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Bosendorfer 130cl and Steinway K sound (Read 3203 times)

Offline irrational

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Bosendorfer 130cl and Steinway K sound
« on: May 20, 2015, 01:32:18 PM »

Just because I searched so hard and couldn't find a good verbal comparison, I thought I would post one here for interest sake. I am not a professional pianist and play at roughly grade 7/8 Trinity College level currently. I have heard a professional pianist play and comment on these pianos as well. His comments matched my impressions.

For information, the price is relative. These high end pianos are very rare in South Africa, so more expensive than elsewhere in the world. No dealer I spoke to has even seen a Bosendorfer upright. Steinways are more common.

My Bosendorfer has now been regulated and tuned.
The pianos:
1982 Bosendorfer 130CL upright. Unplayed in 33 years and last tuned on delivery in 1983, so basically new. I paid +/- $12 000
1917-ish Steinway K upright. Pretty old but in good condition, it may have been refurbished a few decades ago. Value about $8 000.

The touch (Both have ivory keys):
Bosendorfer: Quite a bit heavy and stiff, being new. But it is really superbly accurate. The range of dynamics you can get out of a note is impressive from ppp to FFF. It makes you want to play over and over so you can try the different sounds. Trills are very even. The touch is so accurate that you can hear every single variation. I used to think I was ok with scales, but now I can hear how uneven they are. I enjoy seeing just how soft I can make a note. Its amazing how I can feel what the action is doing on my fingertips. Wonderful tactile feedback.

Steinway: Very very light touch. A real pleasure to play lightly. I have to work harder to get a stronger sound out of the piano and struggle a little to vary the sound by small amounts when playing FF-FFF. The lightness makes speedy runs a breeze. The touch is also very accurate, but not as much as the Bosey. The Steinway is more forgiving. Like the Bosey I also get an excellent tactile feedback from the action

The Sound.
Bosendorfer: It is, once again, superbly accurate. Every sound is crystal clear, sharp and pure. The trebles are extremely crisp and pure. The bass is not overwhelming, but very solid and strong. The tenor range has a very distinct woody sound. Once you hear this its evident, for instance, in Schiff's recordings of Schubert on a Bosendorfer grand. It takes a little getting used to, but its just a different sound. Its so warm and pleasant. I really like the sound. It is very even from bass to treble. My friend played Haydn sonatas which was just sublime. Same goes for Bach. I find the Bosendorfer has a great ability to fill a room with sound. A very solid sound, but you can pick out the specific notes due to the accuracy. I understand when all the online blurbs say it sounds like a grand. Not quite, but there are parallels. The "Una Corda" on the Bosey is much more evident than the Steinway. It makes the notes very clearly softer.

Steinway: Where the Bosendorfer is accurate, the Steinway is colourful. Impressions are that it has a very powerful bass and very bright treble. I find the balance a bit uneven. The trebles can jump out and the bass can be overwhelming. That said, I am also inspired to be more romantic on the Steinway. to let the sounds linger a little more. Its more velvety. I think I struggle a bit with the softest sounds to get it even. But this may be my own technique/skill limitation and not the piano's fault. It doesn't fill a room as well as the Bosey. Its like the sound is more focused at the piano?

I like both pianos a lot. I think the Bosendorfer can be superbly rewarding when played well. Its a joy to play and experience. The Steinway is very interesting to listen to. It is a different sound. I feel more serious when I play on it. I think the Bosendorfer is better as a performance instrument when playing for others, the Steinway perhaps more personal. My friends comment that the Bosey has a beautiful sound when they are around the house when I play, but on the Steinway they comment on the music itself, not the piano. I think the Steinway sound lends it a bit more to romanticism. The Bosendorfer is definitely nicer to listen to with the Haydn and Bach I heard. But I play a Mendelssohn song without words on the Bosendorfer that sounds sublime too and its improving. I just need to learn the touch more. So this opinion could change.
Either piano is a great piano and I don't think you can go wrong with any of these.
I am very very happy with the Bosendorfer, but had I not found one, the Steinway would have been completely satisfying.

Now I am hoping the work day can finish so I can go listen to the Bosendorfer again.
I hope this is helpful to some people. 8)

Offline irrational

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Re: Bosendorfer 130cl and Steinway K sound
«Reply #1 on: December 22, 2015, 01:22:14 PM »
I wanted to update this after playing for a few more months and having a marathon regulation session on the Bosendorfer. I cant find an "Edit" function so just replying.

The Bosendorfer keys turned out to be Elephant Bone (Not ivory). It is much more finely regulatable than the Steinway. One can really fine tune the touch. The touch has been changed to be significantly more even, lighter and easier. The Steinway has a light touch because of worn parts. But its still feels more even for now until a further session on the Bosendorfer.
The Bosendorfer also had its hammers adjusted to fully strike all all strings squarely. No voicing has been done yet, but the difference in dynamic is amazing. Instead of the more flat sound from before there is an added richness that makes the sound a lot more interesting and closed the perceived "gap" to the complexity of the Steinway's sound.

The Bosendorfer's bass strings provide constant overtones and resonance to the piano. I have gotten used to it and now I want it. The main effect is much less use of the pedal. For instance the opening bars of Mozart Fantasia K.397 I use pedal on the Steinway and none on the Bosendorfer. Or I used to sometimes use pedal for fun on Bach WTC1 Prelude in C on the Steinway. This is impossible on the Bosendorfer unless you slow the piece down significantly. Even then you can get the effect with your fingers. Its musical resonance is much clearer without pedal and magnetic to my ear. I enjoy Mozart more on the Bosendorfer now, but by far the best is Bach. I can't get enough. I will play hours of Bach happily. I get lost in the harmonies. The 3 part invention I am playing is a whole adventure in sound. I am, however, struggling to get Chopin right, but it is steadily improving, showing that it is a question of technique.

Now that I am not scared to PLAY the Bosendorfer, it is easily as powerful as the Steinway with a much warmer sound in the tenor and bass.

I think the trebles are a bit too crystal for me. They very easily come out as disturbingly sharp. I constantly think I have to really improve my technique to get it right. The Steinway trebles seem richer in sound and a bit softer while still clear. Voicing should cure this I expect.

That all said. I feel with the proper technician's assistance the Bosendorfer is truly amazing. Its sublimely musical. Incredibly unforgiving though! Get it right and its beauty is very impressive. I feel very honoured to have one.

My previous assessment still stands that I would have been happy with the Steinway if I owned it.

Offline keitokyun

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Re: Bosendorfer 130cl and Steinway K sound
«Reply #2 on: December 29, 2015, 09:22:20 AM »
from what i can see, your budget is to about $12,000 USD. What i would suggest is that you save up to about $20,000 USD and go buy yourself a Yamaha or Kawai (preferably Yamaha) grand piano. You could even look for cheaper used pianos for about $10,000 USD. Most people see piano's such as Steinway and Bosendorfer as the "holy grail" of pianos, having the best sound and the best action. However, if you look hard enough, with patience, you will definitely find a cheaper piano with a voice better than, if not equal to that of a Steinway or bosendorfer. (Yamaha's are also a lot more reliable and durable than European piano's). If space is an issue, I'd go for the Bosendorfer.

Offline irrational

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Re: Bosendorfer 130cl and Steinway K sound
«Reply #3 on: December 29, 2015, 10:32:45 AM »
Hi Keitokun.

I bought the Bosendorfer in April 2015 already and am superbly happy with it. Its quality is truly impeccable. I paid $10 000 in the end, which is about $3000 less than you'd pay for a Steinway S around here, similar to a Yamaha G1 and about $4000 more than a Yamaha C2. Used prices. And the Bosendorfer was clearly unplayed.

I have played on several brands and sizes of grand before and the only ones I feel have similar or better sound was a Steinway O, A and B and a Bosendorfer 225. I don't like the Yamaha sound as much (However much I admire them!) and I did not like the Kawai touch or sound. I also did not really like the Bechstein I played on. I can't remember the size. It was slightly smaller than a Steinway O.

The only reason for me to go to a grand is touch, as the upright is just not as accurate. But now I am spoilt for sound quality and the smaller grands just do not have the same resonance and richness.

I don't think small space is the only issue for an upright vs grand. The Bosendorfer is so powerful that if I open up the top its almost too loud in a roughly 400sqf (40sqm) space. I need to place carpets and furniture strategically to absorb excessive echo. It fills my whole 1600sqf (150sqm) house with sound. So a good grand will require a new house!

I will one day find a grand, but my needs are completely catered for at the moment. When I do, it will be easy enough to trade the Bosendorfer.

I wouldn't agree on the durability. My friend's Steinway is an unrestored 1920's K and I have also played an unrestored 1890's Steinway O. Both were really impressive still. My other piano is a 1912 52" R. Gors and Kallman upright. But it has been partially restored with new felt and hammers. But the frame, pinblock, bridge and soundboard are all original and in excellent condition!