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algol Offline OP
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After graduating in a conservatory, and then more than 15 years without playing due to personal and professional reasons, I have been feeling compelled to play regularly again. But I had to buy a new upright as my old friend is thousands and thousands of kilometers away.

Well, you cannot “marry” a piano without playing it, even if you know the model, as each instrument is an individual. So I’ve spend several weeks visiting piano stores and playing instruments before the pandemic hit. My initial idea was that I would end up with a Yamaha U3, but after playing a few of them, I noticed a large spread between these units - in terms of sound and action - and I was not truly connected to any of them. I also tried Kawai K500s, and they seemed much more consistent, and I also liked several among these instruments, probably due to their beautiful resonance - but the action was also nice. So I almost decided to buy a K500. Still, I kept searching and tested three Bostons, which were also ok, but compared to the K500 their price was simply non-sensical (and I liked the K500s more) - I wonder if anyone in this forum would have a technical explanation for the premium cost of these Bostons. Thus, I decided to go for a K500, and I went to a final store to test a final set of K500 and to chose which one to bring home.

But then came a surprise. I entered the store on a rainy night with a clear objective in mind: to buy a K500. But close to one K500, there was a door leading to a small room with Bechstein grands… and a Hoffmann V131 in the corner… so why not just trying it? And that was a case of “love at the first chord”. Beautiful instrument. Good action, amazing sympathetic resonances, deep room-filling bass, pleasant trebles, color homogeneity and consistency over the entire range, careful construction including agraffes in all strings. It really surprised me in the most positive way. And I was even more surprised to know that they were less expensive than the Bostons… still the Hoffmann V131 was significantly more expensive than the K500, and well, I don’t really play anymore, at the moment I just “try to play”, so I had to think before committing at that price point… I left the store that night promising myself to return to that store two weeks later with a final decision… but in the meantime the pandemic stroke, and for family reasons I had to fly overseas knowing that, likely, that piano would not wait for my return.

Now that the pandemic is over, and I am back in the US, I called the store to check if the V131 that I fell in love with was still there… but no, somebody else bought it a few days after I tested it… I was rather heartbroken. However, they had a new V131 in another store. So I went to test this V131, and well, it was just not the same thing. It is certainly a great instrument, and there was nothing wrong with it. Perhaps this was some psychological effect, or it was the room acoustics, or even a certain “playing during a rainy night” melancholic feeling, but the first V131 was just much more soul-filling than this one… To me, this was another demonstration that “each instrument is an individual”. As I was not completely convinced by this V131, and there were other uprights in this store, the dealer suggested I try another Hoffmann, the Tradition 128, which was in another room… and I must say that love stroke again. Curiously, it took just a few chords (the first seconds of Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique) for this piano to resonate in me, and after playing (well, trying to play…) for about 40’ish minutes, moving back and forth between the V131 and the T128, it was crystal clear that I had found a new friend. Sound, touch, and dynamical control apart, the interior of the instrument is also wonderful; individual agraffes everywhere (just like the V131), beautiful double felted mahogany hammerheads, and a lovely iron cast frame that reminds you of a Concert 8. All of that for what is a very reasonable price (although in Europe they are even more reasonably priced than in the US). Now, I am waiting for the T128 to be delivered.

While waiting, I started googling around and doing some research about this instrument. One of the interesting things that I discovered is that Bechstein Europe-Bohemia, the Czech factory where the Hoffmann pianos are made, acquires wood for soundboards from Enrico Ciresa s.r.l., which is the company producing spruce for piano soundboards in, and from, the Val di Fiemme region. This begs the question if the spruce in the Tradition and Professional soundboards come from Val di Fiemme or not… I couldn’t care less if it is not, but still, it is curious that this is not listed on Bechstein’s webpage. I wonder if someone in this forum could enlighten this question!

Btw, for the record, these are the piano manufacturers using Ciresa woods as listed by the company’s webpage:

- C.Bechstein
- Bechstein Europe-Bohemia
- Blüthner
- Chavanne
- Diapason – di Bergamini Pianoforti
- Förster
- Fazioli
- Sauter
- Schulze-Pollmann
- Toyo

Last edited by algol; 10/15/21 09:04 PM.

Now: 2021 Hoffmann Tradition 128. Previously: 1989 Fritz Dobbert 127 Imbuia
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I wonder if anyone in this forum would have a technical explanation for the premium cost of these Bostons...
Boston pianos are made by Kawai. My guess is that the reason is that both Steinway and Kawai have to profit from the sale of a Boston piano, but Steinway does not get a cut of the sales of Kawai pianos.

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Only a few models of those brands you mention use the real good quality Ciresa. Better that they use good quality Bavarian Alpine spruce well treated for the piano to last, than lower grade Ciresa.I believe that is probably the case with the WHoffman T128. (Bavarian mountain spruce)
Toyo let's hope uses a good quality Sitka spruce at least but they probably use plywood.Please do not believe all this nonsense about magic wood.

Most of Sauter's uprights uses Bavarian mountain spruce and they are excellent instruments.Only the MC models and the grands make use of Ciresa.

I have seen cheap Chinese pianos with Ciresa stamped on the soundboard so do not be fooled..?

Bechstein uses felt from New Zealand unlike most other German pianos which use the German Wursen felt.Still they make fine pianos.Congratulations on your T128 W Hoffmann. It is a very nice piano.

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Well I am sure the spruce used for the W Hoffman T128 is an excellent grade of wood. So if it is Ciresa I am sure it is a good grade.C Bechstein makes its European pianos from the best materials only.This seems to agree with the soundboard being Ciresa in AA quality!


https://millersmusic.co.uk/w-hoffmann-i83


My piano's voice is my voice to the great unknown, out there..in other words a hymn.That is all but that is enough.

Just sold my old C2 and am thinking of replacing it with a CBechstein124, Schimmel K132 or a YUS5.
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algol Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
Boston pianos are made by Kawai. My guess is that the reason is that both Steinway and Kawai have to profit from the sale of a Boston piano, but Steinway does not get a cut of the sales of Kawai pianos.

Thanks, Sweelinck! That is certainly one good reason. But I was actually thinking if there is anything special in the technology adopted by Boston pianos that would justify the price difference. On the Boston webpage, it is said that “they employ unique patents” from Steinway, and I was wondering if some of those patents would justify this difference — and also, what would those patents be...


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algol Offline OP
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Originally Posted by tre corda
Well I am sure the spruce used for the W Hoffman T128 is an excellent grade of wood. So if it is Ciresa I am sure it is a good grade.C Bechstein makes its European pianos from the best materials only.This seems to agree with the soundboard being Ciresa in AA quality!


https://millersmusic.co.uk/w-hoffmann-i83

Thanks, tre_corda! The millersmusic webpage that you posted indicates that the T128 indeed uses good quality Ciresa spruce (and also the P line), interesting! It is curious, though, that the Bechstein webpage only lists the Concert 8 piano as using Ciresa woods.

Oh, and don’t worry, I really don’t care if it is Ciresa or not. That is one of the reasons why I am doing this research only after I bought the instrument; I wanted to avoid possible rational biases while deciding on which instrument to acquire, and decide purely on the instrument that I liked more! And curiously, before this T128, the instrument I liked more was the V131, which only later I discovered that although assembled in the Czech Republic, has several of its parts coming from China. Perhaps if I knew this before, there would be a small subconscious bias against the V131, which would be ridiculous… Now, thanks to this amazing experience with the V131, I would be seriously willing to play and test some of the new Zimmermanns, that are completely made in China (although they do not seem to be imported to the US). This is yet another demonstration that the best way to chose an instrument is always to play it! :-)

Originally Posted by tre corda
Bechstein uses felt from New Zealand unlike most other German pianos which use the German Wursen felt.Still they make fine pianos.Congratulations on your T128 W Hoffmann. It is a very nice piano.

Interesting. I read in this very interesting article that Bechstein uses German felt. But the article is a bit old, from 2015, so perhaps it is already outdated (as it seems to be in some parts, for instance, now the tradition has mahogany hammerheads, previously it used hornbeam).


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Well I believe the action is the silver action which is the same as the CBechstein Academy.So it sounds like a modified Renner action in both pianos.Your piano has agraffes which is very good.Many pianos made Germany use some parts made elsewhere.For example Hamburg Steinway's iron frame is made in the US.
You may have a few parts from China, other parts are made in the in the Czech Republic, probably in the CBechstein factory there.Parts are made in Germany as well.The hammers are made by C Bechstein.They use the same hammers for all CBechstein pianos. They may spend less time preparing the W Hoffman than the CBechstein.Your technician can do that.Find a good technician to do this.the Let the piano completely settle first.If there is some brightness let him do touch up voicing when he tunes the piano .I have played the WHoffman Tradition probably a little shorter than your piano.I thought it an excellent European piano.Enjoy! If you post some pictures of the piano you will get more responses from posters.

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I meant to say they use the same hammers for the W Hoffman that they use for the CBechstein pianos.

It is interesting that the W Hoffman pianos were originally founded in Berlin in 1904 by a woman.(see link above) Someone once asked where the W Hoffman pianos came from.No one ever answered.

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algol Offline OP
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Originally Posted by tre corda
It is interesting that the W Hoffman pianos were originally founded in Berlin in 1904 by a woman.(see link above) Someone once asked where the W Hoffman pianos came from.No one ever answered.


thanks tre_corda!

Yes, I will post photos as soon as it is delivered (hopefully tomorrow!).

And yes, I read this in that link, and I was positively surprised to discover that it was founded by a woman at that time. Just for the record here in the forum, the "W." stands for Wilhelmine, and the name of the founder is Wilhelmine Sophia Friederike Hoffmann.

By the way, I actually found another Hoffman company (single "n"), August Hoffman, which was from Berlin, but that was (actually is) a piano company from Stockholm, Sweden. This company was run by another woman, Nanna Hoffman since 1884, and the pianos were initially built by August since 1838, her husband, who passed away in 1884 leaving the company to her. There is more about her history on this Wikipedia page.


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Originally Posted by algol
which was from Berlin...

"was NOT from Berlin" :-)


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And finally, here are some photos!

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]


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algol
That is a beautiful upright!
I like the close up pictures of the hammers, agraffes, iron plate.
I see "Made by CBechstein" on the emblem, very nice! Not many visit this area unless it is a spectacular grand? However eventually they visit or so it seems.We have another member who has the same piano.(the name is Gretel) Perhaps he will visit as well.How are you enjoying your piano?Is it settling down well?


My piano's voice is my voice to the great unknown, out there..in other words a hymn.That is all but that is enough.

Just sold my old C2 and am thinking of replacing it with a CBechstein124, Schimmel K132 or a YUS5.
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Looks amazing! I played this instrument in Bechstein center in Poland and I was absolutely stunned by the beauty of its sound, its general quality and fantastic action. I was rather considering buying Bechstein Imposant or Bechstein classic 124, but actually I am now wondering if it is really worth it to spend this amount od money when I can buy such a good piano for less than 12k $.

Last edited by Gaius; 10/23/21 09:02 AM.
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tre_corda
Thanks! The piano is settling very well. I will have it tuned in two or three weeks, as I want to play it a bit before doing so, and also I need to decide where exactly in the room it will be (I am divided between the choice of two internal walls, and I will test it for a week in each). But I am already enjoying it so much that it is hard to describe; after so many years without playing, everything very is rusty, but it is slowly coming back, and I am quite happy, although I do get angry with several dumb mistakes (as my brain knows what to do, but my body does not respond). I am particularly finding pianissimos hard to produce, especially if they need to be fast or if they involve many jumps around - but this is obviously all my fault, not the piano fault.

Also, this T128 certainly has a very romantic sound (I guess Bechstein designed it to be like that), and it is very easy to use long legatos over many notes to create beautiful wave-like sound patterns, as one would expect in Debussy works, or to hear beautiful resonances when playing certain chords in Beethoven sonatas (i.e. each chord in Chopin's simple prelude Op.28 n.20 becomes a bit like magical pills). Still, at the same time, it is easy to produce crystal clear notes in Bach's or Part's works. I guess that this speaks well for the piano's versatility!

Last edited by algol; 10/25/21 02:27 PM.

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thanks Gaius! The T128 is indeed a nice instrument. I can see the existential doubt that you are facing at this moment! I could share your doubt perhaps if I were still in Europe, but as here in the US the cheapest new Bechs are 2x the price of the Hoffmanns, the piano models that you mentioned were not even entering my radar... Perhaps the Bechs have more fine-tuning and voicing work before leaving the factory, I don't know. But I think that in terms of mechanics and the quality of the human labor and the material, the Academy line from Bechstein and these Hoffmanns are essentially brothers, except that one is raised in Germany while the other is raised in the Czech Republic.

And as the minimum wage in the Czech Republic is almost 3x lower than in Germany, I wonder if the human labor cost alone would not be enough to explain a large fraction of, if not the entire, the price difference between the Hoffmann T and P series and the Bechstein Academy series...

Last edited by algol; 10/25/21 02:59 PM.

Now: 2021 Hoffmann Tradition 128. Previously: 1989 Fritz Dobbert 127 Imbuia

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