The Steinway Model O vs. the Model L | What’s the Difference?
Question: “The Steinway Model O and the Model L grand pianos seem to be about the same? What is the difference?
Similar Yet Different | Steinway Model vs. Model L
There are many differences between the various models of pianos bearing the name of Steinway & Sons. From the diminutive 5’1″ Model S to the imposing 8’11” Model D Concert Grand, Steinway pianos are known for their diverse sizes and sounds. Each size of piano has its place and specific purpose, however, there are models that are considered to be very similar and the Model O and the Model L are two of these. The Steinway Model O and Model L are both similar in size and both have actually replaced each other during various periods in Steinway & Sons company history.
The Steinway Model O Grand Piano
So what makes these grand pianos different? To begin, here is some of the history of the first of the two, the Model O. The first Steinway Model O Grand Piano was manufactured at the New York Steinway Factory. Steinway #96766 was finalized on 7-30-1900. Measuring 5’10” in length, the first Model O Grands lacked adjustable rear duplexes, something that was quickly added in later years. These pianos featured a straight bass bridge and a round tail. In 1904 Model Os with a curved bass bridge began production. The length of the Model O was increased slightly to 5’10 1/2″. Various changes in cabinet, leg design, and other cosmetic details continued as times and tastes changed. Production was regular at both the New York and Hamburg factories and continued until the year 1923. In 1923 the Model O was discontinued by Steinway in New York, however, production continued at their German Hamburg factory.
The Steinway Model L Grand Piano
On the flip-side, the Model L was the piano that was brought in as the New York replacement model for the O. The Steinway Model L Grand Piano was kept the same length as the piano it replaced with a wider more sweeping tail resulting in increased soundboard area. The Model L began production in 1923 with #220475 being the first Model L produced. The more squared off tail allowed for more soundboard area compared with the piano it replaced.
One visual difference between the two pianos is the cast iron plate. Model O grands feature plate cooling holes with a single raised lip while the Model L has cooling holes with a double raised lip.
The Model O was not down for the count. In 2005, Steinway discontinued production of the Model L at its New York factory and replaced it with the piano it had superseded decades before. The Model O was reintroduced and has been manufactured ever since at both the New York and Hamburg factories. This was probably done to consolidate the models and increase overall company efficiency. Cast iron plates in Hamburg Steinway pianos are cast at the O.S. Kelly plant in Ohio. Producing only the Model O would end the need to produce two styles of plates for very similar pianos. The Model O reintroduction also allowed the Steinway & Sons company the opportunity to launch and market a ‘new’ model of piano which is something they do not do often. The new ‘O’ grand pianos measure 5′ 10 3/4″ in length and are slightly wider than their older brethren at 4 10 1/2″ in width.
We have re-manufactured and restored many Model O and Model L grand pianos here at Chupp’s Pianos Service. Some say that the additional soundboard area gives the Model L an edge and others point to the Hamburg Factory’s continued preference for the Model O’s design and tone. Many agree that the Model O and Model L, when properly rebuilt are both fine pianos that are very comparable and will give decades of musical bliss to their owner. Whether you go with the Model O or the Model L, be sure to appreciate your piano!
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