Free Customized Piano Recommendations for You >>> Piano Finder
by Stephen N. Reed, updated on 1/6/23
You’d really like to buy a grand piano, but your space is limited. What to do? A baby grand can be the perfect piano for the buyer who has a room in their home that is too small for a full grand but which can accommodate a piano that is a little bit smaller.
The term “baby grand” has been prevalent for decades but without universal agreement about the exact size of this kind of piano. The consensus is that a grand piano under 6′ in length is in the baby grand category.
In addition, the smaller size allows for some savings in the cost. The case and the soundboard all require a lesser amount of expensive materials.
While a baby grand piano can’t deliver the power of a full-sized grand, it usually produces more volume than an upright piano. So the buyer comes away experiencing many aspects of a grand piano, just in a smaller size and cost.
But what does a baby grand cost? That depends on whether it’s new or used, what brand it is, how old it is, and what condition it’s in. We’ve seen many baby grands at M. Steinert & Sons. We have been helping customers for 160 years to find the best piano for their needs.
By the of this article, we will give you a better idea of what kind of baby grand piano you can buy across a range of prices. It’s worth noting that in 2022-2023, the piano world experienced increased costs across the board, resulting in price increases ranging from 5% to 10%.
The used piano market is enormous. Some buyers will try out different used pianos at other piano stores, hoping to find a great deal while securing a piano with most of its life still ahead.
Others with less money look at “for sale by owner” types of pianos, including baby grands. These are not certified and typically are sold “as is,” as the individual seller is usually not interested in making repairs. They want to get rid of the piano, so they are willing to offer it for a low price.
“Free pianos abound in our marketplace,” says Steve Hauk, Sales Manager for M. Steinert & Sons. “Hire a reputable guild technician to assess it before accepting it.”
You can usually find a free baby grand or one for $500 or less without much effort. But the value of such pianos is often so poor as to have no musical value whatsoever. We’ve written an additional article on the questions to ask before accepting a free piano.
A 2023 look at the Boston-area Craigslist shows the kinds and qualities of baby grands at the next lower end of the price spectrum, $501 to $10,000.
For example, the year 2000, Petrof Chippendale for $7,900 with a player system (using floppy disks).
A 1988 Samick Grand in Gloss Walnut for $3900.
On any given day, one can find a baby grand with questionable or fading musical value in this price range.
The main problem with baby grands in this price range is that unless you bring a qualified piano technician along, you may never know how little you’re getting until you bring this sizable piece of furniture home. That is true whether one buys a new or used piano.
This is not to say that good, used baby grand pianos don’t exist. They do. But they are more likely to be found at an authorized piano dealer as Certified Pre-owned pianos for whichever brands you want to try out.
Certified Pre-owned pianos offered by authorized dealers are typically not older than 30 years and in good condition, having been checked by a professional piano technician. Certified Pre-owned pianos can run into the $20,000-$60,000 range and more for newer reputable brands and models.
Also, this range incorporates new Essex baby grands, the most affordable of the Steinway-designed pianos. A new model in this line is possible in this price range. Read more about their smaller grands here, like the EGP-155C Classic Grand and the EGP-155F French Provincial, starting at $15,900. Or you could look into the small Yamaha GB1K Baby Grand Piano, starting at $15,299.
Many take their chances on a used Steinway in this range without a technician’s opinion – this could make for a very dubious investment.
In this range, some good, new mid-high brand baby grands are available. For example, if you want to move up to a higher quality Steinway family piano, a new Boston baby grand, the 5’1″ GP-156 New Performance Edition II can be bought for $25,400.
A 5’3″ Yamaha Model C1X lists for $37,999
A 5’11” Kawai Model GX-2BLK list for $46,495
Some good, used Steinways can be found in this range with some effort.
Once the range is between $40,001–$85,000, much higher quality baby grand pianos are possible. For example, a Steinway Certified Pre-owned baby grand piano under 6′ falls into this range at different places depending on the age and condition.
The quality advantage of getting a Certified Pre-owned model comes from knowing that all Steinway parts have been used in any repairs. Steinway Authorized Dealers only certify pianos that are 30 years old or less.
This upper range of cost yields several advantages to the buyer who is in a position to pay more for a new baby grand. A new baby grand has a longer life, as it is freshly made. Plus, many piano companies offer a warranty with a new piano.
Steinway & Sons also offers a trade-up policy for any new Steinway, Boston, or Essex piano purchase. When you purchase any new or Pre-owned Steinway, 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.
Prices for high-quality new baby grands start within this $40,001–$85,000 range and go beyond it, too. Within this range, a Bechstein 160 costs $73,900. A Mason Hamlin B is $86,035. A Model S from Steinway costs $86,600. The cost for other new baby grands can go well beyond $85,000, as with the Fazioli F-156, which costs $135,100.
The best way to see if a baby grand is the right piano for you is to play some. We would enjoy showing you what baby grands are like from the Steinway family of pianos.
In the meantime, enjoy reading some additional information about how a baby grand can often fit in the same space as an upright piano:
by Stephen N. Reed
Yamaha makes a wide variety of piano models, of a wide range of quality. For example, some Yamahas are made with better woods than other of their models.
As a result, the smart piano buyer will want to do one’s research to determine whether the Yamaha models in their price range have the quality they desire. Understanding the different Yamaha model series is therefore very important.
The Essex line, developed for the entry market piano buyer by Steinway & Sons, has the same essential quality throughout their models. That includes the Steinway sound, which Steinway’s engineers brought to the Essex’s manufacturing process.
For comparative piano models, one may wonder which is the better piano, the Essex or the Yamaha. For the purposes of this comparison, we will compare the Essex EUP-123E vs. the Yamaha U-1 for upright pianos. Both brands have created quality products in these models, and one’s preference may come down to the two pianos’ tones.
By the time you’ve finished this article, you will be better informed as to the differences in these two piano brands and models. You’ll want to know these differences as the two models are essentially equivalent in price, between $9,000–$10,000 new.
Yamaha’s U series of upright pianos has gone through a redesign that has created some significant changes. For example, these pianos have major changes like refined scale designs, along with smaller touches like wider music desks.
Steve Hauk, Sales Manager for M. Steinert & Sons has seen U series models like the U-1 increase in popularity over time, noting that it has a bright sound that beginning students often enjoy.
“In a way, this bright quality to the U-1 goes well with early pieces a student learns, like those of Bach and Handel,” says Hauk. “But more tonal complexity is desirable as students continue in their piano lessons.”
This Yamaha brightness quality to their pianos’ tones is a frequent topic among piano users and online reviewers. Some have a concern that, however bright a U-1 piano is at the time of purchase, it will just get brighter as the hammer felts compact with use over time.
Others have noted that even a brand new U-1 can sound so bright as to be a piercing or punchy sound. Still others note that the touch seems too light and therefore is difficult to adjust well between dynamics. Still, many are pleased with this Yamaha model overall.
Refinements in all elements of sound production have given today’s U-1 a more resonant, if bright, voice with evenly balanced timbre across the entire keyboard.
The U-1 has rib configurations that add strength to the soundboard, while other advances further enhance rigidity, resonance, and structural stability.
U-1 hammers use materials selected for each model to provide optimum tone production, response, and long-term durability. U-1 is known for its light action.
A damping mechanism, formerly used only in grand pianos, prevents the fallboard from dropping abruptly onto the keyboard, guarding against accidental injury or damage.
The U-1 comes in the following colors: Polished Ebony, Polished White, Satin American Walnut, Polished Mahogany, and Satin Ebony.
In contrast to the Yamaha brightness, Essex models, including the EUP-123E, are characterized by a more warm tone, one with tonal complexity, and a reverberating bass.
The EUP-123E is also noted for a controllable action that can easily handle changes in dynamics.
Of all the aforementioned differences with the Yamaha U-1, the tone of the Essex EUP-123E is perhaps the most notable. When Steinway & Sons’ engineers created the Essex, they imported as much of the Steinway sound as possible to the Essex manufacturing process.
The result is a close approximation of a mellow tone known the world over from the public hearing it every time they listen to a Steinway & Sons piano on stage.
The EUP-123E is the tallest of the Essex uprights at 48.5, a half-inch taller than the Yamaha U-1.
Made by Steinway & Sons in collaboration with furniture designer William Faber, the EUP-123E has a grand-style leg top, a fold-back Top lid, brass hardware, and classic-style legs with a choice of Ebony Polish and Sapele Mahogany Satin finishes.
The EUP-123E uses high-grade, straight-grained, quarter-sawn spruce is selected for its resonant qualities and high strength-to-mass ratio. The soundboard is solid and not laminated, which creates the best resonance and projection of sound.
Like all Essex uprights, the EUP-123E has large backposts, giving a solid foundation for the resonating soundboard and tensioned vibrating strings. EUP-123A backpost locations are staggered, placed where the string tension is greatest.
A low tension string scale, designed by Steinway & Sons, gives a fuller, richer tone by allowing more of the lower partials to sing. It also has more sustain and has a more dynamic range than Yamaha’s U-1.
Materials play a role with the EUP-123E’s action touch, as well. The EUP-123E has all-wood action parts and solid spruce keys.
Like its sister brand, Boston, Essex grands and uprights have the distinction of having the benefit of Steinway & Sons’ nearly 170 years of innovation in creating their pianos.
With Essex, Steinway engineers had as their goal both an affordable line for the entry-level market yet also one that incorporated as much of the Steinway engineering as possible in a manufactured piano process.
As a result, for its price, Essex models, including the EUP-123E, surprise piano buyers by having a touch and a warm, mellow tone that is known around the world as “the Steinway sound.”
The result is a U-1 piano with a bright tone and a light action that may be decent for beginning piano students. However, its tone is limited for the more intermediate and advanced piano student. Such a student will need a piano with a more complex and subtle tonal range like the Essex EUP-123E provides.
To be clear, despite the fact that it gets brighter in tone with age, Yamaha’s U-1 is a good piano in several respects. It has become a popular model, such that Essex’s EUP-123E doesn’t always get the attention it deserves as the new kid on the block. Once you try the Essex EUP-123E, you may find that it is a worthy alternative to the Yamaha U-1.
The best way to determine which of these affordable, new uprights is for you is to play them for yourself. At M. Steinert & Sons, we encourage prospective customers to try other brands first at other piano companies and then compare ours to them with a visit to our showroom.
That is always the best way to find the piano that is best for you.
Meantime, read more about the Yamaha and Essex models in the articles linked below:
by Stephen N. Reed
Essex pianos were introduced into the introductory and mid-level markets in 2001 by Steinway & Sons with a limited number of models. The Essex models are designed and engineered in New York and manufactured in China, allowing them to be considerably more affordable than its parent company’s handcrafted models.
For several years, the Essex brand kept a low profile in the piano market. Then, In 2006, Essex had a major relaunch of Essex including a new line comprising 35 grand and 31 vertical models and finishes.
That relaunch included the popular upright piano, the Essex EUP-123E, the largest upright in Essex’s line at 48.5 “ in height.
The EUP-123E has a greater versatility of sound than other Essex uprights and is known for its stately appearance. This review will examine the EUP-123E, its dimensions, materials, and other features, and will address its pros and cons for specific buyers.
Width: 59½” – 59¾”
Net Weight: 561 lbs
Made in: China
At 48.5”, the EUP-123E is the tallest of the Essex uprights, balanced with well-proportioned, classically-styled straight legs.
The EUP-123E is designed by Steinway & Sons in collaboration with renowned furniture designer William Faber, featuring matching classic style legs with a grand-style leg top, a fold-back Toplid, brass hardware, and Ebony Polish and Sapele Mahogany Satin Finishes.
In an effort to address the needs of those buyers in the entry-level market, Steinway created Essex model like the 123E as a tribute to the idea that beautiful piano styles and finishes can and should be possible in every price range.
High-grade, straight-grained, quarter-sawn spruce is selected for its resonant qualities and high strength-to-mass ratio. The soundboard is solid and not laminated, which creates the best resonance and projection of sound.
In 1936, Steinway & Sons patented the diaphragmatic soundboard, which is thicker in the middle and gently tapered to the edges. The Essex soundboard is tapered from bass to treble resulting in a stronger, richer, fuller tone.
Like all Essex uprights, the EUP-123E has large backposts, giving a solid foundation for the resonating soundboard and tensioned vibrating strings. EUP-123E back post locations are staggered, placed where the string tension is greatest.
These sturdy backposts provide superb tone and maximum stability, ensuring the piano will last, tunings will be more stable, and piano tone will be enhanced for the years and decades to come.
A low tension string scale, designed by Steinway & Sons, gives a fuller, richer tone by allowing more of the lower partials to sing. It also has more sustain and has a more dynamic range than competitor uprights.
Materials play a role with the EUP 123E’s action touch, as well. All-wood action parts, solid spruce keys, and action geometry work together to move the hammers to the strings. A warm, resonant tone results.
If you decide to trade in your Essex piano for a new Boston or Steinway grand piano of double value at any time within five years, you will receive a trade-in credit equal to your original purchase.
At M. Steinert & Sons, we encourage our customers to try other brands first, then to come into our Boston or Newton showrooms to try models in our Steinway Family of Pianos: Steinway & Sons, Boston, or Essex.
In the meantime, learn more about how Essex pianos are infused by Steinway’s design, adding value to this entry-level line of pianos or learn more about the other features of the Essex EUP-123E.
by Stephen N. Reed
When choosing a piano, you’re also choosing the piano store that sells it to you. For many years, M. Steinert & Sons has offered a Trade-Up policy that adds significant value to your purchase, allowing payments to be applied to a new piano later.
Most piano companies offer some kind of Trade-Up policy. But unless a company is sound and will be around later to honor their Trade-Up policy, your policy won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.
M. Steinert’s track record over 160 years makes our Trade-Up policy meaningful, as we are a piano company that will be around to help you convert your first piano payments to a second, better piano of greater value.
Having sold pianos from the Steinway Family of pianos for over 150 years, we know that piano needs can change for an individual customer or a family. Perhaps the ideal piano model is out of reach financially but could be obtainable in a few years?
We want you to secure–whether now or ultimately–the right piano for you. That’s what our Trade-Up policy is all about. This article will explain the two Trade-Up policies M. Steinert offers and when to use them.
This policy provides that any Steinway & Sons piano, new or used, acoustic or digital, purchased from M. Steinert & Sons receives 100% of the original purchase price for the life of the original purchaser towards any new, larger Steinway & Sons piano of greater value.
The piano must be in reasonable, age-appropriate condition. Original purchase price honored excludes taxes and delivery.
Example 1: You purchased a Steinway Model S in 2017 for $67,600 – get that amount towards a new Steinway & Sons Model B.
Example 2: You purchased a Boston upright, Model UP-118E EP 46″ for $13,900–you’ll get that amount if you later decide to buy a Steinway Model S baby grand at any point in your life.
Receive 100% of your purchase price as trade towards any piano bought from M. Steinert & Sons (including Boston, Essex, and Roland lines) of double value for up to 5 years.
Example: You purchased a Roland Digital piano for $4,000 on 12/1/2020, you will get that full amount towards any piano costing $8,000 or more until 12/1/25.
The reasons for Trading Up to a better piano are numerous. M. Steinert & Sons piano consultants give these examples:
Of course, a major factor as to the right time to use the Trade-Up Policy/Promise is when the time is right financially for you. However, part of that financial equation, especially for the other brands included in the M. Steinert & Sons’ Full Value Trade-Up Promise, is to not lose your initial piano investment by waiting after the five-year limit.
Trading up within 5 years is akin to trading up to a larger home when the housing market is at its highest. The larger home is made much more affordable by recovering the full value of the first home.
A new piano, purchased after the first one, will be far more obtainable with the help of that initial piano investment and without having to deal with the hassles of a private sale.
That is the real value of the M. Steinert Trade-Up Policy/Promise: a customer can be in a much more advantageous position towards obtaining the piano of their dreams, even as they purchase the right first piano for their needs right now.
As with all matters pertaining to a final decision towards purchasing a piano, a trip to the showroom to discuss any questions you have with one of our seasoned piano consultants can give you peace of mind. M. Steinert & Sons has based its reputation through customers who not only like their piano selection on the day of purchase but longterm in their home.
One of our piano consultants can answer any further questions you may have regarding the Trade-Up Policy/Promise or financing the piano that is right for you. Make an appointment today to begin that important, ongoing discussion.
Meantime, learn more about the financing options available by reading this article from our Expert Advice section of our website:
by Stephen N. Reed
The stated purpose of the Essex line of pianos is to show that high-quality piano styles and finishes are possible in every price range.
That is a lofty goal, one some find hard to believe. As a manufactured piano, how can it even come close to the resonant tone of a handcrafted Steinway?
For starters, Essex is part of the Steinway family of pianos and, as such, features many Steinway design elements in each model in the Essex line.
You might say that the Essex is the grandchild of the venerable Steinway. It is a younger line but one with the same DNA as its grandparent. Thus they share many family traits.
Essex design was informed by 170 years of piano patents and innovations. M. Steinert & Sons has tracked those Steinway innovations over the generations and has seen many satisfied customers leaving our store with an affordable, high-quality Essex model.
Our goal hasn’t changed since we were established in 1860–to help our piano customers to find the best piano for them. For entry-level piano buyers, that piano is often an Essex. In short, Essex satisfies the needs and budget requirements of the discerning homeowner.
Though Essex can suit a wide range of piano players, it has captured a significant share of the entry-level market because of its lower price point and Steinway design. Understandably, a family may wish to see if their child is going to stick with their piano lessons before purchasing a luxury piano.
Essex’s success with beginner students of the piano is very much in keeping with the reason Steinway developed the Essex line: to become competitive with other piano companies for this entry-level of the piano market.
By the end of this article, you will have learned about the effects of adding the Steinway design to a manufactured piano. You’ll also determine for yourself whether Steinway succeeded in designing an entry-level piano that is best-in-class.
The Essex line was launched in 2001. The company intentionally kept a low profile for the first few years. After all, it incorporated much of the Steinway DNA–using new Steinway design, engineering, and select materials–in a new combination that had never been tried before in a manufactured piano.
The Steinway engineers’ ultimate goal was to create a new piano that could deliver a level of musical quality and performance that had heretofore been impossible in the Essex line’s considerably lower price range.
Steinway began to make significant changes to the Essex line in 2006. For starters, Steinway moved the entire Essex operation to the Pearl River facility in China, eventually moving Essex’s technical director to China to oversee production there. When Steinway decided to include “Designed by Steinway” on the Essex piano plate, the Essex had arrived.
Essex makes a line of grand pianos that, for their price, are well-regarded for being the gateway to the full Steinway sound. A manufactured grand’s tone will not be expected to have every nuance in its range of color that a handcrafted Steinway possesses.
However, more than any other grand in its class, Essex engineers have advanced their concept of an affordable piano greatly by bringing much of the Steinway design to Essex’s production process.
Essex brings that same Steinway DNA to their uprights, which are consistently popular, especially for beginning students.
The largest Essex upright is the EUP-123E. It offers greater versatility of sound than its industry counterparts because of the Steinway engineers’ ability to transfer much of the Steinway design to this manufactured piano.
Buyers say that they like the EUP-123E’s timeless design, which makes it fit in well with a wide range of interior styles.
EUP-123E Key features include:
Every Essex instrument is inspected by a team of highly experienced Steinway & Sons trained technicians before it leaves the factory. After the sale, each Essex piano is backed by Steinway & Sons with a factory warranty and serviced by Steinway-trained technicians.
By utilizing specially engineered materials, large-scale production techniques, and carefully selected manufacturing environments, Essex is able to deliver a level of musical performance previously unattainable in its price range.
Any piano, new or used, acoustic or digital, purchased from M. Steinert & Sons receives 100% of the original purchase price for the life of the original purchaser towards any new larger Steinway & Sons piano of greater value.
The infusion of much of the Steinway design into Essex’s pianos makes it an excellent option for the customer who wants as much of the Steinway sound as they can get in a more affordable Essex model.
Steinway engineers have managed to bring much of the Steinway design to their sister brands, Essex and Boston. To make your own determination on that score, you’ll need to come into one of M. Steinert’s two showrooms in Boston and Newton.
Come test some Essex models for yourself. Compare the sound of an Essex grand or upright with their counterparts in the Steinway and Boston lines.
For the Steinway DNA quality and tone included in every Essex, along with a more affordable price point, the Essex is worth investigating, especially for beginner piano students.
Make an appointment to see one of M. Steinert’s seasoned piano consultants today. In the meantime, learn more about the Essex line.
by Stephen N. Reed
Upright pianos have long had a welcome place in many American homes. For those who don’t have the space or the budget for a grand piano, uprights can be a perfect fit. But which among the modern top quality uprights is the best model and why?
Let’s explore the main contenders for “best quality upright” among the models produced today. After all, who would want to select a new upright, only to find out later that a better upright would have only cost a bit more?
Here at M. Steinert & Sons, we’ve sold thousands of upright pianos over the past 160 years, including the period at the turn of the 20th century when they were intensely popular in America. As an Authorized Steinway Dealer, we naturally believe Steinway pianos have a lot to offer. However, so do other high-quality piano brands, some of which we’ll examine in this article.
Then and now, we have helped our customers find the best pianos for them, many of which were upright pianos, whether serving as a beginner’s first piano or a starter piano that could lead eventually to a further investment in a grand piano.
By the end of this article, you will understand the upright piano’s background and will be familiar with the top upright piano models across several top-quality brands. From these top models, we’ll explain which one is the best upright.
The immediately noticed difference in an upright piano is that the strings and soundboard run vertically, perpendicular to the keyboard. Early uprights had strings that started upward from the same level as the keys.
As a result, these earlier instruments were considerably taller, providing ample space on the case for a variety of decorative designs.
The strings in today’s upright pianos run upward from the bottom of the case, that is, near the floor. This design dates back to 1800, created by Sir John Isaac Hawkins, a leading English piano maker living in Philadelphia.
Uprights have come in a variety of heights. The shortest ones are cons0les or spinets. Due to their shorter strings and smaller soundboards, they have less power and quality to their tone. The larger upright pianos (more than 50” tall) took off in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and remain the preferred size for uprights today.
One important difference between the grand and the upright is in the action of both. Grands have a quicker, more responsive action due to the horizontal strings, which allows the hammers to fall naturally back into place thanks to gravity after they strike strings.
The upright’s action returns to a resting position with the help of springs rather than gravity alone. As a result, the upright has a different touch.
Uprights, therefore, are not made for the concert stage. A practice room, yes. Definitely the home, especially one with a premium of square feet.
Yamaha has put considerable effort into a comprehensive redesign of their U series of upright pianos. These uprights have refined scale designs, as well as wider music desks for the player’s sheet music or music books.
Steve Hauk, Sales Manager for M. Steinert & Sons, says that Yamaha’s U Series of upright pianos are well-regarded. He notes that the U-1 (48” tall) and the U-3 (52” tall) are popular first pianos for many piano students.
“Beginning piano students are often enamored with the brightness of the Yamaha sound,” said Steve. “In a way, it compliments a lot of the early repertoire, like Bach and Handel. But as students progress musically, more tonal complexity is desirable.”
Steve Hauk says that Kawai K-series uprights compete with the Yamaha U-series and have a similar tone.
Kawai calls this series its “Professional Upright Pianos.” Popular with some parents and teachers, these pianos are produced with the Kawai Upright Action with plastic/composite parts rather than wood.
Kawai swears by this composite action, citing its stability. Others maintain that a quality wood action, despite its occasional swelling and shrinking, is still the standard.
Merriam Music has an unbiased take on the wood vs. composite action debate. They state that a composite action might last longer than a low to mid-grade wooden action. However, a top-quality wooden action can last just as long. Additionally, composite actions appear to have no impact on tone. Also, they have no discernible benefit or risk to resale value.
Steve Hauk says that, like the Yamaha U series, Kawai’s K series uprights remain a popular choice for first-time piano students. They come in three sizes: the K-400 (48”), the K-500 (51”), and the K-800 (53”).
Steinway-designed Essex pianos, the least expensive of the three brands in the Steinway Family (Steinway, Boston, and Essex), are considered the gateway to the full Steinway sound.
Steve Hauk cites four popular Essex uprights: the smaller EUP-108 (42”), the EUP-111 (44”), the EUP-116 (45”), and the EUP-123 (48”).
“The Essex uprights are excellent for everyday use in the home,” says Hauk. “And they are quite affordable. They share many features with the more expensive Boston and Steinway uprights, including a tapered solid spruce soundboard for long sustain, lower-tension scale design for a richer tone, and a responsive all-wood action made from high-quality maple.
One benefit to buying an Essex upright is that any payments on a new Essex (or Boston) can be applied to a later Steinway purchase, per Steinway’s Lifetime Trade-Up Policy. This is due to their being a part of the Steinway Family of pianos.
Boston is a step up from its Essex cousin, both in materials and design. Aside from being a production piano in contrast to a handcrafted Steinway, the distinctions between Bostons and Steinways can be hard to discern. Both have the Steinway touch and tone. Both have enormous power in their grands, as well as their uprights.
“When Steinway engineers started to consider their designs for Boston pianos, they decided to get feedback from many music professors,” says Steve Hauk. “To a large extent, what you see in today’s Boston pianos is what the music professors wanted in a piano. They are built with music conservatories in mind, as well as for residential use.”
Steve notes three popular Boston uprights: the UP-118 (46”), the UP-126 (50”), and the UP-132 (52”).
“All of these models have an exceptional sustain and clarity, due to Steinway’s renowned lower-tension scale designs,” notes Steve. “The soundboards are of the highest quality. They each have the Hard Rock Maple you see in classic Steinways, including the patented Hexagrip pin block. All Boston uprights feature the staggered backposts for added structural integrity. In short, Bostons play better and last longer.”
Boston’s launch in the early 1990’s was the most successful in modern piano-making history.
Steinway & Sons is best known for their iconic grand pianos, whether for the stage, practice room or home. However, they are quick to point out on the upright piano page on their website that their famous Model K-52 is handcrafted in the same Astoria, New York factory as their grands.
Steinway’s uprights continue to have the same materials, techniques, conditioning processes and craftspeople. They are simply built in the “vertical department” at the Astoria factory, where the processes are vertically oriented.
Steinway’s 1098 upright is no longer in production, though one can still find several of these models on the used piano market. It was a small upright, 46.5” in height.
Currently, Steinway is putting all of its upright focus on the K-52, a large, powerful instrument. Introduced in 1903, the 52” K-52 uses the highest grade of materials and features a larger soundboard than many grands, giving it an unusually resonant voice for an upright.
Many professional piano players seeking an upright piano buy the K-52, because of that resonance and power. Additionally, they like the structural integrity that the solid wood, staggered backposts provide the K-52.
“Steinway doesn’t want to cede any part of the piano market,” says Steve Hauk. “That’s why they have intentionally chosen to retain and refine the K-52 upright over the last hundred years. What gives it that rich, deep sound is its design.
Hauk believes that the K-52 simply has one of the best-engineered scale designs of any piano, grand or upright.
“Obviously, many people need an upright for its smaller size.,” notes Steve. “But you know what? When a potential buyer sees that they can get this kind of Steinway sound in a much less expensive package, that speaks to them, too.”
For the aforementioned reasons–a well-engineered scale design, the highest grade of materials, a larger soundboard, and a deep, rich Steinway sound–Hauk believes that the K-52 is simply the best upright piano built today.
“The others we’ve mentioned are all respected piano brands and models,” says Steve. “Yamaha and Kawai each have something to offer. For example, some pianists may prefer the quicker composite-based action in the Kawai piano. Similarly, some jazz pianists may prefer the brighter sound in Yamahas.”
But Steve maintains that Steinway’s K-52 is unique, particularly its bell-like Steinway sound.
“It’s handcrafted, and that adds so much to every dimension of a piano, especially an upright, with its super responsive action,” says Steve. “There’s a reason Steinway has been making the K-52 since the turn of the 20th century. Professionals and regular players just like them. They like the power, the resonance, and that warm Steinway sound.”
Any payments made on a new K-52 can be applied to a later Steinway grand, per M. Steinert & Sons lifetime Trade-Up policy.
Learn more about the cost of modern upright pianos by reading the following article:
How much does an upright piano cost?
by Stephen N. Reed (updated for 2023 pricing and pianos on 1/30/23)
Since John Isaac Hawkins built the first upright (i.e., vertical) piano in 1800, these pianos have been quite popular. Their smaller size has made them perfect for use in the home.
Uprights have often been seen as a good first piano, especially for beginners. Culturally speaking, they have helped introduce piano playing to millions of people, especially in America, where they became a fixture in many families’ parlors.
Like all musical instruments over the years, the cost of upright pianos has steadily increased, especially in the 2021-2023 period. You may wonder if they are still the most cost-effective way to enjoy an acoustic piano. The answer is yes unless an upright is at the end of its life cycle.
However, uprights come in many brands and models, new and used, and the savvy buyer will investigate the range of upright options in the current market.
Here at M. Steinert & Sons, we have listened well to our customers for over 160 years, allowing us to help them find the right piano for each of them. Uprights can be an excellent first piano for many in terms of price, size, and learning to play the piano.
By the end of this article, you will become familiar with several upright models across a range of prices. As a result, you’ll be better positioned to choose the upright piano that is best for you.
At the low end of the upright spectrum, one can expect to find many free pianos, which are generally worth what you pay for them. We examined this before in a previous column.
Occasionally, a used upright piano from a reputable brand may be found if the owner wants to expedite the sale of their piano. Craigslist and other sites like it might have the occasional deal in this range – but keep in mind moving costs and the potential for unknown issues.
Within this range, a recent and more lightly-used upright is possible in fair to good condition if from a reputable brand. The difference between these uprights and those in the $0-$1,000 range is the quality of the brands of the used pianos available.
Examples in this range, as advertised online*, include:
*Please note that used piano prices posted here and online are ballpark figures, not actual values. Those can only be estimated after review by a trained independent technician. Age and musical quality are critical factors in determining value.
We see better quality used uprights and even the beginning of some brands’ economy uprights in this price range.
However, for many buyers, the relatively low cost does not make up for the instability and poor tone quality frequently found in used pianos within this range. Stencil and economy pianos are manufactured to a single design.
Stencil and economy pianos tend to use lower-quality materials and easier-to-build designs. They are built to meet a price point rather than a quality standard.
Within this range, one’s options greatly expand when buying a good, production upright, whether new or used. The quality of new and used uprights in this price range is higher.
Buying new in this range allows for some significant benefits, including multi-year warranties and, for Steinway-designed models, a Trade-Up policy that allows all of one’s investment in a new upright to be applied later to a new Steinway if desired.
This range begins to allow for some used handcrafted pianos, like Steinway and Bosendorfer.
This range covers most quality new production brands and top-quality used models. For example, the Boston, Steinway’s top brand next to Steinway itself, has some new upright models within this range. Also, better quality used handcrafted pianos are available.
This is the range in which one’s quality options for a new upright piano really kick into high gear. The selection includes a wide variety of excellent new production pianos and a growing number of new handcrafted pianos.
Hopefully, the examples of used and new uprights above give you a better idea of what you can get within each price range. We want to offer one thought for your consideration on your buyer’s journey.
A poor or mediocre grand is not better than a fine-quality upright. Indeed, fine uprights are several times more costly than lower-quality grands. It is not merely the design that establishes the overall quality of a piano but the materials and workmanship. Only the best grands are better than the best uprights.
But if a grand piano isn’t an option right now, then getting the best possible quality upright is a fine choice, especially in terms of fitting the space available in one’s home and the space within your checkbook.
Ultimately, a good quality vertical piano will outperform and outlast a poorly made, inexpensive grand piano.
The best way to get a feel for the differences between upright models is to try some models yourself. We encourage you to go to other stores first to try their models. Then come to M. Steinert & Sons to look into the uprights in the Steinway family of pianos; Steinway, Boston, and Essex.
The upright models in all three brands possess the Steinway tone and many of the same materials. Boston and Essex are production uprights, while Steinway’s K-52 is handcrafted. Any payments on a new Boston and Essex can be applied to a later Steinway purchase, per Steinway’s lifetime Trade-Up policy.
For more information on New vs. Used pianos and how pianos age, click here.
By Stephen N. Reed
One of the most common desires expressed by piano shoppers, especially those making a purchase for their child, is to buy the cheapest possible piano that still does the job. Those are the two main considerations: cost and general performance by the instrument.
After all, the future is unknown. Will the child stick with piano lessons for the long haul or give up after a while?
At M. Steinert & Sons, we identify with any parent’s need to find the best piano for their needs. Spending hard-earned money on a large musical instrument deserves focused attention.
But focus is also needed to find an affordable piano that will give one’s child every chance of success at the keyboard. No parent wants to go to the trouble of purchasing a piano without their child wanting to play it.
However, that unintentionally happens frequently. A child who feels that their family piano is not worth their hours of practicing can often give up too easily.
Then the family is stuck with a rather large and heavy piece of wooden furniture that collects dust in the corner of a room–or a digital piano that is given away to a relative.
In this article, we will track the thoughts of one of our customers, Chris of Arlington, Massachusetts, whose daughter is about to begin piano lessons. As a result, Chris is beginning to explore what kind of piano to purchase for her.
Balancing that with Chris’s present budget and space in his home will be a key factor in his upcoming purchase of their family’s first piano.
Before getting into the options available for beginners, we spoke with Chris at length about what was behind his interest in supporting his daughter’s upcoming lessons.
He explained that his father was quite a piano player, though he played by ear, not by sight-reading. Chris hopes that this daughter may have inherited some of his father’s abilities at the piano.
In addition to Chris having a piano in his home growing up, he has become a musician himself, playing both the mandolin and the guitar in a local music group.
He’s bought top instruments for both of those efforts, so he’s aware of the benefit of having a quality musical instrument, especially for the ongoing motivation of a young beginner.
However, he still wants to be careful with this first piano, as he waits to see if his daughter “takes” to her piano lessons or not.
Chris has a second-story townhouse, reached by a narrow staircase. As a result, a grand for his daughter’s first piano might be a tall order, both in terms of space and in hauling it up that staircase.
That leads us to recommend options in upright piano models like Essex, a Steinway-designed, less expensive brand, as well as digital pianos like Roland. Roland makes a credible case that a good, digital piano can serve well as a first piano.
Chris is committed to read some articles on our M. Steinert & Sons website to learn more about pianos in his price range. Then he can start to know some actual options.
We suggested that one way for Chris to slice the Gordian Knot on price/quality would be to rent a quality piano for a number of months.
That way, Chris can wait to see if his daughter seriously takes to playing the piano, while giving her every opportunity to succeed with a quality upright piano that Chris doesn’t have to buy.
Chris would be putting a “toe in the water of acoustic pianos” without having to make a huge investment yet. That could wait for their second piano some time hence.
Giving his daughter an acoustic piano to play will give her a better idea of the pianos yet to come in her life, as opposed to the still good but much different experience of playing a digital piano.
Simply put, one shouldn’t expect to replicate the acoustic piano experience through a digital model.
Chris found this renting idea to be an interesting one and said he’d keep it in mind as he did his reading and research. To allow for the possibility of purchasing the piano he is renting, Chris will want to look into a rent-to-own arrangement.
Chris echoes the concerns raised frequently by parents wanting to do right by their promising child while still making a wise choice for a piano.
Until enough time has passed to determine the seriousness of the young student’s genuine interest, a parent has every right to wait and see.
Nevertheless, a parent like Chris also wants to give his daughter every chance to enjoy playing the piano as a lifelong pursuit. That begins with one’s very first piano and whether the young student feels empowered to play it.
In short, Chris realizes that he can’t just give his child anything to play. His choice needs to be one that his daughter looks forward to playing.
True, a beginner need not have the most expensive of pianos. However, getting the cheapest piano can backfire, too. Young students can be surprisingly sensitive to the pianos they play. If the piano given to them is not inviting and seems more like a temporary arrangement, so, too, can their interest in playing music become temporary.
Finding just the right piano for you–that is what has set M. Steinert apart since 1860. Each of our tens of thousands of customers has known that their concerns and needs were heard by our experienced piano consultants.
If you are considering a piano purchase for a young person in your family or simply to enhance your home with live music, come visit one of our two showrooms in South Boston and Newton.
Meantime, start your own research with these articles to learn more about what could be your very first piano!
by Stephen N. Reed
Ready to take a deep dive into Steinway & Sons’ Essex line of pianos? At M. Steinert & Sons, we’ve been selling Essex pianos since they were introduced by Steinway & Sons. Along with the Boston line, Essex pianos were developed for many years.
The Essex line was developed by Steinway & Sons to help them become competitive with other piano companies for the entry-level of the piano market. Next, we’ll review the effects of adding the Steinway design to a manufactured piano. Does it work?
Steinway understands that not everyone can afford a new Steinway. So their challenge was to create an affordable, quality piano that retains much of the ‘Steinway DNA”–the latest design and engineering enhancements that go into all of Steinway’s pianos.
As a result, the Essex can deliver a level of musical performance previously unattainable in its price range.
Steinway began to make significant changes to the Essex line in 2006. For starters, Steinway moved the entire Essex operation to the Pearl River facility in China.
Then, as a clear indication of the seriousness of Steinway’s Essex changes, Steinway relocated their technical director from New York to China to oversee Essex production there. They even placed “Designed by Steinway” on the Essex plate for the first time.
Steinway & Sons has backed up that signature on the nameplate with Steinway-designed additions, many Steinway-specified parts, and manufacturing procedures, including the following:
For example, owing to the Steinway-designed rim shape, Essex grand pianos are wider at the tail than most pianos of comparable length. This creates a larger soundboard area, giving the Essex a richer sound.
The Steinway-designed soundboard is tapered, not uniformly thick, allowing it to vibrate more freely and provide more tonal volume.
The soundboard has to be quarter-sawn, close-grained, solid spruce. Eight grains per inch is the specification, which is very high for a production piano. Finding any specifications of this sort on similarly-priced pianos is often difficult.
Essex pianos have a Steinway-designed, all-wood action for greater durability, responsiveness, and control.
Essex’s hammers are made of 15lb premium wool outer-felt and a distinctly separate premium wool under-felt. The hammers are reinforced with compression wire (not simply glued as some manufacturers will do) and retain a pear-shaped design. The compression wire is important for reliability, and the pear-shaped design enhances the Essex’s tone.
As part of the overall Steinway design, the action parts use solid maple for all moving parts. The keys are made of spruce and are individually balanced and weighted. The keybed is made of laminated maple and spruce wood, and the dampers consist of solid hardwood heads and premium wool.
The Essex pin block is Steinway-designed, but it is in multiple layers: 19 layers, very thin, of maple, layered at 90-degree distributions. This concept, choosing maple, then placing laminations at 90 degrees is a Steinway family trait, one not exclusive to the brand but a good feature.
Strings require good steel. Like Steinway, the Essex uses Roslau high tensile wire in the treble keys. For the bass keys, Roslau wire steel core, wound with pure copper, is used. Using quality steel strings gives the Essex a richer tone than expected for its price point.
Backposts are made of spruce wood as in the Boston and Steinway lines. Backposts are for uprights only. They are staggered in the areas of highest tension and have industry-leading cross-sectional area, thickness, and width.
Braces are for grands. The Essex grand features the Steinway design of radial bracing. This is harder to do, but creates a much more solid foundation for the piano. There is no skimping here: their braces are laminated beech, unique to the Essex
Bridges must be maple, vertically laminated, capped with solid maple. This rule is the same for Boston and Steinway bridges.
All of the aforementioned details work in concert to provide a playing experience that would otherwise be impossible at this price point, design, materials, and craftsmanship that only Steinway can create in the Essex home piano.
As the least expensive line in the Steinway & Sons family, the Essex has sometimes been misunderstood and mischaracterized. True, in the early going, Essex pianos were not as consistent in some areas as the Boston and Steinway lines. Plus, the fact that the Essex was manufactured rather than handcrafted was an obvious contrast with its Steinway counterpart.
The upshot of this is that some piano customers came into the M. Steinert & Sons showroom with the misconception that the Essex was not a good piano–simply because it is not a handcrafted Steinway.
However, the amount of Steinway-design features included in the Essex give it a rich tone for a piano of its price point. Additionally, the woods and other materials elevate the Essex and make it a consistent instrument in accord with Steinway & Sons’ high standards.
Steinway drew on the talents of popular furniture designer William Faber to create the Essex with the idea that attractive piano styles and finishes should be available in every price range. The Essex is available in an array of models, styles, and veneers and features traditional styling and finishes of museum quality.
While much of the same woods, like maple and beech, are used in the Essex and Steinway, the price for the Essex is kept much lower largely due to the large-scale production techniques, in contrast to the handcrafted process used to create a Steinway.
In addition, specially-engineered materials help to bring down the price point for the Essex, along with well-selected manufacturing environments.
One other way Essex is a part of the Steinway family is through its complete investment assurance. Each Essex piano is backed by Steinway & Sons and serviced by Steinway-trained technicians.
Additionally, at M. Steinert & Sons, each Essex buyer has the same trade-in guarantee as any Steinway or Boston piano: their Essex will be given a trade-in credit equal to their original purchase price on a new Steinway grand piano at any time within ten years.
The hierarchy of the Steinway-designed piano lines has been the handcrafted Steinway, followed by the Boston line, then Essex. This placement seemed even more established in 2009 when Steinway & Sons went about “boosting the Boston” to make the Boston the main alternative to Steinway.
But today’s Essex line has come a long way.
“Today’s Essex pianos are at their best and most consistent in tone and touch,” says Vivian Handis, a sales consultant at M. Steinert & Sons since 2002. Vivian brings well-rounded depth to the piano selection process as a pianist, piano educator, parent, and product specialist.
Vivian holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from Boston University and was recently elected to the New England Piano Teachers’ Association Board of Directors. Dedicated to outstanding customer service, Vivian’s transition from teacher to consultant has provided a new framework for supporting pianists of all ages and levels.
In 2013, after 11 years of service in our Boston store, she relocated to Steinert’s MetroWest location. Vivian delights in serving our growing community of piano enthusiasts, professionals, and emerging artists.
“Today’s Essex has an integrity of tone and impressive sustain,” Vivian explains. “They possess inherent beauty and color. A pianist plays but also “paints” with sound. For example, coloring is much more interesting and inspiring with a 120-color box of Crayolas than a box with just 8 crayons.”
Vivian says she was deeply moved while listening to a talented young pianist play on an Essex that inspired him deeply, “This makes sense when you realize that the little Essex’s DNA is born from the Steinway Model D concert grand,” she notes.
“Is the Essex a good piano?” The answer is clear: thanks to its Steinway design, the Essex is, quite simply, the best piano available in its price range today.
We’ve learned how the Essex came into being, as one of two lines created by Steinway & Sons to meet the demands of the piano market, particularly the entry-level end. The combination of solid materials and several Steinway-design features add value to this manufactured piano that its competitors do not have.
While the Essex may not be the ideal choice for a concert pianist or a college music department, it is an excellent option for the beginner piano student and any customer wanting to re-start their piano playing with an eye towards a future Steinway purchase through the M. Steinert & Sons lifetime trade-in policy.
For the Steinway DNA quality included in every Essex, the resulting consistency in the tone of today’s Essex, and a more than reasonable price point, this piano line has earned solid grades overall and will bring to any buyer many years of musical enjoyment.
To learn more about the Essex line, take a look at M. Steinert & Sons’ Essex line page.
In the search for universal truths regarding acoustic pianos – the list usually comes up short. We’ve developed a simple concept called the “two triangles” that attempts to explain differences between ALL pianos. Lofty goal? Yes. Impossible? You be the judge…
Not all pianos are created equal, and furthermore, time plays a huge role in the musical life of a given piano. There are so many myths spun about old pianos, it’s hard to know where to begin! Hopefully this video is a start and sheds some light on how and why pianos sound and feel different (over time!).