Affordable Acoustic Pianos
If you’re in the market for a new piano and want to keep
your expenditure comfortably in the realm of four figures, you’re most
likely looking at uprights, also called vertical pianos. In addition to
the lower costs of overseas manufacturing, the piano industry has seen
dramatic improvements in build quality over the past 20 years. The used
market can offer great deals, but can be like the Wild West if you’re
new to piano shopping. The warranty and service that come with buying
new from a reputable dealer are made more appealing by the fact that
these days, you get more piano for your money than ever.
At this year’s Winter NAMM show, I checked out a number of
pianos priced under $10,000, with an emphasis at the $5,000 price point
or even less. As is common when auditioning any budget acoustic
instrument, what I able to played ranged from “pretty bad” to “amazing
for the price.” The pianos in this roundup represent the most memorable
of what I found there. The Yamaha pianos (click to page X of this article) were reviewed by Keyboard Editor Stephen Fortner.
From talking to the various manufacturer reps, it became
clear how important the preparation phase before delivery to the
customer is for both the playing condition of the instrument and how
that affects final pricing. As a matter of course, most high-end pianos
are prepared by the distributor to ensure consistent tone, feel, and
operation. However, not all budget pianos get this treatment before
delivery, as it usually affects the cost to the buyer.
The result is that overseas pianos prepped after
they arrive in the United States sound much better in the dealer’s
showroom, and that experience makes all the difference for a prospective
buyer testing budget-priced instruments. The improvement is not just
noticeable, but really a world of difference. This aspect muddies the
waters a bit for someone trying to make a buying decision, because a
really decent piano might not be presenting itself in a way that
reflects its true potential and value if it hasn’t been prepped.
So what can you do? Search out a piano that feels and
sounds good to you right now, and leave it at that. If a distributor or
showroom has gone to the trouble to prep their budget pianos upon
arrival, then that’s probably a good sign that they care about the
process and are more worthy of your business. It’s not your problem if a
sleeper piano is getting overlooked because it doesn’t sound good on
the showroom floor. Move on, because it’s too difficult to guess to what
degree tweaking and adjustment will improve a budget piano.