The Ultimate Piano (™)

Posted by: CJM

The Ultimate Piano (™) - 09/30/09 10:27 PM

Two weeks ago I experienced something mind-blowing that I thought people on this board should be aware of.

I have just played the Ultimate Piano (™) smile

Now before anyone jumps up and down on me for having been injected with a near fatal dose of marketing jingoism of the worst kind, let me assure you that this is not the case - I am a trained research scientist and able to make reasonably objective judgements about things, especially music. So let me repeat in totally non-emotional and objective language -

I have just played the Ultimate Piano (™) smile

I visited the Stuart & Sons Piano factory in Newcastle to play their latest pianos - and let me tell you these are something to behold. These are the world's only currently manufactured 102-key grand pianos. The new Reference series Stuart & Sons Concert Grand Piano (2.9m) and Studio Grand Piano (2.2m) have pushed the frequency boundaries for the acoustic piano to the limits CCC (or C0) @ 16.3516Hz to f5 (or F8) @ 5587.6517Hz. These ultimate grand pianos are designed and handcrafted not only for a new and exciting experience in the interpretation of the 'standard' piano repertoire, but also, and uniquely, for the vertical dimension of sound which has been the bedrock of music composition since the Impressionists. The extended frequency range, the dynamic sensitivity and sustain opens the way to a whole new experience in piano performance craft not possible on any other piano. Stuart & Sons recognises that since the introduction of the Bosendorfer Imperial grand that C0 is the lowest key to be found on a piano. There is repertoire which embraces this lower frequency range but until now only Bosendorfer have met the keyboard challenge. Stuart says that the successful employment of special wire from Stephen Paulello in France has enabled the design of the 2.2m 102-key piano as modern high-tensile music wire can not be used successfully for low tension scales.

The first three ultimate grands are hot off the press with two instruments 'seasoning' in the performance room where they will undergo further adjustment and refinement as they settle and acclimatise to their environment. Even at this early stage the sound was quite extraordinary and certainly much better than any piano I have played to this point in time.

What do they look like? Like all of his pianos, beautifully finished and absolutely stunning in a satin finished East Indian rosewood. Veneers up to 500mm wide are quite magnificently matched across the lid.


The studio grand piano is the only 2.2m 102 note piano ever to have been built as a serious musical instrument.


A close up of the sub-contra octave bass strings is provided here


With the interior view, it can the clearly seen that the sub-contra octave bass strings really do take up all of the length of the piano.


The whole instrument is an imposing and incredible piece of work. This is a piano that up to now people have only dreamed of, and to have experienced it in reality is a life experience for me.

But even better than it looks, is the way it plays and sounds. I will try to post some sound samples soon, but some have already been provided at www.pianophilia.com

This piano puts to the sword the contention that innovation in the acoustic piano is moribund. It further redefines the possibilities of the acoustic piano for the 21st century and provides the final nail in the coffin of the incessant reproduction of proven form that has dominated the acoustic piano for the past century. When Nietzche said 'God is dead' many would say he was wrong. If I were to say that 'Steinway is dead', I don't think I would be.

Regards
Chris
Posted by: Pianolance

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 09/30/09 11:01 PM

I visited the Stuart website and listened to the piano samples they have there through a set of reasonably good Bose hifi speakers. This piano definitely sounds different and the sustain seems almost endless. I would love to get to Australia sometime to visit the factory, but that might never happen. Oh well, I'm happy you had a great experience with them.
Posted by: Oz Marcus

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 02:24 AM

Chris the pictures look amazing!
I amn from Melbourne so have thought about trying the Stuart.... some simple questions though
Roughly how much is a Stuart going to set me back $$$
Secondly, how long does it take to drive to Newcastle from the Sydney CBD (I do visit occasionally!)

Marcus
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 06:11 AM

I always thought their music desk design looks rather disappointing...too big and not aesthetically appealing. I'm also not overly impressed by all the extra notes because at least in the treble there is virtually no music written that includes those notes. Even in the bass, there is such a tiny number of works that use the extra notes on the Stuart or Boesendorfer it doesn't mean much to me.

I am interested in how the tone is in the "normal" part of the piano. I am not saying that Stuart & Sons isn't a terrific or even incredible piano, just that for me the things the OP mentions are not what would make a piano great.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 06:29 AM

Wayne Stuart makes a great piano - period. I have admired him and this project.

Go Stuart & Sons.
Posted by: EltonRach

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 08:08 AM

I love bass. The deeper it can go - with clarity - the better. Hope that all other manufacturers take up this trend and let the development filter thorough to the mainstream market and give consumers a choice.

Sounds like a parallel development to the bass guitar world - 5 strings and 6 string bass complementing the original 4 string bass.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 08:30 AM

This is really fascinating! wow Thanks for the long and informative post and photos. I have to say that I share pianoloverus's lack of enthusiasm for the music desk, but I'm guessing the design has the utilitarian function of allowing more of the sound to come through to the pianist.

I'm sure the others here will correct me if I'm wrong, pianoloverus, but my understanding is that the main point of all those extra notes is NOT that they would actually be played (as you point out, sheet music rarely if ever goes outside the normal 88-key range); rather, having the strings in place there allows interesting sympathetic vibrations to occur, thus enhancing the sound of normal repertoire played on the piano.
Posted by: apple*

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 09:07 AM

cool.

- i would LOVE to play one. i often stray outside the confines of the written note. .. especially in the lower register... nothing like the boom of a strategically placed bass 'accent'. yow
Posted by: fingers

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 09:14 AM

Thank you for posting! The piano truly looks magnificent. Majestic comes to mind. I imagine that sitting on the piano bench would be like getting behind the wheel of a Rolls Royce. Something most of us could only dream of.
But, I can't help but wonder how it compares to the Wendl & Lung 218. Do you think it's worgth x times the price?

fingers
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 09:14 AM

I would love to play one as well.This to me is all very exciting! They are gorgeous! Maybe a vacation to Australia may be warantied.




Terry
Posted by: DanLaura Larson

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 09:27 AM

Thanks so much for the post CJM. This is fantastic.

Two thumbs up for Stuart. I also hope that some of their design ideas trickle through to other manufacturers. I really wish that we could afford a trip to Australia to try one. But then again, I am glad we can't, because we would want to buy one.

Oh and that piano in rosewood is gorgeous.

Dan
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 09:34 AM

Originally Posted By: Monica K.


I'm sure the others here will correct me if I'm wrong, pianoloverus, but my understanding is that the main point of all those extra notes is NOT that they would actually be played (as you point out, sheet music rarely if ever goes outside the normal 88-key range); rather, having the strings in place there allows interesting sympathetic vibrations to occur, thus enhancing the sound of normal repertoire played on the piano.


I'm not speaking as any expert here, but I'm quite sure the original reason for extra notes in the bass was to accomodate certain music that had been written by Busoni(and other composers after Boesendorfer enlarged the compass). It may have been said later that the extra notes help the notes in the regular 88 span sound better(or in the case of Boesendorfer allowed the piano to compete with the greater projection of a Steinway concert grand), but I don't know if there is truth to this statement. It seems reasonable to me.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 11:34 AM

I had heard through the rumor mill that he was doing this. He should ship one to my school in Canada so I can try it out smile
Posted by: Paul in FWB

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 12:26 PM

Absolutely beautiful!

One more reason to buy a lottery ticket ...

Paul
Posted by: Roy123

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 12:39 PM

Originally Posted By: CJM
Two weeks ago I experienced something mind-blowing that I thought people on this board should be aware of.

I have just played the Ultimate Piano (™) smile

Now before anyone jumps up and down on me for having been injected with a near fatal dose of marketing jingoism of the worst kind, let me assure you that this is not the case - I am a trained research scientist and able to make reasonably objective judgements about things, especially music. So let me repeat in totally non-emotional and objective language -

I have just played the Ultimate Piano (™) smile

I visited the Stuart & Sons Piano factory in Newcastle to play their latest pianos - and let me tell you these are something to behold. These are the world's only currently manufactured 102-key grand pianos. The new Reference series Stuart & Sons Concert Grand Piano (2.9m) and Studio Grand Piano (2.2m) have pushed the frequency boundaries for the acoustic piano to the limits CCC (or C0) @ 16.3516Hz to f5 (or F8) @ 5587.6517Hz. These ultimate grand pianos are designed and handcrafted not only for a new and exciting experience in the interpretation of the 'standard' piano repertoire, but also, and uniquely, for the vertical dimension of sound which has been the bedrock of music composition since the Impressionists. The extended frequency range, the dynamic sensitivity and sustain opens the way to a whole new experience in piano performance craft not possible on any other piano. Stuart & Sons recognises that since the introduction of the Bosendorfer Imperial grand that C0 is the lowest key to be found on a piano. There is repertoire which embraces this lower frequency range but until now only Bosendorfer have met the keyboard challenge. Stuart says that the successful employment of special wire from Stephen Paulello in France has enabled the design of the 2.2m 102-key piano as modern high-tensile music wire can not be used successfully for low tension scales.

The first three ultimate grands are hot off the press with two instruments 'seasoning' in the performance room where they will undergo further adjustment and refinement as they settle and acclimatise to their environment. Even at this early stage the sound was quite extraordinary and certainly much better than any piano I have played to this point in time.

What do they look like? Like all of his pianos, beautifully finished and absolutely stunning in a satin finished East Indian rosewood. Veneers up to 500mm wide are quite magnificently matched across the lid.


The studio grand piano is the only 2.2m 102 note piano ever to have been built as a serious musical instrument.



The whole instrument is an imposing and incredible piece of work. This is a piano that up to now people have only dreamed of, and to have experienced it in reality is a life experience for me.

But even better than it looks, is the way it plays and sounds. I will try to post some sound samples soon, but some have already been provided at www.pianophilia.com

This piano puts to the sword the contention that innovation in the acoustic piano is moribund. It further redefines the possibilities of the acoustic piano for the 21st century and provides the final nail in the coffin of the incessant reproduction of proven form that has dominated the acoustic piano for the past century. When Nietzche said 'God is dead' many would say he was wrong. If I were to say that 'Steinway is dead', I don't think I would be.

Regards
Chris


Whew! Your language is about as emotional and hyperbolic as it could be. I have highlighted some of the best phrases. It's a good thing that you're "a trained research scientist and able to make reasonably objective judgements [sic] about things, especially music." I know that I always have believed that trained research scientists have better ears and aesthetics about music than anyone else.

Also, enlighten us all about the "vertical dimension of sound which has been the bedrock of music composition since the Impressionists." How do you know that other pianos aren't good at producing this dimension, whatever it is?

Have you considered that people's tastes in music and piano tone vary, and what one person may particularly like, another may not be that impressed with?

Also, I wonder about the usefulness of the extra notes. Or are they more of a curiosity? You make their inclusion sound like an amazing feature, but frankly, I think they would likely be pretty useless.

You'll have to excuse my sarcasm, but IMO your post is SO over the top, and sounds SO much like ad copy written by someone who has had too much caffeine, that I can only take it with a grain of salt.
Posted by: Nikalette

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 12:56 PM

I'm no expert, but wouldn't the extra strings provide more sympathetic resonance (if that's what it's called)?

IE, even if you don't play those notes very often won't they be contributing something to the sound of the notes that are played?

And wouldn't the soundboard have to be bigger, and wouldn't that add to/change the sound?
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 01:04 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Monica K.


I'm sure the others here will correct me if I'm wrong, pianoloverus, but my understanding is that the main point of all those extra notes is NOT that they would actually be played (as you point out, sheet music rarely if ever goes outside the normal 88-key range); rather, having the strings in place there allows interesting sympathetic vibrations to occur, thus enhancing the sound of normal repertoire played on the piano.


I'm not speaking as any expert here, but I'm quite sure the original reason for extra notes in the bass was to accomodate certain music that had been written by Busoni(and other composers after Boesendorfer enlarged the compass). It may have been said later that the extra notes help the notes in the regular 88 span sound better(or in the case of Boesendorfer allowed the piano to compete with the greater projection of a Steinway concert grand), but I don't know if there is truth to this statement. It seems reasonable to me.


And as far as "I" know, those extra notes serve to shift the bass strings that ARE used regularly to a position farther away from the edge of the sound board.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 07:09 PM

Have you ever seen a Stuart & Sons piano? They are simply the most gorgeous pianos in every respect and have ridiculously good tuning stability. In fact, the Steingraeber-Phoenix is the only other piano I've seen that is of this caliber. Most everything else is just a joke.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 07:14 PM

I've always thought that sympathetic resonance was kinda BS. Even if it wasn't, these extra notes would not have been added for this purpose because the sustain on these pianos (due to the bridge agraffes) is just insane.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/01/09 08:05 PM

Originally Posted By: beethoven986
Most everything else is just a joke.


crazy
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/02/09 10:55 AM

Fly to London or the factory in Australia, try one, and let me know if you change your mind smile
Posted by: lilylady

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/02/09 03:46 PM

Originally Posted By: Terry5758
I would love to play one as well.This to me is all very exciting! They are gorgeous! Maybe a vacation to Australia may be warantied.
Terry


Best build an addition to your home first!

ha
Posted by: Robert 45

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/02/09 04:41 PM

Most impressive. These pianos have a laser clarity in their sound, but without a trace of coldness or hardness. For me just a 3 hour flight across the "ditch" to visit this piano heaven.

Kind regards,

Robert.
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/02/09 05:00 PM

It just might really be the Ultimate Piano (™)!
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/02/09 05:16 PM

Don't let Bechstein overhear you saying that! Especially if they might infer that you mean everything else is a joke. smile
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/02/09 05:43 PM

OOPS! grin
Posted by: Tweedpipe

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/02/09 05:57 PM

CJM,
Very interesting. But hang on a minute, can this be really true? wink

It has often been said (by Gyro) that the acoustic piano is essentially obsolescent today - we are living in the Digital Piano Era, and digitals are sending the acoustic piano the way of the harpsichord and clavichord........etc, etc

This uncertainty has just brought on a terrible migraine, and I just don't know who to believe anymore....... wink crazy
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/02/09 06:43 PM

lilylady,
I have the carpenters lined up!lol!




Terry
Posted by: Oz Marcus

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/03/09 03:27 AM

Well Terry, I hope they are cute carpenters!

But weren't you going shopping today?? To a certain piano shop?? I am sure that you can make room for a Stuart & Son's and another Tier 1 piano, then we can all come over and play piano quintets!

M
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/03/09 09:53 AM

Marcus,
Why hire ugly carpenters when during this economy the cute ones work for the same rate? LOL!
I merely said that i was taking a visit to the piano shop to"just" look at some new inventory that had just arrived. Bosies,Feurichs and Steingraebers oh my! I felt just like a drug addict fresh out of the treatment center! Can you say TEMPTED? After saying the AA serenity prayer numerous times i came up with a very "logical" thought. When one passes the Godiva Chocolates one does not simply walk by them without at least a look and a smell,right? After reciting the serenity prayer a few more times,i made my way through the maze of lucious pianos. Yes i admit it,i broke down. Not only did i look and smell,i bit right down into the center of each one i could get my fingers on.Each one had their own destinct chocolately flavor.I played and played and each new note was as lucious as the next. For a moment i thought i had died and gone to Willy Wonka's Chocolate factory. Oh yes the oompa loompas(however it's spelled)were there and Marcus can you believe that good looking Johnny Depp and i even played a duet? Well,to bring myself back to reality i simply clicked my ruby red shoes togeather(wait is this scene from another movie?LOL)three times and said the serenity prayer a couple more times and then repeated there's no place like home! When i awoke,the dealer was standing over me and said "Terry you were on fire. Your playing was so hot it heated up the atmosphere and created a whirling wind of pianos(yes,i am a lengend in my own mind, lol) and one knocked you out. The entire sales staff was also standing over me with piano bills of sale.We all know how some of those dealers can be.lol!
Fearing i would not be able to resist,i noticed my ruby red shoes were still there. So i clicked them three times and POOF, i was back home with the two lovely pianos that i love best.The moral of this story is "THERE IS TRULY NO PLACE LIKE HOME AND NOTHING LIKE CUTE CARPENTERS THAT ARE BUILDING AN EDITION ONTO YOUR HOME FOR A STUART AND SON"S PIANO. LOL!


Terry

Marcus,Now that i think about it a piano quintet party may not be a bad idea!
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/03/09 05:36 PM

Oh, you made a funny smile Just to clarify, though, I wasn't referring to small, boutique piano companies like Bechstein. However, every piano I have played since I encountered these pianos has been a disappointment.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/03/09 05:50 PM

Originally Posted By: beethoven986
Just to clarify, though, I wasn't referring to small, boutique piano companies like Bechstein. However, every piano I have played since I encountered these pianos has been a disappointment.


So basically you weren't referring to Bechstein, Bluthner, Fazioli, Steingraeber, Boesendorfer, Sauter, Mason, Shigeru??
Posted by: Norbert

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/03/09 07:41 PM

If the 'ultimate' piano will be played by the 'ultimate' pianist at the 'ultimate' concerthall I'll come and become the 'ultimate' guest.

Giving the 'ultimate' report later about it to the 'ultimate' Piano Forum in the world....

Something tells me that I think was just right on the last one....

Norbert wink
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/04/09 12:51 AM

Has anyone else listened to the tracks on the Stuart and Sons website? I was blown away. I think this may be the ultimate piano. I'm just glad they're not available here because I'd probably sell my house to get one.

And, just to comment a bit about 'classical repertoire' and how it doesn't go outside the range of 88 notes: for g@d sakes people, hasn't anyone ever considered that pianos might be played in a non classical setting? Free improv? Jazz? Grrr...

I think Wayne Stuart should be congratulated on his achievements, not criticized for his innovations.
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/04/09 08:39 AM

Well said newguyonforum! Congratulations Wayne Stuart on your achievements!




Terry
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/04/09 09:12 AM

I wish the Stuart website would have sound samples from classical composers besides Bach. This would make sound comparisons for listeners easier. From what I've heard so far, the piano does have a very beautiful voice.
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/04/09 10:04 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: beethoven986
Just to clarify, though, I wasn't referring to small, boutique piano companies like Bechstein. However, every piano I have played since I encountered these pianos has been a disappointment.


So basically you weren't referring to Bechstein, Bluthner, Fazioli, Steingraeber, Boesendorfer, Sauter, Mason, Shigeru??


.... or Seiler, Grotrian, Steinway, Forster, and heck, maybe even Walter.

Who does that leave? I guess Kawai and Yamaha.
Posted by: Roger Ransom

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/04/09 04:04 PM

For those of us not tied quite so tightly to the written score, I would LOVE to have more notes above and below the usual 88 to use and play with. There's a whole world outside prewritten music!
Posted by: Roy123

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/04/09 04:51 PM

Originally Posted By: newguyonforum


And, just to comment a bit about 'classical repertoire' and how it doesn't go outside the range of 88 notes: for g@d sakes people, hasn't anyone ever considered that pianos might be played in a non classical setting? Free improv? Jazz? Grrr...


The issue, I think, isn't whether or not classical repertoire goes beyond 88 notes, but rather how useful the notes may be, given the already large range of the standard piano, and the limitations in the sound of the notes that go beyond the standard range.

For example A0 on a standard piano has a frequency of 27.5 Hz. That's already down to the point where sound is mostly felt and not heard. More importantly, even on a 9-ft piano, the lowest couple of notes really don't sound that good (at least to my ear). At A0, there is very little fundamental produced, and I can only assume that that problem would get worse for even lower notes.

On the high end, sustain at C8 is very short indeed, and at 4186 Hz, most people will only hear 2 overtones max, and people over 50, probably just one. A few more notes above C8 may have a pleasing tinkle, but I can't imagine them to be musically important.

Consider also that even if one did find some occasional use for them, you would hardly ever be near a piano that had those notes available.

I'll stick with my previous post--I think the extra notes really are not very useful. No "Grrr" from me, just some practicality.
Posted by: Oz Marcus

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/04/09 07:10 PM

You make some good points Roy.
On the Stuart website, Wayne mentions that there are 102 notes available.
Is that correct, with our hearing the way it is that there are only 102 notes in the equal temperament scale?

Marcus
Posted by: djtoast

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™) - 10/07/09 12:57 PM

I'm going to Australia this coming spring but sadly I expect I'll have neither the necessary funds nor the room in my suitcase to bring one back.

They are certainly impressive though judging by the recordings on the website. It's particularly the clarity and sustain that strike me. The tone is pleasing certainly and the appearance bold yet elegant in each of the many pictures.

The recordings have a slightly odd stereo image I think - a bit wider than I'd expect which may mean the sense of clarity is a bit artificial. Nonetheless, while I'd hesitate to dismiss as worthless Germany, Austria and America's output quite as quickly as some in this thread (!!!), I would love to spend some time with a Stuart & Sons.