Affordable Acoustic Pianos
By Rob Shrock
Fri, 31 May 2013

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.


Hands On

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.

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