why there's huge price gap between different piano brands?

Posted by: jian1zh

why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 04:14 AM

I mean sure, it depends on the quality of the materials, better hammer, better spruce boards, better strings means more expensive piano, but why on earth the difference between a cheap piano and an expensive is so huge? well over 10 thousands?!

Don't shovel in cars as example becoz for cars, the material and technological difference is actually quite huge, such as plasma induced cylinder coating, direct injection fuel system really justify the cost difference, but why piano, an century old instrument without any major improvements through last several decades. Isn't it just woods and more woods but why price difference is sooo huge? Brand hype, sales strategy?

BTW, why would piano sales person stress more on *hand-made* is really beyond me. As an engineer, I actually would pretty much prefer machine-built over anything hand-made. There's NO way you could build better equipment with hand, by giving same amount of attention, a well designed machine-built stuff is always, always winning over samething made by hands.

Why piano buliding stuck with wood is again puzzling me. Wood is quite an inferior material comparing to even plastics. IMHO, piano is better built from carbon-fibre, except soundboard, as carbon-fibre is very resistant to temperature, moisture and stress.
Posted by: backto_study_piano

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 04:45 AM

The price of all consumer goods is dependent on demand. If people will pay the money they're asking, the price will remain.
Posted by: KarelG

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 05:13 AM

Hi,
I'm not sure the piano development stopped hundred years ago. Why would then some makers put completely new lines for sale? Speaking from CR, that means Petrof new line of Bora/Breeze/Storm/Passat/Monsoon. Bohemia Piano also redesigned their line. Look at Schimmel/DE corporate video and you'll see they are stressing quite a lot importance of further developments. Also have a look what Estonia did in recent twenty years or so. On the other hand for example August Forster looks like company without a big R&D department. Their pianos are really nice, but w/o modern stuff like duplexes and such but still well, they are able to sell... so w.r.t R&D this really depends. I commenting only piano makers which I know better than just maker name...
Posted by: backto_study_piano

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 05:38 AM

I'm not sure about duplex being modern - Wikipedia says "...duplex scaling, invented by Theodore Steinway in 1872...".

More recently, some manufacturers have incorporated "tunable duplex", whereas some manufacturers don't have it at all.
Posted by: SteveM732

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 08:40 AM

Parts and labor. The labor rates of the country of manufacture makes a big difference in price. The origin of parts in the piano and optional features like fake ivory keys and fancy finishes can also make a big difference in the price. Then there is a premium for name brand recognition. And no, wood is not just wood and you will pay a lot for quality woods seasoned properly.

Recently someone on this forum had a less expensive piano delivered with broken tuning pins where as a more expensive piano would have spend more labor intensive time being tested and checked out in the factory and at the dealership and probably would have used higher quality (more expensive) tuning pins in the first place.

They do make pianos out of plastic on highly automated productions lines, they are called "digital" pianos. They are pumped full of technological improvements and are superior in every way. Oh, except they have no heart or soul and Beethoven can't feel a darn thing when he lays his head on them.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 09:09 AM

The word which seems to have been lost in this discussion is quality. It is a very complex concept. If the concept of quality is not understood, then any resultant product will suffice for any application.

Consider also, craftsmanship. It certainly is not a concept which translates to production lines or robotics. That is mere repetition.

Finally, there is an almost mystical concept. It is musicality.

Combining all of the concepts into a single term, we arrive at artistry.

Therein lies the price differential.
Posted by: Steve Jackson

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 09:40 AM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
The word which seems to have been lost in this discussion is quality. It is a very complex concept. If the concept of quality is not understood, then any resultant product will suffice for any application.

Consider also, craftsmanship. It certainly is not a concept which translates to production lines or robotics. That is mere repetition.

Finally, there is an almost mystical concept. It is musicality.

Combining all of the concepts into a single term, we arrive at artistry.

Therein lies the price differential.


Well said!

To speak to the OP, the development of pianos runs parallel to
the industrial age. The piano is the showcase of mechanical
production, and all manufacturers rely on machines.

However,as Marty says, getting the music into the piano takes
artisans. As far as tolerances, if you have ever taken apart
a late 1800's Steinway upright, you would know that no mechanized production could fit that together. Mechanized production means reducing the production to its bare assemblies
and designing these assemblies so the machines can pop them
out. In hand fitting, intuitive decisions based on experience
may alter some of the tone producing parts and adjustments to
get top performance.

The last 10% of performance can take 90% of the time of production.

Take care,

Steve
Posted by: Steven Y. A.

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 09:54 AM

Labours..German workers earn about $20 per hour, well Chinese earn about $2. And there are 2 method of making pianos: the traditional way takes 6 months the other less than few days.



Handmade...all modern piano manufacturing involes some machineary, more or less. All cabinents are produced by CNC i believe. but from my knowledge:

- some aspect cannot be handled by machines YET for example gluing bridge to the soundboard. and to install the strings. its way too sensitive for machines to handle yet.

- some aspect can NEVER handled by machines, ie: voicing and final touch.

as for different material. I believe wood required for cabient is close as critical as the soundboard. they can be as cheap as ikea bed frame, in most cases, a special laminate.

as soundboard. my friend in material science already discuss the possibility of using poly material as the acoustical quality in theory is superior to wood.

I believe Steingraeber Phoenix is the model using carbon soundboard.

in terms of mass production: yes things have already been changed: thats why some traditional prestious manufacturers like PLEYEL struggles: crushed by mass produced product like Pearl River. FOr the cost of a pearl river piano they couldnt even buy the materials in france.

in the end you judge by ears fingers and eyes. you choose with your preferrence and budget.

here is a youtube video for your interest.
SChimmel production tour.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em3oOJLTMks
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 10:05 AM

If you can't hear and feel the difference between a great, expensive piano and one that is less expensive, count yourself lucky and buy the latter.

It all comes down to sound and touch. Very little else matters. (In my experience, quality of craftsmanship correlates pretty well with sound and touch, but if you disagree you might add that as the third factor.)
Posted by: PianoWarrior

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 11:20 AM

I can't tell if the OP is serious or just trolling.. I mean really..

Why does a t-shirt sell for $2 at walmart but can sell for $50 at designer stores? It's everything, labor market differences, quality differences, brand perception, etc. etc. etc. It's called a market and supply/demand. If you think you can make a better steinway for a fraction of the cost, I suggest you do so. I'll be in line to buy one of your pianos as will I'm sure many people.

Comparing pianos to cars is an apples to oranges comparison. Cars are practically a commodity, whereas pianos are luxury items. Also, the difference between an expensive car and cheap car are comparatively not that large, especially for the price. Direct injection vs. port injection adds to the cost, but you see how even cheap cars come now with direct injection.

Personally, I don't find pianos to be all that expensive, relatively speaking. Of course I'd like to pay less (as would everyone), but that's not reality. I bought a ~$3k sectional which is relatively simple in relation to the used Yamaha U1 I purchased for about the same price. Sure new the U1 is about $7k, but the work involved to make a U1 is much more complicated than a sectional w/ "just" some fabric/wood/cushioning. :p
Posted by: Sand Tiger

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 11:46 AM

Parts, labor, reputation, marketing. Prices fascinate me. Often times the exact same product sells for divergent prices depending on venue. Beer in a supermarket might be $6 for a six-pack. At a sports stadium it might be $10 for one beer or 60x as much money, same product. Go to a department store, and take a dress shirt, change the label and nothing else, and it might mean a tripling in price at the same venue.

Luxury items such as pianos are priced mostly on perception. It is the same with most other luxury items, from watches to purses, to ski equipment to bicycles. I had this same conversation with someone about bicycles. The other person could not understand why anyone would spend 10x or 50x as much on a bike as someone else.

I talked about something much more down to earth, shoes. Most mass produced shoes or sneakers stocked in any store, cost $2 to $5 in materials, maybe another $2 to $5 in labor. A generic store brand pair of sneakers might list for $25. Slap a mid-level name label on it and the price goes up to $50. Sign up a big-name sports star to endorse it, and the price might be $300.

There is a veneer of technological differences (especially for stuff like golf clubs or ski equipment), or for some high end items: handmade vs. machine made, or made in Germany or USA vs. made in Mexico or China, but the big differences tend to be caused by marketing, and the differences in public perception superior marketing causes. It is not all that different with pianos. For pianos, marketing, reputation, strength of dealer network are huge factors.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 11:58 AM

Like most items, from t shirts to cars, for pianos there is not in most people's opinion a direct proportion between the quality of the item and its price. One cannot expect a seven foot piano costing 75K to be "five times as as good"(however one wants to interpret that)as a seven foot piano costing 15K. That is why Larry Fine(hoping I'm remembering his comment correctly), when asked by clients if some very expensive piano is a "good value for the money" usually says no. Of course, he doesn't mean the piano isn't a great piano. He's just echoing the idea I expressed in the first sentence.

In NYC I can by a loaf of bread for $3 and I can buy one for $10. Is the $10 loaf a good value?
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 12:00 PM

Like most items, from t shirts to cars, for pianos there is not in most people's opinion a direct proportion between the quality of the item and its price. One cannot expect a seven foot piano costing 75K to be "five times as as good"(however one wants to interpret that)as a seven foot piano costing 15K. That is why Larry Fine(hoping I'm remembering his comment correctly), when asked by clients if some very expensive piano is a "good value for the money" usually says no. Of course, he doesn't mean the piano isn't a great piano. He's just echoing the idea I expressed in the first sentence.

In NYC I can by a loaf of bread for $3 and I can buy one for $10. Is the $10 loaf a good value? I don't know, but the $6 hamburger deluxe at the corner diner is just as good as the one at many other restaurants where the price is twice that amount.
Posted by: Del

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 12:52 PM

Originally Posted By: backto_study_piano
I'm not sure about duplex being modern - Wikipedia says "...duplex scaling, invented by Theodore Steinway in 1872...".

More recently, some manufacturers have incorporated "tunable duplex", whereas some manufacturers don't have it at all.

You're right, the "duplex" is not a modern "feature" of the piano. All pianos from at least the early 1800s on have incorporated one or more duplex string segments. At issue is whether or not those duplex string segments are tuned. If an attempt has been made to make the length of a duplex string segment some specific partial of the fundamental speaking length it is more properly known as an aliquot duplex or a tuned duplex string segment. In some cases, as you have pointed out, a piano might have one or more tunable duplex string segments.

The tuned, or tunable, duplex can be used either at the front of the speaking string—i.e., between the V-bar and the counterbearing bar—or at the back of the speaking string between the bridge and the back string rest. Or both.

In spite of the many grandiose claims made for the back tuned duplex there is little or no actual evidence that it provides any real acoustical benefit to the piano. There is evidence that when the tuned, or aliquot, front duplex is working as it is supposedly intended to work it changes both the rate of decay and the length of decay. The rate of decay increases meaning that, after the initial percussive attack, the volume of the note(s) drops off more rapidly and the length of what we call sustain decreases. Whether or not this is an advantage is for the pianist to decide. Most of my customers over the years ultimately decided it was not.

ddf
Posted by: Del

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 01:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Steven Y. A.
Labours..German workers earn about $20 per hour, well Chinese earn about $2. And there are 2 method of making pianos: the traditional way takes 6 months the other less than few days.

You make some good points, but…

Hourly labor costs certainly account for some price disparity but it doesn’t explain everything. To take two extremes: if a high-production grand requires, say 200 hours of labor at $5/hour (the days of $2/hour labor are long gone for the piano industry) the cost of labor will be $1,000. Let’s say a low-production piano of the same type and size takes 400 hours of labor at $20/hour; the cost of labor will be $8,000. That’s a big difference but it doesn’t account for one piano selling for $12,000 and the other for $100,000.



Quote:
Handmade...all modern piano manufacturing involes some machineary, more or less. All cabinents are produced by CNC i believe. but from my knowledge:

- some aspect cannot be handled by machines YET for example gluing bridge to the soundboard. and to install the strings. its way too sensitive for machines to handle yet.

Bridges and ribs are often glued to soundboards in large, semi-automated presses. Bridge drilling, notching and pinning can be done at least as well by machine as by hand.

At least one company uses machines for just about all stringing operations.



Quote:
- some aspect can NEVER handled by machines, ie: voicing and final touch.

Mostly true. At least so far.



Quote:
as for different material. I believe wood required for cabient is close as critical as the soundboard. they can be as cheap as ikea bed frame, in most cases, a special laminate.[/i]

Most cabinet parts are now made of some kind of man-made materials such as MDF. Even in the high-end European pianos.

Many so-called “entry-level” pianos use reasonably high-end spruce in their soundboards. The difference in the cost of materials between adequate-grade spruce and high-end spruce is not all that great.



Quote:
as soundboard. my friend in material science already discuss the possibility of using poly material as the acoustical quality in theory is superior to wood.

I believe Steingraeber Phoenix is the model using carbon soundboard.

I have seen carbon fiber soundboard panels in several Steingraeber pianos.



Quote:
in terms of mass production: yes things have already been changed: thats why some traditional prestious manufacturers like PLEYEL struggles: crushed by mass produced product like Pearl River. FOr the cost of a pearl river piano they couldnt even buy the materials in france.

in the end you judge by ears fingers and eyes. you choose with your preferrence and budget.

This is pretty much it. Things have changed in mass production. The build quality has steadily improved over the years. The difference in build quality between the mass-produced grands of the 1960s and 1970s and those being built today is dramatic. As is their acoustical performance.

When I started out in this business the differences in aesthetics, detailing and performance between entry-level grands and the best of the high-end grands was significant. It was easily seen and heard by even beginning pianists.

Today that gap has narrowed considerably. To be sure there is still a difference in how well detailed a high-end grand will be relative to its entry-level counterpart but that difference is not as obvious. Nor is the difference in action performance or acoustic performance as great. Indeed, a well-prepped entry-level grand can come quite close to equaling some of those high-end grands. There may still be a difference but it is not nearly so great as it once was.

I have no idea where this will end but I can assure you that the manufacturers of those so-called entry-level pianos are not sitting around waiting for their competition to bury them; they are all considering their next moves and how they can narrow what aesthetic and performance gaps might yet remain.

ddf
Posted by: ju5t1n-h

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 02:10 PM

There's tons of things difference in between piano brands - patents between soundboards, differences of action, hammers, felt used, keys, size in piano, strings

and a carbon fibre acoustic piano? that wouldn't work..
Posted by: TigerRad

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 02:14 PM

Originally Posted By: ju5t1n-h


and a carbon fibre acoustic piano? that wouldn't work..



I'm pretty sure the golf club and tennis racket people said the same thing...
Posted by: Del

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 02:56 PM

Originally Posted By: Sand Tiger
Parts, labor, reputation, marketing. Prices fascinate me. Often times the exact same product sells for divergent prices depending on venue. Beer in a supermarket might be $6 for a six-pack. At a sports stadium it might be $10 for one beer or 60x as much money, same product. Go to a department store, and take a dress shirt, change the label and nothing else, and it might mean a tripling in price at the same venue.

Luxury items such as pianos are priced mostly on perception. It is the same with most other luxury items, from watches to purses, to ski equipment to bicycles. I had this same conversation with someone about bicycles. The other person could not understand why anyone would spend 10x or 50x as much on a bike as someone else.

I talked about something much more down to earth, shoes. Most mass produced shoes or sneakers stocked in any store, cost $2 to $5 in materials, maybe another $2 to $5 in labor. A generic store brand pair of sneakers might list for $25. Slap a mid-level name label on it and the price goes up to $50. Sign up a big-name sports star to endorse it, and the price might be $300.

There is a veneer of technological differences (especially for stuff like golf clubs or ski equipment), or for some high end items: handmade vs. machine made, or made in Germany or USA vs. made in Mexico or China, but the big differences tend to be caused by marketing, and the differences in public perception superior marketing causes. It is not all that different with pianos. For pianos, marketing, reputation, strength of dealer network are huge factors.

If you've not already read it you'll find the book, The Language of Things -- Understanding the World of Desirable Objects by Deyan Sudjic (2009, WW Norton & Company, New York, NY.) interesting.

ddf
Posted by: SteveM732

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 03:33 PM

One aesthetic gap for me is seeing "Young-Chang" or similar on the fallboard. They could do like Toyota did with the Lexus name, but you'd still have a gap. Maybe not an aesthetic or performance gap, but a gap of knowing your piano was stamped out in an automated factory using space-age materials. I think I'll call it the "humanity gap".

When a piano is reduced to the science of banging out scientifically perfect notes for the lowest price possible it will be on the far side of the humanity gap from me.
Posted by: Del

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 04:15 PM

Originally Posted By: SteveM732
One aesthetic gap for me is seeing "Young-Chang" or similar on the fallboard. They could do like Toyota did with the Lexus name, but you'd still have a gap. Maybe not an aesthetic or performance gap, but a gap of knowing your piano was stamped out in an automated factory using space-age materials. I think I'll call it the "humanity gap".

When a piano is reduced to the science of banging out scientifically perfect notes for the lowest price possible it will be on the far side of the humanity gap from me.

So you don't like your Yamaha (which was built in one of the most automated piano assembly plants on earth).

Nor would you like the über-exclusive Steingraebers fitted with carbon fiber soundboards.

Most manufacturers of inexpensive pianos go out of their way to use—and market—traditional materials. You'll find more exotic materials in high-end, expensive pianos.

ddf
Posted by: bennevis

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 04:20 PM

In the end, an object is worth as much as someone is prepared to pay for it. And this applies just as much to pianos as it does to those hideous auctions of some so-called 'celebrity's' wardrobe or knick-knacks.

Which pianist's eyes wouldn't drool at the name of an ancient and venerable Austro-German name on the fallboard? grin I know mine would, and I'm not a sentimental person (except when my eyes water when Mimi expires in La bohème - but that's another story wink ). And I'd then play that particular piano with a certain expectation, almost willing it to be met......

If one didn't know the real brand of well-built piano (say its original name was painted over and replaced with a famous Austro-German brand), but it was perfectly regulated and tuned, and voiced to sound 'European', even though it's made in Indonesia, would one not still enthuse about its 'soul' (as someone said earlier) and then, when informed that it was actually a mass-produced cheap piano made in South-East Asia, change one's mind suddenly?
Posted by: Norbert

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 04:46 PM

Quote:
If one didn't know the real brand of well-built piano (say its original name was painted over and replaced with a famous Austro-German brand), but it was perfectly regulated and tuned, and voiced to sound 'European', even though it's made in Indonesia, would one not still enthuse about its 'soul' (as someone said earlier) and then, when informed that it was actually a mass-produced cheap piano made in South-East Asia, change one's mind suddenly?


Good point.

However, not all pianos made in South-East Asoa are any longer "mass-produced" or "cheap"

There's a new species emerging that once again is raising the bar and changing the equation by considerable margin.

Last week's NAMM anybody?

Norbert
Posted by: AJB

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 05:05 PM

My immediate reaction on skimming through this thread is that it is substantially over analysed.

Most products with substantial similarity vary in price because of perceived value. Luxury biscuits and cheap biscuits cost much the same to make but sell for significant price differentials. Branding and marketing are big factors. These factors influence consumer perception of value.

Quality, currency, warranty, materials are all relevant too of course.
Posted by: SteveM732

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 05:10 PM

Originally Posted By: Del
So you don't like your Yamaha (which was built in one of the most automated piano assembly plants on earth).

I have no illusions about my U3, but I did not do a good job of conveying my mental image. I wasn't suggesting that 1969's assembly methods and materials are unsatisfactory to me, I was trying to convey the idea that there is some value to me in having a piano made of wood that was touched at least a few times by human hands during manufacture, even if the resulting instrument is more expensive or less than perfect because of it.

I spend my days with computers, in a world made of plastic, and every item made as cheaply as possible; when I come home and sit at my piano I want a break from that.
Posted by: turandot

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 05:32 PM

Originally Posted By: jian1zh

Don't shovel in cars as example


grin

I wouldn't think of it. I hate those car analogies. I just quoted you because I enjoyed your shovel metaphor.

Designer eyewear is a better way to go. Prices on the corrective lenses that help you see better exist within a narrow range. Prices on the frames that supposedly help you look better ex ist across the whole banwidth of human foolishness. A lot of high-end piano purchases are intended to make one look bertter.

I won't break any new ground by suggesting that it's basically supply and demand. The first response from Back to Study Piano laid that out. But to develop it a little further.........

Piano makers in the market have different stories to sell. Some stories stretch across decades, even centuries. The makers will bill you for that. Other makers have stories that are quite short and have unappealing plot twists. Those makers will use an appealing price to compensate for their shortcomings in story-telling.

Let's say you're a limited production boutique Euro maker with a ton of history. You make 500 pianos annually. Your task is to find 500 people world-wide who will buy your story. That's not a tough task with the right marketing approach. Limited production will keep the slim order book in good shape, keep your smalll staff of core workers motivated, and allow you to participate in the lifestyle that your predecessors set. You may be into your own story enough to be meticulous in preserving it and even bold enough to attempt to raise the bar yet higher. Or you may be lazy and simply trade off reputation while letting things slide.. Either way, you only need those 500 cognoscenti who believe that it's the superior sound that beckons their superior ears (and not the pressure of their wallet's thickness on their superior buttocks.) grin

Alternatively, let's say you're an emerging Chinese maker whose task it is to get his own people to believe that his products are something quite different from the bitter fruits of the People's Revolution. You really need and want to make it elsewhere (the West) to show the folks back home that you can play ball on the world stage. You offer enticing prices, reasonably good materials, and ever-improving quality of labor. Hey, maybe one day you'll have your own story, but in the meantime, you'll take what you can get (incrementally).

Obviously, these are extremes, and any resemblance to reality is accidental. In the middle you have an annoying company with a true global vision (Yamaha) that has the wherewithal to offer good product in all price ranges from the $500 digital to the Bosie Imperial. Then you have Steinway with its strategy of monopolizing the concert stages and music schools to force you to see the light.

There are a lot of other stories out there of course, but many of them are frankly quite boring and the pianos that present them orally quite nondescript. But despite the breadth of the muddled middle, the piano market is defined by extremes, as you've noticed.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 06:46 PM

"...Branding and marketing are big factors. These factors influence consumer perception of value. Quality, currency, warranty, materials are all relevant too of course..."

Concisely and well stated. 'Marketing' and 'branding' are such short words, but think of the effort over many years that a house such as Steinway has put into these ephemerals--- and, has cashed in.

'Warranty service' and 'aftermarket,' including dealer networks, and building a company's reputation for doing right by their customers... easy to say, but not every company gets there. To me, Kawai would be a good example of a company which has built this kind of reputation. Consumer confidence is worth money.

And, speaking of the innards having changed, Kawai's forward-looking use of new action materials which out-perform wood is one example of how it's really not true that the product has remained the same for the last century. Elephant-sparing non-ivory keytops is another especially grateful example. WNG's radically new action parts is another good example. Steingraber has already been mentioned; laminate soundboards have not, but they're with us. Modern finishes and glues alone represent tremendous technical advances. So the OP's premise is quite faulty, though the question is understandable, given the products' similar appearance.
Posted by: Keith D Kerman

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 08:14 PM

Objectively, the biggest difference in cost is labor. It is not so simple as one piano taking 150 man hours and another taking 600 man hours. Every extra hour taken in production costs much more than the $30 it took to pay for the extra hour of labor. There is a domino effect. You can't make as many pianos so materials cost more per unit. You can't sell as many pianos so you have to make a higher margin on each individual unit. You have to charge more to your retailer so your retailer buys less of your product. The retailer has to charge the public more so the public buys less of your product. And so on and so on. It is basic business.

Of course, sales and marketing contribute enormously to differences in pricing. Why should pianos be any different than anything else? A company may make the exact same pain reliever and put it in 2 different packages, and one sells for 3 times the price of the other. Exactly the same thing. Maybe even the one that sells for 3 times the price is dramatically more popular because of an effective advertising campaign.

With pianos, much of the labor expense is purely cosmetic. Closely examine the fit and finish on a Fazioli or Bosendorfer, then do the same with a Steinway or Mason & Hamlin. Different universes. It takes a ton of extra time to get that perfectly flat, even finish. On the other hand, some of the fit and finish make for a big difference in the performance. A perfect bridge notching vs a nearly perfect bridge notching can be the difference between a note that sings and a note that chokes. The untrained eye might not even be able to see the difference.

The differences between a mediocre piano, a good piano and a great piano, performance wise, are not huge. Maybe one sings just a little better. Maybe one feels just a bit more intuitive to play, and just a bit easier to control. Maybe one has just a bit more dynamic range etc etc It can't be quantified. But those tiny differences can often be where one finds the most enjoyment in a piano. They are accumulative. So, a tiny bit better is a tiny bit better over and over again every hour you play, over the course of decades. And as you improve as a musician, whether as a beginner or as a concert pianist, and everything in between, those tiny differences become more and more noticeable.

While there is no denying the extra expense of fit and finish and materials, as I have preached here for going on a decade now, a more expensive piano does not necessarily equate to better performance. There are extremely expensive, hand crafted pianos with impressive lineage, stunning fit and finish, and glorious materials that have design issues that make them far inferior performance wise to some moderately priced pianos with adequate fit, finish and materials, but superior design. The more expensive piano may last longer, but then you just end up with long lasting poor performance.

Anyways, I guess I felt like rambling a bit.........


Posted by: kpembrook

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 10:10 PM

Originally Posted By: jian1zh
BTW, why would piano sales person stress more on *hand-made* is really beyond me. As an engineer, I actually would pretty much prefer machine-built over anything hand-made. There's NO way you could build better equipment with hand, by giving same amount of attention, a well designed machine-built stuff is always, always winning over samething made by hands.

Why piano buliding stuck with wood is again puzzling me. Wood is quite an inferior material comparing to even plastics. IMHO, piano is better built from carbon-fibre, except soundboard, as carbon-fibre is very resistant to temperature, moisture and stress.


Spoken of like a true engineer that doesn't get it. I interact with a lot of folk who think that piano assembly is a matter of specification. Get the specs right and piano will be right. Simply execute the design as precisely and accurately as possible and you're good. (No, precision and accuracy are not the same thing). Actually, there are a number of middle-of-the-road piano manufacturers that seem to believe that it is a matter of executing specifications. That may be why they are middle-of-the-road.

The thing is that it is not about specification but performance. In order to achieve a particular performance standard, it is necessary to "tweak" in order to achieve the performance result that will otherwise necessarily vary from one unit to the next if everything in uniformly "cookie-cuttered" due to the variation in materials.
Accurate specifications can be very helpful to get things in the zone, but the final step is nothing more than educated, trained tweakage.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. It has occasionally been my lot to be taken out to an island to tune a piano in a twin-engine boat. The pilot has both engines set for the same rpm using twin tachometers. But I know they - in fact - aren't at exactly the rpm because I can hear their sound "beating" with each other. They aren't in tune, and it annoys me. The true accuracy in that case would come not from paying slavish attention to the whiz-bang tachometers, but simply listening. The same thing goes for twin-prop airplanes, as well.

Now, certainly conventional production procedures that achieve high levels of accuracy are much better than sloppy, random procedures that put out product that is all over the map instead of in the zone. But taking a piano that is in the zone and putting it on the bullseye is currently something that can't even be imagined for a mechanized production process.

Neither is this to say that piano sales people don't use misleading or inaccurate hyperbole when marketing their wares, either.
Posted by: Ori

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 10:17 PM

Originally Posted By: jian1zh
I mean sure, it depends on the quality of the materials, better hammer, better spruce boards, better strings means more expensive piano, but why on earth the difference between a cheap piano and an expensive is so huge? well over 10 thousands?!

Don't shovel in cars as example becoz for cars, the material and technological difference is actually quite huge, such as plasma induced cylinder coating, direct injection fuel system really justify the cost difference, but why piano, an century old instrument without any major improvements through last several decades. Isn't it just woods and more woods but why price difference is sooo huge? Brand hype, sales strategy?

BTW, why would piano sales person stress more on *hand-made* is really beyond me. As an engineer, I actually would pretty much prefer machine-built over anything hand-made. There's NO way you could build better equipment with hand, by giving same amount of attention, a well designed machine-built stuff is always, always winning over samething made by hands.

Why piano buliding stuck with wood is again puzzling me. Wood is quite an inferior material comparing to even plastics. IMHO, piano is better built from carbon-fibre, except soundboard, as carbon-fibre is very resistant to temperature, moisture and stress.


jian1zh,

Some pianos take much, much longer to make than others.
They have designs that require higher level of parts and materials and specific work methods to execute.


If you don't know the difference between pianos, I suggest visiting your friendly neighborhood piano dealer...especially one that carries pianos of varied levels at the showroom... and ask what the differences are.

You may be surprised to learn that the differences between pianos may be just as great as the differences between cars.
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/30/13 10:57 PM

If you think about how readily the human ear can recognize differences between the voice qualities of each person they know-consider that these differences in vibratory spectrum energy distributed in each voice is very tiny-you will get some idea of how subtle the musical engineering of instruments is.

Not all the physics of pianos nor the musical intelligibility of humans is understood in a way accessible to piano engineers. Things such as finite element modeling are only as good as the assumptions about how all the elements interrelate. Thus makers are loath to throw out what they know works now for something that might work. The OP is correct that wood and felt has a host of challenges to manufacture something as complex, precise and durable as piano should be.
Posted by: backto_study_piano

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 02:23 AM

Another aspect is that, at least here, entry level pianos aren't prepared very well, and come with a "free tuning". You can be fairly sure that in most cases, regulation and voicing will be something that piano may never experience. I've played the cheaper brands in showrooms where they responded poorly - in many cases, sound like they've not been tuned. I don't doubt that they MAY have the potential to be a good piano, but I'm guessing the dealer margins are probably not sufficient to make it worth their while.

In contrast, generally, high end pianos come with more than a "free tuning", and, in some cases are regulated nicely and tuned well on the showroom floor.
Posted by: joe80

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 04:03 AM

Basically, if all things were equal, then there should be no reason for the price difference. However, all things are not equal!

For starters, the wood used in the soundboard : A lesser manufacturer might use MOST of their soundboard stockpile, but a manufacturer in the top tier would use as little as thirty percent of their stockpile, assigning the rest of it to other tasks.

The mechanism in a top tier piano will generally be more durable (yeah, they might all use, say, renner actions, but WHICH grade of wood?), it will have been set up far better, and the quality of the hammer felt etc, will be higher. Not always, remember, I'm talking generally.

The frame will be more precisely drilled, the rim will be more precisely put together - in some cases the continuous rim of say, Steinway (I think others do it too - Yamaha perhaps, and Mason) is a labour intensive process. Is it better? You decide.

A hand-finished piano may be more precise in this way:

Sometimes a manufacturer will put something through a computer controlled machine, and it will come out of the other side of that machine with the job done, but things might not have been set up exactly right, and the part will be a bit, well, off. In a hand-fit operation, a man will take measurements and the job won't be finished until he has decided it's exactly right. It's a bit more careful and can't be replicated on a machine. Of course, in both instances, it depends on the quality of PERSON operating the computer and the quality of person performing the equivalent task by hand.

Finally, when the piano is put together, and ready for tuning, set up, and voicing, you can't replace the ears and eyes of a skilled musician/technician (yes, they are both), whose ears will bring out the best in the instrument. It will sit in the factory and be tuned, regulated, and voiced several times over to within an inch of it's life, before it is ready to go onto the shop floor, where, HOPEFULLY (but sadly not enough), another highly skilled technician will spend a long time doing even more preparation.

Yamaha and Kawai make pianos that are an excellent mix between hand finish and computer control.
Steinway tend to be more hand finish, but they will computerize some things. Most of the designs in all pianos are using CAD.

At the end of the day, sometimes you get a cheaper chinese piano, and through prep work, it sounds amazing. Sometimes you get a Steinway, and no matter how much prep work is going into it, the piano is just not responding. These are rare situations but they do happen.
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 09:50 AM

Nice job jian1zh, 1 post and you get at least 4 pages of comments. I'd say this troll struck a nerve!
Posted by: turandot

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 10:18 AM

Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
Nice job jian1zh, 1 post and you get at least 4 pages of comments. I'd say this troll struck a nerve!


Reding this thread, I'd say that those who have responded have focused on the question and not worried about what the OP's motivation might have been.

Is the question valid? All of my piano experience tells me that it is.

Has the OP's question created a firestorm? Harly. Responses other than yours have been thoughtful and non-inflammatory.
Posted by: kpembrook

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 03:05 PM

Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
If you think about how readily the human ear can recognize differences between the voice qualities of each person they know-consider that these differences in vibratory spectrum energy distributed in each voice is very tiny-you will get some idea of how subtle the musical engineering of instruments is.

Not all the physics of pianos nor the musical intelligibility of humans is understood in a way accessible to piano engineers. Things such as finite element modeling are only as good as the assumptions about how all the elements interrelate. Thus makers are loath to throw out what they know works now for something that might work. The OP is correct that wood and felt has a host of challenges to manufacture something as complex, precise and durable as piano should be.


thumb

Well said.
Posted by: jawhitti

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 03:15 PM

Original poster never posted again to this thread. Y'all been trolled... wink

Or maybe OP was just frustrated like I was when I was shopping - "I like *this* piano! Why does it have to cost $50,000?"
Posted by: SteveM732

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 03:47 PM

Originally Posted By: jawhitti
Original poster never posted again to this thread. Y'all been trolled... wink
Check out the nearby thread on a 1972 U3, the OP is finally making a reply 10 months later. We shouldn't be so fast to slap labels on people and should address such concerns privately to the moderators.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 04:36 PM

Originally Posted By: jawhitti
Original poster never posted again to this thread. Y'all been trolled... wink
Whether the OP ever posted again, like the revival of old threads, makes absolutely no difference to me as long as there has been interesting discussion. If the discussion has been interesting it will be of interest to many people besides the OP.

Not only have I found this thread interesting but it raises an important question that I think has not been discussed much at PW. Many threads, although the poster is probably unaware of it, are repeats of earlier ones.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 05:01 PM

High and not-so-highly-priced pianos all have one thing in common:

They all have one FAIR price.

Norbert cool
Posted by: jawhitti

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 05:53 PM

There's no such thing as a "fair" price. Prices are negotiated, especially for pianos.

Anyway, OP's post was dripping with condescension. He may as well have asked why the Mona Lisa is worth so much money. After all it's just a bunch of canvas and paint. I can get the same thing at my local starving artist sale. And really - why is oil paint considered so good? Modern photolithograpy outperforms it in every possible way.

I'm stretching the analogy a bit but "supply and demand" answers both Norbert and OP. $150,000 for a piano is absurd for most indidividuals but it's peanuts for a big performance hall that might pull in tens or hundreds of thousands per night. Sometimes you need the very best you can get, regardless of cost.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 06:55 PM

Originally Posted By: jawhitti
There's no such thing as a "fair" price. Prices are negotiated, especially for pianos.
I think a fair price is one that has a reasonable profit for the dealer. I don't see how the fact that the price may be negotiated has anything to do with whether it's fair or not.
Posted by: turandot

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 06:58 PM

Originally Posted By: Keith D Kerman

Of course, sales and marketing contribute enormously to differences in pricing. Why should pianos be any different than anything else? A company may make the exact same pain reliever and put it in 2 different packages, and one sells for 3 times the price of the other.

Surely you're not suggesting that.....

Originally Posted By: Keith D. Kerman

While there is no denying the extra expense of fit and finish and materials, as I have preached here for going on a decade now, a more expensive piano does not necessarily equate to better performance. There are extremely expensive, hand crafted pianos with impressive lineage, stunning fit and finish, and glorious materials that have design issues that make them far inferior performance wise to some moderately priced pianos with adequate fit, finish and materials, but superior design. The more expensive piano may last longer, but then you just end up with long lasting poor performance.


I may have told the story before, but at the risk o creating boredom, about 6 years ago I needed a piano and I didn't have much money to put into it. I had been living pretty much for years on this and that -- on loan, borrowed, etc. At the time I was babysitting a Yammaha G for a friend who was working the jazz circuit in and around Switzerland. The arrangement ended abruptly when the piano was written into a divorce settlement.

I visited a place that stocked a headliner German brannd, a robust if a little imbalanced Czech line, and assorted Chinese 'juunk', as it was frequntly referred to at the time. Among the junk were three pianos from DongBei that had a definite appeal. It turned out that all three had been worked over by a former technician at DongBei in ner speare time. She was on hand for a year through some sort of exchange program. She had a lot of spare time because ,as I found out later, the shop didn't really let her spend any time on their 'better pianos' except as an observer.

I drove away that day thinking about those three pianos. Size for size, they cost about one-quarter of the Czech brand and about one-twelfth of the German headliner. In a certain way I liked them better than either. It wasn't that I couldn't hear the difference. I head the difference and I liked them better. A week later on my third visit (to set my head straight) I bought one of the three and got the tech's name and telephone number so that I could hire her privately during the break-in for any remediation or tweaking. She came around a couple of times, but after that I didn't call her as her visa was expiring. Also her tuning regimen drove me crazy. I've never heard such cacophony from a tuner before or since. f I had to leave the house on both of her visits.

I'm sure a lot of people who read here are aware of this, and it has come up on this thread, but it's worth empahsizing that pianos from China depend greatly on the skill of the retailer's tech and the retailer's willingness to let his tech metamorphisize the ugly duckling into a swan. Retailers will without exception talk a good game of prep, but the proof is in the pudding (which is most often lumpy). Prepping the low end assiduously is not the obvious formula for retailer success. And as Keith notes, the pianos most likely will not endure in the way that a workhorse piano will. There were obvious signs of cost-cutting. but.......

DongBei is long gone now through no fault of its own, but there are other Chinese pianos with well thought-out designs, designs maybe copied, borrowed, stolen, or hit upon by accident,but nonetheless, worth the effort that is seldom afforded them.


Originally Posted By: Keith D. Kerman
Anyways, I guess I felt like rambling a bit.........


You should ramble by more often, Keith. A nice surprise to see you out of hibernation.






Posted by: Norbert

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 07:39 PM

Quote:
Prepping the low end assiduously is not the obvious formula for retailer success.


Which is the quickest way of failing to be successful.

P.S. same for "high end"

Thinking "Thank you for the job opportunity"....

Norbert wink
Posted by: Rickster

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 07:42 PM

Interesting story, Turandot…

Surely Piano World never gets boring??? Well, I suppose it can get boring at times. smile

I know this has nothing to do with pianos, but it is food for thought… I once had two maintenance technicians who worked for a large bakery company in Atlanta to take the HVACR certificate course at the community technical college where I work. The guys were really smart and were taking the course to get a pay raise with the company.

Among the many food products the company produced were canned biscuits of various types and brands. They told me that at the factory where they work, the same batch of dough goes in all the various brands of canned biscuits from the less costly store brands to the more expensive, well known name brands.

To make this relevant, yes, marketing and branding plays a major role in supporting the price structure of most any product.

So, now I buy the more economical store brands when I go grocery shopping.

What does this have to do with pianos? Nothing, but I did mention it was “food for thought”. grin

Rick
Posted by: Norbert

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 01/31/13 08:05 PM

Actually "food for thought" may very well have to do with pianos.

Would you pay ["have to"..] as much for a Sauter or Pfeiffer as for a Fazioli or Hamburg Steinway? Chances are "no"

Yet these pianos compare to the very best there are.
[Even ever reluctant L.Fine vaguely acknowledging this..]

So, "food for thought" can come in real handy.

Especially at a time when spending $$

Norbert wink
Posted by: turandot

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/01/13 02:16 AM

Rick,

I have no problem with the biscuit story being food for thought. I had no problem with Keith's pain reliever example either. But just to be clear, I personally was not suggesting that the same pianos are being presented with different branding at vastly different prices. I don't think Keith feels that way either. There are too many sharp eyes in the industry for that strategy to fly. Mixed and matched parts content is one thing, but a whole piano - no.

A DongBei grand was far from a Hamburg Steinway, a Fazioli, a Sauter, or a Pfeiffer. However it was not something to be dismissed out of hand. The German maker whose piano I liked less than those particular Dongbei's has been in business for a long time and at least at that time seemed to be having no problems selling its limited production. It was entitled to make pianos as it saw fit, and like many of the Euro boutique brands, it operates from a philosophy that it isn't in competition with others but merely doing things the way it thinks best. There's a stubborn honesty in that philosophy that translates into a resistance to change, both in individuals and institutions. I don't have any issue with it in a manufacturing business, but I think the point that Keith has made many times here about overbuilt yet underwhelming pianos is valid.
Posted by: Roy123

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/01/13 08:12 AM

Originally Posted By: kpembrook
Originally Posted By: jian1zh
BTW, why would piano sales person stress more on *hand-made* is really beyond me. As an engineer, I actually would pretty much prefer machine-built over anything hand-made. There's NO way you could build better equipment with hand, by giving same amount of attention, a well designed machine-built stuff is always, always winning over samething made by hands.

Why piano buliding stuck with wood is again puzzling me. Wood is quite an inferior material comparing to even plastics. IMHO, piano is better built from carbon-fibre, except soundboard, as carbon-fibre is very resistant to temperature, moisture and stress.


Spoken of like a true engineer that doesn't get it. I interact with a lot of folk who think that piano assembly is a matter of specification. Get the specs right and piano will be right. Simply execute the design as precisely and accurately as possible and you're good. (No, precision and accuracy are not the same thing). Actually, there are a number of middle-of-the-road piano manufacturers that seem to believe that it is a matter of executing specifications. That may be why they are middle-of-the-road.

The thing is that it is not about specification but performance. In order to achieve a particular performance standard, it is necessary to "tweak" in order to achieve the performance result that will otherwise necessarily vary from one unit to the next if everything in uniformly "cookie-cuttered" due to the variation in materials.
Accurate specifications can be very helpful to get things in the zone, but the final step is nothing more than educated, trained tweakage.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. It has occasionally been my lot to be taken out to an island to tune a piano in a twin-engine boat. The pilot has both engines set for the same rpm using twin tachometers. But I know they - in fact - aren't at exactly the rpm because I can hear their sound "beating" with each other. They aren't in tune, and it annoys me. The true accuracy in that case would come not from paying slavish attention to the whiz-bang tachometers, but simply listening. The same thing goes for twin-prop airplanes, as well.

Now, certainly conventional production procedures that achieve high levels of accuracy are much better than sloppy, random procedures that put out product that is all over the map instead of in the zone. But taking a piano that is in the zone and putting it on the bullseye is currently something that can't even be imagined for a mechanized production process.

Neither is this to say that piano sales people don't use misleading or inaccurate hyperbole when marketing their wares, either.


I couldn't disagree with you more. First, can we leave out the insults?
Quote:
Spoken of like a true engineer that doesn't get it.


Second, excellent pianos do depend on an excellent design and excellent (consistent AND accurate) assembly. Can a poor design and poor assembly contribute positively to a good outcome? You say,
Quote:
I interact with a lot of folk who think that piano assembly is a matter of specification.
.

Of course the basis for any successful product is a matter of specification, which includes the design, and how to build the product to that design. Can anyone seriously think that a poor design poorly executed will produce a good piano? Of course not. Middle of the road piano companies are probably middle of the road because they build to a price point, and/or their designs aren't very good, and/or their build quality isn't so good either.

You say,
Quote:
The thing is that it is not about specification but performance.
However, good performance can only be achieved by a well executed good design. Can you think of any product of any type in which excellence doesn't start with a good design and excellent manufacturing?

You site this example,
Quote:
It has occasionally been my lot to be taken out to an island to tune a piano in a twin-engine boat. The pilot has both engines set for the same rpm using twin tachometers. But I know they - in fact - aren't at exactly the rpm because I can hear their sound "beating" with each other. They aren't in tune, and it annoys me. The true accuracy in that case would come not from paying slavish attention to the whiz-bang tachometers, but simply listening. The same thing goes for twin-prop airplanes, as well.

Your example only supports my point. Listening to the props isn't the right answer, because you'd have to be listening constantly and tweaking the throttles to keep the engines in sync. What's really needed is a better syncing mechanism that could automatically and continuously adjust the engines to the desired degree of accuracy. What you describe is just a design that is inadequate or at least perceived to be inadequte--it does not at all make a case for throwing engine controls out the window. That would be a giant step backwards.

You also seem to claim that tweaking is what separates excellent from mediocre pianos. Well, the better the design and the better the execution, the less that tweaking will be necessary. In any product, the requirement for tweaking is simply a symptom of poor quality control and/or inconsistent materials.

Finally, some degree of hand optimization will probably always be required to bring the most out of any piano. However, let's all please recognize that no amount of tweaking will make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. If tweaking were so important, we should all go out and buy a cheap piano and tweak it till it becomes a Steinway.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/01/13 09:15 AM

Originally Posted By: Roy123
If tweaking were so important, we should all go out and buy a cheap piano and tweak it till it becomes a Steinway.

Interesting concept... I wish it were true.

I had a Japanese made copy of a Steinway"O" once. I felt good about it and tried to use it as a selling point when I sold it, but it was not a Steinway "O", unfortunately. smile

Rick
Posted by: ChrisVenables

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/01/13 09:27 AM

Originally Posted By: Rickster
Interesting story, Turandot…

Surely Piano World never gets boring??? Well, I suppose it can get boring at times. smile

I know this has nothing to do with pianos, but it is food for thought… I once had two maintenance technicians who worked for a large bakery company in Atlanta to take the HVACR certificate course at the community technical college where I work. The guys were really smart and were taking the course to get a pay raise with the company.

Among the many food products the company produced were canned biscuits of various types and brands. They told me that at the factory where they work, the same batch of dough goes in all the various brands of canned biscuits from the less costly store brands to the more expensive, well known name brands.

To make this relevant, yes, marketing and branding plays a major role in supporting the price structure of most any product.

So, now I buy the more economical store brands when I go grocery shopping.

What does this have to do with pianos? Nothing, but I did mention it was “food for thought”. grin

Rick


Crumbs Rick! Your biscuit analogy is just crackers grin
Posted by: turandot

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/01/13 10:02 AM

Originally Posted By: Roy123

You site this example,
Quote:
It has occasionally been my lot to be taken out to an island to tune a piano in a twin-engine boat. The pilot has both engines set for the same rpm using twin tachometers. But I know they - in fact - aren't at exactly the rpm because I can hear their sound "beating" with each other. They aren't in tune, and it annoys me. The true accuracy in that case would come not from paying slavish attention to the whiz-bang tachometers, but simply listening. The same thing goes for twin-prop airplanes, as well.

Your example only supports my point. Listening to the props isn't the right answer, because you'd have to be listening constantly and tweaking the throttles to keep the engines in sync. What's really needed is a better syncing mechanism that could automatically and continuously adjust the engines to the desired degree of accuracy. What you describe is just a design that is inadequate or at least perceived to be inadequte--it does not at all make a case for throwing engine controls out the window. That would be a giant step backwards.



The control mechanism of a piano is an inaccurately matched pair of human hands, far more troublesome than twin props to calibrate. grin

Would you rather listen to an excellent pianist on a mediocre piano or a mediocre pianist on an excellent piano?
Posted by: jawhitti

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/01/13 10:04 AM

Originally Posted By: Roy123
You also seem to claim that tweaking is what separates excellent from mediocre pianos.


It certainly seems to be what separates excellent from mediocre pianists...
Posted by: peterws

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/01/13 01:26 PM

"Oh, except they have no heart or soul and Beethoven can't feel a darn thing when he lays his head on them."

They`re not recommended for the deaf. But the heart and soul bit comes from the player.
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/01/13 01:39 PM

Originally Posted By: Roy123


Of course the basis for any successful product is a matter of specification, which includes the design, and how to build the product to that design.

You say,
Quote:
The thing is that it is not about specification but performance.
However, good performance can only be achieved by a well executed good design. Can you think of any product of any type in which excellence doesn't start with a good design and excellent manufacturing?

You also seem to claim that tweaking is what separates excellent from mediocre pianos. Well, the better the design and the better the execution, the less that tweaking will be necessary. In any product, the requirement for tweaking is simply a symptom of poor quality control and/or inconsistent materials.

Finally, some degree of hand optimization will probably always be required to bring the most out of any piano. However, let's all please recognize that no amount of tweaking will make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. If tweaking were so important, we should all go out and buy a cheap piano and tweak it till it becomes a Steinway.

You hit the nail on the head with inconsistent materials. The sound producing parts of a piano are made of steel, wood and wool. The strings can be mass produced yet the best manufacturers wrap the bass strings by hand, why? Sound board wood is carefully selected and crafted to do its job, also by hand and most important installed by hand (belly work is one of the most skilled jobs for rebuilders). Hammers are pressed by machines but voiced by hand, again why? I don't have the knowledge to answer these questions fully, but this is where the tweaking becomes most important. I'm hoping someone with piano manufacturing or rebuilding knowledge will chime in on exactly why tweaking is necessary in the aspects of piano production.
Posted by: KarelG

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/01/13 06:04 PM

Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: backto_study_piano
I'm not sure about duplex being modern - Wikipedia says "...duplex scaling, invented by Theodore Steinway in 1872...".

More recently, some manufacturers have incorporated "tunable duplex", whereas some manufacturers don't have it at all.

You're right, the "duplex" is not a modern "feature" of the piano. All pianos from at least the early 1800s on have incorporated one or more duplex string segments. At issue is whether or not those duplex string segments are tuned. If an attempt has been made to make the length of a duplex string segment some specific partial of the fundamental speaking length it is more properly known as an aliquot duplex or a tuned duplex string segment. In some cases, as you have pointed out, a piano might have one or more tunable duplex string segments.

The tuned, or tunable, duplex can be used either at the front of the speaking string—i.e., between the V-bar and the counterbearing bar—or at the back of the speaking string between the bridge and the back string rest. Or both.

In spite of the many grandiose claims made for the back tuned duplex there is little or no actual evidence that it provides any real acoustical benefit to the piano. There is evidence that when the tuned, or aliquot, front duplex is working as it is supposedly intended to work it changes both the rate of decay and the length of decay. The rate of decay increases meaning that, after the initial percussive attack, the volume of the note(s) drops off more rapidly and the length of what we call sustain decreases. Whether or not this is an advantage is for the pianist to decide. Most of my customers over the years ultimately decided it was not.

ddf

Dear Del,
thanks a lot for this friendly explanation. I've indeed meant tunable duplexes. It's not a new feature probably too, but I've seen them incorporated into the model lines at least by petrof/schimmel/bohemia in last 10 years IIRC. So that's why I suggested the development of pianos is not finished at all.
Your claim that back duplex is useless and that the only front one may work in some way is completely opposite to what I would expect intuitively: back is connected to bridge so if strings starts resonating in aliquote frequency, there is a chance vibrations are transferred through the bridge to sound-board. With front-duplex this looks to me like a dead-end. No bridge, no vibrations moved to the soundboard. So thanks for this lesson, I trust you on this...
Am I also right assuming that your new redesigned Y&C lines are not using any tuned duplex as you suggest in your last paragraph?
Thanks a lot!
Karel
Posted by: ando

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/01/13 08:57 PM

Originally Posted By: KarelG
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: backto_study_piano
I'm not sure about duplex being modern - Wikipedia says "...duplex scaling, invented by Theodore Steinway in 1872...".

More recently, some manufacturers have incorporated "tunable duplex", whereas some manufacturers don't have it at all.

You're right, the "duplex" is not a modern "feature" of the piano. All pianos from at least the early 1800s on have incorporated one or more duplex string segments. At issue is whether or not those duplex string segments are tuned. If an attempt has been made to make the length of a duplex string segment some specific partial of the fundamental speaking length it is more properly known as an aliquot duplex or a tuned duplex string segment. In some cases, as you have pointed out, a piano might have one or more tunable duplex string segments.

The tuned, or tunable, duplex can be used either at the front of the speaking string—i.e., between the V-bar and the counterbearing bar—or at the back of the speaking string between the bridge and the back string rest. Or both.

In spite of the many grandiose claims made for the back tuned duplex there is little or no actual evidence that it provides any real acoustical benefit to the piano. There is evidence that when the tuned, or aliquot, front duplex is working as it is supposedly intended to work it changes both the rate of decay and the length of decay. The rate of decay increases meaning that, after the initial percussive attack, the volume of the note(s) drops off more rapidly and the length of what we call sustain decreases. Whether or not this is an advantage is for the pianist to decide. Most of my customers over the years ultimately decided it was not.

ddf

Dear Del,
thanks a lot for this friendly explanation. I've indeed meant tunable duplexes. It's not a new feature probably too, but I've seen them incorporated into the model lines at least by petrof/schimmel/bohemia in last 10 years IIRC. So that's why I suggested the development of pianos is not finished at all.
Your claim that back duplex is useless and that the only front one may work in some way is completely opposite to what I would expect intuitively: back is connected to bridge so if strings starts resonating in aliquote frequency, there is a chance vibrations are transferred through the bridge to sound-board. With front-duplex this looks to me like a dead-end. No bridge, no vibrations moved to the soundboard. So thanks for this lesson, I trust you on this...
Am I also right assuming that your new redesigned Y&C lines are not using any tuned duplex as you suggest in your last paragraph?
Thanks a lot!
Karel


All you would have to do is use some felt and try the 4 combinations, front only/back only/both duplexes/no duplexes. You would soon have your answer as to what effect the duplexes have on the sound - both to the player and to a listener seated further from the piano at a different angle. The good news is that if a duplex ever gives you trouble it's very easy to silence it with felt.
Posted by: jian1zh

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/02/13 01:17 AM

I've been away from a few days, and whence I returned, I have been labelled a troll?

I couldn't believe I've attracted so many replies, as my original motive is to vent my anger while shopping for a piano. I became rather frustrated for the past month I've been shopping for a piano, tried both high-end and low-end ones, loved Yamaha but didn't like its price.

The more I've played the more frustration I got, and I secretly felt dealer mark-up might be a huge chunk in piano sales, especially for those high-end ones.

I played a Mason and Hamlin, apart from its jaw-dropping price, nothing really impressed me, and that reinforced the idea of marketing rather than true materially superiority.

I probably will settle with a ritmuller or Hailun, which one is better in terms of touching?
Posted by: Del

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/02/13 02:19 AM

Originally Posted By: KarelG
Am I also right assuming that your new redesigned Y&C lines are not using any tuned duplex as you suggest in your last paragraph?

You are.

ddf
Posted by: rxd

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/02/13 05:45 AM

Not to derail too far off subject but I simply must take issue with the statement about the audibility of duplex scales.

If a piano is designed without them then, of course we won't miss them but pianos that are designed with them are often voiced so that they are not audible.

Some pianos have more responsive duplexes than others but none are totally unresponsive.

Even on a piano voiced for mellowness will respond noticeably when the duplex is silenced. Most noticeably with a deterioration of sustain.

I can hear them clearly and my hearing cuts out at 13,000Hz. , according to a cheap iPhone tuning app.

I tune many hire pianos that are intended for large halls that have full spectrum voicing. By that, I mean full lower partials giving depth of tone balanced by a full spectrum of upper partials. The operative word being 'balanced'. Any imbalance results in a thin hard sound. I don't profess to have mastered this art, few have, but the head concert tech here certainly has. They take a lot of tonal maintenance.

Sometimes These fantastic pianos are used for recording purposes in smaller rooms. My most recent experience of one was for a jazz recording. The piano opened up into the plate glass of the recording booth and they were gloriously in evidence. Some of the back ones I put a wedge in while I tuned them and found a distinct loss of character when they were silenced. Some, I felt were a little too strong and half expected to be asked to silence them somewhat but I never was. Contrary to popular belief, the tuning of them is readily adjustable but rarely necessary.

In short, we don't hear them because they mostly get needled out at the hammer.

Concert pianists find this kind of piano easy to change the character of with their touch. I am often shouted down on this forum when I mention the ability of a precious few pianists to have a wide tonal pallet and change the sound of a piano at will. Perhaps my decriers have never heard a real concert piano with a competent pianist or perhaps they have heard one but changed it themselves by voicing trying to make it into a living room piano which is all they know or is what the average customer wants.

For years it was rarely heard on a NY piano because the hammers were intentionally soft for the mass market for smaller rooms and had to be voiced up for concert use. now, I hear, they are voiced up in the factory for commercial sale but it is the tail wagging the dog (Tuners, possibly looking to make work, dictating to or subtly bullying piano owners and then claiming that all their customers demand it, who in turn dictate to the dealer and manufacturer. I've seen it happen at street level) and is not the same thing. Nor should it be.

Listen for them. I mean really listen.

I have heard equally glorious pianos without duplexes. I would love to have heard a new Bechstein concert piano a hundred years ago and I really appreciate what Del is doing. It's a horse from a different garage. (eh, Ernie?)
Posted by: rlinkt

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/02/13 10:24 AM

Originally Posted By: jian1zh

The more I've played the more frustration I got, and I secretly felt dealer mark-up might be a huge chunk in piano sales, especially for those high-end ones.

I played a Mason and Hamlin, apart from its jaw-dropping price, nothing really impressed me, and that reinforced the idea of marketing rather than true materially superiority.

I probably will settle with a ritmuller or Hailun, which one is better in terms of touching?

I am sure that high end pianos command a premium because of a combination of better quality and market perception. Getting 1% more out of something already excellent is typically a costly affair. It also takes enormous skills to leverage that extra 1%.

Between the Rit and the Hailun, there is no absolute gauge. They are both fine pianos in their own right. You have to go and try them out to see which one matches your tastes better. Price difference is small -- so that is unlikely to be a consideration. When I was shopping, the pianos were in different stores with different acoustics, with different levels of attention to the prep. Both my daughter and myself preferred the sound of the Rit, but that could easily have been easily influenced by the factors above.

One point I would like to mention. It may be completely psychological, but I have come to believe it. For the Rits, there were two pianos that we were looking at side by side. At the store, the GH160R had a noticeably clearer singing high end, while the slightly longer GH170R sounded much darker. In fact, hearing them next to each other, the high end almost sounded muffled in the GH170R. But the mid and lows were just far more deeper and rounded for the GH170R. Russell told us that we should expect the hammers to harden and the high end to become a lot more signing as the piano was used.

After 6 months, I can confirm that the high end has become a different animal altogether. It has a beautiful singing quality. The sound for the low end also changed similarly. It is no longer the darker sound that we heard in the early days. I do not think it happened with playing. Both of us seemed to have observed that change after the first tuning. Experts here can say if these kinds of voice changes are typical or not.

I am planning to try my hand at recording the piano this weekend. If I succeed in capturing the tone, I will be happy to share some clips with you.
Posted by: turandot

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/02/13 02:19 PM

Originally Posted By: jian1zh
I've been away from a few days, and whence I returned, I have been labelled a troll?

I couldn't believe I've attracted so many replies, as my original motive is to vent my anger while shopping for a piano. I became rather frustrated for the past month I've been shopping for a piano, tried both high-end and low-end ones, loved Yamaha but didn't like its price.

The more I've played the more frustration I got, and I secretly felt dealer mark-up might be a huge chunk in piano sales, especially for those high-end ones.

I played a Mason and Hamlin, apart from its jaw-dropping price, nothing really impressed me, and that reinforced the idea of marketing rather than true materially superiority.

I probably will settle with a ritmuller or Hailun, which one is better in terms of touching?


Your thread attracted this many responses because pricing is a sensitive issue in all quarters of the piano community. There is no logic to piano pricing except the bottom line concept -- what the market will bear. That holds true at wholesale and retail, so the member who first judged you a troll was correct in writing that you hit a nerve. grin

The specifics in your posts are Yamaha, Rimuller, Hailun and your frustration with a 10k price gap from high to low. Let me tell you, that doesn't in any way span the breadth of the piano market. On some pianos, 10k can be whittled away in the showroom without opening your mouth. Just sitting at the bench and looking at the thing in front of you with interest might bring a sales pro who will prop his elbow on it (or maybe on you) and mention that he can do 10k better than his regular price.

Of the three pianos mentionted, you have to understand that each maker is at a different stage of price development....

Yamaha can call the shots at wholesale and retail because it has successfully leveraged its customer satisfaction story into higher and higher prices. A Yamaha retailer will grudgingly pay up on wholesale of a C series because he can sell Yamaha pianos far more easily than others. If you balk, he can downsell you to a GC series or (heaven forbid) to a GB (if you're hard of hearing).

Hailun, for all of its advertising here and elsewhere, does not have a high-class dealer network. They've burned through two distributors in a few short years, and their marketing is haphazard. Their strategy is to move into the price territory vacated by the Japanese brands as they ascend and by the Eastern European makers who are bent on shooting themselves in the head. When Hailun first hit the market here under its own name in the US, it was a value proposition, but at current MSRP and Fine prices, much less so. And the pianos are sometimes presented poorly in showrooms where dealers are happy to use them as a motivational tool to buy higher.

Pearl River is starting over after a run of about ten years in the US market where it was the cheapest game in town but steadily lost ground to upstart competitors, service problems, and fed-up retailers. The second generation Rimullers are the company's attempt to crawl out from under by building better pianos. They offer promotional pricing at this time. In fact, their current prices are not far from where Hailun started from a few years ago. So there is a price sweetener with Rimuller, both to you and to the retailer who lets bygones be bygones and buys into the new story. Pearl River has to get it right this time because the company was recently privatized and there are no more intravenous feedings of state $upport if they make a big mistake.

My own impressions of the two Chinese brands are only casual showroom stuff. Rinkit has given you a very detailed view earlier today. I hope you've read it before you read this.

What I've noticed is that the Rits have more depth of tone. When I play a Hailun 161 or 178 with my normal touch, or even play deeper into the keys, I feel that the piano is glossing over the surface of the music, which is fine for a cocktal bar, but not what I necessarily want. When I play a Rit with my normal touch, I feel that the piano is working harder to give me output. This is a personal observation and I'm only one person, so don't fixate on it.

You asked specifically about "touching". My memory is that both actions function smoothly. However, I don't think it makes much sense to completely isolate the action from the output that it's harnessed too, so I would give the edge to Ritmuller for what it lets me get out of the piano.

If a Yamaha C1 were within 5k of a 160 Ritmuller, I would choose it because the current generation C1 is a really satisfying instrument to me (again one person). Plus I'd be assured that my tech would enjoy tuning it to my satisfaction, I would be unlikely to encounter significant break-in or later service problems, and I would recapture at least some of the 5k later if and when I sold it. Yamaha's track record is worth a premium in my view. However, that theoretical 5k difference is not in the cards now. Yamaha C prices and Hailun pricing in general in the US have gotten a little too ambitious for my taste, so I'd probably be content to "settle with" (as you wrote) the Ritmuller and take my chances.

One thing that piano companies never do is overtly cut prices on core product lines. The retail network may have to bite its mouthpiece and absorb body blows to its margins. The company may introduce lesser models to mess up the consumer's view of things, But piano companies will go nowhere with prices of core products except up.
Posted by: rlinkt

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/02/13 02:41 PM

Originally Posted By: turandot

What I've noticed is that the Rits have more depth of tone. When I play a Hailun 161 or 178 with my normal touch, or even play deeper into the keys, I feel that the piano is glossing over the surface of the music, which is fine for a cocktal bar, but not what I necessarily want. When I play a Rit with my normal touch, I feel that the piano is working harder to give me output. This is a personal observation and I'm only one person, so don't fixate on it.

Please pay attention to this comment. This succinctly captures what I felt, but was never able to sum up clearly enough to express.
Posted by: Norbert

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/02/13 10:02 PM

Quote:

I probably will settle with a ritmuller or Hailun, which one is better in terms of touching?


The one that's more set up and regulated to your liking.

Norbert smile
Posted by: mikeheel

Re: why there's huge price gap between different piano brands? - 02/13/13 02:21 PM

To the OP, I don't know if you've made a decision yet, but I thought I might as well chime in on your question comparing the Rit and Hailun.

We purchased our Rit GH170R in late 2010 after trying many other pianos, including several Hailuns. The comments above about the tone and touch echo our experience, and we had a definitive preference for the Rit. But when it comes right down to it, I'm sure some Hailun pianos will be superior to some Ritmullers and vice versa, due largely to setup and prep. We love our Rit and have been very pleased with it, but there are many very happy Hailun owners, too.

Even if you don't play, you can plink around on the keys enough to feel how smoothly and fully the keys travel and how the soundboard resonates. Don't be ashamed to do that in a store setting. Many piano shoppers don't know how to play. And, of course, have someone (even the salesman, if necessary) play something a bit more complex so you can hear the tonal differences.

If you want to know my preference, I have a strong preference for the Ritmuller. But no one else can know your preference, and that's what buying a piano is about - you have to find your preference.

Good luck,
Mike