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#57610 10/04/07 10:16 PM
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I thought I remember reading in a different thread a while back that the cost savings on action parts from China could not possibly be significant enough on the bottom line for M&H to risk their reputation (to save a few bucks).

In other words, the parts must indeed be of better quality in M&H's view.

Just how much savings can be had by outsourcing parts from China versus Germany (Renner)?

#57611 10/04/07 10:18 PM
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Gents, this makes for a great discussion. I'm not sure that there is any likelihood of closure anytime soon. I feel that it was STUPID from a marketing standpoint for M&H to go with the Chinese action parts to save a few dollars. It completely alters the perception of the quality of the instrument RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY. If you are essentially building something that is perceived to be a cost no object, best in the world product, you do EVERYTHING in your power to create that perception and thereby add value. This is especially critical for a company in M&H's position, that is a re-formed entity seeking to reassert some dominance in the market.And make no mistake, this is a niche market. The folks that buy M&H aren't the same gang hunting Pearl River or Yamaha. They are buying something a little unique and they want bragging rights. There are NO bragging rights in Chinese parts.

I own a vintage M&H and it is a great instrument. I wouldn't buy a new American piano that used Chinese parts. It says all of the wrong things to me, even if there is actually no difference real or otherwise. There is plainly no "track record" for Chinese action parts. The Koreans not long ago, manufactured many action parts that have been disassembling ever since. The action felt was sub par as was a lot of the glue. It just didn't hold up over time. Will the Chinese? Who knows! If instead they had said that they would be using Tokiwa parts from Japan (I assume that they are still made there,)then I would have felt better. Nonetheless the standard of the world and the action parts that I use in rebuilds are typically Renner. They have been uniformly of a higher quality than the domestic stuff (no longer available), and Tokiwa as well, though Tokiwa rates a VERY close second.

Bottom line is that M&H needs to be PERCEIVED to be striving to be the best. This hurts that perception. In 10 years this may be a moot point, but if action parts start failing, the whole perception of M&H could change overnight and that could be disastrous. I think that the bean counter that hatched the idea of sourcing action parts from China should be drawn and quartered. I'm not so much worried about the plates. That's a different manufacturing process. I think that Fine's cautious attitude is warranted. If his re-classification hurts the brand, once again, they brought it on themselves.

#57612 10/04/07 10:42 PM
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"When you pass judgement on the Chinese government, try not to forget our growing pains were equally horrendous. Rich as our country is, it wasn't too long ago that our government locked up people for their political beliefs, segregated them due to the color of their skin, or supported invading another country because a president lied."

Todd, well said!


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#57613 10/04/07 10:42 PM
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Another thought:

Many of us on PW criticise people who claim Steinway is best because we believe it's all marketing hype.

Is there any difference with respect to Renner? Or is it all marketing hype? Has Renner built a name for itself that hasn't been challenged? Does Renner = the best?

We praise Kawai for having the guts to develop a composite action, yet criticize M&H for trying something different?

#57614 10/04/07 11:08 PM
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John Pels: "I feel that it was STUPID from a marketing standpoint for M&H to go with the Chinese action parts to save a few dollars"

Mason Hamlin is only a $17MM company, including other products. It's SMALL business -- and marketing is expensive. I worked in marketing for Unilever, and it is not uncommon to have a $35MM new product launch budget. M&H are doing everything they can to keep their head above water. I wouldn't be surprised that the company changes hands again in a few years.


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#57615 10/04/07 11:22 PM
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from Gutenberg
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Turandot,your reply to wiz was pretty funny, but I think others are a little quick to call him "foolish."
Gutenberg,

I was trying to be light-hearted. I hope wiz took it as such. Anyway, I think he's used to me getting on his case about his Petrof adventure.

Your interpretation of L. Fine's commentary on M&H's ranking is the same as mine. I just don't see a necessary correlation between buying the part with the highest cost and getting the best part. The relative cost of labor and the relative strengths of currencies play a part. I think it's naive at this point to assume that what costs the most worldwide is in fact the best.

from John Pels
Quote
I feel that it was STUPID from a marketing standpoint for M&H to go with the Chinese action parts to save a few dollars. It completely alters the perception of the quality of the instrument RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY. If you are essentially building something that is perceived to be a cost no object, best in the world product, you do EVERYTHING in your power to create that perception and thereby add value. This is especially critical for a company in M&H's position, that is a re-formed entity seeking to reassert some dominance in the market.And make no mistake, this is a niche market. The folks that buy M&H aren't the same gang hunting Pearl River or Yamaha. They are buying something a little unique and they want bragging rights. There are NO bragging rights in Chinese parts......

I think that the bean counter that hatched the idea of sourcing action parts from China should be drawn and quartered.
John,

I'm not qualified to respond to your specific concerns about the parts, but I think there is reason to believe it was not a bean counter's decision. It may be instead an attempt to exert greater control over product quality and variance among parts. Here is what Cecil Ramierz had to say in the older M & H thread. I think he addresses the points you are making now.

from Cecil Ramirez
Quote
Our company philosophy has been "use the best parts available, build the best piano possible". This philosophy is prevalent in our manufacturing process. When a part comes from a specific place in the world, that does not automatically mean that the part gives the best performance or reliability. I know that this is a radical concept for some readers, but here's the harsh truth: you can no longer strictly associate origin with quality.

In case some of you think that my statement is "selling out", consider the following. It would be much easier on our marketing (and less expensive overall) to stay with famous OEMs and use their parts without having a second thought about their quality. What reason could a successful piano company have to jettison traditional suppliers? If you think it's just to save money, better think again. While many of these famous OEM suppliers have not been in business as long as Mason & Hamlin, the potential collateral damage involved in lost sales to a company that makes only 350 grands a year is not for the faint of heart. And the "so-called savings" gained from using a "less popular" part in our pianos would not offset that kind of loss. So let's put the money issue to rest right now. We have conducted our own involved and highly educated manufacturing tests and have concluded that the parts we are using in our pianos today are the best parts we can use.

Here is Keith Kerman's explanation (from the same thread) of what Mason and Hamlin is actually doing.

from Keith Kerman
Quote
Mason & Hamlin makes its own action. They do not use a Renner action. They never used a Renner action. They do not use a Chinese action. They have never used a Chinese action.
Mason & Hamlin makes its own action, but they use parts sourced from action part makers such as Renner. They also source some parts from China, as well as other parts of the world, for the actions made by Mason & Hamlin, in the USA, for the Mason & Hamlin pianos.
A company like Estonia, has an action made for them by Renner. It is made in Stuttgart, Germany, at the Renner factory, to Estonia's design. Companies such as Bluthner do the same thing.
There is a great distinction between a Renner Action, or a Chinese Action, and an Action made by Mason & Hamlin in the USA, of which some of the parts come from Renner, as well as other parts of the world, including, but not limited to China. Mason & Hamlin also may change suppliers in the future as they see fit. They have the option to use any suppliers in the world, as they make their own actions. I hope this clears this issue up.
John,

One thing that is pretty clear in the old thread....Anyone who had first-hand playing experience with the previous M & H products and the new series posted that the new ones were even better than the previous ones. In the case of sales professionals, this could be seen in the light of their efforts to sell their inventory. But the same opinion was given by M & H owners, including some owners of the previous models.
This may be a case where PERCEIVED QUALITY is of no value.


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#57616 10/04/07 11:36 PM
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Well, we have cerainly beaten this topic to a pulp. It is worth noting that there is NO criticism ANYWHERE in the above lengthy thread of the sound or performance of the new Masons. The thread is all about perception, based on the entirely unfounded position that the non-moving Chinese parts in Masons must, because they are from China, be inferior to the parts they replaced. I would urge anyone who thinks this to find a new Mason and play it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, after all.

Those of us who, like me, love the new Masons and value their quality will continue to do so. Those of us on the Piano Forum who, unlike me, believe that the country of origin of a non-moving part by definition and without additional evidence determines its quality will no doubt continue to believe that, however flying in the face of reality their position may prove to be. Those of us on the Piano Forum who, unlike me, believe that perception is more important than performance will continue to believe that it was a marketing mistake (not a quality one) to include non-moving parts from China because of the adverse impact of such inclusion on the bragging rights of the piano brand. Let's move on.

#57617 10/05/07 01:38 AM
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William, with all due respect, I have already read all of that old stuff. Ramirez can make any rationalizations he wants. His posture is defensive. Why? He can make any dopey claims about Chinese action parts he wants. How do you evaluate parts over time if the time hasn't happened? HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN IN EXISTENCE??? It is the biggest pile of balderdash I have heard. But in his defense, what else can he say?

For the sake of comparison, I have an SD10 Baldwin that was underwater in New Orleans for a day. What is miraculous is that the wippens are still intact. The felt fell off, but the wood maintained its integrity. The pivots are not totally rusted. Most of the bushings are still intact. These are Renner parts. Of course when I get around to it, they will all have to be replaced nonetheless, but they didn't disintegrate and they still function pretty much as they should, a heck of a lot better than some Steinways with verdigris anyway.

Keith and I tend to agree on virtually all points. I agree, the action is "Mason and Hamlin", but what exactly does that mean. They source the action frame where, the action brackets where, the hammers, shanks and flanges, wippens where, keys where? When we talk action parts we are talking basically all of the moving parts. Wippens, shanks and flanges, and hammers, typically comprise what we call the action. I feel quite secure that we are talking basically here of the aforementioned action parts, maybe the damper action as well. Mason and Hamlin are assembling "their" action from components purchased from whom? I am picking on the moving parts largely because as I opined previously, the Koreans made some real junk that all techs now contend with. The time has passed and they are now being evaluated and found wanting.

Piano amateur, you are MISTAKEN!! We are not talking about non-moving parts. The only non-moving part is the plate. And yes, I am sure brand new it will play wonderfully. My question is for how long will that continue? Ramirez doesn't know, no one knows, because the parts have not been in existence long enough for ANYONE to know. I love M&H. I hope that they last for 100 years. I only opined that I hate to see a company shoot themselves in the foot by making assumptions that cannot be validated in the short term. I never said that Chinese parts were inferior. I said it takes time to get to that truth.Who knows, maybe in another 20 years I will be using Chinese parts in my CC2 to replace the Renner parts installed presently. That's about how long it will take to determine whether they are indeed of the same quality.

#57618 10/05/07 01:59 AM
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All I can say is that it is my strong belief that Mason will be upgraded in the near future once again to their rightful place in tier one.

Nicely besides Estonia, of course.....

Norbert laugh



#57619 10/05/07 02:33 AM
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Hi John,

Thanks for the response. What can I say? I guess I'm just one of the dopey ones who take the 'dopey claims' at face value. Cecil Ramirez did say that he understood that from a marketing angle these changes might not be popular. I guess you feel that M & H is just trying to save a few bucks. My instinct tells me that they were less than satisfied with certain parts they were receiving and made a change.

Maybe Rank Piano Amateur is right that it's time to move on. I still wonder if it is proven or just assumed that all the parts of the Renner action are sourced in Germany. The post from mjs indicates that it is not necessarily the case.
Whatever, I always enjoy reading your posts.

Keep the faith,
William


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#57620 10/05/07 04:29 AM
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From what I have found out from conversing with a few action part manufacturers in China is that for a manufacture to tool up and do a run on a custom action part to ones specs, they need a minimun 5000 piece order. Most of the Chinese pianos utilize a generic Renner type copy action part manufactured by the few exclusive action part factories.If this is true than most of the parts are of equal quality though many piano manufacturers design and assemble their own action stack. True there are probably factories that machine parts to a higher precision level than others but they are still available to all the Chinese piano manufacturers.

I also find that hard to believe that M&H in assembling their own action, actually assemble each and every wippen in that, it is a moving part. I could concieve of them maybe assembling the flanges to the shanks but again what for.

Do you really think that M&H would make this risky move on their part knowing the consequences of public perception unless there were other internal politics involved. I doubt it!

As for Renner action parts.They are far from perfect. All the high end German piano manufacturers have a quality control division that inspects,accepts and rejects each and every shipment of Renner parts from the factory. I personally order just as many Renner action parts as the smaller manufacturers (restoration purposes) and constantly send back my share. Though I must say,we've done over 250 restorations using Renner action parts with only one faulty gluejoint on a Renner wippen (that I know of) Not bad! Why would I make a change?
I've said this before (John P. will agree) if quality upgrade was the issue,why not go Japanese. Tokiwa parts have a proven track record much more so than the Chinese plus they will tool up and do smaller runs,so I've heard. Even the Japanese parts are still making changes in improving their quality materials which Renner has already incorporated (ex.syntheic knuckle)You think the Chinese are seasoned more so than the Japanese. Me don't think so.
Why take the chance unless their is a financial concern. New M&H play fine but I still use Renner exclusively in a high end M&H restoration.


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#57621 10/05/07 08:27 AM
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Interesting thread...kind of...but I'm shopping for a grand and I think a much more important question is how the M&H plays. I live in New England, and love the idea of a local american piano, and I like the M&H sound better than most. However, I've played 4 AAs so far (including 2 rebuilds and 2 new) and in every case I felt like I was walking somebody else's large poorly trained dog: the things just seem to run away from me. I'm guessing it's more the thundering bass than the action, but maybe some of each. Just feels unrefined. Visited Faust Harrison last week and like the feel of the Estonia so much better...wish it sounded like a M&H, though.
Have I tried the wrong pianos? Do they have a giant showroom in Boston I should visit?


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#57622 10/05/07 09:24 AM
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PB, I agree. I never assumed that M&H did anything other than buying a box of wippens, a box of shanks and flanges and a set of hammers and assembling them. It would be silly to assume that they work any other way. It makes perfect sense to assume that they are using a "generic" Renner or Renner copy. The action was likely designed around such parts thereby making it less expensive to source parts from a few manufacturers, Tokiwa included.

Cud518, it is likely not such an onerous task to request voicing that will even out the sound of the M&H's that you reference. BUT...you are on a slippery slope trying to get the American instruments to sound more European. That is the allure after all of the classic American grand. That's sort of like trying to turn a rottweiler into a terrier. I always thought that it was easier to control a powerhouse piano by learning to play in a more quiet subtle way. BUT...when you need the power, it is readily available.

#57623 10/05/07 09:58 AM
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Visited Faust Harrison last week and like the feel of the Estonia so much better...wish it sounded like a M&H, though.


That is surprising. You had mentioned "unrefined", which I would never use to describe a well prepped Mason, particularly one presented by my friends at F-H.

But if you genuinely prefer the more reserved tone of the Estonia, that would be something completely different. The model that each company uses for tone is different and there is subjectivity to that. Rest assured that both pianos are very fine instruments.

Keep us posted,


Rich Galassini
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#57624 10/08/07 11:37 AM
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