YAMAHA U3 / U5 Review - please help me!

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jose
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YAMAHA U3 / U5 Review - please help me!

Post by jose » 23 Sep 2006, 18:24

Hey everyone, I wonder if anyone can offer some advice. I am 16 years old and a dedicated piano player. For the last 12 years or so, I have been playing on a Clavinova, possibly the worst piano my parents could have bought - I need a real one! So, after much persuasion they have agreed to buy me a piano, and looking to spend around Ł2000-5000.

I went to Chappells to play their pianos and fell in love with the Yamaha GB1 Grand, although I have been advised against buying a baby grand less than 5 feet. Apparently a better quality upright is a wiser choice, since baby grands are only a practical solution. Admittedly I did hear a huge difference in the lower octaves on the GB1, they were very unclear and didn't resonate unlike some of the pianos.

So I then discovered the Yamaha U3, I spent hours in the shop playing them all and have read countless reviews, all saying that it is a good, solid piano and one of the highest quality in the price range. Except I don't have Ł6000... so I figured I would buy a second hand U3.

However, I also read that all Yamaha U3 pianos made pre 1985 were a no go area... something to do with the construction of them. Am I right in saying this? All I know is that there are hundreds of 1970-80 U3s for sale for around Ł2000 and absolutely no U3s made in the last twenty years! It all seems rather suspicious to me...

So can anyone advise me on how the age of this particular piano affects quality, or even suggest some suitable uprights for my budget? I would prefer to buy a better second hand piano than a new one lower down the ladder. Thanks a lot, Jose
Last edited by jose on 24 Sep 2006, 00:13, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by PianoGuy » 23 Sep 2006, 19:25

Hello Jose!

You have found a good choice of piano in a U3, but here's how to find the best value for money.... And value is out there!

It may be worth looking at my post on This Thread about vintages of Yamaha pianos, (and whatever you do, don't buy a U2 unless it's very cheap!!). Anyway, you needn't spend 6k on a very good U3, Ł4,500 will get you a good one. They are out there, and as I mention in my thread, go for one with a serial number above 4 million and you'll be OK. Don't accept an earlier one unless you're strapped for cash. You can afford a good one with your budget.

Where in the UK are you?

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Post by Barrie Heaton » 23 Sep 2006, 21:56

I am assuming you live down south going to Chappell’s you can get a new discounted U3 for 4,619.00 from here
http://www.countrywidepianos.co.uk/Yama ... piano.html
and
http://www.chrisvenables.co.uk/modelspe ... 0Piano.htm

then save up and have it prepped proper or come to some sort of a deal with the retailer if you live up north then you have

http://www.pianoplus.co.uk/yamaha-piano/uprights.html
and
http://www.petersmithpianos.co.uk/centi ... ppinc=more


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Yamaha U3

Post by blackie » 23 Sep 2006, 22:23

Hi Jose.....A bit risky i know, but i've seen a U3 on ebay....22 hours to go from now...and its in Birmingham.....maybe you could take a look...


Good luck....Blackie

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Post by jose » 24 Sep 2006, 00:06

Thank you for replying so quickly! I have checked out the sites you offered, emailed the ebay seller and read the thread. It was all very helpful :) I think I might end up buying a new one for Ł4500. Just one more question... the U5 claims to be the top of the range, and used by professionals blah blah, but it appears to be just 500 pounds more expensive. Is the U5 significantly better than the U3? Because if so, I am certainly willing to pay the extra half a grand! What is the difference between the two, is the sound quality or the feel of the piano much better on the more superior model? Thanks, Jose

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Post by PianoGuy » 24 Sep 2006, 08:19

Before you do anything rash....

1) eBay
The U3 on eBay looks OLD to me. Avoid unless the serial number is above 4 million or you just want a cheapie.

2) Preparation
Beware of what Barrie has implied. If you buy a U3 from Chappell's it will be well prepared (and it will have been a well prepared piano that you have fallen in love with) and it'll cost you 6 grand. A new one for Ł4,500 cannot be as well prepared as this, because the retailer isn't making enough money on it to prepare it..... A bit like buying a car that hasn't been serviced before sale. All pianos reach the dealer in an unprepared or semi-prepared condition and it's down to the dealer to prepare it for sale, and this costs the dealer; it's part of the reason that trade prices are so much lower than retail. Unfortunately (but fortunately for the dealer who wants to make a quick profit) Yamaha pianos arrive at the dealer's in a condition where they are pretty-good-sounding without him doing any preparation work at all, but are in reality performing at a fraction of their potential. This Thread is from someone who bought a Yamaha from such a dealer, and noticed some preparation issues. These simply should not arise in a well set-up piano.

3) U3 or U5?
The U5 sounds no better than the U3, is very ugly and has a poorer record of resale and residual values. Every dealer that I know who has had one traded in has found that they take a long time to sell compared to a U3.

Advice:
You are now probably dismayed by my thoughts that Ł4,500 will buy you a U3 of a poorer standard than the one you have played. There are two solutions:

The first is to buy at a sensible discount (all Yamaha dealers except Chappell's who are owned by Yamaha, and therefore are supposed to sell at list price) will give you a fair discount and a reputable dealer will prepare the piano correctly. Ask your piano teacher, friends with pianos, local piano tuner, a few local schools or colleges who they buy their pianos from and be guided by the answers. Once you have found your ideal Yamaha dealer, make an appointment to try his U3. If you like it as much or more than the one you have tried already, negotiate your discount, but be prepared for the price to be higher than the box-shifting internet-sellers. If you don't like it as much, ask him to get his technician to address any problems you think it has. Once you are satisfied, negotiate the price. If you don't like the piano as much as the Chappell's one, walk away. There are thousands of U3s sitting in dealers' showrooms up and down the country to choose from. One of them will be right for you.

Secondly, you could go to one of the discount dealers that Barrie has indicated and try their U3, but make sure that you try the showroom model. If you like it enough, buy it, if you nearly like it enough, again, get their technician to address any problems and try it again. When you are satisfied, buy the actual showroom piano. Make a note of the serial number and get that written on the receipt. Always, always, ALWAYS buy the actual showroom model that you have tried and approved and not the unprepared one from the warehouse that they are hoping you will buy. Once you have got the piano home, invest in a proper regulation from a recommended and qualified technician to get the best from your U3. It may cost you a day of his time, but it will be the difference between an OK piano and a terrific one. PM me and I'll recommend the best Yamaha technician in your area.



As you have gathered, I don't like the heavy discount dealers because they are damaging the reputation of Yamaha pianos by flooding the market with instruments that are working at a fraction of their potential, and putting more deserving dealers who prepare their pianos to a higher standard out of business with their aggressive marketing and frankly stupid low prices. Pianos are not white goods or hi-fi and every one needs careful attention before sale.

It is the consumer who will suffer in the long run, because as these dealers become the norm, they will never experience the excellence of a piano at its best, in the same way that specialist retailers of all descriptions are being forced to close because of internet giants and non-specialist retailers and crap supermarkets such as Costco, Wal-Mart and the ubiquitous Tesco. Buy a piano from a dealer who openly advertises his stupidly low prices on the net and you are helping to force the small specialists out of business. Without these highly trained and experienced specialists, the piano trade dies.

Good luck!

PG

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Post by jose » 24 Sep 2006, 18:21

Excellent thank you so so much piano guy, I really appreciate your advice. We needed information like that! My Dad and I have read through what you have said, and consequently decided to perhaps spend the 6000 on a new one from a dealer. It certainly seems like a much more sensible idea. I just now need to find a reputable dealer in the south east, the ideal would be a small family run business, no?

One more question though, in your initial post you said that 'you needn't spend 6k on a very good U3, Ł4,500 will get you a good one' in this instance are you talking about a second hand piano? And surely if you are buying one second-hand, how on earth do you know whether they bought theirs from the internet box-it-up-and-move-it sites?! Buying a second hand piano sounds incredibly difficult to me... especially if you have no idea about these hidden problems you can seemingly very easily encounter.

Anyway, we will start invesigating some piano dealers in our area, and most likely go and try as many pianos as we can! Thank you so much, Jose

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Post by jose » 24 Sep 2006, 18:33

Excellent thank you so so much piano guy, I really appreciate your advice. We needed information like that! My Dad and I have read through what you have said, and consequently decided to perhaps spend the 6000 on a new one from a dealer. It certainly seems like a much more sensible idea. I just now need to find a reputable dealer in the south east. I have already started researching dealers, and there are quite a lot like this:

http://www.kensingtonpianos.com/kensing ... 12&Itemid=

but particularly this:

http://www.chrisvenables.co.uk/

where they claim to be family run business, genuinely value custom blah blah... and yet the U3 is still just Ł4,600. What do you suggest in circumstances like this?

And one more question, in your initial post you said that 'you needn't spend 6k on a very good U3, Ł4,500 will get you a good one' in this instance are you talking about a second hand piano? And surely if you are buying one second-hand, how on earth do you know whether they bought theirs from the internet box-it-up-and-move-it sites?! Buying a second hand piano sounds incredibly difficult to me... especially if you have no idea about these hidden problems you can seemingly very easily encounter.

Anyway, we will start invesigating some piano dealers in our area, and most likely go and try as many pianos as we can! Thank you so much, Jose

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Post by Barrie Heaton » 24 Sep 2006, 20:29

jose wrote: Anyway, we will start invesigating some piano dealers in our area, and most likely go and try as many pianos as we can! Thank you so much, Jose
Please, Please don’t be sucked into the revise of the discounts just because a dealer is selling at 6k that I can assure you is not a guarantee that the pianos is prepped well or prepped at all. You need to take your time and as PG has said make a note of the serial number no mater where you buy it form, including CBS. Find piano you like and use it as a bench mark.

Just because they are a family run shop means nothing 4 out of the top 6 discounters are family run. I take it because you are looking at a U3 – 5 you are a accomplished player and can appreciate the differences if you aren’t than take some one along who can.


Like PG I am not a great lover of discounting to the extent that we have at the moment. However, these guys sell the fast majority of the Yamaha pianos sold in the UK and they ship them up and down the land, they do some prep work, some more than others they can’t afford not to. They are very dependant on the local tuner at point of delivery, if something goes wrong. So profit is soon gone.
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Post by PianoGuy » 24 Sep 2006, 21:25

jose wrote: where they claim to be family run business, genuinely value custom blah blah... and yet the U3 is still just Ł4,600. What do you suggest in circumstances like this?
I suggest reading my long post again! Next to no profit equals next to no preparation. By all means try such a dealer, but buy from the showroom floor. In my experience, many dealers run on several levels.:

Most of their sales, say 65% are to the uninitiated who try a piano, like it, then end up with one from the warehouse where preparation has been non existant or at best minimal. We'll call these customers 'Type A'
Some sales, maybe 25% are from internet buyers who think that one piano is like another, and may not even care anyway. They won't even bother to visit the showroom. I would say that the bulk of b1 customers fall into this group, which we shall call 'Type B'.
A minority of their customers (Type C) come in to their showroom, try the nicely prepared one on display, and insist that this is the piano they take home with them. They are careful enough to note the serial number and check it with the delivered piano.

The dealer makes a profit (albeit a meagre one at their margin) on the A&B types of client, but probably make a loss on the Cs but luckily for them, there are enough of customer type A and B to enable them to make a good living, and a tiny number of customer type C to validate their claims of dedication to customer satisfaction. Note that if Every customer was a Type C, said dealers would have to increase their prices to cover the cost of all of their pianos being prepared to the standard of their demonstration model, and my annoyance (and that of most Yamaha dealers in the land I wouldn't wonder!) of falling standards due to poor preparation as a result of stupid discounting would disappear.

But....

Barrie is right in that just because a dealer is charging Ł6,000 for his U3 it doesn't mean that's an absolute guarantee of good preparation.... And that includes Chappell's of Bond Street!!..... By all means negotiate a discount, but 30% is too much off the dealer's margin to leave a decent profit and money to pay for preparation.

Take your time and play a few at different dealers and find one you truly love. You're going to live with it for a very long time, so choose carefully and don't rush into things. A good dealer will not mind if you visit a few times before making your mind up.!
jose wrote:And one more question, in your initial post you said that 'you needn't spend 6k on a very good U3, Ł4,500 will get you a good one' in this instance are you talking about a second hand piano? And surely if you are buying one second-hand, how on earth do you know whether they bought theirs from the internet box-it-up-and-move-it sites?! Buying a second hand piano sounds incredibly difficult to me... especially if you have no idea about these hidden problems you can seemingly very easily encounter.

Yes, I meant Ł4,500 will buy you a very good second hand U3, or possibly an 'as-new' grey import. The quality of the actual instrument depends strongly on the dealer selling it, so even if it was originally sold buy a box-shifter, the subsequent dealer preparation will rectify any preparation not carried out in the first place. Choose your dealer wisely !

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Post by Jerome » 24 Sep 2006, 21:52

On prep, the estimate PG gives here and on another thread is that a day of a tech's time is required for prep, so say 2-300 pounds. Assuming this is true for all pianos, the incentive to skimp on this seems less for more expensive pianos like a U3 than a bottom of the line Yamaha. For the same reason perhaps it is easier for good local dealers to compete on these models against discounters. Not sure if this is correct?

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Post by helmllwyn » 24 Sep 2006, 22:03

Hi Jerome, I just posted on another thread ,the number for Coach House Pianos in Swansea (01792 584 584). Give them a call and talk to Jerry before you decide. When I was there last week they had a number of second hand Yamahas in excellent condition, plus a beautiful restored Bechstein and they will give you good advice to boot!
And No! I'm not working for them!, but they don't advertise on the web and they have been so fantastic to deal with as far as I'm concerned that I feel I must tell everyone on their behalf!
Happy hunting, Elizabeth

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Post by PianoGuy » 24 Sep 2006, 22:10

Jerome wrote:On prep, the estimate PG gives here and on another thread is that a day of a tech's time is required for prep, so say 2-300 pounds. Assuming this is true for all pianos, the incentive to skimp on this seems less for more expensive pianos like a U3 than a bottom of the line Yamaha. For the same reason perhaps it is easier for good local dealers to compete on these models against discounters. Not sure if this is correct?
Sort of....

At the top end, a Yamaha S6 with a list price of Ł33,000 can sensibly be discounted to say, Ł25,000 leaving the dealer a healthy profit and a chunk of money to pay for prep, but I've heard of these being sold for under 20K leaving a profit best measured in hundreds of pounds on an item costing many thousands. I'm not going to publish trade prices, but I know that the profit some dealers make on a b1 wouldn't cover half an hour of a decent tech's time, and the profit on a U3 would just about pay for a day..... But it would almost totally erode the profit!

Also bear in mind that in any Yamaha deal there is a 5 year warranty.

Would you expect a dealer who has made Ł300 on a piano sale to rush to sort out a warranty claim which is his responsibility as supplier? No. He is far more likely to suggest that you contact Yamaha UK and get them to do it, often not as simple as it seems, and if you read the warranty terms, transport is at your own cost.

The best dealers that I know of will personally rectify a warranty claim often in their own workshops, (and they are experienced enough, qualified enough and well equipped to do so) or if this isn't feasible they will loan a piano whilst the manufacturer repairs it and cover transport costs. But they sell pianos at realistic prices.

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Post by PianoGuy » 24 Sep 2006, 22:34

Jerome wrote:On prep, the estimate PG gives here and on another thread is that a day of a tech's time is required for prep, so say 2-300 pounds.
Bear in mind that I said that figure would be about right for an upright of the type mentioned in that thread, a P121. Note that a better upright warrants a higher standard of prep, and grands a higher standard still. To prepare an Ivorite equipped Yamaha properly, the keys often need finishing too, which can take another day of workshop time.

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Post by Barrie Heaton » 25 Sep 2006, 17:17

PianoGuy wrote:

Most of their sales, say 65% are to the uninitiated who try a piano, like it, then end up with one from the warehouse where preparation has been non existant or at best minimal. We'll call these customers 'Type A'

!
It beggars belief how many clients buy over the phone with out seeing it B1 and GB1s but they also buy C3, C5, C7 and even S4

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Post by petrush » 15 Nov 2006, 20:48

PianoGuy wrote:Hello Jose!

Anyway, you needn't spend 6k on a very good U3, Ł4,500 will get you a good one. They are out there, and as I mention in my thread, go for one with a serial number above 4 million and you'll be OK. Don't accept an earlier one unless you're strapped for cash. You can afford a good one with your budget.
Dear all

Where can I find more information about this 4 million serial number thing, is it a design change, or is it the general quality that is better with higher serial numbers?

I'm considering buying an good-condition U3, 1986 with serial number 3.9 mil.

/thanks

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Post by PianoGuy » 15 Nov 2006, 20:55

It's just a rough approximation of age that's become generally accepted by some used Yamaha dealers in the UK. A 3.9 million one will be absolutely fine, 4 mil is still 1986.

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Post by petrush » 16 Nov 2006, 11:18

PianoGuy wrote:It's just a rough approximation of age that's become generally accepted by some used Yamaha dealers in the UK. A 3.9 million one will be absolutely fine, 4 mil is still 1986.
Any ideas what the price of such in mint condition, little played should be (in uk, not many from sweden here i guess :)

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Post by PianoGuy » 16 Nov 2006, 23:18

petrush wrote: Any ideas what the price of such in mint condition, little played should be (in uk, not many from sweden here i guess :)
In the UK you'd expect to pay around 2900 to 3100 GBP for a mint 4 million-ish one.

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Post by gt550man » 17 Nov 2006, 10:29

I've been reading whats been said in these threads about prep of pianos from discounters and wether it has or hasn't been done. Surely if you buy from a discounter and have saved 3 to 400 pounds you've then got that money to pay your own techy to bring it up to speed in the environment where its going to be used, thereby knowing the job has been done. Is that wright or wrong?

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Post by PianoGuy » 17 Nov 2006, 20:49

It's fine in principle, but:

1) Few people realise their piano could be better so don't bother.
2) It is often claimed that preparation is included in the price, when more often than not it's scantily done or not at all.
3) It cheapens the product.
4) It ruins residual value.
5) It can ruin an entire brand's reputation.


As I've said before, when buying ANY piano, try out a few at the dealer's showroom. If you like a particular piano, buy that instrument, not one out of the warehouse of the same model. Make a note of the serial number. Discount dealers often prepare showroom pianos well in order to sell others off the back of them. Do this even if you intend having your chosen technician work on it afterwards so you know you're going to like the result. All pianos are different, so it may not actually be physically possible to get one piano exactly like the one you liked in the showroom.

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Post by PianoGuy » 23 Nov 2006, 21:26

PianoGuy wrote: As I've said before, when buying ANY piano, try out a few at the dealer's showroom. If you like a particular piano, buy that instrument, not one out of the warehouse of the same model. Make a note of the serial number. Discount dealers often prepare showroom pianos well in order to sell others off the back of them.
The reason for all this is, as I'm sure I've said before is fundamentally that since all pianos are individuals, it may not be possible to get a piano sounding exactly like that one you really liked in the dealer's showroom.

I was told of a situation last week with a GC1 grand. A client liked one in Dealer A's showroom, bought one from Discount Dealer B for 1K less, and cheekily paid Dealer A's (freelance) technician to come and regulate and voice it in the same way that he'd done for Dealer A. After a morning's expert work, he declared that the piano from Discount Dealer B, although nothing was faulty about it, was too different in sound to start with to get close enough.

Buy the piano you like, not a similar one. If you're tempted by a discount, or circumstances force you into that situation, make sure you witness the piano sounding and playing exactly as you like it before handing over your credit card.

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Post by Evan_J_Roberts » 23 Jan 2007, 15:29

Hi Jose!

HAve you tried cheking out http://www.robertspianos.com
There is a U3G for £ 2950: http://www.pianos.co.uk/scripts/custom/ ... id=u008193

There are also many other yamaha pianos in stock you can ring 01865 240634 if you like for more information or look online at http://www.robertspianos.com
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Post by PianoGuy » 23 Jan 2007, 20:41

Evan_J_Roberts wrote:Hi Jose!

HAve you tried cheking out http://www.robertspianos.com
There is a U3G for ? 2950: http://www.pianos.co.uk/scripts/custom/ ... id=u008193
It's a bit old for that kind of wedge innit?

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Post by LaValse » 22 Feb 2007, 16:56

PianoGuy wrote:I was told of a situation last week with a GC1 grand. A client liked one in Dealer A's showroom, bought one from Discount Dealer B for 1K less, and cheekily paid Dealer A's (freelance) technician to come and regulate and voice it in the same way that he'd done for Dealer A. After a morning's expert work, he declared that the piano from Discount Dealer B, although nothing was faulty about it, was too different in sound to start with to get close enough.
Amazing. What is the reason(s) for unresovable differences like this and is it usually the same reason(s) - or - is it not really quantifiable at all and just some kind of butterfly effect... can it happen to any make/model...?

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Post by PianoGuy » 22 Feb 2007, 20:11

LaValse wrote: Amazing. What is the reason(s) for unresovable differences like this and is it usually the same reason(s) - or - is it not really quantifiable at all and just some kind of butterfly effect... can it happen to any make/model...?
Well, piano soundboards are made of wood. The density, evenness and straightness of the grain have a huge effect on the sound produced. No two pieces of wood are exactly alike.

It can happen to any model. As a result, occasionally you find a totally unresponsive and duff Yamaha, and very occasionally a decent and resonant Petrof...... And so on.

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Post by LaValse » 22 Feb 2007, 23:06

Hence your warnings about buying an unheard piano. I'm surprised sound boards have not been replaced with techo-wizard designed-for the-purpose materials, but then again it's nice that nature still knows more about pianos than we do... :-)

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Post by PianoGuy » 22 Feb 2007, 23:28

LaValse wrote:Hence your warnings about buying an unheard piano. I'm surprised sound boards have not been replaced with techo-wizard designed-for the-purpose materials, but then again it's nice that nature still knows more about pianos than we do... :-)
Well, the Fazer from Finland used a cheapo laminated pine board which had an artificial grain. All were consistently pleasant, quite resonant and about as uniform as could be expected.

As for hi-tech, have you ever heard an Ovation guitar with the 'Lyrachord' back? They sound sort of nice until you compare them with even the cheapest decently made traditionally constructed guitar, then you realise they're about as resonant as a piece of cheese.

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Post by LaValse » 22 Feb 2007, 23:53

No, Stairway to Heaven drunk (etc) :roll: is my usual experience with guitars and they all sound the same at that stage, and smell of vindaloo too...

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Post by D Minor » 23 Feb 2007, 08:10

LaValse wrote:No, Stairway to Heaven drunk (etc) :roll: is my usual experience with guitars and they all sound the same at that stage, and smell of vindaloo too...
And don't forget 'Smoke on the Water' :wink:

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Post by LaValse » 23 Feb 2007, 12:43

:-) Gosh - fond memories (albeit a bit hazy)...

The first ever LP I bought was "Made in Japan" - but Machine Head is something special - Lazy is a great bit of keyboard playing...

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Post by Tylet » 06 Apr 2007, 07:58


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Post by Gill the Piano » 06 Apr 2007, 16:19

No, don't look at that; you'll probably go blind...

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2nd hand U3

Post by lydney » 06 Apr 2007, 21:50

This has been a really useful thread on the U3 thanks, and I'm looking for some more advice on older U3s.

I'm looking for something to replace the old family Challen which has finally given up the ghost. Budget is about 2,000 pounds and after looking at U1s, I have been offered a U3 for 2K. The serial number is circa 3.5M and it looks relatively little used and sounded right. Delivery, 1st tuning and 5 year gurantee inc.

Anyone care to expand on the 'don't buy one less than 4M please, as this trade-in example (from a Beckstein dealer) seemed pretty good.

Should add that I'm a Brit living in Belgium by the way.

Many thanks,

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