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Estonia Pianos
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I've been lurking this forum for about 6 months now, and just replaced my 1 year old Kawai K300 upright with something more fun. Last year in January, I decided to take up the piano again after not having played since I was a teenager. At that point I didn't know if it would 'stick', so I went and bought a Kawai K300 from the local dealer. Little did I know at the time that a pandemic was about to hit, and that I would really get into my new (old) hobby.

Since then, I have been taking lessons since last April, and was amazed at how quickly I was able to pick up new material. Currently, I'm working on selections from Chopin Nocturnes, Bach Two-Part Inventions, and Mendehlssohn Songs Without Words (essentially churning through the easier Grade 8 material).

The Kawai was fine enough, but I told myself if things went well I would let myself buy a grand, and I decided to go shopping on New Year's Eve. Interesting side note, one of the criticisms I have about the upright is that it is too loud. I moved it to the middle of the room, which helped a bit, but something with the soundboard being relatively close to my head, combined with my tinnitus, has really been bothering me.

This will be a tale in 3 parts:
Part 1: Search and Destroy (L168 Purchase)
Part 2: Return to the store (L225 Purchase)
Part 3: Delivery (TBD)

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Part 1: Search and Destroy (L168 Purchase)

On New Year's Eve, intrigued by a few listings on their website, I went over to Michelle's Piano in Portland and met with Lotaf, who let me have the run of the place for a few hours. Going in, I was looking for something sub-20k, and figured I would eventually end up over at Portland Piano and buy a used Kawai. So this is the premise under which the piano adventure starts.

Here were my thoughts after visiting Michelle's on some of the pianos I played:

1. 1975 Baldwin Sf10 - Great tone, fast action, even, easy to modulate. Key tops need some work. 45 years old. Really looking for something more in the 6' range though.
2. Wilhelm Schimmel W180 - sparkly tone, fast action, bass is a bit weak, I like it but too bright in the treble.
3. Yamaha C2 - Fine, but not very interesting, I can see why they're popular.
4. Couple other used 6-7' Schimmels - heavy actions, I ended up having a lot of bass notes going unvoiced as I did not get along with these at all - couldn't feel the release point.

The next day, I called up Classic Pianos to see if I could come down to their showroom that day, and spent 3 hours working with Fred. I was able to try:

1. Yamaha C3xTA - Very bright. Can see how musicians like them, or for playing modern music, big sound, big tone.
2. 5'8" Benchstein Academy - lovely little piano. Pretty bright. Light action, but could use a bigger size as it was only 5'9" and seemed to be lacking in the bass department.
3 Schimmel C series (I think it was a 169) - bit too bright in the treble. Action was a bit heavy.
4. Schimmel K series 7' - very nice. Didn't play it very much for one reason or other, probably due to the price tag. Not like the other Schimmels I had tried, more balanced tone. Very light action, which feels nice to me.
5. Estonia 7'4" L225 - amazing. The best set up piano I've played. Easy to extract the desired sound. Action is heavier than the Schimmel K and Bechstein, but has so much feel between pp and ff that it is amazingly playable - whatever I intended to do with a note is what happened, so perfect mind -> keyboard interface for me. It's like the action in this piano is entirely linear, and the entire key dip is the sweet spot, whereas all of the other pianos have only a tiny sweet spot in which a very slight change in key pressure will result in a dramatic difference in volume. Unfortunately, sale pending. Big piano too.
6. Estonia 5'6" L168 (new) - similar feel as the 7'4", but a little weak sound-wise.
7. Estonia 5'6" L168 (used 2005 model) in the other room - Sounds like a bigger piano. There's some bass presence, and has a really nice tone.

So, I bought the used L168! Since delivery I have really enjoyed having this piano in my house - it is a night and day difference between it and my old upright. Everything is just so much easier to play. Not to mention how nice it sounds! It is much more European-sounding (to my ears) now that it's in my house. I was able to get some decent recordings to share with family on the other side of the country, and I just have so much more control.


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Part 2: Return to the store (L225 Purchase)

After a couple of days, one of the keys developed a bit of a noise in the action when releasing the key, so I texted Fred at Classic, and he had the technician call me to schedule an appointment within 20 minutes. About the same time, I started working on a new piece, which calls for sforzando on a single note in that high treble, and I noticed the voicing on one or two notes adjacent to the 'noisy' one weren't quite as robust at f or ff, and were missing some overtones compared to the rest of the piano. I asked the tech to look at it, and he evened out the section, with a promise to do more voicing in a couple of weeks when he returned to do the in-home tuning. I'm afraid I was a bit hard on him, pushing him to look at it while he was there to do another fix, and he was also in a time crunch. He assured me that it's all normal, and those felts are just a bit soft. However, it has really been bugging me in the meantime and I have been eagerly anticipating the followup appointment to get it tuned and voiced.

So, I called Fred back at Classic and asked him to approve some follow up voicing work, but also made an appointment to come back down to the store. I wanted to play some new pianos where the felts would be soft, to decide on whether I wanted to have the tech try to brighten up that section on my piano, or if I should just let them 'play in'.

Well, what do you know, that Estonia L225 that I liked so much the time before had not sold after all, and was now available. But first things first, let's play some pianos and serenade the piano showroom with a bunch of my half-learned repertoire. Going in, I figured if he had a different 6'3" piano, or that big Estonia, that it was probably 50/50 I would be buying a different piano. The 2005 L168 is a fine piano, but not what I originally set out to get, and was thinking it would be a stepping stone or 'reasonable' acquisition - since I rent my home, a small grand is bit less risk in case of a future relocation.

I played:
1. Petrof III (used) - very subdued. Light action, user friendly, but a very mellow piano. Doesn't seem like it wants to rock'n roll. I feel like I would just sit and play nothing but Erik Satie's Gnosiennes on this all day long if I owned it. I was glad to get to play one but I wasn't drawn back to it.
2. Schimmel C189 (new) - This is very nice. Action is light and has good feel. Something about that appeals to me. Not as bright as any other Schimmel I've played with the exception of the Konzert series I played last time around. Probably because it's new. This piano feels like it wants to be played fast, and not quiet. Beautiful instrument. I like Schimmels.
3. Schimmel C169 (?) (used) - Smaller Schimmel C series. It is sold to a customer, but wanted to check it as I played it last time. Doesn't seem as bright to me this time around.
4. Bechstein A (used, 5'9") - Sold to a customer, still a nice instrument, but would like a bigger bass.
5. Estonia L168 (new) - Now that I've had the 2005 for a few weeks, I can tell the small improvements they've made in the newer ones. The action has a little bit better feel that my piano. Since it's new though, it hasn't brightened up, and seems like a small piano.
6. Yamaha C3xTA (used) - Nice instrument. After the recent prep work it went through, it's not as bright, and very playable. If Yamahas were the only pianos available, that wouldn't be such a bad thing, as they are nice instruments.
7. Estonia L225. Oh boy. Better than I remembered. Instant mind-meld. It is so, so easy to play pianissimo! If you want this piano to be loud, you have to intentionally tell it to be loud - and it will definitely respond. The range of dynamics I'm able to get out of it, without having to think about it, is just amazing. The bass is really available, but never in your face unless intentionally asked for. Even tone throughout the keyboard.

So, I had a lot of fun. The Schimmel C189 was a lot of fun to play. I spent quite a bit of time at it. It's a more reasonable size, brand new. That being said, the Estonia is only 8 years old, and in a different class in terms of what I can do with it with my limited skills. So, given the advantage of the Estonia L225 being available at the used price, I pulled the trigger. Luckily my living room is 25x18 or something like that, so it passes the 1/10 ratio of piano length to room circumference. I'll straight up get rid of my furniture to make room for this piano if I have to!

I do not have delivery scheduled yet as I purchased it on a Friday afternoon at 4:30 PM, but I'm sure it will be within the next week. I'm excited! I am wondering how they are going to get it into my house, as I'm not sure there's quite enough room to maneuver it through the front door and make the turn into the living room. It might have to come in through the garage, make about 4 turns moving furniture out of the way as it goes, and move all the way around the first floor of my house. The 5'6" was no problem, but there's only about 8' of room between the front door and a staircase that forces a turn, so hopefully it all works out. I'm sure carting it to the backyard to come straight in through the patio door is not a desirable option with a 950 lb piano.

Thanks to Fred at Classic Pianos for the instant response on my warranty issue. And for selling me two different pianos within a month.

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BlakeOR, congratulations on your new Estonia L225. You seemed to have found your forever piano and this is a joyful dream coming true. Please post pics when it arrives and have great fun with it for many seasons. Best!


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Congrats Blake!

Enjoyed reading about Your Piano Adventures

I purchased My 280VC, from Classic Pianos in Bellevue, WA. They’ve been wonderful to work with - Glad to hear You had a similar experience, with the Portland Store. I’ve watched a lot of videos on YouTube, with Fred presenting pianos. They inventory & spotlight many Great pianos, so I subscribe to Their YouTube channel

Ive only played an Estonia L210, but it was Wonderful. I’m sure the L225, is as well.

I look forward Part 3: Delivery


~Lucubrate

Last edited by Lucubrate; 01/31/21 04:31 PM.

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Hey Blake, I played most of the same pianos at classic yesterday, and came away loving the new l168. Fred definitely had to tell me that he had a customer trading in the 168 for a bigger model after a couple weeks. It’s funny that I now get your whole story from the forum.

I’m concerned about depreciation on a new model and how the trade in process works there, so I’ve got 2 questions:

How much was your 2005 l168, and when you traded up, did they make you pay the sticker price on the 225?

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Fred's viewpoint was 'I want to put you in that 225 since it's what you originally wanted'. I'm not a great negotiator by any means, but he definitely did not take an absolutist stance regarding the trade up and I think my buying price for the 225 is fair.

168 is a pretty nice piano isn't it? I know mine plays like a bigger piano, and has a more European tone to my ears, in my home than it did in the store.

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In an ominous sign, I got a call from the store telling me that the movers dinged the lid on the way out the door, and gave me the option of having it repaired in the shop or having it done post-delivery.

Obviously I'm too impatient to wait so the piano is on its way to me as we speak.

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Quick update:

I'll post full thoughts after this weekend, including pictures, once I get to spend some more time with the piano and form a thorough impression.

That being said: Wow. The range on the 7 footer is massive. I don't think I can top out the volume, it has more to give, even if I bang on it. Yet it is very well controlled, and I am able to play softly in the accompaniment so, so easily. That said, the bigger piano gives more resonance. More mass, etc., and can easily get muddy if I hold the dampers up too much, so it is encouraging me to finally be graceful with the pedal and find that 'barely on' pedal position. Luckily, I've already found the sweet spot, something which I struggled with on my other pianos - I think with the bigger piano, it is easier to hear what's going on. Voicing seems to be pretty uniform, though I find one particular note a bit bright - which is probably my tinnitus more than anything.

In my home, the tone is quite a bit warmer/darker than the L168, especially in the bass. High treble is very crisp though. Amazing.

Movers got it through the door and into my living room without a problem at all - somehow fitting a 7'4" piano through a 6' gap without a hiccup (angle to the wall was more generous than I thought). Ding on the lid isn't a big deal - no worries about the shop's ability to repair that for me.

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Congratulations! How exciting. Looking forward to pictures and maybe a recording. The tonal differences once you the 7' mark are amazing. Welcome to the club!

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BlakeOR, it's, among others, stories like yours that make me return to this forum over and over. Thanks for your wonderful posts. Please keep them coming! Oh, and: congratulations on your wonderful new piano! :-)


at home: Kawai MP11SE; Yamaha LG800; Yamaha HS7; Ultimate MS-100B; Sennheiser HD558 | office: MP7SE; K&M 18820; Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro

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I always find these threads very interesting, which is why I figured I would put up as much detail as possible. smile

I'm going to spend a good amount of time with it this weekend, including with the laptop and microphone, to really adjust to it and explore how it sounds from a third party point of view. Unfortunately my job seems to want me to work, and I'm just trying to adjust enough to be able to show progress in my weekly lesson tomorrow - pretty smooth transition though. And my ears are ringing yesterday and today, so not sure if I pounded away too much the day I got it or not. So, I'm not putting in a marathon session until this weekend.

I did clean up the bass a bit by putting a wicker chest I have under it right behind the pedals - even though my room is carpeted I think I was getting a lot of reflection off the floor. I need to play around with that too - it is a big boy after all. But now it sounds good with the lid closed and just the flylid open.

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Ok! I've had the piano for almost a week now. It is quite a different instrument than the L168. I think the small piano was a bit more charming/sweet, whereas the big dog is more seductive, as well as precise. The L225 though, has a very consistent tone in all registers, and I am very happy with it. With the longer sticks, I have much fewer 'boomer' notes, and the treble is crystalline and pure, and can always cut through the mix even if I overdo the accompaniment. It is quite loud with the lid open, and now that I have a feel for the piano, am moving toward putting the music desk on top and keeping it closed up. It doesn't register very high on a decibel meter, but it's so powerful I can actually feel the sound waves sometimes.

I spent the past couple of days trying to get recordings to demonstrate the piano. There's not that much on YouTube that's not more 'impressive' repertoire. The Mendelssohn, I just wrapped up with my teacher and we are moving on, though it could use more work (the trill is too loud and uneven, sometimes miss a beat in the left hand, etc). The Gnosiennes, I just like to play them occasionally, so they don't get much attention, but are thankfully easy. Raindrop Prelude - haven't worked on it for months, revisited it the past few days to be able to show the depth of the bass. Op 37 No 1 is probably the most 'finished', as we wrapped it up a few weeks ago and I've been playing it every few days to keep it passable, though could use more work on phrasing, I still can't nail the ornaments reliably, etc.. Op 9 No 1 is very much a work in progress, but I think will sound the most 'complete' once I'm done. I would love to record some Mozart, but the Sonata I learned (K331) is way too rough and would take a lot of work to revive, as it's a bit too hard for me and was too big of an undertaking in the first place.

Mendelssohn Opus 30 No 6: https://youtu.be/Gjly4d5hxpE
Erik Satie Gnosienne #1: https://youtu.be/lXLY_fQCy44
Erik Satie Gnosienne #3: https://youtu.be/R2256io6vPg
Raindrop Prelude: https://youtu.be/1wwxqAidff8
Chopin Nocturne Op 37 No 1: https://youtu.be/cQ0u1eXnnxg
Chopin Nocturne Op 9 No 1: https://youtu.be/ApFG_m-cBjo

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Happy to hear Blake!

Watched the first 2 Videos - Good stuff

Again - Thanks for sharing



~Lucubrate


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Congratulations I enjoyed reading about your experiences with these wonderful pianos.My days of owning a grand are over.
However if I could own another grand an Estonia or any one these would be great.So.enjoy many happy hours at your wonderful piano.

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Congratulations. Piano sounds great and nice playing. I'm getting my used 190 this Saturday. Been finishing the downstairs renovation before the piano arrives. I haven't been this excited about anything in a very long time. July 1988 to be exact.


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Congratulations on your new piano! Beautiful!

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Have fun with the 190 Bob! I'm still getting along pretty well with the 225. Tuning hasn't drifted yet (we're at 2 weeks in my home today), and I've meshed pretty well with the action.

I still can't quite figure out why my tinnitus is raging. I played with ear plugs the past few days, piano fully closed. Measured the sound level at my face level (phone on tripod right next to my head) the other day with the lid open, and it topped out at 88 DB. So I did something else to set my ears off and the piano (I think the high tones) are just aggravating it. I might have to not play for a few days. Just listening to some quiet Chopin on YouTube last night while reading set my ears off, grr

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Fred came over to tune my piano, and we moved it around the room a bit. It's actually right against the window now (blackout blinds), with a slight angle, and it seems to have taken the edge off the treble. According to the sound meter app on my phone, it's actually louder, but isn't as uncomfortable for some reason. And, there's actually a difference between full stick and lid down with flylid open, whereas before even the flylid open would make the treble seem like it was attacking my face. And, the nuance/control between pp, p, mp, etc is back.

What a relief.

So, I need to play it a lot more. And, still take it easy and use the earplugs/play fully closed with music desk on top for a bit to let my ears recover.

I'm still going to do some work on the room - add a bookcase, add a second layer of curtains to the windows, finally put some pictures on the walls after living here for 2 years. I think I'll add a coat rack and hang some jackets on it, and might still put an acoustic panel on the ceiling and see if I can't soften it up just a bit more. It already sounds good, but I want to keep the edge off if possible.

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Update, since I've mentioned here and in other threads that the piano has been aggravating my tinnitus, and still seems too loud for me. I was even considering a trade down in size.

I had my tech over on Monday. My tech is independent but used by one of the other piano stores in town, and I've liked him ever since Portland Piano sent him out to service my Kawai upright, as he puts such a great tune on the piano. We talked in general about what I was running into with my ears ringing no matter what I do, even with earplugs, my concerns that it's too loud, should we put a string cover on it, stuff felt underneath, etc etc.

The good news off the bat, is within 30 seconds of tinkering around on the keyboard, heard the same voicing issues in the treble, suggested a lot of the tinnitus aggravation might be due to some of the tuning and voicing, as it bothered him too. His second comment was 'it's not too far out of tune, but let's fix it up'.

Cue second scene: He proceeds to spend 2 hours just on the tuning.

After that, he evened out the voicing, made a few minor regulation adjustments, and the piano is basically transformed to my ear. We didn't so much 'voice it down' as much as just do a good prep on it. Perfectly docile and sweet pp-mf, chords now respond to attempts at voicing them, everything is perfectly predictable, and it sounds pleasant to my ear. We are going to let it settle while I see how my tinnitus reacts to it (initial returns are good as I played a lot the past 2 days and have not had any worsening or symptoms, whereas previously I would be in for a world of hurt the day after playing it as much as I did on full stick Monday night).

There is further improvement to make to the regulation, as after-touch is off. And, if I still need it softened even more, we have room to adjust the hammer blow distance, though I think right now it is not necessary as I can easily pull pp out of it without accidentally having any mf or f notes. Even forte is not problematic unless I really lean into it.

The tuning is now sublime, and the piano is back into 'this is the best one I ever played' territory for me.

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