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What’s the difference between a $10 000 grand piano and a $250 000 grand piano?

Updated: Sep 12, 2018

By Stewart Kelly


I sometimes meet clients who can’t believe that a brand new grand piano on the showroom floor that is $9995 is sitting next to one more than $250 000. “What could possibly justify that difference? They look identical.” They often ask. Looks can be deceiving.


It really shouldn’t be surprising at all - think about the fact there are plenty of new cars on the market for well under $20 000 but a Rolls-Royce Phantom costs over a million. If you step from one into the other you will quickly see, hear and touch that difference.


Here’s ten ways two pianos that might look identical are completely different under their skin resulting in vastly different performance.

  1. Soundboard. Is it solid spruce from a desirable forest known for its trees of optimum resonance and has it been aged and seasoned for many months in the correct format? Or is it a cheaper laminated product mass produced with poor quality grain?

  2. Rim material. A top grade piano will use layers of quarter sawn expensive woods like maple or beech that allow the instrument to resonate better and provide greater strength. The cheapest pianos use Asian mahoganies and in some cases even products that are barely anything more than mdf.

  3. Plate. You’ll find much thicker and wider plates on top instruments using a lot more iron and providing the piano better longevity and tuning stability. Also you'll see a world of difference in the refinement and presentation of the iron work.

  4. Other case materials and paint. I once saw a forklift go through the top lid of a very cheap Chinese piano in an accident. What it revealed was fascinating. Under the poly was a product that was barely more than a dense cardboard. What materials is your brand using for less obvious parts like the top lid?

  5. Are expensive CNC robots utilised in the factory ensuring precision far superior to the human eye?

  6. Action. Quality of parts and length of time in assembly regulating it.

  7. Hammers. What grade of wool is used and how much preparation do they get?

  8. Keys. Do they use plastic tops or are the black keys real ebony and has the manufacturer invested huge money in making a white key top that absorbs sweat and doesn’t get slippery to give it a feel closer to traditional ivory?

  9. Paint. Does it have only a few coats or does it have 13-16 as the best manufacturers give to iron out imperfections and make it last.

  10. Accessories. Does it come with a $199 stool that’s not particularly comfortable and sometimes not even adjustable or is it a $2000 stool that provides immense support and glides effortlessly up and down for many years to come?

Pianos are designed to perform at very different levels


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