What are the best piano brands?
There are a few piano builders who handcraft extraordinary instruments – grand pianos so well made that they have surpassed all others in performance and virtuosity. These best piano brands are lauded as Top Tier performance brands, infinitely higher quality than the mass-manufactured pianos with perhaps the more familiar sounding names. It stands to reason that these European pianos with artistic designs are proportionally more expensive, most coveted, and chosen by pianists who treasure excellence in both sound and art in a grand piano.
A true connoisseur demands the piano’s musical magic under the lid but also to be reflected in the exterior case. A piano should satisfy the eye as well as the ear. European best grand piano builders work with designers to create exquisitely unusual piano cases both in traditional piano and in uber modern piano styles.
Custom pianos or luxury pianos feature interesting piano motifs, using rare woods, gemstones, metals, glass, intarsia, paintings, mirror, acrylic – an almost limitless array of bespoke art case pianos and benches.
Given that a truly spectacular piano purchase is likely to occur only once in a lifetime, it seems entirely appropriate to celebrate by personalizing the piano in some small discreet or entirely extravagant way!
We are going to look at the top 10 Best Piano Brands today (in alphabetical order):
1. C. Bechstein
With German origins dating back to 1853, the C. Bechstein pianos cannot be ignored.
Bechstein makes two quality levels, the lower- priced “B” series that say only “Bechstein” on the fallboard, while the higher – priced line says “C. Bechstein instead. The company says that both lines are made in Germany, though for cost-effectiveness some parts of “Bechstein” and components may originate in the Czech Republic.
The C. Bechstein cabinetry is much sleeker and more sophisticated than the B series. The C. Bechstein plates receive the royal hand-rubbed finish; while the other plates are conventionally sprayed. When the two lines are compared side by side, there are differences in their sound quality and piano actions. Although the B-series pianos are, generally speaking, very good instruments with a slightly warmer default tone quality, the C. Bechstein models clearly outperform this less expensive line.
Bechstein grands are impeccably made and are “orchestrally” voiced, a concept that the company says is related to the change of timbre at different velocities of touch.
Some unfamiliar of the brand customers might prematurely assume that the piano is voiced too bright for the American musical taste. However, many experts have had high praise for the wide dynamic range, tonal color, and responsive action of the redesigned 7’ 7” model C 234 grand as well as the new concert grand D 282. Voicing is a matter of overall piano design, and Bechstein artisans voice pianos at the factory to their tonal standard. We believe that it should not be significantly altered. Some customers may still prefer the slightly warmer sound of the B-series grands (as opposed to the brighter but more pure European sound), which are also about half the price of the C. Bechstein models.
Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
Price Range of Bechstein Grand Piano Models:
C-Series: $119,000 – $320,000
Bechstein D 282
Bechstein C 234
Bechstein B 212
Bechstein M/P 192
Bechstein L 167
B-Series: $67,000 – $110,000
Bechstein B 228
Bechstein B 208
Bechstein B 190
Bechstein B 175
Bechstein B 160
Blüthner has been making pianos of the highest quality in Leipzig, in the eastern part of Germany, since 1853, and which has always remained under the management of the Blüthner family.
Blüthner builds approximately 100 verticals a year in four sizes, and 500 grands a year. Blüthner pianos have a very full sound that is warm, romantic, and lyrical, generally deeper and darker than some of their German counterparts. Sustain is good, and at a low level of volume, gives the tone a refined, delicate character. The action is light, but responsive. The pianos are built of superb materials, and are favorably priced compared to some of their competitors.
Also Blüthner pianos incorporate several unique technical features. With aliquot stringing, the notes in the highest treble section have four strings each instead of three. The effect, heard mainly in medium to forte playing, is similar to that of a duplex scale, adding tonal color to the treble and aiding the singing tone.
Blüthner ranks as one of the best piano brands not only for the quality of their pianos, but for their corporate philosophy. Bluthner is into innovation and risk-taking with new and exciting designs and ideas. Bluthner modified a grand piano (reduced the weight) for use on the Hindenburg airship.
Another example is their ambitious transparent piano. The Lucid piano is realized in reinforced Plexiglass exposing the beauty of what’s within.
Customizable with different veneers and iron frame coatings, the look of the Blüthner Lucid Elegance is born of the client’s desires and imagination. From ebony or exotic burl veneers on the side panels to rose gold or chrome finish of the frame the semi-transparent instrument can be uniquely designed. The addition of LED illumination of the inner and outer rim of the piano case will add a touch a magic and transform your interior into real-life Neverland.
This manufacturer with their roots in the 1800’s comes up with wonderful futuristic designs.
Warranty: Blüthner — 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
Price Range of gand piano models: $83,000 to $300,000
Bluthner Model 1
Bluthner Model 2
Bluthner Model 4
Bluthner Model 6
Bluthner Model 10
Bluthner Model 11
In 1828 in Vienna, Austria, Ignaz Bösendorfer founded his luxury piano company and rose to fame when Franz Liszt endorsed his concert grand. Liszt had destroyed every other piano set before him and was unable to destroy this one no matter how hard he played it.
Bösendorfer was named the official piano maker to the Emperor of Austria in 1830.
The Imperial Grand model is over 9’6” in size and boasts a 97-key keyboard with 8 octaves, making it a special looking and special sounding concert grand on many stages even today. Several composers have taken advantage of the extra bass keys including Busoni, Bartok, Debussy and Ravel.
After Ignaz’s death, the company changed hands. This is similar to what happened the to Steinway piano company. A financial institution owned it for a while until Bosendorfer was purchased by Yamaha, the Japanese piano maker, in 2006. Yamaha maintains Bosendorfer as a totally separate business and has promised to make no changes to the location or methods of production.
Bösendorfer , another tier one boutique brand , is one of the best acoustic piano brands who manufactures fewer than 500 pianos a year, with close to half of them sold in the U.S. They make a 52″ upright and eight models of grand piano, from 5′ 1″ to the 9′ 6″ Imperial Concert Grand. The 5′ 1″ grand, new in 2012 and unusually small for a Bösendorfer piano, is considered one of the best baby grand pianos. It has the same keyboard as the 5′ 8″ grand, ensuring a great touch despite the instrument’s small size.
Due to a unique design of their rims and scale design, Bösendorfers tend to have a more delicate treble, and a bass that features the fundamental tone more than the higher harmonics.
Although the cliché that “Bösendorfers are better for Mozart than Rachmaninoff” may be an exaggeration (as evidenced by the number of performing artists who successfully use the piano in concert for a wide variety of music), the piano’s mellow sound is certainly ideally suited for the classical repertoire and for chamber music.
Bosendorfer offers many choices in customization with rare woods, and many classical and baroque designs (named after Strauss, Lizst, Chopin, etc.) Its rich history and survival shine through in the quality and classiness of its instruments.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.
Price Range of grand piano models: $118,000 – $520,000
Considered by many to be producing the best grand pianos of all times, Fazioli offers a flawless reputation for performance quality, reliability, and a vast choice in customization elements. Fazioli enjoys an almost cult-like following amongst pianists. Increasingly Fazioli is taking center stage, chosen by pianists for competitions, concerts and personal enjoyment.
In 1978, concert pianist and engineer Paolo Fazioli began studying and refining pianos, with the object of making the absolute finest-quality instruments possible. There is no doubt that this manufacturer has surpassed the best of the best. Now even the most famous piano makers of Western Europe and artists throughout the world recognize Paolo Fazioli’s accomplishment.
Artists like Herbie Hancock, and professional classicists who are most familiar with Fazioli pianos, describe them as sources of inspiration with a wide color palette and dynamic range. The instruments combine unusual power with great warmth in a way that causes music played on them to dynamically unique to most other pianos.
Fazioli builds only grands, about 170 per year, in six sizes from 5′ 2″ to 10′ 2″. The largest piano has the further distinction of having four pedals, the last is a “soft” pedal that brings the hammers closer to the strings — similar to the function in verticals — to soften the sound without altering the tonal quality, as the una corda often does. A unique compensating device corrects for the action irregularity that would otherwise occur when the hammers are moved in this manner.
Besides the enormous dimensions of sound performance, Fazioli artisans have taken six models and transformed them into a stunning variety of art-cases which can be custom-ordered and individualized with innumerous embellishments of woods, inlays, semi-precious jewels, paintings, mosaics, et al.
Rare and exotic woods and briers like this California Walnut (above) or Amboina, are popular choices. Some prefer only the music rack or the inner rim in an exotic wood, others choose to do the entire piano case. Whatever you choose, be assured that the workmanship and attention to detail the Fazioli embodies is second to none.
Traditional ebony polish can be customized by adding contrasting woods or an inscription. Essentially there is no limit to the imaginative touches available. On the right is a Fazioli customized with a silver plate. Painting the soundboard a different color is also a discreet way to make the piano uniquely yours.
The ultimate luxury piano, the most unique piano and also one of the most expensive pianos is the newly unveiled Aria by Fazioli – an artful combination of traditional ebony polish atop a curved metal belly balanced on a silver pedestal with leather inserts.
Every Fazioli pianos is impeccably prepared at the factory, including very fine voicing — even perfect tuning of the duplex scales. When these instruments arrive after shipment from Italy, they do not have to be tuned by a dealer before delivery. That kind of stability and quality is next to non-existent in the piano industry.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.
Price Range of Grand Piano Models: $120,000 to $500,000
The Grotrian brand began as a partnership in 1853 between Friedrich Grotrian and C.F. Theodor Steinweg. Theodor was the son of Heinrich Steinweg who in 1850 emigrated to the US and established the firm of Steinway & Sons. Theodor followed his father in 1865, selling his share of the Grotrian partnership to Wilhelm Grotrian, son of Friedrich. For generations it was a family run business until 2015 when a majority interest was sold to Parsons Music Group in Hong Kong Grotrian remains a Braunschweig, Germany product. 6th Generation Grotrian family members are still involved in management.
Grotrian pianos are known for their treble’s extraordinary sustaining characteristics, and have a pronounced sound of attack which is subtle and light. The tenor is darker than many other pianos, with a powerful bass. Grotrian pianos are endorsed and appreciated by many famous pianists.
The Grotrian Duo is a famous innovation of two grand pianos joined together so they can be played as one instrument. (They come apart for moving).
Warranty: 5 Years parts and labor, transferable to future owners
Price Range of Grand Piano Models: $67,000 to $165,000
Six generations of Sauters have owned the Sauter piano firm since 1819. The company is currently run by Ulrich Sauter in Spaichingen, Germany. Structural and acoustical parts are made of high-quality woods including the famed Val di Fiemme soundboards. Producing approximately 800 verticals and 120 grand pianos each year, Sauter factory is situated at the foot of the Alps.
Sauter pianos are famous for the variety of finishes and styles in which they are available, many with intricate detail and inlay work. Customizing such rare woods as yew, burl walnut, pyramid mahogany, and genuine ebony in the cabinets, as well as special engravings, are available for any customer’s desire. Sauter’s M Line of vertical pianos features exclusive cabinet detailing and built-in features such as a hygrometer to measure relative humidity. This year Sauter celebrates a 20 year relationship with renowned European designer Peter Maly, whose designs have resulted in several prestigious awards for the Sauter company.
Some extremely unusual models have been created. One was the 7′ 3″ model 220 has colored lines painted on the soundboard and white inlays on the tops of the dampers as guides for musicians performing music for “prepared piano,” ultramodern music requiring the insertion of foreign objects between the strings, or the plucking or striking of strings directly by the performer.
Sauter pianos are high-quality instruments with a lush, full, singing tone, closer to an “American” sound than most other European pianos.
Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
Price Range of Grand Piano Models: $95,000 to $230,000
7. Shigeru Kawai
When one thinks of luxury grand pianos, European brand names usually jump to mind. But the Japanese company Kawai (founded in 1927) decided to spin off a bespoke piano branch to build the finest quality grand piano money could buy. Shigeru Kawai is the dream product of Shigeru, the son of company founder, Koichi Kawai. Fewer than 300 limited-edition pianos are handmade each year at a separate special facility where Kawai’s EX concert grands and six SK models of grands are built
Using only high-grade woods, the latest technology and traditional craftsmanship, Kawai has succeeded in being noticed for all the right reasons with their Shigeru pianos. Each buyer of a Shigeru Kawai receives a visit within the first year by a Kawai master technician from Japan assuring top quality service and proper set up. These pianos, on the market since 2000, are ranked among the world’s finest instruments, and are frequently used in international piano competitions.
Having achieved prominence among educators and prestigious venues around the globe, Shigeru pianos have been selected by many of the leading musical institutions and conservatories all over the world.
Warranty: 10 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within warranty period.
Price Range of Grand Piano Models: $64,000 – $239,000
SK-EX Concert Grand
SK-7 Semi-Concert Grand
SK-6 Orchestra Grand
SK -5 Chamber Grand
SK-3 Conservatory Grand
SK-2 Classic Salon Grand
8. Steinway & Sons (Hamburg)
Heinrich Engelhardt Steinweg, from Seesen, Germany, emigrated with his family to the United States in 1850, and established Steinway & Sons in 1853. Responsible for patenting revolutionary changes to the grand piano, Steinway’s ideas would eventually be adopted or imitated by others. Some of these patents created a stronger frame, a richer sound, and a more sensitive action. By the 1880s, the Steinway piano was already in most ways the modern piano we have today, and in the next generation the standards set by the founder were strictly followed.
The underlying excellence of the Steinway musical designs and the integrity of the construction process are the hallmarks of the Steinway piano. Steinway pianos at their best have the quintessential American piano sound: a powerful bass, a resonant midrange, and a treble with tonal color. The construction process creates a very durable and rigid framework that also contributes to the power of its sound. Although the quality of Steinway grands fluctuates because of the many changes of the many ownership, Steinway has managed to hold on to market share.
Steinway grand pianos, and the Steinway B (the favorite of many technicians) cannot be ignored when discussing the best piano builders, although the uneven quality of existing product put it at the low end of our list of high-end instruments. Steinway pianos require committed dealers with technical resources to manage the uneven quality of the product. That being said, when a dealer has properly done his work, Steinway pianos can be absolutely excellent.
The 6′ 10½” Steinway model B is the favorite of many piano technicians. It is a popular choice for the serious pianist, recording or teaching studio, or small recital hall. The 8′ 11¾” model D, the concert grand, is the flagship of the Steinway line and the piano of choice for the majority of concert pianist. Steinway company has done an incredible job over the past decades signing up pianists to their roster. A Steinway artist is required to play on a Steinway grand piano during a performance (and also buy a Steinway piano), therefore many institutions don’t have a choice but to buy at least one Steinway grand for stage.
Warranty: 5 year, parts and labor, to original purchaser
Price Range of Grand Piano Models: $66,000 – $215,000
9. Steingraeber & Söhne
We can’t talk about the best piano makers without highlighting one of the world’s best kept secrets, a company founded in 1852 by Eduard Steingraeber in the old part of Bayreuth, Germany (famous for the annual Wagner festival). An innovative designer, Eduard exhibited his first cast iron piano frame at the Paris world exhibition in 1867. From 1872 on, his company was commissioned for pianos for Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, and opened Bayreuth’s first concert hall in 1873.
Steingraeeber is one of the smaller handmade piano builders in the world, making fewer than 80 grands per year for the top end of the market. Today the sixth generation of Steingraebers hand make their outstanding instruments in the traditional ways at a factory they’ve occupied since 1872.
Their three sizes of vertical pianos are also excellent, and their grands come in five sizes from 5’7” to 8’11” models. The smallest one, model A-170 has an unusually wide tail which accommodates a larger soundboard area and longer bass strings than usual for a baby grand.
Steingraeber have a reputation for innovative technical improvements to the piano, introducing many unique features under the lid as well as a introducing the world’s lightest lid made of modern aircraft material with a honeycomb interior, nearly 50% lighter than conventional piano lids. They made a piano for the physically handicapped (who lack use of their legs,) as well as working with furniture designers for commissioned projects, and consulting with Pearl River in China toward the end of a new line of premium pianos.
Steingraeber pianos have a unique sound, and an extensive tonal palette with a mix of clarity and warmth.
Warranty: 5 years, parts and labor, transferable to future owners within the warranty period.
Price Range of Grand Piano Models: $102,000 – $ 270,000
Concert Grand E-272
Semi-concert Grand D-232
Chamber Concert Grand C-212
Salon Grand B-192
Salon Grand A-170
We are inclined to include a special group of Yamaha grand pianos in this compilation because of their popularity and acclaim by professional artists. The new CF Series, one of two Yamaha Premium Collection lines, comprises the 9′ model CFX (replacing model CFIIIS), and the 6′ 3″ model CF4 and 7′ model CF6 . The pianos in this collection are made in a separate factory to much higher standards and with some different materials than Yamaha’s economy lines,: e.g., maple and mahogany in the rim, which is made more rigid, for greater tonal power,; higher-grade soundboards, a treble “bell” (as in the larger Steinways) to enhance treble tone; German strings, and hammer and scaling changes, for a more mellow tone. The result is an instrument capable of greater dynamic range, tonal color, and sustain than the regular Yamahas.
The new CF-series pianos have a thicker rim and more substantial structure than their predecessors. The models CF4 and CF6 have an open pinblock design reminiscent of some European pianos, which gives the tuner slightly greater control over the tuning pins. Yamaha says that the CF series represents 19 years of research and development by its craftsmen, designers, and engineers. The Yamaha concert grand is endorsed and used by a number of notable musicians, including Olga Kern, Michael Tilson Thomas, Chick Corea, and Elton John.
Warranty: Yamaha — 10 years, parts and labor, to original purchaser.
Price Range of Grand Piano Models: $105,000 – $260,000
ABOUT EURO PIANOS NAPLES
Euro Pianos Naples is a respected distributor of European luxury musical instruments. The company’s origin dates back to 1965. Euro Pianos represents world renowned brands such as Sauter, and it has recently become a manufacturer of its own acrylic instrument – The Aire. Apart from being a successful retailer, consultant, and entrepreneur organization, Euro Pianos is actively engaged in the artistic and community life of Naples, Florida as an organizer and supporter of musical events throughout the years.