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#266484 05/18/08 02:03 AM
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In Fine´s rating the tiers seem to be watertight compartments. Isn´t it more true that excellent made pianos of a lower tier may excell the badly made pianos of a higher tier and represent very good value?

To what extent do tiers overlap?


“There are only two important things which I took with me on my way to America, It´s been my wife Natalja and my precious Blüthner.” – Sergei Rachmaninov

1913 Blüthner model 6
1929 Blüthner model 9.
#266485 05/18/08 03:37 AM
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pianistical,

Just my two cents.

Generally I think there will always be overlap between 'adjacent' tiers. Witness of that is that Fine gradually introduced 'sub-tiers' (A, B, C).

As to whether a lower tier 'may excell the badly made higher tier', as you put it? I think it mainly depends whether you mean an individual instrument of a certain brand or generally 'all' pianos of a certain brand. When well prepped an individual piano ranked e.g. two tiers below a lousy prepped individual member of a higher tier may well outperform the latter.
However I understand Fine tries to capture a brand as a whole assuming some basic criteria of preparation/built standards are met and thus these possible individual differences in voicing, regulation are excluded.

On the other hand we all know the system is not perfect not only because it is not easy to set up a bunch of quantifiable criteria but also because often for certain brands not enough data is available to make 'statistical' valid conclusions. Sometimes then a brand is put 'on hold' or it is ranked anyway.

I also think Fine's opinion is mainly based on data he gathers in North America, even for European brands. Would he extend his dat gathering more to the rest of the world one might notice some changes in his ranking as a result.

schwammerl.

#266486 05/18/08 03:45 AM
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If you saying that some individual pianos (i.e. serial number, not model) made by, for example, a tier 2C brand could be less quality than a 3A, then I would say yes - Mercedes Benz could make the occasional lemon that would be worse to own than a Chevy. Also, I would say that the largest piano of Tier 3A could definitely sound better than the smallest baby grand of Tier 2C - this is to be expected. However I think that the idea is that the overall quality of build and action are better in the Tier 2C than 3A.

Fine tries to gauge the overall philosophy of the manufacturer with regards to craftmanship vs. cost, and how well the level of desired craftsmanship is actually implemented in the manufacturing process.

Of course, just as any college prof grading term papers, there is a certain level of subjectiveness, and Fine could be just as guilty. However, I think Fine being the professional piano critic has made sure of his grading, especially in the upper tiers. He probably hasn't pained himself over whether or not some generic Chinese maunfacturer deserves 4C of the bottom of the barrel, 4D.

#266487 05/18/08 09:06 AM
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Quote
In Fine´s rating the tiers seem to be watertight compartments. Isn´t it more true that excellent made pianos of a lower tier may excell the badly made pianos of a higher tier and represent very good value?

Pianistical,

I don't think that Mr. Fine regards his categories as watertight. If anything, his own statements on the applicablility of his ratings over the years would indicate something quite different.

Taken literally, your post is about how the piano has been made, not how it has been prepped and tweaked to get it to perform at its absolute best. Mr. Fine's categories are also about that. He is trying to determine the ability of the piano to perform over a lifetime of use, not the ability of a good tech to make it play and sound at a given moment well beyond its price.

I think that if a poorly- made piano were positioned in a compartment with a higher numerical rating than an excellently- made piano, Mr. Fine would want to address that and correct it.

It may well be the case that there are samples of so-called hand-built pianos that are not as well-made as other samples of the same. I think Mr. Fine's expectation would be that such pianos would not be released for sale by their makers until whatever ails them is corrected. If it is not a question of individual samples but a tendency of the maker to offer for sale poorly-made pianos, then I think Mr. Fine would be moving that maker cautiously and incrementally to less desirable compartments to the extent and at the rate that he can move it without losing his own credibility with the buying public.

It may also be true that there are excellently-made pianos emerging at lower prices from builders who have not proven themselves in a way that gives Mr. Fine sufficient confidence to place them in a different compartment. I think Mr. Fine does not want to be personally responsible for buyer disappointment should some of these pianos over time be not as excellent as they first appeared to be. I suspect such pianos that do not disappoint in their initial years of ownership will be moved slowly and incrementally to other more desirable compartments.

Now when you open the discussion to individual models of the makers, personally I think all heck will break loose and all those water-tight compartments will begin leaking, sharing their water, and you and I will be putting on our lifejackets and jumping overboard from the rating structure. I'm afraid of diving, so I'll be jumping from the lowest deck.

BTW, I like your word 'compartments'. I'm going to steal it and use it freely. smile It's so much better than tiers. Tiers belong on wedding cakes. Tiers are scary too. The only reason that one is higher than others is the support of the ones under. Should there be a problem, the one on top will fall the furthest. laugh

Wiz,

Your comment
Quote
He probably hasn't pained himself over whether or not some generic Chinese maunfacturer deserves 4C of the bottom of the barrel, 4D.
fits very well with your assorted musings in this forum on the nature and capabilities of what you have referred to as the 'lower Asians'. I'll say this for you. You wear your bigotry on your sleeve for all to see.


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#266488 05/18/08 01:56 PM
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Great post turandot! (No position vis-a-vis Wiz or other commenters, since I'm way out of the loop here)

Quote
Originally posted by turandot:

If it is not a question of individual samples but a tendency of the maker to offer for sale poorly-made pianos, then I think Mr. Fine would be moving that maker cautiously and incrementally to less desirable compartments to the extent and at the rate that he can move it without losing his own credibility with the buying public.
laugh thumb

At the risk of cross-thread contamination, I'd say the deliberate downgrading by Fine of a certain maker's New York offerings - much-discussed and peer-reviewed on the Internet - is a prime example of where both the Fine book *and* the Internet have helped high-end consumers steer clear of any shoddy merchandise, and also helped other high-end manufacturers cut into Steinway's business.

Prior to those, a customer might be name-driven to Steinway as "the quality manufacturer" and then stopped cold when their local showroom had nothing but junk. Prior to the Internet, I doubt that I'd have mustered either the courage or the initiative to expand my search beyond the parochial. I figure I'd probably have given up then & there and settled for a mid-range Kawai and been somewhat happy, remaining forever puzzled as to my frustrating encounter(s) with "the best".

(I mean, *Hamburg* Steinway vs. NY Steinway? Who knew that the two were any different? Who even knew there *was* a Hamburg Steinway?) smile

#266489 05/19/08 08:55 PM
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All Larry Fine Disciples:

Line up and drink your coolaid! laugh

Don't question or have an opinion of your own, and certainly don't regard the opinion of your LOCAL technician as highly as someone who is an author and lives more than 50 miles away! :rolleyes:

Of course his "tiers" are fluid because they are only...you ready? Opinions!

The best advice I could ever offer a novice piano buyer: Go pick out a piano you like, Hire a technician for $100 for his 'hands on" opinion, and save yourself the $15 you would have spent on a book that frankly is likely to have outdated material in it before it hits the shelf! thumb


Dennis C.
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Former District Manager,
20 Year Industry Experience

"Tell the truth, honor God, and make money!"
#266490 05/19/08 09:08 PM
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The greatest difficulty for Larry Fine is the great state of flux.

Which much of the piano industry happens to be in right now.

Capture something that's moving all the time - you gotta have more than just good eyes.....

Norbert wink



#266491 05/20/08 08:41 AM
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That just means a new edition is needed each year. Bonus for Larry.

I think the manufacturers should be on a graph that shows the RANGE of tiers of the instruments they produce:

5 4 3 2 1
NYFav: |--------------------|
4Ktrash: |-|
EuroGod: |----|

-Nocty


-Nocty
Not in the piano business.
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#266492 05/20/08 08:44 AM
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Crap, it stripped my spaces. You can guess what I meant :-)

__________5_____4_____3_____2_____1_____
NYFav: _________________|*************|
4Ktrash:_|*|
EuroGod: __________________________|**|


-Nocty
Not in the piano business.
1906 Baldwin C rebuilt 2008

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