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A Review of Spirio: Steinway & Sons’ 21st century player piano

by Stephen N. Reed


When you say the words “player piano,” your mind probably goes back to an older upright from the early part of the 20th century.  Such early player pianos reached their greatest popularity n the early 1920s, as radio sets and record players grew in popularity.  But for several decades, player pianos were the early 20th century’s home entertainment center.

To get a feel for the original player piano again and to see how they work, go to this video.

Today’s modern player piano is a huge advancement from the early player pianos. Gone are the old piano rolls and in their place, digital recordings continue the tradition of a player piano being not only playable but an entertainment center with thousands of recording recordings.

Old upright player piano
Early player pianos reached their greatest popularity n the early 1920s, as radio sets and record players grew in popularity.  (Image by Morgan von Gunten at Unsplash.)

This digital technology adds to the price of a new grand piano, so making the best choice for your home is essential.  No one wants to have buyer’s remorse regarding such a significant purchase.

M. Steinert & Sons has been helping customers find the best piano for them for over 160 years.   We’ve been tracking the modern player piano models from the earliest player grand piano models to today’s Steinway & Sons’ Spirio. We can answer your questions when it comes to the modern player piano revolution and its current models.

In a recent interview, M. Steinert President Emeritus Paul Murphy traced the beginnings of the earliest player grand pianos sold by M. Steinert in the early part of the 20th century.

“At that time, Aeolian had a pneumatic ‘pumper’ player that used pedals to move air through the device,” notes Paul. “These were usually uprights although some were grands. The original players only played about 65 notes and there was no ’nuance’ to the notes. Think off and on.”

But as time went on, Paul says that Aeolian developed “reproducer” mechanisms that could reproduce the loud and soft play of the original performer.

“Later models with a “B” drawer could accommodate long-playing rolls and some included an electric clock which would activate the mechanism every hour between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.” says Paul. “The piano would play about two minutes of music appropriate to the hour. I thought of it as a sort of ship’s clock with music instead of bells.   M. Steinert sold all of these.”

The 21st century player piano has much more nuance and other capabilities than the player grand pianos of the early 20th century. By the end of this article, you will understand better the 21st century aspects of Steinway & Sons’ Spirio.

Steinway & Sons gets in the game

Steinway & Sons’ decision to get into the modern player piano market in 2015 with its Spirio signaled that the modern player piano was not a flash in the pan.  With its ability to be both a fully-functioning piano combined with high-resolution playback and recording experience, modern player pianos like Spirio redefined the market.

Front of Steinway & Sons' Spirio player piano
Steinway & Sons’ engineers worked to create in Spirio a modern player piano that was user-friendly and which featured adaptable technology that guarded against becoming obsolete.

Steinway & Sons was taking a risk, as its reputation was built on handcrafted pianos of exceptional musical quality, not blending technology and traditional piano design.  Would Spirio be a good fit in a player piano market?

On the other hand, having the latest digital technology plus a handcrafted Steinway all in one package could be the complete package for many 21st Century piano buyers.

Plus, for those who might not play the piano but wanted the combination of the high-definition, 5,000+ recordings audio library plus a top-quality, handcrafted Steinway piano was an appealing combination.

Visiting family members and friends who play the piano or who simply share a love of exceptional music recordings can enjoy hours of the high-resolution recordings on Spirio with the homeowner.

For all these potential customers, Steinway & Sons’ engineers worked to create in Spirio a modern player piano that was user-friendly and which featured adaptable technology that guarded against becoming obsolete.

Features of the Spirio

Steinway engineers included key, sophisticated features which indicate that they built an improved player piano for today’s buyer:

The Spirio recording process

Steinway engineers wanted Spirio to create performances, now or in future recordings, that would be as much like the original performances as possible.  As a result, when George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” was selected, Spirio can present it exactly as Gershwin would play it–right on the Spirio owner’s keyboard.

Spiro piano pedals
Spirio’s sensitivity in action dynamics, combined with 256 levels of pedal positioning, form the backbone of the Steinway Spirio performance library.

The sensitivity levels built into each key on a Spirio are quite subtle. The music industry’s 128-level MIDI standard is well surpassed by a single Spirio key played at 1020 levels, sampled 800 times per second–yielding recordings playing at the highest resolution on the market. There is widespread agreement that going beyond these specifications would yield no perceptible difference in resolution.

Spirio’s sensitivity in action dynamics, combined with 256 levels of pedal positioning, form the backbone of the Steinway Spirio performance library.

Just as a Steinway & Sons piano’s design allows for a wider range of color for performers to pour themselves into on stage, Spirio’s nuanced proprietary data file format captures the nuances and full range of emotion from each artist’s level of performance for the benefit of the Spirio owner.

Spirio’s ability to replicate smaller increments of velocity on proportional pedaling and the hammers gives it the edge over other player pianos in the market.

Spirio’s Steinway Musical Library catalog

Spirio’s Steinway Musical Library catalog, now over 5,000 pieces, is regularly updated with 3-4 hours of new content added monthly.  Steinway guards against a music catalog that becomes obsolete by freshening it with Steinway Artists who perform both classical and contemporary pieces.

In the same catalog, a music lover can find classical works by Steinway Immortals like Sergei Rachmaninoff and modern jazz Steinway Artists like Aaron Diehl.

Easy to use, detachable iPad interface

Lady using iPad interface on her Spirio player piano
Piano consultants at Steinway dealers regularly teach new Spirio owners how to navigate the detachable iPad interface with ease in a single visit.

Spirio’s easy-to-use iPad interface will change as software technology does, but the hardware in the piano is solid.  Spirio’s hardware features are separate, detachable components, they can be repaired or replaced as necessary.

Spirio engineers realized early on that people tend to use only those technologies that are easily learned and used.  Piano consultants at Steinway dealers regularly teach new Spirio owners how to navigate the detachable iPad interface with ease in a single visit.

SpirioCast: Spirio’s latest high-tech feature

SpirioCast was added in November 2021. SpirioCast features Steinway curated events, master classes with Steinway Artists, and the sharing of international performances in real time between remote instruments.

M. Steinert's party joining Steinway & Sons' first SpirioCast
M. Steinert’s joined Steinway’s first SpirioCast in November 2021 with a gathering at the Newton showroom.

This technology allows for a broad range of distance learning opportunities and remote musical practice sessions–enlivening one’s living room with exceptional educational and entertainment experiences.

Steinway envisions a SpirioCast community that can enjoy a concert or class at the same time, with a performer or teacher channeling their music directly through thousands of Spirio keyboards simultaneously.

Does Spirio deliver on the promise?

Sometimes a piano company will add a few new bells and whistles to an existing model without going straight to the heart of what buyers want.  Steinway & Sons’ engineers took another tact.  They wanted Spirio to be not only different but unique in the modern player piano market.

As a result, they focused on three critically important areas.  They were willing to come into the market later with Spirio until they solved these two focused on two important areas to quickly become competitive in the modern player piano market.

First, they evolved and engineered the high-definition player hardware that is at the core of the Spirio playback experience.

Steinway & Sons Spirio with iPad interface
Steinway & Sons’ Spirio with iPad interface. Having a user-friendly, detachable interface is important, as people will not use an interface that is difficult to use.

Second, they focused on creating a large, high-definition performance library.   One of the most important features of the Spirio is in the resolution available for its digital recordings.  Steinway & Sons’ data file format captures the nuances and full range of emotions from each artist’s level of performance.

Third, they waited to rollout Spirio until they had conducted sufficient testing on the detachable iPad interface.  Having a user-friendly, detachable interface is important, as people will not use an interface that is difficult to use.

More recently, the introduction of SpirioCast in November 2021 gives Spirio users a whole new high-tech educational and entertainment experience in their living rooms around the world, creating a new community for music lovers.

SpirioCast’s development demonstrated Spirio’s versatility and future potential as an adaptable, versatile instrument that would have future applications for families, as well as individual artists and students.

For the highest possible resolution musical library, ease of use, and a handcrafted grand piano, Steinway & Sons’ Spirio is the total package. But is the added cost to upgrade to a Spirio worth it to you?  And will Spirio’s technology ever become obsolete?   To learn more read the following articles:

Is the Spirio worth it?

Could the Steinway Spirio ever become obsolete?


Boston vs. Steinway: A comparison of two sister brands

by Stephen N. Reed


Henry E. Steinway famously said that his company’s vision was to build the best piano possible.  As a result, Steinway pianos have been handcrafted for 169 years.

Steinway Model A grand piano
Steinway & Sons’ Model A grand piano. Only the handcrafted process can create the kind of high-quality instrument, “the best piano possible,” that Henry Steinway first envisioned.

Only the handcrafted process, with its combination of high craftsmanship and special materials, can create the kind of high-quality instrument that Henry Steinway first envisioned.  Steinway & Sons pianos have earned their stellar reputation thanks to continued dedication to excellence.

The Steinway-designed Boston line of pianos, created by Steinway in 1992,  is the culmination of Steinway & Sons’ decision to develop a new line of instruments that was imbued with much of Steinway’s design into a manufactured piano.

Through its adherence to Steinway design principles, Boston has distinguished itself within its price range.  After all, only Boston and the other Steinway brand, Essex, can lay claim to having Steinway’s design and 169 years of piano building experience behind it.

However, significant differences remain between the handcrafted Steinway & Sons and its younger sister brand, the manufactured Boston.  Understanding these differences, weighing the importance to you, is important, as you wouldn’t want to go home with a piano that doesn’t meet your expectations.

At M. Steinert & Sons, we’ve been helping piano customers make an informed decision regarding the best piano for their needs since 1860.  We have kept current with every new model of Steinway & Sons and Boston pianos and explain the similarities and differences between them on a daily basis.

By the end of this article, you will understand the differences and similarities between these two popular American piano companies.  This will enable you to decide which aspects of both piano lines mean the most to you.

Boston: Steinway’s little sister, now coming into her own

Boston upright
The Boston Piano Company was created in 1991 by Steinway in response to the growing mid-level piano market.

The Boston Piano Company was created in 1991 by Steinway in response to the growing mid-level piano market.  Steinway had a clear understanding that many buyers would love to own a handcrafted Steinway but simply couldn’t afford it yet.

Steinway leadership made a bold move.  They decided to enter the world of manufactured pianos, allowing for Boston pianos to be sold at a more affordable price than a handcrafted Steinway & Sons.

They contracted with a well-regarded piano manufacturer with the understanding that as many Steinway-designed features as possible would be included in their production process.

Over the past three decades, we at M. Steinert & Sons have studied the new Boston models as they have been released.  Obviously, we believe in all of our Steinway-designed pianos, including Bostons.  However, we still strive for objectivity when describing them to you.

Having said that, it is simply a fact that Bostons have grown so popular with their Steinway-design elements and lower price that today many customers prefer a new Boston to a used Steinway. But the discerning buyer still wants to know about the particular differences between these two sister pianos, as well as their similarities.

In the end, people want to know: Can a manufactured piano, built with Steinway design, rival the venerable handcrafted Steinway & Sons?  Just how far has modern piano engineering come?

Boston vs. Steinway pianos: The similarities

Boston's GP178-A grand piano
Boston’s GP178-A grand piano. Boston’s Steinway design gives it many of the same features as Steinway & Sons’ models.

Obviously, the challenge for Steinway engineers Susan Kenagy and John Patton when designing the Boston was to discern which elements of the Steinway design could be transferred to a manufacturing process.

Here are some of the key Steinway design elements placed into Bostons:

  • Low-tension scaling resulted in a longer sustaining tone than other leading manufactured pianos.
  • A patented, large, Sitka Spruce soundboard that provides a fuller tone;
  • Solid copper-wound bass strings, ensuring pure tone for the life of the instrument;
  • More sustain, dynamic range, and warmer tones;
  • Wide-tail design for a bigger sound;
  • Hard Rock Maple inner rim, producing less vibration and less absorption of sound.

In addition, one of the most important Steinway-design aspects infused into every Boston is the famed “Steinway sound.” This has often been described as an even, well-rounded tone.

The presence of the Steinway sound in Boston pianos is a pleasant surprise to many. While concert pianists likely can hear a broader range of color offered by a Steinway & Sons grand piano, for Boston buyers the Steinway sound is still there. No other manufactured piano comes so close to the Steinway touch and tone.

In short, Boston’s warm, even tone confirms it as a fully-credentialed member of the Steinway family of pianos.

Boston vs. Steinway pianos: The differences

Steinway & Sons' Maccasar Ebony grand piano from the Crown Jewel Collection
Steinway & Sons’ Maccasar Ebony grand piano from the Crown Jewel Collection. Having many skilled craftspeople working on every design nuance distinguishes handcrafted Steinway models from manufactured Boston models.

The most obvious difference between a Boston piano and a Steinway & Sons piano is the way they are made.  Having many skilled Steinway craftspeople working on every design nuance naturally creates the following differences between Steinways and Boston:

  • Steinway & Sons pianos are handcrafted in a year-long process in Astoria, New York and Hamburg, Germany.  Bostons are manufactured in a Kawai factory in Japan;
  • Materials selection in Steinway & Sons pianos is so rigorous that more than 50% of the excellent woods purchased by Steinway still don’t qualify for inclusion in a Steinway & Sons piano.  Both Steinway and Boston have Hard Rock Maple inner rims, but Steinway is more particular about some other woods;
  • Boston uprights have a muffler pedal, not a Sostenudo pedal as Steinway & Sons pianos do;
  • Different hammers in the action between the two brands.  Hammers pressed in a manufacturing process like Boston’s may make them consistent. However, this kind of hammer cannot provide the range of tone colors possible only in the slower hand-pressed approach found only in the longer, handcrafted process used by Steinway;
  • Boston generally has a tapered, Sitka Spruce soundboard. Steinway & Sons features the patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard, which is unique to Steinway & Sons.

The best way to choose between these two brands is to play them

Ultimately, when it comes to a choice between two or more piano brands, the choice comes down to each individual’s needs and priorities.  People who can afford a Steinway & Sons piano typically select one of their models.

However, the Boston is a very popular model for those who want many of the same features as a Steinway at a lower price, and want the option to trade up to a Steinway & Sons piano at some point in the future.

Boston piano plate and logo
Sharing much of Steinway’s design recipe, in order to make a less expensive yet high-quality piano, was a bet that has paid off for Steinway & Sons.

Steinway & Sons moved in a bold and unprecedented way when they decided to create a mid-level, production piano that still had as much of the Steinway design as the manufacturing process permitted.

Sharing much of Steinway’s design recipe, 16 decades in the making, in order to make a less expensive yet high-quality piano, was a bet that has paid off for Steinway & Sons.  Each year, thousands of satisfied Boston customers come away from Steinway dealers, choosing a new Boston over their other options.

Come into one of M. Steinert’s two showrooms in Boston and Nexton to sample some Steinways and Bostons for yourself.  Trying out such models will certainly inform your thinking as you determine your own priorities.

If you have an interest in a Boston piano, click on this article for more information:

Boston Pianos Review: How good are Boston pianos?

And if you are interested in learning more about the Steinway sound, read this article:

What is special about the Steinway sound?

 


What is a silent piano?

by Stephen N. Reed


Practicing the piano requires regular effort.  However, if the player is a family member, a college student, or anyone else who shares their practicing area with other people, a natural conflict can arise between the player and others who can hear his or her playing.  Even a well-played piece can be a distraction for those who need a quieter place to live, work, and sleep.

Man asking for quiet
With silent piano technology, one can play anytime, night or day, as loudly as needed, without interfering with others in the same shared space.

Remedies for this shared space conundrum have evolved.  For example, in the 1980s, piano companies like Yamaha made their middle pedal a “soft pedal,” muffling the piano’s sound considerably.  However, the resulting sound wasn’t that helpful for the serious piano student.  What the “soft pedal” models gained in quietude they lost in clarity.

As a result, a solution was sought that allowed for a high-quality, acoustic piano that produced a rich sound yet only heard by the person playing.  This way, the player could play anytime, night or day, as loudly as needed, without interfering with others in the same shared space.

If you have a situation where shared space with a piano player could be an issue, understanding top-quality silent piano systems is critical as you determine the best piano and silent system for you.  The last thing you want is to invest in a silent system that doesn’t meet your needs.

Steinert & Sons has been in the business of helping people find the right piano for them since 1860.  We have carefully followed the rise of piano enhancements like silent piano systems and can help you compare the better ones.

Naturally, we stand by the silent system we sell, PianoDisc QuietTime, but we appreciate other high-quality silent systems, as well, and are conversant regarding their capacities.

By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how silent systems work for the piano, how some of the better systems compare with one another, and their cost.

What is a silent piano?

A silent piano, also known as a “silent system,” may sound like a whole new kind of instrument.  However, it’s simply a standard acoustic piano with the ability to stop the piano’s hammers from striking the strings.

So how do you hear the notes being played if the hammers do not strike the strings?

How a silent system works

Young woman playing a silent piano
A silent piano is simply a standard acoustic piano with the ability to stop the piano’s hammers from striking the strings.

Early silent system models detected key movement by using mechanical sensors that affected the touch and produced a clicking sound.  But in more advanced, modern models, optical sensors are used that do not affect the feel or sound of the piano.

When the silent system is activated, digital sensors pick up the piano key movement.  The key movement is then converted into a MIDI signal, which is then picked up by an electronic sound module. As a result, the piano player can hear their playing through headphones without distracting others.

Such modern silent systems can have full MIDI capability to send signals with the ability to link to a computer for use with notation software.  The pianos also have full MIDI capability for sending signals and can be linked to a computer for use with notation software.

Brands with high-quality silent pianos or silent systems

Kawai

Kawai’s silent acoustic pianos are known as their “AnyTime Pianos” line, with a built-in silent system. They market the “AnyTime” name to denote that these pianos have a digital capacity that allows them to be played at any time without affecting others. They are available in a range of models.

One popular model is the Kawai K200-ATX3, which the company pitches as being user-friendly compared to other brands.  It features a small, built-in screen on the left side of the keyboard that works similarly to a smartphone.  The ATX3 features 27 voices to create the effect you wish, plus a large number of pre-set songs.

Cost of the Kawai K200-ATX3:  $12,095

Yamaha

Yamaha’s SH2 and SC2 silent pianos offer a lesser number of voices and pre-set songs as Kawai’s ATX3.  Instead of a built-in screen, Yamaha uses a separate interface–an iPad/iPhone or Android tablet. As with the aforementioned Kawai AnyTime models, a Yamaha silent piano has its silent system built-in.

These models have a particular standout feature: they offer binaural sound sampling for a fuller piano experience.  Binaural audio mimics the natural human form to create a rich, stereo sound.

Cost of the Yamaha C2X SH2: $57,899.

Cost of the Yamaha B3SC2:  $13,099.

PianoDisc QuietTime

Man playing a silent piano
Piano buyers benefit from testing different kinds of silent pianos, whether they are pianos with built-in systems or ones that can be installed after the piano is manufactured.

Steinway went in another direction and does not make pianos with a built-in silent system. Instead, Steinway dealers like M. Steinert offer a silent system, the PianoDisc QuietTime is one such system, that can be installed in any piano of your choice–even one you already own.

As with the Yamaha and Kawai models, QuietTime connects the player to the digital world through USB or Bluetooth MIDI.

Beneath the keys, special optical sensors capture the motion of each key and translate this for playback by the digitized piano sound in the control box.

Once QuietTime is properly installed and adjusted by a trained piano technician, the keys will have the feel like a traditional, acoustic piano even when the mute feature is activated.

Cost of installing the QuietTime system on any pianos: $3,380.

Here at M. Steinert & Sons also experimenting with another silent system, the Kioshi Silent system – and will update in a future article about our experience with this new product.

Silent systems must be sampled to be appreciated

If ever there was a piano buyer who should try some different models before purchase, it would be the buyer seeking a silent piano.  After all, a silent piano has multiple constituencies to please.

On one hand, the piano player wants to make sure that they can still hear what they’re playing through the headphones. On the other hand, those in the same shared space with the piano player want to know that the silent feature is going to actually be quiet, so as not to distract their other activities.

Many buyers bring their whole family to test these key aspects of silent pianos, whether they are pianos with built-in systems or ones that can be installed after the piano is manufactured.

At M. Steinert, we encourage you to try other brands’ silent pianos and then come to us to learn more about the QuietTime system.  We want you to get the best piano for you. This is best achieved after a buyer has a thorough process of comparing silent piano models and silent systems.

For more information, view these two videos that give more details as to how the QuietTime system works:

Steinert & Sons and the Quiet Time ProRecord

Steinert & Sons and the Quiet Time ProRecord (cont’d)

 


What are the main differences between a grand piano and an upright?

by Stephen N. Reed

Both grand pianos and uprights can be exceptional instruments, but some significant differences exist, both in terms of design and style. 

Victorian grand from Steinway's Heirloom Collection
When we think of the term “piano,” we usually think of the grand piano, like this model from the Steinway Victorian model from their Heirloom Collection.

By the end of this article, you will know the main differences between these two types of pianos, helping you to determine which kind of piano is best for you. Knowing these differences is important so that you don’t make the mistake of a poorly-informed piano purchase, one that disappoints you soon after you bring it home.

MAJOR DIFFERENCES SUMMARY: Grands Uprights
How measured Horizontal – Keys to tail length Vertical – Floor to top of cabinet
Action Gravity Reset Spring Assist
Pedals 3 – Including Full Sostenuto 2 or 3, typically not Full Sostenuto
Sound Projection Controlled and targeted through lid Smaller reach

Grand pianos: Measured by length

Steinway grand keyboard
All grand pianos, regardless of length,  are about 5 feet in width.

Grand pianos are measured by the length from the front edge of the keys to the tail end.  Their measurements are:

  • Baby grand:  Up to 5’7” in length
  • Medium grand:  5’7” to 5’10” in length
  • Full grand: 5’10” to 7’ in length
  • Performance grand:  7’ to 9’ in length
  • Concert grand: 9’ and above in length

All grand pianos, regardless of length,  are about 5 feet in width.

General features of all grand pianos as compared to uprights

Grand pianos have a fuller resonance, more nuanced tonality, and a broader dynamic range than uprights.  The combination of these features allows pianists to express themselves fully. Additional advantages of the grand piano over uprights include:

  • Wider dynamics from pianissimo to fortissimo
  • Sound is more uniform and well-balanced
  • Smoother sustain
  • More nuanced note expression

These features combine to allow a pianist to infuse more emotional expression than is possible with an upright piano.

The grand piano’s responsive action: Gravity reset

Steinway grand's action being put into place
Once a grand piano’s key releases, gravity naturally resets the hammer and the damper. This natural reaction makes for a more responsive action than that in the upright piano.

One key aspect to grand pianos is their exceptional action.  All grand pianos utilize gravity to return the hammer to rest. The action and strings are placed horizontally into the piano case.. When a key is pressed, the hammer strikes the piano string vertically.

Once a key releases, gravity naturally resets the hammer and the damper. This natural reaction makes for a more responsive action than that in the upright piano.  The action on the grand piano responds faster, as it is reacting naturally to gravity.

This rectifies the inherent problem with upright pianos, to be discussed later in this article.   Gravity reset offers more control of dynamics, repetition speed, and overall piano tone.

Upright pianos: Measured by height

Essex upright
The Essex Upright Model EUP-111E. No matter the height, upright pianos take up the same floor space of roughly five feet by two feet.

Uprights are compact pianos that remain popular due to their smaller footprint. Uprights have brought high-level music to millions of middle-class homes over the years, to families who could not afford a grand piano.

Sometimes called vertical pianos, they are named this because the strings and soundboard are positioned vertically, perpendicular to the floor.

Uprights come in several height variations, all of which have a unique sound. No matter the height, upright pianos take up the same floor space of roughly five feet by two feet.  Upright height sizes are:

  • Spinet: approx. 36” high
  • Console: approx 40-44” high
  • Studio: approx 44-48” high
  • Professional: approx. 48” high and above

Spinets used to be a popular option for home use, but these days, manufacturers produce more studio or console uprights as the smallest option.

The upright’s spring action

Uprights do not have the advantage of gravity and utilize a spring action to allow the hammer to rest. When a key is pressed, a mechanism causes the hammer to strike the string horizontally.

Once the key is released the hammer is enabled to reset thanks to a built-in spring. Here’s the issue in terms of action responsiveness in the upright: before one can restrike the key, it has to raise a particular distance to reset the spring.

Uprights generally do not have the rich tonality of grands, as a sensitive action is more difficult to produce when hammers move sideways instead of upwards against gravity.  Nevertheless, newer uprights are doing better on this score.

Differences in the piano pedals

In addition to the actions, another significant difference between uprights and grands is in the piano pedals.

For example, the left pedal on the grand, called the “soft pedal” or “una corda pedal,” shifts the entire action to the right.  This softens the volume but also makes nuanced changes to the piano’s tone.  The left pedal on the upright simply moves the hammers closer to the strings, making the volume softer but not affecting the instrument’s tone.

The middle pedal, known as the sostenuto pedal on the grand, raises the dampers, keeping them away from the strings, allowing for select notes to be sustained.  But in the upright, the middle pedal is known as the muffler pedal.  When pressed, a think piece of felt is placed between the hammers and strings, muting the sound.

The right pedal is known as the sustain or damper pedal in both the grand and the upright.  In both pianos, the right or sustain pedal, also known as the damper pedal keeps dampers lifted even after the key is released, sustaining all notes that have been played.

When is an upright preferable to a grand piano?

Boston Upright UP-126-E Performance Edition
Boston Upright UP-126-E Performance Edition. Depending on the buyer’s needs, particularly in terms of available space in their home, a quality upright can be the obvious choice for smaller rooms.

With differences ranging from greater resonance, a more responsive action, and greater sustain in the pedals, one may well wonder if an upright can ever be preferable to a grand piano.

While grand pianos have traditionally been seen as the superior instrument versus the upright, exceptions can be found.  A quality, new upright will certainly outperform an old, spent grand.  One can always find quality uprights that are more expensive than lower-quality brands.  Materials and craftsmanship can always make a difference between pianos.

In short, a high-quality upright piano will outperform and outlast a poorly made, inexpensive grand piano.

Moreover, depending on the buyer’s needs, particularly in terms of available space in their home, a quality upright can be the obvious choice for smaller rooms.

Sampling a range of uprights and grands is key to your decision

Especially if your budget is in the area of high quality uprights and smaller grands, a visit to different piano stores, featuring various brands and models of uprights and grands.

Only by testing a range of uprights and grands can you find the piano that is best for you.  You may find that a quality upright meets all your needs, from tone to smaller size.  Or you might find that a stretch up to a baby or medium grand piano is worth the further investment.

Spending time with a seasoned piano consultant like those at M. Steinert & Sons can help you narrow down your best options, based on your budget.   Making an appointment to visit one of our showrooms will give you time to sample enough uprights and grands to be a much more-informed piano buyer.

In the meantime, learn more about uprights and the smaller grands by reading the following articles:


What is the best digital piano?

by Stephen N. Reed

Digital pianos, first popularized in the 1980s, attempt to replicate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano. While great strides have been made towards that end, they still haven’t reached that lofty goal, and depending upon who you ask, never will. Yet, for many, the quality digital piano is a great alternative to the old, out of tune, used piano that many first-time buyers gravitate towards.   

Roland’s HP 702 digital piano. Digital pianos do not duplicate the authentic feel and sound of a traditional piano–they can only simulate it, so the goal is to find one that mimics an acoustic as closely as possible.

At M. Steinert & Sons, we have closely followed the digital piano market since the first ones were available.   While we carry Roland digital pianos and have always been satisfied with their high quality, we acknowledge that some other top brands have quality models, as well.

Four of the most recommended digital brand pianos include:

  • Yamaha
  • Kawai
  • Casio
  • Roland

All four are known for their quality of sound (usually sampled from their acoustic counterpart), and their realistic action, which makes it feel as close to an acoustic as possible.  By the end of this article, you’ll understand better the top four digital piano brands and what we believe is the top digital piano.

Yamaha digital pianos

Yamaha digital pianos are often known by their Clavinova brand name and use samples (recordings) from other Yamaha pianos as the basis for their sound. They have a wide range of quality and feature levels – and are grouped, priced, and marketed differently through a wide variety of e-commerce and retail channels.

Yamaha's Arius YDP-184 digital piano
Yamaha’s Arius YDP-184 digital piano. YDP models have the look of a home-style piano and use different actions.

Model numbers can change quite frequently – and it’s often a challenge to know which models are currently in the line-up.  In general, the higher the number within a given series (ie P125 vs P45), means a higher price point and feature set within the series.

Yamaha digital series overview:

  • P:  The basic entry-level portable digital piano designed to meet low price standards – basically the higher the number, the higher the feature set.
  • YDP: These units look like a home-style piano, and depending upon the model use different actions.    This series of pianos is more widely distributed including some ‘Big Box’ retail, Amazon, and large music store chains.
  • CLP: CLP units and above are marketed through traditional piano stores, and roving Costco tours.  Higher-end actions add wood to the key to give the look of a traditional piano key.
  • CSP: The most recent addition to the Clavinova line seeks to move away from the button-centric CVP approach (see below), to an app and smart device-centered platform.  The CSP Series has lights over the keys.  Actions are similar to CLP models.
  • CVP:  Considered Yamaha’s top-of-the-line digital and reminiscent of the organ days, the CVP units feature a huge array of buttons and features for play-along “boom-chick-a-boom” and recording features.  (Grandtouch, Smart Pianist and Clavinova are all trademarks of Yamaha Corporation.  Model specifications are subject to change).

Kawai digital pianos

While not as well-known as Yamaha, Kawai digital pianos offer a variety of different quality/function options.  They have 7 different piano action designs that appear across their many different models.

Like most, the higher the number within a series means higher feature/price, but some year-to-year changes will blur this

Kawai CN25 Digital Piano.  Feature the Responsive Hammer III plastic key actions.

generality in Kawai’s line.  Kawai digital pianos feature the sampled sound of Kawai acoustic pianos.    Kawai instruments are generally sold through piano stores and major music retailers.

Kawai digital series overview:

  • ES:  Portable, beginner-targeted, some offering auto-accompaniment features, hammer actions.
  • KDP:  Budget-focused home-style pianos, hammer actions and basic feature-set.
  • CN:   Home-style units that add Bluetooth and offer app connectivity.  Units all feature the Responsive Hammer III plastic key actions with 3 sensors and simulated let-off action.
  • CA: Kawai’s top-of-the-line digital focused on wood-key actions, sampling from their higher-end acoustic line, built-in screen display and high-end speaker/amp combos.

Casio digital pianos

Casio Privia PX 770
Casio Privia PX 770 digital piano. Keyboard has simulated ebony and ivory-textured keys provide the weighted feel required for proper piano expression and performance.

Casio, long known for their inexpensive portable keyboards,  has been making digital pianos under the Celviano trade name since the 90s.  They have recently gained broader distribution in the US and have sought to move upmarket from their low-end beginnings.   Their newer trade name, Privia is sold in many mass merchant stores.

Casio series overview:

  • Privia Series:  Models generally start with the PX prefix, higher numbers mean more features (usually) some with battery-operated options, hammer action mechanism. These are often sold online and by mass merchants.
  • Celviano Series:  The AP prefix denotes their home-style pianos which fall into the low-mid price range of digital piano models.  The  Casio Celviano Grand-Hybrid series incorporates all-wood key actions and different sound technology and is not as widely distributed as other Casio products.

 Roland digital pianos

At Steinert, we’ve chosen to exclusively partner with Roland digital pianos.  Roland has served the professional music community for almost 50 years – and while not as widely distributed or well known as Yamaha – Roland has earned its reputation for physical and musical quality as well as excellent durability.

Roland HP-70r digital piano.
Roland HP-704 digital piano. SuperNatural Piano Modeling sound.  The Roland HP line is where quality, touch, tone, and cabinetry combine to make a great home piano experience.

Their focus on physical modeling sound technology has resulted in major advances used in various ways across their digital piano line and distinguishes Roland digital pianos from other digital pianos in the market.  Since Roland doesn’t make acoustic pianos, they are free to select from any piano source they choose–and Steinway-based and inspired sounds are present in every Roland digital piano.

Roland digital series overview:

  • FP: Fully weighted, portable, SuperNATURAL modeling sound.  Bluetooth.
  • DP: A special, ‘convertible’ line that doubles as a credenza style table.  High-quality speakers/amp along with the PHA-50 graded hammer and wood-key action.
  • HP:  The Roland HP line is where quality touch, tone, and cabinetry combine to make for a great home piano experience.  SuperNatural Piano Modeling sound. Action and cabinet/finish choices provide options for the discerning digital piano buyer.
  • LX:  The top of the line in Roland digitals.   Each features PureAcoustic Piano Modelling derived from a decade of experience in modeled sound.  The recently introduced LX708 raised the standard for digital piano sound and touch across the industry.  The PHA100 action on the LX708 introduces longer key geometry and offset naturals and sharps for unparalleled touch realism.  Other LX models offer variants of speakers, action, and cabinetry.
  • GP:  Grand pianos in the digital line, featuring remarkable cabinet design, powerful sound reinforcement, SuperNATURAL modeling, and the PHA50 action.

Roland’s edge in touch and tone

Today’s digital pianos have come a long way as compared to past generations of electric and digital pianos. This goes for each of the brands we’ve reviewed.  The engineers at Yamaha, Kawai, Casio, and Roland are to be commended for their efforts towards making affordable instruments that have improved touch and tone.

Today’s digital pianos have come a long way as compared to past generations of digital pianos.  The engineers at Yamaha, Kawai, Casio, and Roland have improved their digital pianos’ touch and tone.

Having said that, Roland has gone in a different direction than the other leading digital brands.  Patrick Elisha, former piano consultant for M. Steinert & Sons, notes that Roland does not seek to be a hybrid of acoustic and digital solutions.

“Rather, Roland seeks to be a maintenance-free, all-encompassing digital piano solution that does not rely on acoustic components to function,” says Patrick.  “This, coupled with their mastery of acoustic engineering and piano modeling technology, creates an instrument that is reliably accurate, in both touch and tone, and caters to many playing styles.”

As a result, while the competition is comprised of some solid alternative brands, Roland offers more to the buyer who wants a reliable touch and tone, based on the engineering Roland has invested in modeling technology.  For the piano student who wants to play a wide variety of musical genres, Roland offers a digital piano that is just as playable for jazz and contemporary pieces as classical.

For these reasons, a good argument can be made that Roland is the best of these top-of-the-line digital pianos.

M. Steinert & Sons Trade-Up policy

Young man playing digital piano
M. Steinert’s Trade-Up policy allows you to determine if your interest in piano playing is going to stick before buying your ultimate piano.

Should you decide to buy a Roland digital piano from M.  Steinert & Sons, you will have the potential to take advantage of the M. Steinert & Sons Lifetime Steinway Trade-Up policy, which gives you 100% of what you paid for your Roland towards a new Steinway & Sons piano, excluding taxes and delivery, towards another M. Steinert piano that has a higher cost.

This enables many buyers to see first if their interest in playing the piano sticks.  If it does, many then purchase their ultimate piano.

Sample a range of digital pianos before buying

As with shopping for an acoustic piano, the discerning digital piano customer will take in a good sampling of makes and models.   At M. Steinert & Sons, we encourage people to compare different digital models, including our Roland series, before making a purchase.  After all, a digital piano is a significant purchase, one you want to be satisfied with going forward.

We would welcome the opportunity to introduce you to our current Roland digital piano models at either of our two showroom locations in Boston and Newton.  Please feel free to set up an appointment with one of our experienced piano consultants to listen to your piano needs and to show you some models to play.

While visiting our showrooms, take a look at our acoustic offerings, too, to compare with our digital offerings.

To learn more about the difference between digital and acoustic pianos, read this article:

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

 


How much does major repair for a grand piano cost? Cost to repair soundboards, pinblocks and bridges

by Stephen N. Reed


A new piano, right out of the factory, has several advantages, one of which is the factory warranty that comes with the piano.  This secures your multi-thousand dollar investment should your piano need a major repair, like fixing or replacing a soundboard or pin block.

Used pianos can be another story.  Depending on their brand, age, or condition, a major repair is not as rare.  With the exception of a piano store’s limited warranty, such major repairs come out of your pocket.

Piano technician making repair
Hiring your own piano technician to examine a used piano you are considering is always a good idea.

As a result, hiring your own piano technician to examine a used piano you are considering is a good idea. What could be worse than paying for a used piano, taking it home, and soon after facing the reality that your piano needs a major repair, costing thousands of dollars?

At M. Steinert & Sons, our motto for 160 years has been to help our customers find the best piano for them.  Clearly, a piano that needs a major repair before you play it much is not the best piano for you. We have assisted many customers to learn about the cost of piano repairs and have helped them avoid major ones.

For example, M. Steinert & Sons has a Certified Piano Program to give used piano buyers peace of mind that their piano passes muster from an expert piano technician.

By the end of this article, you will better understand why soundboards and pinblocks are so important to a piano.  Next, you’ll learn what is involved with major repairs to these and other key areas, particularly in Steinways, and the skilled work involved to fix them.

Who does the repair?

Piano tech tightening piano strings
References, credentials, and samples of past work are the best guides as to whether a technician can perform adequate restoration or repairs.

The Number One question to ask before embarking on a major piano repair is to determine WHO will do the work.  There is no shortage of piano technicians who will eagerly take on a Steinway repair, charge considerably less than the numbers in the chart below, and potentially ruin or ‘delegitimize’ an otherwise fine piano.

References, credentials, and samples of past work are the best guides as to whether a technician can perform adequate restoration or repairs.

Please keep in mind that only Steinway & Sons can replace a Steinway soundboard or Hexagrip Pinblock.  These are not installed by rebuilders or dealers.  Dealers have the ability to send pianos to the factory for these installations but beware of rebuilders offering like-kind replacements.

Item Cost Range for Steinway
Steinway Soundboard Repair $1,000 – $8,000
Steinway Soundboard/Pinblock replacement $11,000 – $22,000
Steinway Replaced Pinblock, Soundboard, Bridge and Plate Refinish $18,000 – $28,000
New Steinway hammers $7,000 –  $8,800
New Steinway wippens/& hammers $12,000 – $14,000
Steinway Restring $1,500 – $3,000
Steinway Refinish – black $16,000 – $30,000
Steinway Refinishing– wood tone $19,000 – $32,000

 

Helping you understand the costs of major repairs is all part of our job at M. Steinert & Sons.  We want to be as transparent as possible as we openly address a subject that deserves attention.

Soundboards: The heart of a piano’s tone

Using Steinway’s patented “Diaphragmatic Soundboard” as an example, let’s understand how important a soundboard is to a grand piano.

Steinway craftsperson working on soundboard
Steinway uses Sitka Spruce for their soundboards, which is sourced entirely from an island in Alaska, the only location that meets Steinway’s stringent specifications.

Steinway & Sons engineers understood early on how the right kind of soundboard could make all the difference in a piano’s tone.  The Steinway grand soundboard achieves optimum performance in dynamic range and maximum sustain.

Steinway uses Sitka Spruce for their soundboards, which is sourced entirely from an island in Alaska, the only location that meets Steinway’s stringent specifications.

This unique micro-climate provides this spruce with the highest quality grain density, direction, and color, thereby improving the transmission of tonal string vibrations.

The Steinway-designed soundboard is gradually tapered from the center to the edge, permitting freedom of movement and creating a sound of unparalleled richness, sonority, and sustain.

Steinway’s piano-rim machining center achieves a perfect fit between the soundboard and the rim.  This provides the piano with a rich resonance, tonal color, and purity of sound.

How much does it cost to fix a cracked soundboard?

Steinway craftsperson working on soundboard
Soundboard repairs can be quite involved and costly.  According to M. Steinert & Sons piano technician Jonathan Kotulski, soundboard replacement is more common these days and a superior fix.

Soundboard repairs can be quite involved and costly.  According to M. Steinert & Sons piano technician Jonathan Kotulski, soundboard replacement is more common these days and a superior fix.

“Soundboards crack, so they are shimmed,” notes Jonathan.  “This involves removing the plate and strings, digging out a groove in the soundboard, gluing and clamping a shim, and then planing/chiseling the shim down precisely flush with the soundboard.”  (See above chart for cost estimate.)

The importance of pinblocks and bridges

Steinway introduced the Hexagrip Pinblock in 1963, a breakthrough that enabled pianos to hold their tuning longer and with great precision.  This exclusive design provides the tuning pin with smoother movement under torque, a more uniform retaining action, and a piano that holds its tuning longer.

Stringing a Steinway piano
Steinway’s single-piece bridge design on its Model B and D grands allows for the instantaneous transfer of the vibrations of the 233 strings throughout the bridge and the soundboard, adding more colors to the Steinway palette.

Steinway constructs its soundboard bridges from vertically laminated Hardrock Maple, and then caps it with a horizontal grain, solid maple.  Each Steinway bridge is notched by hand for precise, individual string-bearing, another advantage to a handcrafted piano.

Steinway’s popular Model D and Model B have a single-piece bridge, a long, continuous bridge from the highest treble to the deepest bass.  This design ensures optimal sound transmission from the strings to the soundboard.

Additionally, this design allows for the instantaneous transfer of the vibrations of the 233 strings throughout the bridge and the soundboard, adding more colors to the Steinway palette.

This wide range of colors to the piano’s tone is one of the main reasons professional pianists prefer playing a Steinway:  they simply have more ways to express their experience of the music.

How much does it cost when pinblocks need repair?

Pinblocks can loosen and need to be repaired or replaced. Minor repairs involve going up a pin size on problem pins, pin tapping, CA gluing or epoxying in the tuning pin to create higher torque.

Going up a tuning pin size on the entire piano and restringing the piano is becoming less common as a solution for pinblock problems.

“More often now, if you restring, it is recommended to replace the pinblock so you can start out with high torque on a 2/0 pin, the standard tuning pin size,” notes Jonathan.  (See above chart for cost estimate.)

Buying a piano from a dealer with a good warranty is the key to managing piano repair costs

Steinway logo in interior of piano
For pianos in the Steinway Family, replacement parts and piano technicians who undergo regular Steinway training can only be found at an Authorized Steinway Dealer.

Veteran Steinway sales consultant Phil Schoonmaker maintains that one of the first questions buyers on the used piano market should ask themselves is, “Am I willing to give up a factory warranty?”  Such warranties come with new pianos.

This is not to say that a partial warranty given by the seller for a used piano isn’t helpful for repairs.  But a factory warranty on a new piano is more comprehensive.  So if you can buy new, the factory warranty is a big advantage if a major repair comes.

For pianos in the Steinway Family, replacement parts and piano technicians who undergo regular Steinway training can only be found at an Authorized Steinway Dealer.

To learn more about Used vs. New pianos, read the following article:

New vs. Used Steinway:  Which is the better value for me?


Where should I place my piano? Does piano placement in the home really matter?

by Stephen N. Reed


Buying a piano is an investment–an investment in the musical quality of the instrument, which, in turn, is protected by thoughtfully caring for the instrument and the high-quality materials used to make it. As strong as the woods are in a grand or upright, they are still susceptible to the elements, like high humidity in coastal regions like Boston.

Steinway grand in foreground with father, daughter dancing
Piano placement is an important decision, perhaps an even more critical decision than regular maintenance. Why? Because once a piano is placed, it often remains in that position for years.

As a result, determining the best place in your home for your new piano is an important consideration. After all, what could be worse than investing thousands of dollars on a beautiful instrument with exceptional musical value, only to see that value diminished more quickly than necessary over time?

At M. Steinert & Sons, we have been helping our customers not only buy the best piano for them but also always consider how they’re going to be happy after any purchase. That includes thinking about things like the best placement for their new piano in the home or institution.

Piano placement is an important decision, perhaps an even more critical decision than regular maintenance. Why? Because once a piano is placed, it often remains in that position for years.

All the more reason to make that placement a good one.

By the end of this article, you will know where the best potential places are for piano placement, understanding why some places are best while others are not. You’ll also understand how piano placement affects the mechanical, structural, and aesthetic dimensions of your piano, even its longevity.

Where you should NOT place a piano in your home

Understandably, your piano placement may be constrained by the space and structures in your home or institution. Having said that, there are some areas to avoid placing your piano.

Near a poorly insulated window

While having a piano by a window may seem a pleasant placement, this may be one of the worst possible places for the overall well-being of a piano, whether a grand or an upright. The air around windows change with the conditions outside, both on a daily and seasonal basis.

Temperature and humidity rise and fall, and a piano placed near a window experiences all of those atmospheric changes. This causes your piano’s wooden action parts to shrink and swell. Additionally, your piano’s tuning will be affected, causing your piano to need tuning more often.

Not close to air vents

Another place to avoid for atmospheric temperature issues is an air vent. Obviously, in this case, the atmosphere affecting your instrument is from inside your home, not outside.

Whether with air vents or other areas affecting the interior environment (e.g. fireplaces, heaters, air conditioners), your piano will not respond well to a frequently changing environment. The fewer changes in temperature and less airflow, the better.

Think “climate-controlled” for your piano’s space.

Not around direct, extended sunlight

Whether near a window or skylight, you risk more harm than you may suspect from allowing direct sunlight to hit it even a little while each day. Even that much sunlight, day after day, month after month can cause your piano’s beautiful finish to fade. Worse, glue joints can weaken and the all-important soundboard can dry out, even crack.

Where should you place your piano in your home?

Upright piano against inner wall of room
Grand pianos, when placed in a room are better secured and sound better when their straight edge is against an inner wall, distanced from sunlight, air vents, or windows. Uprights should be similarly placed.

Good piano placement safeguards your piano’s structural, mechanical, and aesthetic condition. One major advantage is to put the piano in the best place in an insulated room. Having good piano placement results in your piano having its best possible performance, sound, and longevity.

According to Total Piano Care, a home or building’s inner walls and climate-controlled conditions are paramount when considering piano placement. Grand pianos, when placed in a room are better secured and sound better when their straight edge is against an inner wall, distanced from sunlight, air vents, or windows. Uprights should be similarly placed.

Ideally, grand pianos should be placed in such a way as to allow the pianist to look into the room and not into a wall. The bass side of the piano should run parallel to the wall. This allows the bass to bounce against the wall to the wider room and the treble to project into the middle of the room.

If necessary, a grand piano can also be placed at a 45-degree angle towards a diagonal corner.

Are there exceptions to the inner wall piano placement recommendation?

A few exceptions to the inner wall placement are possible for adequate piano placement. For example, the middle of the room can be used if exceptional acoustics are possible with high ceilings and hardwood floors, or materials that aid in sound amplification and continuation are in place.

Again, wherever the specific piano placement is, the main concern is airflow and atmospheric changes near the piano. This safeguards your investment and its musical quality from unnecessary deterioration and tuning instability.

A bit of good news: Mature piano brands like the Steinway Family brands, Yamaha, and Kawai are more resilient to environmental changes due to their careful materials selection, expertise, and experience via warranty claims over the years.

Request a floor pattern to help with your piano placement

piano form template
M. Steinert & Sons piano consultants can bring a piano floor pattern template to your home to determine which pianos will fit in your space.

Homes are not always built with pianos in mind. As a result, a few inches may make the difference between placing your piano in your favorite room or another.

At M. Steinert & Company we know that it’s difficult to fully think about placing a piano until you have it in your home. That’s why we created piano templates that our piano consultants can bring to your home, if you’re in the greater Boston area, to ascertain the best piano placement and size.

Learn more in the articles below. Read how about floor patterns and how to determine what size piano will fit in your space. You’ll soon see why floor patterns can be so helpful.

Request a floor pattern

Will a grand piano fit?

Make an appointment to talk with one of our piano consultants at our Boston or Newton location. They can assist you as you decide on the right piano–and right piano placement–for you.


5 must know facts about the Steinway Spirio | r

by Stephen N. Reed


Photo of Spirio piano and Ipad
The Spirio features a very user-friendly, separate digital interface, that is regularly updated.

Steinway’s Spirio has established itself as the premier 21st century player piano.  It has done so through the following five attributes:

  1. A very user-friendly interface that is regularly updated;
  2. The highest-definition performance capture available;
  3. Unlimited access to the 4,300 and growing high-definition Steinway artist performances;
  4. A truly revolutionary Spirio | r recording and editing system for use by professional musicians and amateurs alike;
  5. And most recently Spiriocast, which allows Spirio users the experience of live performances anywhere in the world.

For purposes of this article, we will be referring to the latest form of Spirio, the Spirio | r, which provides for the latest technology in recording, editing, and sharing as well as playing.

By the end of this article, you will understand the 5 “must know” facts about Steinway’s Spirio and how each contributes to the overall Spirio experience.

1. A very user-friendly interface

Spirio iPad interface
Thanks to Spirio’s Apple iPad interface, the average person with little technology experience can access a selection of songs from the Steinway growing proprietary music catalog, with 4,300+ pieces.

New high-performance audio technology may be fascinating to those who follow the latest breakthroughs.  But the average user needs to know that they can use it–easily–or many of them simply won’t use it.

Steinway engineers wanted to make sure that their 21st Century player piano not only produced the highest resolution audio recordings available; they held back the release of the Spirio until they made the new technology easily accessible to the player.

Their answer was a separate interface, one already familiar to many Spirio buyers: an Apple iPad interface.   As a result, an average person with little technology experience can access a selection of songs from the Steinway proprietary music catalog, easily entertaining themselves or a gathering of friends after dinner.

With the advent of Spirio | r, that same simple interface allows recording, editing, and saving of piano recordings.

Moreover, thanks to the Apple iPad interface, Spirio only takes one step to access the piano’s technology, while others in the industry can take up to four steps and tend towards multi-layer confusing menus.

By making Spirio’s technology easily accessible, Steinway’s engineers have effectively removed barriers that would have diminished a buyer’s enjoyment of this high-tech self-playing piano.

The following four Spirio facts are favorably impacted by this first and most important fact: a new buyer can learn how to use the Steinway Spirio with little or no training.  .

2.  The highest definition performance capture available

Steinway’s engineers understand the incredible subtlety that goes into the Steinway sound with its palette of wide-ranging color.

Steinway Spirio solenoids
In the Spirio, a single key can be played at 1020 levels, sampled 800 times per second and in excess of the music industry’s 128 level MIDI standard.

One of their priorities in developing the Spirio | r was to emulate performances with a level of detail that would allow recordings to be indistinguishable from a live performance.  This is an amazing listening experience.

The sensitivity levels these Steinway engineers built into each key are quite subtle.  A single key can be played at 1020 levels, sampled 800 times per second and in excess of the music industry’s 128 level MIDI standard.

This nuance and sensitivity in action dynamics, combined with 256 levels of pedal positioning, form the backbone of the Steinway Spirio performance library.

For on-board recording with Spirio | r,  the same principle prevails: the extraordinary capacity to capture over 1,020 levels of dynamic range and 256 pedal movements, sampled 100 times per second. This is the highest of high-definition performance capture quality.  This is only available on the Steinway Spirio | r.

3. A 4,300 (and growing) piece, high-definition collection of Steinway Artist recordings

At no charge, Steinway gives Spirio buyers a collection of 4,300+ Steinway Artist songs. This Spirio musical catalog contains not only vintage, digitally-remastered classical and jazz recordings by Steinway Immortals like Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Duke Ellington.

Montage of Steinway Artists
Steinway keeps current by including in the same catalog many new recordings by contemporary jazz and classical Steinway Artists like Yuja Wang, Aaron Diehl, Robert Glasper, and Lang Lang.

But Steinway keeps current by including in the same catalog many new recordings by contemporary jazz and classical Steinway Artists like Aaron Diehl, Robert, Glasper, Lang Lang, and Yuja Wang.  Steinway adds 40-50 new high-resolution recordings to Spirio’s collection every month at no additional charge.

These recordings have such high definition that the effect is that the Steinway Artist is being channeled directly through the moving keys on the keyboard.  Imagine experiencing George Gershwin actually performing “Rhapsody in Blue” with the same keystrokes and volume as when he recorded it decades ago.

The highest-definition performance capture possible is what makes the Steinway Artist collection unique.

4. A truly revolutionary Spirio | r recording and editing system

Spirio | r interface
Spirio | r: A student can develop his or her recording and editing skills, sharing them with a teacher or friend.

The Spirio’s live performance, high-performance capture and playback are possible thanks to years of Steinway engineers working to perfect it before releasing it to the public. Spirio | r is a revolution in player piano artistry and technology.

When a piano student can record and edit their own recordings with the same high-resolution quality as a Steinway Artist receives from recording in a professional studio, we are in exciting, uncharted waters.

Think of it: A student can develop his or her recording and editing skills, sharing them with a teacher or friend.  This can accelerate their piano playing skills, not only because they can hear where they need to improve but because of the added motivation from sharing their efforts with others.

5. Spiriocast, which allows Spirio users the experience of live performances anywhere in the world

Inaugural Spiriocast at M. Steinert & Sons
M. Steinert & Sons participated in Spiriocast’s first live, public performance, launched for the first time on October 25, 2021.

Spiriocast came into being during the pandemic, a time when many people were looking for new ways to enjoy live music.  What if today’s best piano performers could perform live, right in your home, whether for an intimate concert for your family or a group of friends?

And what if they played right on your very own piano?

Spiriocast was launched for the first time on October 25, 2021. That day, Steinway broadcast a performance by Steinway Artist Kris Bowers from a piano in California to pianos in its dealerships across the world, including M. Steinert & Sons.

The Spirio | r captures high-definition performances via the iPad interface.  A cutting-edge, high-definition sensor system on the Spirio | r captures the movements of the Spirio | r’s keys and pedals, recreating an authentic acoustic experience for each of the Spirios participating in the cast.

Each performer’s audio and video is captured through each Spirio’s iPad, which broadcasts together with the music. The accompanying video of the Spiriocast performer adds greatly to the experience, but the incredible, live clarity of the music is the main attraction as it comes into your own living room and piano.

Spiriocast allows you to enjoy live performances, a masterclass, or simply the live playing of a friend or family member–from anywhere in the world.

Come try a Spirio | r for yourself

Woman using Spirio iPad interface
Discover Spirio | r’s ease of use for yourself at one of M. Steinert & Sons’ two showrooms in Boston and Newton.

Steinway’s great investment of time and energy into the Spirio line has clearly paid off, as now one-third of all Steinway sales are Spirios.  Just like pianos became the fashionable way for Americans to make their parlors the center of their home, their entertainment center, Steinway has provided in the Spirio | r.

Here is a grand piano that is up to the challenge of providing stimulating education and entertainment for the 21st century family.

If ever there were a musical instrument and a piece of cutting-edge technology that you have to experience in person, the Spirio is it.  Come to one of M. Steinert & Sons’ two showrooms in Newton and Boston to see, hear, and touch for yourself the evolution of the piano.

In the meantime, learn more about the Spiro by reading these articles:

Spirio vs. Disklavier

How does the Spirio | r work?

Could the Steinway Spirio ever become obsolete?

 


Piano supply shortage: How do I buy a Steinway in 2022?

by Stephen N. Reed


New Steinway Model D
Sales of Steinway’s new grands and uprights have been so strong in the past year that 2022 buyers may have to wait for their piano to be produced.

In 2022, you may well be told that the premier piano model you want to buy is not available at the moment.  Why?  Because piano companies like Steinway & Sons have an interesting problem on their hands.

Sales of their new grands and uprights have been so strong in the past year that those seeking those same models this year may have to wait for their piano to be produced.

In the case of Steinway, their American factory in Astoria, New York –which services the entire Western hemisphere–simply can’t keep up with demand.

Yes, Steinway is on it, and production is being gradually increased, as the company trains skilled workers.  However, this increase in production is never at the expense of the quality that is Steinway’s trademark.

This kind of limited supply is rare in the piano industry, and typically such supply catches up with demand in a relatively short amount of time.

Vintage photo of M. Steinert delivery truck and workers
M. Steinert & Sons has helped customers with limited supply issues during five wars and one Great Depression. Our Premier Dealer status gives us a unique advantage in securing pianos in these remarkable times.

Nevertheless, a piano brand of choice having limited supply could pose a problem to the individual or institution who needs their new piano by a certain date.

In these times, what course of action should a piano buyer take to have the best chance of securing their preferred model when they need it?  We’ll explore this course of action below.

At M. Steinert & Sons, we have helped customers with limited supply issues during five wars and one Great Depression.  For over 160 years, we have learned how to secure quality new and used pianos for a wide range of customers.  Our Premier Dealer status gives us a unique advantage in securing pianos in these remarkable times.

By the end of this article, you’ll know what you can do, in tandem with a Steinway Authorized Dealer, to obtain your preferred premium model of piano by your deadline.

Authorized Dealers are allocated a certain number of Steinway pianos for 2022

2021 was an outstanding year for Steinway piano sales, better than expected.  As a result, the company is making the necessary adjustments to increase production.

Steinway craftsperson with soundboard
The 2022 Steinway pianos aren’t all made yet but will get here throughout the year as they are finished.

“Demand has simply outstripped supply right now,” says M. Steinert & Sons President Brendan Murphy.  “So each Authorized Steinway Dealer has been allocated a finite number of new Steinways this year.  Because M. Steinert has represented Steinway & Sons pianos for well over a century, our allocation is greater than many dealers and has a greater number of larger Steinways, like the popular Model B.”

Brendan notes that those needing a piano by a certain date will want to place an order sooner than later.

“Though we have been allocated a certain number of Steinways, they aren’t made yet but will get here throughout the year as they are finished,” says Brendan.

What you can expect when buying a Steinway in 2022

Picture of person with a sign-up sheet
Placing your deposit sooner than later is in your best interest in 2022.

Placing your deposit puts you at the top of the waitlist. Upon receipt of the piano at our Service Center, the piano will be fully prepped by our factory-trained technicians and you will be invited in for a private showing.  Our technicians are dedicated and talented and will work with you to make sure you are happy.

If you prefer to wait for the next piano to arrive from the factory, you may do so.  No piano will be delivered until you are fully satisfied.

Here are the steps to go through while waiting for a new Steinway this year:

  1. Schedule an appointment, now a more common approach.
  2. Prepare for your appointment by doing some self-education, learning about brands and models, and creating a budget for your upcoming purchase.
  3. Piano consultation in-store: Exploring with an experienced piano consultant how to meet your piano needs.
  4. Putting a deposit down sooner rather than later is in your best interest.
  5. Waiting game.
  6. Delivery.

A new Steinway: Worth the wait

Steinway logo
If you can wait, purchasing the new Steinway you really want will be worth it.  After all, these popular models have a limited supply for a reason.

With a little bit of advanced planning, a new Steinway or another premium piano can still be purchased, despite the current limited supply.  Check in with your Authorized Steinway Dealer like M. Steinert & Sons to determine what we have allocated and when you can expect your desired model to be available.

If you can wait, purchasing the new Steinway you really want will be worth it.  After all, these popular models have a limited supply for a reason.

But if you need your piano sooner, we’ve got you covered with new models from Boston and Essex, the two Steinway-designed brands, as well as a range of top used models.

Learn more about new and used pianos in the article below:

New vs. Used Steinway

New vs. Used Steinway: Which is the better value for me?


Who buys used pianos in the Boston area?

By Stephen N. Reed


Entering the used piano market as a first-time seller can be intimidating.  You want to get a decent price for your piano while not taking too long to sell it.

A 2004 Model A Steinway. If well-maintained by its owner, a model like this can have many more years of use with excellent musical value.

At M. Steinert & Sons, we have been buying used pianos at a fair price for over 160 years.  While we’re one of your options for selling your piano, we’re not your only option.

By the end of this article, you will have learned about some options for those who want to sell their used pianos in the Boston area.  You will also understand what stores like M. Steinert’s look for when they buy a used piano.

Before you sell your piano, figure out the fair market value

If you have a used piano that you are wanting to sell but have little knowledge of brands and the musical value, you will want to find a piano technician or piano consultant to give you an estimated value.  They can give you a decent estimate of your piano’s value.

You need to know that before you sell.  After all, what could be worse than selling a used piano, only to find after the sale that it was worth much more?

Formal written appraisals are a worthwhile investment (usually $300-600) if you think you have a piano of significant worth.  You can find an independent technician at ptg.org.

Selling your used piano through the private market or online

2003 Kawai GM-10 grand piano
A 2003 Kawai GM-10 grand piano. While one could get many viewers to review a model like this one on e-Bay or Craigslist, a local piano store would better appreciate its full value.

The internet has allowed people to sell anything online, including their pianos. You can list your piano on sites like e-Bay, Craigslist, or even in local newspaper classifieds.  You and a buyer agree on a price. We recommend including a $300-$600 moving fee to be paid by the buyer if you’re selling in the private market or online.

Another online option is Pianomart. Pianomart is an online, national piano store that buys and sells a wide range of used upright and grand pianos.

Selling a piano online has its pros and cons.

One advantage to selling a used piano on sites Pianomart or Craigslist is the sheer number of viewers who will see your ad or listing.

However, there is a downside. Despite the number of eyeballs viewing your listing, online sales in the private market can take longer than selling to a local piano store, depending on the quality of your used piano.

Plus, if you use a site like Pianomart, they receive a 3% commission off the selling price.  Additionally, a local piano store will know its full value more than many online viewers.

Selling your piano to a local Boston-based piano store

Steinway keyboard
Working with a local piano store provides you with the safe and secure removal offered by the professional piano store movers.

The pros and cons are exactly reversed when selling your piano to a local piano store.  The piano store wants to make a profit on the future sale of your used piano.  So you might make less from a sale to a local piano store.

However, on the positive side, working with a local piano store provides you with the safe and secure removal offered by the professional piano store movers.   Another plus when working with a piano store is that the sale can be immediate, and the cost of moving the piano is typically assumed by the piano store.

East Cambridge Piano buys a wide range of used pianos

In the Greater Boston area, East Cambridge Piano seeks good, used pianos.  Their online inventory page suggests that they take a wide range of brands and models including Bechstein, Sojin, Yamaha, and Samick.

M. Steinert & Sons is looking for used Steinway-designed models, along with some Yamaha and Kawai models

2018 Steinway Model B grand piano
M. Steinert & Sons is a good example of a piano store that is always looking for top-of-the-line used pianos, like this 2018 Steinway Model B grand.

M. Steinert & Sons is a good example of a piano store that is always looking for top-of-the-line used pianos.  A store like M. Steinert’s has a customer base that wants assurance that a used piano still has strong musical value and longevity for many years to come.

Their customers are typically willing to pay a little extra for the peace of mind that comes from dealing with an established store.  For this reason, M. Steinert’s can usually make a competitive offer for your piano.

“As a longtime Authorized Steinway Dealer, M. Steinert is always looking for good, used Steinways, whether grands or uprights,” says Brendan Murphy, President of M. Steinert & Sons.  “Occasionally we’ll even buy an old Steinway just for the style and design of its case so that we can have it rebuilt.”

Brendan notes that M. Steinert will also buy used pianos from the Steinway-designed lines Boston and Essex.  M. Steinert also purchases some Yamaha and Kawai models that are under 30 years of age.

Given a temporary shortage of new pianos, M. Steinert & Sons is actively purchasing quality used pianos.

What do buyers look for when purchasing used pianos?

Natural finish piano
M. Steinert’s prefers an ebony finish on used piano they buy, as other finishes can fade over time and go out of style.

An interesting detail of such piano company purchases is the finish on the pianos.

“A natural finish on a used piano shows wear and tear,” Brendan notes.   “It can fade over time.  Plus many of these finishes, like cherry, are no longer in fashion.  So we prefer ebony finish, which goes with everything and doesn’t go out of style.”

To understand better what an authorized brand dealer offers both piano buyers and sellers, check out the following article:

What does it mean to be an Authorized Steinway Dealer?


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Newton

1069 Washington Street
Newton, MA 02465
Phone:
508-655-7373
Store Hours:
Monday - Friday: 11 am to 6 pm
Saturday : 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday: Noon to 5 pm

Boston

28 Damrell Street
Boston, MA 02127
Phone:
617-426-1900
Store Hours:
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