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For those who want to track piano industry progresses, like many people on this forum, the Fine book is an excellent source of information.

But I believe it should not be treated like a Consumer Report guide on buying pianos, as it has been in the past. Using the same criteria to rank a $100K Bluthner 5 star and $10K Pearl River 1 star doesn't make sense to the general market. Nobody does a duke-it-out with Ferrari against Honda Civic in order to educate consumer what car he should buy.

By the way, here is the most recent announcement from Steinway:

Quote

Piano Operations

Worldwide piano sales for the first quarter increased $1.8 million, or 3%, over the prior year period. Overseas markets remain strong, with unit shipments of Steinway grand pianos up 3% and shipments of mid-priced pianos up 43%. Economic conditions continued to negatively impact domestic shipments of Steinway grand pianos, leading to a worldwide decline in Steinway grand unit shipments of 13%. Worldwide, unit shipments of mid-priced pianos increased 18%. This higher mix of mid-priced pianos led to a decrease in gross margins from 36.0% to 34.5%.
If Steinway only increased overseas grand piano sales by 3%, in the light of a very weak dollar, along with a significant decline in the domestic market, I wonder how much truth is in the rumors on fully booked orders by expensive European piano makers.

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Pianoca, the fundamental problem I have with your car analogy - and with the analogy of consumer automobiles in general - is that, unlike Ferraris vs. Hondas, all contemporary pianos are expected to permit the performance of piano music written for 88 keys, at whatever (human-playable) pace, fast or slow, is considered appropriate to the music. Thus they can be meaningfully judged side-by-side.

No one expects even the best Tier 1A piano to play the Minute Waltz in less than, say, 1 second. But a Ferrari might top 200 mph on a straight, and a Hummer might climb steep mountain terrain that a Honda Accord wouldn't dream of doing, yet the Accord would - intentionally - deliver a smoother ride and higher fuel economy.

Compared to that level of variability, Faziolis and Dongbeis are practically *siblings*: both are expected to allow the Minute Waltz to be played on them in about a minute's time, with adequate intonation, dynamics and control, while emitting a sound resembling that of a piano. That's (just about) it!

The way in which Ferraris-vs.-Civics keep getting invoked as an attempted analogy to Tier 1-vs.-X instruments, given the panoply of ways in which the two situations aren't analogous, IMHO undermines the very argument you're trying to make.

On the earlier post: sorry to suggest that you blamed Fine personally simply because his book is used by some of us as an ersatz Consumer Reports. I appreciate the distinction, I promise!

To which I add: I have no problem advocating a Consumer Reports-style publication that ranks pianos by their average build quality, number of defects of {X, Y, Z, ...} type, sustain, MTBF, expected # hours of heavy concert or institutional use before a rebuild is required, reliability, etc. I think that kind of idea is superb (even if difficult to implement). But I'd insist that (1) Tier 1 models are represented, and judged just as harshly as all other models; and (2) price, and price-to-value, be included as part of the rating.

That way, if an exotic brand with its 10x-higher man-hour and material costs performs about the same as a mass-produced model with lower price point, the price-to-value rating of the cheaper instrument would be higher. (This doesn't mean the cheaper one is better, only that...)

And, in my perfect world, I'd also insist that the Fine book continue to be recommended. smile

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And another thing: 200 years of trial and error, and more expensive materials, doesn't necessarily equal better. It is possible that the materials science and/or technology of the future might permit the construction of a better-sounding soundboard, string, or just about any other part of a piano. It may be possible to fabricate an amazing-sounding and performing instrument with materials/technology yet to be devised, with almost zero human labor. Even a factory voicing might be achievable at some point if machines are ever able to listen / adjust as humans do. Selecting just the right kind of wood will likely remain difficult, but verifying that a synthetic material is defect-free would be simpler to achieve.

Nevertheless, 200 years of trial and error does yield certain competitive advantages. I imagine Tier 1 makers might remain competitive in a future market by being among the select few who understand what factors contribute to their superior sound / performance, and incorporating those lessons into an updated production process that produces a better piano for a lower cost. "Knowledge is power" today, and is likely to remain so into the future.

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Originally posted by AJB:
I agree with gryphon (not the moron remark)
Come out from among them.
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Omitting the best pianos would seriously devalue it as a work of reference.
Absolutely.
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it is odd in a way that we need to make comparisons with other objects (some that we may not be able to or want to afford) in order to determine a preference. Surely, if a piano is pleasing, then that is sufficient - regardless of what all the other pianos sound like?
No, no, no. Or perhaps I should write it as "no, No, NO!" Okay, your basic premise has some validity, but you are totally ignoring other realities. Your local dealer sells Yamaha and Pearl River. You don't know any better. You go in, play them, maybe listen to the salesman play them if you don't play. You pick what sounds best to you.

But if you were a knowledgeable consumer you would know that you could travel 90 miles (or 290 miles) to one or two other stores that would allow you to play half a dozen or more other pianos in the same price range as Yamaha that you might like equally as well or better!

Pianos aren't like cars. You don't see advertisements for them every day on TV. You can't buy them in every town like you can an automobile.

Pianos aren't like guitars. You can't walk into any music store and buy an Estonia or M&H or Bechstein or Steinway like you can a Gibson Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster.

And as for comparing them to other pianos, that should absolutely be done! If you don't think so, then step away from the crack pipe.

If I am looking to spend in the neighborhood of $2K for a guitar, shouldn't I at least play a D28 to see if I like it, instead of plunking my money down on the local overpriced alternate guitar dealer? (Personally I prefer a 000 cutaway, but then what do I know)?

A piano, or guitar, or hammer dulcimer, or trombone, may be pleasing until they compare with other instruments that may sound better. It's not so much a problem if the better instrument costs two to three times as much money. But the problem surely manifests itself when the better instrument costs no more than the inferior instrument.
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I don't think it should be recommended every time a newbie comes on here though.
I think you are wrong. I do. Knowledge never hurts. Indeed, some have said "knowledge is power." Reading Fine can prepare you for BS that your dealer might try to foist upon you. It, and PW, has served me well. The two best decisions I have ever made in my life are my wife and my piano. (Okay, that is pretty much a throw-away line. The best decision (outside of Jesus) I have ever made is my wife. The part about the piano is true insomuch that it was correct. To say it was the equivalent of the previous two would be a lie. Having said that, it is the best non-life-altering decision I have ever made, and I'm not so sure it wasn't life altering. My piano purchase decision was helped largely by PW and Fine. Otherwise I would have bought a Yamaha C3, none the wiser. I would not have known any better.

As AJB asks, would I have been happy? I assume so. Maybe the tone would have worn me down, I don't know. I found PW and Fine and the increased knowledge made me a better consumer.
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Many people just need to listen to a few pianos, tinkle some ivories to get a feel, and then view some price tags
I disagree. Without a good basis for comparison one's choice may not be optimum.


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Reading Fine can prepare you for BS that your dealer might try to foist upon you. It, and PW, has served me well. The two best decisions I have ever made in my life are my wife and my piano.
I will resist the urge to ask you about the BS foisted by wife dealers and the 'Fine Book of Wives'.

Gryphon,

Can't help but notice your down-to-earth and civil tone here. My own experience pretty much confirms what you are saying. When I first saw a Sauter piano last year, I wouldn't have known the difference between a Sauter and a Samick had it not been for Fine. I had never really needed to shop for a piano in my life even though dozens of hand-me-downs had settled in with me over the years. I just never became brand-conscious. My biases were based on hundreds of pianos I had needed to play in the field. I played that showroom Sauter out of curiosity because of something I had read in Fine (4th edition 2001). I've played many Sauter's since. I don't know that I'll ever be in a position to buy one, but my acquaintance with them and other nice brands that were brought to my attention by reading Fine has sharpened my perceptions as to what I want from a piano even though a Sauter (among others) is out of my price range. And I'm certainly not trying to say that Sauter is the piano above all others. It just happens to fit me better than any other I've played. So I agree with you. A thorough reading of Fine does help you become aware of the possibilities since you won't see them hanging on the wall at Guitar Center.

On the other hand, the numbers disturb me....not that Fine isn't entitled to his ratings...but just how blindly people may interpret them. In my 2001 Fine (still the only one I own) Sauter is in Category 2 because it scored only 2 stars in information known. I gather that is no longer an issue and Sauter has been placed in Category 1, but to me it seems a tad unfair that the reviewer's inability to develop sufficient information about a brand can become the rationale for downgrading the brand. Of course I was able to look at the profile of individual ratings that Fine based his composite rating on and draw my own conclusion. That's a credit to Fine....very upfront on the details always. But I know that a lot of readers get stuck on the category number/letter and that it colors their perceptions more than it should. I honestly think Larry Fine himself would not argue that fact.

Anyway, one thing is certainly true. No matter how you slice it. You can't blame Larry Fine for the "Depressing State of European Piano Manufacturing". NY Steinway is hanging on by its fingernails in Category 1, otherwise populated by the 'depressed' Europeans. Putting aside the diluted and confusing world of the Internet, Fine has done more than anyone to add wonderful European makes to the vocabulary of North American piano shoppers.


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Gryphon - we are not rally in disagreement. I agree that it makes sense to compare pianos. I did this myself and am doing it again with a bike purchase.

My point was purely a philosophical one about the predisposition of people not to be satisfied with something that sounds acceptable. It leads us into the clutches of more and more dealers with ever higher prices....

But we digress from the allegedly depressing state of European piano manufacturing.


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Originally posted by turandot: On the other hand, the numbers disturb me....not that Fine isn't entitled to his ratings...but just how blindly people may interpret them.
The Fine piano ratings remind me of the Robert Parker Wine ratings. Both wine and pianos suffer from an elite/snob/mystery/special knowledge image in the minds of 80% of consumers. Especially in the States there seems to be a real need for guides to absolve consumers from doing their own legwork, personal education and thinking, selling them on the dream to be able to at best minimize risk and at worse to mindlessly buy whatever rating they are striving for. So, the Fine guide, which I find to be a very "fine" primer, is compelling also because of these seemingly hewn-in-stone ratings.

That's what leads to a homogeneous offer of food-unfriendly, fruit-bomb, over-oaked, taste-a-like Cabernets at the local liquor store.
And, in my opinion, the success of some of the traditionally value-for-money, reliable quality consumer products such as from Kawai and Yamaha have also been overly advantaged by such a guide, as in: "The good news is that your piano works and is tuneable. The bad news is that it will always sound like YADY (Yet Another Damn Yamaha)."

Quote
Originally posted by turandot: In my 2001 Fine (still the only one I own) Sauter is in Category 2 because it scored only 2 stars in information known. I gather that is no longer an issue and Sauter has been placed in Category 1, but to me it seems a tad unfair that the reviewer's inability to develop sufficient information about a brand can become the rationale for downgrading the brand. Of course I was able to look at the profile of individual ratings that Fine based his composite rating on and draw my own conclusion. That's a credit to Fine....very upfront on the details always. But I know that a lot of readers get stuck on the category number/letter and that it colors their perceptions more than it should. I honestly think Larry Fine himself would not argue that fact.
This is exactly what turned me off of the Fine book. Especially for the higher end European instruments, it was obvious that their was a dearth of data and that the information presented was so much vague, hot air. That brands could be penalized for Fine not doing the work to gather reliable data was the final insult.
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Originally posted by turandot:...Putting aside the diluted and confusing world of the Internet, Fine has done more than anyone to add wonderful European makes to the vocabulary of North American piano shoppers.
...On the other hand, if this is true, and that name recognition has also translated into sales rather than half-accurate comparison material, it can't be all bad. Too bad it seems to be the only game in town. Certainly the market would benefit by Fine being challenged to improve his product by a worthy competitor.

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Originally posted by Innominato:
I have a few question and considerations on this very interesting thread.

1. Why do you all write "Jewish"? As far as I know, "Jewish" is an adjective, "Jew" is the noun. The same goes with other american ways of saying that I find strange ("he is a kindly person" with "kindly", an adverb for what I know, instead of the adjective "kind"). Any explanation welcome.
This is about the only point on the thread that I can address.

American kids are rarely taught grammar, even in fancy private schools. Allegedly select college freshmen arrive with abominable grammar, and they suffer with poor grades until they buckle down and improve--or they get no fancy degree. I know this; I have been grading their papers for years.

The phrase "He is a kindly person" is not an American expression. It is just poor. "He is a kind person" is just correct. "He is kind" is better style. There are Americans who know this, but not as many as we would like.

Sigh.

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Originally posted by AJB:
Gryphon - we digress from the allegedly depressing state of European piano manufacturing.
How can you say that since I have never expressed an opinion on that here?


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<sigh> Another beat-down.
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Originally posted by theJourney:
The Fine piano ratings remind me of the Robert Parker Wine ratings. Both wine and pianos suffer from an elite/snob/mystery/special knowledge image in the minds of 80% of consumers. Especially in the States there seems to be a real need for guides to absolve consumers from doing their own legwork.
Look, you won't find me an apologist for many Americans. Many Americans don't have the brains God gave a goose. I guess the beauty of our country is that you can still be comfortable here without the brains God gave a goose. I personally find it disturbing. Nevertheless...

You are creating a straw man here. The Fine book is part of the leg-work. Part of the leg-work is driving to various piano stores to play and listen to various pianos. Another part is to know more about them both technically (build quality, repairability, sound review), in addition to finding out what is available (maybe not in your local market) and how they differ. Additionally...

...You know what? I don't care. I had a five point sermon ready for you but I don't care. Go about your life as you see fit.
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it seems a tad unfair that the reviewer's inability to develop sufficient information about a brand can become the rationale for downgrading the brand. Of course I was able to look at the profile of individual ratings that Fine based his composite rating on and draw my own conclusion.
I must applaud you for having the brains of a common seventeen year-old university student in the United States. You must be so proud of yourself! You are a credit to Sweden!

But here in the United States we take more responsibility for ourselves. We don't "blindly" follow others, but rather we evaluate each situation individually.

At one university there was a published guide to university professors that was looked down upon by university professors. Indeed it was so well known that other colleges knew about it very well.

Now this guide was published by a flaming liberal, not only a Democratic operative but a paid Democratic Party advisor as well, about professors at a somewhat liberal university (Michigan State University). I knew many professors, at this and other colleges, and one uber-liberal calculus professor lambasted me about this guide. Liberals eating their own.

Oh, how do I know this calc prof was liberal? Among other things, I had a lengthy argument about the Sandanistas in his office. I told him he was full of...er, I told him I thought he was wrong...when I was there talking about vectors. If you don't know a) who the Sandanistas were, or b) what vectors are, click on the following link:

Link

That is the beauty of being a university student at 30 years of age. University profs don't intimidate you. In fact, as you get older and get connections, they become even more fragile. I can now get LEIN info on any of them. Sometimes more. In this particular case, hospital records. I know this prof was subsequently admitted to a hospital (Sparrow, Lansing, MI) for substance abuse (alcohol). And this prof was a great calc professor! I would recommend him to all my kids.

Don't think this is uncommon. After my divorce when I began dating one of the women I dated ran a LEIN check on me. She only told me this six months later (she was not LEO, btw, although she knew LEOs).
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That's a credit to Fine....very upfront on the details always.
Oh, ...this is about pianos!

Heck...I give up. Y'all do what you want to. This place doesn't care about truth any more.


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is California dreamin' turandot really from Amsterdam, the capital of Sweden, or is gryphon confused?

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You be quiet, Journey...unless you want to get another beat-down.


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Originally posted by gryphon:
Look, you won't find me an apologist for many Americans. Many Americans don't have the brains God gave a goose...
Now this guide was published by a flaming liberal, not only a Democratic operative but a paid Democratic Party advisor as well, about professors at a somewhat liberal university (Michigan State University). I knew many professors, at this and other colleges, and one uber-liberal calculus professor lambasted me about this guide. Liberals eating their own. [end quote]

Source: Dictionary.com Unabridged
Liberal: –adjective

1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
2. (often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
6. of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.
7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.
8. open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.
9. characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts: a liberal donor.
10. given freely or abundantly; generous: a liberal donation.
11. not strict or rigorous; free; not literal: a liberal interpretation of a rule.
12. of, pertaining to, or based on the liberal arts.
13. of, pertaining to, or befitting a freeman.
–noun
14. a person of liberal principles or views, esp. in politics or religion.
15. (often initial capital letter) a member of a liberal party in politics, esp. of the Liberal party in Great Britain.

Source: Wordnet
conservative: -adjective

1. resistant to change [ant: liberal]
2. having social or political views favoring conservatism
3. avoiding excess; "a conservative estimate" [syn: cautious]
4. unimaginatively conventional; "a colorful character in the buttoned-down, dull-grey world of business"- Newsweek [syn: button-down]
5. conforming to the standards and conventions of the middle class; "a bourgeois mentality" [syn: bourgeois]

noun
1. a person who is reluctant to accept changes and new ideas [ant: liberal]
2. a member of a Conservative Party

Oh, yes, this thread was about pianos! smile

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It's more like...

Liberalism - meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government.

Conservatism - a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom.

Just about everyone knows, the words liberal and conservative when not concerning political philosophies mean slightly different things respectively.

The way I see it is when a man comes to your door and says, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help..." (as Ronald Reagan used to say) you're a liberal if you let him in. You're a conservative if you slam the door in his face!

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Tlubba,

Lots of meaningless US-centric, double-speak (black is white), polarizing political cliches for a thread on the depressing state of European piano manufacturing....

You might want to consider applying for a passport and actually getting out of Athens for a while to see how real-world application of faucon's dictionary definitions of liberalism have lead to some pretty Utopian societies compared to the mean conservativism and abject poverty of the American South.

Heck, I will even host you if you come to my fair city! We can see together what made this small liberal country one of the top 10 most competitive economies in the world with a population less than the total amount of near-slave labour from Mexico working illegally today in the US.

Remember, back in the days America was writing a Constitution and in the years thereafter when it still had a constitution versus "an irrelevant piece of paper" the US was built from scratch by liberals!

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The way I see it is when a man comes to your door and says, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help..." (as Ronald Reagan used to say) you're a liberal if you let him in. You're a conservative if you slam the door in his face!
What if I stand in the open doorway bracing myself on the doorfame and tell him to show me the money?

TLuvva,

We need to get this back to pianos. Gryphon will be plenty sore if we go off-topic. laugh What is a conservative piano retailer and what is a liberal piano retailer? I haven't had any piano retailers selling door-to-door in my neighborhood yet , but the way things are going in the US, I wouldn't want to rule it out.


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RIght on, sorry guys!

But hey, I just got invited to Amsterdam! Can't wait for the tour of upscale government funded utopia! Count me in!

Amsterdam and the Dutch have a long history of business and finance and as innovators of trade. Of course over here we have some additional responsibilities to the world that take some extra funding and take away from utopia building. And by the way, the south isn't as abjectly poor as the stereo-type goes. And for the record, my passport is already stamped with The Netherlands (including Amsterdam) but it has been about 15 or so years so it's in need of a refresher. But I assure you, I am fairly well traveled.

Speaking of, hey Turandot, I'm in San Diego next Thursday. Isn't Torrence just up the road a bit?

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And Journey, one more question. Does your passport include Georgia or other regions of the poverty stricken American South? Perhaps I should host you for a tour. cool

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TLuvva,

I was only kidding about getting back on topic. The Depressing State of European Pianos topic expired long ago when some of our prominent retailers were able to reassure us saying that their suppliers' order books were full, and that alles war in Ordnung. laugh You should take the thread wherever you want to.

Torrance is about 100 miles from San Diego. While you are doing a celebrity shoot or Padres team pix (guessing here) I will be in planning meetings to prepare for another drought year in the funding of California Public School Education. We are at risk of falling from #48 in terms of state level of funding per pupil to #50. Now that is a truly depressing state of affairs despite the fact that our order books are full.


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Originally posted by TLuvva:
And Journey, one more question. Does your passport include Georgia or other regions of the poverty stricken American South? Perhaps I should host you for a tour. cool
Man oh man, I can hardly wait!

My mouth is watering dreaming of

Fried green tomatoes & sweet onions,
fried okra,
frogmore stew,
peaches and cream,
pecan pie,
...

Is Five and Ten still open?

Ooops, OT, any live piano joints?

Maybe we should start a Pianoworld cultural exchange program thread.

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