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I read that M&H went through a number of changes post war that resulted in changes to the design of their models. Someone offered me a BB from the 80’s and I’d like to know more about M&H pianos from this period. What’d they change from the original design? Anyone have hands on experience with them from this era?

Thanks!!

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Actually, there was very little change in the designs, but Mason & Hamlin went through a number of ownership changes in the decade from 1983 to 1993 or so. In that period, there were changes in action and hammer suppliers.


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I remember seeing a BB in a YouTube video which was no older than the 80’s (don’t remember the specific year…) and it had copper wound in the low tenor. That’s definitely different.

In the end what really matters is if you like it and if it is in good enough condition. I bought a 1951 BB which was a risk—it played fine and the tone was fine, the hammers were in fine condition, but I didn’t know if I could make it sound any better. It didn’t sound as good as my Steinway which it was replacing. But after putting in new hammers and voicing it became stellar.

So there is risk assessment. Some people say build quality isn’t as good in the 70’s and later, but I suspect there are some very good ones. Just make an assessment of that specific instrument.

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There are many changes in Aeolian Mason & Hamlins compared to Boston factory.

The string heights are slightly different because they changed the agraffes. The speaking lengths of the BB model were shortened in the treble. The pin-blocks were no longer fitted, glued and doweled to the case. The trap work was changed. Many other little details that I can't remember at this time.


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In the 1980's there was a short period of time when Peter Perez bought Aeolian with a leveraged buyout. He brought the quality way up. But with absurd interest rates, he couldn't meet the debt obligations.

Then a few pianos in process were completed by Premier Piano Rebuilders. They did a poor job on the two i have seen. Then the Burgett's of PianoDisc fame bought the company out of receivership.


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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
There are many changes in Aeolian Mason & Hamlins compared to Boston factory.

The string heights are slightly different because they changed the agraffes. The speaking lengths of the BB model were shortened in the treble. The pin-blocks were no longer fitted, glued and doweled to the case. The trap work was changed. Many other little details that I can't remember at this time.

Do you know when these changes took place? Some say that Aeolian continued the same production for a while.

This isn’t the video I saw previously, but here’s a 1991 BB with wound bichords in the low tenor. Honestly I don’t think those notes sound as good as the plain wire trichords.


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Friends:
This is NOT an Aeolian-made piano.
Karl

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Originally Posted by Karl Watson
Friends:
This is NOT an Aeolian-made piano.
Karl

The piano in that video was made in 1991, well past the Aeolian time.

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One must use caution when considering some of the Burgett era M&H's: some have a very hard alloy of stainless steel for bridge pins which produces a very faulty treble tone and some have plain string to wound conversions that aren't well done.

The Burgett's have made some nice ones too though. Have any you are considering purchase of inspected by a knowledgeable tech who represents your interests.


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The Aeolian era did make some wonderful soundboards. I am rebuilding a 1979 BB right now and am keeping the perfectly intact original board.

I am making new bridge caps and setting the treble lengths longer like the original design. I am converting the two lowest plain wire unisons, (notes 22 and 23) to wound trichord on "soft" wire cores and converting notes 19, 22 and 22 from wound bichords to wound trichords. Am also using original dimension agraffes and shaping the height and profile of the V bar to a true V shape and to match original design string height specs.

I have done a couple of Aeolian era BB's this way in the last few years and they are wondrous to experience.


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Ed,

Where are you picking up the space to convert notes 19, 20, 21 (was that what you meant to type?) from bichord to trichord? Hitch pins should be no problem but how are you making room for the agraffes and tuning pins? I assume you are doing this to smooth out the break? Are the soft-wire cores also to smooth out the tonal shift going from wound to steel?

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I reposition some of the plate screws and tuning pin holes. New pinblock and bridge caps of course.

The soft core tenor wounds allow for a smoother break because they create less of a jump up in total unison mass.


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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
I reposition some of the plate screws and tuning pin holes. New pinblock and bridge caps of course.

The soft core tenor wounds allow for a smoother break because they create less of a jump up in total unison mass.

I’d be interested to hear what your wound trichord sounds like on the F# (22).

I played a Cunningham Matchless 7’ and thought it was an excellent piano, better than a Yamaha 7’. The scaling in the tenor/bass range I think would be considered better by some of you on the forum. I’d say the tenor notes didn’t have that lower tension sound (best way I can describe it) found on the M&H BB or the Steinway B. But for me as a pianist I actually like the sound of plain wire in the tenor range (within reason). It feels richer. I may like to do something about the F# on my BB but that’s about it.

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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
One must use caution when considering some of the Burgett era M&H's: some have a very hard alloy of stainless steel for bridge pins which produces a very faulty treble tone and some have plain string to wound conversions that aren't well done.

The Burgett's have made some nice ones too though. Have any you are considering purchase of inspected by a knowledgeable tech who represents your interests.

That piano is from the Bud Greer/Lloyd Meyer era.

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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
The Aeolian era did make some wonderful soundboards. I am rebuilding a 1979 BB right now and am keeping the perfectly intact original board.

I am making new bridge caps and setting the treble lengths longer like the original design. I am converting the two lowest plain wire unisons, (notes 22 and 23) to wound trichord on "soft" wire cores and converting notes 19, 22 and 22 from wound bichords to wound trichords. Am also using original dimension agraffes and shaping the height and profile of the V bar to a true V shape and to match original design string height specs.

I have done a couple of Aeolian era BB's this way in the last few years and they are wondrous to experience.

Agree with Ed. Some of the post war Rochester pianos have amazing bellywork, even if the action was less than stellar, but by now it's time to change it anyways.

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Three string unisons couple at the bridge differently than two string unisons. That is a good bit of why low tension plain trichords can sound better than high tension wound bichords for the same note. Plus the hammer hitting two strings will brighten up quicker than hitting three.


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