low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O

Posted by: LFL

low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/06/12 10:26 PM

I am a new member and have enjoyed reading the forums. I am in the market for an upgraded piano, after having a Kawai GE2 for 20 years. After considering many options, playing at least 15 pianos, and even traveling to another state, I have come down to choosing between a minimally used Shigeru SK5 and a restored 1901 Steinway O. Prices are $5K apart--an issue, but not a deal-breaker. The Steinway has original box, soundboard, and plate. Renner action--not Steinway. Both sound good to me, but of course in different ways. I have some concern about the maintenance and longevity of the Steinway, but appreciate the fact that it has the branding. The Shigeru has excellent tonality and sustain. The Model O plays well and has surprisingly good base for being under 6'. Any thoughts?
Posted by: maurus

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 02:06 AM

Of course it comes down to what sound and action you prefer, but having compared a few Steinway (Hamburg) O's and SK3's myself I suspect that my own choice might be the longer SK5 (if it plays well and if it is in excellent shape). The longevity is an issue but perhaps not the crucial one (and it again depends on the shape of each piano). Has an experienced technician already given an assessment of the two instruments?
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 02:36 AM

Originally Posted By: LFL
I am a new member and have enjoyed reading the forums. I am in the market for an upgraded piano, after having a Kawai GE2 for 20 years. After considering many options, playing at least 15 pianos, and even traveling to another state, I have come down to choosing between a minimally used Shigeru SK5 and a restored 1901 Steinway O. Prices are $5K apart--an issue, but not a deal-breaker. The Steinway has original box, soundboard, and plate. Renner action--not Steinway. Both sound good to me, but of course in different ways. I have some concern about the maintenance and longevity of the Steinway, but appreciate the fact that it has the branding. The Shigeru has excellent tonality and sustain. The Model O plays well and has surprisingly good base for being under 6'. Any thoughts?


Without knowing what processes were employed in restoring the Steinway, by default, my vote would have to go to the Shigeru.
Posted by: Ed Foote

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 07:00 AM

Greetings,
The quality of the Steinway is totally dependent on the quality of the rebuild, regardless of whether factory parts were used or not. If you want to make an informed purchase, you will have to have a tech of your own employ, experienced in Steinways, examine and describe your instrument to you. It is too big an investment not to spend the money and have it professionally examined. Steinways carry so much branding that even mediocre shops with a good refinishing dept. can make money in "rebuilding" them, so caveat emptor. (and, I have never heard of someone keeping the original box! )

I also have used many Renner parts in the past, in performance situations. Many other techs have found better alternatives to the factory supplied parts for older pianos. The new factory parts are NOT the same as the older pianos originally came with, but there are now sources for replacement parts that allow us to make the choice between tradition or performance.
Regards,
Posted by: LFL

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 07:25 AM

Thanks for the responses. Sorry, by "box", I meant the original piano rim and case without modification. So everyone would have an independent technician look at the Steinway, even if it was restored by a reputable restorer?
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 08:10 AM

"...So everyone would have an independent technician look at the Steinway, even if it was restored by a reputable restorer?"

Without exception Yes, whenever you are considering a used piano.

My personal opinion is that the SK5 is very probably the better piano (again, subject to inspection for condition, by a qualified piano tech paid for by you alone, and who is not financially interested in the sale).

Assuming the tech report is to your satisfaction in both cases, it then depends entirely on what you like in a piano.

I am glad you clarified the 'original box' issue--- for a moment there, I thought we were talking about, oh, say, a first release of Hula Hoop Barbie, never played with by grubby rugrat fingers, and in the original box. That sort of thing matters to collectors. The crate in which a piano, over 100 years old by now, was originally shipped could hardly matter less, and if a seller is telling you it does--- run don't walk.

The Model O also fails under the 15-year rule of thumb for used pianos, but an excellent rebuild--- if it is--- vacates the rule. The SK5 has the advantage of the excellent piano technology and materials of today, which has come a long way since the O came out of the factory. But no doubt I am somewhat prejudiced by the fact that I am happy with my RX5, and do not especially care for some several things about the Steinway business practices nor many of their instruments I have played, and I consider it silly to buy a brand for itself alone. To my thinking, a musician considers the music first and foremost.

I have to admire your diligence in making such a thorough search, even traveling to another state to evaluate candidates. The fact that you've ended up with the two finalists you have speaks well for you--- as does the fact that you've had the sense to ask questions here. Not all answers will be useful, but some people here are in a good position to flush out the facts you need. So, I feel confident that you are going to come out ok--- and don't forget, we want to see pictures!
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 08:34 AM

Critical to have them both inspected by a very good tech.

How old is the Shigeru? Is the warranty transferable(thiswould be a plus)? I think a fair number of restorers would say that on a 110 year old piano the soundboard should almost always be replaced. Was the soundboard repaired in any way? If you like the tone and touch equally I think the Shigeru is a far safer choice since you can be surer about the quality of work and design. One would also expect the bass on the Shigeru to be superior to the smaller Steinway.
Posted by: LFL

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 09:52 AM

Thank you for all the responses. Everyone has echoed my own analysis. The Shigeru is not under warranty (2000 year build), but the dealer will give me 5 year full coverage--which would help, I guess, if there was a major problem with the action. As regards the Steinway, the soundboard is original but reconditioned. I believe there were hairline cracks. I inspected what I could see of the soundboard fairly carefully, and it looked fine.
Working on getting someone to inspect the Shigeru...
Posted by: LFL

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 09:54 AM

Thank you for your detailed response.
What is the 15 year rule you referred to?
Posted by: Thrill Science

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 10:13 AM

Some people believe the SK's to be better than American Steinways. For example, read the explanations here

http://www.georgekolasis.com/best-pianos.html

Obviously, on a 100 year old piano, it's all in how it was maintained and restored.

But don't let the "Steinway" name influence you. Those who know pianos hold Shigeru Kawai in high regard.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 10:38 AM

Suppose the tech reports are A1 for both pianos, which would you choose and why?

I posed myself a similar question in the London showrooms a few weeks ago. What stays in my memory is the touch of a Shigeru and the sound of a Hamburg Steinway B.

Faced with your choice I'd go with the Shigeru, once I'd convinced myself it was better for me, but then it's an early version as Robert points out in the next post.

Otherwise I'd go on shopping until I found a piano that won hands down if the Model O had not already proved itself to be that instrument.
Posted by: Robert 45

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 12:10 PM

If we look at the negative aspects of both pianos, I would think that the Shigeru Kawai instrument would be the wiser choice. The Shigeru is certainly not a new piano and a 2000 model would be approximately from the first year of production. There have been refinements and improvements to Shigeru Kawai pianos since then.

The Steinway is more than a hundred years old and has an original soundboard. That would concern me, although the piano may still be tonally good.

A rebuild on a Steinway piano of that age would probably have compromised the original parts and components of the piano.

The Shigeru is out of its warranty although it seems that the dealer is prepared to offer a 5 year warranty on the piano.

"Minimal" use for the Shigeru Kawai would also concern me as I would infer that the piano may also have been neglected, without regular maintenance and tuning. Moderate use of a piano is better, I would think, than minimal use.

A 12 year old Shigeru may also start to show its age. Even with minimal use, a piano still degrades and although the first ten years may be an arbitrary time span, many believe that those are the best years of a piano's life.

Without seeing or hearing either of these quality instruments, I would believe that both offer a very different tonal and touch experience. However, considering just the long term reliability and maintenance requirements of each piano, I would lean towards the much newer Shigeru Kawai.

All the best for the decision.

Kind regards,

Robert.
Posted by: Ed Foote

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 01:03 PM

Greetings,
>>As regards the Steinway, the soundboard is original but reconditioned. I believe there were hairline cracks. I inspected what I could see of the soundboard fairly carefully, and it looked fine.<<

The test for this board is to stretch a string under the bottom, and see if there is any crown left. I doubt it. I don't remember more than one or two Steinways with good 100 year old boards in them, they just weren't made that way. Like buying a beautiful antique car with a worn out motor in it.
Regards,
Posted by: Mark VC

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 01:11 PM

Whenever I read these threads, folks are evaluating the either/or on the basis of the piano, and that is certainly valid, and usually what the OP has asked for. Here's the thing: would you rather be selling a Steinway, or a piano that most folks have never heard of? The market for the latter will be smaller. Not arguing here, and I think all the above advice and judgments are the right ones. But a piano is, along with everything else, an investment. If you buy the Steinway, you're PROBABLY going to get more of your money back out of it when that time comes. Should be considered, right? (Dons asbestos coveralls)
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 01:16 PM

"...What is the 15 year rule you referred to?"

My personal suggestion--- not everyone agrees--- is that a person who is buying a used piano may do better to buy one which is not older than 15 years. While it is true that a good piano can last, with proper care, 40 - 50 years or even longer, they do wear out, and a newer piano will have more usable life left in it than an older one. The greatest depreciation will certainly have run its course over 15 years (probably sooner), so there is not much added financial benefit to the buyer from waiting longer--- in fact, inflation will have started to nudge the dollar price in the other direction. Besides that, maintenance and repair of an older piano becomes more expensive as it ages.

This rule of thumb doesn't apply so much to fine pianos of the sort that it would make financial sense to rebuild. And there are exceptions for ordinary pianos, too--- for example, rebuild of an aging piano which has sentimental value.
Posted by: LFL

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 01:42 PM

The "investment" component is negligible to me. Unfortunately, nobody else in my family plays at this time, and if I get 20-25 years out of this, my time will be over and I won't be concerned about what value it has. There are much better (or used to be) investment vehicles than pianos. If I was younger, the investment component might be more important, especially as a trade-in on a future upgrade.
Posted by: BDB

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 02:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
Greetings,
>>As regards the Steinway, the soundboard is original but reconditioned. I believe there were hairline cracks. I inspected what I could see of the soundboard fairly carefully, and it looked fine.<<

The test for this board is to stretch a string under the bottom, and see if there is any crown left. I doubt it. I don't remember more than one or two Steinways with good 100 year old boards in them, they just weren't made that way. Like buying a beautiful antique car with a worn out motor in it.
Regards,


The test for the board is whether the piano sounds good or not. There is no way to determine that by any visual measurement.
Posted by: Robert 45

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 02:33 PM

Yes, I would completely agree that the listening test is the best way to gauge how well the board is functioning. However, does the measurement of down bearing provide an indication of the amount of "crown" in a soundboard?
Apologies for this digression.
'
Kind regards,

Robert.
Posted by: BDB

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 02:49 PM

The measurement of down bearing only measures whether the strings are bearing down on the bridge. There is some importance to this, since if the strings do not bear down enough, they will lift off the bridge when you are playing, and that can cause buzzing and other problems.

What it the measurement means in relationship to the crown of the soundboard depends on what the intended relationship was supposed to be when the piano was designed.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 03:12 PM

Originally Posted By: Mark VC
Whenever I read these threads, folks are evaluating the either/or on the basis of the piano, and that is certainly valid, and usually what the OP has asked for. Here's the thing: would you rather be selling a Steinway, or a piano that most folks have never heard of? The market for the latter will be smaller. Not arguing here, and I think all the above advice and judgments are the right ones. But a piano is, along with everything else, an investment. If you buy the Steinway, you're PROBABLY going to get more of your money back out of it when that time comes. Should be considered, right? (Dons asbestos coveralls)
For a new or newly reubilt Steinway vs. another new piano the depreciation advantage of the Steinway is just a few percent...basically insigniicant. In this case one is comparing a newly rebuilt Steinway to a used Shigeru so the the Shigeru will actually have the advantage in terms of having a smaller depreciation over a given period of time. This is because the greatest amount of depreciation occurs at the beginning of a piano's life.
Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/07/12 03:36 PM

LFL raises a valid point..the age of the player..if your 60..unless your a Rubinstein or
Brubeck living into your 90s and still playing, chances are you'll only have that one piano.. investment value is a moot point..
Posted by: Withindale

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/08/12 05:59 AM

May I add to my post. If you are going to get 20-25 good years out of your new piano you are going to need a top class technician to look after it. It makes a lot of sense to choose your technician first; your piano will only be as good as your technician in the long run. I understand it's harder to find good technicians than good pianos in some areas.

You are sensibly treating your piano investment only in terms of yield. Your technician, your investment advisor, should be able to assess the potential of your proposed purchase as well as its current state, and may even be able to point you to a better option. It will then be up to him or her to maximize your returns.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/08/12 08:56 AM

Nicely stated, Withingdale! Admirable and excellent advice.
Posted by: LFL

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 03:44 PM

Withindale--I found the "better" option, I think. After extensive (and perhaps overly analytical)financial considerations, including looking forward for 20 years, I decided to get a new SK5, instead of the used one and instead of the restored Steinway. Although it is more outlay of $$ initially, it seems like it will cost me the equivalent of (only) $400-500/year extra, over the next 20 years--taking into consideration the cost of the used SK5 plus the additional cost of regulation plus the anticipated reconditioning in 8-10 years (replacement of strings, damper felts, etc). For that, I get the Millenium III action, fancier birds-eye maple on the inner rim, longer keys, ABS-carbon fiber whippets (instead of just ABS on the 2012), reinforced key slip, the MPA visit, 10 year warranty, and a hopefully worry-free instrument for the next 20 years. The 2012 Shigeru has some presumably improved design features. Seems like an acceptable trade-off.
Posted by: Robert 45

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 04:04 PM

Dear LFL,
Congratulations on your wise purchase! Shigeru Kawai are superb pianos and the SK5 will give you the power and range of a 6'+ grand piano.
As an aside, and with respect, you made a delightful malapropism in your above post when you referred to parts of the piano action as "whippets". I think you intended to say "whippens or wippens". A whippet is a British breed of dog!!

May you have a Happy Christmas with your new piano!

Robert.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 04:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Withindale
May I add to my post. If you are going to get 20-25 good years out of your new piano you are going to need a top class technician to look after it. It makes a lot of sense to choose your technician first; your piano will only be as good as your technician in the long run. I understand it's harder to find good technicians than good pianos in some areas.

You are sensibly treating your piano investment only in terms of yield. Your technician, your investment advisor, should be able to assess the potential of your proposed purchase as well as its current state, and may even be able to point you to a better option. It will then be up to him or her to maximize your returns.

1. I think a good piano has more than 20-25 good years and a lot more if one replaces parts that eventually need it.

2. The only need to choose a tech first is of one needs or wants help selecting a piano. In fact, it is hard to choose a tech first because the choice can and I think should depend on how well one thinks the tech cares for your piano. One can reasonably choose based on other people's recommendations also.

3. Thinking of a piano as an investment and a tech as an investment adviser is not a particularly good approach IMO.

4. I think it's misleading phrasing to say that one's piano is only as good as one's tech in the long run. If one could buy a Bosendorfer or other Tier 1 for the same price as an very inexpensive one with the caveat that one only could use a "decent", but not expert tech I bet a lot of people would choose this scenario. A more accurate statement might be that the care one's piano gets is only as good as one's tech.
Posted by: carey

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 04:26 PM

Originally Posted By: LFL
Withindale--I found the "better" option, I think. After extensive (and perhaps overly analytical)financial considerations, including looking forward for 20 years, I decided to get a new SK5, instead of the used one and instead of the restored Steinway. Although it is more outlay of $$ initially, it seems like it will cost me the equivalent of (only) $400-500/year extra, over the next 20 years--taking into consideration the cost of the used SK5 plus the additional cost of regulation plus the anticipated reconditioning in 8-10 years (replacement of strings, damper felts, etc). For that, I get the Millenium III action, fancier birds-eye maple on the inner rim, longer keys, ABS-carbon fiber whippets (instead of just ABS on the 2012), reinforced key slip, the MPA visit, 10 year warranty, and a hopefully worry-free instrument for the next 20 years. The 2012 Shigeru has some presumably improved design features. Seems like an acceptable trade-off.


Much more than an acceptable trade-off.......it's a very wise decision. Congratulations !!!!!!!
Posted by: Withindale

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 05:10 PM

Yes, LFL, a better option indeed. A fine example of rational decision making coming up with the right answer. Endless possibilities to explore and enjoy. Who could ask for more? Best wishes.
Posted by: Amaruk

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 05:23 PM

Congrats to a very smart choice! Please share pics with us when you get it. We all love those threads here on PW!
Posted by: LFL

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 06:23 PM

Sorry about that typo, Robert. Thanks for the correction.
Posted by: PianoWorksATL

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 07:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Robert 45
Dear LFL...A whippet is a British breed of dog!!
Stranger still, it's the street name for a can of whipped cream, used for the Nitrous Oxide high. shocked

Congrats! Your new-to-you piano will give you a natural high. grin
Posted by: j&j

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 09:55 PM

Congratulations on your new Shigeru! I'm sure you'll be ecstatic with it's sound and performance. No matter what you decided, the fact that you researched the options, tried different pianos, and made your choice based on your tastes, playing, and needs, means you made a well-informed decision that you can feel happy and confident about.

Please post pictures when it's delivered. Congratulations again. Fabulous Christmas present to yourself!
Posted by: Ed Foote

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 10:10 PM

Originally Posted By: LFL
Withindale--I found the "better" option, I think. After extensive (and perhaps overly analytical)financial considerations, including looking forward for 20 years, I decided to get a new SK5, instead of the used one and instead of the restored Steinway. Although it is more outlay of $$ initially, it seems like it will cost me the equivalent of (only) $400-500/year extra, over the next 20 years--taking into consideration the cost of the used SK5 plus the additional cost of regulation plus the anticipated reconditioning in 8-10 years (replacement of strings, damper felts, etc). For that, I get the Millenium III action, fancier birds-eye maple on the inner rim, longer keys, ABS-carbon fiber whippets (instead of just ABS on the 2012), reinforced key slip, the MPA visit, 10 year warranty, and a hopefully worry-free instrument for the next 20 years. The 2012 Shigeru has some presumably improved design features. Seems like an acceptable trade-off.


greetings,
Why would you think you need new strings in this piano? I have many pianos in my care with strings 60-100 years old and the strings are just fine. In fact, a number of Steinways from the '20s and 30's I care for have less false beats than brand new Steinways.

Spend your money on regulations and voicings, instead.
Regards,
Posted by: j&j

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/22/12 10:19 PM

pianoloverus,

Quote:
I think it's misleading phrasing to say that one's piano is only as good as one's tech in the long run.
Maybe we should change it to say,
"A piano is only as good as the long term maintenance it gets by a qualified tech over its lifetime." We've all heard the sad tales of high end pianos that went for years without tuning, voicing, or regulation.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/23/12 03:28 AM

j&j
Please note I have started this thread to discuss these issues. I think they are out of place here now that the OP (who knows the importance of maintenance) has decided on a new Shigeru SK5.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/23/12 08:50 AM

Originally Posted By: j&j
pianoloverus,

Quote:
I think it's misleading phrasing to say that one's piano is only as good as one's tech in the long run.
Maybe we should change it to say,
"A piano is only as good as the long term maintenance it gets by a qualified tech over its lifetime." We've all heard the sad tales of high end pianos that went for years without tuning, voicing, or regulation.
Not really. The condition of the piano is dependent on the care of the tech.

But if one starts out with a very poor piano no amount of tech care will make it great. And even after 20 years a sensational piano that's not played eight hours a day and is kept in an appropriate environment may very well sound much better than an inferior piano even if the the sensational piano is simply tuned once a year by a tech with average ability. Of course, it also goes without saying that more frequent care by a great tech will make it sound even better than minimal care by a tech with less skill.

Suppose you had these two choices:

Choice 1:You are given a well prepped highest quality performance grade piano(the very highest level in the Fine rankings)of your choice for free. You play it 1-2 hours a day and keep it in a room with stable humidity at the correct level. You have it tuned once year by a tech with decent but not super skill. Every ten years you can get one day of voicing and one day of regulation by the same tech. All the tech services are for free also.

Choice 2. You are given the same size intermediate level consumer grade piano for free. You play it 1-2 hours per day and keep it in a room with stable humidity. You have the services of a super tech who comes twice per year for tuning and also does lengthy regulation and voicing every 4 years for as much time is necessary. The tech services are for free.

I bet a lot of people would choose choice 1 and that their piano would sound and play far better after 20 years than those who chose the second option.
Posted by: LFL

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 12/23/12 02:12 PM

Ed--thanks for your input. All I can say is that the RPT who inspected the used SK5 is VERY reputable and that is what he advised. I think, in retrospect, it was more of a "consider this" but not "you'll have to". And, he was coming from a very professional viewpoint of keeping the piano in "optimal" condition, not just "acceptable".
Posted by: LFL

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 01/03/13 10:19 PM

SK-5 (new) delivered today...with assistance of a crane to reach 2nd floor of the house...video to follow.

http://www.pianoworld.com/Uploads/files/IMG569.jpg
Posted by: Furtwangler

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 01/03/13 10:49 PM

Unbelievable!

Going to see some tomorrow myself

Congratulations!!
Posted by: LFL

Re: low-use SK5 vs. restored 1901 Steinway O - 01/04/13 07:57 PM

See new thread "SK5 delivered"