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Yamaha vs. Kawai vs. essex

Yamaha vs. Kawai vs. essex

The Key to a Great Piano

#40 is Middle C. Although all pianos have some keys that are bent to fit around the action rail's structural supports, Steinway has designed these Essex uprights to have longer keys and and more straight keys located in the center of the keyboard, which receives the most play.

After 20 years with Yamaha,

We had to ask ourselves,

Why does it take Yamaha $37,999 to offer almost the same premium core-features as Steinway's Essex does for $13,900?
 


YAMAHA VS ESSEX 5' GRANDS

Slide Right on Smaller Screens

 

 

MODEL ESSEX EGP-155 Yamaha C1x Yamaha GC1 Yamaha GB1K
MSRP $13,900 $37,999 $23,999 $14,999
SPECIFIED PREMIUM SOLID SPRUCE SOUNDBOARD Yes1 No1 No1 No1
TAPERED SOUNDBORD Yes No2 No2 No2
VERTICALLY LAMINATED BRIDGES Yes Yes No No
REINFORCED HAMMERS Yes Yes No No
DUPLEX SCALE Yes Yes Yes No
DENSE, SPECIFIED RIM MATERIAL Yes3 No3 No3 No3

 

(1) Essex pianos specify a minimum of 8 grains per inch. No specification for soundboard quality could be found for Yamaha soundboards and visual inspection of different models shows a wide difference in quality. (2) No documentation could be found referencing tapered soundboards in Yamaha pianos. (3) Essex grands have WALNUT inner and outer rims. No documentation could be found referencing rim material in Yamaha pianos. 

Premium vs. Standard Features

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.   

 

Premium Solid Spruce Soundboard

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.

Standard Solid Spruce Soundboard

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. LEARN MORE ABOUT PREMIUM VS. STANDARD FEATURES.

Tapered Soundboard Construction

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.

One-Dimensional Soundboard

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. LEARN MORE ABOUT PREMUIM VS. STANDARD FEATURES.

Vertically Laminated Bridges

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.

One-Piece Bridges

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. LEARN MORE ABOUT PREMIUM VS. STANDARD FEATURES.

Reinforced Hammers

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.

Non-Reinforced Hammers

This manufacturer did not include reinforcement felt on this piano. Instead, the white hammer felt is glued directly to the wooden hammer-head. On a reinforced hammer, a layer of very dense felt is applied first. This helps the hammer take shape at production and retain shape over years of impact with the strings. LEARN MORE ABOUT PREMIUM VS. STANDARD FEATURES.

5-Post Backframe

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 400cm 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. 

4 Post Back Frame

This piano has a 4-post back-frame If the posts are thick, the structure 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 a clear indicator of an upright piano’s quality. LEARN MORE ABOUT PREMIUM VS. STANDARD FEATURES.

Dense, Specified Rim Material

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 walnut inner and outer rims. Many manufacturers do not specify their rim material, allowing for potential variations in production. 

Unspecified Rim Material

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. LEARN MORE ABOUT PREMIUM VS. STANDARD FEATURES.

Duplex Scale Design

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. 

No Duplex Scale

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.  LEARN MORE ABOUT PREMIUM VS. STANDARD FEATURES.

 

 

Every Essex has every premium feature. Similarly priced competitors do not. Period.

 

 

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Yamaha vs. Kawai vs. Essex Grands
 

  All Essex Grands Yamaha C1X
and Up
Kawai GX1
and Up
Yamaha GC Series Kawai GL-20
and Up
Yamaha GB1K Kawai GL-10
STARTING MSRP $13,900 $37,999 $36,695 $23,999 $20,395 $14,999 $15,095
SPECIFIED PREMIUM SPRUCE SOUNDBOARD Yes
Solid Spruce minimum grain lines 8/inch
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
TAPERED SOUNDBOARD Yes No/Not specified Yes No/Not specified Yes No/Not specified Yes
VERTICALLY LAMINATED BRIDGES Yes Yes Yes No No No No
REINFORCED HAMMERS Yes Yes Yes No/Not specified Yes Yes No
DUPLEX SCALE Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
DENSE, SPECIFIED RIM MATERIAL Yes (Walnut) No/Not specified "A blend of distinctive hardwoods" No/Not specified No/Not specified No/Not specified No/Not specified

 

 

 

"So when a piano ad touts a "hardwood rim," or a rim made from "select hardwoods," chances are that the woods involved are not very hard at all; if they were, the ad would likely name the actual species of wood instead of hiding behind such general and potentially deceptive terms." 

Larry Fine, Pianobuyer.com

We feel the same way about "Not Specified"

 

 

 

Yamaha vs. Kawai vs. Essex Uprights Over 46"
 

  ESSEX
EUP-123
49"
YAMAHA
U3
52"
KAWAI
K-500
51"
KAWAI
K-400
48"
YAMAHA
U1
48"
KAWAI
K-300
48"
YAMAHA
B3
48"
MSRP $7,690 $14,559 $14,695 $11,995 $11,399 $11,195 $8,259
SPECIFIED PREMIUM SPRUCE SOUNDBOARD Yes
Solid Spruce minimum grain lines 8/inch
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
TAPERED SOUNDBOARD Yes No/Not specified Yes Yes No/Not specified Yes No/Not specified
VERTICALLY LAMINATED BRIDGES Yes No No No No No No
REINFORCED HAMMERS Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
5-POST BACK FRAME Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
BACK POST CROSS-SECTIONAL AREA (CSA) 500cm 274cm Not Specified Not Specified 238cm Not Specified Not Specified

 

Yamaha vs. Kawai vs. Essex Uprights Under 47"
 

 

ESSEX
EUP-116
46"

ESSEX
EUP-111
44"
KAWAI
UST-9
46"
YAMAHA
P22
45"
KAWAI
K-200
45"
YAMAHA
M-460
44"
YAMAHA
B2
44.5"
YAMAHA
B1
43"
MSRP $7,190 $6,390 $7,995 $7,549 $7,495 $6,399 $6,749 $4,799
SPECIFIED PREMIUM SPRUCE SOUNDBOARD Yes
Solid Spruce minimum grain lines 8/inch
Yes
Solid Spruce minimum grain lines 8/inch
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
No
Solid Spruce is specified, but quality is not.
TAPERED SOUNDBOARD Yes Yes Yes No/Not specified No No/Not specified No/Not specified No/Not specified
VERTICALLY LAMINATED BRIDGES Yes Yes No No No No No No
REINFORCED HAMMERS Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
5-POST BACK FRAME Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
BACK POST CROSS-SECTIONAL AREA (CSA) 450cm 223cm

Not Specified

Not Specified

Not Specified

Not Specified

104cm

Not Specified

 

 

 

Why we switched.

Big decisions require a lot of research. We did so much of it, this page became one of the most talked about pages in the piano world. When we sold Yamaha and Kawai acoustic pianos side-by-side, our impression was that, dollar-for-dollar, these two brands were equal in quality and performance and it really came down to which piano had the touch and tone a shopper preferred.

When the new Yamaha B Series came out, we noticed several departures from what we considered to be good design. The new Yamaha pianos were not like the ones we had represented for over 20 years. Most of our clients are parents shopping for a starter piano for their children to practice on while they are taking lessons, so pianos in the more affordable price ranges represent a large part of our business. We have always prided ourselves on being "good shoppers," able to select the best values for our customers. So we set out to discover the finest affordable pianos in the world.  

Yamaha beat Baldwin.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, many would agree that Baldwin was the predominant affordable piano, recommended by teachers and technicians alike for beginners and recreational pianists. When Yamaha pianos were initially exported to North America they were not considered to be well made. In fact, the Japanese manufacturer had much to learn about seasoning wood materials for the North American market, as homes in this region are typically much drier than those in Japan. Especially during the winter months.

By the 1980s and 1990's, Japanese factories produced very consistent quality products, beating out American manufacturers across a myriad of industries, pianos included. It took a long time, decades in fact, but Yamaha, and to a lesser degree, Kawai, won the hearts and minds of piano technicians and teachers, eventually replacing Baldwin as the most recommended affordable piano. Baldwin went bankrupt in 2001.

But that was before Boston & Essex.

In 1991, Steinway & Sons developed an entirely new line called BOSTON PIANOS. This new brand incorporated all the best design features of a Steinway, but instead of being handmade, it was manufactured on a production line under the supervision of a team of Steinway engineers. It was an unqualified success.

Today, over 200 top colleges and universities use Boston pianos exclusively in their practice rooms, faculty offices and for any purpose not fulfilled by a Steinway piano. In 2001, building on the success of the Boston line, Steinway developed ESSEX PIANOS using the same formula. ESSEX benefits from global labor rates, bringing the cost down to about half that of a Boston, but retains ALL OF THE CORE DESIGN FEATURES.  

Essex simply delivers.

Essex is the only affordable brand we have ever encountered where EVERY MODEL IS BUILT THE SAME. Steinway does not eliminate features or alter material specifications simply to meet a lower price point. In fact, Essex pianos compare favorably with similarly-sized pianos by other manufacturers priced two to three times higher.

When we did most of our research, we found a lot of chatter about Essex in piano forums. On the positive side, we do not recall ever seeing anyone say they did not like the performance of Essex pianos. The only recurring criticism, however unsubstantiated, was that shoppers would be "paying for the name." In other words, the price of Essex was assumed to be elevated because it is a Steinway product. We can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Essex delivers value far beyond it's price. In fact, when you compare similarly-priced pianos side-by-side, it might be said that shoppers are paying too much for the Yamaha name these days.

In fact, when you compare similarly-priced pianos side-by-side, it might be said that shoppers are paying too much for the Yamaha name these days.

 

 

YAMAHA GB1K VS. ESSEX EGP-155

learn about premium features

 

5' 0" Yamaha GB1K
msrp $14,999

 

standard Soundboard

 

Standard Solid bridges
 

 

Non-Reinforced Hammers

 

Standard Scale Design

 

total rim 5.4 cm thick
unspecified material

Outer rim pictured in inches.

 

Bead & Sandpaper
Flange System

 

non-reinforced Key Slip
the space shows it warped

 

Square Leg

 

Box-Square Cabinetry

 

5' 1" essex egp-155
msrp$13,900

 

PREMIUM soundboard

 

Vertically Laminated
bridges

 

Reinforced Hammers

 

Duplex Scale Design

 

total rim 6.22 cm thick
walnut Wood

Outer rim pictured in inches.

 

Steinway-Style
Rosette flange system

 

Steel reinforced
anti-warp keyslip

 

Spade Leg

 

Beveled Cabinetry

 

Yamaha U1 VS. Essex EUP-123

learn about premium features

 

48" Yamaha U1
MSRP $13,999

 

238cm CSA Backframe

Cross Sectional Area (CSA)
5 Posts each 6.6cm x 7.2cm

Standard Solid Bridge
 

 

shorter key sticks
bent at middle c

 

Standard Key Buttons
Felt glued into key stick

 

Plastic Action Parts not
used in yamaha grands

 

Plastic Action Knobs

 

49" Essex EUP-123
MSRP $7690

 

500cm CSA Backframe

MASSIVE! 2X the U1!
5 Posts each 10cm x 10cm​

Vertically Laminated
Bridge

 

Longer Key StickS
Straight near Middle c

 

Steinway Style Key
Buttons: less friction

 

All wood action parts
 

 

Brass Action Knobs

 

Yamaha B2 vs. Essex EUP116

learn about premium features

 

44.5" Yamaha B2
MSRP $6,749

 

standard Soundboard

Actual plugged knot on B2# J30264709

 

Standard Solid Bridge
 

 

Non-Reinforced Hammers

 

104 cm CSA Backframe

4 Posts

 

Backposts

Each post is 6.5cm x 4cm thick

Shorter Key Sticks
bent at middle c

 

Plastic Action Parts not
used in yamaha grands

 

Plastic Action Knobs

 

Steel Casters

 

46" Essex EUP-116
MSRP $7190

 

Premium Soundboard

 

 

Vertically Laminated
Bridges

 

Reinforced Hammers

 

450 cm CSA Backframe​

5 Massive Backposts

 

Massive Backposts

Each post is 10cm x 9cm thick

Longer Keys Sticks
straight at middle c

 

All-Wood Action Parts
 

 

Brass Action Knobs

 

Double Brass Casters

 

So, What does All this Mean?

With Essex, Steinway has created a unique affordable piano line, where EVERY MODEL IS MADE THE SAME and never are advanced features left out simply to lower the cost. Essex delivers exceptional performance well above its price and anyone looking at new or used pianos in a lower price range should absolutely give them a try.

 

 

"What more can I say? I bought an Essex myself."

Paul Jennings, General Manager of Artist Pianos.

 

 

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