Pros: Not bad for an upright...
Cons: Somewhat clunky styling... but oh, that tone!
First I should explain that the piano I am reviewing is a Kawai US-50, a predecessor to the Kawai K-80. It looks just like the one in the picture, except mine is 20 years old, has some wear, and was manufactured in Japan. Instead of a sostenuto pedal the middle pedal on the US-50 is a mute pedal, usual on most newer consoles and uprights. I admit to having a preference for Kawais. But before I bought this piano from a private party who had moved from Japan to the US with it I tried out many pianos. You see, in the course of some 25-odd years of music teaching one gets to play a great variety of instruments, from the tinniest spinets and flimsy-stanned "Costco special" electronic keyboards to the toniest grands (One of my students' families invested in a Steinway B, and the touch on that spoiled me!).
I trust that what I have to say will be helpful; however, don't take my word for it, try out any piano before buying it. Even if you don't play bring along someone who does to play it, even if it's your little kid who has just started piano lessons, let him/her play it and see if they like it. Or just bang on the keys yourself; if it's used play each and every key to see if they work! Press the right pedal while you play; it should hold the notes after you have lifted your fingers from the keys. Listen for buzzes and cracks and the like, anything that portends a defect in manufacturing. Do you like the tone? (how the piano sounds) Does it seem harsh or dull to you? Remember, you're not judging how well you play but how well the instrument sounds. BTW, if you do decide to get an acoustic piano, DO NOT get a used spinet! Go for a console or upright or a grand instead; your ears will thank you. And for price, used trumps new in my book, if you're picky and can wait for just the right one. For more advice on buying pianos, check out THE PIANO BOOK at your local bookstore or library.
So what do I like about this piano? First, how it sounds! The tone is great! The bass end reminds me of a tiger, caged, impatiently waiting to be unleashed! This is where the 52" height comes in, for the longer the bass string length, the better the tone. The tenor and the treble bridges are not bad, either. The top range is "sparkly" but not piercing, and the tone overall is pleasing to my ear, mellow, but not too muffled or bright (I tried some Yamaha uprights in my search but found them mostly too bright for my taste. Yours may vary.) The music rack, like that of a Yamaha's U5 upright, is "Grand style", reaching about 3/4 across the front of the piano. It is removable and mounted on two L-shaped linchpins, sliding up and out of the way. As someone who works with a lot of music paper I appreciate its length; I can put four 8 1/2 x 11" pages on it with ease, five pages with a little overlap. The top is hinged down the length of the middle, so it can easily be left open for tuning or more volume (but with a piano so big, who needs that?) The length of the keys seems about a half-inch longer than those on my DX7 synthesizer, and I am relieved that I do not find myself bumping the tips of my fingers against the fallboard as I play, as with some other uprights. The bench is height-adjustable. The one that came with my piano doesn't look as pretty as an artist's bench; but it works well and is sturdy.
Now for some specifics...
(From kawaius.com - web page on the K-80)
Width: 60 3/4"
Depth: 25 3/4"
Weight: 574 lbs.
Soundboard Ribs: 11
Soundboard Area: 2,372 sq. in.
Other Key Features
White Key Surface: NEOTEX
Black Key Surface: NEOTEX
Duplex Scale: Yes
Pin Block Material: Hard Maple
Tuning Pins: Nickel
Music Rack: Grand Type
String Tension: 17.9t
Fallboard: Soft Fall
#1 String Length: 48.9 in.
(The brochure I got says "49.5 in." I haven't measured.)
Back Posts: 6
> Are the keys well balanced?
Yes. Especially after I had the piano tuner adjust the capstans for me, to lessen the lost vertical motion of the keys before they come in contact with the hammers (there is very little side-to-side motion: key felts are in good shape). This piano being 20 years old, it needed some adjustment to the action.
> Describe the finish and craftmanship.
Nice polyester ebony finish. If you like black, you'll love it.
> Describe the touch and response.
Good touch, even before the adjustment. Many Japanese pianos have a bright tone, exacerbated through the years by hardening of the hammer felts through use. Not this Kawai - nice and mellow (But not muffled, like some older uprights I have tried).
> Has it maintained its reliability over time?
This Kawai US-50 was made in 1982. I'd say it's stood up to 20 years' worth of wear.
> How stable is the tuning?
That was my only worry about buying a used piano imported from Japan; and this one had spent some time in Tokyo, a higher humidity than most of Southern California. I hoped that this one was made after Kawai fixed its earlier problems with the extremes of US seasonal climates. But the tuner told me that the pins were in good shape, not very tight but not too loose. His pitch raise has held up for about a week now, through weather and humidity changes from dry Santa Ana winds to rain.
(an update: 02/12/03)
It is about a month later, and raining outside. I notice that my piano has gone slightly flat, evenly throughout its range. I am not too concerned because I notice that a lot of my students' pianos have also gone out of tune with the change in weather and that the tuner told me that this would happen after the pitch raise. I plan to have him come out soon for a fine tuning.)
(further update- 3/12/03)
This morning I played Debussy's CLAIR DE LUNE on the piano. It seems to be holding its pitch, a bit out on a few notes but fine overall, since the piano tuner came out about three weeks ago...
> Share your experience with warranty or manufacturer's guarantee.
Used piano, so no warranty. Most piano warranties are not transferable after the original owner.
> What shape is your piano in?
Pretty good. A few dings on the finish here and there, and some dullness to the brass on the nameplate and the pedals, but the inside looks pristine...
> Which types of environments best suit this style piano?
This piano would look nice in a school or a church. Mine is in a condo, and the movers put it on its edge to get it around the one corner to the master suite. It may look intimidating, but if you want the tonal power of a grand without the expense, you can't do better than this tall upright. If you don't like the style of the outer case you might want to look at the K60, it's the same height (but probably no sostenuto pedal) with a more modern styling.