What is a Boston Piano? – Designed by Steinway – Built by Kawai
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!
NOTE: As piano rebuilding and service specialists we hope by sharing our opinion on this issue, it allows you, the reader to make a more informed decision regarding the purchase of a piano. If you have any questions, please let us know direct by clicking here.
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 was important to them in an attempt to expand their brand reach, as only several thousand Steinway & Sons pianos are built each year. This new expansion ranged 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. As of the time of this article, they continue to be the OEM for all Boston pianos.
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 Kawai’s exclusive innovations and features that are standard in their instruments today. This includes the Millennium III ABS-Carbon Action, additional keybed reinforcement, etc. As they are built by Kawai, Boston pianos are of solid, good quality – there is no debate on that.
Boston pianos are often presented by Steinway dealers as a choice for those seeking a Steinway piano but at a lower price point.
“I would like to emphasize that this is not a Steinway & Sons project.” – Bob Dove, Boston Piano General Manager, 1992 – Chicago Tribune
Are Boston Pianos built by Steinway? – the OEM…
There is no Boston piano factory in Boston, MA. (Rather ironically, the closest thing to that would be the Mason & Hamlin factory in Haverhill, MA.) In our opinion, one of the more 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 a Steinway to sell clients on the more affordable piano with the Boston name. It must be made clear that a Boston piano IS NOT a standard Steinway & Sons instrument. It is built by Kawai in its admittedly industry-leading factory in Japan. Many Steinway dealers point to what is dubbed ‘Steinway DNA’ in Boston pianos. There is no disputing that many of these innovations from Steinway have historically added greatly to the craft of piano making. It is also good to note that most of these much focused on innovations have been standard in all quality pianos since the early 1900s! Some good examples of this are the duplex scale design and a tapered soundboard. It is very rare to see a piano on the market today WITHOUT a duplex scale design or a tapered soundboard. Multi-grip hard maple pinblocks are also an industry-standard throughout the world.
Our own personal experience bears evidence to the idea that there is an underlying confusion. We cannot count the number of times customers have contacted us looking to sell their Boston piano, thinking it was a Steinway & Sons built in New York or Hamburg. Although tonal preference is quite subjective, it has been our experience that Boston pianos sound, well, like Kawai built Bostons – not New York or Hamburg Steinways.
Many universities and other institutions purchase a high number of Boston pianos along with 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 genuine, New York and Hamburg Steinway & Sons pianos.
What About Kawai?
We have had a number of dealership opportunities to choose from and here at Chupp’s Pianos, 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 a leadership role. 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.)
In our own professional experience, we have found that Kawai pianos hold up better under demanding, professional use – better than even the esteemed Yamahas. For example, Kawai’s 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!
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 Millennium III ABS-Carbon action is the center point of their innovation. It makes sense that Kawai continues to work to advance the art of piano making
If you are considering the purchase of a piano in the Boston price range, we highly recommend you experience their Kawai brethren, before making a final decision on your piano purchase.
Boston Pianos Are Good, Solid Pianos
They are Not American or German-built 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 for work and pre-owned Bostons in our piano showroom. We encourage you to consider this article 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!
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