Robert Estrin - piano expert

What are the Best Piano Brands in 2015?

Learn which pianos are the best in 2015, and why.

In this video, Robert tells you about the best piano brands in 2015 and how they compare with pianos from years past.

Released on August 26, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi and welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin. The video today is about what are the best piano brands.

You know, I made a video on this subject about five and a half years ago. And so much has changed in the industry, I thought it was due time to do a refresh and bring you up-to-date. In that video I stressed the importance of the country of origin. Why? Well, it's natural that a country that has a rich history going back centuries should be building better pianos than a country that just started building pianos. But we've really changed quite a bit, today it's really a global marketplace.

Consider the iPhone, the iPhone from Apple, an American company built in China with screens made in Korea, circuits coming from parts of Europe, rare earth materials coming from as far flung places as Mongolia. So this is the way it is in the world today, not just with electronics but with pianos. That's right, we have very few independent piano makers. You have, for example, Bosendorfer, the Austrian company owned by Yamaha and Samick owns Bechstein and Seiler. It's very confusing.

And then Seiler's, some of them are made in Indonesia. In fact, so many companies have factories in different countries, Yamaha and Kawai have factories in Indonesia. You have many companies that have factories in different countries. It becomes very, very confusing. Now add to this, the fact that you have what are called stencil pianos, where the name on the front of the piano has nothing to do with the piano. They are sourced by enterprising business people who buy the rights to the name of some familiar piano companies that are no longer producing. Sometimes they're even fictitious names.

What makes it even more confusing is sometimes one company will import pianos from different factories for different models in the line. So you might not even know who is building the piano for a certain company. Well, there are many, many small companies making ultra high-end pianos that are very expensive and super high quality. From Italy you have Fazioli, to right here in the United States, Mason and Hamlin and many others in Europe.

These are instruments for the discerning few, but they produce very few pianos. As a matter of fact, last year there were only about 1,400 pianos built in the United States. You might wonder is price indicative of quality. Well, in a new market to a great extent it can be. But because so much is up to personal taste, one person might prefer a much less expensive piano to a hand made piano if that style of sound doesn't suit them.

Naturally there's some compromises that have to be made in order to reach a price point on a piano. So the question is how long will a piano last and is that based upon the price you pay? In some part it is but more importantly if a piano is a lower priced piano, it might not pay to rebuild when the time comes because at the end of the day the price you'll pay to rebuild isn't warranted on a piano of that cost.

There are really though four giants in the world today, and those are two Japanese companies, Yamaha and Kawai, and two huge Korean companies, Young Chang and Samick producing a wealth of pianos on many different levels in factories in different countries. Add to that the stencil pianos coming out of China and there's actually hundreds of companies in China that don't export. So it's an exploding world of pianos out there.

Now, I could give you a top 10 list, but it wouldn't be fair because there are actually far more than 10 piano companies making top tier instruments. But the question is, what's the right piano for you? Some people have a realm of experience and have a favorite piano brand, but all too often it's based upon a very limited realm of experience. Maybe a piano that you've grown up with or a piano that a teacher had.

For example, I grew with my father, Morton Estrin, a Baldwin artist helping him choose pianos for his New York recitals and his recording sessions. I played countless great Baldwins, playing concerts and at music conservatory. I played so many great Steinways. So obviously I have a wealth of experience with these brands. Of course, over the years I've gotten experience with playing so many pianos.

Here's a little interesting story for you. Every year I get to go to the NAMM Show, the National Association of Music Merchants trade show right nearby in Anaheim, California, and I get to play countless pianos from around the world. And interestingly each year it's a different piano that's my favorite. One year it might be a Mason and Hamlin, another year a Bosendorfer or maybe a Shigeru Kawai because ultimately it comes down to the specific piano.

It's beyond just the model, the company, or the era because each one is crafted. Add to that personal preference, and you could see why choosing the best piano brands is a very tough task and ultimately the choice is up to you. I'd love to hear from you, any of you who have favorite piano brands and why. It would be very good to make new videos on these subjects for you.

Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Johnny Salinas * VSM MEMBER * on August 28, 2015 @5:00 am PST
Bob thanks for givin us this knowledge. Is very very interesting al the points you say
Christopher slevin * VSM MEMBER * on August 27, 2015 @10:21 am PST
Very interesting Robert. In 1994 I purchased anew 7ft Weber WG70
While it says made in Korea I believe that the felt is English and the steel, German. Manufacturing methods have changed at some point and I wondered if you knew when and how they changed since I am under the impression that this was one of the last hand made pianos with the Weber name? I love it ,even tho I have tried many Steinways. The only one I thought was better was the Petrov, but that, like the Steinways ,was far beyond my budget.
Robert - host, on August 27, 2015 @4:05 pm PST
Weber stopped producing pianos in the U.S. in 1982. Weber pianos manufactured by Young Chang were sold in this country through an arrangement with Samsung starting in 1988. The Korean company Young Chang has been producing pianos since the 1950's. They started out by building pianos for Yamaha. Later they built pianos for Steinway.

Today, Weber pianos are built with an American scale design by Del Fandrich, one of the most respected piano designers - and they are manufactured by Young Chang which has the financial strength of Samsung behind them.
Juan Manuel * VSM MEMBER * on August 27, 2015 @7:13 am PST
Dear Bob,

In your list of best pianos you did not mention in an explicit way the Bösendorfer brand. Why ? And in relation to the Steinway piano, there is a huge difference in price, sound and quality between the Steinway model D made in New York and the Steinway model D made in Hamburg ... a difference that should be mentioned. I would love to have your comments on this. Best Regards !
Robert - host, on August 27, 2015 @4:10 pm PST
My list of top piano brands is not meant to be a definitive list, but a sampling of some of the world's greatest pianos. As I mentioned in the video, when you get to that level, the difference between one piano and the next, as well as personal taste make much more difference than just the brand. I have played great pianos by quite a number of companies. Yet, none of those companies is capable of producing pianos that are consistently on the highest possible level. And even if they were, the work it takes to keep them that way is enormous and constant.
John Neoclis Raftopoulos * VSM MEMBER * on August 27, 2015 @2:26 am PST
Hi! I've written once more, asking about my old 35 years old piano. it has been standing idle for about 10 years, since I live in an apartment and there are restrictions about noise nuisance in the building. So I practice on a keyboard so that I can lower the volume, or wear earphones when I need to practice during late night hours. anyway, the piano is a Swedish made "Offenbach", bought in 1979. from what I can see, it is dramatically off tune and some keys do not play, or they play and stay down for a while. however, I decided that at least for well practiced compositions, it will be much fun if I could play them on the I decided to bring it in to shape again...(that A is so off tune that I realized that it has become a G#!) however, I hesitate since the piano could be in so bad shape, that it will need more money than to buy one...could you help me with this problem if you can? thank you!
Robert - host, on August 27, 2015 @4:13 pm PST
There is a great deal involved in determining whether the piano is worth restoring. If you email me a complete description along with pictures, I am happy to help you know more about what you are dealing with.
Thank you.
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