my search for a new piano

7 02 2008

For the past few months I’ve been looking at new pianos — at first a grand for my church, then an upright for myself.  It’s a lot of fun to play all these different types of pianos.  There are so many different brands and sizes to choose from.  And there’s so much variety in how they sound.  It was a great time, except for dealing with some of the salesmen.

What got old was how every piano dealer explained how their brand is the best.  I realize that “best” in a piano is somewhat subjective, so opinion has a lot to do with it.  But some brands are clearly better than others in certain areas like build quality and purity of tone.  I heard that Baldwin is best, along with Steinway & Sons, Fazioli, Falcone, Bechstein, Kawai, etc.  Two of those I would put in the top tier category (that would be Steinway and Fazioli), and there are more in that group that I didn’t get to play.

I realize some pianos have certain strengths, and salesmen have to sell pianos to make a living, but all the unbalanced comparisons and putting down of other brands was really getting old!  I saw one poster that said “Baldwin 11, Steinway 0”, and then it compared certain attributes side-by-side.  I realize there are different models in the brands, so such comparisons aren’t fair, but I’ve played both and prefer the Steinways that I have played.  (Most people I’ve talked to prefer the Steinway among those two.)  The sound has to be the most important attribute when comparing pianos.

My research was aided by several forums on the Internet.  (It’s easy to take the Internet for granted, but it is so helpful!)  Of course I had to look past biases, but I was able to learn more details that the salesmen didn’t tell me.  Plus I was able to learn what the list price is.  A Falcone dealer had hyped up his piano (the UF26T upright, which did sound really good and looked sharp), but the tag had the list price at over $10,000, and the “normal price” at over $6,000.  It was on sale for 40 percent off, getting it down to just over $4,000.  Then I found out that the list price is under $4,000.  I suppose it’s not illegal to misrepresent the list price, but it just ain’t right!  He made it look like the piano was over 60 percent off, yet he was still charging more than list!

FYI, I know I just said a new (Chinese-made) Falcone sounded good, so that may take away any default credibility I’d have with piano experts, but I was judging with my ears.  Maybe it had been prepped really well.  I did try some of the Falcone grand pianos, and they didn’t sound very good at all.  My favorite piano of them all was the 10′ Fazioli — it had such a full and pure sound!  But it lists for over $200,000, which was most definitely NOT in the budget!

A different dealer showed me his prices on a printed piece of paper, and because I was a piano teacher he unfolded two more columns that he said are normally not shown to everyone.  The first “extra” column showed the price for piano teachers, which was supposedly 10 percent above cost, and the second column supposedly showed cost.  After what I’ve learned about piano prices, I’m leery of going with any first offer.  I called him a few days later and said I wasn’t comfortable with the price, and I gave him a price I was thinking of.  After some paper scuffling and calculations, he managed to give me a price that was below what he had previously stated as cost.  And the price included delivery and two tunings.  Go figure…  I know these salesmen have to make a living, but I wish they wouldn’t lie.  (I know they aren’t all like that, but too many are.  I suppose the profession is not too dissimilar from a used car salesman.)

The church ended up getting a 7′ Knabe, and I got a Kawai K-2.  I would’ve liked a taller Kawai or maybe another brand, but there was a budget that I limited myself to.  Nonetheless, I’m really happy with my purchase.  It will do until I have room (and budget) for a grand piano.

Here’s a picture of it, which really doesn’t do it justice because of my lighting, but you can get an idea of how it looks.

Kawai K-2, 1

Click on the picture for a larger version and to see another angle of it.  And here’s a link to the official page for it on Kawai’s website.  They have a better picture there.

I’m so excited about having my own piano now!  It plays and sounds so much better than my keyboard (which has its place).

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