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#2264871 - 04/21/14 08:54 AM Hello + buying my first piano (long post)
Ben_NZ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/14
Posts: 100
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
Hello! smile
Sorry this is so long and rambly.

The long background story.

A few years ago, I bought my first house and inherited the family piano - a Marshall & Rose upright originally purchased by my great grandfather in 1924. Click the link in my signature for a photo.
Now that I live alone with nobody to annoy, I've been able to play the piano quite a bit. I've enjoyed bashing away at it and learning about it. It's a solid thing with the expected haggard french polished burr walnut veneer, iron frame and overstrung underdampered design, and it even has an electric heater inside.
I've come to realise it's no longer quite the musical treasure my family may view it as. I'd say it has its original strings and hammers, with only perishable parts of the action having been replaced ~20 years back. I've already broken a few strings, and the hammers have become heavily grooved. The piano has an uneven plonky tone transitioning into a jangly growl at maximum power. The key bushings got too worn so I had them replaced and the ivories reattached. I was all set to get new hammers and have the case refinished, but then I did my homework and realised the bass bridge wood is tearing and many of the bridge pins have moved. cry
With my sensible hat on, bridge re-capping, restringing, new tuning pins, new hammers, overhauling the action and refinishing the case is too crazy even for me and my poor golden age hot potato heirloom.

New piano time.

I must say the piano market is bizarre. A piano's apparent maker is rarely who they seem; manufacturing is outsourced using cheap labour to build a recipe of brand-name parts to fit a price point etc. Once one accepts that there can be some variation between different examples of the same model of new piano, I suppose one can accept the complete lack of reviews and comparison tests of such expensive consumer goods. But why can I go to the website of a piano manufacturer and find so little information about their pianos? One tiny picture of only one of the available finishes, a few physical measurements and that's all, on an item costing several times more than anything else I own?

But anyway. The internet told me to go forth and play lots of pianos, so I did. Every upright from junky old trade-ins and entry-level Kohler & Campbells, Webers and Samicks to expensive Kawais, Ronischs and Schimmels.
In its day, I think my Marshall & Rose could definitely have shown today's bottom-tier instruments how it's done. Equally, the expensive new uprights are magically resonant with delicate touches and lovely finishes. I've played a few grands too and heard what the fuss is about, but my house would not fit one.

I'm having trouble deciding what to spend.

  • I'm 34 and have very little musical training, none of it classical (this makes some piano dealers suspicious, because they view their models in terms of the maximum music lesson grade each is good for).
  • I can hear and see the limitations of the cheapest instruments now, and I'm concerned I may quickly pound a budget piano to death with ham-fisted boogie woogie and heavy metal thrash sessions.
  • All things being equal, I'd take many high-gloss wood finishes over a 'black box' ebony polish piano. Samick-produced cases aside, such pianos tend to be rarer and more expensive.


Any piano I buy may technically result in me having to borrow more money in future, because although minimal mortgage repayments have allowed me to amass reasonable 'savings', planned house renovations are likely to require more than what I've saved.
So maybe I should stop kidding myself that a musical average Joe should venture into the expensive part of the piano shop.
A dealer near me has a few Albert Weber professional editions. The bass on the 131s is awesome (I love bass) and the price is right, but some have a few creaks and rough edges and the 'wood' finish ones look awful (I'd have to go black). On the other hand they feature the design involvement of our friend Del Fandrich, whose initials in my line of work are short for Device Definition File. Is this a sign? confused

I have enjoyed window-shopping for pianos but now I'm stuck.
$5000 1980s giant used import Yamaha/Kawai cliche?
$10,000 Albert Weber 131BP?
$12,000 Irmler Europe to get a pretty case?
Or go crazy and spend over $20,000 on a Kawai K8, Schimmel Royal Intarsie Flora or gorgeous Ronisch which will make me look like a fool with more money than talent?

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#2264892 - 04/21/14 09:49 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
PhilipInChina Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/19/13
Posts: 1242
Loc: China
Look around. You never know- you might pick up a real bargain. Some people do, myself included.
_________________________
Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"

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#2264915 - 04/21/14 11:03 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
Almaviva Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 625
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
"Sir Hebert Marshall Sons & Rose" is a new piano brand to me. Where was it made - Britain, Australia, New Zealand?

Regardless of its origin, that is one gorgeous-looking instrument. Too bad it can't be repaired at reasonable cost.

I noticed that you have a preference for wood finishes over the standard ebony "black box". (So do I.) Two of the pianos you have auditioned - Irmler Europe and Ronisch - are part of the Bluthner family. Bluthner is noted for the fine finishes on their pianos, even on their less expensive lines.

However, all of the piano brands you have mentioned - Yamaha, Kawai, Albert Weber, Irmler Europe, Schimmel, Ronisch - are reputable ones. Have an independent technician check out the models which interest you, and narrow your search to the ones he approves. Then choose the instrument whose combination of touch, tone, tuning stability, build quality and price appeals to you the most.

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#2264937 - 04/21/14 12:01 PM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
michaelha Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/05/13
Posts: 979
I heard NZ is much more expensive than the US. Those prices look like US retail prices, but actual street prices here are a lot less. But in either country, I imagine, some degree of haggling is usually required to discover the real prices.

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#2264942 - 04/21/14 12:27 PM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: michaelha]
Almaviva Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 625
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Michael, I noticed the high prices as well. However, I remember that he preferred wood finishes over the standard ebony. Wood finishes like cherry, mahogany, walnut, rosewood, bubinga, etc. always command a hefty price premium.


Edited by Almaviva (04/21/14 12:27 PM)

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#2264981 - 04/21/14 02:58 PM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
Almaviva Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 625
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
I agree with you, Ben, about the paucity of piano reviews. A top-tier "baby grand" (5-5.5 feet long) can retail for $100,000, and a top-tier "semi-concert grand" (7-8 feet long) can retail for just under $200,000 - even more if one chooses a finish other than ebony. One would think that there would be scores of reviews for something this expensive, but that is not the case.

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#2264991 - 04/21/14 03:40 PM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
Steve Cohen Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10528
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
I think you would be well advised to read Piano Buyer .
_________________________
Piano Industry Consultant- http://www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-cohen/6/b92/b80

Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

Jasons Music
Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

www.jasonsmusic.com
My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

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#2265208 - 04/22/14 08:06 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Almaviva]
Ben_NZ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/14
Posts: 100
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
Originally Posted By: Almaviva
"Sir Hebert Marshall Sons & Rose" is a new piano brand to me. Where was it made - Britain, Australia, New Zealand?

London, and it makes no secret of that:
http://www.axys.co.nz/ben/candleholders_12.jpg
"Sir Herbert Marshall & Rose was one of the more prominent European piano makers of the 20th Century. Established in 1907 in London, England, Marshall & Rose built high quality, elaborate pianos and player pianos which were exported all over the world. Although the firm was a late-comer compared to most other established English makers, Marshall & Rose enjoyed a great deal of success throughout most of the 20th Century. They were known for building very durable, well made pianos, often using very lavish woods and cabinet designs. Marshall & Rose ceased production in about 1998, just over a century after being established."
This extract paints a rosy picture - I believe Marshall & Rose became consolidated / just a model name somewhere around WWII.

Originally Posted By: Almaviva
Regardless of its origin, that is one gorgeous-looking instrument. Too bad it can't be repaired at reasonable cost.

Thanks. I have annoyed piano technicians enough by persevering with it this far, but when I've played it all my life and the original sale receipt is framed on the wall.. (135 pounds in 1924, back before NZ moved to decimal currency)

Originally Posted By: Almaviva
..Irmler Europe and Ronisch .. are part of the Bluthner family. Bluthner is noted for the fine finishes on their pianos, even on their less expensive lines.

These two ranges are carried by probably the city's most specialised and traditional dealer (old family business, nothing but pianos, many voiced/prepped by the owner who speaks in pp, ff, Tchaikovkenhoven, Prokofinoff and grade such-and-such), but outside of his dealership, these brands don't exist here at all. His no-haggle price is therefore the only way into Irmler Europe or Roni$ch. Other piano makes / dealerships seem to be a different story.

In answer to Steve's comment, I have read some of Piano Buyer. It's useful for explaining who makes what and where each product sits in piano land. =)

Originally Posted By: Almaviva
Have an independent technician check out the models which interest you, and narrow your search to the ones he approves.

I've been told it's difficult to buy a really bad piano now - only a few of the cheapest Pearl River types can have lifespans as low as their prices. I guess I've narrowed my search down and I should go back and play them again, to see if Albert Weber's affordable agraffes can keep me from trying to have it all. wink

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#2265238 - 04/22/14 10:01 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
PhilipInChina Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/19/13
Posts: 1242
Loc: China
Marshall & Rose was a popular British brand- a mid tier instrument. Interestingly one of the ones I was considering for my place in Europe was a M & R. As the others available were all top tier machines I dismissed it immediately. It was Ok, though, but couldn't compete with the others. The price was good!
_________________________
Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"

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#2272192 - 05/07/14 05:07 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
Ben_NZ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/14
Posts: 100
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
Just in case, I made one last enquiry about saving my Marshall & Rose.

The restorer visited, confirmed the piano's major issues and identified a few more too. Making all new bridges, fitting all new strings and tuning pins and hammers and dampers and renewing other bits in the action and getting it all regulated/tuned/voiced comes out to over $14,000. That's obviously retaining the original pinblock and soundboard and not doing any cosmetic work (e.g. making the case all pretty again would add another few thousand).
For reference, the advertised price of new Yamaha YUS1 or Kawai K-500 black boxes is $14,000.

According to the restorer, restringing and making new bridges gives the opportunity to analyse the piano's scale design and improve it with a variety of grades of modern piano wire and other new tricks. The piano can then be voiced how I like.
According to new piano salesmen, a (partially) rebuilt Marshall & Rose is not a Marshall & Rose, in that random new materials in an old piano will give an unpredictable and perhaps unsatisfactory result. One salesman had played a rebuilt old fancypants grand which failed to blow him or its owner away. They reckon new piano designs are superior to those of the '20s in subtle ways etc.

I know that appearance-wise, I'd far prefer my piano repolished over any new upright costing the same. However, I'm very aware that I can't play the rebuilt instrument before I buy it.
Is rebuilding old pianos really a sonic lottery? What are the odds of a partial rebuild like this being less than the sum of its parts or coming back to bite me? Any experiences?


Edited by Ben_NZ (05/07/14 05:10 AM)
Edit Reason: proofreading

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#2272195 - 05/07/14 05:15 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
wimpiano Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 1611
Loc: The Netherlands
I agree that your piano looks gorgeous.
Before making any decision it might be a good idea to have information on how good the design of the original piano was. If that was bad, it might not be a good idea to put money in it. Maybe some of the rebuilders here can chime in?
_________________________
Schimmel 116 S ...

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#2272240 - 05/07/14 07:36 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: wimpiano]
PhilipInChina Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/19/13
Posts: 1242
Loc: China
M & R are just not special enough to justify the rebuild on economic grounds. If it had some huge personal significance and money were no object then do it. To get a good, playable piano, forget it.
_________________________
Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"

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#2272252 - 05/07/14 08:04 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
wimpiano Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 1611
Loc: The Netherlands
BTW. For that money you buy a new Schimmel over here. Unfortunately it might be different where you are located.
_________________________
Schimmel 116 S ...

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#2272288 - 05/07/14 09:39 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: wimpiano]
Ben_NZ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/14
Posts: 100
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
Originally Posted By: wimpiano
BTW. For that money you buy a new Schimmel over here. Unfortunately it might be different where you are located.

Yeah, the only Schimmel I can get for that money is an International. One dealer has an International alongside a Classic Royal Intarsie Flora ($28,000 from memory - the most expensive upright I've encountered!) and as you'd hope at twice the price, the improvement in the sound is obvious.. This C120 R.I.F is the best Schimmel I've played and in some respects it's magic, but less-expensive uprights beat it for bass. Nobody carries larger Schimmel uprights either, presumably cos they're so expensive here.

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#2272294 - 05/07/14 09:58 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
wimpiano Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 1611
Loc: The Netherlands
The Classic Royal Intarsie Flora is just optically different (and a lot more expensive) then the normal 120. People do regard the 116 sometimes as a better instrument. The international should be good (used be Vogel) but the Classic should be better. You might try to haggle a Classic down to the listprice of a International wink Good luck.
_________________________
Schimmel 116 S ...

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#2324961 - 09/07/14 06:54 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
Ben_NZ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/14
Posts: 100
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
I can't believe I've been auditioning pianos since before April (my first post in this thread).
I still haven't found a way to have my cake and eat it too - there's no upright out there which has the bass to match my existing piano AND the right tone AND the right appearance AND the right price. Many come close but they're black. bah
A large part of the last few months was spent waiting for an Asahi 121dx to arrive in case it was the solution to my problem:
http://www.axys.co.nz/ben/piano/asahi_121dx_3.jpg
Unfortunately the only example sold very fast before I even knew it had arrived. The next ones don't get in until November. =(
I turn 35 in October, the same month that my piano turns 90. I don't want to wait until November, so I've been back out doing the rounds of piano stores again.
This weekend was a familiar story. The prettiest piano in the shop was a Kohler & Campbell in a wood finish, but the nicest-sounding was between a Kawai K3 and a Schimmel C116, both black. Advantage Kawai because it was half the price.

The Plan

Try to make it to the rebuilders during business hours to play their rebuilt early 1900s Schiedmayer upright. If that's sold (or awful), buy a nice new mainstream black upright and detail a few little bits with woodgrain vinyl wrap, Perzina-style:
Perzina upright with ebony and bubinga finish whome
All the exotic woods are at my disposal in classy vinyl form, sometimes with either gloss or matt finishes or with a choice of more than one shade.
With this genius plan, I won't cry about having spent six months shopping only to wind up with a black Yamaha or Kawai. I'll be too busy admiring my bubinga special edition with the birds eye maple inner lining (ain't nobody got dat!)

Then if I ever have to sell the piano and the buyer thinks my two-tone job is sick, they can just take the wrap off and revert it to a black box. thumb
Watch this space.

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#2329530 - 09/21/14 06:02 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
Ben_NZ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/14
Posts: 100
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
My self-imposed deadline of October is approaching. shocked

The restored Schiedmayer had a pretty cabinet, but wasn't for me. It didn't encourage me to have my own piano rebuilt, as much as rebuilding is a nice dream.
My vinyl plan hit a stumbling block - NZ doesn't stock the right designs so I'd have to buy enough to bubinga half my house - but the internet is my friend.

I played a little old Weinbach console piano trade-in, and I was surprised at how much I liked its sound. It almost saved me $10,000+, but it looked its age and gave off underused vibes. It had a heavy and slow feel and a few action issues not yet addressed. I decided it might not like me thrashing it for long.

I found a Perzina that had a silent system without the occasional glitch of a Yamaha equivalent I once tried, but it sounded decades out of date. The drum mapping it featured was hilarious, not just for its old computer game sound but because it existed at all!

Some new photos I found of my beloved Asahi model 121dx suggest that it has been revised in ways I'm not mad on. The new version has lost some detailing in the cabinet and lost the agraffes from the treble, and now it seems to use a less-interesting veneer in quite an orange colour. Combined with the bright brass pedal surround it has gained, this has edged it closer to chintzy.

I even tried the NZ-made Alexander Piano, the longest piano in the world (unofficially). Even that wasn't right - the bizarre snarl from its non-wrapped bass strings (fence wire?), the odd way the sound originated from so far in front of the pianist, and its 5.7m length and 1.4 tonne weight put me off. wink
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PI8RYIeypM

So come next month, I think I might just buy a Kawai and finally be done with it. This feels uncharacteristically sensible of me, and I hope I can love a sensible piano.

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#2333576 - 10/03/14 12:49 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
Ben_NZ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/14
Posts: 100
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
I wrote the cheque for a new Kawai K500 today. =)

The dealer suggested spending 60% more for a Boston UP126 which would be shipped to Hamburg to have Steinway technicians sprinkle magic dust on it. This would have been special order though (no chance to play it before buying it). They only had an UP132 (sans magic dust) in the showroom to try. This 132 sounded nice playing soft music, but didn't grab me enough to gamble the money involved in ordering the 126. The Kawai made a good case (har har) for settling for a middle-of-the-road black box.

So next, the moving company will survey my difficult front steps to see if they can get the K500 in without me needing to knock down bits of house.. Hopefully I'll have it in time for my birthday in two weeks.

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#2333577 - 10/03/14 12:59 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
Robert 45 Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/18/06
Posts: 1318
Loc: Auckland New Zealand
I am sure your Kawai K500 will be much more than just a sensible piano. I am sure that you have made an excellent choice.

Congratulations!

Robert.

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#2334798 - 10/06/14 08:55 PM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
mikeheel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/31/10
Posts: 388
Loc: NC
I loved every Kawai upright we tried; I believe you made a great decision. Enjoy!

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#2338704 - 10/18/14 08:53 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
Ben_NZ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/14
Posts: 100
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
My K-500 has now been delivered - see separate thread. =)
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2338702.html

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#2338721 - 10/18/14 09:44 AM Re: Hello + buying my first piano (long post) [Re: Ben_NZ]
PhilipInChina Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/19/13
Posts: 1242
Loc: China
Mazl Tov. I don't think K have ever made a bad piano.
_________________________
Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"

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