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Upright Pianos to Avoid? (Read 104645 times)

Offline starstruck5

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Upright Pianos to Avoid?
« on: October 30, 2011, 03:38:11 PM »
I read recently that the new Yamaha B series uprights have plywood soundboards.  I can't help feeling that I don't want to spend money on an instrument which depends on thin veneers of wood glued together. In any case, call me a Sounboard snob if you want - but I am amzed that Yamaha would put their name to that - shame on them!  I have seen these pianos described as having 3-ply laminated sounboards - urgggghhhhhh.

Are there any other pianos like this out there I should avoid.

Having pretty much checked out nearly every YouTube video featuring an upright, I was especially taken with the Mason&Hamlin upright - but I only have a budget of around 6k tops -

Think I will hit the shops and audition new Kawai K3 -and then think about reconditioned Yamaha U3's maybe - Dunno if I should even try the Grotrians or Schimmels - since they are priced a bit too high.


Why, btw, do people say that Kawais with their plastic bits are less prone to humidity - surely it is the strings which go out of tune not the action?  Or am I missing something?
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Offline jimbo320

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #1 on: October 30, 2011, 03:55:45 PM »
Not a big fan of verticals (uprights) but I think plywood soundboards are a Bosendorfer idea. Yamaha is probably getting rid of old stock. Yamaha makes a very nice grand selection...
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Offline pianolive

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #2 on: October 30, 2011, 04:34:44 PM »
Fazer pianos from Finland used plywood soundboards. I am not sure, but at least 40 years back. Terrible sound but I do not think they would have been better with a normal soundboard.
On the other hand the old pianos with metal soundboards, fooled many pianists. Many found these pianos quite okay as long as they did not know about the soundboard.
The same thing happened when the first plastic actions hit the market. People liked the pianos, untill they were told about the plastic. They were made in Sweden.
I think Steingraeber, and maybe others, are making experiments with soundboards made of carbonfiber with a layer of spruce on top.

Maybe the Yamaha pianos with plywood sounds great? I have never seen them.





Offline starstruck5

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #3 on: October 31, 2011, 06:28:54 PM »
Fazer pianos from Finland used plywood soundboards. I am not sure, but at least 40 years back. Terrible sound but I do not think they would have been better with a normal soundboard.
On the other hand the old pianos with metal soundboards, fooled many pianists. Many found these pianos quite okay as long as they did not know about the soundboard.
The same thing happened when the first plastic actions hit the market. People liked the pianos, untill they were told about the plastic. They were made in Sweden.
I think Steingraeber, and maybe others, are making experiments with soundboards made of carbonfiber with a layer of spruce on top.

Maybe the Yamaha pianos with plywood sounds great? I have never seen them.






Thanks for the info on Fazer! Dunno how they sound, but in ten years time the  resale value might be very low.  I am seriously thinking of having a Technician mend my Gors&Kallmann, and maybe getting a digital. I just don't know anymore.
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Offline keys60

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #4 on: November 01, 2011, 10:20:58 PM »
I'm a fan of Baldwin Hamiltons myself. A real workhorse with good projection. Nothing fancy, just a good solid instrument.  I have a Charles R. Walter that is well constructed, good tone and a solid bass for a 44"er. Falls in the ballpark of your budget with some negotiating. Lists for roughly 10K.
What size piano are you looking for and does it have to be new?

Offline starstruck5

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #5 on: November 02, 2011, 02:21:16 PM »
I'm a fan of Baldwin Hamiltons myself. A real workhorse with good projection. Nothing fancy, just a good solid instrument.  I have a Charles R. Walter that is well constructed, good tone and a solid bass for a 44"er. Falls in the ballpark of your budget with some negotiating. Lists for roughly 10K.
What size piano are you looking for and does it have to be new?

I think the Baldwins and Walter pianos are more easily obtainable in the US, than the UK. 

The piano doesn't have to be new - it has to be full size - not a console.  The size of a Yamaha U3, preferably.


I will have a chat to a few technicians - and see what they they suggest.  I know that the Gors&Kallmann suits the room acoustics -wise - so repair would seem like a good option - but I am open to suggestions.
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Offline pianoplayjl

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #6 on: November 03, 2011, 02:09:40 AM »
I've heard kawaii is only a mediocre piano from some of my friends. Maybe you should avoid specific Kawaii pianos. I don't know which pianos though.
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Offline ionian_tinnear

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #7 on: November 03, 2011, 03:08:38 PM »
I've heard kawaii is only a mediocre piano from some of my friends. Maybe you should avoid specific Kawaii pianos. I don't know which pianos though.

I've owned a Kawaii upright for 30 yrs.  It's been excellent.  Holds tuning very well.
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Offline pianoplayjl

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #8 on: November 04, 2011, 01:24:07 AM »
Whoops sorry. I reckon I'm very wrong afterall. there are the pros and cons in every piano, I mean I don't think you can have a perfect piano, can you?
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Offline keys60

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #9 on: November 04, 2011, 07:01:10 PM »
Bad, mediocre, great can be a matter of perception. Some may love a tone that some hate. Some may love an action that some hate. When it comes to a pianos performance, opinions will vary widely. Craftsmanship is another story. Some pianos are really poorly designed and constructed and some are really built to last a long time with a minimum of manufacturers defects.

Offline pianoplayjl

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #10 on: November 04, 2011, 10:31:21 PM »
Just choose what you think is a good piano because everyone has thier own opinions on pianos and their brands. I for example would choose Yamaha as a piano if my old yamaha breaks down.
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Offline starstruck5

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #11 on: November 06, 2011, 08:23:31 PM »
Thanks for all the feedback - does anyone know the Yamaha model Paul Barton plays on a lot of his YouTube videos?  If that is a B2 -complete with plywood - it sounds amazing - but he won't say what model it is!
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Offline jimbo320

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #12 on: November 07, 2011, 12:22:45 AM »
Looks like it to me...
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Offline pianoplayjl

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #13 on: November 07, 2011, 08:02:39 AM »
Didn't some guys say that Plywood pianos are not as good?
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Offline willvenables

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #14 on: November 07, 2011, 10:17:07 AM »
As a technician preparing new Yamaha pianos, amongst other pianos too, I have to set a few things straight here regarding Yamaha B series...

The B1 and B2 have the same internal specification - B1 is modern style cabinet (no legs, angled top door) - B2 is traditional style cabinet (with legs, toe blocks and castors, straight top door). The B2 has a very slightly fuller tone as there is more mass through a bigger cabinet. The castors are the reason why the B2 is 113cm vs B1's 109cm in height. The B1 also has a cut away in the floor of the piano so the frame and soundboard can sit lower. You may find the B2 is more comfortable to sit at with it's raised keyboard. In my opinion, + circa £400 for a different cabinet is not fantastic value...

The former Kemble Cambridge 10 (modern), Oxford 10 (traditional) and the Yamaha E110 (modern), P110 (traditional) were UK built pianos with solid spruce soundboards. The frame, keyboard, hammers, action, dampers and cabinet quality were actually the same as the B1 and B2. The only specification/quality difference between these models was the soundboard material - where B series are laminated spruce. The price difference was significant, the performance difference was subtle.

Yamaha and Kemble relaunched their equivalent UK-built models as K Camb. 12, Oxford 12 and P112N, P112NT - and again a couple of years later to 14 / 114. In all cases, all that changed was the cabinet height - but the internals were unchanged. The recessed floor of the modern style cabinets went, and became the reverse with a gap between the floor and the bottom of the frame/soundboard. Essentially, they made the bottom of the cabinets higher. Perhaps... it was a move to distance these models from B1/B2.

Yamaha formerly had a joint venture cooperation with Pearl River in China. The cheapest Yamaha upright was from this factory and was called the C110A. The next 2 models were from Jakarta, Indonesia and were made entirely by Yamaha and were not a joint venture. These models were the C109 and C113T. They commanded a higher price and received positive reviews. When Yamaha discontinued the Chinese C110A they relaunched the C109 and C113T models as the B1 and B2. They were introduced at the C110A price and were in fact superior to the C109/C113T models as they featured a fully braced back.

My dislike of the B1, B2, Kemble Camb. 10/12, the Yamaha E110/P112/P114 etc. is simply that they are short uprights and therefore the string length and soundboard area are lacking - which means the bass and depth of tone in the lower tenor is somewhat shallow, and the touch is less responsive due to short actions... these are all the same factors in all short uprights - but smaller pianos cost less to make and therefore a new piano can be within reach of tighter budgets, but also they are essential instruments for rooms with less space or complicated delivery access (tight turns, stairs etc.). Piano makers produce short uprights because there is a market for them.

Yamaha's laminated soundboard is very good. It is 3 plies of soundboard-grade spruce bonded together. It is not builder's grade plyboard (often suggested). There are many pianos with solid spruce soundboards that sound terrible, because of the design and quality of the piano itself, but there are also pianos - like the B1 and B2 with laminated soundboards that do sound very good for their size, and this too is because of the design and quality of the piano itself. Laminated soundboard are more cost effective and also are impossible to split plus are more stable in environments with fluctuating humidity. A piano of good design, build, material and prep quality with a well-engineered laminated soundboard should be considered as a serious instrument able to offer improved tuning stability and longevity as well as being attractively-priced.

The B3 is totally different to the B1 and B2. I would accurately describe it as a brand new Yamaha U1 in a slightly different looking cabinet, without a soft close fallboard and lock, a one piece top lid, laminated soundboard and made entirely by Yamaha in their very impressive Jakarta factory. It has the U1 frame, keyboard, action, hammers, dampers, soundboard design, ribs, backposts, tone collectors and pedal trapwork.... and it costs £2,635 less than the U1.

Lets now look at a similarly-priced refurbished 1970/1980's Yamaha U1. Genuine Japan-built professional specification U1 with a solid sprue soundboard. That is a convincing title but what a huge difference between the old U1 and the current U1. In fact, it is no where near as good as a new U1. The design is completely different. The current U1 is wider, so it has longer bass strings and increased soundboard surface area = better bass and improved depth in lower tenor. Also, it has a 5th backpost plus 2 tone collectors for improved structural rigidity which helps focus the resonant energy within the soundboard itself and not spreading throughout the cabinet - plus, it improves tuning stability; It has a full perimeter frame for greater frame density - also improving the fullness of tone; redesigned underfelted hammers to improve sustain and dynamic range... and all those features are there in the B3 too.

So, yes it does get my back up when someone focuses on the soundboard and ignores every other crucial element to a piano's performance and stability. It's straightforward scaremongering and a far too common misleading sales tactic.

Refurbished Yamaha U1 pianos still have way over 75% of the original components, so they cannot possible last as long as a brand new B3.

If you want comparison pictures, please visit our website article at http://www.chrisvenables.co.uk/old-yamaha-u1-u3-vs-new-yamaha-u1-u3-b3-p121.htm

Better still, get out there and try these pianos with an open mind. Don't assume that advice on the internet is gospel and advice in the shop is spiel... I have read appallingly inaccurate 'facts' on forums, dealer articles and also our customers have heard completely the wrong information in one or 2 shops.
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Offline starstruck5

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #15 on: November 07, 2011, 08:53:04 PM »
Thanks for the information regarding new Yamaha pianos -

Considering how much I admire the piano Paul Barton plays - (although he seems to be performing more on a Wendl&Lung upright and Grand these days) - there is no denying the beauty of the Yamaha model  - so in a sense I had already become less prejudiced!  I will play the B series pianos with an open mind - and also a reconditioned U3  - see how they compare -

When a search is in progress, something will be found.

Offline keys60

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #16 on: November 08, 2011, 01:25:14 AM »
Willvenables:

We really need to get your "back up" more often because that was a magnificent tutelage regarding the comparison of the Yamaha models, older and newer.
You are so correct voicing the dangers of posting limited knowledge, although well intended, for some may be done a great injustice of not bothering to compare certain pianos in their shopping lineup. What many don't realize is laminated soundboards have been used for close to 40 years with great success.
Thank you for your generosity for taking the time posting the facts. I've learned plenty as well as others. 

Offline gregman88

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #17 on: April 03, 2013, 07:56:31 PM »
Who has been using the term "plywood"? The sound board on these pianos is spruce or agathis,  an asian spruce equivalent.

A note from the States, where the Yamaha B series has just arrived (2013). The "laminate" word seems to invoke a negative image, but the Yamaha sound board on these pianos is more of a veneer.  We have been told that the center section is spruce or agathis, and of normal piano thickness. A thin veneer of spruce is high frequency glued to either side. These veneers vibrate freely and add no significant tonal change. The huge benefit is the ability to withstand climate changes.

The process is not new. Samick introduced this technology in the 90s and lost a lawsuit because they insisted on using the term "veneer" instead of "laminate". Technically, the woods are, indeed, laminated.

I have a lot of experience with Yamaha pianos, and they would never create or include a feature that impedes the musicality and respect they have worked so hard to achieve.

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #18 on: April 03, 2013, 08:56:53 PM »
I know this is old news and you went back far enough to dredge it up incidentally ! However, I think most commonly available replacement soundboards are laminated these days.

On another note, isn't a laminated panel just a fancy term for plywood anyway ? Granted there are degrees of quality for sure but ultimately the process is the same. Glued together thin layers of cross grained sheets.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline iansinclair

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #19 on: April 04, 2013, 02:19:20 PM »
Seems to me the problem is that "plywood" is a very wooly term.  Taken by itself, it can refer to any piece of wood -- usually a panel, that is much wider and longer than it is thick -- made up of multiple layers (plys) of wood.  Simple enough.  But the question is, what is the wood?  What is the quality of the wood?  What is the glue?  What is the orientation of the plys?  And on and on.

You can get some pretty horrible stuff at various home improvement stores.

On the other hand, there is absolutely no reason why a soundboard made of several layers of carefully selected spruce or similar wood, carefully oriented and assembled with the proper glue shouldn't be just as good if not better than a solid wood soundboard.  Quite possibly better, as it will be much less likely to crack.

Plywood doesn't have to be junk.  For the historically minded, may I bring to your memory that one of the best -- if not the best -- overall airplane of World War II was the de Havilland Mosquito, which was made of ... "plywood".
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Offline hfmadopter

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #20 on: April 04, 2013, 07:22:38 PM »
Plywood doesn't have to be junk.  For the historically minded, may I bring to your memory that one of the best -- if not the best -- overall airplane of World War II was the de Havilland Mosquito, which was made of ... "plywood".

Indeed, can't argue with any of this ! Actually several good planes had plywood in them, I believe the Spitfire wing and fuselage formers were ply as well. Don't know what the spars were made of though.

By the same token, we had the biggest ( literally) blunder of an airplane made mostly of ply, Howard Hues', The Spruce Goose.

I agree that a piano sound board if made of lamenated quality woods should sound fine.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline g_s_223

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #21 on: April 04, 2013, 10:34:16 PM »
My main issue with uprights is the action: many are too heavy, do try your selections out and see that the lightest leggiero prestissimo is feasible.

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #22 on: April 05, 2013, 08:31:13 PM »
My main issue with uprights is the action: many are too heavy, do try your selections out and see that the lightest leggiero prestissimo is feasible.

I have not experienced heavy action in upright pianos but sluggish, just not crisp. And not all uprights I might add. In fact  I've played on Steinways grands with quite heavy action but faster than most uprights. I owned an upright when I found my teacher a long time ago who taught on a mint Steinway S, the action was heavy but very crisp. I knew then that I must own a grand piano for the action. I do now, though not a Steinway.

I've played on some older well kept Baldwin uprights with very good action since those days. Some uprights can't keep up with a fast trill, those could.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline virtuoso80

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #23 on: April 05, 2013, 09:35:49 PM »
A couple of years ago I tried to find an upright with action that felt akin to a grand. I failed. Ultimately, they're just not the same thing. It's frustrating for those of us who want to work on refining our touch and feel for the hammers, but only a grand can prepare you for a grand.

I have a Yamaha which does easy pianissimo, but the trade-off is that the hammers tend toward double-strike all to easily.

Offline 1piano4joe

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #24 on: April 05, 2013, 11:22:53 PM »
Buy Yourself a Schulze-Pollman piano.

The soundboard is made of Italian red spruce. It has the cleanest, clearest most beautiful sound of any tonal wood. This wood is very expensive and found in the Fazioli pianos and some high end violins.

It has Renner action and a gorgeous finished cabinet.

I recently spent $500 to have it regulated and now the pianissimo is much better. There are no double strikes.

I bought mine new for $6600. This may be slightly higher than your budget allows but  I don't think you will find a better upright than that in this price range.

Hope that helps, Joe.

Offline aks127

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #25 on: May 21, 2013, 07:24:25 PM »
Came across these boards after buying a Yamaha b3 in the US. I was a bit confused by all the discussion in this board and some of the UK piano boards that the soundboard of the b3 was laminate. However, if you read the Yamaha press release on 1/24/2013 re: b series release in the US, it specifically states that the b2 and b3 have solid spruce soundboards. So I took it upon myself to call Yamaha tech support direct as they listed a phone number in the press release. The tech service guy confirmed that the b2 and b3 have solid spruce soundboards. I asked again and made sure to ask if the b2 and b3 had laminate soundboards and he said "no, only the b1 has a laminate soundboard." So just wanted to report that direct from the horse's mouth (Yamaha in this case) for those in the market for an upright piano. There's a lot of misinformation out there on the interwebs.

Offline jagger

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Re: Upright Pianos to Avoid?
«Reply #26 on: September 05, 2015, 09:54:27 PM »
The B3 AND B2 have solid spruce soundboards. The B1 has real-wood laminate, specifically for less than desirable climates and environments.

This information is very easily found on Yamaha's website; as well as the differences between pianos that are tempered the US and other countries' climates.

"Grey Market" pianos NEVER hold up in the US, regardless of what a store that is NOT an authorized dealer tells you.