What is a ‘Boston’ Piano? – Designed by Steinway?
Question: I’ve been looking at purchasing a new piano. What is the deal with Boston pianos? I was told they were Steinway pianos, but I also heard they are built in Japan. It is getting a bit confusing!
1992 – The Launch of the Boston Pianos
It is first good to know a bit of the back story behind the Boston piano brand. In the early-1990s, Steinway & Sons decided that they wanted to have their dealers offer what they considered to be a full line of pianos covering multiple price points. This would range from the highest tier Steinway & Sons grand, down to entry-level uprights. The introduction of the Boston pianos in 1992 was the first salvo in their battle for a wider range of the overall piano market. Steinway & Sons contracted with Kawai Musical Instruments in Japan to build pianos under the Boston name. Kawai was and continues to be a strong competitor to Steinway around the world. Kawai builds the Boston piano for Steinway in Japan as a contractor, without many of the innovations and improvements that are standard in today’s Kawai instruments. (Including the Millennium III ABS-Carbon Action, additional keybed reinforcement, etc.)
Boston pianos were designed by a group from Steinway that had limited experience in practical piano manufacturing. A few little things were changed such as string size, case design, etc. Today, as it was then, Boston pianos have much more in common with Kawai instruments than Steinway & Sons pianos. Even though a number of cosmetic details were changed, they still look very much like their Kawai brothers when looked at closely. As they are built by Kawai, Boston pianos are of solid, good quality – there is no debate on that.
“I would like to emphasize that this is not a Steinway & Sons project.” – Bob Dove, Boston Piano General Manager, 1992 – Chicago Tribune
Wait, Aren’t Boston Pianos, Steinway Pianos? Not Quite…
There is no real ‘Boston’ piano company and there is no Boston piano factory in Boston, MA. One of the most unfortunate realities brought about by the introduction of the Boston pianos is that many buyers think they are purchasing a Steinway & Sons piano. Many dealers use the prestige of Steinway to sell clients on a cheaper, yet still expensive piano with the Boston name. It must be made clear that Boston piano IS NOT a standard Steinway & Sons instrument. It is built by Kawai in their admittedly industry-leading factory in Japan. Many Steinway dealers point to ‘Steinway innovations’ in Boston pianos. However, most, if not all of these much focused on innovations have been standard in all quality pianos since the early 1900s! (The numerous patents mentioned in Boston piano pamphlets ran out many, many decades ago.) We cannot count the number of times customers have contacted us looking to sell their Boston piano, thinking it was a ‘genuine’ Steinway & Sons built in New York or Hamburg.
Many universities and other institutions purchase a high number of Boston pianos instead of New York or Hamburg Steinway & Sons instruments to fulfill their ‘All Steinway School’ requirements.
After the introduction of the Boston line of pianos, Steinway & Sons contracted with the Chinese piano builder Pearl River to construct pianos branded under the name of Essex. Today, both Boston and Essex pianos are sold around the world linked to the prestige and continued quality of real, New York and Hamburg Steinway & Sons pianos.
What About Kawai?
We had a number of dealership opportunities to choose from and we chose Kawai. Kawai was founded in 1927 and is among the world’s most innovative piano manufacturers. Today, they are one of the only remaining large piano makers with a family member in leadership. Kawai pianos are of the best quality in their tier and they continue to be among the ‘big three’ on the world’s performance and competition stages. (Alongside Steinway and Yamaha.) We have found that Kawai pianos hold up better under demanding, professional use better than even the esteemed Yamahas. (For example, their ABS-Carbon Millennium III Action holds up well under extreme sways in humidity.) Rather interestingly, many salesmen boast how Boston pianos are built at one of the most advanced piano factories in the world – and neglect to mention that this factory, is the Kawai factory!
Kawai factory representatives have made it clear that Kawai refuses to build a piano that is better for a competitor than the ones they put their own family name on. We have serviced a countless number of both Kawai and Boston pianos and in our experience, the Kawai pianos boast features that are tough to match – especially in their price point. The Millenium III ABS-Carbon action is the center point of their innovation. It makes sense that Kawai puts more work into their own pianos. No company would willingly OEM a better product for a competing company! Boston pianos are built utilizing the same basic framework of similar sized Kawai pianos – minus the innovations that make Kawai pianos so respected.
Boston Pianos Are Good, Solid Pianos, Just Not Steinways
In conclusion. There is nothing inherently wrong with a Boston piano. Being built by Kawai, there is no doubt that they are good instruments. We have had Boston pianos in both our rebuilding facility and our Goshen piano showroom. We encourage you to consider this when you are in the market for a new grand or upright piano.
Chupp’s Piano Service prides itself on its time-honed Steinway & Sons restoration abilities and has partnered with piano restorers, buyers, and musicians from all over the world. Explore our vast inventory of pianos including Grands, Baby Grands, and Upright Pianos. We also have a selection of restored Mason & Hamlin, pre-owned Yamaha and of course, new Kawai pianos. Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Give us a call, we may have one in the shop waiting for you to play – (574) 831-5820!
Chupp’s Piano Service | Vintage Piano Restoration | New Kawai Grand, Upright & Digital Pianos
Comments are closed