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A poster in another thread criticized Yamaha for using a vacuum cast plate instead of a sand cast plate in their SX line. He pointed out that even cheap Chinese pianos use sand cast, and Yamaha know it is superior because they use it in their CF and CFX pianos. He also alleged that they use synthetic fibers in the hammers which prevent proper voicing. He believed that Yamaha's primary motivation in releasing the new CX/SX models was to incorporate new cost cutting measures, and he had noticed a steady decline in their quality since the old days.

Does any of this ring true? Is the Yamaha SX a high quality, premium piano from a technicians standpoint?

Last edited by Sonepica; 04/04/21 03:56 AM.
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Yamaha V Pro is a vacuum crimping sand mold. They've been using it for over 40 years, is there any problem?
I guess the process is different from vacuum casting of aluminum.
I will see C3SX next time so I will ask yamaha.


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I'm the poster being referred to here. My advice is as before. Examine it yourself and don't rely on other people's opinions. The internet is full of information but badly lacking in knowledge and repeating anonymous people's opinion as fact doesn't make it true.

You should be calling Yamaha and ask them why their highest prestigious pianos use sand cast and their cheap, cheaper and cheapest don't.

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Just for some background. I worked in a hammer making facility and voice about 200 pianos a year, from entry level to concert stage. I told you how to check the felt but I'll repeat it here for some techs who may be having problems voicing new and newer hammers.

Take a paperclip or needle, heat the tip red hot and insert it on the left side of A1 hammer where it's invisible. If it smells like burning wool, it's wool. If you also detect a chemical or plastic type smell it's a blend with synthetic fibers, an increasingly common occurrence on pianos on a wide spectrum of pricing.

And for the opening poster, there are no high end pianos made with V process, like it or not. Even Yamaha, the originator of this technology finds it deficient for their best pianos.

Last edited by Steve Jackson; 04/07/21 12:59 AM.
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Sonepica, you are getting caught in the weeds. I read most of your other thread, and a lot of the "advice" you got in that thread is speculation/biased conjecture at best, and uninformed misinformation at worst. The S series Yamahas are very well made pianos. The fact that they use a v-pro plate does not mean they're not premium pianos. The fact that they might use a blend of natural wool and synthetic fibers does not mean they're not premium pianos.

At the end of the day, especially on an internet forum, try to assign less weight to other peoples' opinions (particularly those who start out by saying they don't like Yamaha tone or suggest that your ears might not be good enough to justify buying an S7x). At the budget/level of pianos you're considering, every manufacturer at that level is putting out a well made piano, and personal preferences in tone/touch are more often the determining factor about whether someone likes a piano or not. If you try an S7x and it really speaks to you and you find yourself really connecting with it, that far outweighs whatever idle speculation/chatter you read on an internet forum. You can rest assured that should you decide to purchase you will be purchasing an extremely well made piano designed to last a lifetime.


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Steve,

What's your source that hammers are being made with synthetic fibers? I've not heard of any manufacturer doing that.


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Great advice from above poster. Internet noise is not wisdom

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Originally Posted by Steve Jackson
Just for some background. I worked in a hammer making facility and voice about 200 pianos a year, from entry level to concert stage. I told you how to check the felt but I'll repeat it here for some techs who may be having problems voicing new and newer hammers.

Take a paperclip or needle, heat the tip red hot and insert it on the left side of A1 hammer where it's invisible. If it smells like burning wool, it's wool. If you also detect a chemical or plastic type smell it's a blend with synthetic fibers, an increasingly common occurrence on pianos on a wide spectrum of pricing.

And for the opening poster, there are no high end pianos made with V process, like it or not. Even Yamaha, the originator of this technology finds it deficient for their best pianos.

I believe Yamaha were the first company to start using vacuum casting on pianos but the technology, as I understand it, came from the former German Democratic Republic - it isn't something invented by Yamaha.

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The difference due to the casting method is likely to be minuscule compared to the casting material and design.


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The SX series have a gold plate, while the CX series have a bronze plate. Does anyone know if the SX plate is superior in some way, or has it just been painted a different color?

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Tooling is expensive. If you already have a process set up for low volume manufacturing (sand-cast), why would you invest to build a new flow for vacuum casting? For a newer, higher volume, product, it makes sense - but you wouldn't change a flow that already works to one that needs money to setup and debug.

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It may be worth adding that a company using a specific technology doesn’t necessarily mean that technology is better. It could be a quality issue but also could be a marketing issue, or both.

For instance, using composite/carbon shanks vs. wood. I don’t personally have an opinion, but I’m sure that competing companies who use either option are exploiting the marketing perspective which may or may not be based on actual legitimate quality concerns.

So perhaps the casting method for Yamaha’s pianos isn’t actually because it’s better or worse in terms of a piano’s performance for most buyers, but rather because they can get away with the perception of a worse casting on a cheaper line?

I would have no idea if this is true in this case, however.

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Can anyone explain what differences the casting method makes to the physical or musical properties of the plate?

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David-G,

People love to say this, but there is absolutely no truth to this rumor. The musical result of a piano is the same whether the plate is cast using wet sand or dry V-pro sand casting.

The plate design, the thickness in various locations, and the alloy used in the casting affects the sound of the piano, but the method of casting has been very carefully tested and does not affect the tone.

Low volume production pianos and very low cost pianos both tend to use wet sand casting (also called 'green sand' casting sometimes). This is because you need a certain volume of production to cover the cost of setting up the patterns for the process, and for setting up the foundry itself.

Kawai uses V-pro for almost all pianos, including Shigeru Kawai. The small GL-10 baby grand piano is wet sand, and the EX concert pianos are also wet sand. The V-pro foundry cannot accommodate a casting for a piano over 7'6" long, and even if it could we produce very few concert grands, and the design is tweaked and adjusted too often to lock it down by making the V-pro plate patterns.

Yamaha uses V-pro for most of their pianos, including the SX models. the CF models are very low volume pianos, and do not share identical frame castings with other models in the Yamaha line. So it makes economic sense to use wet sand casting for those.

I have watched the piano plate casting process and am very familiar with it. One foundry I visited was simultaneously casting plates using V-pro and wet sand, using the same iron alloy from the same bucket for each. That company built some sample 6' sized grands using both methods and tested the plates for resonances and vibrational differences, stiffness and deformation limit differences - these plates were identical, except that the wet sand castings were more rough and were not as dimensionally accurate. I personally tuned and voiced one of each of these pianos, and they sounded as identical as any 2 pianos of the same design can sound. The wet sand piano required a little more regulation work to get the action performing properly, but otherwise these pianos were the same.

I know some people have strong beliefs about this, but I have never seen any kind of scientifically rigorous evaluation showing that two identical plates where only the casting process was different resulted in acoustic differences. I have seen very carefully designed testing from 2 different piano makers where the type of casting had no effect at all on the sound of the piano.

But I am quite sure many will take exception to what I have written here. I've experienced the comparisons personally, and I assure you I would have noticed the differences if there were any - and I promise, I would have passed over this thread and not responded if I had any doubts.


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Thank you Don for sharing your experiences. I hope that posters here will appreciate the kind of expert you really are and how you always give straight answers. I concur with everything you've written.


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Thanks Don. That's the 1st personal experience I've seen. Why wouldn't Yamaha spend the money, as it lowers labor costs later as you noted, to validate their technology. Marketing would have a field day. Since the production run will be used for many years, they could stockpile them and save the extra costs of expensive manual regulation you experienced and the extra coats of making the surface smooth.

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Thank you KawaiDon for sharing your experience about casting processes.

Do you have any experience or heard of synthetic fibers that Steve Jackson has been encountering with new hammers?

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Originally Posted by Hakki
Thank you KawaiDon for sharing your experience about casting processes.

Do you have any experience or heard of synthetic fibers that Steve Jackson has been encountering with new hammers?

Synthetic fibres are not new and was used by the Naish hammer felt company in the 60's and 70's and I still encounter these hammers.

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IMO, OP might also be wondering if anybody here has actually tested a Yamaha SX hammer with the heated needle method you have described above.

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I wonder if it is synthetic fibers or lacquer.


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Yes lacquer would give the same smell. That is what I was thinking as well.

I would need more evidence than just hearsay to be convinced.


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Will there be lacquer on a brand new Yamaha SX hammer?

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There could be.


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I suggest you try your own test on some of these new pianos that don't respond to voicing, and it's definitely not lacquer.

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Just like with alcohol varnishes, there are a number of resins used with lacquers. But I do not have a lot of access to different hammers. In any case, it has been my experience that Yamahas respond well to voicing.


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Originally Posted by BDB
Just like with alcohol varnishes, there are a number of resins used with lacquers. But I do not have a lot of access to different hammers. In any case, it has been my experience that Yamahas respond well to voicing.

My experience too, until recently.

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Have you voiced a new Sx series, Steve?


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I agree that in general Yamaha hammers respond well to voicing...until they are coming around to 25-30 years old. They seem to be a bit less responsive (long term) than when they were younger (a bit like people).

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I've not had any problems voicing new Yamahas with traditional voicing techniques. I find their current hammers superior the their past hammers.


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Originally Posted by Bill McKaig,RPT
I've not had any problems voicing new Yamahas with traditional voicing techniques. I find their current hammers superior the their past hammers.

Were these Yamaha “SX” pianos?

The SX series are said to have different hammers than the CX and CF series.

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Good point!

I've voiced both CX and CF, but not SX though I'd be surprised I would have any problems.


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I would be surprised if Yamaha designed a hammer that was hard to voice. Wouldn't they have tested its voicing potential?

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I would be surprised if Yamaha designed a hammer that was hard to voice. Wouldn't they have tested its voicing potential?

Without exception, the most common complaint in the field for Yamaha is strident tone, which is easily corrected. The new hammers on certain models do not, so far, get so grating but do change over time and do not respond well.

Material science has the largest impact on pianos over the last 150 years. Synthetic fibre hammers have been around since the late 60's or possibly earlier. It's new materials which help manufacturers make higher quality lower cost pianos today and it's everywhere on a new instrument. You can't expect low cost instruments to have extremely expensive long fibre New Zealand hammer felt and this is a major material expense on a piano and an obvious place to reduce costs.

Another example: It's almost impossible to find a new piano with real buckskin. The synthetic buckskin is superior by most metrics and much better than the synthetics used 50 years ago. Why is expensive hammer felt so controversial? It would stand to reason with the lack of field experienced voicers and the time needed in the factory to prepare traditional hammers that this would be an obvious spot to develop less costly and less labour intensive alternatives.

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The Yamaha hammer development engineer says they use a blend of wools for the SX series.


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Originally Posted by Withindale
The Yamaha hammer development engineer says they use a blend of wools for the SX series.
Indeed, and I haven't seen it suggested anywhere else but here, from Mr Jackson, that synthetic fibres are used on the SX hammers. If this has not been substantiated, it's disappointing if this is just somebody's rumour-mongering because it affects Yamaha's reputation - regardless of whether the widespread use of synthetics in pianos is defended by the same person.

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Originally Posted by Steve Jackson
The new hammers on certain models do not,

can you be more specific which models are these?

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Originally Posted by Steve Jackson
Without exception, the most common complaint in the field for Yamaha is strident tone, which is easily corrected. The new hammers on certain models do not, so far, get so grating but do change over time and do not respond well.

Have you voiced an SX series piano?


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Originally Posted by adamp88
Originally Posted by Steve Jackson
Without exception, the most common complaint in the field for Yamaha is strident tone, which is easily corrected. The new hammers on certain models do not, so far, get so grating but do change over time and do not respond well.

Have you voiced an SX series piano?

No, CX3 and CX7

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I've spoken to a Yamaha service rep about this, which is as much fun as talking to a politician. Lots of words, nothing said, but I did get a little info such as yamaha targets pianos for different markets and have a range of parts materials suitable for each market. In other words, the Yamahas I see may not be that Yamahas you see. I inquired when someone brought a new Cx3 in Japan, that was sold to a 3rd party and shipped as a used piano. He was trying to get a bargain. Not a smart move. I was convinced it was a Chinese counterfeit but it was also suggested by the service rep it could have been a marketing piano that was rebuilt outside the Yamaha network, but it was an almost new piano.

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Originally Posted by Steve Jackson
Originally Posted by adamp88
Have you voiced an SX series piano?

No, CX3 and CX7

So of these new Yamaha hammers, you've only had two models' worth of experience, and none with the SX series in question from the start of this thread and the other thread in the piano forum?


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Originally Posted by adamp88
Originally Posted by Steve Jackson
Originally Posted by adamp88
Have you voiced an SX series piano?

No, CX3 and CX7

So of these new Yamaha hammers, you've only had two models' worth of experience, and none with the SX series in question from the start of this thread and the other thread in the piano forum?

No, much more than that, and also with some Euro models too. I was referring to the most similar models to the SX7 discussed. I service a Cx7 and a Cx3, older, for a production company and the Cx3 is preferred more often by players and me as a technician, but another Cx3 I service is crap, but bought from an unauthorized source

I've evaluated but not serviced SX pianos for a conservatory, so not unfamiliar, just not intimate

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