M. Steinert Certified Piano Program:  How does it compare to the Steinway Certified Pre-owned Piano Program?

by Stephen N. Reed



You’re ready to do some serious shopping for a piano, but you’d like to save some money by going with a quality used model.  You’ve already begun to learn how huge the used piano market is–and the wide range of conditions in the pianos out there.

Model O Steinway grand
All M. Steinert Certified Pre-owned pianos come with a three-year warranty.

So you’re trying to get a solid piano with great life left in it. What could be worse than bringing home an instrument that disappoints you later?  That’s some serious money you can never get back. Choosing poorly might well dampen the interest your interest in playing the piano.

How can you safeguard against a poor choice for a used piano, while still experiencing some of the assurances of a new piano purchase?

By the time you’ve read this article, you’ll know about one sure-fire way to select a good, used piano, one that is playable for many years to come and is from the Steinway family of pianos.

In short, you’ll understand how the M. Steinert & Sons Certified Piano Program works to designate those used pianos that we are willing to certify with a three-year warranty. We devised this program to help give our customers the peace of mind they deserve when buying a purchase that costs several thousands of dollars.

After 160 years in the piano business, we are confident we can help you find the right piano for you.

M. Steinert’s Certified Piano Program: How It Compares To the Steinway Certified Pre-owned Program

How are M. Steinert’s Certified Piano Program and Steinway’s Certified Pre-owned Program Similar?

  1. Steinert’s Certified Piano Program is similar to Steinway’s Certified Pre-owned Program in certifying only used Steinways no more than 30 years old.
  2. Also, both the M. Steinert and Steinway certified pre-owned pianos only have 100% genuine Steinway parts for any repairs–a standard only Steinway and Authorized Steinway Dealers can provide.

How are M. Steinert’s Certified Piano Program and Steinway’s Certified Pre-owned Program Different?

  1. M. Steinert has an in-house piano technician; Steinway uses their own piano technician
  2. M. Steinert’s program features an 88-point inspection compared to Steinway’s 77-point inspection
The Inspection Process

First, M. Steinert’s certification program has an 88 quality point inspection compared to Steinway’s 77 points.  Both companies have established this evaluation to ensure authenticity, exceptional condition, and performance.  Certified piano categories evaluated include:

  • Finish Condition
  • Case Assembly
  • Keyboard and Pedals
  • Action and Regulation
  • Soundboard, Ribs, and Bridges
  • Plate, Strings, and Tuning Pins

All M. Steinert Certified Pianos come with a signed inspection report, and an M. Steinert Certified Pre-owned Piano three-year limited warranty certificate.

Boston and Essex models are included in M. Steinert’s Certified Piano Program

Boston piano interior
M. Steinert’s Certified Piano Program is that it certifies other Steinway-designed pianos, namely used Boston and Essex models, up to 10 years old.

One other difference in M. Steinert’s Certified Piano Program is that it certifies other Steinway-designed pianos, namely used Boston and Essex models, up to 10 years old.

Moreover, qualifying used Boston and Essex models are included in M. Steinert’s Steinway Lifetime and Full Value Trade-Up Promise.

When you purchase any Pre-owned Steinway, Boston, or Essex piano, you will receive 100% of the original purchase price in trade toward a new Steinway or Steinway-designed piano of greater value for the lifetime of the instrument.

M. Steinert’s reputation is the assurance of quality

“We get trade-ins all the time,” says Brendan Murphy.  “Our Certified Piano Program distinguishes the great used pianos we receive from the good ones.  We’re putting our 160-year reputation behind the ones we certify.”

Piano technician inspecting a used piano
A piano that passes M. Steinert’s 88-point inspection has the highest quality for a used piano.
Brendan says that, when you go to a store or online and discover that a piano isn’t certified through a program like M. Steinert’s, that’s an important clue to the potential buyer.  “If a piano has no warranty, it’s telling you something.  Either it’s too old to have a warranty, or something else may be amiss.”

However, a piano that passes M. Steinert’s 88-point inspection is going to be in solid musical condition.  Indeed, it is an instrument of the highest quality for a used piano.

“You know what you’re getting with a Certified Pre-owned piano from M. Steinert & Sons,” says Brendan. “That gives our customers seeking a quality used Steinway, Boston, or Essex great peace of mind.”

Finding Certified Pre-owned pianos at M. Steinert

To learn more about M. Steinert’s Certified Pre-owned pianos, view the current ones in stock in our Used Piano section.  Select the “Certified” option in the Status filter.

 


What is the difference between the Boston and Kawai pianos?

by Stephen N. Reed


The Boston piano line is produced in a Kawai factory in Japan but is designed by Steinway engineers. Some understandable confusion has resulted from this arrangement.

True, despite having many of the same features as a Steinway, the Boston is built outside the Steinway Factory by an Original Equipment Manufacturer or OEM.  Kawai is the chosen OEM partner for the majority of the Boston line of pianos currently.  So is the Boston just a Kawai?

Boston grand piano's soundboard
Since Boston’s rollout in the early 1990s, their pianos have been among M. Steinert & Sons’ most popular models for customers looking for a high-quality piano at a reasonable price.

Actually, Kawai is simply one of the OEM providers for Steinway, hired to produce the Boston in Japan to Steinway’s strict specifications.   As a result, even though the Boston is built in the same facility by some of the workers who build Kawai’s line of pianos, Boston’s design and materials are quite different from Kawai pianos.

In order to better understand the OEM / Designer relationship, let’s explore a well-known product outside the piano industry; a product that you probably have in your pocket right now, you may even be using it to read this article: a smartphone.

Everyone is familiar with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android-based phones.  Did you know Google Android phone and Apple’s iPhone are both manufactured by the same factory?  It’s true.  Foxconn is an Original Equipment Manufacturer for many different brands of smartphones.

Despite being manufactured by the same company, no one considers the iPhone just another Google Android phone.  This is because the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s role is to simply produce the phone as designed and specified by the designer.

Google’s design and specifications differ greatly from Apple’s design and specifications.  It is the same with the Kawai factory and Steinway & Sons.  Kawai’s role is to simply manufacture the Boston piano according to Steinway’s design and specifications.

M. Steinert & Sons has been in the piano business for over 160 years, helping individuals and institutions to discover the best piano for their particular needs.  Since their rollout in the early 1990s, Boston pianos have been among our most popular models for customers looking for a high-quality piano at a reasonable price.

By the end of this article, you will understand the differences between a Boston and Kawai piano, most importantly in the overall design but also in the materials used to create the Boston.

What is the Boston Piano?

Steinway & Sons set out to build the best piano possible beginning in 1853 in New York.  Over the years, that mission statement has resulted in well over a century and a half of proud Steinway owners and inspired musicians.  Over time, the costs of producing Steinway & Sons pianos have increased precipitously.

In the early 1990’s Steinway & Sons recognized that while their pianos were still the best in the world, the price-point was becoming unattainable for many musicians and institutional clients (schools, churches, etc.).  So, they took their century of piano design and manufacturing experience and set out to design a new line of pianos called Boston.

Boston 178 grand piano
Steinway & Sons’ designed 5 distinct Boston grand pianos and 4 distinct Boston upright pianos at their New York factory.

Steinway designed 5 distinct grand pianos and 4 distinct upright pianos at Steinway & Sons’ New York factory.   Once the designs were completed in New York, Steinway set out to find an Original Equipment Manufacturer.

The Kawai factory was known for having a consistent output and consistent product.   It was for this reason that Steinway & Sons entered into an OEM/Designer relationship with the Kawai Corporation.

As Kent Webb, Steinway & Sons’ Manager of Technical Services and Support, has noted,  a great chef can prepare two different recipes in any sufficiently-equipped kitchen.

That is the case here.  Steinway recognized the consistency of the Kawai factory’s production and their ability to produce a piano to a set standard of quality. Together, they have proven that two quality piano lines–different in nearly every respect–can be built in the same production facility.

The Kawai design

Kawai produces consistent quality production pianos and has deservedly attained greater acclaim in the past two decades.  What easily distinguishes them from other production pianos is their ABS plastic and carbon fiber components for their pianos’ newer actions.

Kawai piano action
Kawai pianos have an ABS plastic and carbon fiber action, whereas Steinway-designed pianos like the Boston have an all-wood action.

Kawai suggests that ABS plastic and carbon fiber material makes their actions stronger than all-wooden actions in other lines like Boston.

This is a key selling point for Kawai.  As a result of this ABS plastic and carbon fiber action, Kawai maintains that they are more consistent than all-wood actions. However, Kawai continues to make its keys and hammer shanks of wood, so they seem to still value some wooden parts.

In contrast, Steinway-designed pianos like the Boston have all-wood actions, which avoid the risks involved with having plastic/wood parts that aren’t as compatible.

For example, while wooden action parts expand and contract as a result of ambient humidity changes, they are doing so at the same rate.  The entire action expands and contracts together.

As a result, all-wood actions have less of a chance of having the glue joint break.  Thus, all-wood actions are known for their stability.

Wood action parts also have different tensile strengths when compared to plastic, which affects the overall feel for the pianists.  Pianists tend to enjoy playing a wood action.

Still, Kawai aggressively markets their actions, highlighting what they call long-term precision and a highly stable touch and tone.

Kawai grand piano soundboard
Japanese pianos from Yamaha to Kawai have often been described as having a clear, simple tone, not very complex.  Bostons, like Steinways, have a warmer, more rounded tone, and have much of the same complexity as a Steinway.

Japanese pianos from Yamaha to Kawai have often been described as having a clear, simple tone, not very complex.  Bostons, like Steinways, have a warmer, more rounded tone, and have much of the same complexity as a Steinway.

Let’s take a look at some of the other Steinway-design features built into the Boston that makes them different from Kawai and other piano lines.

The Steinway-design elements present in the Boston

Susan Kenagy is one of the Steinway engineers who designed the Boston from the ground up at Steinway & Sons’ New York factory, calling upon 165 years of piano manufacturing.

In a recent conversation with M. Steinert & Sons, Kenagy noted that, while the Boston and the Kawai do have the same legs and pedals, when it comes to the features that determine touch and tone, the two brands are quite different.

Steinway-design on Boston fallboard
Steinway-design: The Boston has the same kind of Hard Rock Maple used in Steinways for its inner rim. This produces less vibration and less absorption of sound than the Kawai.

The Boston now has the same kind of Hard Rock Maple used in Steinways for its inner rim. This produces less vibration and less absorption of sound than the Kawai.

“The Boston has a different wide-tail design rim shape, cast iron plate, low tension scale and string length, bridge, pin block, action, and front-end aesthetics,” notes Kenagy.  “Plus the Boston now has the same kind of Hard Rock Maple used in Steinways for its inner rim.”

This provides more stability of the soundboard and less absorption of sound into the rim than the Kawai.

Kenagy also notes that the entire Steinway family of pianos–Steinway, Boston, and Essex–all have similar tonal characteristics because of their design.

This tone is distinctive, quite different from the Kawai.  The Steinway family of pianos has a tone that is noted for its longer, sustaining tone, warmth, and greater dynamic range.  “They have this same kind of tone due to the design recipe they share,” Kenagy notes.

But Kenagy says that having brands with a range of tonal qualities is not a bad thing at all.  “That’s the great thing about humanity,” she says.  “We like different things.”  Some pianists may prefer a more clear sound, while others like the warmer, even tones of the Steinway family of pianos.

“Different brands have a different tonal target,” Kenagy notes.  “One brand may be aiming towards a different part of the market, which is fine.”

Other Steinway-designed features used in the Boston include:

  • All-wood action, providing greater stability and touch profile preferred by pianists;
  • Sitka Spruce soundboard, providing a bigger, fuller tone;
  • Solid copper-wound bass strings, ensuring pure tone for the life of the instrument.

Kenagy notes that Steinway and Kawai teams work very closely to adhere to quality standards.  She notes that the two companies act very collegially and meet frequently online and in-person to review any spec or design changes.

Boston has more differences through innovation

Boston’s engineers are always innovating and improving their instruments. Of course, the great advantage for Boston pianos is their relationship to Steinway.  Everything that Steinway has learned about piano design and construction from their long experience is considered in the design of the Boston—musicality, longevity, durability, and future residual value.

Boston grand piano
Everything that Steinway has learned about piano design and construction from their long experience is considered in the design of the Boston—musicality, longevity, durability, and future residual value.

The Boston 178 PE II grand piano. The PE II series has several improvements, including a lower-tension scale, resulting in a deeper, clearer bass, better treble sustain, and more transparency in the tenor range.

In 2009, 18 years after the launch of Boston in 1991, Boston’s first Performance Edition models were rolled out, further distinguishing Boston pianos from other brands.

This first Performance Edition included the patented Octagrip pin block, which gives the Boston a smoother pin turn and more consistent pin torque.  This allows for more precise tuning.

In keeping with Steinway’s design experience, Boston pianos are constantly improving. The Performance Edition II rolled out in 2016, includes a lower-tension scale, resulting in a deeper, clearer bass, better treble sustain, and more transparency in the tenor range.

Additionally, the PE-II features a luxurious Pomelle Sapele veneer on the inside rim of Ebony finish grands and a rose-gold colored plate.  Black felts have been added for the plate, under the fallboard, and around the pedals.

Playing a Boston and Kawai is the best approach

As you’ve learned, no, the Boston is not a Kawai.  They are two separate pianos designed by two different companies.

Boston piano logo
When you purchase a Boston from M. Steinert & Sons, you get our Lifetime Trade-up Promise: full value trade to a new Steinway for your life.

This matters on several levels, including Boston’s trade-in policy. When you purchase a Boston from M. Steinert & Sons, you get our Lifetime Trade-up Promise: full value trade to a new Steinway for your life.

The best way to discern the differences between the Kawai and Boston lines is to test some of their models for yourself.  At M. Steinert & Sons, we encourage our customers to make informed decisions, so that they have no regrets later.   We want you to have the best piano for you.

Going to a Kawai dealer, then coming to one of our two showrooms in Boston and Newton, will allow you to determine which piano is best for you. One of our senior piano consultants will be glad to show you our Bostons and any other Steinway-designed models.

Until then, you can learn more about Steinway-designed pianos by reading these articles:

Differences between cheap and expensive pianos

Going from vertical to grand: one customer’s story

 


Steinway vs. Yamaha:  What are the differences in their premium models?

by Stephen N. Reed


Since becoming a Steinway dealer in 1869, M. Steinert and Sons has been helping a wide range of customers in their piano search.  Oftentimes, that search comes down to the brand you determine most fits your needs and tastes.

A Yamaha keyboard
Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Yamaha has tried hard to achieve some of the same quality features as Steinway.

For example, take two of the piano industry’s heavyweights, Yamaha and Steinway. Which among their top grand pianos might best meet your needs?

We’re focusing on the CF and SX series in this article because they represent the latest efforts by Yamaha to challenge Steinway’s dominance of the premium piano market. Steinway’s position in that market is bolstered by the fact that over 95% of piano performers worldwide prefer Steinways.

That statistic has been a thorn in Yamaha’s side for years.  To the Japanese company’s credit, they have invested a considerable amount of funding and energy to build a piano series that they hope will compete with Steinway’s grand pianos, particularly Models B and D.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Yamaha has tried hard to achieve some of the same quality features as Steinway.  But does this Japanese piano company succeed in creating a Steinway-like concert grand?   After reading this article–and visiting Steinway and Yamaha showrooms–you can decide for yourself.

Yamaha grand piano series have a range of quality standards

In contrast to Steinway’s single standard of quality in all of their grand pianos, Yamaha grand pianos come in several different series of varying standards of quality, based largely on the materials used.  These Yamaha grand series are GB1K/GC, CX, CF, and SX.

Yamaha piano fallboard
Although each model has the Yamaha name on its fallboard, not all Yamahas are created equal. Yamaha series have different standards of quality, largely based on the materials used.

Although each model has the Yamaha name on its fallboard, not all Yamahas are created equal. An informed piano buyer will want to study the specifications of each of Yamaha’s piano series as differences are not always obvious initially.

As a result of these quality variations, grand pianos on Yamaha’s lower end, like their GB1K/GC series, are peers not with Steinway but with the Steinway-designed Essex line. Their CX series is more in line with the Steinway-designed Boston models.  See more on this in our previous article, Boston vs. Yamaha, which also traces the interesting history of the different production processes used by the two companies.

Again, for this article, we aim to give a dispassionate look at some models in the two highest Yamaha series to date–CF and SX–to discern how they compare to Steinway’s top Models B and D.

Top of the Line

Let’s take a look at each company’s top concert grand: Yamaha’s CFX (9’ in length) and Steinway’s Model D (8’11 and ¾” in length).  Steinway’s Model D has long been considered the standard of the industry.

So it’s no big surprise that Yamaha would want to pattern some aspects of their CF series, considered their “flagship concert grand,” after Steinway’s own concert grand, the Model D.  However, the degree to which Yamaha tries to copy Steinway is breathtaking.   This quote comes directly from their CF series website summary:

“Yamaha craftsmen hand-select the top one percent of wood from around the world at our Kitami Mill in Hokkaido, Japan. The inherent resonance of these woods, from European Spruce in the soundboard and ribs to mahogany and maple in the rims, helps give CF pianos their huge, well-rounded sound and extraordinary range of colors.”

But for the reference to Hokkaido, Japan, that section reads like a generations-old Steinway grand’s description, which for several decades has included references to a long history of innovative Hard Rock Maple rims, rare Sitka Spruce in the soundboard, and a rounded tone, offering a wide range of colors.  Indeed, such features are some of the main reasons people buy the Model D.

Steinway's Black Diamond Model D
Steinway’s Black Diamond Model D concert grand piano. Some commenters find that Yamaha’s CFX sounds thin compared to Steinway’s powerful Model D.

Some commentators are not convinced that the Yamaha CFX has reached the summit yet.  They find that the CFX sounds thin compared to the more powerful Steinway Model D, which they find to be well-blended.

Others believe Yamaha’s move towards handcrafting such top models is a step forward, conceivably bringing Yamaha to a better position to challenge Steinway’s dominance in concert halls and universities around the world.

A trip to M. Steinert’s showroom and a Yamaha dealer is the best way to decide which is the better piano for you.

Yamaha proudly notes that their CFX is the product of two decades of research and development.  From the above description of  Yamaha’s CF concert grand models, one wonders if they have been studying Steinway’s 165 years of constant research and development that has gone into making their Model D concert grand.

Again, imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Concert grand pianos like Yamaha’s CFX and Steinway’s Model D are typically the most expensive models in a brand’s lineup.  Check out our article on the most expensive pianos for more information.

The Steinway Model B and Yamaha’s S6X and S7X models

In a comparison between Steinway’s popular Model B (6’11” in length) and Yamaha’s S6X (7’ in length) and S7X (7’6” in length), again one sees that Yamaha’s effort is to replicate Steinway’s work.

Small wonder as the Model B is often referred to as “the perfect piano” and is a well-balanced and versatile grand piano that is especially sought after for teaching studios, mid-sized venues, and intimate settings.

Steinway's Model B grand piano
Steinway’s Model B is a well-balanced and versatile grand piano that is especially sought after for teaching studios, mid-sized venues, and intimate settings.

While both of these Yamaha SX pianos are almost entirely handcrafted, the Model B is entirely handcrafted.   One of the more intriguing features in this SX line is something Yamaha calls its “patented Acoustic Resonance Enhancement process,” which speeds up the aging process for these pianos’ wooden rims.  Steinway continues to age its rim woods the old-fashioned way.

Yamaha has developed a redesigned hammer for its SX line, which they maintain helps to produce that wide palette of colors that performers have found so inviting in the Steinway Model B.

So how close does Yamaha’s SX line come to overtaking Steinway’s Model B?  Some piano commentators will tell you that it’s purely a matter of taste between the two.

While the S6X is seen by some as having an improved sound over the Yamaha C6, it still has the typical, bright “Yamaha sound.” Similarly, some commentators say the S7X’s tone is reminiscent of Fazioli grand pianos, known for their crystal-clear tone.

This would suggest that Yamaha’s efforts to mimic Steinway’s well-rounded tone have fallen short.  Still, many leave impressed with the S6X and S7X while still preferring the Model B’s tonal preference.

As with the previous comparison between the two companies’ top concert grands, the informed buyer will try out both Yamaha and Steinway showrooms to try these grand piano models for themselves.

Both Steinway and Yamaha have produced some good premium models

Yamaha vs. Steinway models chart
Yamaha’s SX and CF series are more comparable to a Certified, Pre-owned Steinway rather than a new Steinway Model B or D.

At M. Steinert & Sons, our seasoned piano consultants will listen well to your priorities for this important purchase.  Some of our piano consultants have worked for both Yamaha and Steinway dealers, allowing them to fairly present the better attributes of these two legendary piano makers.

To date, Yamaha’s SX and CF series are an improvement over past Yamaha models.  However, they are more comparable to a Certified, Pre-owned Steinway rather than a new Steinway Model B or D.

So while we naturally feel that the Steinway is the better piano for many people, we acknowledge that Yamaha has produced some good models, as well.  What is most important is that you find the best piano for you.

Consider a visit to one of our showrooms in Boston or Newton to test some Steinway models for yourself.  Meantime, you can learn more by reading the additional pieces below:

Is the Steinway Selection Process for me?

Steinway’s Model D: The iconic concert grand of choice

What does it mean to be an Authorized Steinway Dealer?


The Top 6 most popular Steinway grand pianos (according to our customers)

by Stephen N. Reed


Most Popular Steinway GrandsYou’re ready to start shopping seriously for a Steinway piano, but you want to take your time, do it right.  After all, who wants to make this size of an investment, only to find that it doesn’t quite suit your needs in your home?

Steinway logo painted inside grand piano case
M. Steinert’s customers have had six most popular Steinway grand models over the years.

The piano consultants at M. Steinert are very experienced at helping customers with a wide variety of considerations, both in terms of their level of playing and the size of the space where the piano will be placed.

Since 1860, M. Steinert & Sons has gone the extra mile to ensure that each customer will have long-term satisfaction with their new Steinway piano.  We enjoy seeing people bringing the Steinway sound to their home or performing venue.

Towards that end, for your consideration, we offer you a look at the most popular Steinway models at M. Steinert.   You may find others’ preferences mirror some of your own.

By reviewing the Steinway models that have proven so popular with our customers over the years, you can start to narrow down your options as you move towards a final selection that is best for you.

The Top Six most popular Steinway pianos (according to our customers)

Steinway's Model B grand piano
The Model B is the most popular among M. Steinert customers. One factor in this is that the B is often chosen by Steinway Spirio player piano customers.

#1.  Steinway Model B

In a close race, the famed 7’ Steinway Model B edges out the 5’7” Model M as the most popular Steinway grand among M. Steinert & Sons’ customers.

The Model B is the choice of 28.46% of M. Steinert’s customers.  M. Steinert piano consultant Patrick Elisha notes that a major reason for the popularity of both the B and the M is that they are the models used for Steinway’s Spirio player pianos.

The 7’ Model B is Steinway’s best-selling model and has been acclaimed for having the top Steinway sound and touch outside of the concert grand models. The Model B is well-known for its constantly refined tone, touch sensitivity, broader dynamic range, longer sustain, and nuanced color.

Most Steinway Artists own Model Bs or Model Ds–or both. The Model B is not too large for many living rooms yet is also large enough to be appropriate for a smaller concert hall or a church sanctuary.

It is the most versatile of the Steinway grands. It is often the choice of serious amateurs or professional pianists who do not have the budget or the room for a 9’ concert grand Model D.

To learn more, read our Review of the Model B.

Model B specifications

#2.  Steinway Model M

Steinway craftsman with soundboard
Steinway’s patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard insures that the Model M grand has a rich, full sound without being overwhelming.

Introduced in 1911, the Steinway Model M occupies a cherished place for many in the Steinway spectrum of grand pianos.  At 5’7”, the Model M is situated between the smaller (5’1”) Model S and the larger (5’10”) Model O.

Steinway has called the M their “Studio Grand.”  It is the choice of 27.07% of M. Steinert customers.

Though smaller than other models like the O and the A, the Model M still retains a sound that richly fills a home or small venue without being overwhelming.  This is due to its Steinway soundboard.  Its responsive action produces a touch that can engage any style of music.

Because of its more compact size as Steinway’s “Studio Grand,” the Model M has proven itself as a consistent favorite for those needing a somewhat smaller grand piano for the home or small venue.

To learn more, read our Review of the Steinway Model M.

Model M specifications

#3.  Steinway Model L and O

Steinway Grands L and O combined
This chart shows popularity of grands with sales of the Model O and the Model L combined as one bar.

While Steinway’s Model L comes in next as the choice of 16.76% of M. Steinert’s customers, the L has been replaced in recent years with the Model O, which has been the selection of 7.91% for a total of 24.67% for both of these 6’ grands.

The Steinway Model O, referred to as the “Living Room Grand,” is the largest of the smaller Steinway grand pianos with a length of nearly 5’11”.

Patrick Elisha notes that the Model O’s size begins to usher in the full, rich sound of the larger Steinway grand piano experience.

The Model O offers a full, resonant sound of exceptional warmth and depth.  Often used for homes and teaching, the Model O has a rich bass register that is bolstered by the ample string length and the patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard.

The Astoria, New York Steinway factory had historically produced the Model L, while Steinway’s Hamburg, Germany plant made the Model O.  Over time, a consensus emerged between these two Steinway divisions that the scale design of the O was preferred.

As a result, the decision was made to select just one nearly 6 foot piano to bear the Steinway name. The O had won on its merits.

To learn more, read our Review of the Steinway Model O

Model O specifications

#4. Steinway Model A: The game changer

Steinway Model A grand piano
The Model A is a close cousin to the Model B, but at 6’2″ its smaller size allows it to fit in smaller spaces.

For many, Steinway’s Model A, known as the “Parlor Grand,” is the perfect piano. It is a close cousin to the better-known Model B,  known as the “Living Room Grand.” 7.91% of M. Steinert customers chose the Model A.

The two pianos have a similar scale and the same width at 4’10”, though today’s Model A, with a length of 6’ 2”, is 9 inches shorter than the Model B with a length of 6’ 11”.

This difference in length makes the Model A an easier fit in many homes than the Model B.  However, the Model A is still long enough to accommodate those looking for a full Steinway grand that provides a concert-quality Steinway sound despite the smaller size.

The early Model A featured some of C.F. Theodore Steinway’s innovations, secured by several patents. As a result, the Model A is seen as Steinway’s game changer.

For example, the Model A featured the new, continuous bent rim case, which gave both a stronger cabinet and excellent soundboard vibrations. Theodore Steinway’s bent rim innovation is still used on Steinway grands today.

To learn more, read our Review of the Steinway Model A

Model A specifications

#5.  Steinway Model S

The Steinway Model S is a well-conceived piano that conveys the famous Steinway sound despite its small scale design.  At 5’1” (155 cm), the Model S is the smallest of the Steinway grands. The first ones were made in mahogany.

6.96% of M. Steinert’s customers chose the Steinway Model S, the company’s famous baby grand.

Steinway's Model S, the baby grand
Steinway’s Model S, gives a warm, rich tone in a small, 5’1″ baby grand piano.

According to M. Steinert & Sons President Emeritus Paul Murphy, to compete with smaller and less expensive pianos built by Steinway’s competition, the S was introduced in 1936 at $885.

Steinway’s Model S is not for everyone.  A professional concert pianist will want to have a Model B or D, which will allow them a wider dynamic range due to their larger size.

However, if you want the Steinway sound but have real space considerations, the Model S can be the perfect fit for their home or small venue.  The S is a special order piano from Steinway, only a little smaller than the Model M.

For more information, read our Review of Steinway’s Model S

Model S specifications

#6. Steinway Model D

Usually used only by professional pianists or concert venues, Steinway’s Model D is one of the most recognized grand pianos in the world.  5.82% of M. Steinert’s customers selected the D, with many of them going to performance facilities or institutions of higher education.

Yuja Wang performing on a Steinway Model D concert grand piano.
Steinway Artist Yuja Wang performing on a Steinway Model D concert grand piano.

Over the years, the nearly 9’ Model D and other Steinway grands have possessed a strong bass to go along with their broad tone and a timbre some have called “spine-tingling.”  The sheer power in a Model D allows it to project to the back of any concert hall.

This sophisticated action is the reason so many professional pianists prefer the Model D: they feel at one with the instrument and believe that its range of tone and color brings out their musical best.

A quite popular model for institutions of higher education and symphonies, the Model D is the official piano of hundreds of musical venues, including the Boston Symphony OrchestraJuilliard, and the New England Conservatory.

Over 200 colleges and universities are officially designated as All-Steinway Schools, with the Model D taking center stage on their campus’s performing arts centers and music departments.

Finally, if you’ve listened to a classical or jazz piano recording lately, chances are that you were listening to a Steinway Model D.

To learn more, read our Review of Steinway’s Model D.

Model D specifications

How Much Do Steinway Pianos Cost?

These new Steinway grand pianos range between $75,000 and over $300,000, depending upon style and finish.  M. Steinert & Sons piano consultants can keep you updated on the current price for each model.

Whichever model you choose, it’s a Steinway

Whatever your final choice of a Steinway grand, the good news is: it’s a Steinway.  The legendary quality, craftsmanship, tone, and longevity that has made Steinway famous is in each of their grand piano models.

Come visit one of our two showrooms in Boston and Newton to begin the pleasant process of trying out these Steinway models yourself.

Our experienced piano consultants enjoy learning about your needs and aspirations when it comes to having a piano in your home. They can serve as your guide through the interesting process of choosing a Steinway.

Meantime, continue reading about Steinway’s uniquely handcrafted pianos below:


A review of 6 Steinway piano models: Which is the best grand for me?

by Stephen N. Reed


Steinway Model O in modern living room
Choosing the right Steinway grand piano can be both exciting and perplexing.  How to choose?

Pursuing the purchase of a Steinway & Sons piano can be both exciting and perplexing.  After all, this may be a once-in-a-lifetime investment, so you want to get it right.

You’ve heard about Steinway’s different-sized grand piano models and how size correlates to the prices across the spectrum of Steinway grands.  Is a bigger model worth the added cost?

At M. Steinert & Sons, helping people make the right Steinway choice is our bread and butter. We have been selling the different Steinway models for over 160 years and pride ourselves on customer service and satisfaction.

In this article, we will take a brief look at the main Steinway grand piano models, with links to a further description of each model.  That way, if you see one you want to investigate further before coming into one of our showrooms, you can access that information directly through this article.

An array of Steinways

Steinway Model D:  The concert grand

Over the years, the nearly 9’ Model D and other Steinway grands have possessed a strong bass to go along with their broad tone and a timbre some have called “spine-tingling.”  The sheer power in a Model D allows it to project to the back of any concert hall.

Steinway Artist Yuja Wang playing a Model D concert grand
Steinway Artist Yuja Wang playing a Model D concert grand.

This sophisticated action is the reason so many professional pianists prefer the Model D: they feel at one with the instrument and believe that its range of tone and color brings out their musical best.

A quite popular model for institutions of higher education and symphonies, the Model D is the official piano of hundreds of musical venues, including the Boston Symphony OrchestraJuilliard, and the New England Conservatory.

Over 200 colleges and universities are officially designated as All-Steinway Schools, with the Model D taking center stage on their campus’s performing arts centers and music departments.

Moreover, if you’ve listened to a classical or jazz piano recording lately, chances are that you were listening to a Steinway Model D.

To learn more, read our Steinway’s Model D: The iconic concert grand piano of choice.

Model D specifications

Steinway Model B:  Steinway’s best-seller

Steinway's Model B grand piano
The Model B is Steinway’s most popular grand piano. It is an exceptional fit for the professional pianist or serious amateur.

The 7’ Model B is Steinway’s best-selling model and has been acclaimed for having the top Steinway sound and touch outside of the concert grand models. The Model B is well-known for its constantly refined tone, touch sensitivity, broader dynamic range, longer sustain, and nuanced color.

Most Steinway Artists own Model Bs or Model Ds–or both. The Model B is not too large for many living rooms yet is also large enough to be appropriate for a smaller concert hall or a church sanctuary.

It is the most versatile of the 5 smaller grands by Steinway. It is often the choice of serious amateurs or professional pianists who do not have the budget or the room for a 9’ concert grand Model D.

To learn more, read our Steinway Model B: Is the B the perfect piano?

Model B specifications

Steinway Model A: The game changer

Steinway's Model A grand piano
Steinway’s Model A provides the Steinway sound but in a smaller form than the Model B.

For many, Steinway’s Model A, known as the “Parlor Grand,” is the perfect piano. It is a close cousin to the better-known Model B,  known as the “Living Room Grand.”

The two pianos have a similar scale and the same width at 4’10”, though today’s Model A, with a length of 6’ 2”, is 9 inches shorter than the Model B with a length of 6’ 11”.

This difference in length makes the Model A an easier fit in many homes than the Model B.  However, the Model A is still long enough to accommodate those looking for a full Steinway grand that provides a concert-quality Steinway sound despite the smaller size.

The early Model A featured some of C.F. Theodore Steinway’s innovations, secured by several patents. As a result, the Model A is seen as Steinway’s game changer.

For example, the Model A featured the new, continuous bent rim case, which gave both a stronger cabinet and excellent soundboard vibrations. Theodore Steinway’s bent rim innovation is still used on Steinway grands today.

To learn more, read our A review of the Steinway Model A: The game changer

Model A specifications

Steinway Model O: The small grand with the full grand sound

Steinway's Model O grand piano
The largest of the Steinway small grands, the Model O ushers in the fullness of the larger Steinway grand but is still under 6′.

Close to six feet in length, the Steinway Model O, referred to as the “Living Room Grand,” is the largest of the smaller Steinway grand pianos with a length of nearly 5’11”.

Patrick Elisha of M. Steinert & Sons’ educational division notes that the Model O’s size begins to usher in the full, rich sound of the larger Steinway grand piano experience.

The Model O offers a full, resonant sound of exceptional warmth and depth.  Often used for homes and teaching, the Model O has a rich bass register that is bolstered by the ample string length and the patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard.

The Astoria, New York Steinway factory had historically produced the Model L, while Steinway’s Hamburg, Germany plant made the Model O.  Over time, a consensus emerged between these two Steinway divisions that the scale design of the O was preferred.

As a result, the decision was made to select just one nearly 6 foot piano to bear the Steinway name. The O had won on its merits.

To learn more, read our Review of the Steinway Model O: Is it the right piano for me?

Model O specifications

Steinway Model M:  In the middle of the Steinway grand spectrum

Steinway's Model M grand piano
Steinway’s Model M has proven itself as a consistent favorite for those needing a somewhat smaller grand piano for the home or small venues.

Introduced in 1911, the Steinway Model M occupies a cherished place for many in the Steinway spectrum of grand pianos.  At 5’7”, the Model M is situated between the smaller (5’1”) Model S and the larger (5’10”) Model O.

Steinway has called the M their “Studio Grand.”

Though smaller than other models like the O and the A, the Model M still retains a sound that richly fills a home or small venue without being overwhelming.  This is due to its Steinway soundboard.  Its responsive action produces a touch that can engage any style of music.

Because of its more compact size as Steinway’s “Studio Grand,” the Model M has proven itself as a consistent favorite for those needing a somewhat smaller grand piano for the home or small venue.

To learn more, read our A review of the Steinway Model M: Is the M the right piano for me?

Model M specifications

Steinway Model S: the baby grand

Steinway Model S
The Model S is Steinway’s baby grand, the smallest of the Steinway grand pianos.

The Steinway Model S is a well-conceived piano that conveys the famous Steinway sound despite its small scale design.  At 5’1” (155 cm), the Model S is the smallest of the Steinway grands. The first ones were made in mahogany.

According to M. Steinert & Sons President Emeritus Paul Murphy, to compete with smaller and less expensive pianos built by Steinway’s competition, the S was introduced in 1936 at $885.

Steinway’s Model S is not for everyone.  A professional concert pianist will want to have a Model B or D, which will allow them a wider dynamic range due to their larger size.

However, if you want the Steinway sound but have real space considerations, the Model S can be the perfect fit for their home or small venue.  The S is a special order piano from Steinway, only a little smaller than the Model M.

For more information, read our A review of Steinway’s Model S: the baby grand.

Model S specifications

Cost

These new Steinway grand pianos range between $80,100 and over $300,000, depending upon style and finish.  M. Steinert & Sons piano consultants can keep you updated on the current price for each model. 

The good news: It’s a Steinway

Five Steinway grand piano models
Whichever Steinway model is best for you, you can rest in the knowledge that Steinway’s craftspeople have worked hard to create an exceptional musical instrument.

As mentioned earlier, a purchase as important as a grand piano can feel daunting.  The differences between two or three Steinway models can be either subtle or significant.

The good news is: it’s a Steinway.  The legendary quality, craftsmanship, tone, and longevity that has made Steinway famous is in each of their grand piano models.

Come visit one of our two showrooms in Boston and Newton to begin the pleasant process of trying out these Steinway models yourself.

Our experienced piano consultants enjoy learning about your needs and aspirations when it comes to having a piano in your home. They can serve as your guide through the interesting process of choosing a Steinway.

Meantime, continue reading about Steinway’s uniquely handcrafted pianos below:


Boston vs. Yamaha: Which is the best piano for me?

by Stephen N. Reed


With several good options for buyers looking into new pianos today, making the best possible decision is important for a number of reasons.  First, this is a serious investment, perhaps done only once in a lifetime.   A well-built piano can easily outlast one generation in a family, becoming an heirloom for the next.

A purchase of this kind of importance and duration needs careful attention.  Otherwise, you may purchase a piano that can become less a gift than a burden to give your children someday.

Photo of the interior of a Boston grand piano
The Boston line was specifically designed to enable more piano buyers to obtain a piano with the Steinway design at a more affordable price.

Will they inherit a treasured family instrument or a large piece of furniture nobody plays?   Choosing the best instrument, one that brings out the best among those who play it, is key.

Since becoming a Steinway dealer in 1869, M. Steinert and Sons has been helping a range of customers discover the best piano for their needs.  Since 1991, this has included offering the Boston line of mid-level grand and upright pianos.

The Boston line was specifically designed to enable more piano buyers to obtain a piano with the Steinway design at a price more affordable than a handcrafted Steinway.

Steinway has built a line of Boston pianos that has proven competitive in a market served by a range of piano brands, including Yamaha.

But which piano brand is better for you between Boston and Yamaha?

In this piece, we will take a look at the origins and strengths of Boston and Yamaha pianos, allowing you to learn more about both brands as you continue your journey towards buying a new piano.

Yamaha History and Production Design

Yamaha Piano History

Photo of Yamaha piano keyboard
After Yamaha’s founding in 1900, the company focused on manufacturing pianos for the Japanese market.  Still, Yamaha had international aspirations.

The first piano made in Japan was an upright built in 1900 by Torakusu Yamaha, founder of Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. — later renamed Yamaha Corporation. Just two years later, the Nippon Gakki factory produced its first grand piano.

During this early period, the company focused on manufacturing instruments for the Japanese market.  Still, Yamaha had international aspirations.  Just as Henry Steinway had done with his pianos a generation before, Torakusu began to win international recognition soon after he founded Yamaha.

For example, Torakusu entered one of his pianos at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where it won an Honorary Grand Prize.

Yamaha learns Western piano production techniques

By the 1920s, Yamaha sent its craftspeople traveling overseas to understand the latest European piano production techniques. Yamaha’s piano production picked up again after the war years.

In 1950, Yamaha produced the FC concert grand piano.  In 1956, the company completed work on Japan’s first computer-controlled artificial drying room. In 1958, Yamaha set up a grand piano assembly line at its headquarters in Hamamatsu.

Yamaha International is born

At the start of the 1960s, Yamaha made a significant investment, creating a new company in the U.S.A. to import and distribute its pianos: Yamaha International Corporation. By 1965, Yamaha was producing more pianos than any other manufacturer.  By 1970, Yamaha’s manufacturing facilities had produced one million pianos.

Yamaha production details

Japanese manufacturing is known for its attention to detail and quality control.  Like Steinway, Yamaha models go through a series of stringent quality control tests, from construction methods to wood selection.

Yamaha uses spruce for its soundboards and uses other traditional piano parts including:
  • Beech bridges
  • Pine backposts
  • White wood hammers
  • Cast-iron frame

Yamaha’s range of production pianos offers a variety of results for the musician, from entry-level to conservatory-worthy.  For grand pianos, these series are:  GB1K/GC, CX, SX, and CF.   Yamaha has even more upright series, which are:  U, YUS, b, P22, and Gallery Collection.

Yamaha currently sells a mind-blurring number of grand and upright models:  32 of various kinds and different qualities.

Yamaha’s quality varies across their different series–and even within each series.  For example, in the CX grand piano series, the CX7, CX6, CX5, and CX 3 models have spruce wood for their backposts, the CX2 and CX1 have Merkus pine.

Another example is in the composition of the keys across the different series.  In the GB1K/GC series, you will find that the white keys are made of Acrypet (methacrylic resin), while the other Yamaha series use Ivorite for their white keys.  Ivorite is Yamaha’s attempt to create plastic keys with the feel of ivory keys.

Not all Yamahas are created equal

The point is, although each model has the Yamaha name on its fallboard, not all Yamahas are created equal.

Photo of pianist playing Yamaha keyboard
An informed piano buyer will want to study the specifications of each Yamaha piano series as differences are not always obvious initially.

An informed piano buyer will want to study the specifications of each of their piano series as differences are not always obvious initially.  The importance of materials cannot be overstated.

For example, Many Yamaha pianos, especially their lower-priced offerings, use softer woods and a higher-tension scale design.  Consequently, these models are characterized by a considerably brighter tone.

This can be an appealing sound at first, especially for beginning pianists, but some find it limiting as you advance in your musical studies.  M. Steinert & Sons often receives Yamaha vertical pianos in trade for Steinway and Boston grands.

Having said that, Yamaha has become the preferred model of some international music festivals as well as several jazz and contemporary pianists.

Boston piano history and design

Boston history

The Boston Piano Company was founded in 1991, a subsidiary of Steinway & Sons.  Steinway wanted to capture the mid-level piano market that was growing internationally without having to compromise the Steinway & Sons approach to materials and craftsmanship.

Steinway designed the Boston and contracted with Kawai to develop a better, top-quality manufactured piano at a price lower than handcrafted Steinways.

Boston’s Steinway design

The Steinway elements present in the Boston
Photo of Boston grand piano
As a Steinway-designed piano, the Boston is characterized by a rich, even tone.

Steinway engineers Susan Kenagy and John Patton designed the Boston from the ground up at Steinway & Sons’ New York factory, calling upon 165 years of piano manufacturing. Steinway-designed features used in the Boston include:<

  • Low-tension scaling resulting in a longer sustaining tone
  • More sustain, dynamic range, and warmer tones
  • Sitka Spruce soundboard, providing a bigger, fuller tone
  • Hard Rock Maple inner rim, producing less vibration and less absorption of sound
  • Wide-tail design for bigger sound
  • Solid copper-wound bass strings, ensuring pure tone for the life of the instrument.
Boston and the Performance Editions

Boston pianos have all parts assembled manually. Boston’s design roots can be traced back to 1836 with the creation of the first Steinway in Germany and subsequently in New York in 1853.

Everything that Steinway knows about pianos from their long experience is considered in the design of the Boston—musicality, longevity, durability, and future residual value.

In 2009, 18 years after the launch of Boston in 1991, Boston’s first Performance Edition model was rolled out.

This first Performance Edition included a maple inner rim and the patented Octagrip pin block, which gives the Boston a smoother pin turn and more consistent pin torque.  This allows for more precise tuning.

Boston’s Performance Edition II rolled out in 2016, added several upgrades.  The Performance Edition II features a luxurious Pomelle Sapele veneer on the inside rim of Ebony finish grands and a rose-gold colored plate.

Black felts have been added for the plate, under the fallboard, and around the pedals. A rescaled bass and treble wire lower string tension provides increased sustain, better tone clarity generally, and a deeper, clearer bass.

Boston has picked up endorsements

Steinway Artist Ling Ling performing on a Boston grand
Steinway Artist Lang Lang performing on a Boston grand.

Steinway and Boston’s even tone has been endorsed for pianists across musical genres.  Indeed, the company’s rosters of piano greats, Steinway Artists and Steinway Immortals, have always been well-represented by famous jazz and contemporary pianists.

Just 30 years on the market, Boston has become the preferred piano brand of several musical groups.  The American Piano Quartet, The Gryphon Trio, and The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh use Boston pianos.

The Boston line includes five grand pianos and five upright models, along with Steinway’s hybrid Spirio self-playing piano.

The tone of the two pianos

Yamaha’s bright tone liked by some performers in modern musical genres

Yamaha has learned how to incorporate Western expectations into their pianos and has sold many over the years.  Still, the fully-manufactured Yamahas have a bright, clear tone.

While this makes them less preferred among most of the world’s professional concert pianists, that kind of tone has been better received by some jazz pianists like the late Chick Corea.

One area Yamaha and Boston have in common is in their power. Both Yamahas and Boston project well, especially in concert auditoriums.

Steinway DNA in Boston pianos produce an even, well-rounded tone

As detailed above, Boston has inherited much of the Steinway design or DNA. What does it mean for a piano to have Steinway design?

Steinway-designed label on Boston fallboard.
Steinway-designed pianos like Boston have a subtlety to them that allows the pianist to achieve color changes and new dynamics exactly what the artist asks of it.

Statistically, it is well-documented that over 95% of concert pianists worldwide performing with major symphony orchestras choose to play on Steinway pianos and are not remunerated by Steinway for their preference.

Steinway-designed pianos like Boston have a subtlety to them that allows the pianist to achieve color changes and new dynamics exactly what the artist asks of it.

In addition to this nuanced range of color and dynamics, Boston, like Steinway, has an even and well-rounded tone.

Boston’s tone has been endorsed for pianists across musical genres.  As part of the Steinway family of pianos, Boston takes pride in the rosters of piano greats, Steinway Artists and Steinway Immortals. Both lists have always been well-represented by famous jazz and contemporary pianists from George Gershwin to Aaron Diehl.

Re-capping main differences between Boston and Yamaha

 

Boston Yamaha
Even, well-rounded tone Bright, clear tone
Low tension scale design High tension scale design
10 models–a single quality standard 32 models–varying quality standards

Pricing

Larry Fine’s website at pianobuyer.com is a widely used source for piano information. Under Brand Profiles for Yamaha, he distinguishes between what typical Yamaha dealers LIST their pianos at (MSRP) and what they should actually sell for if priced fairly (SMP).

Under the Brand Profile for Boston, the MSRP and the SMP are identical–in other words, Boston piano prices are not inflated by Steinway dealers and then discounted to a fair selling price.

Which piano is best for you?

The best way to decide on a new piano is to play some models for yourself.   Whether tone, design, or price is most important to you, an informed piano buyer will get a feel for different models and brands.

At M. Steinert & Sons, our seasoned piano consultants will listen well to your priorities for this important purchase.  Some of our piano consultants have worked for both Yamaha and Steinway dealers, allowing them to fairly present the better attributes of these two legendary piano makers.

So while we naturally feel that the Boston is the better piano for many people, we acknowledge that Yamaha has produced some good models, as well.  What is most important is that you find the best piano for you.

Please consider a visit to one of our showrooms in Boston or Newton. Meantime, continuing reading some additional pieces below:

What does a piano cost?

How the pandemic brought life back to our living rooms

How to choose the right piano for me?

 


Steinway vs. Bosendorfer: Which is the better piano for me?

by Stephen N. Reed


At M. Steinert & Sons, we are frequently asked our opinion of other piano brands.  Our salespeople have deep knowledge of the various piano makers building pianos today; indeed, some of our piano consultants have worked for other brands before coming to M. Steinert & Sons.

Photo of Steinway's Black Diamond Model D
Steinway’s Black Diamond Model D concert grand piano.

While we obviously believe strongly in our Steinway & Sons product line, it would be foolhardy to not acknowledge the positives as well as the differences in other piano brands.  We want you to find the best possible piano for you.

Purchasing a piano is a sizable investment, both in terms of time and money.  At the end of your piano buying journey, we hope you are well-informed about your options and can make a decision that you feel good about for years to come.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at two piano brands often compared to one another, despite some significant differences in tone and price:  Bosendorfer vs. Steinway.

Background to the two piano makers

Bosendorfer

As with German-born Henry Steinway, Austrian Ignaz Bosendorfer was an accomplished instrument maker.  However, Bosendorfer was founded in 1828, twenty-five years earlier than Steinway & Sons, and soon made its mark as the official piano maker to Austria’s emperor.

Photo of Bosendorfer 225 piano
The Bosendorfer 225 grand piano
The Bosendorfer 225 Grand Piano

By the time Steinway had started to make his first pianos in the 1850s, Bosendorfer’s leadership had passed to the second generation, Ignaz’s son, Ludwig Bosendorfer.

Also, both Steinway and Bosendorfer have since passed out of their company’s original families.  In 1909, Bosendorfer was bought by the Hutterstrasser family.  Two generations later, the Jasper Corporation bought Bosendorfer in 1966.  Jasper Corporation is the parent company of Kimball Pianos.

Bösendorfer was later sold in 2002 to  BAWAG PSK Gruppe.  Then all of its stock was sold to Yamaha in 2007. The company remains headquartered in Vienna, a fitting tribute to its history and tone.

After a request for additional keys by composer and pianist Ferrucio Busoni, Bosendorfer added extra keys in the bass section to some of its models, such as the Imperial Grand Model 290 (97 keys) and the 225 Model (92 keys).  Other Bosendorfer models conform to the standard 88 keys seen in all of Steinway’s models.

Beyond the novelty of these extra keys, the addition of these extra, thicker strings adds resonance while other strings are played. As a result, the piano’s bass section is considered by many to have a rich, even dark sound.  We’ll touch on Bosendorfer’s treble section later in this piece.

Bösendorfer’s Imperial Grand 290 is one of the largest pianos made.  In all, Bosendorfer makes seven grand piano models and two upright pianos.

Steinway

After immigrating to America in 1850, German-born Henry Steinway founded Steinway and Sons in New York City in 1853, His self-stated goal was to build the best piano possible through tonal excellence.

Photo of a Crown Jewel Steinway grand piano
A Steinway grand from the Crown Jewel collection.

In addition to pursuing excellence in musical craftsmanship, Steinway & Sons sought to establish itself as a truly American company.  The Steinways pursued popular acclaim by creating Steinway Hall, a top concert venue in New York City for piano performers.

Moreover, Steinway celebrated those top piano performers by creating the designation of “Steinway Artists” and “Steinway Immortals.”  These were pianists who, despite no compensation, stated that Steinway pianos were their preference.

Interestingly, both Bosendorfer and Steinway lay claim to a share of Franz Liszt and Anton Rubinstein, both of whom had positive comments about Bosendorfer but who ultimately became Steinway Artists.

Steinway’s bell-like tone and even keyboard have propelled it into a dominant position among performing piano artists around the world, 90% of whom say that they prefer to play a Steinway.

Both Bosendorfer and Steinway use spruce wood in the interior of their pianos, though Steinway specifically uses Sitka Spruce for its trademark soundboard.  The soundboard, along with the Hard Rock Maple case, helps to produce a rich sound that projects well in concert halls around the globe.

Steinway currently makes seven models of grand pianos and one upright model.

The differences above and below Middle C

When comparing Steinways and Bosendorfers, a bit of piano history is worth knowing.  By the time Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven were experimenting with the piano, the instrument had been around for two to three generations.

Photo of the interior of a Steinway grand piano
The curved rim of the Steinway grand is consistent with the American school of piano design.

Though the differences between these two approaches are subtle today, Steinway follows the American school of design, while Bosendorfer is more aligned with the Viennese school.  So what is the difference between the two schools?

To hear piano commentators talk, one could deduce that the difference between these two schools and two brands is in the treble and bass registers.

Steinway’s tone: Round and mellow

Steinway is credited with having a “round” and mellow sound in the upper keys, in part due to its lower string tension, exceptional Sitka spruce soundboard, and a bent grand frame made of Hard Rock Maple.

All of this helps produce more audible harmonics for a rich, complex sound with great projection. Many have called Steinway’s upper register tone warm and bell-like.

Bosendorfer:  Heavy in bass, extra light in treble

In contrast, Bosendorfer, following the Viennese school, makes the inner rim of solid Bavarian spruce blocks, using a technique similar to that of a bricklayer building a brick wall.  The outer rim is made of solid spruce, shaped by cutting narrow slots are filled with spruce shims.

Photo of an original Bosendorfer
An original Bosendorfer piano. Note how the whole case becomes an extension of the soundboard.

As a result, the outer rim of a Bosendorfer is thinner than most pianos, and their inner and outer rims interface directly with the soundboard.

Thus, the entire case becomes an extension of the soundboard. The result is a more classical-era, 18th Century sound.   It can be reminiscent of a harpsichord.

In the upper registers, fans of Bosendorfer call this a pure, crystalline sound, while detractors find that it sounds tinny or even like “shattered glass.”

However, Bosendorfer gets higher marks for powerful keys on the lower end of Middle C.  Also, for those who like a particularly fast action, Bosendorfer has that, too.

Have North American concert pianists even played a Bosendorfer?

Some advocates for Bosendorfer note that a North American professional pianist might have difficulty having exposure to any European brands like Bosendorfer as Steinway dominates the concert market here.

However, that minimizes Steinway’s hardwon reputation as the choice of over 90% of concert pianists.   Such pianists, at the top of their musical profession, have likely played several different European brands, including Bosendorfer.

Yet the vast majority of them still prefer Steinway, while acknowledging Bosendorfer’s strengths.

Prices for Steinways and Bosendorfers

North American piano buyers often associate Steinways as the highest-priced pianos on the market.  However, that is likely because Steinway is the best-known premium piano to them.

Photo of person working on a calculator
A Steinway S grand, 5’1″ in length, ranges from $62,000-70,000. A similarly-sized Bosendorfer 155 is $137,000.

However, compared to some European brands, including Bosendorfer, Steinway is far from being the most expensive premium piano brand.

For example, the least expensive Steinway, Model S, with a length of 5’ 1” costs $80,100.

Compare that with the smallest Bosendorfer, Model 155, also 5’ 1” with a cost of $137,000.

Similarly, on the upper end, Steinway’s longest grand at 8’11 and 3/4”, the Model D, ranges from $146,700–170,000.   Bosendorfer’s longest grand, a bit longer at 9’ 6”, costs $263,500.

For a brand that was once owned by Kimball, Bosendorfer has certainly come of age. Meanwhile, Steinway can enjoy the fact that their pianos, considered the standard in the industry, are not the most costly at all.

Both piano brands are intriguing–but one is more versatile

The difference is in the design and the woods used

Photo of a violin
The theory behind the Bosendorfer spruce rim is that the entire piano will resonate like a violin. Photo by Providence Doucet on Unsplash
Both Bosendorfer and Steinway have beautiful cases, elegant with impressive finishes and exteriors.   What truly distinguishes Bosendorfer from other piano brands is its unique design that is not used by any other piano company.

Specifically, the Bosendorfer has a jointed rim comprised of vertical slats of spruce–the same softwood used in other piano soundboards, including Steinway-designed brands like Boston.   The theory here is that the entire piano should resonate like a violin.

However, violins are not made only of spruce–they have a hard maple back and a soft spruce top, which is similar to Steinway-designed pianos like Boston with a hard rock maple inner rim bent to make a much stronger rim as compared to the Bosendorfer’s softer rim.

The resulting sound in both pianos

Aerial photo of Steinway craftspeople building a Hard Rock Maple rim for a grand piano.
Steinway craftspeople making a Hard Rock Maple rim for a grand piano. This rim is key to producing the famous “Steinway sound.”

The sound in the Steinway-designed spruce soundboard bounces off the dense Hard Rock Maple rims to the ear with greater power, clarity, sustain, minimal dynamic distortion, and more overtones.

Conversely, the sound in the Bosendorfer spruce soundboard is absorbed by the soft spruce rim of the Bosendorfer and, under pressure (as in a fortissimo or forte/fortissimo or sforzando), will distort and become unpleasantly percussive, particularly in the upper treble registers of the piano.

Another factor resulting from these structural differences is tuning.  The Bosendorfer spruce rim expands and contracts like the soundboard and moves far more than the hard maple rims of the Steinway. This also affects the holding of concert pitch, especially in an orchestral setting.

A consistent tone and better price makes the difference

Steinway’s even tone

The philosophical frameworks of Bosendorfer and Steinway & Sons make for intriguing reading.  Few other piano makers have experimented with the keyboard as much as Bosendorfer has.  Yet Steinway has managed to contribute over 135 patents to make today’s piano what it is.

Steinway’s tone has an evenness throughout that blends well with its complex harmonics.  One could say that Steinway’s even, bell-sounding tone is the glue that holds all of Steinway’s complexity together.

This makes Steinway a quite versatile instrument, good for classical music but also jazz, hip hop, and other contemporary genres.

Bosendorfer deep bass and sharp treble

Contrast that with the Viennese tone found in the Bosendorfer.  Yes, Bosendorfer has a deep bass section.  However, many find the treble section to be a bit too treble and uneven.

For Mozart and other classical composers, this more sharply clear section north of Middle C might seem just right.   However, for other pieces, it can be jarring.

Steinway preferred by most professional pianists

Photo of concert pianist's hands playing a Steinway concert grand.
Over 90% of professional piano performers prefer Steinway.

While both piano makers should be applauded for their commitment to creating pianos that double as a work of art, Steinway has become the preferred instrument of over 90 percent of professional pianists the world over for a reason.

While each Steinway is handcrafted and therefore unique on certain levels, they are also consistent, allowing the performer to release their passion on the keys without having to worry about the tone of the instrument.

Significant price difference

Finally, the price differential is significant.  A new Bosendorfer is significantly more expensive than a new Steinway, with part of that added expense coming from shipping them here from Vienna.

While Steinway also has a European base of operations in Hamburg, Germany, their Astoria, NY facility services the North American market.

Steinway is better for overall quality

As a result, for overall quality, versatility, and price, Steinway is the best choice for most people and their preferred musical genres.

Come in and see for yourself which Steinway models you would like to try.  In the meantime, you can continue to read more from our Expert Advice section through the links listed below:

Do I need a Steinway if I’m not into classical music?

Can you finance a Steinway piano?

Are any of these Steinway piano myths true?


Digital Vs Acoustic Digital vs. acoustic pianos: Which is the best for me?

by Stephen N. Reed


The difference between digital and acoustic pianos is one of the first questions you will face in your quest for a piano.

You may already have strong feelings about which piano you would ideally purchase.  Maybe you don’t.

Either way, this article will outline the differences between digital and acoustic pianos to help you decide which one is best for you.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that acoustic and digital pianos offer vastly different playing experiences. As a result, depending on how you intend to use your piano, choosing the right instrument–digital or acoustic–has serious implications.

What could be worse than buying an expensive piece of musical equipment, only to discover later that it doesn’t do what you had hoped?

Taking one’s time, talking to professionals in the industry, and testing different pianos as part of the process is the best way to avoid a poor purchase.

Let’s start by looking at each type of piano.

What is an acoustic piano?

Photo of Model D Steinway
A Model D Steinway grand, an acoustic piano

Acoustic pianos are what most people picture when they think of a piano.  Since Cristofori invented the ancestor to today’s acoustic piano, the general principles behind piano design and the mechanisms responsible for producing its sound haven’t changed too much.

However, over the years, there have been subtle evolutions resulting in today’s acoustic pianos having an incredibly nuanced sound.

The piano sound is achieved naturally through vibrating steel strings, resonant woods, and natural damping and friction-absorbing materials such as felt and leather.

It uses a mechanical system that operates by pressing the key. This then engages a lever, which moves a felt hammer to strike the corresponding string which is made of high tempered steel.

It’s a complex mechanical process that digital pianos cannot replicate. A true traditional piano sound and touch can only be achieved with an acoustic instrument.

Did you know:

The word “piano” comes from the musical term meaning “soft,” as it was an instrument that you could play at different dynamic (musical speak for “volume”) levels.

This was a dramatic shift from other keyboard instruments of the day (e.g. organs and harpsichords) which could produce only one dynamic from their keys.

There are a number of advancements, many made by Steinway & Sons, that have been made with acoustic pianos to make it more versatile than earlier pianos.

What is a digital piano?

Unlike acoustic pianos, digital pianos have no hammers or strings. The sound is achieved electronically, with each key corresponding to an acoustic piano counterpart using high quality sound replication to mimic the tone produced by the very best acoustic pianos.

Photo of a Roland baby grand digital piano
A Roland baby grand digital piano

Therefore, the quality of sound created by a digital piano depends on the method the instrument uses to generate the acoustic tone.  Some use sampling (actual recordings of an acoustic piano) while others, such as Roland, use advanced modeling technology to create their acoustic piano tone.

For decades, digital pianos have failed to achieve popularity as they only approximated a piano-like sound and touch. However, due to advances in technology, today’s digital pianos have gotten closer to an authentic piano sound and feel.

All of our Roland digital pianos have incorporated acoustic modeling technology into their digital pianos. In layman’s terms, the modelling algorithm “calculates” a unique sound every time you press down the key.

The result is a natural and individual sound based on your own playing. It never creates the same sound twice, exactly as would be experienced on an acoustic. This digital effect is still not the same as a traditional acoustic piano, but the experience is much closer than it has been in previous years.

Digital pianos are also capable of realistically producing other musical instruments, from the saxophone to the cello, making it possible to create an orchestra of sound.

The “extras” that digital pianos offer are nearly limitless, making them one of the most versatile home instruments imaginable. Among the most popular additional features  are:

Playback & record: Modern playback features allow you to record and hear your own performance which is particularly helpful for students.

Bluetooth connectivity:  When you have a Bluetooth-compatible piano, your iPad becomes a controller and the world of apps can be fully explored.  Music can be displayed digitally while you play-a-long, and you can enjoy interactive educational software.  Plus the speakers of your piano can be your home stereo!

Notation capability: Probably the most valuable feature of all is the ability to capture the notes you play and have them displayed promptly in a musical score format.    Perfect for amateur (or professional) composers.

It is worth noting that each of these features can now be added to any acoustic piano.

Comparing digital and acoustic pianos

The bottom line is that, despite technological advances, digital pianos cannot truly replicate the sound or touch of an acoustic piano. They can only simulate it.  This is usually apparent in the quality and tone of the piano’s sound.

So, are digital pianos as good as acoustic pianos?

Like so many things, it depends.  If the alternative piano is a poor condition or old acoustic, the modern digital is the better alternative.  If the budget allows for a better quality or new acoustic vertical or grand,  most pianists will choose the acoustic over the digital.

However, the digital’s strengths in mobility, headphone practice and connectivity to the digital world are other reasons why digital pianos are often selected.

Photo of the Amalfi Coast
Virtually visiting the Amalfi coast is educational and can be rewarding. But there is nothing to compare to actually visiting there. So, too, with the experience of playing a good acoustic piano.

To their credit, digital piano makers like Roland are working hard to approximate the acoustic piano’s touch and tone.  However, a more helpful way of viewing the difference between digital and acoustic pianos is to accept their differences and to applaud both for what they can do.

Let’s take an example from the world of travel for an analogy:

Consider a person who is unable to afford a two-week vacation to Europe right now.  However, they have really been studying European history and culture, particularly the Amalfi coast of Italy.

At this time, they aren’t able to actually get to Italy yet, but they are able to get a kind of feel for it by using a set of virtual tour goggles and exploring the Amalfi coast that way.

Probably they would like to go to Italy in person someday–for the full cultural experience.  However, in the meantime, their virtual headset has given them a better understanding of the Amalfi coast than before.

That is what the digital experience can do:  it can give you a better understanding of the keyboard arts while leaving you something more to discover when you are able to afford an acoustic upright or grand piano.

Both categories of piano have their advantages and disadvantages, which might make one or the other better for you.

Advantages of an acoustic piano

  • Produces a resonant authentic piano sound
  • Longer lifespan (can be 50+ years)
  • Better touch sensitivity of keys, allowing for more musical control
  • Higher resale value
  • No power source required
  • Player systems capable of high definition acoustic playback ie SPIRIO
  • Statement feature, aesthetically pleasing in a room, especially the grand piano.

Disadvantages of an acoustic piano

  • Generally more expensive than digital pianos
  • Requires regular maintenance including tuning 2-4 times per year as well as technical adjustments periodically.
  • Is susceptible to temperature and humidity changes
  • Often take up more room
  • Less portable than digital
  • Offers just one sound (the piano)
  • Louder (silent play optional but not standard)

Benefits of a digital piano

  • Generally less expensive than acoustic
  • Doesn’t require tuning
  • Not susceptible to humidity or temperature changes
  • Capable of a wide range of voices/tones/instrumentation beyond the standard piano tone.
  • Recording capability including multi-track
  • Headphone for silent practice standard
  • Enhanced learning with educational software.
  • Light-weight
  • Portable

Disadvantages of a digital piano

  • The sound produced can seem less authentic
  • Shorter lifespan
  • Lower resale value
  • Some models have compromised touch sensitivity
  • Compromised pedal function
  • Power source required
  • Not always as aesthetically pleasing (although some can be)

While examining these advantages and disadvantages, take into account your individual circumstances.

Yes, many acoustic pianos respond better to the nuances in touch (particularly grand pianos), and this is reflected in the tone that they produce.

Photo of Boston grand piano--acoustic
The interior of an acoustic piano produces its unique sound. Here a Boston grand piano, with its lid up, will have rich resonance.
However, is this something that all players need?

Possibly not.

Such nuances might be necessary for advanced or classical pianists. But digital pianos can often suffice for early stage learning, those with limited space, or a need for quiet play, or when adults are downsizing or need a quieter solution.

The question is about finding the right piano for you.

Ultimately if you do opt for a digital piano, the goal should be to emulate the sound of an acoustic as much as possible. It is important to feel and hear a digital piano before you make your choice.

Our top tip: Take your favorite piece of music into a store. Find the largest, grand piano in the store and play the piece. Really listen. Then compare the sound on a digital. The digital piano that is closest in terms of tone and touch to an acoustic grand piano is usually the best.

Consider a visit to test some digitals and acoustics for yourself

So if you live in New England and are curious about a range of digital and acoustic piano options, consider a visit to one of our two showroom locations in Boston and Newton.  Our seasoned salespeople have broad experience and deep knowledge of both digital and acoustic pianos.  Fill out the form below and we’ll get right back to you.

And for more information about the different kinds of pianos we feature at M. Steinert, & Sons, click on the links below.  To set up a time to talk with one of our seasoned sales consultants, please fill out the form below.


Spirio and Disklavier side-by-side imageSpirio vs. Disklavier

Which is the better 21st Century self-playing piano for you?

by Stephen N. Reed
updated September 20, 2022


The self-playing piano renaissance

Player pianos have a long and storied past, going back to the 19th Century. What started as a novelty became a best-selling musical instrument.  Just as the smart TV is the home entertainment center today, the player piano was the center of the home at the turn of the 20th Century.  This was the golden age of player pianos.

The player piano continued its roll until the phonograph and radio came along in the 1920s.  Those two inventions essentially wiped out the player piano.

Two generations later, in the 1980s, player pianos made a comeback, utilizing cassette-based players, followed by floppy disks, CDs, and now wireless self-playing pianos.

Modern player piano technology

Photo of moving keys on a Steinway Spirio self-playing piano.
Today’s self-playing piano is a vast technological improvement on past player pianos.

Modern player pianos can both record and playback performances. Yamaha’s Disklavier has been doing that for many years. The more recent entrant, Steinway’s Spirio | r, features a high-performance quality playback AND record system.

Plus, both have content libraries that are digitized from early 20th Century recordings of famous composers and pianists. We’ll take a look at this technology, along with other key similarities and differences between the Disklavier and Spirio below.

As Yamaha and Steinway & Sons have emerged as the two piano companies that have put the most significant investments into creating the 21 Century player piano, a closer look at both is helpful to any buyer looking into one.

A brief look at the Yamaha Disklavier and the Steinway Spirio

Yamaha’s Disklavier: Out of the gate early

In 1982, the Yamaha Corporation introduced the first Disklavier self-playing piano in Japan.  In 1987, the first Disklavier was sold in the United States, the MX 100A, a studio model upright. Shortly after that, the first Disklavier grand, known as the Wagon Grand ( “Wagon” came from the large rolling cart required to hold the hardware) was rolled out.

PHoto of a Disklavier, Yamaha's self-playing piano
Yamaha’s Disklavier self-playing piano has been evolving since its rollout in the mid-1980s.

A third early model, known as the MX80 series, was created in the early 1990s.  Like the prior models, the MX80 series recorded on floppy disks and recorded performances in a Yamaha-proprietary file format.

This was a forerunner of the subsequent industry-standard file format known as Standard MIDI Files. Technical innovations found on these early model instruments included hammer sensors for recording, recording and playback of incremental pedal data on the Wagon Grand, and moving pedals during playback.

Since then, Disklavier has gone through many changes, including those in the chart below.

Enter Spirio: A new chapter for Steinway & Sons

Spirio was a new direction for Steinway, which had staked its claim on the meticulous, handcrafted quality of its pianos, their unique tone and touch, and their preference among the vast majority of professional concert pianists.

Could a company steeped in high musical performance also develop a self-playing piano designed more for home entertainment?

Photo of Steinway Spirio self-playing piano with iPad interface.
Steinway’s Spirio self-playing piano with its separate iPad interface.

Since introducing the standard Spirio Play model in 2015, Steinway has risen to the challenge, making sure that each part of Spirio was up to Steinway’s historic standards of quality.   For example, a recording option was not originally available in Steinway Spirio pianos.

However, after significant research and development, in 2019 Steinway introduced the Spirio | r, which is capable of both reproducing and recording high performance piano music for later playback.

Similarly, while Disklavier has already implemented Remote Performance Technology, which grew in popularity for distance learning and remote performances during the pandemic, Steinway’s engineers the latest high-resolution Spirio | r recording technology in November 2021.

In the end, whichever one’s preference between the Disklavier and the Spirio, no one can question the financial and philosophical commitment of Steinway in their pursuit of creating the best 21st Century self-playing piano.

Disklavier vs. Spirio comparison chart

Item Yamaha Disklavier Steinway Spirio
Approach to Player Piano Design Yamaha C series Steinway & Sons historical designs – adapted for the Spirio integration.
Year Introduced 1987 2015
High Resolution PRO models only Yes
User Experience Many complicated features–not easy Easy
Separation of Core Player System From Rapidly-Changing User Interface Average Excellent
Soft Play and Repetition Above average Excellent
Proportional pedaling Yes Yes
Operates keyshift Yes Yes
Remote Performance Technology Yes SpirioCast – Released in November 2021
Immunity to Line Voltage Variation Above average Excellent
Supports Recording Standard, digital recording on all but low-end models Spirio | r included the highest performance recording possible
Included Music 500 of 11,000+ pieces given at installation. More songs available at additional cost. Also, Disklavier Radio. Complete 4,482 piece library given at installation. 3-4 hours of new music added free per month.
Proprietary Music Catalogue Disklavier E3 Artists.  Live video events available. Steinway Artists.  Spiriocast library growing
Quality of underlying instrument Yamaha–manufactured in a production environment. Steinway–handcrafted with over 100 craftspeople involved.  Steinway tone and touch.
Cost Ranges from $28,899–$225,000 Ranges from $113,700–$243,400

 

A deeper look into some of these player piano facets

The interface and remote control

Over the years, Disklavier models have utilized a range of devices that were used to operate the piano.  These included a control box mounted on the piano, infrared handheld and Wi-Fi controllers.

A variety of devices have been used to control the instrument, including buttons on a control box mounted on the piano, a Java app running via a personal computer, and other apps that run on IOS-based devices.

All Disklaviers have an option for remote control. In most cases, this has been a line-of-sight remote that uses infrared signals (much like a typical TV remote).

Disklavier PRO models have a detached interface.  Disklaviers are equipped with non-contact optical sensors but also incorporate continuous grayscale shutters on the hammers to measure their speed and distance.

Steinway Spirio pedals
Both the Yamaha Disklavier and the Steinway Spirio feature 256 increments of positional pedaling.

The addition of continuous grayscale shutters for each hammer allows the user to natively record and playback high-resolution performances with 1023 levels of key and hammer velocity as well as 256 increments of positional pedaling using Yamaha’s proprietary XP format.

Spirio has 1020 levels of key and hammer velocity, along with 256 increments of positional pedaling. The Spirio system is operated through the Steinway Spirio App, which provides a seamless interface to the piano and is both intuitive and easy to use.

Whereas Yamaha’s Disklavier system relies on MIDI data, low resolution data files, Spirio is recording at the highest resolution possible.  Steinway has created a proprietary data file format that captures the nuances and full range of emotion from each artist’s level of performance, resulting in a heightened level of playback.

The Spirio’s nuanced playback comes from a combination of both the proprietary data file format, along with the Spirio’s ability to replicate smaller increments of velocity on both the hammers and proportional pedaling.

This recent technology captures a range of subtlety and nuance that, before now, has not been possible.

Ease of use: people won’t use difficult technology

The advent of a detachable interface, one everyone can learn to use in an hour on a familiar iPad or equivalent has made the 21st Century self-playing piano extraordinarily popular.

Photo of woman using IPad interface
21st Century technology enables a greater range of player piano uses today.

Someone with very little experience with technology can suddenly entertain dinner guests like a tech pro, simply by accessing a selection of songs from the proprietary music catalogs provided by Yamaha and Steinway.

Having said that, the Spirio may have benefitted from getting in later than the Disklavier, as the Spirio has a reputation for having technology that is easier to use. The Disklavier can take up to four steps to access the piano’s technology, while Spirio often only requires one step.

Today’s piano buyer is still buying for the sound experience; they don’t look forward to complicated, multi-step ordeals.  On the question of ease of use, Spirio wins hands down.

Recording and remote performance technology

The Disklavier has Remote Performance Technology, and Spirio rolled out its version in November 2021. During the pandemic, this technology became better known and quite popular for its distance-learning capacities.

Photo of performer on stage with piano
Remote Performance Technology allows musicians and professors to bring a masterclass directly to one’s home through a self-playing piano.

For example, a famous musician, college professor, or high school instructor could offer a masterclass to students located remotely.

The Disklavier features a silent play option, which means that a player can practice silently.

The playback on the Disklavier and the Spirio both have high levels of reproduction.  Both also have MIDI-editing software.  This allows one to record without rerecording the entire piece.

Spirio | r has an iOS app to edit high-definition recordings. Yamaha does not provide software to edit Disklavier Pro recordings.

Proprietary music catalogs

Both Yamaha and Steinway offer sweeteners to their piano purchases through their respective Proprietary Music Catalogues.  Steinway knew that Yamaha had the jump on them, having unveiled the Disclavier a decade earlier.

Photo of Spirio iPad
Spirio’s  iPad interface: known for its ease of use.

Since rolling out Spirio in 2015, Steinway has outpaced Yamaha in the number of high-performance recordings available to their customers. At their current rate, Steinway’s number of recorded songs should overtake Yamaha’s in five years.

Notably, Steinway gives all of their Steinway Artist songs–now over 4,450 tracks–as part of their piano sale at no additional charge.

Yamaha has always taken a different approach to its music catalog.  First, they have roughly 11,000 songs in their catalog, and their system can handle vocals and background music, not piano music alone.

However, Yamaha usually provides a number of free songs away at the close of sale; their customers have to purchase any others afterward, at an additional cost per song or album. Also, if Disklavier’s music catalog sounds a bit dated, it is: their prime years for new recordings were in the 1990s and early 2000s, most of which is not recorded in high resolution.

In contrast, the Spirio musical catalog contains not only vintage classical and jazz recordings but many new recordings by contemporary piano artists.

Both Yamaha and Steinway deserve credit for their investment

Both Yamaha and Steinway & Sons deserve great credit for developing the self-playing piano as a 21st Century combination of an acoustic piano/home entertainment center.

Both companies have invested millions of dollars in design, cutting-edge technology, and marketing to restore the piano to the center of hundreds of thousands of homes worldwide.

As just one indicator of Spirio’s rise in popularity, over a third of all new Steinways sold today are Spirios.

While there is no question that the evolution of the Disklavier plowed the ground for any self-playing pianos to follow, Steinway & Sons has invigorated the self-playing piano market with a more usable interface, more recent activity on Music Library production, and the highest resolution of playback yet created for this kind of piano.

On the other hand, the Disklavier has earned applause lately for its performance during the pandemic as a Remote Performance Technology, which allows for remote performances, master classes, and other forms of remote learning.

With the addition of Spiriocast in 2021, Steinway & Sons is now pioneering a Steinway-caliber roster of ‘live’ performances.

Competition is good for piano buyers as well as for Yamaha and Steinway.  As each company strives to make their self-playing instruments even more sophisticated, both will be kept on their toes and will show prospective buyers their updated versions of the 21st Century player piano.

In the end, despite other technological differences, the choice may simply come down to whether the buyer wants a manufactured Yamaha or a handcrafted Steinway for their 21 Century player piano.

Summary: an in-store visit is always educational

We have taken a deeper look into the differences between the Yamaha Disklavier and Steinway Spirio in this article and hope that it helps you to choose the best 21st Century self-playing piano for you.

But an instrument this technologically advanced needs to be seen and heard up close and personal. Towards that end, we hope you will fill out the form below to make an in-store appointment with our informed and helpful M. Steinert & Sons staff.  They are available at either of our two locations in Boston and Newton, MA.

For further reading, please see these additional articles on the Steinway Spirio.

Is the Spirio worth it?

Could the Spirio ever become obsolete?

How much does a Steinway Spirio cost?

Spirio Pianos at M. Steinert & Sons


Request a Spirio Demonstration


Top 7 piano stores in the Greater Boston area

by Stephen N. Reed


If you are in the market for a piano, you will want to review your best options before making your final decision. Buying a piano is a major purchase and one that can last for decades. Being informed as to one’s choices is paramount in making this significant investment.

In an effort to be as transparent and helpful as possible to our customers, we are going to respond to this very common piano-shopping question: “If M. Steinert & Sons isn’t the right fit for me, which are the other best piano stores in Boston?”

Here is our list of the Top 7 piano stores in the Greater Boston area (in alphabetical order):

Caruso Piano Gallery (New London, CT)

Caruso’s main showroom is in New London, Connecticut.

They sell used pianos, with a heavy emphasis on Steinway and Yamaha, and specialize in “sight-unseen” and online purchases. They also feature the Roland line.

Darrell’s (Nashua, NH)

Founded in 1969, Darrell’s sells the following brands: Seiler, Schimmel, Yamaha, and Roland.

New Hampshire has no sales tax.

Note: You are required to report your piano purchase to your state of residence when you file your taxes.

East Cambridge Piano (Somerville, MA)

Owner James Nicoloro has been in the piano business for over 40 years.

He started out reconditioning older used pianos but has adapted his business model through the years to feature a variety of used and new pianos.

He sells rebuilt Steinways and Yamahas, and new Casio digital pianos.

Falcetti Pianos (Springfield, MA and Natick, MA)

Falcetti Pianos was founded in 2016. They opened a store in Natick (near Roger’s–see below) and added the Yamaha line which they took on after the prior Yamaha dealer closed.

They promote and sell Yamaha brand pianos, including the Yamaha-owned Bosendorfer.

They offer Mason & Hamlin and Estonia pianos, as well.

Piano Mill (Rockland, MA)

Piano Mill is Massachusetts’ exclusive Baldwin dealer. Most Baldwin pianos are now manufactured in Zhongshan, China (since 2008).

The iconic Baldwin brand name still has nostalgic value for many American families.

At Piano Mill, you will also find used and rebuilt pianos. Piano Mill also has a refinishing/restoration shop.

Roger’s Pianos (Natick, MA)

Roger’s Pianos offers many different brands of pianos. With showrooms in Burlington and Natick, they have carried these brands: Kawai, Baldwin, Samick, Bluthner, Bechstein, Fazioli, Pramburger, Stahler, Kurzweil, Ritemuller, Perzina, and others. For a short time they were the Yamaha dealer as well.

They sell player pianos and hybrids, and usually have used and rebuilt Steinways for sale, as well.

They also sell some lesser-known European brands.

Williams Piano Shop (Brookline, MA)

Another Yamaha dealer, Williams Piano Shop, is a family-run business.

Located in Brookline, they began as a service shop in 1927 and have continued in that tradition.

They also specialize in special event rentals.


Piano shopping tips and insights

As an aside, every piano buyer should know that it costs money to deliver a piano to your home, even if the delivery company is owned or partly owned by the dealer, although some dealers will tell you it’s “free”.

In other words, piano buyers always pay for the dealer delivery cost whether the dealer builds it into the priace of the piano or not.  Nothing is truly “free.”

Dealers who routinely offer free delivery include the cost of the delivery in the pricing of their piano, rather than presenting it as a separate line-item on your sales agreement. Trust us on this one… delivering a piano isn’t easy and definitely requires a paid professional!

Hopefully, with this basic information about piano stores near Boston, you will be in a better position to explore your piano-buying options within the Greater Boston region. And hopefully we have saved you some precious time.

Regardless of the brand or dealer, these three steps should be kept in mind:

1.  Determine the right balance of price and quality for you.
2.  Choose a manufacturer and seller you trust.
3.  Play the actual piano before you buy.

Ready to schedule a piano consultation?

M. Steinert & Sons understands that it would be easy to choose a different piano store than us. Competition has always been brisk, ever since Morris Steinert started our company all the way back in 1860.

Our philosophy has never really changed in all these years: To earn the trust of a customer, provide good service and the best quality pianos.

If you would like to learn more about our company and pianos, you can easily schedule an appointment using our Calendly link to either our Newton or Boston locations.

Playing a piano before buying it is not only common sense–it gives you a chance to test a variety of pianos to determine which is the one for you.  For more information, click on the links provided below.

Schedule a Visit to our Newton Showroom     Schedule a Visit to our Boston Showroom


“We’re not good because we’re old. We’re old because we’re good!”
– Brendan Murphy, President (4th generation)

Top links:

Differences Between Cheap and Expensive Pianos

Will a Grand-Style Piano Fit?

Pros and Cons of New vs Rebuilt Steinway


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