Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak?

Posted by: chasingrainbows

Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 02/28/13 09:08 PM

I am very interested in buying an older M&H grand. I played a 50 year M&H (asking $6500) in need of cosmetic repair, however, I am more concerned about some cracks in the soundboard, and the lack of power in the bass section of the piano. Would the fact that it's a 5'8 piano explain the weak bass? I thought M&H pianos were known for their deep powerful bass sections.

The upper register has a very pleasing tone. Is there anything that could be done to improve the bass? I've had bass strings replaced on a prior grand, with no improvement at all in the sound, so I'm very reluctant to go that route again.
Posted by: Robert 45

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 12:06 AM

Many experts say that cracks per se in the soundboard do not degrade the sound. However, the presence of cracks in the soundboard suggests that the piano has suffered some kind of environmental stress.

We can usually hear defects in pianos more easily than see them.

A professional evaluation of the piano would be the best way to go, but I would think that a 50 year old piano with a cracked soundboard and lacking power in the bass would have serious faults which only a complete rebuild could address.

Robert.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 01:23 AM

Originally Posted By: chasingrainbows
I am very interested in buying an older M&H grand. I played a 50 year M&H (asking $6500) in need of cosmetic repair, however, I am more concerned about some cracks in the soundboard, and the lack of power in the bass section of the piano. Would the fact that it's a 5'8 piano explain the weak bass? I thought M&H pianos were known for their deep powerful bass sections.

The upper register has a very pleasing tone. Is there anything that could be done to improve the bass? I've had bass strings replaced on a prior grand, with no improvement at all in the sound, so I'm very reluctant to go that route again.



As a general rule, pianos that are 50 years or older, in original condition, are automatic candidates for rebuilding (they should be, at least). A 5'8" piano should produce sufficient volume and tone quality for most people. If this is not the case, your expectations are either too high, or there is something wrong with the piano. In the latter case, it could be as simple as regulation or voicing, or it could be something more intermediate like dead strings, or it could indicate a serious problem that is only fixable with rebuilding. Only a tech can diagnose this.... in person.
Posted by: Entheo

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 07:46 AM

i owned a 2000 model A for 10 years; it had incredible bass for its size. if the older models are of the same design (which i believe they are), the bass side of the piano angles out slightly to increase the size of the soundboard. if true then a weak bass would be caused by factors other than the design & size of that piano.
Posted by: chasingrainbows

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 09:00 AM

Thanks everyone, that is VERY helpful! I've asked the tech who evaluated the piano to contact me.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 09:17 AM

How old are the bass strings? They do have a life-span and tend to loose some of their zest over the years. The hammers can affect bass tone too... of course, I'm no expert.

Good luck!

Rick
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 09:19 AM

While cracks in a soundboard are often harmless, they also can reduce crown and downbearing and therefore affect tone.

The weak bass may well be related to the cracks. I'd say that is likely.

A good tech will know with a quick examination.
Posted by: Ataru074

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 10:04 AM

I just played yesterday a 5'8" and a 6'4" masons... they are "new" and they have the wood action and not the composite one. in that case the 6'4" produces a way more pleasant and balanced tone than the 5'8".. both in the 5th octave and in the bass register... the 5'8" is nice, but is "flatter"
Posted by: chasingrainbows

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 05:36 PM

Rickster, the bass strings have never been replaced, so they are 50 years old.

Steve, thanks for the info.

Ataru, the only way I can really explain the bass, is that it lacks sustain and power. It doesn't have the same depth I've heard in other old M&H's. So, are you buying the 6'4" :-)
Posted by: RickG1

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 06:06 PM

My Mason-Hamlin "A" has incredible bass, I feel, for its size. Almost as powerful as my S & S "B". That is what impressed me when I would play a M-H.
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 06:21 PM

The rebuilt (with good original soundboard) M&H 5'8" grand we have on our salesfloor has a very full-bodied bass.

That is one of the reasons why I suspect the the cracks in the soundboard on the piano you are considering are the cause of the weak bass.
Posted by: musicpassion

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/01/13 09:32 PM

Originally Posted By: beethoven986
A 5'8" piano should produce sufficient volume and tone quality for most people. If this is not the case, your expectations are either too high, or there is something wrong with the piano.


Yes, I like the way you phrased that! I agree a 5'8" shouldn't have the weaknesses you're describing. The last M&H I played that size was actually rather dillapidated, but it still had quality bass.
Posted by: Ataru074

Re: Mason & Hamlin 5'8" - bass strong or weak? - 03/02/13 06:16 AM

Quote:
Ataru, the only way I can really explain the bass, is that it lacks sustain and power. It doesn't have the same depth I've heard in other old M&H's. So, are you buying the 6'4" :-)


Right now I have a 6'1" kawai gs30.. next time I'm not buying anything shorter than 6'10... I'm looking a mason BB's, schimmel konzerts, rebuilt S&S, used bosies .... but before I want to progress one notch or two in my playing ability... I'll also look at estonia, especially the 225 if I can find one.