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Buying a Kawai Grand Piano

Sir LandsharkSir Landshark resting shark faceRegistered User regular
edited July 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
Hi all-

I've got a few rather specific questions pertaining to purchasing Grand Pianos (Kawai in particular) that I'm hoping at least a few people on this forum may be able to answer. I apologize in advance for the length. If you would like to skip the background I have summarized my questions at the bottom:

A bit of background:

My parents are buying me a new Grand Piano because they are totally awesome like that. The budget is around $20k. It's my understanding that for pianos in that price range you either get a Yamaha or a Kawai, and I already know that I prefer the sound of a Kawai (my parents own a 6'6" Kawai that I absolutely love). I live in Chicago, so a few weekends ago my wife and I made the trip out to Skokie, IL to a Kawai and Yamaha dealer that was well reviewed on the internet. When I was there, I played their RX-3 model (6'1" long) and really enjoyed it. They also had an RX-2 (5'10") that I felt didn't deliver on the fullness of sound I wanted, and they didn't have any of the larger models available. Their asking price was around $24k, but they said they would be willing to negotiate, especially if we were paying cash (we were). I left my contact information and said we'd be in touch.

Later that day, I'm watching the World Cup and I get a knock on the door. Turns out it's the dealer coming out to measure the dimensions of our entryway (we live in a condo building on the first floor) to see if the RX-3 model will fit. I was a bit surprised, but I certainly didn't mind, and I also showed him the back entrance to our condo. The way in the back doesn't have any tight turns like the front does, but it goes over about 100 feet of pea gravel (it's used for a dog run). He said there's no way he'd want to go in the back, and that the front will be tight, but it should fit. He of course presses me a little bit on the sale, and I tell him my parents wanted me to check with the dealer in Platteville, WI where they bought their Kawai about 10 years ago before making any purchases.

I call the dealer in Platteville and he has two models in inventory. The RX-2 (5'10") and RX-5 (6'6"). I mention that I'm mostly interested in the RX-5, but I'm a little worried about getting it and out of the condo. I take some pictures and measurements for him, and his conclusion is that it shouldn't be a problem to get the RX-5 in the back, all he has to do is lay some plywood over the pea-gravel so the piano can be moved over a level surface (he has this fancy contraption that the piano sits on that can move forward over a level surface and even climb stairs). He also talks up the new Kawai Blak series, and tells me it's much improved over the older Kawais.

A week later I drive up to Platteville to play the pianos. The dealer mentioned that he just had the technician work on the RX-2 and RX-5 the day before to get them in perfect playing condition. I sat down to play the RX-5 and I was just blown away. The action was incredibly responsive and the fullness of sound felt like I was playing a concert grand. He had a 7'6" model of the older (I didn't ask how old, I just know it wasn't the "Blak") series and the smaller RX-5 Blak sounded much better than the older 7'6". His asking price (according to my mom, this guy does not negotiate, just gives his bottom price) was $21.4k, with $500 for delivery but a cheaper sales tax (5.5% vs. 10% in Skokie). I left thinking that was the piano I was going to buy, but my parents weren't going to have the funds for a few weeks, so I told the Platteville dealer as much before I left.

About a week later, the Skokie dealer called and this is where things got interesting. He pressed me on the sale again, and I said I'm still waiting for my parents to get funds. Completely unsolicited, he dropped his asking price to $18.5k for the RX-3 (6'1", so 5" shorter than the RX-5) and said "We're willing to do whatever we need to get a sale." I asked him if the pianos he had are the "Blak" series and he said he had a G and an H, both of which were repossessed from another dealer but were never sold in a home (so according to him, they aren't "used"). He went on to claim that all the improvements to the sound and action were made with the "RXH" series, and that the "Blak" series involved solely cosmetic changes. I asked him again if he had any larger RX pianos in inventory and he said he did not, but that he thought it would be impossible to get a larger piano through the front entrance, and that going through the back entrance would be extremely risky due to the pea gravel. Throughout the entire conversation I was extremely careful not to mention anything directly about what the Platteville dealer told me.

So here are my questions:

1) The final price after tax on the RX-3 is $20,350 while the final price on the RX-5 is $23,100. The RX-3 is a RX-H model from 2009 and the RX-5 is a new Blak model. Ignoring everything else, which is the better deal?

2) Is the Skokie dealer correct in his claim that the changes from the RX-H to the Blak model were purely cosmetic? Or is he lying to me in order to make a sale?

3) Is the Skokie dealer correct in his assertion that moving the piano over roughly 100 ft of pea gravel would be extremely risky or is he playing this up? Or is the Platteville dealer downplaying the risk in order to make a sale as well? Am I going to have to pay out the nose to move the RX-5 out if it has to go back over this pea gravel?

Any general advice regarding purchasing and the maintenance of a grand piano would be welcome as well. I know they need to be kept at around 50% humidity, so I'm planning to purchase a dehumidifier (and maybe a humidifier as well?) at the very least.

Please consider the environment before printing this post.
Sir Landshark on


  • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Ask another dealer, somewhere else, about these things. If they're not in the position to try to sell something to you, you may get more honest answers. If you can find a dealer that deals in multiple brands - rather than just Kawai - that'd probably be your best bet.

    I'll admit that I only skimmed this, but it seems a little sketchy. I'd absolutely ask another dealer.

    Getting the piano across the gravel with the contraption the first dealer mentioned - I imagine - would not be a problem. If you were having piano movers lift a piano over the pea gravel - as the 2nd dealer may have thought you were doing - I can see how that could maybe be a bit more risky, if somebody were to slip or something.

    I'm sure you also realize that you're going to have to pay a piano tuner to come in, as well...always a necessary thing after a piano has been moved.

    Depending on where you're living, a dehumidifier may or may not be all that necessary. Placing the piano somewhere out of the direct sunlight would probably also be good for it, but more from a cosmetic standpoint (the finish) than functional.

    I'm not a professional, or a dealer, or anything, but I have played pianos for many years (Steinway & Sons, hells yessss). Again, I'd really highly suggest asking an unbiased dealer some of these questions...because they're going to be knowledgeable when answering the specific questions you're asking, much moreso than the people on this forum. :P

    I'd also ask the dealer what "adjustments" the technician made. Did he just tune the piano, or what? Did he fix a crack? Replace a hammer? Etc? This would also be good to know before purchasing the piano.

    NightDragon on
  • SolandraSolandra Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    1) Depreciation makes the two instruments roughly equivalent, price wise, IMO. Also, with pianos, newer isn't necessarily "better" in my experience, since the piano may not have fully settled in its tuning and personality. I personally prefer used instruments that have been vetted thoroughly, but I also get my dogs from the Humane Society. If it were a car, I'd say go new.

    2) don't call a dealer, call a piano tuner-technician about the differences in the action in the base models. If you're seriously considering the one that the technician has tweaked, you definitely need to hire an independent technician to check it out - my mother had the action of her piano weighted because of her preference for a heavier touch. That's a pretty significant change, but falls into the same category of "tweaking."

    3) With fewer tight corners and a wider entry, I would be more comfortable putting plywood down over the pea gravel than bringing it in the other entrance.

    My mother's grand ('83 Feurich) has a thermostat and a damp chaser (dehumidifier rod). My upright Baldwin has only a damp chaser. The Baldwin doesn't seem to care and has kept tune through three apartment moves and a new house, the Feurich is fussy. Again, consult the independent technician you hire about the care and keeping of your specific instrument. Mom's last grand was a Kiwai, and did well with only the damp-chaser.

    Keep it out of the sunlight to help control temperature and preserve the finish, and enjoy!

    Solandra on
  • KrubicksCubeKrubicksCube Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I don't have any advice but I envy your life right now...

    KrubicksCube on
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  • SolandraSolandra Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I don't have any advice but I envy your life right now...

    No doubt. :) If I had room in the house to trade my Baldwin upright for even a baby grand I'd be eating peanutbutter and ramen for the next four years to make the payments.

    Solandra on
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