I am often asked who the best piano makers are. There are hundreds of piano manufacturers in the world, but only a few have the quality and history to stand out and be considered the best. There is no scientific metric that can be used to measure the true quality and value of these beautiful tools. It is a combination of tone, sound, action, history and passion that imbues each instrument. The best piano makers create timeless instruments that produce unmatched sound, be it power, tone or range. Consequently, choosing the best is a subjective assessment, but over the years we have listened to the opinions of pianists, tuners and sellers, gathering this wisdom in our list of the best piano makers in the world.
The 5 best grand piano manufacturers:
Bosendorfer is one of the oldest manufacturers of luxury pianos in the world; started in Vienna, Austria in 1828. Ignaz Bosendorfer founded the company and became the official “piano maker” of the Emperor of Austria in 1830. Bosendorfer is famous for inventing the 88-key keyboard extension with the Imperial Grand, which boasts a 97-key keyboard, with 8 octaves. This extra range made the Imperial Grand one of the most beloved grand concerts in the world, which continues today. The extra keys were so popular that Bosendorfer extended the keyboard over many of their ranges. Bosendorfer offers luxury and exclusive pianos, they only produce a few hundred and each piano is handmade. Their pianos are known for a darker, richer sound than the purer but less full-bodied sound of other pianos.
Another great piano manufacturer from Germany, Leipzig exactly. In 1853 Julius Blüthner founded the company still managed by the family. Forty-seven years later, Blüthner became the largest piano manufacturer in Germany, producing over 5,000 a year. Blüthners are still renowned for their quality and clear tone. Wilhem Kempff, the acclaimed pianist, praised their pianos as “precise” and with “unrivaled beauty”. The Blüthner grand was the first piano to be used in an aerial recital; the company built a piano specifically for the famous Hindenburg airship.
The Second World War hit the manufacturer heavily and its factory was destroyed by an air raid in 1943, but fortunately it was rebuilt in 1945. Over the years and to this day, Blüthner has built and maintained a reputation for exceptional quality. The company’s pianos were purchased and played by Queen Victoria, Liszt, Brahms, Tsar Nicholas II, Rachmaninov and Tsiolkovsky. Blüthner was awarded 5 gold medals at the Leipzig Fair in homage to their handcrafted and extraordinary pianos. If a pianist cannot afford one of their premium instruments, Blüthner also offers two other ranges: Healer and Irmler.
Steinway & Sons:
Steinway & Sons are probably the most famous and highly regarded piano manufacturers in the world. Each of their piano takes over a year to build by their master craftsman and each piano is made up of over 12,000 parts. Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg started making pianos in Sessen, Germany at the ripe old age of 20. Twenty five years after building his 482 instrument piano, Heinrich decided to move to America. In New York, the “new” Henry E Steinway together with his family founded probably the most famous piano manufacturer, Steinway & Sons, in 1853. They are considered the founders of the modern piano and have 128 patents registered to date.
1,700 professional pianists have sworn that they have used one of their pianos. Steinway & Sons still builds pianos in New York and also has a factory in Hamburg. The company produces grand and upright pianos and also has two bespoke lines called Crown and Custom for the customer who wants a royal piece. Steinway & Sons has received awards in New York, Paris and many organizations for the quality of their pianos. This means their instruments aren’t cheap, but the good news is that if a musician can’t afford a Steinway & Sons, the company also makes two cheaper brands, Essex and Boston. Essex is Steinway’s entry-level brand and Boston is aimed at the mid-tier market.
Bechstein is famous for producing great sounding and beautiful pianos. Like all of the elite piano makers listed here, Bechstein makes each of their instruments. Surprisingly, we are talking about another German piano manufacturer born in 1853, this time in Berlin. Carl Bechstein built his first piano for the energetic and vigorous pianist as well as for the subtle and delicate pianist.
In 1885 Bechstein grew up and opened a shop in London; the manufacturer’s charm was greatly strengthened when Queen Victoria bought a piano from them. The London store became the largest showroom in Europe and the company built Bechstein Hall, what is now called Wigmore Hall. Many renowned artists have been supporters of the brand including The Beatles, Elton John and Freddy Mercury. In 1992 Beckstein moved from Berlin to its current location in Seifhennersdorf. Since then Bechstein has invested over £ 18 million in new technology and design to keep the company at the forefront of piano design.
Passion and dedication to perfection are second to none. Beyond the tonal qualities of their pianos, Bechstein has become known as the creator of the one-of-a-kind piano. This is where the craftsman individually embellishes and decorates the piano cases to make them individual and unique. So not only do you get an excellent sound instrument, it is also a work of art of innate craftsmanship. In fact, some of Bechstein’s art house pianos are museum pieces.
Although the company only started producing pianos in 1981, Paulo Fazioli created one of the best piano manufacturers in the world. As a concert pianist and the son of a famous cabinetmaker, Fazioli had the right technique to create a unique piano. He went above and beyond with a passion for creating an instrument with unrivaled, uncompromising touch and tone. In short, Paulo Fazioli wanted to ensure that the expensive purchase of a piano could be justified. Made in Italy, these pianos don’t come cheap and their price can go up to 300,000 euros. That’s a lot of money, but the company only produces between 120 and 130 pianos a year, even a 24-karat gold leaf piano.
However, Fazioli only produces grands or concert grand pianos, they do not build upright pianos. Furthermore, moving their largest concert piano requires the help of some people, as the beautiful F308 weighs a whopping 570 kg and measures over 30m in length. This young pianist made his mark by producing exquisite instruments with an unrivaled reputation and respect. If a pianist can afford it, the Fazoili piano is a truly beautiful instrument and, given the low production numbers, it has the real potential to be a great investment.
Steinway & Sons:
Heinrich Engelhardt Steinweg, of Seesen, Germany, emigrated with his family to the United States in 1850 and founded Steinway & Sons in 1853. He patented revolutionary changes to the grand piano to the point of being imitated by many competitors. The sound of these grand pianos is richer and has a more sensitive action. Steinway pianos offer the sound of the American piano with powerful bass, resonant mids and well-defined highs. These pianos have a very strong and rigid structure which adds power to the sound. The Steinway and Steinway B grand pianos (a favorite of many technicians) cannot be ignored when it comes to the best piano brands. The Steinway Model B piano is a favorite of many piano technicians and is often used in recording studios, for teaching or for a small concert hall while the Model D is a large concert piano.