, and that needs to come out of the retail price. He decides to 'throw in' delivery and a stool into the retail price, and he's already factored in a profit but he needs to add another £30 to make sure he can pay for it all. So now we're at £490 plus tax at 20 percent which is £98, and you see we've gone from a factory price of £100 to a total retail of £588.

If you have a dealer network that doesn't have such big overheads then you could sell your instrument at a different cost.

Obviously I made up these figures... you're never gonna get a tier one new for £598!!!

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#2233258 - 02/17/14 03:44 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
Furtwangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 1540
Loc: Danville, California
Joe

Surely you are not seriously suggesting that dealers typically sell even so-called Tier 1 pianos at nearly 6 x what they pay for them.

My piano dealer friends on here must be either laughing hysterically or are cringing to think that some readers might actually believe that to be the case.

I can assure you it is not - not even remotely close.

I would immediately open a piano dealership if it were, I can tell you that much.

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#2233283 - 02/17/14 04:20 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Loc: New York City
The first fallacy is that the dealer has to immediately buy another piano to replace the one that was sold. This artificially doubles the price of each piano the dealer buys.

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#2234689 - 02/20/14 05:50 AM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
joe80 Offline
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Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1340
Have you been to London? I'm talking about the calculation of the retail price anyway, but most dealers, even those in London (barre one) are able to give substantial discounts, in some cases off set by the factory.

Yeah, I know that the dealer doesn't have to immediately replace each model he or she sells, but I do know, from inside information, that this is how the RRP is calculated.

Common practice in the UK is to set a retail price that is a 100 percent mark up on the trade price. The trade price is set by the distributor, based on a mark up on the factory price.

Not all dealers do 100 percent mark up on the trade price, and some will set the RRP and then slash the prices. I know that some makes don't want their dealers to get in to a price war, which is one reason why every Steinway in the UK is sold through Steinway Hall in London, with the dealer getting commission on the sale. The dealer him/herself gets to buy Boston and Essex to sell as his bread and butter. Hence a lot of piano dealers don't like to become Steinway agents here....

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#2234696 - 02/20/14 06:22 AM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: pianoloverus]
Withindale Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 2051
Loc: Suffolk, England
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
The first fallacy is that the dealer has to immediately buy another piano to replace the one that was sold. This artificially doubles the price of each piano the dealer buys.

Perhaps I am being obtuse, but I do not quite understand the point. Do you mean that if I buy a demo piano and one for stock to sell, then the cost to me of the piano I sell is twice its cost?

Would you be kind enough to spell out the the main options open to the dealer with a couple of numerical examples.
_________________________
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Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#2234704 - 02/20/14 06:54 AM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: rlinkt]
piano man 3758 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/14
Posts: 151
I played several tier one pianos side by side and in the end it was the Steingraeber that did it for me as well.There was surely something magical about the Steingraeber. This is just my humble opinion. There are others that would disagree with me. Everyone's taste is diffrent.The world would be boring if everyone liked the same thing. In the end,the important thing is how do your ears and hands react?
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Feurich 172(Hand built in Gunzenhausen Germany)
Yamaha CGP 1000
1920 Cunningham player piano

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#2234714 - 02/20/14 07:50 AM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: joe80]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19582
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: joe80
Have you been to London? I'm talking about the calculation of the retail price anyway, but most dealers, even those in London (barre one) are able to give substantial discounts, in some cases off set by the factory.

Yeah, I know that the dealer doesn't have to immediately replace each model he or she sells, but I do know, from inside information, that this is how the RRP is calculated.

Common practice in the UK is to set a retail price that is a 100 percent mark up on the trade price. The trade price is set by the distributor, based on a mark up on the factory price.

Not all dealers do 100 percent mark up on the trade price, and some will set the RRP and then slash the prices. I know that some makes don't want their dealers to get in to a price war, which is one reason why every Steinway in the UK is sold through Steinway Hall in London, with the dealer getting commission on the sale. The dealer him/herself gets to buy Boston and Essex to sell as his bread and butter. Hence a lot of piano dealers don't like to become Steinway agents here....
Your earlier example resulted in a price 6 times the dealer's cost.

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#2234755 - 02/20/14 09:40 AM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1340
Yes, and that's not so far off the mark.

This particular piano had a retail of £50k and a factory of £10k, a trade price of £20k.

The price the public paid at the dealer was usually £35-45k, depending on what they had to trade in and what they dared haggle. Sometimes people didn't ask for a discount and just flashed the card.

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#2234803 - 02/20/14 11:02 AM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: joe80]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19582
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: joe80
Yes, and that's not so far off the mark.

This particular piano had a retail of £50k and a factory of £10k, a trade price of £20k.

The price the public paid at the dealer was usually £35-45k, depending on what they had to trade in and what they dared haggle. Sometimes people didn't ask for a discount and just flashed the card.
The usual ball park figure for dealer selling price vs.wholesale, mentioned many times at PW, is double. That's why another earlier poster found your 6 times wholesale so amusing.


Edited by pianoloverus (02/20/14 11:49 AM)

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#2234818 - 02/20/14 11:43 AM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
Norbert Offline
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Registered: 07/03/01
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Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Quote:
Originally Posted By: JonathanNV
Given an Estonia piano is hand-crafted and its manufacture uses the finest German components


terminal:
Quote:

The funny part about this is the advertising/marketing for nearly every piano sold in North America pushes the same line, from the cheapest to the most expensive.


While this is true, it's one of the easiest things to veryfy by checking 'specs'. Estonia is one case where this is 100% true.

Ironically, Estonia has long found its own identity and quality not just relying on the "German parts" type argument.

http://www.estoniapiano.com/craftsmanship.html

However, upon close examination, Estonia actually does have more top grade German parts and components than a number of "made in Germany" others.

Norbert wink


Edited by Norbert (02/20/14 12:03 PM)
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#2234844 - 02/20/14 12:43 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: pianoloverus]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1340
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: joe80
Yes, and that's not so far off the mark.

This particular piano had a retail of £50k and a factory of £10k, a trade price of £20k.

The price the public paid at the dealer was usually £35-45k, depending on what they had to trade in and what they dared haggle. Sometimes people didn't ask for a discount and just flashed the card.
The usual ball park figure for dealer selling price vs.wholesale, mentioned many times at PW, is double. That's why another earlier poster found your 6 times wholesale so amusing.




Remember that, well for this particular piano anyway, wholesale price is not factory price. The factory were paid after each sale by the distributor. The wholesale price was the price that the distributor sold it to within the trade. In this case, the wholesale price, the trade price that is, was double the factory price, and the retail price was double the wholesale price with a sprinkling of magic dust thrown in for good measure. That gets you to four times the factory price before you've paid any overheads.

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#2234864 - 02/20/14 01:07 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: joe80]
PianoWorksATL Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/09
Posts: 2745
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Originally Posted By: joe80
Remember that, well for this particular piano anyway, wholesale price is not factory price. The factory were paid after each sale by the distributor. The wholesale price was the price that the distributor sold it to within the trade. In this case, the wholesale price, the trade price that is, was double the factory price, and the retail price was double the wholesale price with a sprinkling of magic dust thrown in for good measure. That gets you to four times the factory price before you've paid any overheads.
joe80, this is flat out wrong, and you are creating a damaging perception.
_________________________
Sam Bennett
PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
Bösendorfer, Estonia, Seiler, Grotrian, Weber & Hailun
Pre-Owned: Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway & other fine pianos
Full Restoration Shop
www.PianoWorks.com
www.youtube.com/PianoWorksAtlanta

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#2234868 - 02/20/14 01:19 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: Norbert]
terminaldegree Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 2779
Loc: western Wisconsin
Originally Posted By: Norbert

...actually does have more top grade German parts and components than a number of "made in Germany" others.
Norbert wink


Right, but if we are trying to split hairs between the very good pianos and absolutely top-echelon instruments, more comes into play: The time spent to build, refine, let settle, and retweak the piano before shipment, the tolerances of the "superior German parts" that go into it - I've heard of a few top tier makers that take some actions apart and repin them to even more exacting tolerances than they came from the action manufacturers. Then there's the attention even aesthetic details: some look good on the surface. Some look great on the surface. Then there are the small handful that even look good when you start taking them apart, where only technicians see them.

This is all stuff that doesn't make it on the spec sheet…but still matters a lot!
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#2234878 - 02/20/14 01:33 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: JonathanNV]
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14190
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Quote:
This is all stuff that doesn't make it on the spec sheet…but still matters a lot!


I think there is a fair degree of consistency among top tier makers in terms of what they are using in their pianos.

All tier one pianos including Fazioli and except perhaps only one, are usin custom designed Renner actions,highest quality Renner or Abel hammers, Kluge keyboards and so on.

These guys buy their woods and felts, cast iron plates etc from same suppliers obviously to assure themselves highest possible quality and consistency.

Factory owners have repeatedly pointed this out to me and it was never said in a pretensive or 'elitist' way.

It's how these guys brew their beer.

Those who want to piggy-back on the "German parts" bandwagon need to realize that there is quite a bit more in building a top notch piano.

Everybody knows a piano is more than the sum of its parts.

By same token, there are recurring and often curious similarities when these top guns do things.

It's pianists later who have to of course find out for themselves what matches their own standard of excellence best.

"Touch and tone": there's no other magic bullet.

Needless to say, top tier manufacturers are highly aware of this and do what they deem necessary to exactly accomplish this.

Norbert smile


Edited by Norbert (02/20/14 01:39 PM)
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#2234884 - 02/20/14 01:46 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: PianoWorksATL]
Withindale Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 2051
Loc: Suffolk, England
Originally Posted By: PianoWorksATL
Originally Posted By: joe80
Remember that, well for this particular piano anyway, wholesale price is not factory price. The factory were paid after each sale by the distributor. The wholesale price was the price that the distributor sold it to within the trade. In this case, the wholesale price, the trade price that is, was double the factory price, and the retail price was double the wholesale price with a sprinkling of magic dust thrown in for good measure. That gets you to four times the factory price before you've paid any overheads.
joe80, this is flat out wrong, and you are creating a damaging perception.

In Q4/2012 Steinway sold their pianos at 40% gross margin. Assuming retail list prices were double, the list price would be 330% of the cost of sale (factory price?).

Bearing in mind that Steinway sell a lot of Boston and Essex pianos, the list prices of those models could well be significantly more than 330% of their manufacturing costs in Asia.
_________________________
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Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#2234905 - 02/20/14 02:20 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: Withindale]
PianoWorksATL Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/09
Posts: 2745
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Originally Posted By: Withindale
In Q4/2012 Steinway sold their pianos at 40% gross margin. Assuming retail list prices were double, the list price would be 330% of the cost of sale (factory price?).
I don't look at one quarter, but lets blast those numbers apart quickly. First, Steinway is the factory & distributor. They are the retailer for 26% of their sales in factory-owned stores. 40% is the gross of all, inclusive. That should burst your assumptions right there.

Secondly, given that Steinway has recently been sold by Wall Street whizzes, which I am not, I find that numbers can be used to tell many stories. I don't know which are seemingly more important in any quarterly report, but it would take a much larger breakdown to give context for this kind of assumption.

Third, specific Boston & Essex numbers are a mystery to me, but I still feel that pointing to the highest margin brand as an exemplar is hardly representative of the market in general.
_________________________
Sam Bennett
PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
Bösendorfer, Estonia, Seiler, Grotrian, Weber & Hailun
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Full Restoration Shop
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#2234994 - 02/20/14 04:32 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: PianoWorksATL]
Withindale Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 2051
Loc: Suffolk, England
You make a telling point, Mr Bennett.

Allowing for your 26% of retail sales the estimate for list to cost of sale comes down from 330% to about 260%.

Knock off a healthy discount to clinch the sale and your piano still probably costs as much overall to sell as it did to make. Possibly more to sell for Far Eastern pianos.
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#2235021 - 02/20/14 05:39 PM Re: Where Estonia Differs [Re: Norbert]
malkin Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2679
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: Norbert

It's how these guys brew their beer.


If you were writing the reinheitsgebot for piano manufacture, what would it include?!
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