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Steinway D, New or Used?

Discussion in 'The Piano' started by 88man, Nov 21, 2008.

  1. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    I am curious about a new or used Steinway D, and trading in my pristine 1985 Steinway B.

    I am fearful of parting with my current B because I really got lucky with this rare find 2 years ago - it was owned and maintained by a Steinway technician who passed away. It was lightly used, as all the felt and buckskins, and parts are all original in mint condition. The bass is well defined, characteristic double reed sweetness in the midrange, and bell like highs - reminiscent of a quality Decca recording. It's harmonically balanced in all registers. So I really need to justify parting with the B for a similar quality D. If I can't find a D, I am not parting with the B!

    QUESTIONS:
    1. I am curious how a new or used D compare?
    2. Just how good are the new Steinway Ds these days in terms of tonal quality, construction, wood, etc.?
    3. Has anyone ordered a Hamburg Steinway D? Any good/bad experiences in U.S.A.?

    Any advice would be appreciated, thanks.
     
  2. Lukecash

    Lukecash New Member

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    Personally, i just can't trade away a piano after i fall in love with it. It's just too sentimental. If i were you i would miss he old one in an hour or two. from your description that piano is a dynamo.
     
  3. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    keep the B; you put more into writing about your current piano than the model D. So to me that shows you have more connection with your current piano. Sure the D has a booming bass and is the best that steinway makes, but if you know your instrument (B) very well and it is a rare find, then by all means keep it.

    -jg

    (now if you come across a Bechstein in walnut burl, ditch the B and get the bechstein :wink: )
     
  4. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Not sure you are still interested in this topic. I didn't have anything to say about it before, but I do now. :)

    Sounds like your model B is a fine instrument. I’m sure you are maintaining it properly, but remember that over time the sound will change from the hammers becoming harder, which will produce a brighter sound. Of course, that all depends on how much it’s played.

    I happen to be reading a lot about Steinways right now and from what I’ve read, a new Steinway will need some extra attention when you first get it home to bring it to your taste in voicing. But a used one that is already settled in will need attention at some point too (as any piano does).

    And is your model B piano American or German? Supposedly the American Steinway has a softer hammer than the Hamburg hammer and a new one may have a slightly muffled treble sound because the hammers are not hard enough. This can be changed though by a technician adding a hardening solution to the felt. A new Hamburg piano on the other hand has a harder hammer and technicians spend extra time pricking the felt in order to soften it. These voicing issues are something to think about when deciding upon a new or used piano and also American versus Hamburg.

    One book I’m reading now is “The Piano Book” by Larry Fine. He states several times that ultimately, you should purchase the biggest piano you can afford because you’ll get a better sound. So I think you should definitely look at the model D since you can afford one and have the space for it. As far as quality in new versus used - since Steinways are mostly handmade, then the quality is probably the same. Although I’m sure that advances in technology makes some things easier today. Somewhere in that book it says that it used to be the Hamburg piano was made with better quality control than the American, but today the two are more equal.

    So…you have a tough decision to make (unless you've already made it). But obviously in a used model D, it will depend on a lot of things. A brand new one, though, is a whole different ballgame. Good luck and let us know if you went Steinway model D shopping or if you're keeping your model B.
     
  5. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Having just now re-read this post, it occurred to me that I also saw that information about the two pianos being equal on that link that Alfonso posted. Oh well, I'm probably just talking to myself here anyway....
     
  6. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Phoenix! I thought this thread just died...

    Thank you Lukecash, jg, and Monica for your terrific advice!

    JG, I like a treble with a little more weight. I find The European treble is a little thin for my taste, having played Bechstein, August Forster, Grotrian, Petrof in the showroom. Otherwise, the tone of some of these instruments is truly golden. It's so difficult to achieve a balance from the bass to the treble. Either the bass is good, and the treble is lacking, or vice versa. BTW, have you ever played on a Feurich?... Beautiful tone, timbre, lush sound! They stopped importing it into this country about 15 years ago.

    I flew 1200 miles to find my B on a whim, I'll travel 2000 miles if I must to find my "Helen of Troy" D. But realistically, I would have to be fully convinced to sell my B, ONLY if I find a D that has better tonality, timbre, clarity, balance, and expressive action. At this point, it's probably a margin of diminishing return for the top 82 notes, but it's the last 6 notes that the D would offer more definition... The crashing last 3 notes in Chopin's Prelude No. 24 could take on epic proportion!

    Monica, my B is American. The Hamburg Steinway has more bronzed timbre than the New York Steinway, but not as much as a Bosendorfer Imperial Flugel. The New York Steinway also has more weight in the treble than the Hamburg Steinway. I have recently changed my preference, and now I think the New York Steinway offers the best balance (and $) - you can play both Schubert and Rachmaninoff without sound character issues.

    Yes, Larry Fine's Piano Book is an fantastic guide! That reminds me, I need to order the updated Addendum. You're right, you never know how a new piano will ultimately sound until everything settles in. That's why I am thinking perhaps a "lightly used D" (Now there is an oxymoron) might be the way to go. This way I wouldn't have to worry about the unpredictable nature of voicing across the range. I am not a big fan of treating the hammers with lacquer because if you don't like the sound or slightly over treat it, you're stuck! VERY technique sensitive and irreversible. I'd rather file down the surface of the hammer to harden it instead, because you can always soften it again with the pins. Before buying my piano, I had the entire action examined and felt the voicing was fine before buying. I realize now that no matter how careful you are, there is always something that needs adjustment... The rod that engages all the keys for the soft pedal makes a noise. Zoinks! I think the technician may have to take home the entire action for that fix.

    You have rekindled my interest again... Spring is around the corner, and maybe I should go into Steinway Hall to try out some Ds. I'll bring an epi-pen just in case for the $ticker $hock. I'll let you know if I make it alive. In the meantime, I better brush up on Prelude No. 24... Ouch, it's those thirds again!

    Thanks everyone!
     
  7. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Re: Phoenix! I thought this thread just died...

    Well, you need to take me with you when you go shopping, because I actually carry an epi-pen in my purse all the time. (my son has a peanut allergy)

    And yes - you better be practicing that no. 24 prelude. We will be listening! (I told you being a member of PS would make you practice harder. :wink: )

    Zoinks! :lol: :lol:
     
  8. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Monica to the rescue! I had no idea you were a a pianomedic too. Otherwise, I was also going to place 911 on speed-dial. :lol: It's important to hear a piano from the near-field (player standpoint) as well as the far-field (listener standpoint with Monica playing). Hey, thanks for helping out, I thought I was going to have to search for a Piano Society member for the task. :p

    I am going to bring my portable recorder and try these D monsters out. They usually have about 4-5 on hand.
     
  9. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Good idea. Maybe you can post the samples so we can hear the differences. Do they have on hand some Hamburg D's as well as New York D's? I'd like to hear the difference between those two.
     
  10. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    I'd be very surprised if I see a German Steinway in an American Steinway showroom. Steinway in the States is very protective of its product and won't allow German Steinways to be displayed in their showroom. They even made Grotrian, drop the Steinweg surname in their mark to import any Grotrians into this country. However, you can order a German Steinway in the U.S., but it would be sight unseen and outlandishly priced.

    I'll definitely share any comparative recordings I make of the Ds from the showroom.
     
  11. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    They do down in the C&A basement, but not actually for sale AFAIK.
     
  12. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Horowitzian wrote:
    Hi Horowitzian, what's the C&A basement?...
     
  13. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    The Concert & Artist division basement under Steinway Hall. That's where they store the largest contingent of the pianos selected to be ultra-well-prepped for use by Steinway artists. Those pianos are sold after they are retired, but I don't know what happens to their Hamburg pianos after they are retired, whether they sell them in NY or send them back to Europe.
     
  14. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Oh yes, the basement! I remember seeing a Horowitz clip from 1985 on youtube from the Steinway Basement. I don't remember if it was you that I originally posted it in a forum? In any case, here it is:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guzPykY9IyE

    "Not actually for sale?" Now that's a tease. :p

    Here is the Real Deal Question: I am seriously wondering if a master technician were to spend 10, 20, or 30hrs, can he/she produce an "ultra-well prepped" sounding piano from the showroom?... Or are all the best Ds sent downstairs, or sold to a select few from a short list?... I'd like to hone in on my piano shopping skills to spot a diamond in the rough. Maybe the only way I'll know is to go and compare the pianos from upstairs and downstairs?... Hey, I wouldn't mind flying into NYC to for a duel: New York vs Hamburg!? :p

    Thanks Everyone!
     
  15. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    I understand that the very best D's are indeed cherrypicked right out if the factory for the C&A basement. That's why ex-C&A pianos can be screamin' deals. As far as the master technician working on showroom floor pianos, the answer is yes, depending on how much the piano is played. Steinways in particular benefit greatly from skilled tech work and regular play to break in the action and develop the hammers properly. My B (I think you've heard about it on Piano World) sounds better now than it did new a year ago, and it received expert attention right out of the crate.

    Best of luck on your search. Nothing like a good D. 8)

    PS--I love that video!
     

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