Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower?

Posted by: PRoberts

Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/21/10 07:52 AM

I have read here and there from reviews that the newer U-1's have a slightly different scale design and hammers. Is this true? The music rack is also longer.

I hear folks say all the time that a Grey Market 20-30 year old Yamaha sounds just as good as a new one. I find that very hard to believe, seeing that technology is always moving forward, even with slight changes.
Posted by: olavi

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/21/10 08:19 AM

This not a real answer, but I've listened to various U1s from the 1980s. Most of them had a harsh, metallic tone. One was apparently recently voiced and it had a beautiful, soft sound. I couldn't really distinguish it from the brand new ones, which were similar.
Posted by: ChrisVenables

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/22/10 05:57 AM

Yes you're right Mr Roberts, a Grey Market 20-30 year old Yamaha doesn't sound just as good as a new one.

Philosophy - as with most successful businesses, Yamaha have a philosophy of continual improvement, in terms of production technique, components and design, so a newer Yamaha is better because:

Age - wear and tear affects both the action feel and the tone. (eg, you don't see many 30 year old pianos used in public performance)

Components - better bass strings, better hammers and felt, particularly since 1999, have almost eradicated the reputation that Yamaha had for a hard, sometimes tubby, bass and have contributed to giving their pianos a more European tone.

Design - to further improve tone, structural strength, rigidity and dynamic range:

new scale design,

perimeter type frame (plate)

new rib configurations improve soundboard performance

redesigned backposts.

Functionality -

soft close fallboard

stretched music desk.

The new U1 frame is used in many other Yamaha models, such as B3,(laminated soundboard) P121, (Strunz soundboard) PX124 and Radius RG3(both recently phased out), YUS1, and, I believe, for the N American market, T118 - maybe PB or Steve can confirm that one.

Comparing an old with a newly designed Yamaha, even the new B3 with, albeit, a laminated soundboard, plays and sounds far better than any 30 year old U1 I have played.
Posted by: PRoberts

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/22/10 01:11 PM

Originally Posted By: ChrisVenables
Yes you're right Mr Roberts, a Grey Market 20-30 year old Yamaha doesn't sound just as good as a new one.

Philosophy - as with most successful businesses, Yamaha have a philosophy of continual improvement, in terms of production technique, components and design, so a newer Yamaha is better because:

Age - wear and tear affects both the action feel and the tone. (eg, you don't see many 30 year old pianos used in public performance)

Components - better bass strings, better hammers and felt, particularly since 1999, have almost eradicated the reputation that Yamaha had for a hard, sometimes tubby, bass and have contributed to giving their pianos a more European tone.

Design - to further improve tone, structural strength, rigidity and dynamic range:

new scale design,

perimeter type frame (plate)

new rib configurations improve soundboard performance

redesigned backposts.

Functionality -

soft close fallboard

stretched music desk.

The new U1 frame is used in many other Yamaha models, such as B3,(laminated soundboard) P121, (Strunz soundboard) PX124 and Radius RG3(both recently phased out), YUS1, and, I believe, for the N American market, T118 - maybe PB or Steve can confirm that one.

Comparing an old with a newly designed Yamaha, even the new B3 with, albeit, a laminated soundboard, plays and sounds far better than any 30 year old U1 I have played.







Thanks Chris, as we know, you know Yamahas.
Posted by: Mike Carr

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/22/10 02:12 PM

PRoberts,

Trust yourself, get your hands dirty, so to speak, and play some pianos. Fishing for opinions, trying to make sense of one set of folkisms, homilies, and quasi-truisms over another will only take you so far before running into a brick wall of piano forum axe-grinders.

They spin their grind-stones, throw off a lot of sparks, but never go anywhere. There's a lot of movement, but little action. When the axe is down to a nub, without ever being sharpened, they trade it in for a new one, their opinions resolutely tied to whatever it is they're selling or buying . . . this week.

Mike
Posted by: PRoberts

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/22/10 03:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Mike Carr
PRoberts,

Eventually you are going to have to trust yourself, get your hands dirty, so to speak, and play some pianos. Fishing for opinions, trying to make sense of one set of folkisms, homilies, and quasi-truisms over another will only take you so far before running into a brick wall of piano forum axe-grinders.

They spin their grind-stones, throw off a lot of sparks, but never go anywhere. There's a lot of movement, but little action. When the axe is down to a nub, without ever being sharpened, they trade it in for a new one, their opinions resolutely tied to whatever it is they're selling or buying . . . this week.

Mike



Playing some pianos is a great idea. I like all opinions too...

Thanks.
Posted by: turandot

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/22/10 07:39 PM

Originally Posted By: PRoberts

I hear folks say all the time that a Grey Market 20-30 year old Yamaha sounds just as good as a new one. I find that very hard to believe, seeing that technology is always moving forward, even with slight changes.



Technology does march forward, but technology is employed just as often (if not more often) to achieve cost savings as it is to achieve a superior product.

In the instance of Yamaha U series, you can look at a spec lisst and assume that all changes are mentioned, and that all metnionted changes are improvements, or you can play the pianos and decide on what has been achieved by the changes, both those changes cited as improvements and those not mentioned at all. And don't delude yourself into believing that piano makers cite every change made in the production process or the materials used.

I think that's the reason why Mike is suggesting that you play the pianos and I agree with him. As a player I feel instinctively from playing old and new U's that something has been gained by the technology and something lost as well. The result is a different piano.

I'd take a new U myself over an old for the obvious reason of its projected musical life, but I think it's naive to assume that every change Yamaha has made is all about producing a superior product.

If you're just looking for confirmation of your own belief that the current U design in its entirety must be better than any older U design, then collect opinions. You'll get plenty of reinforcement for your belief from those who sell new.

If you want to put your belief to the test, do as Mike says. Play lots of U's....new ones and old ones in good condition.
Posted by: Rjt

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/23/10 04:31 AM

I'll chime in my opinion. I have been auditioning upright pianos for a while and I have preferred every new U1 or U3 I have tried versus every pre-1997 model. I'm not technically knowledgeable enough to know the reasons, however the new pianos feel crisp, dynamic and responsive in a way that the older ones don't. There could be a psychological factor involved (shiny showroom syndrome), but I'm pretty sure I could pick the new pianos in a blinded test.

Regarding the view that all design and manufacturing changes are to improve product quality: I used to work as a design engineer for Toyota Japan (a completely different industry of course), however in my experience a great many product changes are made to save cost, however even these 'cost' changes are done while maintaining similar quality levels or even increasing quality. It is simply not viable to decrease quality in highly competitive markets and expect to maintain a leading market position. A quality decrease will be exposed and exploited very quickly by competitors (Toyota's recent quality problems in the US are an interesting case in point). I think Kawai is a good example of -cost +quality. I have found new Kawai pianos much higher quality than their pianos of the past, albeit made in low labour cost markets and using high technology to reduce costs.
Posted by: turandot

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/23/10 10:06 AM

Quote:
I have been auditioning upright pianos for a while and I have preferred every new U1 or U3 I have tried versus every pre-1997 model. I'm not technically knowledgeable enough to know the reasons, however the new pianos feel crisp, dynamic and responsive in a way that the older ones don't. There could be a psychological factor involved (shiny showroom syndrome), but I'm pretty sure I could pick the new pianos in a blinded test.


Although words are inexact and I don't know exactly what you mean by dynamic, I have no argument with your description of what has been gained. One thing to remember though is that crisp and responsive should be hallmarks of the newer piano since over time actions, hammers, and strings all tend to lose something. Also, your conclusions are based on playing. In that sense they are irrefutable as opposed to a conclusion that might be reached by someone who read that backposts had been redesigned and concluded that the piano must be better or someone who read that the keybed was made of cheaper materials and concluded that the piano must be worse.

On the psychological effects, it works both ways. One of the things I feel has been lost is depth of tone. It's possible that some of that feeling is based on my response to the sheer mass and over-built nature of some of the older designs which employ more substantial cabinets and/or radial frames. I don't think that's the case but of course it's just as possible as your shiny showroom syndrome.

To be clear, I am hardly trying to put down new U's. As I wrote, I would take the new over the old for the projected musical life even while wondering if that new model would be as pleasurable as the old when it reached the same age. However, if I were to choose one or the other for playing on today and only today, my choice would be less clear-cut. I've played big mid-eighties U's with a depth of tone that strongly appeals to me. Put one of those in the two-way choice and I'd probably take it short-term.

Rather than knocking Yamaha, my posting here was a reaction to the OP's comment that technology's forward march ensured a better product and his post in which he simply copied all of Chris V's points and added only that Chris knows Yamahas. I enjoy Chris V's presence here and his factual approach to things a lot, but I think there's much more to piano evaluation than soaking up the specs that a company presents.
Posted by: PRoberts

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/23/10 11:38 AM

Originally Posted By: turandot
Quote:
I have been auditioning upright pianos for a while and I have preferred every new U1 or U3 I have tried versus every pre-1997 model. I'm not technically knowledgeable enough to know the reasons, however the new pianos feel crisp, dynamic and responsive in a way that the older ones don't. There could be a psychological factor involved (shiny showroom syndrome), but I'm pretty sure I could pick the new pianos in a blinded test.


Although words are inexact and I don't know exactly what you mean by dynamic, I have no argument with your description of what has been gained. One thing to remember though is that crisp and responsive should be hallmarks of the newer piano since over time actions, hammers, and strings all tend to lose something. Also, your conclusions are based on playing. In that sense they are irrefutable as opposed to a conclusion that might be reached by someone who read that backposts had been redesigned and concluded that the piano must be better or someone who read that the keybed was made of cheaper materials and concluded that the piano must be worse.

On the psychological effects, it works both ways. One of the things I feel has been lost is depth of tone. It's possible that some of that feeling is based on my response to the sheer mass and over-built nature of some of the older designs which employ more substantial cabinets and/or radial frames. I don't think that's the case but of course it's just as possible as your shiny showroom syndrome.

To be clear, I am hardly trying to put down new U's. As I wrote, I would take the new over the old for the projected musical life even while wondering if that new model would be as pleasurable as the old when it reached the same age. However, if I were to choose one or the other for playing on today and only today, my choice would be less clear-cut. I've played big mid-eighties U's with a depth of tone that strongly appeals to me. Put one of those in the two-way choice and I'd probably take it short-term.

Rather than knocking Yamaha, my posting here was a reaction to the OP's comment that technology's forward march ensured a better product and his post in which he simply copied all of Chris V's points and added only that Chris knows Yamahas. I enjoy Chris V's presence here and his factual approach to things a lot, but I think there's much more to piano evaluation than soaking up the specs that a company presents.






I like what you said about sometimes technology can hurt rather than help. It seem though that their might be some older pianos out there that sound and play as good as new ones, it's a possiblity. Have to play and compare it seems. Thanks....
Posted by: Norbert

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/23/10 02:58 PM

Quote:
looking for confirmation of your own belief that the current U design in its entirety must be better than any older U design, then collect opinions.


Facts are better than 'opinions'.

Please include examples of new design i.e. changes in scale design. Also improved components related to soundboard,hammers,strings, plate etc

Something must be 'better' somewhere than before?

Here to learn....

Norbert
Posted by: turandot

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/23/10 03:24 PM

Originally Posted By: Norbert
Quote:
looking for confirmation of your own belief that the current U design in its entirety must be better than any older U design, then collect opinions.


Facts are better than 'opinions'.

Please include examples of new design i.e. changes in scale design. Also improved components related to soundboard,hammers,strings, plate etc

Something must be 'better' somewhere than before?

Here to learn....


If you're here to learn, you could start by reading the thread. Chris V. has given plenty of facts regarding design changes and scale changes. I'd recommend listening to the pianos too, but if specs are your thing,.... grin

BTW, if you're going to excerpt a quote from me (or anyone else), at least take one complete sentence. That quote you've snipped and pasted here doesn't mean a thing.

Posted by: Norbert

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/23/10 06:51 PM

Tur,sorry not meaning to misquote you...

Specs re any piano, incluing Yamaha's well respected U1 piano are here:

http://www.yamaha.com/yamahavgn/CDA/ContentDetail/ModelSeriesDetail.html?CNTID=1373

Perhaps a Yamaha specialist could better elaborate on the changes from previous years.

Respectfully, they do not seem to be identical to those which had been suggested or listed here on the thread before.

Norbert
Posted by: turandot

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/23/10 07:24 PM

Quote:
sorry not meaning to misquote you...


It's not that you're misquoting me. It's just that in snipping only a fragment of a sentence, you're making me sound like you. grin

I thought Chris Venables was a a Yamaha specialist. I guess I was wrong. Is there some inconsistency between his list of changes and what you see in that web link?

Actually, I happen to know that you were the happy owner of a U3 for many years. You are also a performing musician. So let's appoint you a U series speciailist. Was that not a fine piano with a great depth of tone? laugh How do today's U3's stack up?
Posted by: Rjt

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/23/10 07:51 PM

Originally Posted By: turandot


I thought Chris Venables was a a Yamaha specialist. I guess I was wrong.


Chris is definitely a Yamaha specialist. I have been to his shop and it is the best in the country in my opinion - just due to the helpfulness and knowledge of Chris and his staff. I think it is great that Chris is so active on this forum.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/23/10 08:31 PM

Chris is a super guy no doubt! thumb

Since OP asked about a specific piano being the U1, I thought the discussion was about this particular piano.

In an effort to keep up-to-date with things out there, I study each manufacturers listed specs on an ongoing basis this, to learn of any possible changes or improvements. At same time, I'm aware it's not all there is when it comes to sound and quality of a piano.

But it's a beginning....

In studying the U1 by specs [ not knowing if the mentioned B or P series uprights are only available in Europe...] I wasn't in the clear about any changes being able to identify them as far as the U1 was concerned.

Of course I could be wrong and it's an entirely different, far better piano now.

Norbert smile
Posted by: turandot

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/23/10 08:58 PM

Originally Posted By: Rjt
Originally Posted By: turandot


I thought Chris Venables was a a Yamaha specialist. I guess I was wrong.


Chris is definitely a Yamaha specialist. I have been to his shop and it is the best in the country in my opinion - just due to the helpfulness and knowledge of Chris and his staff. I think it is great that Chris is so active on this forum.


Of course he is. I was just pulling Norbert's chain.

BTW, do you happen to remember who posted to a thread question of yours that you contact Chris? grin
Posted by: Rjt

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/24/10 05:48 AM

Oh, I just didn't get the joke between you and Norbert.

In any case, I'm very grateful for the advice I get on this forum from both you and Chris and everyone else.

It's amazing how one can play piano for many years and yet know so little about them. It's only now I'm in the market to buy that I have been taking a crash course.

Trying to get back to Mr Robert's questions…. I have found new Japanese U1s to be quite well-rounded in tone, albeit with that typical Yamaha penetrating treble. One P121 I tried recently (2008 - made in the Kemble factory UK) was excruciatingly bright by comparison. However as Chris would undoubtedly tell you, a good dealer will be able to voice a new piano to be mellower if you wish.
Posted by: ChrisVenables

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/24/10 07:20 AM

Originally Posted By: turandot


On the psychological effects, it works both ways. One of the things I feel has been lost is depth of tone. It's possible that some of that feeling is based on my response to the sheer mass and over-built nature of some of the older designs which employ more substantial cabinets and/or radial frames. I don't think that's the case but of course it's just as possible as your shiny showroom syndrome.


Hi William

I always respect your posts and have a high regard for you, indeed you're one of the top contributors on PW IMO. I appreciate that you started the above paragraph with the caveat 'psychological effects' and 'feelings' but I would like to respectfully correct a few of your claims for the benefit of others regarding spec and design on older U1 v new U1.

'More substantial cabinets' ... 'sheer mass and overbuilt nature of older designs' - A new U1 is actually 3cm longer than the old models, allowing for longer bass strings. And a new U1 weighs in at 502lbs, an old U1 - 474lbs

'Radial frames' (backposts?) - Never a feature on any U1 I have seen in 30 years. The backposts are always parallel and vertical.

I do not know of any component on a new U1 which is inferior to that found older models.

Regards.
Posted by: ChrisVenables

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/24/10 07:49 AM

Originally Posted By: Norbert
Tur,sorry not meaning to misquote you...

Specs re any piano, incluing Yamaha's well respected U1 piano are here:

http://www.yamaha.com/yamahavgn/CDA/ContentDetail/ModelSeriesDetail.html?CNTID=1373

Perhaps a Yamaha specialist could better elaborate on the changes from previous years.

Respectfully, they do not seem to be identical to those which had been suggested or listed here on the thread before.

Norbert



Hi Norbert

Thanks for the info.

The link to Yamaha America's website doesn't demonstrate the design or component improvements over older models and only gives sketchy spec. As an example, they show the hammers and strings spec for the custom YUS1 being no different to the standard U1, whereas the hammers on the YUS1 use better felt (the same felt as on the S series handbuilt uprights, but not the same hammer head) and the same quality strings as on the S series handbuilt range. So whilst Yamaha America's got plenty of useful general info, it's not as detailed as it should be.

Regarding someone elaborating on the old v new changes, I thought I did...

Regards.
Posted by: Rjt

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/24/10 07:55 AM

Originally Posted By: ChrisVenables

'Radial frames' (backposts?) - Never a feature on any U1 I have seen in 30 years. The backposts are always parallel and vertical.


I think the reference is to the UX10, a Japanese U1 variant from the nineties. Refer links below:
http://www.themusicscorellc.com/images/Yamaha%20UX10A%20back%20web.jpg
http://www.themusicscorellc.com/used.html
Posted by: ChrisVenables

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/24/10 08:48 AM

Thanks for that Rjt, - sorry, I was only comparing directly the U1 old and U1 new, not the X series.
Posted by: turandot

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/24/10 10:39 AM

Chris,

Thank you for your unduly kind words. I have no problem being corrected. What I don't know never ceases to amaze me. My reaction to U series is instinctive and psychological conditioning undoubtedly plays a role. I think critical listening plays a role too though. In terms of action feel, new Yamaha or older Yamaha action in top condition, what's not to like?

I was guilty of mixing and matching in my posts here. By title and by intent, the thread is about old U1 vs. new U1. However, grey-market was also mentioned as a product category by the OP, and you followed up on it, adding B series and T series to the soup.

It often happens in the US that the T 118 falls in direct price-point competition with a confusing array of used grey-market models. As a player, and judging only instinctively from that basis, I don't think that the T cuts the mustard. I'm reminded of RJT's "crisp" and "responsive". If it's there, I haven't found it. So for the player with a $4k budget, Yamaha has not killed off the grey-market just yet. Note: I don't know the B series. We don't get them.

On the strict comparison of Western market U1 to U1, old to new, I'll take you at your word. The cabinets don't seem as subsantial to me, but it's very possible that my memory is playing tricks.
Posted by: Ken S

Re: Is the Newer Yamaha U1's Mellower? - 09/24/10 05:41 PM

Just a couple of notes:

At a factory visit in Japan a few years ago, one of the technicians (whose title was "product upgrade") told us that since the flagship U1 is such a popular model, it is constantly undergoing revision and re-evaluation. I agree that many changes are not only to improve touch, tone, or reliability, but to keep a lid on costs as well.

I've noticed a general 'mellowing" of Yamaha's pianos over the last 20 years, the U1 included. The most recent versions of the C1 and C2 are noticeably mellower than in the past.