There’s another difference that piano people, but few others, know about. There are two Steinways: Hamburg Steinway and New York Steinway. The New York Steinway factory opened in 1854; the Hamburg Steinway factory opened in 1888. The United States, by and large, knows only New York Steinways. The REST of the world, all the other countries, know only Hamburg Steinways.
So, same company, right? Same ownership, yes? The pianos in both factories are identical, right?
Wrong. Let’s start with the glaring differences:
• Different wood used in the rim—hardwood, but a different species; in New York Steinways, hard-rock maple is used; in Hamburg Steinways, it’s beech and a different species of maple. So—a different basic, fundamental sound.
• Different finish—the Germans have used polyester for over 30 years, and the Americans have stuck with lacquer—so the Hamburg instruments tend to be shiny, and the New York instruments tend to be satin or semi-gloss
• Different action parts—Hamburg Steinways use Renner parts, the oldest and, most say, the best wooden piano parts maker on the planet, made in Germany for 130 years. New York Steinways use parts made by them, or made by someone (I don’t know who) for them.
• Different kinds and species of spruce in the soundboards—means the essential quality of the ring, bloom, and sustain of the piano are subtly different.
• Different kind of hammers—Hamburg uses the Renner high-compression Weikert felt hammers; New York uses their own proprietary low-compression hammer, probably made out of Bacon felt. The high compression hammers are “opened up” and softened with needles to bring their tone out; the low-compression hammers are treated with hardening solutions and protocols to bring their tone out; very different voicing and attack qualities and procedures are necessary.
• The “arms” look different—the arms, or cheeks, the ends of the piano’s rim that flank the cheekblocks and the keys—are squared off in New York Steinways, and are rounded on Hamburg Steinways.
• Different bass strings—different makers; the German one very small, the American one the biggest in North America. Some, if not most, say the German strings are superior.
So now you have some fun facts to amaze your piano-geek friends with; have a ball….