In the 300+ year history of the piano, there have been some specific advances in design and construction that we know will make a piano perform better and last longer. Most manufacturers treat these as step-up features to justify price differences between models. We are proud that in each line of Steinway & Sons, Boston, and Essex pianos, EVERY MODEL IS MADE THE SAME and never are features left out simply to cut costs. Even the most affordable, small Essex upright has EVERY PREMIUM DESIGN FEATURE.
All the finest pianos have premium solid-spruce soundboards, but spruce soundboards are not created equal. A premium soundboard will be made of straight-grain solid spruce (not laminated) with a minimum of 8 grains per inch and be free of knots and irregularities. These qualities ensure overall structural integrity and even distribution of vibrations. Most manufacturers do not specify anything beyond solid vs. laminated, allowing for a wide variance in wood quality.
This manufacturer does not publish specifications for the soundboard material for this model beyond the species of wood. Model to model, these soundboards may have variances in grain density, irregularities, knots, or areas where material was cut out and filler material was glued in to take it's place. We inspect the soundboards of every piano we sell and encourage shoppers to inspect the soundboard of any piano they may consider purchasing to determine the quality of the soundboard material. Steinway soundboards have a minimum of 11 grains-per-inch and our Boston and Essex pianos specify quality with a minimum of 8 grains-per-inch on every piano.
To promote flexibility, the soundboard is sanded down to be thinner from treble to bass. Because the board is able to vibrate more freely, bass notes sound richer and fuller and overall tone and dynamic range is improved.
A one-dimensional soundboard (top) is the same thickness across its width. This piano does not have a tapered soundboard or this manufacturer does not specify whether or not the soundboard is tapered on this model. However, if a piano has a tapered soundboard, it is generally something that a manufacturer would want a shopper to know. All else being equal, a tapered soundboard will provide deeper, richer tone and longer sustain. All Steinway, Boston, and Essex pianos have tapered soundboards.
Originally patented by Steinway in 1880, this groundbreaking design is now found in nearly every high-performance piano in production. The solid bridge is replaced with multiple layers of wood, like a layer-cake on its side. This design transfers vibrations from the strings to the soundboard most efficiently and with the least loss of energy. This improves every aspect of tone, projection, sustain, and dynamic range.
Bridges conduct the vibrations from the strings into the soundboard. This piano has bridges made of one piece of wood and may have a maple cap. Most uprights and entry-level grands have one-piece bridges. Nearly all performance grands include vertically laminated bridges to improve tone, sustain, and dynamic range.
Dense under-felt is applied before the white hammer felt is glued and fastened to the hammer molding. This reinforcement will help the hammer retain its shape through years of impact with the strings. Often overlooked and not something that will cause an issue right away, this is a feature many manufacturers will eliminate in order to cut costs.
This manufacturer did not include under-felt on this piano. Instead, the white hammer felt is glued directly to the wooden hammer-head. Under-felt is a layer of very dense felt that is applied first. This helps the hammer take shape at production and retain shape over years of impact with the strings.
A 5-post backframe is the first indicator that a manufacturer has taken the design of a piano seriously. However, the thickness of the individual back posts matters. A cross sectional surface area of 400cm2 or more provides massive support year after year for the the soundboard's crown and the nearly 40,000lbs of tension from the strings. The CSA is calculated by multiplying the width and depth of a post, times the number of posts, and it is a good indicator of an upright piano's structural integrity. The cheapest pianos will have very small backposts or no center backposts at all.
If the posts are thick, a 4-post backframe can be solid, but nearly all premium uprights have 5 posts. The back-frame of a piano is responsible in large part for a piano's longevity and performance later in life. Inspect the back-frame of every upright you consider purchasing, because the thickness of the back-posts will be one of the first indicators of an upright piano’s quality.
The rim of a grand piano is primarily responsible for maintaining the crown, or curvature, of the soundboard. This curvature is absolutely critical to a piano's ability to project sound and maintain a tuning to proper pitch. As such, strong, rigid, dense wood makes for solid rim construction. Steinway pianos have a unique one-piece hard-rock MAPLE rim, Boston pianos have a hard-rock MAPLE inner rim and MAHOGANY outer rim. Essex grands have BEECH inner rims and MAPLE outer rims. Many manufacturers do not specify their rim material, possibly obscuring the use of inferior materials or allowing for variations in production.
Some manufacturers often use terms like "select hardwoods" and "carefully selected wood based on its acoustic characteristics" to describe their materials. Most often in the piano industry, this can be interpreted as "may change without notice." This manufacturer either does not provide specifications for rim material, uses non-specific terms to describe rim materials, or, in the case of some older pianos, the information was not able to be verified by our research.
Originally patented by Steinway in 1872, similar designs are now implemented in countless performance grands. Each treble string is sectioned into three separate vibrating lengths. The longest is in the middle and this is the main note we hear. The duplex sections on either end are tuned to upper harmonics of the main note. This design greatly enhances the complexity and richness of the tone and increases the strength of the very highest notes.
This manufacturer did include duplex scale design on this model. Instead, felt (red in this example picture) is used to prevent the length of string that extends beyond the bridge from vibrating. Duplex scale-design is used to improve the complexity and harmonic content of a piano's tone.