Stuart and Sons Pianos

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Pheonix
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Stuart and Sons Pianos

Post by Pheonix » 19 Jul 2007, 13:01

Hello Pianophiles...

Question...Stuart and Sons Pianos...

I am interested to hear if anyone here has played one of these apparantly extraordinary Pianos...what was your opinion, was it a great experience, how did you feel it excelled...I gather Stuart and Sons have been described as having "re-invented the Piano"...a bold claim,how does it vary from the other Big Pianos, I also gather that they have a unique sound...has that been your expereince. I note from their website that the bigger of the Pianos comes in at around 200,000 Australian dollars, so just under 100,000 sterling...worth the money or not, more show than actual stunning quality?

Only one supplier here in Europe which I find interesting...in sunny kent of all places, no London Showroom which seeing the prices surprises me..

Any opinions would be interesting...

Cheers

Pheonix

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Post by andyaeola » 19 Jul 2007, 15:54

Pianos are all about taste. Thank goodness there are so many different ones about to cater for different tastes.

I was totally seduced by the 290, it was one of the most memorable piano-testing experiences I've had.
You'll have found the Stuart website and listened to their pianos through your speakers. Here's another Site that's interesting
http://www.cmis.csiro.au/Bob.Anderssen/ ... tPiano.htm

All concert grands have good actions, the Stuart Tokiwa action is no exception. Not as light as Fazioli, reminded me of Bluthner in that it was almost an invisible factor - effectively ideal.
The case finish is possibly better than the best big Faz, how to judge. He'll build you one in black if you really want.

The 290 may appear on paper as over-engineered with its four pedals, over-veneered in huon pine, but who cares when it's all about sound.

Words are pretty useless, but here is what I felt about playing one:
It can whisper like the best Yamaha, yet is very very loud if you play it that way. It has the huge bass like an Imperial, but it is evenly matched by the rest of the piano (which I feel may not be the case with an Imperial) and is sweet like a Bosie but in a different way. Warmth is the word I use, as oppsed to a Fazioli cold sweetness, if that gives you a frame of reference. It seemed to combine and exceed the nicest things of the great pianos, ringing tones of Bluthner, subtle tones of Steinway, profound bass of Imperial, evenness of Yamaha, casework of Fazioli.

And the warm sweet sounds for me are exquisite. Yup, seduced. I still feel like Jeremy Clarkson felt after driving that Bugatti Veyron on Top Gear; played the greatest, never be able to have one.

Regards

Andy

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Post by Pheonix » 19 Jul 2007, 16:18

Thanks Andy, I fear you have opened my eyes to these wonderful Pianos, but like you unless I have a bit of luck I doubt I will ever have the pleasure.

The web link you posted was very interesting re the aggraffe system, not being a technician I will have to do some reading and get to grips with all that it implies.

Your description of the playing qualities was excellent, as you mentioned it has taken the best from the rest and improved upon it and thats no mean achievement...

Pity they are all the way over in Australia, doubt we will ever see many here in Europe which seeing as they are so good seems a dreadful shame...

Maybe they should open in London and New York, they would do very well, but seeing as they only make a handfull they would be very pushed with production... Can you imagine the American Market....I suspect they would clean up...

Thanks Andy for your considered response and for wetting my appitite

Cheers

Pheonix

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Post by andyaeola » 19 Jul 2007, 23:17

Remember I'm an amateur that's simply tried a lot of pianos out, so I play but know little about construction.
It seems to me that Wayne Stuart has had the vision to advance piano design, though I doubt he will loosen the Steinway/Yamaha grip on the world. Only the Chinese will do that.

Loads of people bang on about how wonderful Yamaha pianos are, and I simply don't get it. They're widely available, they're on special offer so are value for money. They're OK, but that's about it as far as I'm concerned. Yes Elton John plays them on stage, sure, but he bought a Bechstein for his home.

And here's a discussion on the Steinway B and Bosendorfer 214 that you might find interesting. (the poster called gfiore is a respected New York tuner/technician)
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.ph ... #msg179900

Anyway, if you do visit Hurstwood Farm you wont be disappointed, it's a lovely place, and Mr Dain is most hospitable.


Regards

Andy

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Post by Pheonix » 20 Jul 2007, 00:59

Hi Andy, we are in the majority, amateurs that is, some it would seem very knowledgable I have read a lot and learned an awful lot.

The Main makers are all out there offering something special, Steinway offering magnificent Pianos with great heritage and reputation. Bluthner the same...Yamaha...yes they are almost everywhere and that does raise certain issues..

Stuart and sons..well without actually sitting at one and playing it I have really no idea what to think, they are undoubtedly magnificent to look at, the attention to detail is undeniable and the sound is by all reports extraordinary....but the cost OUCH...its not like there are many out there so the oppertunity to try them is very slim but I intend to make a trip and at least see what I think...then oh dear then, what if...what if...sell my granny, sell my soul...though I suspect old nick has that one already :lol: I will have to see. Plainly there is much excitement about them, maybe its genuine maybe its hype...but you loved them and Mr. Dain seems very impressed....I wonder what Jeff Shakell would think of them...In truth we are talking about a Piano that very few have heard of let alone seen, heard or played...they are it seems in a very unique place...

Anyway its late, I will check out the link you gave tomorrow..

Thanks again

Pheonix

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Post by PianoGuy » 20 Jul 2007, 07:09

andyaeola wrote: Loads of people bang on about how wonderful Yamaha pianos are, and I simply don't get it. They're widely available, they're on special offer so are value for money. They're OK, but that's about it as far as I'm concerned. Yes Elton John plays them on stage, sure, but he bought a Bechstein for his home.
Mr. Dwight (for it is he) is paid to use a Yamaha on stage, but would you seriously trust anybody of his dubious talents or taste to recommend you a piano in any case? He's kind of a low-rent Liberace these days, and he played a Baldwin.

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Post by andyaeola » 20 Jul 2007, 14:02

Is Reg actually paid?

I thought that Yamaha (and Steinway) artists were not actually paid, rather they were guaranteed a nice piano delivered & prepped wheresoever they are performing?

Regards

Andy

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Post by Barrie Heaton » 21 Jul 2007, 11:36

andyaeola wrote:
Loads of people bang on about how wonderful Yamaha pianos are, and I simply don't get it. They're widely available, they're on special offer so are value for money. They're OK, but that's about it as far as I'm concerned. Yes Elton John plays them on stage, sure, but he bought a Bechstein for his home.

Andy
its not that they are wonderful they just represent good value for money over the last 5 years on the entry level and midrange. That is now changing some of the Chinese pianos have become a good buy on the entry level, Kawai , Vogel, Haessler and Zimmerman are a good alterative on the midrange on grands and uprights

On the 10 to 20k Yamaha are good on quality and touch – tone well that is subjective and there are some nicer pianos out there for me. Many others think they are wonderful and the likes Jamie Callum, Elton John and Jools Holland actively promoting them, has a big appeal to those who like there music. They do get paid and get discounted pianos. This is nothing new, all makers have done it since pianos started to get popular. Some better than others, Erards was one of the best payers but not for the piano the harp

Over 20k 55k I would not even look at a Yamaha or Kawai but I would look at a concert Kawai as to the S6 being as good as a model B I don’t think they are even close out of the box Not that brand names are important at that level it’s the piano that counts and since most are unlikely to change deprecation is not that important ether

Stuart and sons are nice pianos but they should be for the price, some of the features don’t lend them self’s to mass production so they will stay expensive. The action modification is very interesting and has by all accounts reduced the friction down to a very small amount. The Stuart bridge agraffe A similar one has been done before by Broadwoods which when it first came out on the test pianos was wonderful and they thought they would blow the competition away. However, when it went into fill product the end result was disappointing and time consuming so they ended it.

Barrie,
Last edited by Barrie Heaton on 21 Jul 2007, 15:49, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Pheonix » 21 Jul 2007, 15:27

It all boils down in the end to a simple process of playing as many Pianos as possible, narrowing it down and taking the main points of all this type of debate into consideration. I also think that whilst what we like and believe to be best may well be for one but not another it is highly subjective.

Budget is also a huge factor, I have set myself a ceiling I may go slightly above but not dramatically..I am after all only an amateur, I will never set the Piano world on fire so maybe the finer points of detail will not apply to someone like me.

Bluthner, Steinway, Stuart and sons etc, all excellent makers, so I shall play them and pick one I like and finally get the deed done...

I'll keep you all posted with my decision...thank you everyone for your thoughts and opinions, it has been enlightening and very helpful..

Keep em coming...

Ta Ta for Now

Pheonix

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Post by Openwood » 21 Jul 2007, 16:23

Loads of people bang on about how wonderful Yamaha pianos are, and I simply don't get it.
I can only speak from my experience, which suggests that many Yamahas have never been properly voiced on arrival here from Japanland. I've heard several technicians say that Yamahas are exported sounding very bright because that's the sound the Japanese prefer. I reckon a lot of dealers sell them on with minimal tonal alteration and people think that is the only kind of sound they can produce.

I was at a top public school this week and tried a Yamaha U3 in one of their practice rooms - it was bloody awful. They also had a similarly brittle-sounding C3 in their recital room. Neither piano had been voiced with any thought for its environment.

I hated Yamahas for many years because of the neon-stark brightness of the ones I'd played up until then. BUT, two pianos came along which changed my opinion. One was a C3 at a nearby school. The director of music there took great care to have it voiced so that it sounded beautifully warm and mellow - I was really amazed. Then I played a C7 prepared by Jeffery Shackell and it's still one of the most beautiful-sounding instruments I've ever played.

Maybe Yamaha is a victim of its own success - there are more of them around, ergo you hear a lot more badly prepared ones?

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Post by andyaeola » 21 Jul 2007, 21:58

I judge Yamahas by the ones in Chappels of Wardor Street. They usually have pretty much the full range.
Thing is, I've usually been into Jaques Samuel or Bluthner or Steinway half an hour before.

Phoenix, I'd suggest you also try Ibach in Jaques Samuel when you come to Bluthners in London.
The new Ibachs are lovely pianos to me. What do you techs think of them?


Regards

Andy

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Post by Openwood » 22 Jul 2007, 07:48

its not that they are wonderful they just represent good value for money
Barrie's hit the nail on the head. If you can afford to spend over 20k stop reading this and run like the wind to Messrs Steinway and Bluthner et al (I'm not an admirer of the mid-range Bluthner's such as the Model 4, but hey ho, it's wot yer likes, innit).

My greatest piano-ambition* is to own a Steinway B, not a Yamaha of any description. I simply can't afford it yet, but for 10k (which was still a struggle of biblical proportions, let me add) I have a C3 that, after careful prepping, makes a mighty fine sound. That's why I continue to give Mr. Yamaha a cheery wave and a hob nob whenever he calls around; provided you don't accept his offerings as they come out the box, you can get a hell of a lot of piano for under 20k.


*note the use of the term piano-ambition. My greatest life ambition involves Jennifer Lopez and a catering pack of ice cream.

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Post by fumbler » 22 Jul 2007, 09:26

Openwood wrote:*note the use of the term piano-ambition. My greatest life ambition involves Jennifer Lopez and a catering pack of ice cream.
Ah, but that will change as Miss L er, fades, shall we say. Your piano ambition will remain constant.

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Post by Openwood » 22 Jul 2007, 13:33

Ah, but that will change as Miss L er, fades, shall we say. Your piano ambition will remain constant.
So true. There must be a joke about a fine bass end in there somewhere....

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Post by Gill the Piano » 22 Jul 2007, 14:43

...or the old one about when not upright, grand...?

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Post by andyaeola » 24 Jul 2007, 09:56

Back on topic, the following is the greater part of a letter from Wayne Stuart, reproduced with his permission.
Note that this is personal correspondence, and as usual, he is quite candid in his writing.

-------
Quote:

The open discussion on Stuart & Sons pianos broaches a range of pertinent
and relevant piano industry topics and issues that I'm happy to discuss from
my personal perspective. This should provide a point of reference to better
understand the philosophical and marketing position of Stuart & Sons.

Most readers seem to have a very personal interest in the piano not only as
a musical instrument but in the broader industry/marketing issues.
Therefore, I will approach my response from both the artistic and the market
perspective.

I grew up with pianos as part of my playing excursions and wanted, from an
early age, to become a piano maker as I felt that I could make a
contribution to the way the instrument functions. I commenced my formal
studies in piano technology at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music way back
in 1974 spending approximately 2 post graduate years around the world
between the significant makers of the concert grand piano.

In 1983 I established a high quality training program at the Northern
Institute of Technical and Further Education in Melbourne. I was previously
directing a Yamaha technician training program offered by the Sydney
Conservatorium which I believed needed developing and significantly
expanding to suit the specific issues that confronted the Australian piano
trade. The program was reaccredited three times and offered as an Associate
Diploma and Diploma course. Over a twelve year period I was able to
undertake significant practical research and development work on a range of
aspects of the piano's construction exploring particular ideas that a body
of scientific research was revealing across the world at the time. Gabriel
Weinreich's work was a significant publication in 1979 that seemed to
confirm my own intuitive and empirically based conclusions.

By 1990 I had designed and built a prototype upright piano incorporating the
essential concepts that I thought would produce a unique leap forward. Many
of the design concepts were not new but sound, long established engineering
principles that had been applied in various forms for a very long time.
However, as we all know, it is the combination that is the real trick in all
applications and I believed that my blend of combinations might lead to
something worthwhile developing.

An upright prototype was built and it was generally agreed that the next
step be taken to incorporate all these changes in to a concert grand piano.
In 1994 the prototype grand pianos were built and the result confirmed that
I did have a new and unique approach to the art and craft of acoustic piano
making. (It should be noted that the reference to the Broadwood agraffe
should be qualified as the principle of their agraffe design is quite
different to the Stuart & Sons agraffe design although, to the novice, it
may appear similar. The Stephen Paulello bridge agraffe, is in fact, closer
to the Broadwood design concept.)

How to take this forward was a very huge challenge given the age and nature
of the piano game!

The project was acquired by the University of Newcastle and relocated to its
faculty of Music as a major research and development project where it
further explored the design concepts in conjunction with performance
objectives.

After 6 years it was time to take the next step, the commercial world!

It is difficult for many to see the piano manufacturing and distribution
game in a broad perspective so opinions are often based on regional, limited
and often personal perceptions. This is quite evident in many of the
responses posted on website chat rooms.

The culture industry wars are a global affair and are as nasty and vicious
as in any other enterprise. It has its long and short term players and a
huge array of complex dependents such as agents, dealers, spotters,
technicians, commission arrangements and other wannabes. Such a complex web
is difficult and sometimes almost impossible to untangle. Comments like "Oh!
Elton John plays Yamaha or such and such plays something else so they must
be good" are common fare! These have nothing to do with the reality and
often mask the significant deals that lurk beneath the surface. Such
arrangements or other so called in-kind set ups such as 'artist' programs
are common practice and are euphemistically called business!

Why should I venture into these murky waters? Well, when one is confronted
by such a complex and potentially corrupt sludge, one must assess the
reality of taking the first step for fear of losing what little one might
have already gained in this world or trotting off to smell the roses and the
so called good life!

The challenge to all new comers to the old piano game is how to get the
message and product through this maze. The golden rule is, do not do what
everyone else does!

The point raised by one writer, Oh! Stuart & Sons do not have a
representative in the High Street or with a London or New York firm. Stuart
& Sons, as a new company, is mindful of the shaky ground that the old
dealership distribution models are teetering on.

The modern world is poised at a new distribution crossroad; old structures
this way and new, more direct and relevant, that way! A moment's
contemplation of this by the readers will confirm in most heads that the
only option for Stuart & Sons is to go it alone and direct market worldwide.
No dealers - if you want Stuart & Sons grand pianos you have to make an
effort and contact the factory directly yourself. Our Hurstwood Farm
arrangement is currently a showroom facility for the EU.

Another significant issue was how could high quality, bespoke pianos be made
in a mass produced market? Again, the whole manufacturing process, like the
distribution approach, had to be scaled on modern realistic terms.

Few realise that if the mass manufacturer is able to retain even one third
of the sale price of the product after all the hard grit of actually
building it, they are very lucky. The majority of the sale price is
comprised of commissions, payola, taxations and other handling and overhead
costs.

By selling these bespoke pianos directly to the public, Stuart & Sons have a
hope of recovering their considerable production costs; to control the
quality down the production and supply lines and significantly influence the
service outcomes. They are also able to provide the dedicated and special
service that purchasers of bespoke products should rightfully command and
not to be subjected to the expediency of the commercial imperative.

This is not to say that I run a labour of love for it is far from it.
Building large grand pianos on a small scale basis is not for the faint
hearted. It is a difficult and complex business and there are significant
costs involved which have be reflected in the sale price. Is it not better
that these costs are actually the lion's share of the sale price and not
some payola or burdensome dependent overhead that has little to do with the
product or the transaction?

How many of us would feel more comfortable with paying the full price if
this were actually the case? Why do people not ask the question, how much of
the purchase price is actually the cost of production with a modest and
realistic overhead included? At least government taxes have to be clearly
defined in the sale price. How is it that such huge discounts are so
prevalent?

No Stuart & Sons pianos have been discounted for a sale and this will not
happen. The three instruments that have changed hands since the company
commenced were all on-sold for more than their original price.

It is impossible to hand build quality large grand pianos on a small scale
basis with a commensurate workforce cheaply and, as such, Stuart & Sons
pianos are not expensive. They are in fact extremely good value for such a
unique, bespoke item. The beautiful, wood grained concert grand is no more
expensive than the equivalent sized black painted Steinway, a mass produced
product, in the Australian market place. What one must consider is that
Stuart & Sons will not lower their price to shift product or do special
deals that effectively spit in the eye of their sincere and loyal customers.

It is worth mentioning that the profiles of the people who have purchased
Stuart & Sons pianos have similar characteristics. All have been well
educated, successful in their chosen life path both financially and
personally, have sought individuality in their surroundings and belongings.
They usually form the cutting edge and the Stuart & Sons piano is, in
effect, a synthesis of that mind and ethos.

The ho hum of the musty old piano world, the intrigue of the boring lineage
of players and incestuous relationships within the microcosm of the arts
community are not for these individuals. They seek light and enlightenment;
this is not rhetoric but reality. Often, they play at an amateur level or
purchase for young student study. It is contemporary relevance and vitality
they seek as any old standard piano can be had at the local shop for
whatever the going discounted price!

This should give the readers a firm grasp on where Stuart & Sons wish to be
in the modern world. I have no illusions or pretensions about the snobbery
and elitism of the arts world. I seek to explore the possibilities and I
want to be with like minded people who wish to explore and live now in our
time and not that of our forbears.

I'm happy to respond to individual's questions at director@stuartandsons.com
Also; we now have a specific demonstration CD that provides a realistic
sound of the two models of pianos we build. It was recorded in our sound
room and we endorse its authenticity. All other recordings of our pianos
have been made by third parties with all of the usual variables.

I hope you enjoy this.

Yours sincerely,


Wayne Stuart oam



Quote ends
-------------

Regards

Andy

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Post by hammer man » 09 Aug 2007, 00:40

The Stuart piano is very expensive and having played one I think they are overrated. I would buy a Bluthner and save your money.

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Post by Pheonix » 09 Aug 2007, 08:32

Thanks for that hammer man, I am inclined to agree that they are very expensive...they are all very expensive...I think the Bluthner is a more likely candidate...still pretty pricey though...

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